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Setting the “Standard”

What do a brisk beer garden, an open-concept kitchen and an abandoned music hall have in common? Not much at a glance, but they are all part of the innovative expansion of Corso Ventures—marked most recently with the opening of Standard Hall, the third concept from the folks behind The Pint House and Forno Kitchen [...]
J.R. McMillan

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What do a brisk beer garden, an open-concept kitchen and an abandoned music hall have in common? Not much at a glance, but they are all part of the innovative expansion of Corso Ventures—marked most recently with the opening of Standard Hall, the third concept from the folks behind The Pint House and Forno Kitchen + Bar. Opening three distinct locations in as many years in the Short North, a neighborhood with no shortage of fine ideas that fade away, is a tall order. Those that stick strike the right balance between dinner destination and neighborhood haunt. “I personally live just a couple blocks away in Italian Village, and have been walking or biking down East Third avenue for about eight years, every single day, to either hang out or go to work,” explained Reed Woogerd, director of operations.

“Almost every time I’ve come down East Third avenue, I’ve turned left. Now that we’ve begun this development process, it feels great to turn right, to be going somewhere new and exciting for this part of the neighborhood.” The Short North nostalgic already know the location well. For a decade, Little Brother’s filled the live music void left by Stache’s. The loss of both still brings a bitter tear to the faithful. A shorter stint as Liquid Café and Lounge fit the neighborhood well as an upscale lesbian nightclub. But this too soon passed.  The space has been empty of all but regrets ever since. But Woogerd doesn’t stir easily when it comes to expectations, or a cursed location. “When we opened up Pint House in 2013, we received a lot of criticism—people who thought we were just night club guys who would bring the wrong crowd to the neighborhood,” he confessed.

“When we were opening Forno, skeptics claimed the building was cursed. In reality, it had only been a restaurant one other time. This is a tough business, not all restaurants are successful; not all small businesses stay open forever.” It’s a little eerie to see a former music hall and nightclub during daylight hours. But it also reveals the details of the space that otherwise go unnoticed—the new, industrial metalwork contrasting the rich, red hues of the original exposed brick, or the preserved central skylight that beams down on the lush, living herb wall behind the bar. The worn and weathered wooden floorboards give the whole joint an instant credibility, as though Standard Hall has always been there.

“I see our venues as much more than an average restaurant or bar. We like to build places that provide both residents and visitors to the Short North a great experience of what this neighborhood has to offer,” he said. “Opening Standard Hall—in a building that has so much history and is dear to the hearts of longtime residents of the Short North—we wanted to make sure we did it justice. We’ve learned people take the redevelopment and growth of the Short North seriously. And as residents of the neighborhood, we are sensitive to what the people here actually want and need.”

“The beauty of the restaurant business is that it revolves around the basic human need for social interaction, the catalyst of which is something that we can all agree on that we love—food and drinks,” he explained. “So, if we don’t try to reinvent the wheel, and if we stay immersed in our community and continue to grow with the team of restaurant professionals we’ve been building, then we get concepts that feel genuine and original without taking the general public out of their comfort zone.”

Expansion isn’t exclusively an external process. Ideally it really does starts from the ground up. Woogerd recalled his own rise within the organization, and how it was actually a former restaurant employer who suggested he and Chris Corso, the company’s founder, would be a great fit.

That pay-it-forward philosophy hasn’t been forgotten, nor have the staff who are opening Standard Hall. The general manager, Kyle Westerburg, and assistant manager, Nate Taylor, both started as bartenders at Forno. In fact, the management teams at all three locations are a collection of former servers and support staff. The kitchen side is likewise deep with promotions from within. The company’s executive chefs include a former line cook and a pantry cook. Standard Hall’s own executive chef, Daniel Kamel, started as a sous chef at Forno.

This commitment to cultivating and promoting excellence creates a customer experience typically found only at restaurants and bars that have had enough time for the staff to settle in. Standard Hall has that from the day they open the doors.

“When you look at our menu, you will recognize a lot of things. We have offerings that you are used to seeing at other restaurants and bars,” he noted. “We have a mojito on our cocktail menu, a lot of places do. But we are growing our mint on a living wall behind the bar and plucking it fresh for each cocktail. We are serving our Philly cheesesteak on an Amoroso roll that we ship from Philadelphia. The idea here really is to set the standard.”

Asked if three concepts was the goal, or just the beginning, Woogerd remained open to possibilities.

“I guess you could say that our growth is synonymous with the growth of Columbus. When the right opportunities arise, and when we feel our team is ready, we will continue to grow,” he replied. “I think the thing that we are already doing, that can’t be recreated, is that we live in the community and have been invested in the community for a long time. Generally you don’t see out-of-town developers coming in until some local guys have had some success. We want to continue to show that Columbus is a viable market.”

Columbus has often taken its inspiration from elsewhere, with a steady influx of transplants and immigrants fueling the food and drink scene. But now, it’s starting to come into its own—a metropolitan and cosmopolitan mix as diverse and distinct as any dining destination.

“I’d taken trips to Austin and Nashville and seen that relationship between space and the community,” he said. “We wanted that same feel, so someone walking down the street in the Short North could see and sense the energy inside and get drawn in. You’re attracted to it.”

