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Brotherly Love

Are you looking for a new Taco Tuesday? Maybe you are in the market for a new weekend karaoke joint? How about a fresh spot to display your trivia dominance? A new happy hour serving fast, casual gourmet eats with a diverse and affordable drink selection? If any of these options sound enticing and you [...]
Aaron Wetli

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Are you looking for a new Taco Tuesday? Maybe you are in the market for a new weekend karaoke joint? How about a fresh spot to display your trivia dominance? A new happy hour serving fast, casual gourmet eats with a diverse and affordable drink selection?

If any of these options sound enticing and you enjoy supporting local neighborhood flavor and gourmet dogs (don’t even think about saying the words Hot Dogs), then I have the spot for you.

Located just south of Whittier on Parsons, Buns & Brews is the creation of brothers, business partners, and entrepreneurs Kevin and Will Hightower. Originally from Youngstown, the Hightower brothers moved to Columbus to attend The Ohio State University in the mid-’80s. Many career paths followed and the brothers tried their hand in the insurance game, promoting concerts, working in the cell phone industry and even making movies before they settled on the idea of opening a restaurant.

So what made them choose a destination on Parsons Avenue? To put it bluntly, the siblings didn’t choose the area, but rather it chose them.

“We originally had our eyes on Bexley, but that Main Street strip fills up fast,” Will said.

After much deliberation and exploring many options, the Hightowers chose Parsons. “We love it here and we love the location. Our customers are the best and we are glad we opened a spot here,” said Kevin.

Buns & Brews is cozy but not tiny, and hosts a bar and dining area. The vibe is warm and friendly and the walls are filled with photos of regulars as well as first timers, which makes Buns & Brews seem like they have been in operation for much longer than five months. In short, Buns & Brews manages to pull off the feat of being a new establishment that feels like it has always been part of the neighborhood fabric.

So, what does Buns & Brews aim to be? According to Will, who runs the back of the house:

“We want to be a unique, casual dining experience and a neighborhood institution—kind of like Cheers, but with food,” he said.

Kevin, who runs front of house, claims (against Will’s assessment) that he created the slogan Come for the dogs, stay for the greens. The two brothers good naturedly battle about concepts and who came up with which idea first and after spending time with them, it is easy to see that they work together well—in spite of, or perhaps due to the verbal jousting.

“I can tell what makes a good combo when I taste it in my mind. When I cook and actually eat it, I find that I am always right.” — Kevin Hightower.

So, is it difficult to work and be in business with family? The Hightower brothers don’t seem to sweat it. “It’s not like you can fire family,” Kevin says. Will retorts, “Rules are irrelevant and it doesn’t matter if you yell.”

The Hightower brothers chose the restaurant business partially because their mother was a catering veteran and because they both have been around food their whole lives. Another factor? Will claims to have the ability to taste food with his mind. You read that last sentence correctly.

“It’s just something I have always been able to do. I can tell what makes a good combo when I taste it in my mind. When I cook and actually eat it, I find that I am always right,” he said.

You should test his abilities in November as some of the Thanksgiving Gourmet Dogs (100 percent angus, turkey, or vegan) will be topped with sweet potato soufflé and bacon, corn bread with cranberry dressing, smoked gouda mac and cheese, red beans and rice with jerk chicken, and most especially pulled chicken with turkey gravy and mashed potato.

Other great options include a New Yorker Dog (Kevin’s favorite) topped with sauerkraut and spicy mustard and the best-selling Southern Comfort dog which has collard greens, onion, relish, tomatoes and onions. The Taco Tuesday I mentioned earlier? Choose either taco meat or pulled chicken and top it with lettuce, tomato, onion, salsa and a Dorito. Feel free to wash that down with a $2 margarita or shot of tequila.

And the sides? You have to get some sides. The baked beans, chili, potato salad, and cole slaw are all made in house and are all tasty accompaniments to the Gourmet Dog, but the real star of the sides show is the collard greens.

