Buzzy new distillery has a lot going on, and most of it connects
The new High Bank Distillery Co. could have filled every box on a local restaurant buzzword checklist.
High Bank's zeitgeist-hugging attributes include a “hot” restaurant-neighborhood location, a documented commitment to local sourcing, both vegan and meaty items, house-made booze, an industrial-chic interior filled with sports-tuned TVs that leads to a patio through garage doors, plus a game room where patrons can play table shuffleboard, foosball and “bubble hockey.”
This all-things-to-all-people list presents ample opportunities to swing and miss. Because High Bank's aim is mostly true, though, I'd say the place has turned a tricky pitch into an extra-base hit.
The often-bustling, brightly lit, sometimes loud Grandview Heights establishment offers plenty of space to accommodate its one-stop-shopping ambitions. Inside the 200-seat eatery, you'll encounter personable servers, cinder block walls, wood, brass, a shiny concrete floor, dangling light bulbs, a large bar, an extremely high ceiling, plus views onto gleaming distillery tanks.
What issues from those metal vessels fortifies a lineup of house cocktails — some are on tap — often brightened by fresh citrus sometimes facilitated by the Zest Juice Co., which is owned by one of High Bank's four owners. The tall and effervescent High C ($9), made with High Bank vodka, soda and a Zest citrus juice blend, is like an uncommonly refreshing, high-quality screwdriver. The Vine & Rye ($10), a short and attractively two-toned drink, employs citrus to bind High Bank's rye-forward whiskey to red wine for a potent spin on sangria.
Judicious applications of acid also enliven many dishes. Take, for instance, the sizable Caesar-like Shaved Romaine Salad ($6): A zippy green goddess dressing — a bit too much of it — made with buttermilk and chives ties together fresh and crisp greens, pecorino cheese, house croutons, plus diced cucumber and celery.
The nicely presented Nachos ($11) are proof that generally heavy pub grub can be leavened with the right ingredients, too. In this case, it's Shagbark chips, lime juice, feta, pico de gallo, lashes of crema, avocado and a side of neither gloppy nor runny queso dip that seems to have been whipped.
Another potentially routine bar snack, the accurately named Sticky Chicken Wings ($12), earns distinction from crispy skins and house-made sauces — a trendy, and addictive, Korean-style one made with gochujang, and the “sticky garlic,” with surprisingly harmonious burnt sugar notes. Half-and-half orders are available and recommended.
The Dry-Aged Pork Chop ($21) is a “tomahawk” cut so big and thick it could be dinner for two. The seared, markedly tender and delicious Anderson Farms meat is teamed with good bacon and rosemary-scented, vinegar-splashed veggies such as cabbage, black-eyed peas and whole carrots — my carrots were very undercooked — in a New Year's Day-appropriate meal.
The High Bank Burger ($15) scores high as well. A toasted, puffy bun speckled with black sesame seeds encloses two juicy and smoky, grill-marked patties of RL Valley Ranch pasture-raised beef, caramelized onions, house pickles, melted American cheese and barely noticeable house “spicy ketchup.” All sandwiches — such as the mile-high Pimento Chicken ($15; good even though mine was shortchanged on the pimento cheese) — come with irresistible, flour-dredged steak fries sprinkled with vinegar. Substituting High Bank's well-made “pimento mac” costs $3 extra.
Vegetarians should target the Roasted Cauliflower ($16) entree: Two hefty cauliflower “steaks” roasted with shiitakes, potatoes and carrots, all perked up with rosemary and a soy sauce-based “vegan demi.” This is a meatless dish that is large and flavorful.
Ditto for the Split Pineapple dessert ($13). Vegan house coconut ice cream, compote-like “pineapple jam,” creme fraiche, basil, mint, plus crunchy salted pistachio brittle are dramatically presented in the halves of a cored-out pineapple. Like this place, it has a lot going on, but most of it is pretty darn good.