The food could have totally been beside the point at Milestone 229. Born lucky in an expensively rehabbed neighborhood loaded with stunning things to gawk at, Milestone could've skated by on its good looks and its eye-candy setting - the people magnet that is the impressive new Scioto Mile development.
Speaking of Scioto Mile, on one side of Milestone is a showpiece, sorta futuristic water park where highly stimulated kids run wildly through elaborately alternating spurts of water and adults stare in wonder. At night, the modern sculptural, halo-like fountains ethereally produce fog, become a thrilling and hypnotic light show, and are sometimes the watery screen for filmic projections.
On the opposite side of Milestone are the most spectacular vistas of Downtown Columbus visible from any eatery. Really, to sit on Milestone's big, looping bar-equipped and one-of-a-kind patio is to realize how sexy our city can be.
Cleverly, this restaurant - which is run by the fine Columbus Brewing Company folks - is constructed along swooping arcs that echo those halo-form fountains. Elliptical, expansive and roomy, Milestone 229 is a neat-looking modernist metal and glass building. And its much to be talked and written about game-changing patio has clearly upped the ante on scenic outdoor eating in Central Ohio.
But Milestone's not just another pretty face. Because though its mob-attracting location would've ensured a captive audience even if it served crappy food, Milestone's gone the extra, er, mile and hired a real chef (Rigsby's veteran Christian Hattemer) who's fashioned an all-American, local- and fine-ingredient-sourcing menu. While Milestone's food is hardly daring, it is carefully prepared, scratch-made stuff that aims for, and consistently hits, the familiar-dishes-with-cheffy-flourishes target.
The house cocktails ($9) follow a similar trajectory. Made with very good ingredients, none I tried were stinkers, but my favorite has been the perfectly named seasonal cooler called Summer Splash (Watershed gin, muddled cucumber and fresh lime in refreshing harmony).
Appetizers are presented with fun and verve. They range from a heavy but pleasing and nice-priced Skillet Mac 'n Cheese ($7.25, huge, with a lively cheese blend, smoky bacon and toasted panko breadcrumbs served in a black skillet) to the mandatory Calamari (wittily spilling out of a Chinese takeout container) to a mayo-rich and abundantly red-peppered Pimento Cheese dip ($7.25) to a neat medley called Wine Quartet ($10.50, salty olives, seasoned nuts, a decent beet and orange salad, and the upstaging star of a salmon mousse).
There's also handmade, hearty and rustic pizzas on thick, bready and crispy crusts (like a salty and pungent gorgonzola and Roasted Mushroom, $12.50). Entree salads were solid too, like the Wild Alaskan Salmon ($13.50), with wasabi peas, a gingery dressing and a thick miso/peanut-type sauce.
Entree-wise, I tried a perfectly cooked OK steak (Grilled Barrel Cut Sirloin, $22) with a suave hoochy sauce, top-notch green beans plus a nifty multiple potato hash, and a fresh-tasting and attractively plated Potato Crusted Great Lakes Walleye ($22) with a golden crispy spud shell, asparagus and creamed corn sauce. While both were good, Milestone's giant sandwiches (all about $10) were equally satisfying yet a lot cheaper - and they arrive with nice, crispy fries, either vinegar-tinged or of the sweet potato variety.
My favorite sandwich was the standout, banh-mi-accented Tempura Battered fish. Also easily gulpable were the Three Little Pigs porkout and a heavily herbed homemade Bratwurst burger.
Inevitable ending: Milestone 229 - come for the views, stay for the food.