The Random Restaurant Tour (XXV)

At any given moment, there’s always a hot restaurant in town.  It’s the place that has gotten some favorable press, that has a certain distinctive buzz about it, that everyone is itching to try.  In Columbus, the restaurants don’t come any hotter than Service Bar, which has been getting great press — including a recent rave from no less than the New York Times.  Last week, Kish and I decided to check it out.

Service Bar is part of Middle West Spirits, located just off Fifth Avenue in the zone between the northern part of the Short North and the southern edge of the Ohio State campus area. It’s in a bright, fresh space, with room for a row of tables, a long common table, a private dining room, and a bar.  The wait staff is terrific — friendly, professional, and knowledgeable.  A fine wait staff is a pretty strong sign of fine dining to come.

When we were deciding on an appetizer, we looked down at the row of tables where we were sitting and every one — without exception — had ordered the “cheesy poofs.”  These are a mound of colossal pork rinds served with pimento cheese spread that you slather on.  Our waiter said they seem to be a favorite for patrons, so we gave them a try.  They were greasy and cheesy and good, but the order was just too much food for the two of us, and we wanted to save room for our entrees.

We both ordered the Mongolian glazed short rib for our entree, and here the meal really hit its stride.  The short rib was meaty and luscious, topped with an interesting assortment of mini cucumber slices and other items, and surrounded by dollops of a delectable sauce.  The challenge was to carefully assemble each forkful to feature meat, the different flavors and textures of the toppings, and a healthy dousing of the sauce, and when you successfully met the challenge the taste combination was incredible.  But to take the whole dish a step further, the meat was accompanied by three “bao knots” — moist, doughy, chewy morsels of bready delight that were a perfect complement to the meat.  I think I could probably eat a thousand bao knots and never think of the words “low carb” again.

After a main course like that, we had to get dessert, and went for the carrot cake with our after-dinner cup of decaf.  The cake was light and delectable, served with a schmeer of meringue, some crunchy items, and a delicately flavored ice cream.  It ended the meal with a bang, and was the kind of dessert where you find yourself surreptitiously scraping the plate multiple times just to get a final taste before you reluctantly allow your server to take it away.

Service Bar lived up to the hype, and then some.

A Watershed Event

At the Webner House, we’re all about supporting local businesses.  Two Columbus businesses that we enthusiastically endorse — especially after we’ve enjoyed their products — are two local distilleries, Watershed Distillery and Middle West Spirits.

IMG_3671Watershed Vodka is my vodka brand of choice.  Speaking on the basis of my chilly vodka-sampling visit to the Belvedere Ice Room a few years ago, I can attest that Watershed produces very high-quality, corn-based vodka that is every bit as good — and in some cases better — than the vodkas we tried.  It also fits well with the low-carb diet approach I’ve been taking the last few months.  And the Watershed event is that this year the distillery is producing its first seasonal concoction, a black walnut liqueur, made from Ohio walnuts, called Nocino.

Kish and Richard and Russell are the occasional whiskey samplers in our family, and they’ve enjoyed making Manhattans and Old Fashioneds with OYO whiskey, one of the trade names used by Middle West Spirits.  Made from 100 percent Ohio soft red winter wheat, OYO Whiskey has won a number of distilling awards, as well as a lot of fans.

Watershed’s distillery is just west of downtown in the Grandview area, and Middle West’s distillery is in the Short North.  Both are the kinds of successful local businesses that employ our neighbors, pay local taxes, care about the quality of their products, and help to keep the Columbus economy ticking — which is why we support them.

The next time you’re out on the town and in the mood for a mixed drink, give one of their products a try.  You won’t regret it.