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Ghostwriter Public House brings “refined rustic” cuisine to Central Ohio

Melinda Green

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Denise and Dennis Blankemeyer have been passionate about hospitality their whole lives. Now, they’ve poured that passion into Johnstown’s newest restaurant: Ghostwriter Public House.

Ghostwriter is a study in juxtapositions—the white and charcoal interior, the interplay of light and shadow, the sheer and heavy textiles, the “refined rustic” menu. One thing that doesn’t need a foil, though, is the warmth of its spirit. Their hospitality shines through.

“The biggest compliment we got, right out of the gate, was that it seemed as if we’d been open for years, just how everybody was working in sync together,” Denise said.

The Blankemeyers have a history of putting their passion into action. They started their Crow Works furniture business in the 1990s, moving from retail into design and manufacturing, and eventually purchasing a manufacturing facility in Killbuck, Ohio, surrounded by a 100-acre farm. The Blankemeyers moved their corporate offices to Johnstown in early 2019 and opened Ghostwriter in November.

“It’s just something we always wanted to do, open a restaurant,” Dennis said. Denise laughed. “I don’t think a single person said ‘Hey, that’s a great idea,’” she added. But they view it as the ultimate creative expression: Designs, flavors, sights, smells and a welcoming atmosphere.

“We thought, if we don’t make money on the restaurant, that’s okay; we can use it as a marketing space,” Denise said. “We could take that leap of faith, knowing that it wasn’t our livelihood.”

Local art and artisanship is big at Ghostwriter. From the art on the walls, to the ornate frames around the televisions, to the brass beer tap handles, to the Crow Works furniture, to Dennis’ custom designed footrail, nearly everything that can be locally sourced has been. Of course, that extends to the food as well, with the majority of the menu procured from Ohio farms.

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So why the name? “A ghostwriter is someone who writes the story but doesn’t take the credit,” Dennis said. “Immigrants picking grapes, beer makers, people you don’t see in the back washing your dishes, there’s a whole team of people who are very passionate, but they don’t get the credit, and it’s a nod to them.”

The space is both lively and relaxed. Ghostwriter has not one, but two full bars—one in the front of the building and one next to the open kitchen. The bars operate on speed wells, and in place of a backdrop of bottles, two large televisions display ambient imagery.

“Oftentimes when we grab a bite to eat, we like to sit at the bar because there’s more energy there,” Denise said. “We knew we were going to do the main bar, but with the open kitchen, we felt like there wouldn’t be enough energy on that side, so we threw in another bar.”

The Blankemeyers took the same approach to hiring that many successful restaurant owners have taken in recent years: find a great chef and a great general manager, and let them build and lead their teams with a minimum of interference.

Chef Brett Fife, formerly of Lindey’s in German Village, built his team almost entirely from kitchen staff he had worked with in the past, ensuring a solid foundation from day one. “It’s like having my own restaurant, without having to put up the capital,” he said. “This is my style, elevated tavern food. The ideas are approachable, but there may be some unique ingredients involved.”

Building the front-of-house staff was a little harder. “Here in a small town, there are fewer applicants, and finding experience has been the biggest challenge,” General Manager Coty Gilchrist said. “I’ve focused on personality and character, something genuine, laid-back, and warm, and I’m happy with the team I have.”

This is a place that balances a modern, urban aesthetic and dining concept with small-Midwest-town friendliness. On the night of the Johnstown Santa parade, the restaurant was sufficiently busy, yet the customer service was warm and welcoming. Servers made a point to learn guests’ names. Strangers struck up conversations. I ordered a smashburger at the bar and talked for over half an hour with the mother of one of the bartenders, there for her fourth visit. “I’m working my way through the menu,” she joked. She’s not alone—Ghostwriter already has a good handful of regulars.

Their cocktail menu is straightforward, with a handful of seasonal specials. They don’t water down their drinks or shortchange you on the booze, either; the cocktails pack a delicious wallop.

The Blankemeyers are risk-takers, and their future plans are bold. “There’s lots of layers here,” Dennis admits. They plan to eventually use hardwood offcuts from their furniture manufacturing to fuel the restaurant’s grill works, for a true zero- waste manufacturing process. They also plan to create a sustainable farm on the land surrounding the manufacturing plant, growing their own vegetables and fruit trees, even livestock, eventually making the restaurant farm-to-table. It’s a perfect plan to grow their passion for hospitality.

Ghostwriter Public House is located at 491⁄2 Main Street in Johnstown. Learn more at ghostwriterph.com.

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Food & Drink

Local restaurant named one of the best new concepts in the country

Regina Fox

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Columbus is making national headlines once again, this time thanks to Cameron Mitchell Restaurants.

