Restaurant review: Hubbard Bar and Grille

By Columbus Alive
From the Restaurant review: Hubbard Bar and Grille edition

No foams, gelees or sous vide techniques are evident on the Hubbard Grille menu. Instead, it's populated with (organic and local-ingredient-inflected) upscale takes on down-home and down-South-type dishes.

Plus now the bar part of the restaurant is literally front and center. In other words, one step into the new Hubbard Grille (a sibling to Gahanna's Mezzo) will let you know you're not in Rosendales anymore.

So except for those same primo views onto the Short North through massive windows and that airy, sky-high ceiling, Hubbard Grille has wholly transformed the former Rosendales space. Also, instead of focusing on dramatic and edgy cooking, now the emphasis is on fun.

I love how Hubbard's neo-vintage neon sign outside riffs on that of the original Winders Building. And I grinned at Hubbard's very clever menu logo - wherein the underlying "grille" occupies equal space as the "bar" in "Hubbard."

Clearly, recreational sipping is big here - a couple of tables even have "pour your own" taps. That said, the California-heavy wine list wasn't particularly inspirational nor were the soda-poppy cocktails I tried (one - Hub Punch - is actually on tap; garnished with a candy lime slice, it tasted like fizzy Pixy Stix).

More impressive is the masculine ambience. Extremely roomy, it's flatteringly lit with hushed amber-glowing boxy lamps. Generally loud and rowdy, Hubbard grooves to an accessible and upbeat rock or dancy soundtrack.

The spacious double-decker restaurant also features a prominent TV-equipped rectangular downstairs bar and a smaller bar in the slightly quieter, loungier upstairs. Manly heft comes from exposed brick, style from handsomely striped carpet and comfort from belted brown leather booths.

I recommend you order a beer (there's a decent selection) from Hubbard's black shirt- and jeans-clad, unflappable and altogether great waitstaff. Then target the terrific Short Ribs and Shrimp starter ($12). Tender, unctuous strands of slammin' pot roasty beef and (nearly overwhelmed) shrimp were united by killer, coarse-grained cheese grits and a buttery "tomato jus" with enough spicy heat to help alleviate the outrageous richness.

Other worthy beginners were an addictive Five-Tomato Soup ($4.50, a glistening basil oil drizzle outlining a tart backbone against a creamy body) and house-made cornbread ($4.50 - sweet, crumbly and with a slight dryness eradicated by intriguing lavender butter).

For salad fans, the Winter ($6) featured beets, spinach, blue cheese and an unusual, pungently oniony dressing, and the Arugula ($5) was all right even if inharmoniously mismatched with dried cherries.

Those great grits also graced a dinner plate of beautifully pan roasted (if not so spicy) Cajun Spiced Red Snapper ($21). Excellent, firm, buttery haricots verts completed the presentation.

I was a big fan of the golden brown, crackly crust on the Buttermilk Fried Ohio All-Natural Chicken ($16). And I voraciously stabbed at the pan-crisped smashed potatoes and black peppery, chicken-fried-steak-type gravy.

Unfortunately, the chicken breast was a tad dry and the straightforward braised greens were sandy (though they were just right on another visit). I'm willing to attribute Hubbard's occasional misfires (like an underseasoned, kinda bland House Seasonal Pasta, $14) to its just-opened status.

Besides, any place that can make Hubbard's wonderfully buttery French-style (i.e. tarte tatin-like) Apple Crumb Tart ($6.50) will have me coming back for more.