Following a long, fire-related hiatus, this restored, classic tavern is back in business

Sometimes, a catastrophe can have a silver lining. That's been the case with Plank's Bier Garten, a classic German Village haunt serving locals for about 60 years (and not to be confused with Plank's Cafe & Pizzeria on Parsons).

After flourishing through decades of vast changes in Columbus, the tradition-rich hangout caught fire in December 2016. The building's interior suffered considerable damage, but its stout brick facade erected in 1930 remained essentially intact.

Fortunately, the owners and operators — most are named Plank — coupled a profound need for repairs with an overdue general sprucing up that carefully maintained what has long been popular about the place. So, when Plank's finally reopened in June, it presented fans with a best-of-both-worlds ambience: heaps of restored vintage character plus substantial upgrades to its HVAC systems, wiring, bathrooms and such.

Unobtrusive, mostly cosmetic improvements to the large, duly beloved beer garden — adjacent to the tavern's convenient parking lot — have made it an even better spot to sink a few of the 10 brews on tap. Garage doors now link this area to the main chamber, an open and rustic space that resembles a deluxe brick barn with a tall raftered ceiling, varnished picnic-style tables and a few TVs.

Another set of garage doors connects these main dining quarters to a modest-sized South High Street patio. A side door leads to the sealed-off barroom, which offers numerous windows, a wooden-plank floor, a new bar, recently excavated wood and brick walls, plus a vivid mural of a plump old dude hoisting a stein and dressed to swill in lederhosen.

I'll bet that Oktoberfest-logo of a guy might like the bratwurst here ($7.50 with warm kraut) — I know I do. The thick, high-quality sausage arrives nicely seared and in a toasted pretzel roll. Like all of the sandwiches, it comes with a side, such as the crisp fries or beer-battered onion rings. Hint: Ask for the spicy (read: dijon) mustard.

That mustard is likewise compatible with the thick-sliced, grilled German bologna sourced from local treasure Thurn's Specialty Meats, which Plank's serves on a toasted onion roll in another recommended sandwich ($11).

The Willy Burger ($10.25) is quite good, as well: two fresh beef patties alluringly crusted like griddle-smashed diner burgers, only bigger and juicier, placed in a toasted brioche bun. If you'd like melted cheese with that, 50 cents secures a generous helping.

Pizzas are another highlight. When cooked right — they can be underdone on occasion — the cheese is attractively brown-spotted and the flavorful, house-made, crackery thin crust will have a delightful snap. My favorite pie is the crowd-pleasing, self-explanatory “meatza” ($13.25 to $19.50), but if you enjoy tongue-flaming spiciness, the salty and fun Cajun chicken ($13.50 to $19.75) delivers astounding heat.

For a more manageable capsaicin rush, try the wings with the Buffalo-style “hot” sauce, and ask for them “Dan's style” ($6.50) — meaning crispy skinned and with quick-releasing meat from having been fried then baked. Celery plus a rich-and-thick blue cheese dip are the expected sides.

Veering off the pizza and pub grub map, the sizable “small” house salad ($4.50) with fresh romaine and house Italian dressing is more than just an afterthought. But pass on the diner-style Open-faced Pot Roast with roasted carrots, white bread, gloppy gravy and pasty mashers ($10.50) in favor of the very pleasant Wienerschnitzel entree with warm kraut and good German potato salad ($11).

Nothing here is going to set the world on fire — hopefully nothing here sets anything on fire again — but if you're looking for good, classic, Columbus-style pizza and solid pub grub in an entertaining setting steeped in yesteryear, this place is hard to beat.