The Harvest Pizza restaurant family has grown from indie upstart to ambitious juggernaut in less than three years. This sort of progress can augur diminished quality and/or we-loved-you-as-an-underdog backlash. But, as the bustling new Harvest Bar & Kitchen in Clintonville demonstrates, this budding company — which includes edgy-cocktail-sloshing Curio, retro-mod Sycamore Cafe and the original brilliant pizzeria — seems too smart to screw up. In other words, I’m already considering HBK for my 2014 list of Best New Restaurants.
Stylishly overhauling the old Mozart’s space, great-looking HBK has a sorta rustic-chic, past-streams-into-the-present thing going on. It’s smallish-but-efficient, with flattering lighting, comfy booths and “Hi neighbor!” tables. There’s also a muted-TV-equipped bar with abundant seating.
File HBK’s decorating theme under “time-spanning celebration of agriculture.” Here, bygone-era-bucolic-scene-depicting wallpaper is a backdrop for pop arty-bright color photographs of harvest-time wheat. Vintage-looking French Farmhouse-style cabinets, white tiles and specials-trumpeting chalkboards embellish a modern bar. HBK’s terrific food and drink — an inspired mashup of Curio, Harvest and Sycamore — similarly links traditional to contemporary.
Along with a nice little wine list (econo-alert No. 1: $6 glasses of Dr. Loosen riesling and Breca garnacha), plus 10 well-curated taps (including a hoppy/citrusy namesake pale ale made by Elevator, $4), there are sophisticated cocktails ($10). From the latter, I lapped and loved The Ferretti (a complex, “Chinese bitters”-enhanced spin on the Manhattan), a bitter, orange-kissed and root beery Dapper Dan (with Cocchi Torino, Cynar and Watershed Bourbon) and a refreshing Sensual Peelings (fresh citrus, Chartreuse, Cocchi Americano and Watershed Four Peel Gin combine for quinine-biting lemonade).
Food-wise, unsurprisingly, HBK’s local-ingredient-sourcing, yeasty, thin-crusted and edge-charred handmade pizzas are spectacular. Try the chorizo-and-jalapeno-ignited Spicy Yuma or the vibrant, San Francisco-honoring Geary Street (with chopped clams and fresh mozzarella). Pies are fair-priced ($11-$14), except 11-4 daily, when (econo-alert No. 2) slightly smaller, $7 versions offer one of the best lunch specials in Columbus.
Enhance that lunch deal with a side salad for $2 (biggies are $9). Because, from the gussied-up Italian-like House Chop (with ricotta salata, pepperoncini and chickpeas) to the blessedly un-creamy, parmigiano-reggiano-showered Kale Caesar (its tart dressing semi-tamed by roasted hazelnuts), to the dynamic, healthier-than-thou Mean Green (local lettuce, sprouted veggies, avocado and “green goddess” dressing), they’re all excellent.
Appetizers — unlike German Village, there’s a huge kitchen here — also rock. Plus, I like how they range from fun (thick batter-fried Pickle Chips with an intense aioli and classed-up Ranch-like sauce, $6) to unusual (huge Portobella Fries — mine were greasy — with I’m-not-convinced “banana ketchup,” $8 ) to elegant (cloud-like, must-have Ricotta Gnocchi, $7).
HBK also expertly sears impressive — if expensive — burgers that arrive on beautiful glossy buns and are sided with killer fried “smashed fingerling potatoes.” I appreciated the mild Duck ($15; orange marmalade and a spicy slaw fought the patty to a standstill), dug the grass-fed, elaborately garnished juice-bomb Harvest ($14), but was floored by the best Turkey Burger ever ($13, with addictive house pimento cheese, leeks, Laurel Valley Cloverton and more).
There are whopping-sized sandwiches too ($12-$15). Arriving with nice housemade sweet potato chips, and on crusty-soft-chewy “Dutch crunch rolls,” they’re hearty and crafty. Try the wonderful (jerk cauliflower puree!) Roasted Veggie.
And try dessert ($6-$7), because they’re also great. My favorite is the pudding-like Butterscotch Budino, but the large-and-in-charge Buckeye Pie, homey Mama’s Seasonal Pie (baked by the owner’s mother), and classic Affogato (coffee and ice cream) likewise wow.
My only question: What can the Harvest restaurant family wow me with next?
Photos by Meghan Ralston