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Restaurant Review: Pecan Penny’s

Miriam Bowers Abbott Miriam Bowers Abbott Restaurant Review: Pecan Penny’sPhotos by Lauren Sega.
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Pecan Penny’s in Downtown Columbus is looking pretty cool these days. Depending on how you get there, the walk leading up to the barbecue joint might take you by a pawn shop that features interesting folk art and artifacts in its windows. Alternately, you might stroll by a stretch of trendy, independently-run restaurants and bars. Pecan Penny’s has been keeping its big garage door entrance open, so you can continue to surveil the neighborhood’s features from the comfort of your dining seat.

Or relative comfort. It’s been a hot summer for operations that prioritize fresh air ambiance.

Instead of a woodsy look, the new Downtown rib operation features more of a slick diner feel. Sure, there are picnic tables out front and in the back, but pop art, minty pastels and clean lines dominate the indoor scene. It’s all good. There’s an iconic Clint Davidson mural at the front and center. It’s a woman (perhaps Penny), wearing an old school diner serving hat. Something mysterious about her appears to be every ethnicity at once. Just about anyone can see a bit of themselves in her face.

The menu is simple, and appropriately, a rack of the House Ribs has been the favorite find there so far. Each one is exceedingly smokey and savory, making them good without sauce. As always, barbecue sauce is an option you can add, but it’d be a shame to obfuscate the accomplishment of a tender, well-smoked rib.

Beyond the ribs, there are the required chicken, pork and beef (brisket) options. There’s actually a Downtown Sampler option that lets you try all of them at once. The sampler’s chicken quarter was generously sized, but also on the distinctly dry side. In the presence of smoky flavor, some dryness can be overlooked,but the smoke was absent from the poultry too, so that option is pretty skippable on its own. Neither the brisket nor the pork approached the smokiness of the ribs, but the pork, in lengthy chunks, was cooked to supreme tenderness, and it shines with the house barbecue sauce. The brisket got more interesting with a little of the sweet and tangy sauce too.

The aforementioned sampler lets you choose a couple of sides, but you can order them on their own too. The Collard Greens have been outstanding, achieving a soft brininess that is entirely evasive when prepared by a novice at home.

Meanwhile, the Skillet Corn Bread is coarse, and served with ample honey butter which makes everything it touches delicious.

The Mac and Cheese is textbook soft and cheesy. Avoid the baked beans: they are super-sweet . . . dessert sweet, and not for big doses.

A thick slice of grill-finished soft bread comes with the ribs and sampler, effective as a sopping/pairing tool, and fine on its own merits.

While you can order beer with your barbecue, you can do cocktails too. The list includes plenty of bourbon-based drinks that work well with the rest of the menu. Case in point: a Penny Old Fashioned made with Watershed bourbon, maple syrup, pecan bitters and liquid smoke.

You can find Pecan Penny’s at 113 E. Main Street. For more information, visit pecanpennys.com.

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