Made with smoked turkey, the collard greens have an authentic southern taste and are a hit because, according to Will, ‘They aren’t out of a can and you can taste the freshness’. In fact, Will was recently lauded by a customer who reported that she had eaten greens for 72 years and his was the best she has had.

Oh yeah…the Brews part. Buns & Brews has eight craft taps, daily drink specials, a ton of domestic beers and a mid to high range spirit selection that helps fuel game day drink specials. The game day specials, called ‘Buckeye Bombs’, are rotating specialty shots that change from game to game. The game day Gourmet Dogs specials also rotate, but the one consistency is that they can all be served ‘Brutus Style’ which entails a hefty quarter pound link of 100 percent angus.

Hmm. I can already taste it all—with my mind.

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Food & Drink

Strip Mall Surprise: A treasure trove of bourbons, pub food at McClellan’s

Aaron Wetli

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Welcome back to Strip Mall Surprise, where we highlight locally owned restaurants and bars that just happen to be located in a, wait for it, Strip Mall. Today’s installment is a little different as it focuses on a Irish pub with great food and one of the largest bourbon, scotch, and whiskey selections in Central, Ohio: McClellan's Pub.

Opened six years ago by Amy Schirtzinger and nestled off of Sawmill Road, McClellan’s is easy to miss if you aren’t looking for it. Upon arrival, patrons are greeted by a friendly and knowledgeable staff and offered seats at a large bar or medium sized dining area, where they can peruse a high-end pub food menu and get lost in the bottle selection.

Bourbon is uber popular right now and in Ohio, November is a big month for new releases. If you can’t locate that small batch release from a giant distillery or the single barrel offering from a smaller operation, odds are with their 500 bottle selection, McClellan’s Pub can pour a shot of what you are looking for.

And what a selection it is: Whistle Pig, Weller, Woodford Reserve, McKenna, Eagle Rare, Buffalo Trace, Elmer T and Pappy Van Winkle (among others) for as far as the eye can see. When I asked Schritzinger how many of the notoriously hard-to-locate Pappys she had, her response was simple, "All of them."

So what made service industry veteran Schirtzinger decide to open a bourbon-centric Irish pub?

"I’m Irish and proud and love whiskey and pubs," she said. "Plus, I enjoy looking at all of the pretty bottles."

One of those pretty bottles that will soon (think Christmas time) be behind the bar is the W.L. Weller Full Proof. McClellan’s won’t be the only location in Central, Ohio to get this particular pour, but it may be the first, so make sure the bourbon nerd in your life is aware of this fact.

As for the food I mentioned earlier, my go-to selections are the spicy and rich Sriracha Bourbon wings (70 cents each on Wednesday) or the crispy and robust Fish and Chips ($6 on Tuesday). You can also can’t go wrong with Guinness BBQ Pork Sandwich, Prime Rib Sliders (love the horseradish and caramelized onions) or the Irish Nachos; a concoction of sliced potatoes topped with pulled pork, beer cheese, sour cream and jalapenos all smothered in the Guinness BBQ sauce.

What are you waiting for? Get out there, drink some brown, and support local.

McClellan’s Pub is located at 6694 Sawmill Rd. Visit mcclellanspub.com for more info.

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Food & Drink

Downtown deli merger means more meats on the menu

614now Staff

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Who says all good things must come to an end? While Danny’s Deli will be closing its brick-and-mortar location at 37 W Broad St., all of your favorites from the Columbus institution are now available at Lexi’s on Third at 100 E Broad St.

Customers can be sure they’re still getting the true Danny’s staples because the owner of Lexi’s on Third, Dan Georges, is the not only the namesake—he’s the same man behind the original Danny’s Deli on Broad and Front Street.

When Dan was offered an opportunity to build his own dream kitchen in 2011, he sold Danny’s Deli to his uncle and opened Lexi’s on Third, named after his daughter, Alexiana. When his uncle retired earlier this year, Dan closed the Columbus location of Danny’s Deli and brought all of the most-loved items to Lexi’s on Third.

