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Strip Mall Surprise: Clintonville’s Over The Counter

Aaron Wetli

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Welcome back to Strip Mall Surprise, where we identify the hidden gems that make Columbus shine. The only requirement? They have to be in a strip mall. In this edition, we will celebrate the 1950s diner culture, neighborhood gathering places and good old fashioned American fare with a modern twist. This story takes place in a defunct pharmacy and a patio happens to be involved. Don’t lie, you’re already interested.

It’s difficult to manufacture and produce a brand-new concept with soul and depth. Some can’t pull off this feat and close for reasons out of their control (RIP Betty’s) and some fail to produce character but thrive regardless of product or circumstance (I’m looking at you, Easton Town Center).

The world is an unfair place and opening and running restaurants can prove as daunting and exhausting as getting the local MLS Soccer Club to not leave town.

Fourteen months ago, Molly Rice and her managing partners found the energy and stamina to match their vision of opening a retro diner with modern touches. Located on (way) North High Street—where Clintonville kisses Worthington—Over The Counter is a the neighborhood gathering place, watering hole, and restaurant that’s overflowing with character.

The original plan was to name OTC “The Pharmacy,” as Rice and company wanted to pay homage to the Nicklaus Pharmacy, a local drug store with a fountain jerk (Google it, millennials), that was the building’s original tenant. However, the Pharmaceutical Board of Ohio didn’t think this was a good idea and fought Rice to block the name. Lighten up, Pharmacy industry.

Still, OTC stays true to its roots and has centered its energy, layout, and decor around a bar that could easily pass for a fountain soda counter. This bar runs almost the entirety of the south side of the restaurant while the remaining portion of the restaurant is outfitted with retro looking tables and booths. Towards the front of the restaurant is a retro chic lounge area that 1950s hipsters would feel at home in.

Behind the bar, 10 taps are available (I enjoyed a Rockmill Pilsner), nine serving craft and one tap keeping it real with PBR, as well as a fully stocked bar available to make in-house craft cocktails. The selection is impressive, and unpretentious, which is the vibe Rice was aiming for. She wants you to come in and feel at home whether you are with a group of friends, eating dinner alone, sipping a whiskey quietly in the corner, or enjoying happy hour with the regulars.

Speaking of enjoying happy hour with regulars, on my particular visit I ran into neighborhood residents and OTC regulars Mike Shehata and Shelley McCoy, both of whom I occasionally claim as friends.

Upon entering, both were warmly greeted by Rice who immediately grabbed a Michelob Ultra for her and a Watershed vodka and Soda for him. Soda jerk: upgraded.

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Who can blame regulars for coming in for the occasional happy hour when it is such a bargain? Running from 2–7 p.m. DAILY (come on Columbus bars and restaurants, get on the daily happy hour train) drink specials half-off most beers, $1 off house liquor and $4.50 select wines. Food specials start at 8 p.m. when appetizers are half off.

As more regulars trickled in, we moved our party to the patio to accommodate our growing group. On our Wednesday night visit, the patio contained a family of three enjoying some quality time together, a retired couple having an early dinner, and two 30-somethings enjoying the sun and some suds.

Diverse, family-friendly, and welcome to all—just as Rice planned.

For dinner, I decided to go with the Pulled Pork sandwich. Topped with crispy and juicy onion rings, the pork was succulent and tender. I subbed out chips and upgraded to the mac & cheese (the diet starts next week) which contained provolone, cheddar, swiss and cream cheeses and was topped with breadcrumbs. A nice addition to this platter was the rich and creamy coleslaw. Full disclosure: I could eat coleslaw with every meal, which according to my wife makes me the world’s oldest 41-year-old.

OTC also serves brunch on the weekends. Beginning at 9:30 a.m., the building fills up quickly and it’s not uncommon to have a small wait for a table by 10:30.

One reason? The homemade donuts.

Another reason? The chicken and waffles.

A third reason? The service, quality and ambiance.

A fourth reason? You don’t need any more reasons.

Lunch specials have also been recently introduced. For $7.49, you can pick two items from a list of s alads, soups and sandwiches. I believe I can speak for all the north Columbus educators out there when I salute OTC for a budget- and time-friendly, yet high quality lunch.

For the music aficionados in the crowd, it should be noted that Rice has started booking bluegrass bands, too. Bands play in the front lounge area and although there is no set schedule as of yet, Rice received great feedback from patrons and is looking to make live music a regularly scheduled event. I would recommend the American Mule (Tito’s vodka, lime juice, ginger beer) for an evening of enjoying local music at a new local hot spot.

Speaking of local, OTC partners with local distributors whenever possible. Lucky Cat Bakery, One-Line Coffee, Petali Teas and Scherer’s Potato Chips are all represented and help OTC keep its local appeal.

OTC has a little something for everyone and more restaurateurs would be well served by adopting Rice’s philosophy and commitment to quality food and drinks while simultaneously supporting and involving the local community. Get your fix for local filled at Over The Counter. And maybe your donut, prescription too.

Over the Counter is located at 5596 N High St. For more, visit overthecounterofworthington.com

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Food & Drink

3 cocktails to try at home with High Bank Distillery’s new Professor Rum

Mitch Hooper

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Making cocktails at home is hard—that’s a statement we won’t get much debate from with the drinkers at home. Maybe it’s the magic the bartenders in this city wield that make our drinks so damn delicious, or maybe it’s just our lack thereof. But sometimes all you need is a few tricks of the trade to become a master of your own home bar, and that’s where High Bank Distillery comes in.

