It is funny. Since my life has led me Ohio-ward (certainly more than the 30+ years preceding), I have been to Columbus (well – bedroom communities therein) so much, but I have seen so little of the city itself. So it was with a bit of excitement that I did get to hit the Short North area of the city – a bit from downtown and apparently where the “cool kids” are going. Some of the highlights:
- The Short North reminded me of Bridge Street in Huntsville, Alabama or Atlantic Station in Atlanta (well, allegedly – it popped up after my reign there ended). It was fine, had a lot of the usual young people, girls in short skirts, douchebags in striped dress shirts. Lot of the sorts of pubs where I’d hang out and fancier locales where I decidedly would not. But it also looked new – not like a mall, but sort of like it was all built at once. It felt developed – I guess where I live in Arlington, the Shirlington area would be a mini-sort of version. Culture fabrication of a sort.
- The North Market though, just off the Short North part of High Street – that’s the real deal. The market was very evocative of Quincy Market in Boston, just under one roof this festival of foods and groceries. Hell, there was a Jeni’s Ice Cream – and Jeni’s is pretty clearly the best ice cream that has ever been developed in the United States – so that is a plus already. However, the other markets all looked wonderful – I wish I had a chance to get lunch there, but some of the key German-Polish places and the Italian stuff looked like the real thing.
- We did stop at a fairly high end joint in the area – The Rossi – a fancypants sort of Classic American themed place. Among the specials was one of the better butternut squash soups I have had. The soup was not overly thick like a puree or an applesauce, and had a hint of heat – did a nice job avoiding cloying sweetness. It offset a pretty sad charcuterie board that my wife got. You know there’s a problem when the waitress could not identify the meats on the plate (and frankly they were salamis – whoopee). But really where my heart sank was the Croque Madame I ordered. How do you make a Croque Madame and skimp on the gruyere? I mean, I don’t give a crap about the ham – there has to be some, but I don’t need to be overloaded like I was at a family restaurant. However, why you order a croque or a Monte Cristo, or another artery stopping grilled cheese, is for stringy, unctuous melty goodness. You have to be able to see the gooieness and determined that this is a fair price for possibly dying from a coronary later that evening. It has to create that Pavlovian response. Instead here we got a little cheese – enough to show that it exists, but an entirely unbalanced thing. Also, the egg was overdone – the yolk was set which also undercut any unctuous possibility. Of course this is a restaurant, and so we have folks who are giant fraidy cats about cooking eggs properly. Oh well. That said, the other dishes at the table (a salmon salad in particular) looked nice. It is always hard to get fired up about a high end “American” restaurant – and this is not the place to start – but I am sure most people would enjoy it.