Restaurant Review: City Tavern in Italian Village
City Tavern’s debut was overlooked last year. It opened without much fuss at its Fourth Street address, following two operations with histories seated firmly on the strugglebus. The location itself, in spite of the Wonderbread connection, just seemed destined for disappointment.
City Tavern does things differently, though. First, it doesn’t seem to have any theme. Brick-colored tiled floors, wood accents, some stuff on the walls: it’s as generic as it gets. But in an age where style is too often valued over substance, the lack of quirky theme leaves the establishment with more room to focus on the eating and drinking aspects of hospitality.
Start with the Double Bacon Cheeseburger Fries ($9). It’s an appetizer idea so obvious, it’s puzzling that it hasn’t dominated local menus for years. Here, it’s built on the foundation of peel-on savory fries topped with cheese sauce, crumbled burger, onions, shredded lettuce, and bacon. And, the very best bites are the teeny pops of diced pickle. Well, perhaps not the best bites, but they’re a fun find, every single time.
Move on to the Hungarian Stuffed Peppers ($8). Having never been to Hungary, the expectation was for some sort of sturdy starchy thing. Nope. Long, skinny mild peppers are vehicles for a dense sausage filling, before being positively smothered in melted cheese, with marinara on the side. According to the internet, peppers offer more than 100 percent of the RDA for vitamin C. Teamed with sausage and cheese, it’s one of the most likable vehicles for vitamins, ever.
You can top the house Mac and Cheese ($7) with bacon, buffalo chicken or Ray Ray’s pulled pork ($4). It seems foolhardy to walk away from a Ray Ray’s opportunity, and big scoops of the notoriously flavorful meat crown a loose collection of cavatappi rolling in a cheese sauce that is distinctly and oddly sweet, too sweet as a partner for the also-sweet pork.
Any good neighborhood hangout needs burgers. The Classic ($11.50) (pictured up top) offers a nice tour with soft lettuce, tomato, and spiky slices of red onion teamed with a sturdy foundation of lean beef. It’s cooked appropriately with a lid of cheese (cheddar was the choice) melted to the top, and served with a massive pile of the seasoned house fries.
Other sandwiches on the menu range from a three-tiered grilled cheese to a French Dip. There’s also a notable salad selection. The Quinoa and Kale ($10) strikes an appealing balance of greens and grains. It boasts kale, Brussels sprouts, the new it-veggie: kohlrabi, and some cabbage. It’s mixed with quinoa and enough sunflower seeds and parmesan to give it flavorful heft with the zing of a lemony dressing.
Bar-wise, that’s still front-and-center of the joint. It hosts a big selection of Ohio beer, including options from Rhinegheist, Actual Brewing, and North High Brewing Company. There’s hard stuff too: cocktails, specialty bourbons and scotch. Happy hour runs from 3 to 7 p.m. on weekdays.
You can find City Tavern 697 N. Fourth St. It’s open seven days a week for lunch and dinner. For the brunch-bunch, it also runs a special menu on weekends that includes eggy options.
For more information, visit citytaverncolumbus.com.