The restaurant group's newest concept Del Mar SoCal Kitchen was named one of the country’s top 20 new restaurants in 2019 by OpenTable.com.

To be considered, restaurants had to be a part of the OpenTable network and meet a minimum number of qualified reviews.

Del Mar has a 90% recommendation rating according to OpenTable.

The restaurant opened in April 2019 at 711 N High St., serving California-inspired foods like lobster rolls, swordfish, beef tenderloin, as well as a raw bar.

To read more about Del Mar, click here. To check out their Restaurant Week menu, click here.

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The Interview Issue: Columbus Brewing Company owners Beth & Eric Bean

Mitch Hooper

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Each January, we feature the movers and shakers of the city in in-depth, in-person interviews that dig into their backgrounds, their plans, and what ties them to the capital city. While our interview issue subjects are all Columbus-based, their stories are universal. So settle in, cozy up, and give yourself some you-time. You’ll want to read every word.

Columbus Brewing Company was at the forefront of the craft beer movement. Beth and Eric Bean are making sure it stays that way.

The next time you crack open a bottle of Columbus Brewing Company’s Bodhi, turn the bottle around until you see a seal of approval label. On every single bottle of CBC’s brews, there’s a quality assurance mark, signaling to the drinker that the brewer is proud enough of this beer to put their name on it. The name you’ll find on all bottles of CBC is Eric Bean, co-owner and brewmaster. And while he and his wife—CBC co-owner Beth Bean—have become more focused on working on their business rather than working for their business since taking over this legacy company in 2014, beer is always on their minds.

In 2019, CBC celebrated its 31st birthday, marking it as one of the longest-standing local breweries in Columbus. The special year also welcomed in a first for the company: a brewery and taproom on the city’s west side. It might sound crazy that one of the oldest breweries in Columbus is also one of the last to open a taproom, but the Beans both echoed this sentiment: it was the next proverbial step. While stocking bars with kegs and grocery stores with bottles is a way to monitor how brews are doing in terms of popularity, the immediate feedback from customers in the taproom can help influence future brews, which are being created daily in the back. It’s the new age, and even local breweries want analytics.

The opening of the taproom also represents the work the Beans have put in since taking over CBC, a journey that can be split into many silos. The brewery they took over holds a legacy in the Columbus community— both as an institution that is local, and one that serves some damn good beers. It’s up to Eric and Beth to not just maintain that status, but better yet, propel it to the next level. Outside some financial help from a bank, the brewery is essentially independent of investors, meaning there is creative freedom, but also plenty of risk. It’s also up to the Beans to craft the voice behind the brand of the beer. With a few iterations under its belt, the current CBC logo represents the traditions built by brewers past thanks to the old style font, and the brewers of the future thanks to modern illustrations, clever names, and interesting designs on the bottle.

Photos: Brian Kaiser

The Beans are dedicated owners. While Eric starts his mornings bright and early for sensory tests and meetings, Beth is no stranger to working late into the evening, solving errors on the website and preparing for future projects.

In talking with the Beans, you can tell the two love every aspect of the brewing process. While showing (614) around the brewery, Eric’s eyes lit up as he talked about CBC’s sour program, or the new bottling system which helps monitor the amount of oxygen getting into the bottle once it’s sealed. (It turns out oxygen can be detrimental to beer over time after the bottling process, and the new device allows the Beans to discover where there might be kinks in the distribution line.) It’s subtle moves like this that ensure a quality product finds its way into pint glasses across the city.

“We’ve always said we don’t want people to buy our beer just because it’s local—we want that to be a bonus,” Eric explained. “We want to be the best beer on the shelf [...] And it’s difficult. Making high quality beer is not as simple as many small brewers have found. It’s a lot easier when people are coming over and drinking your beer for free.”

This love for beer has roots that run deep for Eric. Prior to CBC, Eric was the brewmaster at Gordon Biersch, a well-loved national restaurant and brewery chain that began in 1988. Before that, Eric took his time to master his craft—literally. He attended U.C. Davis, where he studied brewing science in the master brew program under the guidance of a German-trained brewmaster.

“Henrick was the brewmaster and he was like, ‘Look, craft beer is going to stay. What I see as a problem is there aren’t trained brewers in the U.S. There are a bunch of talented brewers that don’t have the technical skills,’ ” Eric recalled. “He was the one who really convinced me that if I wanted to make a niche in this industry, I had to go to brewing school.”

The goal for Eric since the beginning has been the same: make high-quality beer he can be proud of while also pushing the envelope.

Originally, CBC approached Eric about coming on as the head brewmaster. He had other ideas in mind, kindly declining the offer and following up with a bigger ask: could he just outright buy the company?

