Restaurant review: Lawshea’s

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From the March 29, 2012 edition

“Old North” Columbus just got a new “Southern” restaurant, and speaking as an Old North (aka ONo!) chowhound, I’d like to bark out a tail-wagging: “Welcome to the neighborhood, Lawshea’s — damn, what took you so long?” Because, though its clean and quaintly blue-and-yellow painted dining room isn’t significantly more fun to hang out in than a BMV outpost, Lawshea’s makes a lot of great grub, sells hefty portions at enticing prices and keeps crazy late (post-midnight on weekends) hours. In other words, Lawshea’s bit-of-this (like irresistible deli sandwiches) and lot-of-that (like comforting soul food) everyday offerings are a much-needed addition to the sparse options located north and south of Lawshea’s High Street address.

If you’ve been on the hunt for excellent Lenten-season fried fish, look no further than Lawshea’s rock-star take on it. Their stuff is killer. It’s gently dusted in cornmeal with the perfect touch of salt and pepper. What makes it special is not just that super-light, crispy and ungreasy crust, but also the wildly juicy and tender fillet underneath. Lawshea’s fish is available in several iterations, but my favorites were the steal-of-a-deal “Three Wings and Fish Combo” ($7 — three nice, unsauced whole wings — basically just honest, flour-coated fried chicken — with excellent catfish fillets plus two sides) and the plump, meaty and huge deep-fried Red Snapper dinner ($9 with two sides).

Lawshea’s also touts its ribs — and they didn’t disappoint. The “Center” dinner ($11) came with two sides and about a half-dozen hulking bones of the low- and slow-cooked variety. Their thick hunks of unsmoky but intensely porky meat had a slight finishing darkness, a tenderness that caused the juicy hog to immediately release upon application of teeth, and a piggy richness cut by an old-school barbecue sauce hopped up on vinegar and chili pepper.

If you prefer your pig with no bones about it, opt for the pulled pork “shoulder sandwich” ($7). Similar to the ribs, its abundant and juicy meat was slathered in that unshy house sauce, and came with fresh and picnicky slaw plus decent (previously frozen) fries dusted in a zesty Cajun spice mix.

Lawshea’s northern exposure (the owner was taught by his Louisiana-native parents but is from Cleveland) shows in its authentically messy Polish Boy ($5, with fries) and its outrageously good Hot Pastrami sandwich ($9). The latter’s piled high, hot, perfectly fatty, slathered in spicy mustard and is an explosion of authentic flavor.

Homey sides also score high. I especially liked the thick, juicy, vinegary and seriously spicy collard greens, the green beans (lively, vinegary, spicy) and creamy and simple mac-n-cheese.

One warning: Menu prices here are often incorrect by a dollar or two not in your favor.