Restaurant review: New Ethyl & Tank ranks high on Campus

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From the March 6, 2014 edition

Those who love to kvetch about the Crest Gastropub, and we know who we are, probably know that Ethyl & Tank has an unusual moniker, but a familiar lineage. Yes, Ethyl & Tank — whose clunky name refers to some defunct truck stop in Georgia (huh?) — shares owners with the Crest. Because of this, Crest dissenters might peremptorily dismiss this newcomer. That would be unfortunate.

See, though E&T is visually fetching like the Crest, it outperforms its elder sibling, and does so at much better prices — and without all the disappointment-inducing hoopla, hype and pretension. Other huge bonuses include a solid beer selection, extra-generous happy hours (all drinks are half-off on weekdays from 3-9 p.m.; and 2-7 on weekends), sports-tuned TVs and a super-convenient-for-OSU-denizens/visitors, middle-of-campus location. This — and (mostly) good food — rocket E&T to the short list of best places to hang out on campus.

My first E&T experience was at an eye-opening brunch (served 8 a.m.-4p.m., Saturdays and Sundays). E&T’s striking seafoam-green tile, rustically exposed brick, vintage signage and parquet-esque floor set the open, airy and handsome stage for several dining areas, a coffee bar (pour-overs available), regular bars and an upstairs gaming room. Overall, the impression is of a stylish, fun and evolving long-beloved campus classic — instead of an instant hit.

Here’s another hit: a 40-or-so-item brunch-time DIY Bloody Mary bar. Order one (only $5) and you’ll get a pint glass sloshing with vodka and ice you’ll then go garnish-nuts on (hint: lead with the green tomatillo-based mix).

Another brunch home run was the midday menu’s overachieving if messy Not So Classic Cobb sandwich ($9; served with crispy and non-greasy waffle fries). Though given a gimmicky presentation — served on a pie pan and stabbed with a knife — not a single ingredient (tender grill-marked chicken chunks, chopped hard egg, arugula, blue cheese, tomato, tangy pulled pork, crispy bacon, avocado and ranch dressing) was missing from its toasted puffy brioche roll. Less dynamic but certainly solid was the pleasant — and ingredient-intact — Smothered Breakfast Burrito leviathan ($7).

A minor brunch stumble was the huge and good-tasting Orange Blossom French Toast ($7). Though this looked great, it was too gooey and too heavy on the (light on the whiskey) “Jameson Maple Syrup.”

As a dinner beginner, the mammoth Trio of Dips ($7) corralled thick and fried-here potato chips and tortilla chips with these dips: fresh and excellent French onion, zesty nacho cheese (misidentified as “beer cheese”) and oddly bland bean. I guess two outta three ain’t bad for this size and price.

The best-thing-I-ate-here Sliced Beef Brisket & Collard Greens ($10) went four-for-four. Here, easy-to-devour, smoky long beef strips (get the ketchup-y barbecue sauce on the side) were complemented by addictive greens (vinegar, pigmeat and sweet sauteed onions gave them an “agrodolce”-flavoring), grill-crusted (and not-too-sweet) cornbread, plus stiff, dairy-fied smashed redskin potatoes.

A massive Open Faced Meatloaf sandwich ($9) was filling and comforting. Onion straws (a little greasy) topped a melted cheese-capped slab of mild-flavored loaf resting on dense mashers slathered on a thick piece of toast. A gratuitous side of good-tasting handcut fries — only some were crispy — was included.

The best thing about E&T’s tacos was their $2 price, and the best E&T taco I tried was the pulled chicken. So, hell no, everything’s not aces here, but grading on a why-are-most-campus-places-so-lame curve, Ethyl and Tank earns an easy “A.”