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Restaurant Review: Strongwater Food and Spirits

Miriam Bowers Abbott Miriam Bowers Abbott Restaurant Review: Strongwater Food and SpiritsAll photos by Walker Evans.
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The thing that’s so addictively lovable about found-object art is that you can see the artwork’s origins. It’s not all polished and shellacked and wholly removed from the source.

In that same found-object way, Strongwater Food and Spirits is everything that’s exciting about an urban revitalization project. You can see its roots. It’s in a found space just west of Downtown that turns out to be ridiculously fabulous for drinking and eating.

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So, the pessimist says enjoy it while it lasts: pretty soon the big money developers are going to invade Franklinton and turn it into a fancy, reprocessed Short North, complete with chain restaurants.

Ugh, wait. It’s too early to be Debbie-downer about the price of success. It’s just that Strongwater feels too good to lose.

The experience does truly start with the space: a retro tiled floor and entryway open up to high ceilings, columns and a big room surrounding a classic bar.

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Appetizers and small plates set the tone towards cute fanciness. The two tacos on the menu (Fish or Chicken: they are $3.50 each) make a nice duo. Both arrive on soft flour tortillas. The fish version holds crisped, shredded mahi mahi and an oniony pico de gallo with a big cilantro presence. It’s a perfectly fresh-feeling combo. Meanwhile, the chicken taco filling is stewed in something sturdier –something kin to enchilada sauce. That makes it a heartier option.

Smoked Chicken Kebabs ($9) are another fun starter, skewering appealing charred meat with matching chunks of blistered potatoes and a little onion.

Macaroni and cheese is probably a menu requisite for any locally hip spot. The Buffalo Mac & Cheese ($7) from Strongwater’s kitchen is different, and might well outlast the trend. Instead of gooey wet noodles, it’s a loose pile of elbows dancing around bits of bacon, little clots of cheese and a generous supply of pepper. The pepper gives it a kick that is both old-school and yet somehow uncommon.

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Beyond that, guests can go with formal entrées or casual sandwiches. The sandwich menu features an array of options including a Cuban and a Pulled Pork sandwich. Meatloaf is always a fun adventure in dining out. In the Original Meatloaf Sandwich ($9), the loaf is shaped like a big round patty with a fold of lettuce, some remoulade (sorta thousand islandy) and a glob of goat cheese. Served with chips, if it’s not a particularly comforting meatloaf sandwich, it is quite good and filling.

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Or on the fancier end, there are Short Ribs ($16). Strongwater might just make some of the nicest short ribs on the local dining scene. That title is earned on the wings of the flavor that infuses the meat. Frankly, the dish can be bland at other joints, but the meat here boasts bonus flavor perhaps from stewing in red wine. It’s served atop mashed potatoes with seasonal vegetables.

As for some strong water at Strongwater: there’s a thoughtful drink menu. Names such as Oyo and Watershed grace the cocktail section. The menu also highlights a list of white and red wines as well as draft beer and some seasonal options.

You can find Strongwater at 401 West Town (the north side of 400 West Rich). It’s open Tuesdays through Thursdays from 4pm until 12midnight. On Fridays and Saturdays, it’s open until 2am. The kitchen closes thirty minutes before the doors shut.

For more information, visit www.strongwatercolumbus.com.

All photos by Walker Evans.

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