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Hen Quarter Review: Southern comfort in northern Columbus

Linda Lee Baird

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I felt a moment of guilt when the $16 Hen Quarter house burger was placed in front of me and I immediately thought of fast food. It was the double patty that did it. At higher-end restaurants, I’m used to a thick single patty that’s mostly left to speak for itself. Hen Quarter’s burger, by contrast, stacks two four ounce patties atop one another and covers both with gooey American cheese and classic fixings reminiscent of a drive-thru.

My first bite only made the association stronger. General Manager Alison Armstrong then explained that she’d challenged Executive Chef Cullen Flinn to reinterpret the In-N-Out Burger for their menu. Suddenly, I understood. I was not eating fast food, but rather a stellar tribute to it. And it was delightful.

Serving a southern-style menu, Hen Quarter opened in Dublin’s Bridge Park this past October—the result of a “gentleman’s bet” between owner Ron Jordan and his friend Warren Thompson, who owns three DC-area restaurants by the same name.

“Ron was at the grand opening [for one of Thompson’s DC restaurants] and said, ‘I bet you I can do it better,’ ” Armstrong explained.

The challenge was quickly accepted.

The two men partnered closely to prepare for the Columbus opening. Armstrong and other staff spent some time working in Thompson’s east coast kitchens to get a feel for the concept, while at the same time coming up with ideas about how to adapt Hen Quarter for the Columbus market.

“We had full autonomy—this is not a franchise—we’re a licensee of the brand. So the name is the same, and other than that it is quite different,” she said.

The wine program at Dublin’s Hen Quarter sets it apart not only from its peers out east, but also from other restaurants in Columbus. Armstrong, a certified sommelier, assembled a collection of over 700 bottles of wine that are stored in temperature-controlled glass cases throughout the restaurant.

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The rare offerings include a 2015 Sassicaia, rated the best wine in the world by Wine Spectator in 2018.

“I believe we are the only restaurant in Ohio, let alone Columbus, that has two Sassicaia bottles,” Armstrong said.

No need to be intimidated if you, like me, are learning about this vintage for the first time. Above all, Hen Quarter aims to keep it fun and make sure everyone feels welcome. Chef Flinn’s approachable food menu all but assures this. The dinner options include pork chops, shrimp and grits, and fried chicken (served with or without a waffle). Mac and cheese and collard greens are among the traditional side offerings. Flinn sources his food locally whenever possible, acquiring everything from meat to maple syrup to moonshine from nearby purveyors.

“We do have a really good food program here in Columbus, and that’s our biggest thing, is we’re trying to drive this restaurant to showcase what we have and what we can utilize just inside the city itself,” he said.

The standout cocktail menu is worth a look, even for wine drinkers. Each of the 10 signature cocktails is named for a classic hip hop song, and the list is likely to leave you humming your favorite college dance tune while you wait for your drink. Options like the “Empire State of Mind,” Master Mixologist Tyler Plymale’s smoky take on a manhattan, and the “Five on It,” featuring a secret-recipe green chartreuse sourced from French monks, strike the balance of whimsy and complexity that distinguishes the restaurant.

The staff is invested in creating an atmosphere that is different from other local dining experiences by combining a “lounge-like vibe” with an upscale menu. As for a dress code? It’s very much come as you are.

“You come here, you can have a thousand dollar bottle of wine. You can have a $400 pour of liquor, and you can just, you know, wear your sweatpants and chill,” Plymale said.

And their approach seems to be working. The restaurant recently had a record-setting day during what is typically a slower period—post-holidays, and the DC Hen Quarter restaurants are now looking to their Columbus sibling for inspiration. Indeed, Jordan’s bet with Thompson that brought Hen Quarter to Columbus in the first place appears to have paid off.

“I don’t know if the words ‘You won’ were said,” Armstrong speculated, “But I think that they might have been said in private.”

Hen Quarter is located at 6628 Riverside Drive in Dublin. It will hold regular wine and bourbon-themed events beginning this Spring. To learn more, visit henquarterdublin.com.

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Food & Drink

Keep calm: Geordie’s English restaurant announces opening date

Mike Thomas

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No, we aren’t talking Geordi LaForge, chief engineering officer of the USS Enterprise. As it happens, “Geordie” is a slang term referring to people from from the Tyneside area in northeastern England.

Geordie’s is also the name of an English restaurant coming soon to the city’s south side at 1586 S. High St – the former location of Columbus Explorers Club.

