The Commonwealth Sandwich Bar opened last spring, and I’ve been planning on trying it out ever since, but have failed to do so until now. Reviews have been mostly positive, and after it made the Columbus Underground list of “Best New Restaurants of 2011” I knew it was time to pay it a visit.
Commonwealth is a place where a lot of attention is paid to the quality of ingredients. Breads come from the local Eleni-Christina Bakery (run by restauranteur Kent Rigsby) and all chicken used is both local and organic. There’s a whole lot of house-made condiments and toppings too, but we’ll get into a few of those in just a moment.
Upon entering, the first thing you’ll notice is that Commonwealth is a tiny, tiny place. The restaurant seats only six people, which means that you’re either getting your food to go, or hoping to luck out during a non-busy time. The decor is modern yet cozy, somewhat similar to Chipotle with painted concrete floors, exposed brick and accents of sheet metal. There’s a small-but-functional mobile drink cart in the corner for beverages, and the sounds from the kitchen in the back match the volume level of the music for a nice ambiance as you dine looking out onto a busy stretch of High Street. Paintings hung on the wall are provided by 83 Gallery (all of which were for sale) and the menu can be found on a chalkboard behind the counter.
To start, I tried out the Chicken Club ($8.50), which contains large chunks of chicken breast, pickled cucumbers, house cured bacon, swiss cheese and chipotle aioli. The chicken was absolutely delicious, a combination of quality sourcing and perfect preparation. The bacon provided some nice texture and salt to the dish, and the cucumbers added crispiness. While the sandwich could have benefited from a heavier balance of vegetables, I thought that the thickness of the bread was a perfect match for the sandwich.
The Village Idiot ($8.00) sandwich is named after the bar next door, but seems to be more inspired by The Primanti Brothers, being topped with cole slaw and french fries. This chicken-based sandwich also includes pickled onions, cheddar cheese and Commonwealth’s port wine barbeque sauce. While the sauce was good, it soaked into the bread pretty quickly, turning my sandwich into a bit of a mess to eat. Similarly, the pickled onions dominated some of the other flavors, which was enough of an imbalance for me to lean away from ordering this one again.
The Urban Cowboy ($9.00) is a sandwich that contains roast pork shoulder, house cured bacon, gorgonzola cheese, pickled onions, tomato and port wine barbeque sauce. While still a bit messy, I thought that both the onions and sauce worked much better with the pulled pork shoulder, which was juicy and tender and delicious. The gorgonzola cheese was a bit of a contrast to the other flavors, but I still thought that it worked well. The Cowboy was the highlight of the three sandwiches I tried, beating out the Chicken Club just by a hair.
A side of the Mixed Bag of Fries ($3.00) includes both regular potato fries and sweet potato fries in one large paper cone. These were hands down some of the best tasting fries I’ve tasted recently (and I am a fan of the fries at Graffiti Burger). They were crispy on the outside and soft on the inside, salted perfectly and accompanied with small cups of chipotle aioli and cayenne ketchup, both providing a small amount of heat.
Overall, the Commonwealth Sandwich Bar is a winner. Great ingredients put to creative uses at a price point that is affordable by gourmet sandwich standards. Their menu is quite expansive, with 15 different options to choose from, so it may take a few visits to hone in on your favorite item. Once you discover it though, I imagine it might end up on your own personal Top 10 list.
The Commonwealth Sandwich Bar is located at 1437 North High Street, in between The Ohio State University at The Short North. Their menu and other information can be found online at www.commonwealthsandwichbar.com.