Went there last Thursday after reading this. Agree about just moving into the mostly intact old shell of the Monk, like a hermit crab. But, it works. Definitely makes it feel like they've been there longer, which is nice. The wall decor is decidedly whiskey-centric, and I love it. Minor repairs and patching needed all over the place, though. They get major forgiveness since they just soft-opened the doors, and we were apparently there on night #2 of many.
Having been to the Short North location hundreds (no stretch) of times, I personally got some blisters from the differences, but there were definitely some upsides.
- I wouldn't feel as bad taking a group there or my boyfriend's parents, for example. Same great food, but you're way less likely to draw ire for having a party of 4 or more. Major plus for the breathing room.
- More whiskey, more wine, a great selection, and getting even better in time!
- Food is almost exactly the same, save some minor differences, which I hope they correct: like, the french fries at B44 on High are some of the best I've had in my life. Ever. The fries in Bexley were not the same. The flatbread in the woodfired oven was still getting kinks worked out, so mine was pretty underdone. I miss the "pan-fried from scratch for every single order" crispy FB's from the other kitchen. The ingredients and offerings were largely the same, though, and that was a GOOD thing. The food at B44 has always been amazing, and I'm glad more people will get a chance to try it now.
- Fish! Lots more fish, and fresh oysters! Impressive!
- Daily specials... call me a nutcase, I'm a sucker for a daily special. It signals creativity and flexibility in the kitchen, and not just cutting open a bag of whatever with some scissors to offer the SOS every night (I'm leering at you, Cheesecake Factory.)
- The super surly staff that hates you for taking up room was not there. As much as I love 3-4 of the bartenders in the SN location, the others are really quite mean. Everyone in Bexley was warm, friendly, genuine, and helpful.
- That said, the new staff was a little inexperienced, and there were lots of them. They need to go to whiskey camp or something, but I found their awkwardness mildly charming. I hope that the same bunch sticks it out and matures, they're all nice people. If you need help or recommendations on whiskeys to try, though, you're better off asking a diner at the next table. Is there a whiskey equivalent to a sommelier? That would be awesome. I'd like to be one.
- WHAT is with that parking lot?! I have a teeny tiny hatchback, and it felt like an Escalade trying to squeeze into the spaces. Careful for door-dingups!
- Cutesy dishware - this is almost a pro, because the salad bowl shaped like an amphitheater was cool, but weird bowls and plates were an eensy bit distracting at times. The super small cocktail glass for water was an odd choice. I guess it forces your server to check in on you more often - but - when they don't, it's irksome.
Overall, it was a great time, and the dinner was really the focus, as it deserves to be. My boyfriend wasn't able to drink 14 different whiskeys and essentially render the food pointless, like he does at the one in our neighborhood (and I'm ok with that!). I would bet, though, that the next time we visit the B44 in Bexley, we'll be sitting at the bar. And, I bet that 9 times out of the next 10, we'll be walking to the the end of our block, risking a run-in with the surly hostess in the Short North - until the BF wants oysters again.
I heard that the SN location grabbed the space vacated by the gift shop next door, so, I hope that means good things for them - and maybe that hostess can lighten up.