When I walked into the brand-new Park Creek Kitchen in Upper Arlington, I was startled. Yes, to see the space's reincarnation into a stylish and modern, bar-equipped restaurant out of a former bare-bones, carryout-oriented pizza place bordered on stunning.
The pleasant surprises kept coming when I scanned PCK's smallish, interesting and focused menu, which concentrates on creative takes on American comfort favorites. And the positivity kept flowing as I munched through some of PCK's easy-to-love snacks and sandwiches (there's also half a dozen entrees) whipped up by its real-deal chef - Jeff Headley, a graduate of Tucci's and Johnson & Wales cooking school.
Decor-wise, Park Creek, which probably seats 30 or so people in a single room, dramatically pits green walls against red cloth-covered chairs in a manner that conjures up cocktail olives. That seems fitting, given PCK's two paintings: a hatted ('40s-era) gent in one and a woman in the other, individually perched over drinks in the same bar and apparently fated to meet in a third artwork.
Similarly, Park Creek seems like a perfect match waiting to happen for this grown-up-restaurant-starved section of Arlington. Given the impressive food I tried, I'd say PCK's a good partner for me too.
I started off with a dressed-up junk-food appetizer - PCK's super-pleasing Fried Homemade Pickles ($6). Those golden brown, crispy, lightly battered discs (which worked better than spears) bounced a brisk exterior crunch off a nifty blast of juicy tartness. On the side was a complementing mayo-based tarragon mustard sauce.
Lush and attractive and spiked with herbs and wine, PCK's Artichoke Soup ($6) was downright elegant. A quartet of nice, fatty shrimp populated the thickish broth along with strands of artichokes and diced, roasted carrots.
Considering this terrific starter had more of a root-veggie than artichoke character and resembled a squash soup, maybe it was misleadingly named; if so, that point was moot since the soup tasted great anyway.
I was also wowed by the excellent house-ground Southwest Burger ($8). So large it was difficult to get my mouth around (and my gob is massive), that rockin', fresh-tasting juice bomb sat atop a wonderful, crusty fried green tomato and got taco-like Southwestern flavors from a quillija chili sauce.
Like that formidable burger, the inspired We Three Pigs sandwich ($10) rested on a nice, perfectly toasted kaiser roll and was sided with fantastic hand-cut root veggie fries (you can sub in a terrific, tartly dressed salad). The pig-out sandwich corralled crispy bacon, chunky bbq-tasting pulled pork and a big, beautifully deep-fried pork cutlet that unfortunately was rather fatty.
An extremely moist Smoked Chicken sandwich ($7.50) combined barbecue-like poultry with a "vinegar and orange soda" sauce, melted cheddar and a nearly upstaging slaw that was chunky with onion, red cabbage and raddicchio.
There were no desserts when I visited, but I eagerly anticipate returning for those as well as PCK's promising dinner entrees. Stay tuned.
For more local food news and reviews, click to G.A. Benton's blog Under the Table at ColumbusDiningGuide.com