With Shadowbox Live's move to the Worly Building in the Brewery District has come Backstage Bistro, a new restaurant, bar and coffee shop employing members of the local theater troupe as well as non-actors.

With Shadowbox Live's move to the Worly Building in the Brewery District has come Backstage Bistro, a new restaurant, bar and coffee shop employing members of the local theater troupe as well as non-actors.

It's a concept that makes perfect sense: actors, especially in smaller markets like Columbus, typically need second jobs to support their primary passion. So why not put them to work serving coffee and food to help bring in some extra revenue for Shadowbox?

Couple that innovative business model with some seriously tasty food and a location in the all-the-rage Brewery District, and things are looking good for this bistro.

The renovated bistro space features soaring ceilings and exposed-brick walls, with a large, fully stocked bar situated at the center of the action.

The Backstage menu includes breakfast as well as a lunch and dinner selection of thin-crust pizzas, pasta dishes and sandwiches. The menu-described "Backstage Bistro specialty" is a crostini appetizer - thick slices of grilled, garlicky sourdough that can be topped with anything from caramelized mushrooms to an artichoke souffle.

The Savory Ham Crostini, $5, is definitely worthy of that "specialty" designation. Shaved-thin slices of seared Amish ham are layered on a base of spicy raspberry-jalapeno preserves and caramelized onions, then sprinkled with gruyere cheese.

That same Amish ham is incorporated in the fantastic Ham, Apple & Sharp Cheddar Panini ($9). Here it's paired with a knockout combo of poached apples and melted cheddar cheese, plus some grainy mustard.

Also worth checking out is the Beef Tenderloin Sandwich ($10). A grilled Kaiser roll is slathered in a tangy housemade horseradish sauce and piled high with slices of medium-well beef tenderloin and sauteed onions.

Backstage Bistro is geared toward pre- and post-show Shadowbox crowds, but also caters to neighborhood customers, with doors opening at 6:30 a.m. weekdays and 7:30 a.m. on the weekends. - Shelley Mann

The bar

Shadowbox Live's old Easton location offered libations and a pub-grub menu during shows, but the new Backstage Bistro is a place to hang out even if you're not catching the troupe's wacky productions. It's open for morning coffee, lunch, early-evening happy hours and even nightcaps.

The bistro promises to be extra busy over the next few weeks thanks to the opening of Shadowbox's popular "Holiday Hoopla" show.

An upscale urban loft feel makes Backstage suitable for bellying up to the bar for a couple of cocktails with friends. Or grab one of a number of two-person tables if it's a date night.

The full bar offers high-end cocktails - martinis, Manhattans, gimlets, etc. -complemented by a number of domestics ($3.75), imports, crafts ($4.25-$4.75) and red and white wines available by the glass ($6-$8) or bottle ($24 and up).

A large patio on the side of the building may not get much use right now, but it will be a great spot for happy hours during the warmer months.

From 4-6 p.m. on weekdays, happy hour specials include $2.50 domestic bottles, $4 specialty cocktails and half-priced pizzas. The Backstage Lemonade, a Jack Daniel's Lynchburg Lemonade, is tart and slightly sweet, with the proper kick. The vodka-based specialty cocktail The Freak is another popular choice.

Backstage Bistro also includes a stage for live music and entertainment. Currently, there are only occasional performances.

When "Holiday Hoopla" finishes its run at the end of December, Shadowbox will welcome back its "Movies that Rock!" night, holding screening in the bar area. - Jesse Tigges