The Silversun Pickups were playing on the jukebox when I entered the just reopened and tres retro-cool Little Palace. That seemed like a fitting band, considering Silversun manages to sound fresh yet familiar.
Impressively, Little Palace is yet another re-fluffed feather in the thinking and drinking cap of what I call Team Corbin. They're the clearly clever force who brought us the fabulous Rossi Bar + Kitchen as well as refurbished and reopened the terrific bars/restaurants Club 185 and Press Grill (the Press was later sold).
With Little Palace - which has kept its original exterior "arrow" sign, Team Corbin (Randy and Tina Corbin, Ron Criswell and Tom Magalaner) again exhibits a considerable talent for taking a once-beloved joint long past its prime and not only making it relevant again but turning it into someplace hip. Plus the team does this without forcing an ironic stance or resorting to kitsch.
Little Palace's space is comfy and pleasing - it's retro without reaching, vintage but never hokey. Here, art-deco flourishes seamlessly blend with smooth gray booths, a checked, '60s-style sofa and brand new flatscreens.
Thus the place rather gracefully honors its previous existence - an old-school cheap Greek lunch spot - while simultaneously establishing its new identity as a hipster hangout.
The one-page menu does a bit of that, too. Concentrating on carefully made but fast-foody booze soaker-uppers, it offers a couple of good salads, some surprisingly inexpensive tiny sandwiches, subs, strombolis and handmade pizzas.
The huge Chopped Caesar ($6) was one of several great deals I buzzsawed through here. It had a creamy, tangy dressing with a hint of anchovy, blocky semi-sweet croutons and its startlingly distinguishing feature - a warm hulking slab of smile-making house-cured bacon.
More restrained but equally pleasing was the plus-sized Palace Greens ($7). An effective yet simple olive-oil vinaigrette made great sense on fresh lettuce, sprightly marinated cucumbers, red onion, halved grape tomatoes and a sprinkling of Parmesan cheese.
On the vastly smaller side were three-bite sandwiches, possibly named by a soothsayer (the place just opened) as Little Palace Favorites. If nothing else, I suppose their paltry price ($2-$3 each) qualifies them for that title.
Basically fast-food staples restyled for more discriminating palates, they're smartly designed for drinkers seeking another diversion. Or, when corralled with each other and/or the Palace's nice Handcut Fries (a generous plateful of steak fry wedges for $2), they'd make a satisfying and cheap chomp.
These sandwiches, all good, are: Little Palace's Gyro (a genuine carryover from its former owners, it might be a fairly standard model but it's a super deal); Crisp Chicken Sandwich (little golden-brown fried poultry chunks plus pickles plus mayo plus melted Swiss cheese equals simple, silly fun); Palace Burger (sauteed onion, American cheese, toasted bun and a handmade patty translate into a non-industrial slider); Meatball Mini (herby, tender orb with melted cheese, a bit of peppadew pepper kick and a brisk pasta-type tomato sauce).
For a more expansive but still cheap munch, the sorta medium-sized pizzas were the way to go. Their irregular, clearly handmade crusts were super-thin in the middle yet puffy, chewy and bready on the golden-brown rim.
Though the greenery could've been pre-cooked longer, I liked the creamy, salty and funky Brussels Sprouts version ($12) with its chewy chunks of pancetta and slices of garlic. Traditionalists might stick with the sausage or sopressata (salami) varieties.
With this promising new Little Palace - which is a couple of storefronts from Dirty Frank's Hot Dog Palace - the neighborhood just got noticeably better for both traditionalists and hipsters.
For more local food news and reviews, check out G.A. Benton's blog , blog.columbusdiningguide.com/underthetable