Fresh from the still comes High Bank’s newest bottle release: Professor Rum. Stock & Barrel stopped by the facility, kitchen, and bar to see how we could concoct our very own cocktails at home with the rum. Here are three options for you to try. Or of course, just simply stroll down to HBD and have one of their cocktail wizards whip you up a delicious elixir.

Rum Julius

1.5 oz. Vanilla Infused Professor Rum .75 oz. Demerara Simple Syrup
1 oz. Half and Half
2 oz. Fresh Orange Juice

Instructions: Combine ingredients in a shaker and shake well. Garnish with orange zest and mint sprig.

Photos: Brian Kaiser

Peat's Me

1.5 oz. Professor Rum
.5 oz. Laphroaig
.25 oz. Simple Syrup
2 Dashes Angostura Bitters 2 Dashes Cardamom Bitters

Instructions: Combine ingredients in a mixing glass. Stir. Pour over a big ice cube and garnish with lemon peel.

5 Stormy Nights

2 oz. Chinese spiced rum
.25 oz. lime juice
.25 oz simple syrup
Goslings Ginger Beer to Float

Instructions: Combine rum, lime, and simple syrup in a shaker and shake. Pour over ice in a copper mug and top with ginger beer. Garnish with a lime wheel.

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Food & Drink

Where’s the beef? At 614 Burger + Beer Week, coming soon!

Regina Fox

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On the 18th of September, some great folks—the powers at be only know who—determined this would be the day humankind celebrates the juicy, succulent, greasy creation we've come to know and love as the cheeseburger.

And on October 7 through 12, your good friends here at (614) decided those would be the days we'd celebrate burgers and beer here in Columbus!

Burger + Beer Week, presented by (614) Magazine and Ohio Beef Council, is your chance to enjoy $6 burgers and local beer specials at 75+ of Columbus’ top restaurants:

Some restaurants will discount their menu mainstay burger for the event while others will whip up entirely new creations you can only get during Burger + Beer Week.

And thanks to our friends at Columbus Brewing Company, Seventh Son Brewing, Platform Beer Co - Columbus, and Land-Grant Brewing Company, you'll be able to greasily grab for a specially-priced pint to wash down your meal.

But, perhaps the best part of Burger + Beer Week is the opportunity to give back. Now through October 12, you can enter to receive dinner for four people at six Burger & Beer Week restaurants plus a craft beer gift package, with each unique entry equally a $0.25 donation to the Columbus Diaper Coalition!

Be sure to RSVP to the event and follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram for loads of burger giveaways, like this one we have going on right now with Ted's Montana Grill!

Burger & Beer Week is made possible thanks to: Ohio Beef Council, Gordon Food Service, Trinity Homes, Lamar Advertising of Columbus, OH, Financial Providence Group, The Brew 105.7, WNCI 97.9, The Wasserstrom Company, BMI Federal Credit Union, Stock and Barrel, Yelp Columbus, and 614now.

**No tickets are needed for this event but you can view participating restaurants & menus as they're added at EAT614.com soon!

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Food & Drink

10 deals and steals for National Cheeseburger Day

Regina Fox

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Google defines a cheeseburger as "a hamburger with a slice of cheese on it," but we all know it's so much more.

It's an extension of your dominant hand during the summer months. It's something you can look forward to grilling up after a long workweek. It's your favorite food.

Today, we celebrate all this and more with National Cheeseburger Day.

Below are deals and steals to take advantage of on this glorious holiday. Happy eating, Columbus!

Applebee's | Multiple locations

Classic Bacon Cheeseburger and endless fries for $6.99

https://www.facebook.com/applebees/posts/10157546306359334:0

Red Robin | Multiple locations

A Gourmet Cheeseburger and Bottomless Steak Fries are just $5 with the purchase of any alcoholic or non-alcoholic beverage.

Ted's Montana Grill | Multiple locations

Burger + fresh-cut fries deal for just $6. Click here for a chance to win a $25 gift card!

https://www.facebook.com/tedsmontanagrill/photos/a.105938556277/10157371679961278/?type=3

Dairy Queen | Multiple locations

Dairy Queens offering two for $4 Super Snack deal, which includes mix-and-match snacks including choice of a cheeseburger, a small sundae, fries, pretzel sticks, or chicken tenders.

https://www.facebook.com/dairyqueen/videos/751031365356013/

Burger Theory | 175 E Town St

You can get a free burger at all Burger Theory restaurants located in Holiday Inn hotels, while supplies last.

Wendy's | Multiple locations

You can get a free Dave's Single with any Wendy's purchase with an offer on the mobile app. The deal lasts until September 30.

McDonald's | Multiple locations

Download the chain's app to get a sandwich for $1, including Big Macs! The offer is available until September 30.

Houlihan's | 3150 Tremont Rd, Upper Arlington

Get the Houlihan’s Burger with cheese and fries for only $5.

Bareburger| Multiple locations

From 3pm- 6pm, you can get a BOGO deal on Bareburger's American or vegan Golden State burger.

Burger King | Multiple Locations

Get a cheeseburger for 59 cents with a mobile order on the chain’s app. Limit one coupon per person.

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