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Food & Drink

The very last York Steak House is on Broad St. and it’s perfectly nostalgic

J.R. McMillan

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Columbus is famous for a lot of culinary firsts, but rarely one of the last.

York Steak House was once the prototype for red meat with a regal motif. While the rest of the restaurant industry was trying to sell commodity steak cafeteria-style with strained western metaphors, York was quietly building a kingdom of castle-inspired eateries.

Founded in Columbus and topping out at 200 locations nationwide, when the mall craze collapsed and tastes changed, York’s fortunes fell. But the very last one has survived and thrived for more than half a century on West Broad Street by remaining largely unchanged thanks to the steady, perhaps stubborn, strategy still championed by owner Jay Bettin, who turned an abandoned outpost of a dying empire into a nostalgic dining destination.

Photos: Brian Kaiser

“What made them really successful in the 70s and ‘80s was that they were in shopping malls. Folks used to go out on Friday night, do some shopping, see a movie, and eat at York,” recalled Bettin. “We were one of only ten locations that was freestanding, so when malls started to suffer, it didn’t hit us the same way. But you could still see it coming.”

Much like the latest season of Stranger Things, there was always something dark and sinister beneath the slick façade of the shopping mall. When Northland, Eastland, and Westland opened in the ‘60s, they soon sucked shoppers away from local businesses. Then when City Center opened downtown just as the mall phenomenon was fading, there was a retail reckoning for the once bustling suburban satellites.

“We were originally part of a buyout. A guy was buying 25 York locations and planned to turn them into Bonanza franchises. I was general manager here and asked him if he would sell me just this one and he could keep the rest,” Bettin explained. “But then Ponderosa bought Bonanza and his deal fell through. Suddenly, mine was the only one left.”

Jay Bettin isn’t trying to give Jeff Ruby a run for his money, even with an enviable head start. Nor is he chasing the latest trends. You won’t find free wifi or a convoluted allergen-friendly menu. There isn’t a rack of fixed-gear bicycles or hipsters taking pictures of their food as it grows cold, either. Point of fact, the last time I was there for lunch, I was the only one among more than 40 patrons shamefully pecking on a smartphone.

“Even though we were a chain, we always ran it like a local business. We know our regulars by name, and they often know each other,” Bettin noted. “We went back to what made York great in the beginning — quality food and quick service in a clean restaurant. We kept it simple.”

Simple is a deceptive understatement. Bettin reconsidered every item on the menu and element of the experience, from ingredients to presentation. The location was among the first Yorks to add a salad bar, to fend off competitors who had already done the same. And by salad, he means “salad,” not some bloated buffet with heat lamps and entrees that have been out there for hours.

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“We don’t claim to have the biggest salad bar in Columbus, but I guarantee everything on it is cut fresh here and isn’t pre-chopped and poured out of a bag,” he revealed. ”Most family-priced steakhouses were focusing more on the buffet than their dinner. It’s hard to do both well.”

York Steak House started as a family restaurant that became a family business. Bettin credits his wife with subtle updates to the interior that still preserve the original aesthetic. Their three kids grew up in the restaurant, and all worked there. Their daughter still puts in a few hours a week despite a career elsewhere. Then there’s Jon Bettin, who works side-by-side with his father, poised to continue the York legacy.

“People come here for the atmosphere, because it brings back childhood memories. When my son Jon was about five, we used to come in the morning and he’d ride his scooter around the dining room,” Bettin recalled. “He’s kind enough to let me feel like I still know everything and I’m in charge. But he’s also smart enough to know he can change things that need to be changed. We share that understanding.”

Sirloin tips are still the number one seller. Even without adding mushrooms or grilled onions, they beat any backyard steak and are surely superior to a few more famous lets at twice the price. And with chicken, seafood, and pasta also on the menu, you could eat at York several times a week, and many do. There aren’t many restaurants where you can walk in with a group of eight people and get seated immediately, much less order in minutes and be out the door again in an hour.

“I don’t have the overhead of a corporate office. It keeps our prices low. My clientele is a little older and I’m obviously not going after the bar crowd.” he chided. “Our meat isn’t marinated or over-seasoned and all of our steaks are cooked to order. For the money, you’re never going to find a better steak.”

