As you’re probably well aware, Central Ohio was hit pretty hard by a series of wind storms over the past two weeks, which left hundreds of thousands of people powerless for multiple days. I heard stories of many restaurants and other businesses that were affected by the weather and power outages, and decided that I wanted to support one this week that suffered a hit. When I found out that the Surly Girl Saloon lost over $7,000 in food product (which unfortunately isn’t the worst of the losses that I’ve heard about), I decided that it was time to pay them a new visit.
The Surly Girl Saloon has been a Short North Staple for going on seven years, and notably remembered as the first expansion of the Elizabeth Lessner group of restaurants to follow the original Betty’s. Surly Girl has always been the rock and roll member of the Columbus Food League, with its dark zombie-vs-pirate decor and sassy menu item descriptions.
Speaking of menu items, Surly’s food could be described as an Americana hybrid that ranges from pizza to sandwiches to comforting entrees with a southwestern tex-mex bent. The Frito Pie and Surly Girl Pizza (topped with gorgonzola, dried cranberries and pecans) are staple items, and plenty of vegetarian and vegan friendly options can be found here too.
The Salmon Tacos ($12 for 3) are served in your choice of flour or corn tortillas and topped with a cabbage slaw and cilantro-citrus salsa, and served with a side of yellow rice and black beans. The salmon is marinaded with sweet chilis, shredded and applied amply to each taco. The slaw was a fairly basic purple cabbage mix, and the salsa’s contribution of mandarin oranges made for a unique flavor combination. These are some great flavors when combined, but the fish was overdone and dry, and the lack of any real liquidity in the salsa left me craving something a bit juicier. The beans and rice are individually pretty standard, but make a nice combo when mixed together.
The Vegetarian Chili Menage A Trois ($8.50) is a platter of pasta shells topped with vegetarian chili, monterey jack and cheddar cheese, green onions and tomatoes. The vegetarian chili was mildy spicy with a nice body to it despite the absence of meat. The spice combination mixed with the other toppings gave it more of a traditional red tomato salsa flavor profile, which falls in line with the aforementioned overarching tex-mex theme. The switch away from traditional spaghetti noodles made the dish less messy to eat, but the al dente shells were just a slight bit chewy along side the chili and cheese mix.
The Pollo Ranallo ($13) is an entree of two pieces of chicken breast topped with a chorizo crumble and covered in a queso sauce and a ranchero sauce, served again with a side of beans and rice. The creamy queso and the hearty ranchero sauces blended together nicely, creating a rich flavorful accompaniment that worked well with both the chicken and the sides. I do think the chorizo was a little drowned out by the other flavors on the plate and could have been removed without really noticing. Similar to the salmon, the chicken was unfortunately overcooked to the point of dryness, but the sauces managed to salvage the dish. Had the chicken been juicier, this certainly would have been a homerun.
Surly Girl’s Cupcakes ($2.50 each) are offered for dessert in two flavors: Red Velvet and a daily special. The special flavor on this visit was a lemon cake with blueberry buttercream frosting, topped with a marchino cherry. Both cupcakes were perfectly prepared with fresh moist cake and sweet icing. The blueberry and lemon flavors were a great summery lemonade flavor that amounted to what was one of the better cupcakes I’ve had in recent memory.
The food, atmosphere, service and decor at Surly Girl are truly unique in Columbus and a one-of-a-kind experience that I’d highly recommend to just about anybody. The food menu has been thoughtfully crafted and individual items contain some great flavors, but my recent visit left me craving better execution with some of the essential components of the dishes. When compared side-by-side with similar semi-formal bar food, Surly Girl stands shoulder to shoulder with its peers. If perfect execution can be nailed down for the sake of consistency, the I’d say that the menu at Surly Girl will jump a half step ahead of its contemporaries.
Surly Girl Saloon is located at 1126 North High Street, and is open from 11am to 2am, seven days per week. More information can be found online at www.surlygirlsaloon.com.