Restaurant review: Bar 145 offers burgers, bourbon and restaurant trends

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From the January 30, 2014 edition

Bar 145 is probably the next logical step for corporate chains. Embracing most every restaurant trend from the past decade — whether passe or not — this new Grandview operation (with siblings in Toledo and Kent) arduously name-drops “foie gras,” “confit” and “truffle fries” while commodifying terms like “gastropub,” “local” and “artisanal.”

Bar 145 also curiously courts “hip-cred” by making sure you know its servers, who were graciously accommodating on my visits, all don red Converse tennis shoes. If you’re impressed by this footwear and the very concept of a gastropub — and you dig an unceasing mix of relentlessly upbeat commercial-radio-style music — then you might be a prospective 145 fan.

Huge and flashy, 145 naturally features garage doors, sporty TVs (tuned to SEC women’s basketball when Thad Matta’s team was playing recently), two floors and a stage for frat-party-friendly bands in its industrial and airy space. There are also mixed-font, all-over-the-map menus more easily digested over a drink.

About a dozen taps are offered, about half from local breweries. But the beverage 145 hangs its backwards-worn cap on is bourbon. As it should. Over 30 are offered, many of them terrific (shh: Pappy is in the house, if unmentioned on the menu). Woodford Reserve and Grand Marnier were used in my citrusy and not-too-sweet 145th Manhattan ($9).

Food-wise, if you only eat one thing here — and that might not be a bad strategy — opt for the fried duck confit leg “Bar Wings” ($8). Ignoring duck’s affinity for sweetness, that meaty, crispy, “Frenched” and simple-pepper-sauced quartet was nonetheless fun-eating. Its plate-mate (a shaved veggie salad) was unencumbered by flavor or appealing textures.

Ditto for the large, popsicle-sticked Foie Gras Meatballs ($8), which had negligible foie character. Actually, other than beef, filler, a garlic whiff and a dilute-to-the-point-of-scientifically-impressive “blackberry jam,” they had little flavor at all.

The Winter Caesar Salad ($9) bore an intriguing grill-scorch. But tack on weary lettuce, an undetectable dressing, ponderous tomato pulp on the bottom (which conjured up the demise of a same-named Roman emperor), limp and chilly Parmesan toast (Et tu crouton?) and then fall, Caesar!

In case you’ve wondered, 145 takes its name from the temperature of a medium-rare hamburger. So burgers — I was told the meat was ground in-house — are prominent here. I tried both the Simpleton (with bacon, mushrooms, caramelized onions and gobs of cream cheese, $11) and the Balsamic Bleu ($11). Both sandwiches arrived just-warm on toasted-yet-cold buns and featured lightly seasoned good beef not much enhanced by sloppy toppings. Both came with fresh and good-tasting but room-temperature and oily shoestring fries. As an extra, I tried the creamy and well-made — if barely warm — Mac & Cheese ($3). It had bacon and a syrup-supplied sweetness.

Syrup — too much — dripped from my disappointing Chicken and Waffles ($9). While the poultry pieces were big and juicy, as a whole, the food again was timidly seasoned and far from piping hot.

Though not smashed-and-toasted as I assumed it should be, and garnished with grocery store — instead of menu-promised “roasted” — tomatoes, the rice-flecked and cumin-kissed house-made Black Bean Panini ($10) was one of the relatively more flavorful items I tried here.

My 145-made Cheesecake Parfait ($5) was light and pretty nice too. Here’s hoping it’s evidence this place can devote as much attention to its food as its image.