Bettin’s early experience working in a bakery also shows in the dessert options. While the industry average suggests about five percent of patrons order dessert, York consistently finds closer to a third of its customers like to grab a slice at the beginning of the line, instead of ordering it at the end of the meal like most restaurants.

“Our peanut butter chocolate cream pie is one of our best,” Bettin admitted. “The fudge cake has been a standard from the start, but now we bake it in house. It’s even better than it was 40 years ago.”

Hollywood Casino gave the business a little boost when things were starting to slow down. Bettin credits name recognition and nostalgia, but he’s also amused that folks come from far and wide to drop a few hundred bucks down the block, but still stop by York. The license plates in his parking lot reveal cars from neighboring states, but also from Texas to Florida, Missouri to Massachusetts.

“Our parking lot is in the back, so folks are sometimes surprised we’re still open. People tell us they planned their vacation route to come here. It’s humbling that folks will go that far out of their way to eat at our restaurant,” Bettin confessed. “We’ve always been a destination. When people leave their homes, they know they’re going to York Steak House. But now, we don’t always know just how far they traveled to get here.”

York Steak House is located at 4220 W Broad, and is also the only location to ever have a website: york-steakhouse.com.

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{UPDATED} Indoor Dining: what’s NOT opening?

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Los Gauchos

PINS Mechanical Co.

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Hey Pinheads. We're so excited to hear that our world is beginning to reopen! Many of you have reached out asking about our opening plans so we wanted to provide a brief update on Pins Mechanical Co. While we fully trust and support the decisions of our local leaders, it’s our responsibility to ensure the health and safety of our team members and guests, while not sacrificing the experience that makes Pins, Pins! With that in mind, none of our locations will be opening in May. There are many unknowns with COVID-19 and we hope that taking this extra time will help our guests and teammates feel better about the measures we’ve put in place to keep all of us safe. For example, on top of our already stringent cleaning procedures, we’re installing UV technology at all locations (ensuring you always have clean balls to play with). We’re looking forward to welcoming back our kick-ass team to train and adjust to this new normal. Once our people feel comfortable + confident, we’ll know it’s time to get rollin’ again! Thank you for your incredible support, online sales, photo shares + kind words over the last two months. Even when you couldn’t show up, you showed up and we’ll never forget it! We’re hopeful that everyone will be safe and smart as we begin to reopen the doors to the small businesses that make our communities so special. See you soon, Pinheads!

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Old North Arcade

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Dear friends, . As you are most likely aware, Governor DeWine has permitted the reopening of bars and restaurants for dine-in seating effective 5/21. We are very grateful that our leadership is now offering businesses the choice to do what they think is right. We offer no judgment for the bars and restaurants that are/have chosen to open. However, for our particular business, and for our staff, we still think it's too early. We are going to remain closed this week and next but do hope to open soon. Your understanding and patience is greatly appreciated and we cannot wait to see you all. It is important to us that we apply an extra layer of safety and precaution on top of the govermental recommendations. Tentatively, we are looking at the end of May to reopen in a very limited capacity but we're following local and national developments very closesly so will be quick to bail if things turn south. Your continued support has been quite humbling. Thank you. Stay healthy, support local, and be more than kind to one another. . Cautiously optimistic, . ONA Staff

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Watershed Kitchen + Bar

101 Beer kitchen

They are delaying opening dine-in service until May 26th.

Matt the Miller's Tavern

Stay tuned on social for patio and dine-in updates!

J. Gumbo's

J. Gumbo's will continue to stay open for online ordering for pick up and delivery - stay tuned for dine-in updates.

Mouton on High

The Whitney House

The Whitney House will be opening Tuesday, June 2, 2020 at 11 am.

The Guild House

Stay tuned for opening dates!

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Stay safe everyone 💕

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Smoked On High

Dirty Frank's Hot Dog Palace

The Woodbury

The Woodbury will be opening its doors for dine-in service on June 1 2020.

Roosters

Roosters are not opening dine-in until May 26th 2020.

The Eagle

The Eagle is temporarily closed - stay tuned on social for updates!

