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Upscale Ahi

Location is everything in real estate, especially in the restaurant business. But when your new restaurant happens to be the former home of a favorite neighborhood haunt, preserving the legacy of that location adds another layer of complexity to already enormous expectations. Now add the pressure of leaving another celebrated restaurant and you’ll start to [...]
J.R. McMillan

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Location is everything in real estate, especially in the restaurant business. But when your new restaurant happens to be the former home of a favorite neighborhood haunt, preserving the legacy of that location adds another layer of complexity to already enormous expectations.

Now add the pressure of leaving another celebrated restaurant and you’ll start to understand the stakes facing Bradley Balch, former executive chef at The Sycamore, whose new restaurant Trillium recently opened in the space occupied by the venerated Alana’s Food and Wine for nearly two decades.

“We knew coming in here it was going to be a challenge. We weren’t trying to replicate; it wasn’t going to be Alana’s 2.0,” Balch said. He and co-owner Michael Kulikowski had no illusions about the inherent anxiety Alana Shock’s loyal patrons would have. “We knew there would be a lot of comparisons as we created our own identity, while still serving and entertaining her clientele.”

The Old North neighborhood of Columbus between campus and Clintonville epitomizes the eclectic mix of retail and restaurants that flourish or fold based on how well they pull in patrons from Upper Arlington, Grandview, and Worthington. Balch expects redevelopment just down High Street will position Trillium at the right place and the right time to draw diners from a wider area—though he hopes professors and professionals living in nearby neighborhoods will also appreciate the updates and atmosphere.

There are also the inevitable comparisons to The Sycamore, the quaint and comfortable German Village standard where Balch maintains ownership, but has stepped away from daily operations in the kitchen. Though there is some familiar fare to be found.

“We’re still matching, mixing, and melding complex flavors and textures so they all come together on the plate. The focus here is more on seafood and fresh fish, not tavern food,” Balch said. “Sycamore had that casual balance. Trillium is more upscale.”

Named for Ohio’s official state wildflower, Trillium is equally local and approachable mixed with Midwest hospitality. Generous portions and a range of price points make “upscale” entirely accessible.
Happy Hour includes Pork Cheek Mac & Cheese with cavatappi pasta and white cheddar topped with crispy breadcrumbs, and Chicken Wings with a watermelon-chipotle barbeque glaze. (Think sophisticated comfort food.) Small plates of Lump Crab Wontons with sweet and tart rhubarb barbecue, avocado crema, pickled red onion, and napa cabbage, or Duck Confit Vietnamese Spring Rolls with

Serrano black vinegar dip, sambal aioli, and sesame salad are decidedly Eastern with worldwide influences.

Large plates, like the McDowell Farms Pork Chop with bacon-cheddar Shagbark grits, andouille sausage, red-eye gravy, braised mixed greens, and jalapeno-peach jam offer unexpected depth and subtlety to Southern staples and are very shareable. Though the signature Trillium S’mores are a deft execution of the campfire favorite, their Crimson Cup Coffee & Thai Chili Custard of caramelized banana, maple

Chantilly, and candied bacon is equally enviable, if not superior.

But the star of the show is the still the seafood.

“I’ve always and will forever utilize the Ahi tuna wherever my path leads me. It goes all the way back to Tucci’s,” he noted. Balch’s business partner Michael Kulikowski is also the former general manager at Tucci’s. Like most restaurant ventures in Columbus, though the projects may come together quickly, the relationships are often years in the making.

Like the pedals of namesake flora, the current menu takes the featured fish in three distinct directions—the Ahi Tuna Poke of taro chips, shisito peppers, pickled radish, and sesame cucumber noodles; a grilled Ahi Tuna Nicoise with egg, greens, haricot verts, new potatoes, nicoise olive, tomato, white anchovie, caper berry, lemon zest, and a white wine vinaigrette; and the large plate of Ahi Tuna with a wasabi Okinawa sweet potato mash, tamari-charred haricot verts, Asian pear coulis, and house-made kimchi.

Trillium is currently open for dinner hours only, though that’s likely to change. Balch suggested an uncertain timetable, but inevitable lunch menu as well. “We’ll do lunch, but I don’t want to do brunch,” he chided.

The aesthetic is also new, with a more prominent bar than Alana’s and a larger kitchen than The Sycamore. Oak floors revealed under the carpets and the overall openness of the reimagined interior help ground the entire restaurant as the refined gathering place Trillium was intended to be. The extensive patio excavation, new plantings, and live music will complete the “kitchen and patio” concept. “Our patio alone is bigger than Sycamore,” Balch noted.

Trillium is reviving another restaurant tradition as well with their monthly wine dinners.

