Did you know that Skillet - that staunchly local-ingredient-sourcing little dynamo of a cheap, kick-ass modern diner - is now serving dinner? Based on the teeming crowds I haven't seen lining up out its door recently (though the place has hardly been empty), I'm guessing not.
But going on three months now, Skillet's been whipping up their knock-you-in-the-chops and beg-for-more ferociously flavored cuisine during evening mealtimes. What's more, well-informed and super-friendly waiters now come to your table, yet prices are still alluringly inexpensive.
How alluring? Well, not a single item on Skillet's Ohio-product-packed menu costs more than a single fancy cocktail at cushier places (translation: all oversized, custom-made sandwiches and "plate" entrees clock in between $9 and $12).
OK, this brings up two pertinent issues: Skillet still doesn't have alcohol-enhanced quaffs, and while its smallish space isn't "upscale" it is design-smart and edgy in a masculine, farmhouse-art-school kind of way (yes, I just coined that term).
Let's get to the food, because audacious takes on creative, scratch-made dinery favorites is what Skillet's all about. OK, like meat? If not, Skillet probably isn't your kind of joint. But if you are a happy carnivore, oh boy, this tiny powerhouse is calling your name.
Before sinking my teeth into the mighty meat, though, I'll mention that only a couple of soups and salads comprise the entirety of the "appetizers" on Skillet's brief, tersely written menu. From these, the Cream of Tomato ($2.50 per cup) distinguished itself from its genre proudly. Eating surprisingly light for a broth fraught with cream and smoky peppered bacon, it received a contrasting, earthy texture and taste from a chunky mirepoix dice.
The Simple Salad of Arugula ($4) was also a delight. Basically Italian in its stripped-down aesthetic, it was just fresh, peppery leaves refreshingly, perfectly, treated to salt, lemon and olive oil.
Clean and lean grass-fed beef from nearby Flying J Farms (Johnstown) was the rockstar of my new favorite burger ($9). The juice-leaking patty arrived with a textbook seared crust and on a crunchily toasted brioche bun gilded with a fried local egg, Point Reyes fontina cheese and richness-cutting arugula. An interesting, housemade sweet and thick tomato marmalade came on the side.
More local, grass-fed, high-grade beef crowded a bowl brimming over with comforting joy - this time in slabs of braised Bluescreek Farms pot roast. Playing sidekick in this dynamic duo (Mac & Brisket, $12) was a mountain of crusty, bread-crumb-topped cavatappi macaroni and Amish cheddar cheese.
Darkly cross-hatched, Ohio-raised chicken breast lightly swabbed with a bright and fruity barbecue-type glaze was the meat of the matter on the Grilled Buttermilk-Black Pepper Chicken sandwich ($10). The delicious winner also featured more lemony arugula (love that stuff) and a creamy/tangy surprise schmear of goat cheese.
This brings us to the insane but insanely wonderful Pig Mac ($12). Approximately the size of Pittsburgh, the outrageously massive sandwich (with delicate sweet housemade pickles, tender, cider-braised pulled pork, huge slabs of herby pork loin, bacon, smoked gouda and tons more) arrived with a huge serrated knife stabbing its toasty seeded roll in the middle. Consider that the alarming calling card of an unbelievable, killer sandwich.
Side dish-wise, I recommend the crispy, rosemary-flecked fingerling potatoes ($4). I also suggest you up that ante with a bowl of Ohio-raised Lamb Chorizo Gravy! Dessert will be a bursting-with-butter, lovely textured Griddled Cinnamon Roll with String Icing ($4).
OK, now you should be ready to line up outside Skillet's door at dinnertime, right?
For more local food news and reviews, click to G.A. Benton's blog at blog.columbusalive.com/underthetable