RAM portion sizes live up to the Short North eatery's all-caps name
RAM Restaurant and Brewery in the Short North could win an award for the most enormous portions served in a new Columbus restaurant. Relatedly, it's not surprising that RAM screams its name in all capital letters, because “bigger is better” also describes the establishment's approach to its menu, dining room and the flavors in its large dishes.
Values here are good-sized, too. Do the math on the Taster Curl — a sampler of six 5-ounce, brewed-in-house beers — and at 30 ounces for $6, it's the best deal on craft beer in town. Plus, from an on-point hefeweizen to a citrusy IPA to an easy-drinking porter with proper coffee and chocolate notes, they're good beers.
You can sip them at the taproom-style bar on RAM's ground floor or in its cavernous space upstairs where you'll encounter massive beer fermenters, a concrete floor, curved booths, a substantial bar, numerous TVs — one with a 110-inch screen — reclaimed wood, chalkboards and lighting that is bright and rather industrial.
Lighting aside, given its craft-beer focus, trendy-but-accessible fare, personable servers and huge portions, RAM seems tailor-made for current Columbus tastes. But this three-month-old brewpub is actually a branch of a Washington state-based business which began in 1971 and boasts a large family tree of beer-brewing eateries with roots near Seattle.
Among RAM's many appetizers, the Armadillo Eggs ($8.95) are big crowd-pleasers — and big, of course. They're crispy orbs with a pleasantly craggy saltine crust encasing a spicy and tangy filling made with chicken, pepper-jack cheese, cream cheese and jalapenos. Mine were nearly free of grease.
The Ahi Poke Nachos ($10.95) present a fashionable, Hawaiian-derived spin on a classic Mexican-American snack. Like several other RAM items I tried, the dish is massive and tastes good, but could benefit from minor tweaks. In this case, wonton chips that were actually crisp would've been better company for the fresh-tasting raw fish, sriracha mayo, jalapenos, scallions, sesame oil and sweet, soy-based sauce.
If you're in the mood for a nicely assembled Wedge Salad ($7.95) that could feed three people, you've come to the right place. RAM is also the correct setting for a whale of a Beer-Battered Fish-and-Chips ($15) meal served with fresh, mayo-rich slaw tempered by onion. I only wish my flaky, delicious and gargantuan haddock piece had been a tad less oily and my blocky, golden-brown fries had been crisp.
I liked everything on the plate of the Marinated Grilled Flank Steak entree ($15.95): tender, smoke-scented, sliced beef; bacon-cheddar-potato croquettes; plus porter-braised caramelized onions flavoring green and yellow wax beans. I would've liked all of these even better had they arrived hot instead of barely warm.
Two sandwiches I tried were unsurprisingly over-the-top (both are $12.95 with a side, such as RAM's impressive mac-and-cheese). Named for the beer in which it's marinated, the towering, umm, Buttface Amber Ale Chicken is a grilled breast piece decked out with melted cheddar, zesty slaw, oily onion straws, beer-enhanced barbecue sauce and “roasted tomato-chipotle mayo.” Precariously loaded into a toasted soft pretzel roll, it's a joyously sloppy ensemble.
So is the Ricardo, a Cuban sandwich/hamburger merger (I assume its title honors Ricky Ricardo, the Cuban-American star-character from the classic “I Love Lucy” TV show). It's a grilled burger sporting real backyard flavor accompanied by terrific, scene-stealing “pulled pork carnitas” plus griddled deli ham, pickles, melted Swiss and mustard.
Dessert might seem silly at this point, but if it doesn't, try the Muddy Cupcake ($3.25). Only shaped like a cupcake, it's scoops of cookies-and-cream and coffee ice creams molded into a crumbled Oreo crust. Naturally, the frozen “cake” is decorated with chocolate sprinkles and piled outrageously high with aerosol-style whipped cream.