The Olde Towne Tavern opened just over a month ago, next door to The Angry Baker and across the street from Yellow Brick Pizza. In many ways, The Tavern resembles a lot of other Columbus bars located in historic buildings. Wood floors, brick walls and a painted tin ceiling. Dark colors, dim lighting and hip music round out the experience. While the decor gave me a bit of deja vu, it still looks great on its own and is a welcome addition to this stretch of Oak Street.
I want to take a moment to mention that you’ll notice something different this week, which I hope is a major improvement to this ongoing series of Columbus Underground restaurant reviews. The photography! Jennifer René is now handling our food photos, and does a much better job than what I’ve done previously with my basic digital camera. I’m confident that her photography skills will do a much better job at capturing the quality of the food featured in these reviews each week.
Speaking of food, the menu at The Tavern boasts all of your bar food staples from pizzas to sandwiches to chicken wings. There’s also a lot to be found here for anyone looking for something a bit healthier than the norm while grabbing a drink or two. The wings are baked, the mozzarella sticks are pan seared, and there are four different salads to choose from.
The Tavern Nachos ($10 regular / $12 with chicken) are a bed of tortilla chips topped with tomatoes, black beans, jalapeño slices, a cheese sauce, sour cream, pico de gallo and guacamole. The chicken used was all white meat, and the house made guacamole was a nice rendition. I couldn’t find any sort of signature spin throughout the various ingredients that were assembled into these nachos, but it was nonetheless a pretty decent plate. The jalapeño slices have a good amount of heat, so be ready for them. The Tavern Nachos are portioned as an appetizer to share with two to four people, so be ready to split them with friends.
The Beet Sliders ($7) are a trio of mini sandwiches served simply with a slice of marinated beet topped with red onion and green goddess dressing. The buns are lightly toasted, the beet slices are softened without being mushy, and the crisp red onion is a nice contrast to the steamed minced piles found on your traditional White Castle sliders. The dressing adds a light layer of liquid and is a nice change up from what could have easily been filled by ranch dressing. I don’t know what the caloric intake of these little sliders might be, but at the very least I felt healthy while eating them.
The Bartlett Pear Grilled Cheese ($8) includes pear slices, brie, cheddar cheese, sliced almonds and spinach between two slices of whole grain bread (comes with a side of kettle chips and a pickle spear). This unique sandwich stood out as my favorite among the items tried so far at The Tavern. The cooked pear yields a very soft, mild flavor profile while the brie dominates in a way the a slice of American can’t quite match. The wilted spinach adds a bit of richness, and the almonds add texture. A very creative and impressive take on classic bar food.
The Red Masher Grilled Cheese ($7) includes mashed potatoes, broccoli, bacon, havarti and cheddar cheeses, served on italian white bread (also comes with a side of kettle chips and a pickle spear). The brocoli has a very slight blackened char, and is quite flavorful as if it’s been roasted and not boiled to death. The bacon crumbles are a little too small and get a little lost in the mashed potatoes. And speaking of those potatoes, they retain their skins which altogether feels a bit dense between two thick slices of bread. To me, this meal screams “Thanksgiving Day Leftovers”, which is a great flavor combination, but you have to be ready for the food coma that follows eating something so carb-heavy.
The Tavern could easily stand on its own as a neighborhood saloon with food being an afterthought, but the owners have taken it upon themselves to put some much appreciated effort into the menu. I imagine that over time there will be some menu additions, subtractions and other updates but if the launch menu is any indication, there’s good things in store for those who decide to venture here for more than just booze.
The Olde Towne Tavern is located at 889 Oak Street and is open Monday through Saturday from 11am to 2:30am, and Sunday Noon to 2:30am. More information can be found online at www.theoldetownetavern.com.