“Columbus is a growing foodie town. People who live here love going out to restaurants, and people in the Short North will sometimes hit five or six different places on any given night,” he explained. “It’s up to us to provide a little different flavor for each concept. The challenge is providing an experience for people who travel to bigger cities like Chicago, New York, to go to restaurants. We want them to come to our venues and feel like they’re having that kind of experience.”

To experience Standard Hall, check them out at 1100 N High St., or at standardhall.com.

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Food & Drink

Restaurant Week Sneak Peek: Wolf’s Ridge Brewing

Regina Fox

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In less than 10 years at its natural sunlight-soaked digs on N 4th Street, Wolf's Ridge Brewing has managed to become a place revered not only for brewing some of the best beers the city has to offer, but also for serving some of the best food.

What better time to experience them both than Restaurant Week January 20-25?

We were lucky enough to get a sneak peek of Wolf's Ridge three-course menu before it was released to the public, and we think you're really going to like it.

First Course: Choice of baked brie, endive salad, or bread and butter

The endive salad offered depths with every bite: the brightness of the shaved pear, the fresh earthiness of the endive, the texture of the fennel, the crunch of the walnuts. But the star of this dish was certainly the pool of tangy, creamy blue cheese dressing hiding below the colorful mixture.

Second Course: Choice of salmon, grilled cauliflower, or pork tenderloin

Without a shadow of a doubt, I believe each one of the entrees offered during Restaurant week are slam dunks, but to me, the choice was obvious: pork tenderloin.

The three plump and pink cuts of pork were so tender, they could be easily cut with just a butter knife. The succulence of the meat played well with the sweet, nutty sunchoke puree, and rich smoked hazelnut butter. Like the french origin suggests, the demi-glace soaked into the tenderloin truly was the "icing" on top.

Third Course: Choice of cheesecake or fudge bar

If at the end of your meal you're feeling bright, light, and flirty, the cheesecake is for you. The toasted coconuts coating the mousse-like rum cheesecake, icy pineapple sorbet and orange marmalade will send your palate on an all-inclusive trip to the seaside.

Feeling a little more dense or moody? The punch of the espresso ice cream, thick chocolate bar, and sticky caramel crémeux will have you closing your eyes, and "mmm"ing through every bite.

At $40, the Wolf's Ridge Restaurant deal is quite possibly the best time to experience the creative, elevated menu. But, you and the other 900,000 residents of Columbus already know that, right? So, don't wait to make your reservation!

To learn more about Restaurant Week January 20-25, visit eat614.com.

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Restaurant Week Sneak Peek: Pig out on amazing deal from Hoggy’s

Mike Thomas

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Longtime fans of barbecue in Central Ohio will remember Hoggy's, the family-owned local barbecue chain which originally opened in 1991. Recent history saw Hoggy's step away from the restaurant game in favor of a thriving catering business. With a newly-renovated store on Bethel road, this OG Columbus BBQ joint is getting back in the retail mix.

Scroll down for an exclusive giveaway

We recently stopped by Hoggy's to preview all the delicious goodness they've cooked up for Restaurant Week. With a deal this sweet, it's time you got reacquainted with this awesome, homegrown barbecue spot!

Restaurant Week Deal: Choose three meats, two sides, and your choice of cobbler or banana pudding, all for $15.

You read that right: THREE meats. While Hoggy's brisket, pulled pork, or pulled chicken are all solid choices, be sure that one of your trifecta of picks is the baby back ribs. These are truly some of the best ribs we've tried in town.

Bonus sleeper pick: we found Hoggy's wings to be exceptionally crispy and flavorful, serving as the perfect delivery method for their great BBQ sauces.

When it comes to sides, you really can't go wrong at Hoggy's. From the potato salad to the "cowboy style" baked beans, each side has the same home cooked flavor that you'd hope to find at a family cookout.

As long as you're treating yourself, don't be afraid to go double-starch in the sides department. The mac and cheese (with both penne and elbow macaroni) is a can't-miss, but then who in their right mind can can pass on cheesy potatoes?

If you have any room left for dessert, either of the available options will be sure to send you over the edge into a food coma. Hoggy's satisfying cobbler is served oven-hot, just like grandma used to make. Likewise, the decadent banana pudding is everything it should be and more, with a fluffy, creamy texture that is unlike anything we've seen elsewhere.

When it comes to Restaurant Week, Hoggy's isn't playing around. For $15, this is one of the best bang-for-the-buck deals on the entire RW lineup. Don't sleep—there will be time for that after you've stuffed yourself with sides, dessert, and all the delicious smoked meats you can handle!

To learn more about Restaurant Week January 20-25, visit eat614.com.

Comment your favorite BBQ side dish to be entered to win dinner for two at Hoggy's!

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New plant-based diner takes root in Downtown

614now Staff

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From the people who brought us Eden burger comes a new plant-based diner sure to satisfy your hunger.

4th & State is a vegan cafe and diner located in the heart of downtown Columbus under the leadership of Chad Goodwin.

Click here to read more about Eden Burger

Featuring fare aimed at both breakfast and lunch, hours will soon be expanded to cover dinner service to coincide with the launch of the restaurant's beer and wine program.

Below are pictures of a few of the most popular breakfast items thus far:

4th & State is located at 152 E State St. and is open Monday through Friday from 7am- 3pm, and Saturday through Sunday from 9am- 4pm. To learn more, check out their Instagram.

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