You’ve got to hand it to Cameron Mitchell and his team. For decades, they’ve kept their antennae up around the country, re-honing and adapting clever restaurant concepts to fit the Midwestern palate.
Except, now, in 2016, that palate is ever evolving, meaning that those concepts have generally reflected more sophisticated fare—The Pearl’s big splash was the first wave of a now CMR-dominated stretch of the Short North, making way for Hudson 29 in Upper Arlington and The Barn’s arrival in Gahanna.
“The Guild House and The Pearl are very seasonal and what’s on trend across the U.S. The Avenue is a classic, timeless restaurant—a step back in time when life was a bit simpler,” Regional Chef Jamie Kline said. “We created a warm and inviting space with some classic tavern steaks, sandwiches, and beverage offerings that fit in well with the great quality and genuine hospitality that everyone expects from our restaurants.”
While one, given the company’s recent leanings, expected another title that skewed toward inviting local patrons to try new, elevated cuisine, this is a return to simpler, familiar roots.
By paring down the common approach to the steakhouse, CMR has aligned its sights on Grandview, displacing a former Panera Bread with The Avenue, a “steak tavern” concept designed to focus on elegance, rather than excess, and keeping customers coming back without fear of the a la carte crunch on one’s wallet. Specialty menu items and steaks are accompanied by a salad as well as a choice of side for the latter.
“We wanted to open a restaurant that would become a true neighborhood spot and be very approachable,” Kline said. “Unlike a steakhouse, which is often seen as a ‘special occasion’ restaurant, The Avenue is a place where someone could come in multiple times and have something different each time. On a Tuesday, they could sit in the bar area and have a beer and a burger or seafood entrée, then come back during the weekend and have a steak.”
As is often the case at a Cameron Mitchell spot, the menu focuses on simple food executed consistently and with care. The Filet Oscar might weigh in a little lighter than the average steakhouse, but that also comes at a lighter menu price, reinforcing the aforementioned ability for repeat customers to pick around the menu and try items from a few different price points. And while the menu mimics many steakhouse classics (Atlantic Salmon and pork chop as entrees, Oysters Rockefeller and steak tartare as starters), The Avenue proves their antennae are still trend-tuned by the existence of one wild card: the Crispy “Hot Chicken” Biscuit. If you’ve read about food in these pages, we need not remind you of the Nashville staple’s swift and sudden insurgence here in town, and the CMR team aren’t about to be left in the cold. With the biscuit house-made daily, it’s a nice fun fringe item on a literal meat-and-potatoes slate.
The décor borrows the right amount of approachability and elegance, it’s red vinyl booths a fitting contrast to the beautifully illuminated backbar (where you can sip from a list of impeccably crafted cocktails by Beverage Manager Andrea Hoover) and the open kitchen layout, where guests have a widescreen view of Executive Chef Jeff Lindemeyer and his team at work.
“Allowing guests to see their food made fresh directly from their seats gives them an extra feeling of energy throughout the hustle and bustle of the restaurant,” said Executive VP David Miller. “It’s also a great way to showcase that we’re a chef-driven company and shows the quality we put into every dish.”
In the end, The Avenue isn’t re-inventing anything significant, but rather executing exactly what its subtitle hints at: a walkable, neighborhood joint where you can get a great piece of steak that falls between a rubbery dive bar sirloin and a five-star whopper you’d have to reserve for passing the bar.
I’d say they’ve passed their own bar, too. •
The Avenue Steak Tavern, located at 1307 Grandview Ave., is dinner-only, open at 4 p.m. daily. For more, visit theavenuesteaktavern.com.
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