New eatery from Grow Restaurants family brings flavor, flair to Italian Village

Updating a classic isn't a simple task. How much do you honor the past? How much do you nudge it forward?

Faced with such choices, the team overseeing Cosecha Cocina made some fine decisions.

“Cosecha Cocina” is Spanish for “Harvest Kitchen.” That's a telling tidbit, because Cosecha, which opened in March, is part of the Grow Restaurants family that started with Harvest Pizzeria. With Cosecha, Chris Crader — who, as Grow CEO, has become a leading Columbus restaurateur — has turned to Mexican food.

Crader has also turned to burgeoning Italian Village, where Cosecha occupies an updated classic: a large, impressively rehabbed former dairy barn with soaring, beamed ceilings and vintage brick walls. Thanks to a renovation that wisely preserved the original character of an open-and-airy building that could've been transported in from an old Western movie set, Cosecha epitomizes “rustic-chic” style.

Past its convenient parking lot and spacious patio, the eminently photogenic restaurant has enormous hanging lampshades, pew-like banquettes, an attractive bar, handsome woodwork and understated decorations that reference the Mexican landscape and culture.

Cosecha also has a concrete floor. This means the place gets quite loud when it's crowded, which is often. A no-reservations policy means long waits aren't uncommon, so bide your time by exploring the roster of great cocktails — most made with high-grade tequilas and mezcals.

The Tradicional ($8) house margarita is good, but the O.G. ($10), created with smoky mezcal, is more interesting. For something unabashedly spicy-and-tart, the terrific Next Episode ($8) arrives pretty-in-pink from hibiscus. My other favorite libation: The complex Los Muertos ($10), a smooth-bodied cocktail that's black as licorice but offers fresh citrus and ginger notes.

Chef Silas Caeton, whose blue-chip resume includes Rigsby's and Veritas Tavern, mines a similar, modernized-classic vein. Because Caeton's local ingredient-embracing, updated Mexican cuisine consists largely of lean, piquant and tangy small plates, it could be seen as a refutation of the cheesy and indulgent platters served in routine Tex-Mex restaurants.

At Cosecha, untraditional mint — instead of, say, cilantro — perfumes the chunky roasted tomato salsa. An order of Chips and Salsas ($4) also includes an intensely bright salsa verde I like even better, plus flavorful Ohio-produced Shagbark tortilla chips, which arrived warm and oil-slicked one time, and cool another time. The same chips accompany fresh, attractively presented Guacamole ($7).

A better deal, and the best starter I tried, is the Pork Pozole Verde ($5). Unlike traditional versions of Mexican hominy stew, this meaty pozole is all about the excellent heritage pork Cosecha sources; hominy is only a garnish in a vibrant, tomatillo-based broth.

The Pork Meatballs small plate ($10) is another must. Underneath a wilted-arugula salad are three dense orbs drenched in a wonderfully rich and spicy — if not smoky — chipotle-tomato sauce.

Cosecha's house-made, pliable-yet-sturdy, warm corn tortillas are among the best in town. They cradle winning, two-per-order tacos starring zesty, stewed Chicken Tinga ($8); unusual, not-greasy, locally made, delicious Chorizo with pecans ($8); and killer Mayan-style Cochinita Pibil ($8), which recently replaced so-so carnitas.

Flour tortillas house my new pick for the best fish tacos in Columbus: huge blocks of lavishly garnished, crunchy masa-battered Fried Cod ($10).

The Chicken and Salsa Verde Tamale ($4) is so good that its distractingly grassy microgreens and lack of advertised Oaxacan cheese hardly bothered me. Both enchiladas offered — lusty Beef Short Rib with roasted-chili red mole ($6), and spicy Vegetable with a nutty, pumpkin seed-based green mole ($4) — are also recommended.

To flesh out Cosecha's small portions, pass on the humdrum Beans-and-Rice ($4) and opt for the surprisingly dynamic Caramelized Sweet Potato ($8), wonderful corn salad (Esquites, $4) and the stylish Tres Leches Cake($6) — a classic updated with coconut.