Decades-old diner feels like a new restaurant following extensive remodeling
Few area businesses can claim roots that reach as far back as 1925, when the Grandview Cafe opened. But while the latest iteration of the Grandview Cafe — which was unveiled in May — occasionally alludes to a lengthy history, for the most part, its roots aren't showing.
Rebooted under the same stewardship as Bodega, Hadley's Bar + Kitchen and next-door neighbor Balboa, the current Grandview Cafe actually bears all the hallmarks of a freshly minted Columbus restaurant. In other words, it's an often loud and crowded place offering a popular patio; a tavern ambience with industrial accents, numerous TVs and a mainstream pop soundtrack; plus a menu rife with dressed-up pub grub, much of which is served on metal trays.
It's also surprisingly large — the multi-chambered interior encompasses two floors, and the spacious patio has its own bar. Accents that grant the place some distinction are a main bar cobbled from suitcases plus a wall adorned with a decades-spanning photo collage of the neighborhood.
A slew of Ohio brews dot the small menu; most are $6 for 20 ounces. Four of the six featured “Cafe Cocktails” ($8 each) honor Grandview-area personages.
Based on the one-note Dicky Dick I was served — it's named after a former Grandview Cafe owner and is ostensibly made with tequila and lemon — I assume Dicky Dick was the sweetest person ever. A better beverage bet is the pleasant Rose Sangria ($8), which is fizzy and fruity but not sugary.
If you're looking for a sweet deal, a hulking crock of the Summer Corn & Crab Soup only costs $5. Because my cream-based but not heavy soup was generously packed with good crabmeat, corn, smoky bacon and roasted red peppers, I didn't really mind that it was underseasoned.
I also enjoyed the meaty, slightly crispy Wings ($12 for 10), served with celery and rich blue cheese dip. Indecisive diners like me who opt for a half-and-half saucing on the wings — which are accurately described as “jumbo” and “lightly breaded” — can choose two condiment-based winners: horseradish-scented spicy mustard and tangy, Alabama-style, mayo-forward “white BBQ.”
Salads ($8) are a good choice, too. Both the creamy Classic Caesar with Prosciutto (fried and chipped like bacon bits) and house croutons, and the busy Market Salad with blackberries, goat cheese and crisp candied nuts, are fresh and more carefully constructed than salads from countless other purveyors of contemporary pub grub.
Either salad can stand in for the very nice homemade shoestring fries that come with sandwiches such as the recommended Fried Green Tomato BLT ($11) — thick and crunchy, cornmeal-battered unripe tomatoes, smoky slab bacon, arugula and plenty of mayo stacked into toasted, good-quality whole-wheat bread.
Offering spice-kissed fried chicken sandwiches is practically mandatory in newer Columbus restaurants. Although I didn't pick up much heat from the advertised “Tabasco aioli,” the version here ($12) still gets two thumbs up for its juicy boneless thigh meat, peppery batter, lacy red-cabbage slaw and toasted, glossy bun.
A menu description heralding “the burger of all burgers … dry aged beef, bourbon caramelized onion, smoked bacon, tomato jam, white cheddar, pretzel roll,” raised my expectations for the GC Burger ($15). The hefty handmade patty certainly had an earthiness that attested to dry aging, but the other components were muted and didn't quite come together.
The menu calls the G Cafe Fish & Chips ($12) “famous.” I wasn't aware of its reputation. But after sampling the golden-brown, crunchy, tray-spanning, clean-tasting, beer-battered haddock — sides of house fries, slaw and house tartar sauce accompany — I wouldn't begrudge that self-proclaimed fame, whether it was earned over several decades or is newfound.