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Law And Orders: Fledgling bar Lawbird soars high with style

Melinda Green

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The hot pink neon sign by Lawbird’s window reads “NOT GOVERNED BY REASON.” The logo on the menu cheekily warns you to “leave your bullshit at the door.” The space inside is light, bright, and funky, a reflection of owners Annie and Luke Pierce’s home. In fact, everything about the place is a reflection of the Pierces’ taste in drinks, food, and entertaining—and the result, so far, has been a success.

The Pierces opened Lawbird, their first bar, in early November. Instagram is their main mode of communication and the primary way the bar has attracted clientele, although word of mouth has also been a driver, especially among older guests.

”Most nights, you look around and there’s people of all generations, which is really, really cool in this city,” Luke notes.

Photos: Brian Kaiser

“I don’t think there are a ton of bars that get that big of a spread,” Annie adds. “Restaurants, of course. But I don’t think I’ve worked in a bar that draws this broad of a crowd.”

Luke and Annie grew up in the Columbus suburbs and have spent their careers in the restaurant and bar industry. Annie was involved with Bombay Sapphire’s Most Imaginative Bartender competition in London, England for years, and won in 2017—the first woman, and the first bartender from a tertiary market, to take the top honor.

They met six years ago, when Luke was selling wine for a local distributor and Annie was working in a restaurant. They knew they would eventually have a place of their own: Annie always joked, “we’re not switching jobs or industries any time soon, so we might as well be doing it for ourselves.”

After two years of conceptualizing and planning, they describe the final result as a direct reflection of how they like to eat, drink, host, and share. When they talk, it’s clear that even though Lawbird is in its first few weeks of getting off the ground, they already have their eye on the future.

“We have an absolutely phenomenal team working with us, but we knew the first concept had to be executable within our means, on a shoestring budget,” Annie explains. “Then, as we grow, we can tackle more diverse things.”

Lawbird is known for unique wine selections as well as for high-quality cocktails. “We just love wine, the diverseness of it,” Luke said. “It was something we felt Columbus needed as well—there are a lot of tired wine lists, I think, in Columbus.”

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“A lot of wine programs are based around restaurants,” Annie adds. “So it’s things you’ve seen before, and it becomes kind of a closed loop. We wanted to create a space where you didn’t have to eat to enjoy wine. It’s kind of a comfortable, casual space that de-stigmatizes and de-mystifies. Not everything is made to be paired with something.”

The list ranges from easily quaffable reds, to orange wines, to high-acid whites and sake—again, the types that the Pierces enjoy in their everyday life.

“Most of the wines on our list are on the natural spectrum somewhere,” Luke said. “The grapes might be grown organically or biodynamically, some might have natural fining or filtration, some might do native yeast. Not a lot of other places do that around town.”

Annie curates the cocktail list. Rather than laundry-list every single ingredient, the menu highlights main flavors and allergens, then gives a saucy “feels like” descriptor. “We want the cocktails to be drinkable, but quirky and fun. We want to challenge people a little.”

Lawbird also carries a handful of beers, mostly Ohio- brewed. But the Pierces admit they’re not the destination for beer on South High Street, with neighboring establishments already dominating the beer scene.

“One of the most surprising elements coming out of our space is that the food is really, really good,” Annie says. Their favorite snacks and shareables, like soft-cooked eggs with house-made mayo, can be enjoyed singly or combined for a larger, nontraditional, dining experience. The menu is “veg- centric” (but not entirely vegetarian), with both hearty and lean offerings.

Lawbird even has a small retail program, offering select 3-bottle curated wine packages for holidays or everyday. “It’s super fun for us, because it extends our nerdiness,” Annie laughs.

One of the things the Pierces enjoy most is sharing insights, personal knowledge, and favorite products with their guests and staff, as well as educating about things like orange wine.

And their commitment to their team is clear. “Annie and I have made this our profession, and we really want our staff to be able to treat this as a profession as well,” Luke says. “We have staff who are serious about constantly learning.”

“We serve people, not food and drink,” Annie adds.

The sign in the window may suggest otherwise, but the Pierces clearly have left no detail to chance where the success of Lawbird is concerned.

Lawbird is located at 740 S. High St. View menus and learn more at lawbirdbar.com

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Food & Drink

Tastebud Traveling: Free tasting event coming to North Market

614now Staff

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Take a family tastebud trip with the return of Kalamata’s Kitchen Tasting Tour at the North Market this weekend.

Kalamata’s Kitchen will kick off a 12-month, 12-city tasting tour in Columbus on Saturday, February 22. This premier event for kids and families will feature tasty bites from North Market vendors representing food from around the world.

According to a release, every child participant is treated like a VIP as they discover new foods and learn about unique perspectives from celebrated chefs. Kids receive a VIP badge and a Food Adventure Passport that is stamped each time they try a new food. They will also have the opportunity to meet Sarah Thomas, co-founder and author of the Kalamata’s Kitchen book series.

This event is free and open to the public.

For more information, visit kalamataskitchen.com and/or northmarket.com.

