The Jury Room has the distinction of being one of the oldest bar/restaurant operations in Columbus, originally opening their doors back in 1831 (when the City of Columbus was a mere 19 years old). After 180 years, the restaurant underwent a transformation in 2011, under the guidance of Elizabeth Lessner and her Columbus Food League restaurant group. The venue was given a deep cleansing and a modern day menu that features Italian-American inspiration and a cocktail list filled with fun beverage names (“Double Jeopardy”, “The Felony” and “Jury Juice” just to name a few).
There’s a wide range of starters, soups and salads on the menu at The Jury Room, and I decided to test out a staple item with their Classic Caesar Salad ($5 small /$8 large). It includes romaine lettuce tossed in a Caesar dressing, and topped with Parmesan cheese and croutons. It’s a pretty basic take on a Caesar salad, but the lettuce was crisp and fresh. It’s also topped with shaved Parmesan, not powdered, which is a nice touch. Not a bad portion size for a side and it came with a chunk of bread.
A group of ten pasta specialties have their own place on The Jury Room menu, ranging from Chicken Parmesan to Shrimp Scampi to Spaghetti and Meatballs. The Beef & Noodles ($11) is an entree that includes pulled braised beef, penne pasta, sauteed mushrooms, red onions, peas and a creamy mushroom sauce. This dish could easily embody the “comfort food” description as it comes across exactly as something mom used to make when you were a kid. The beef is tender and juicy, the peas are warm but not mushy, and the cream sauce ties everything together nicely. I thought that the penne was an interesting choice, as I would imagine some type of wide flat noodle as being a little more home-style, but regardless, the dish works really well.
The Jury Burger ($8.50) is topped with provolone, arugula, tomato, red onion, and a zesty house mayonnaise. The burger itself was prepared medium and seemed to be hand-formed and not a frozen patty. The mix of ingredients were a nice nod to Italian-type flavors without straying too far from being a straightforward and solid burger. I upgraded the side from chips to Truffle Fries (an extra $1), which are tossed in truffle oil topped with Parmesan and served with a side of spicy aioli. The fries were semi-crisp and golden brown, and the sauce added a great creamy kick. I’d certainly go out of my way to order these again upon a return visit.
Another entry on the sandwich menu is the Meatball Hoagie ($8), which includes four house made meatballs topped with melted provolone and a house made marinara sauce. The commitment to making both the meatballs and the sauce from scratch is what elevated this sandwich from being just another meatball sub. The sauce was sweet and tangy with a dusting of Italian seasonings. The meatballs were large and juicy with just a mild spiciness. They are nicely put together with meat that’s finely ground. Not quite as amazing as the veal meatball at Marcella’s, but still a solid version for a sandwich. The overall size of the bread and the meatballs (it’s a huge sandwich!) made it a bit of a challenge to bite into. Get a few napkins!
Overall, I was pleased with everything I tasted during my trip to The Jury Room. It’s a perfectly fine addition to the sit-down mid-range restaurant category, and all of the food here simultaneously exhibits signs of childhood comfort and modern day updates. The Jury Room is the least quirky of the Columbus Food League restaurants, which gives it a more subdued character and laid back atmosphere. At first glance, the menu might not look like it takes itself seriously enough, but the details really shine upon closer inspection.
The Jury Room is located at 22 East Mound Street and open Sunday through Thursday, 11am to 11pm and Friday & Saturday 11pm to 1am. More information can be found online at www.juryroomcolumbus.com.