A recent menu overhaul has improved the affordable food in this retro Short North stalwart
The Short North Goody Boy has become “goody-er.”
Credit for its recent improvements go to Corso Ventures, an experienced company with a proven track record of serving well-prepared food to persistent crowds at places such as Forno Kitchen + Bar, Standard Hall and The Pint House. The Corso overhaul of Goody Boy — an old-school Short North survivor with a landmark sign — was unveiled on St. Patrick's Day, following a couple months of renovations. The notable changes — many are culinary — have breathed life into the one-time dive.
Slinging burgers and more since long before the Short North bore its “Arts District” designation and “‘party central” reputation, Goody Boy — formerly Michael's Goody Boy Diner — was launched by Michael Pappas back in 1947. It's changed hands several times since then, but the building's architectural core has remained generally intact.
The low-slung eatery's vintage attributes, which include that 1950s-style sign, now join contemporary accents and conveniences to create a lively setting. Expect an often-boisterous hangout with a concrete floor beneath mod and colorful mid-century-type decorations, new TVs and garage-door windows. Multiple bars — one extending onto the popular, people-watching patio — help keep the thirsty clientele happy.
The solid house cocktails I sampled improved my mood, too. These included summery beverages such as the Pear Necessities ($9), a pink, margarita-like drink with prickly pear puree, and the Yuzu Collins ($9), a bittersweet, Tanqueray-spiked Tom Collins livened by its namesake citrus fruit.
Although known as a diner, Goody Boy's strongly executed new menu offerings are more eclectic than such a designation might lead you to believe. Starters include the healthful and appealing Fresh Stuffed Avocado Halves ($9, served with toasted pita), filled with scoops of organic quinoa accented with cilantro, garlic, feta, red peppers and a zippy dressing.
Prefer something richer? The creamy-and-tangy Mac and Cheese ($7) hits all the right notes, and the mini reuben sandwiches in egg-roll form are distinguished by house-made corned beef (Reuben Rolls, $11).
Goody Boy's Baja Fish Tacos ($12 for three big ones) are better than what you get at most local Mexican restaurants: logs of beer-battered cod a la fish and chips; an avalanche of shredded and lightly pickled red cabbage; squiggles of avocado crema; and warm, soft corn tortillas.
Fans of Swensons' beloved Galley Boy will find a near facsimile in the lusty Goody Boy Burger ($9). Like its inspiration, this arrives garnished with an olive, slathered with barbecue sauce and a tartar sauce-like aioli — both condiments are house-made here — and generously enriched with melted American cheese. The main difference: The Goody Boy Burger's two juicy patties are bigger and unsweetened.
If you'd like fries ($3) with that, you'll do pretty well. I'd give the edge to the waffle-cut spuds, but the shoestrings are nice, too.
The big and comforting Scratch Made Meatloaf entree ($13) stars slabs that might be as much loaf as meat, but they're flavorful, relatively light and arrive attractively crisped on the grill. Also on the plate: crispy shallots (think onion straws), honest buttermilk mashers and gravy, plus buttery green beans perked up with red peppers.
While no threat to the Louisville standard-bearer created in the venerable Brown Hotel — crisper sourdough toast and more of the creamy cheese sauce would get it closer — Goody Boy's Kentucky Hot Brown sandwich ($14), made with plenty of respectable turkey, might be the best version I've had in town.
Goody Boy swings for the fences with its most expensive item — Steak and Potatoes ($19). My entree wasn't quite a home run, but I'd call the seared and juicy hanger steak, crisp shoestring fries and not-an-afterthought salad a stand-up double. In other words, it's pretty darn “goody.”