“I am honored to continue the family legacy of a quality dining experience. Thank you for your loyalty and patronage,” said Dan Georges in a statement.

The Danny’s Deli originals now offered at Lexi’s on Third include breakfast specials, omelettes, sandwiches and wraps, salads, burgers, melts, and more. To see the whole menu, visit lexisonthird.com.

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Food & Drink

VASO Arctic Adventure: Win an igloo dining experience

Regina Fox

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You know that first warm-ish day in March or April when a sliver of sun breaks through the grey winter sky, warming the dry, pasty faces of overzealous people packing every patio known to man? The General Manager of the AC Hotel by Marriott Columbus Dublin Orcun Turkay wanted to give those people an outdoor dining experience they didn’t have to wait until spring to enjoy.

Scroll down to win $200 towards an arctic adventure of your own!

On a windy, rainy day in mid-winter, my trusty (614) confidants and I crowded into the elevator at the AC Hotel Columbus Dublin and selected the top floor. It was the first time visiting for many of us and we were excited to finally experience it. When the elevator finally stopped, the doors glided open to reveal an inviting hostess. She welcomed us to VASO. 

The rooftop bar and tapas restaurant is absolutely gorgeous. All its features are round—orb lights, half circle bench seating, circular rugs, curved bar—and the natural lighting made the happy faces of happy hour-goers at the bar look even happier. The panoramic view of the Scioto River and downtown Dublin is one of the best in Central Ohio. But, for the next few months, the view will be slightly obscured for folks dining in. 

The hostess led us out onto the patio where three geometric-looking igloos sat, poised for hospitality. Made of plastic and PVC pipes anchored by sandbags, these see-through huts are simple and wildly attractive. They’re unique, cozy, and, most importantly, warm. I couldn’t wait to get inside out of the cold and actually have an enjoyable patio experience in the dead of Ohio winter.

The hostess unzipped the doorway and we filed in across the oriental rug. The inside was surprisingly spacious, even with six chairs, a few side tables, and one communal table in the middle. I took a seat in one of the faux fur-covered chairs (which I later found out cost $1,200 each), covered my legs with a soft blanket, and switched on the heater. I was perfectly comfortable without the extra accommodations, but I was in an upscale igloo and, dammit, I was going to act like it.

We were all quick to draw our phones to begin snapping photos. We could see rush hour traffic inching down Riverside Drive, but being in the igloo felt like we were our own little Instagrammable world. 

After putting in orders of hot chocolate and the Ohio spiked cider from the exclusive VASO Igloo shareable menu and the popcorn and Halibut Ceviche (which landed itself on the [web]pages of Esquire Magazine), Turkay humbly explained how his establishment became one of the first in the Midwest to introduce igloo dining as a light rain pinged the top of the plastic igloo.

He told us about how strongly central Ohioans have embraced the new eating and drinking adventure. Turkay knew he’d have to hire more people this winter to staff the igloos, but what he didn’t count on was the manpower it would require to simply manage the influx of calls.

“They answer the phone, take a reservation, hang up, answer the phone, take a reservation, hang up,” Turkay said of the three hostesses he brings in at 10 a.m. every day just to man the phones. I laughed in disbelief, choking a bit on my popcorn ceviche (delicious, by the way). I washed away the kernels with a swig of boozy hot chocolate (also delicious). 

Suffice it to say, the VASO igloos are a raging success, so much so that you won’t be getting in on a weekend this winter. The tiny ecosystems are booked up through March, which is when they’ll be retired for the season. Turkay promises to have them back up in November.

After everything from cheese-filled churros to seafood paella (which were ordered by hailing our server with a remote that buzzed her wrist piece), the sun set and was replaced by LED light beams illuminating our cozy clubhouse; it was our time to go. I took one last look around and felt thankful to be on the inside looking out, even just for the evening. •

VASO is located at 6540 Riverside Dr, Dublin. The igloos can be reserved for a minimum of $100 per hour Sundays-Wednesdays and $200 per hour Thursdays-Saturdays. Visit vasodublin.com for more information. 

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