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Food & Drink

Nice To Meat You: Pit BBQ drops major news

614now Staff

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Hot off the opening of their newest restaurant, The Pit BBQ announced yet another location.

The smoked meats adventure, started by former Buckeyes Chimid Chekwa and Bryant Browning as well as D’Andre Martin and Mike Johnson, first opened in 2016 at 3545 Cleveland Ave. in Columbus’ North Linden neighborhood. 

Photos by Rebecca Tien

Earlier this month, they expanded to 1542 Parsons Ave. and just recently, the restaurateurs have signed a lease for a third location at 4219 N. High St. in Clintonville.

Curious to learn more about the cravable BBQ joint? Check out our (614) Magazine coverage here.

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Food & Drink

Bistrolino Old World Kitchen brings unique flavors to German Village

Mike Thomas

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In the conversation around modern dining, there are certain descriptors that have taken on less than positive connotations. These inherently harmless words became objects of mockery due to overuse, thanks in part to concepts that probably had no business applying them in the first place. In particular, the word “fusion” seems to have worn out its welcome.

The much-maligned “F” word notwithstanding, the crossover success of Lebanese-meets-Italian on display at Bistrolino Old World Kitchen and Bar is not just an attempt at novelty, but is backed by the rich historical similarities common to the two cultures. Take it from the Romans and Ottomans: as unique as a civilization may be, you don’t spend so much time in close proximity without a few things rubbing off.

Like the traditions from which they hail, Bistrolino owners Sam Chedid and Francesco Todisco found common ground in their love of food. A native of Southern Italy, Todisco started making pizzas at age 13. His 24-year career in cooking took him to numerous kitchens in New York City, and later, to work as a chef in his wife’s native Columbus. Chedid began his career as a civil engineer, but never fully connected with work in that field. Dreaming of opening his own restaurant, he took a job with Aladdin’s Eatery to learn the ins and outs of the industry. It was here that the two connected, and began collaborating on the concept that would become Bistrolino.

Photos: Rebecca Tien

“I always told him we would open a restaurant together and he’d laugh it off,” Chedid says with a laugh of his own. “Over our time getting to know each other, we realized how similar our foods were ingredients-wise, and decided to put them together.”

Looking at the common elements between the two food cultures served as a starting point for Bistrolino’s menu. There is much that the two culinary traditions share outright, and other areas where commonalities allow for creative synthesis of complementary flavors from each culture.

With their plan of action decided, the duo already had a destination in mind for their new venture: Columbus’ historic German Village. “The neighborhood has been fantastic. We always knew we wanted to be here,” Chedid said. “The old architecture and little streets remind us of home.”

And the food at Bistrolino seems to have reminded others of their home, as well. Since opening in late December 2019, the restaurant has already attracted clientele from far and wide—including members of the local Lebanese and Italian communities in search of familiar flavors that are hard to find in Central Ohio.

“I wanted to introduce people to more Lebanese food that you don’t see unless you go to Lebanon,” Chedid says of Bistrolino’s offerings. “We love hummus, we love tabbouleh, but we’re just trying to stay away from that, because that’s what you find everywhere commercially.”

If off-the-beaten-path Lebanese food is decidedly less familiar to the American palate, Bistrolino’s fusion of Italian favorites offers a gateway to new experiences. Whatever level of familiarity one approaches the menu with, the dedication to quality and freshness on display in the kitchen is sure to win fans.

“If I can tell you anything about the food that we make, it’s that it’s all about simplicity and very high-quality ingredients,” says Todisco. “The culture where we come from, sitting down at the dinner table is not just to feed ourselves. It’s to come together and have a good time. All of our dishes are made having in mind that usually when people come together, they are sharing.”

The shareable menu concept is well-expressed through a variety of familiar Mediterranean favorites, from flatbreads (each available as an open-faced Italian Puccia or the more sandwich-like Lebanese Mankoushe) to charcuterie. A selection of terrine, single-serve roasted dishes served right in the cooking vessel, present some of the restaurant’s more decadent offerings. Whether it’s the made-to-order lasagna, lamb chops, or a brasciola (the menu’s most expensive item at a more-than-reasonable $20) comprised of thinly-sliced, cream- of-basil-stuffed NY strip—the entire menu offers an incredible value for fresh, scratch-made fare.

From a Lebanese salad called Fattoush to frittatas and much more, vegetarian options at Bistrolino are abundant, as are unique wine selections. The house wine from the Massaya Vineyards label of Lebanon offers a taste of a country that is considered a hidden gem among wine producers.

Whatever the mood calls for, diners would do well to arrive early to secure their preferred dish. The confines of the small kitchen’s limited storage space and Todisco’s commitment to using the freshest possible ingredients sometimes means that items will run out.

“I feel sorry when I have to tell people we are out of something, but there is nothing I can do,” he explains. “This is the only way to keep everything super fresh.”

Food so good it sells out? Maybe fusion isn’t such a bad concept after all.

Visit Bistrolino Old World Kitchen and Bar at 495 S 4th St in German Village.

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