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In light of the government mandated closure of dine-in business for an indeterminable period of time, we’ve made the incredibly hard decision to temporarily close The Eagle Columbus. . Given the truly unprecedented and quickly evolving nature of this health crisis, we’ve been forced to make the best decisions we can, with the information we have. As the true scale of this crisis has been revealed, it’s become impossible to deny the impact this mandate will have on our business and team members. This decision was made as all of our decisions have been: with the health, happiness, well being and best interests of our guests and team members in mind. . The state of Thunderdome Restaurant Group is strong and we look forward to seeing and serving you all on the other side of this. Truth, courage, and be well.

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Lavash Cafe

Tiger + Lily

Tiger + Lily is sticking to carry out for the time being. Follow them on social for updates for dine-in!

Yats Grandview

Red Lobster

Red Lobster is continuing to stick to curbside pickup, delivery, or touchless pick-up.

Harvest Pizza

Bareburger Columbus

Bareburger is opening for dine-in on May 26th, 2020.

Mezze

City Barbeque

Local Cantina - Creekside, Grandview, Dublin, Westerville, Hilliard Locations

Creekside Local Cantina is delaying opening indoor dining until May 26, 2020.

OH Pizza and Brew

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Coronavirus

Don’t be that guy/gal who forces your favorite bar/restaurant to permanently close; here are the rules

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Once the flood of COVID-related documentaries start to infiltrate our Netflix and Hulu feeds, one of the most debated topics will be which smoking gun the auteur chooses. NBA player Rudy Gobert recklessly rubbing his hands over every microphone during a press conference days before testing positive comes to mind first. The spring break bro who wouldn’t let the virus stop him from raging will make its rounds. Even the scene at Standard Hall made some people’s skin crawl.

The Ohio Investigative Unit will be doing its best to monitor situations at restaurants and bars in order to prevent any future anecdotes like the ones listed above. Local law enforcement agencies will be assisting the OIU to make sure that establishments are complying with the Dine Safe Ohio order. With the issues that were brought up following the opening of outside dining on May 15, the OIU has made specific stipulations for patrons to follow:

  • 6-foot social distancing between employees AND members of the public
  • patrons must be seated while eating and/or drinking 
  • no more than 10 people to a table
  • no billiards, video/arcade games, dancing, or card playing
  • patrons must follow specific guidelines put in place by restaurant/bar

For those who have no shame dancing by themselves in public, you’re golden. However, patrons can be written up for not following the OIU’s guidelines. 

Some people may be able to shoulder a citation, but bars and restaurants are the ones who have the most to lose here. In a press conference on May 18, Gov. Mike DeWine mentioned that OIU will issue citations that could result in the permanent loss of liquor licenses.

So once again the ball is in the consumer’s court: follow these very simple rules and avoid the risk of putting your favorite restaurants and bars out of business for good. In 2020, being spring break bro is the worst look.

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Food & Drink

Craft & Vinyl pairs pints with LPs in new digital book

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For almost two years, Craft & Vinyl has been pouring drinks while music-obsessed patrons flip their fingers through owner Troy Stacy’s vinyl collection. The Grandview area bar also operates as one of the handful of record stores in Columbus. Lump in a recording studio experience and a stage for live music and Stacy has essentially crafted a one-stop-shop for music enthusiasts.

Like most record stores in the area and around the country, Craft & Vinyl is feeling the economic effects of COVID-19. With no patrons to drink craft pints or musicians to fill the store with live music, every side of Stacy’s business has been blindsided.

However, Stacy has found a distinct way to quench the thirst and tame the ears of his would-be customers. With a longstanding tradition of pairing potent drinks with suitable music, Craft & Vinyl is finally bringing their mixology vision to book form with POUR and PLAY.

POUR and PLAY is chock full of combinations of cherished classic and modern albums, ranging from Amy Winehouse to Billie Eilish, Outkast to Tame Impala. Each page comes with a display of an individual album along with a brief description, ideal craft beer pairing, and an embedded Spotify link.

The digital book is currently available for presale at a 50 percent discount. You can lock in your copy of POUR and PLAY for $12 by following the link here.

Become fully immersed in the “hopsonic” listening experience by purchasing POUR and PLAY.

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