Hoggy's caught my attention with its 20th anniversary menu tweaks. To mark two decades of serving Central Ohio with barbecued meats and mac and cheese, the restaurant added a bunch of new salad and seafood options - not exactly the smoky, saucy fare Hoggy's is known for.
So now alongside pulled pork and smoked brisket you can order pan-fried crab cakes topped with lobster sauce, grilled mahi mahi with roasted corn salsa or a field greens salad with strawberries, glazed walnuts and a raspberry vinaigrette.
Hoggy's is a fun place to eat, especially if you visit the Johnstown Road location in Gahanna. That one's in an actual barn packed with country-kitsch decorations, including a tractor suspended from the roof beams. Kids love it.
A Cajun Haddock entree ($15) is a perfect example of how Hoggy's is approaching seafood. A nice sized fish filet is coated (a little too heavily, unfortunately) in Cajun spices, grilled and drizzled in a tasty lemon-dill sauce. And then, lest you worry they're tricking you into eating something healthy, it's served on top of the restaurant's beloved whipped-with-cream-cheese mashed sweet potatoes.
While it's nice to see some lighter options on the menu, the new dishes that work best are the ones that incorporate Hoggy's signature barbecue. Like the Smokehouse Chopped Brisket Salad ($10). It's a salad, yes, but it's definitely not pretending to be health food.
A plate of mixed greens, diced tomatoes and cucumbers gets topped with all sorts of bad-for-you good stuff - shredded jack cheese, bacon pieces, a heap of crispy fried onion straws and, of course, brisket.
Hoggy's beef brisket is spice-rubbed and slow-smoked until it's nice and tender enough to stand on its own, sans sauce.
Another addition worth ordering: the Kansas City Burnt Ends appetizer ($9). Burnt ends, a delicacy of the barbecue world, are basically scraps of brisket that get intensely smoky and super crunchy after being, well, really charred.
They're served with a cup of barbecue sauce, and they're a must-try for carnivores.
Shelley Mann is the editor of Crave, Columbus' new dining magazine. Keep up with her at ColumbusCrave.com.