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After months of red-tape and construction-related delays, Geordie’s co-owner Glenn Hall-Jones has confirmed an opening date of May 31 for his establishment, which seeks to replicate the true English pub experience right here in Columbus.

So we had a test day in the kitchen Sunday. Just a few of the dishes from the Geordie’s menu. Traditional English Sunday…

Posted by Geordie’s Restaurant. on Monday, May 20, 2019

Once open, Geordie’s patrons can expect beer offerings from the United Kingdom, such as Newcastle Brown Ale, Guinness, and more, along with taps pouring local craft beer. There will also be a full bar and food menu full of favorites from across the pond.

Keep calm and check this spot out on May 31.

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Food & Drink

New, unique brand of ice cream hitting freezers near you soon

614now

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Just in time for summer, a new ice cream company will be expanding into the Columbus market! Perry’s Ice Cream Company, Inc., a Great Lakes regional brand and Upstate New York’s #1 ice cream choice, will begin stocking over 600 local freezers and scoop shops with its unique flavors like:

  • Bad Breakup (Sea salt caramel chocolate ice cream with milk fudge swirls and fudge-filled hearts)
  • Grasshopper Pie (fudge swirls and mint ice cream will tingle your taste buds while the crème-filled cookies add a refreshing crunch)
  • Off the Grid (Chocolate ice cream with peanut butter swirls and chopped peanut butter cups)

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The ice cream will be also appear at a number of local events, such as the Columbus Jazz & Rib Fest, Ohio State Fair, and at Huntington Park for Clippers games.

As a result of this expansion into both Columbus and Cleveland, Perry’s has created 49 jobs in Ohio and will directly invest about $6.3 million in the state in 2019.

The Great Lakes-regional and Western New York-based, family-owned company has been making ice cream for more than 100 years and prides itself on its slow-cooked, exceptionally creamy and delicious ice cream made from local ingredients. 

For more information, visit PerrysIceCream.com

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Food & Drink

“Cinco stars” for new and improved Cinco Tacos

Mike Thomas

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Located in the heart of downtown Columbus near the intersection of Broad and High, Cinco Tacos has been serving the lunch crowd for quite some time. Like many of its fast-casual peers, it was a decent enough place to grab a quick meal that was just a notch above fast food burger chains.

Now, under new ownership, Cinco is done settling for “good enough.” This means more than just a fresh coat of paint on the walls, but a completely new menu highlighting traditional Mexican preparations, executed with patience and care.

Already a veteran of the food truck scene, Fransisco Garcia took over Cinco Tacos a short time ago, and quickly got to work making the space his own. First, he put together a staff well-versed in traditional Mexican cooking. He and his team got to work, completely overhauling and expanding Cinco’s array of offerings.

The results speak for themselves, with tacos, burritos, and other diverse items bursting with authentic flavors that put their Americanized counterparts in the national chains to shame.

Carnitas taco, “suprema” style. Photos by Kelsey Cowan

The secret to Cinco’s superior fare seems to be in taking the time to let flavors develop. The house-made barbacoa takes up to 8 hours to prepare. The carnitas take even longer, and it’s time well spent – both of these proteins are exceptionally tender and flavorful.

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Small touches also demonstrate the care that Garcia takes in his approach to cooking. Not satisfied to serve just another taco, he sources yellow corn tortillas from a purveyor in Chicago that are simply the best available in the region, and perhaps beyond.

On this menu, classic sides like chips and various salsas (all made in house) are joined by unique offerings like pozole – a rich Mexican soup with pork and hominy that is a rarity even among the city’s many traditional Mexican establishments.

Cinco’s pork belly taco – one of the restaurant’s rotating specials

In keeping with the great flavors found on its regular menu, Cinco features a lineup of killer specials that rotate depending on availability of ingredients. The pork belly taco, made with pork belly hand-trimmed and marinated in house, offers an explosion of juicy, porky flavor. Topped with Cinco’s next-level guacamole, this is one special to look out for.

With the new-and-improved Cinco Tacos open for business, it’s hard to justify visiting chain restaurants. Cinco has everything you would find at those other places (plus much more) but with deep, traditional flavors. Try it yourself the next time you’re downtown looking for a quick lunch, or make a special trip of it – Cinco is definitely worth it.

Cinco is located at 1 S High St, Columbus. They currently serve lunch through 4PM, with plans to expand to dinner service in the future.

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