Restaurant review: Lexi's on Third

From the 06/08/2011 edition

As I stared at a crunchy toast-jacketed, fist-sized stack of juicy pastrami and corned beef sitting next to a pile of crispy fries, I thought about our government's brand-new dietary guidelines. Have you heard about this? Evidently that old food pyramid is out, and in is the just-introduced "My Plate" which, we're now gloomily informed, is supposed to have only one-fourth of its space filled with protein.

With a shrug, I shelved those "My Plate" thoughts into a mental china cabinet of disregard, then ravenously gulped back a massive hunk of that beef-packed sandwich. Its salt, fat and meat-tastic heft hit my slavering tongue and reptile brain like a runaway freight train leaking cole slaw. Instantly I became glad that, like me, Lexi's apparently has decided to ignore the un-American government memo.

Lexi's on Third is a newish casual Downtown player and already one of the better ones. This is clearly due to strong family roots. See, Lexi's is the sister to Danny's Deli on Front Street and the daughter of the long-popular Danny's in Cleveland.

Fans of the Columbus Danny's - I qualify - will be happy that Lexi's has vastly improved on its sibling's model. Instead of Danny's cramped and sealed off basement-y atmosphere, Lexi's is a bright, modern and airy glass cube in the Chase Bank building. Lexi's has nice tile, plenty of seating, a wall of windows view onto the hustle and bustle of Downtown and a rotunda-like smaller space in the rear. Other upgrades are wine and beer service (!), longer hours (Danny's closes at 3 p.m., Lexi's at 8 p.m.) and a nifty little patio which is my preferred perch, weather permitting. Significantly, what's unaltered is the meat - Lexi's offers the same high-grade Danny's deli-cacies.

Since breakfast is the best deal here, I'll start there. And you should begin with Lexi's killer Corned Beef Hash ($5). It's an immense and immensely pleasing ungreasy amalgam of corned beef, spuds and onion griddled to golden brown and delightfully crinkly on the teeth. It comes with two eggs, and if smart, you'll pick over easies and "sauce" the heavenly hash with punctured yolks. Eat it, tweet it and hashtag it #breakfastofchampions.

If instead, you're going for heart smart (party pooper), try the credible Veggie Omelet ($4.50). Served with fluffy and excellent home fries, it's more plant than egg, jammed with huge chunks of mushroom, spinach, peppers, onion and tomato.

The mammoth sandwich I referred to earlier is a choose-two-meats and add swiss cheese and cole slaw ensemble called the Love Connection ($10.50). Like any successful love connection, it's messy yet wonderful and something to be shared.

But keep your hands off my Roast Beef Melt. Not because it's better than the great Love Connection, but because its hot meat, sauteed onions and melted Swiss are more digestable by one person, especially if ordered small or "slim" ($8).

Using thinly shaved (read: easily ripped through) meats and perfectly toasted breads, it's no surprise Lexi's deli sandwiches rock. But Lexi's also makes good soups ($3), like a marvelous Matzo Ball and an unusual fruity gazpacho; worthy fries ($2) and sweet potato fries ($2.50); plus a surprisingly top notch Greek salad ($7.50) and Gyro ($5.50, with big knobs of highly seasoned, crisply textured meat).

Toss in a new, lighter and inexpensive happy hour menu (with wings, dips, deli sliders and shrimp in a whiskey-mustard sauce), and summer should be looking pretty damn good over my plate on Lexi's patio.