“It was a Friday afternoon meeting that wasn’t really planned, and within a couple of weeks we were negotiating it and putting it all together,” Eric recalled.

It didn’t take long for CBC to need more space for all the projects they were working on at the time.

“In the end at the old place, we’d have to drive the forklift into the parking lot to turn it around and get it back in,” Beth said. “We never thought we’d fill the new place, but if you look in the back, that’s not the case.”

The face and voice of the company comes from Beth, who manages the social channels with her own photography. It’s not often considered when it comes to drinking, but branding is a large part of what helps to sell your beers. While the true “King of Beers” might be up for debate, the trademarked King of Beers is something we are all too aware of. The same can be said for local brewers. Finding a way to stand out on the shelves is a challenge, and something as simple as a nice looking bottle design can be the difference between sipping a six pack of CBC IPA, or a case of Bud Light. The Beans entrust graphic designer Greg Davis to create the label designs, and his art work can be found on the murals inside the brewery and taproom.

The pinnacle of their hard work comes in the form of a bottle, the Columbus IPA. Prior to the Beans taking over, CBC was stocked with pale ales and lagers, but it was Eric who introduced a West Coast IPA to the line up. It was an instant success, and it led to the birth of other popular IPAs such as the aforementioned Bohdi and Creeper, both of which have been award recipients at the Great American Beer Festival.

“I think that’s why people know us, you know? Mostly IPAs,” Beth said. “That’s what really is the backbone.”

The Beans said 2014 is when they noticed the craft beer boom start to pick up steam. Couple a community’s interest in where their goods are coming from with a growing need for elevated options and you have the perfect storm for CBC. This is also when other local breweries started to find popularity, and the Beans tip their caps to places like Wolf’s Ridge for combining high quality beers with thoughtful dishes. While the CBC brewery and taproom currently doesn’t feature food, the Beans are working on a food adventure near Old Towne East called the Trolley Barn which will host CBC taps in the future.

Though the love of the brand and the beer is apparent, the care the two show towards its staff further proves the Beans’ dedication to quality. When the two took over CBC, the staff was much smaller than the more than 40 employees they have today.

“We always try to remember it’s not just Eric and I. It’s not just our house on the line,” Beth explained. “We have a bunch of employees and families that count on us and we are trying to make sure they have jobs in the future. We’re responsible for a lot of people—and not just us. Also the people we buy from. It’s like a whole community.”

As always for the Beans, its quality over quantity. This mantra is what has made this brewery into what it is today. And if Eric and Beth’s time at CBC has proven anything, it’s that all great things take a little time and a lot of beer.

The Columbus Brewing Company Taproom is located at 2555 Harrison Road. Visit columbusbrewing.com to learn more.

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Food & Drink

Restaurant Week Sneak Peek: Wolf’s Ridge Brewing

Regina Fox

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In less than 10 years at its natural sunlight-soaked digs on N 4th Street, Wolf's Ridge Brewing has managed to become a place revered not only for brewing some of the best beers the city has to offer, but also for serving some of the best food.

What better time to experience them both than Restaurant Week January 20-25?

We were lucky enough to get a sneak peek of Wolf's Ridge three-course menu before it was released to the public, and we think you're really going to like it.

First Course: Choice of baked brie, endive salad, or bread and butter

The endive salad offered depths with every bite: the brightness of the shaved pear, the fresh earthiness of the endive, the texture of the fennel, the crunch of the walnuts. But the star of this dish was certainly the pool of tangy, creamy blue cheese dressing hiding below the colorful mixture.

Second Course: Choice of salmon, grilled cauliflower, or pork tenderloin

Without a shadow of a doubt, I believe each one of the entrees offered during Restaurant week are slam dunks, but to me, the choice was obvious: pork tenderloin.

The three plump and pink cuts of pork were so tender, they could be easily cut with just a butter knife. The succulence of the meat played well with the sweet, nutty sunchoke puree, and rich smoked hazelnut butter. Like the french origin suggests, the demi-glace soaked into the tenderloin truly was the "icing" on top.

Third Course: Choice of cheesecake or fudge bar

If at the end of your meal you're feeling bright, light, and flirty, the cheesecake is for you. The toasted coconuts coating the mousse-like rum cheesecake, icy pineapple sorbet and orange marmalade will send your palate on an all-inclusive trip to the seaside.

Feeling a little more dense or moody? The punch of the espresso ice cream, thick chocolate bar, and sticky caramel crémeux will have you closing your eyes, and "mmm"ing through every bite.

At $40, the Wolf's Ridge Restaurant deal is quite possibly the best time to experience the creative, elevated menu. But, you and the other 900,000 residents of Columbus already know that, right? So, don't wait to make your reservation!

To learn more about Restaurant Week January 20-25, visit eat614.com.

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