“We just did our first one—five courses for 24 people. Wine dinners are kind of a thing of the past, but we’re bringing them back,” Balch explained. “We’re planning a whole lamb wine dinner in October, and a bourbon dinner in November. Then we’ll probably take a break in December, and come back in January.”

 

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Food & Drink

Beer for Breakfast: Start the day at 4 Columbus breweries

Mike Thomas

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Is there such a thing as “too early” for a beer? We would humbly submit that no, there isn’t.

While everyone else is waiting until noon, raise a toast to the sunrise with these breakfast-themed creations from some of Columbus’ top breweries.

Note: always drink responsibly. We don’t want any angry calls from your boss saying you showed up to work completely tossed. Check yourself before you wreck yourself!

Wolf’s Ridge |215 N 4th St

The brewmaster at Wolf’s Ridge is clearly a strong believer in popping off in the AM. “Cinnamon Toast Brunch” – a cinnamon-infused twist on the brewery’s staple cream ale, is delicious at any time of the day. Need something with a little more kick to get you moving? Wolf’s Ridge cellar reserve bottle offering, “’17 All The Breakfast,” is an imperial breakfast-style ale that clocks in at 10.8% ABV.

Homestead Beer Co. | 811 Irving Wick Dr W, Heath

Columbus Beer Week is a celebration of the many, many great beers available throughout central Ohio. If you stand any chance of sampling them all, breakfast brewskis are a must. Luckily, Homestead Beer Co. has you covered with a Beer Week concoction that will take you back to the days of Saturday morning cartoons and rainbow-colored milk. Prepare yourself for Homestead’s Cocoa Pebbles porter, “Yabba Dabba Brew.”

Hoof Hearted Brewing | 850 N 4th St

Like their neighbors Wolf’s Ridge up the street, Hoof Hearted offers a sudsy take on cinnamon toast crunch. At 10.5% ABV, “Miracle Toast” will either start your day off on a strong note, or send you back to bed until noon.

Though not explicitly marketed as a breakfast beer, Hoof Hearted’s “Fitness Freak,” an imperial stout with coffee, vanilla and maple syrup added, has all of the morning-time flavors you crave. At a whopping 14%, it’s also a surefire way to transition from brunch to nap time.

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Platform | 408 N 6th St

If you don’t think a peanut butter cream puff from Schmidt’s qualifies as a breakfast item, what are you doing with your life? Cleveland-based Platform pays homage to a Columbus institution with the release of their “Schmidt’s Peanut Butter Fudge Puff” brew. This maibock style beer boasts a respectable 7.1% ABV – just enough for some AM fun without derailing your whole day.

What’s your go-to morning brew? Let us know in the comments!

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Food & Drink

CBus Brew Bus will be your new weekend obsession

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So many breweries, so little time, so few volunteers to drive your tipsy tush around, right? Wrong! Columbus, meet CBus Brew Bus: a new and refreshingly different way to experience the local craft brewery scene.

Andy Bachman, an Ohio State alum and Columbus beer enthusiasts, is on a mission to offer safe transportation, informative tours, and plenty of fresh beer to curious hop-heads. Guests can book buses to take them around to the following breweries:

  • Zaftig Brewing Co.
  • Parsons North Brewing Co.
  • Platform Beer Co.
  • Hoof Hearted Brewery & Kitchen
  • North High Brewing
  • Nocterra Brewing Co.
  • Combustion Brewery & Taproom

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Upon arrival at the meeting place, each guests will receive a 6.75 ounce sample glass. At each stop, the sample glass is filled with sweet, sweet beer—3 samples of 3 different beers at each brewery.

But, the breweries are just one part of the CBus Brew Bus experience. Along the way, Bachman and his crew provide entertainment with trivia and factoids about the Columbus craft beer culture while you booze!

Private group tours for 8 or more are offered that include the option to customize pickup and drop off locations as well as choose the breweries you’d like to visit. All public tours (just you and a few friends), have predetermined stops with the pickup point starting at City Tavern, in the heart of downtown Columbus.

To learn more about CBus Brew Bus and book a tour, visit https://cbusbrewbus.com/ or check them out on Facebook or Instagram @cbusbrewbus.

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Food & Drink

Update: Copious closure to be temporary

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Update: We reported earlier that Copious would be closing its doors permanently on May 6. However, after speaking with owner Bob Clark, we’ve learned that the closure is, in fact, temporary.

The restaurant at 520 S High St. will undergo a remodel beginning May 6 so that it may better serve its guests, though Clark is planning to be open for Mother’s Day on May 12.

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A reopen date is not yet set.

Events and parties scheduled for Notes and the events/banquet space will be unaffected by the temporary Copious closure.

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