This casual, upbeat eatery is a new collaboration between industry all-stars that offers a mostly well-executed, locally focused small menu showcasing Ohio-sourced pork
The Old Spot is a new restaurant in Grandview Heights. This might lead you to believe the establishment is misnamed, but it’s not. That’s because “old spot” references a speckled hog, and The Old Spot is a pig-happy restaurant.
A very welcome joint venture from illustrious industry veterans — Rick and Krista Lopez of La Tavola and Lupo, plus Tony Tanner and Matt Evans of The Butcher & Grocer (which is just a few doors away) — The Old Spot wears its porcine love on a blue-gray wall filled with porker-faced illustrations.
In addition to this exhibition of swine art, the casual modern place features plenty of wood, a pressed-metal ceiling, roomy booths and framed segments of tapestry that echo a colorful rug on the concrete floor. A popular bar area and a pleasant patio opposite a small park are offered, too.
Before pigging out on dishes elevated by carefully sourced ingredients — many are local and from The Butcher & Grocer — you can unwind with some wine from a nice little list that eschews commonplace labels. If a cocktail is calling, the Rose Spritz ($8) — fizzy spritzes are an emerging Columbus trend I support — is refreshingly light and floral. The King ($10), an interesting drink with tequila, mezcal and rhubarb liqueur, is smoky and spicy. Cynar, amontillado and rye endow The Count ($11) — a rich, dark and potent libation — with fruity notes and a bitter finish.Get more pork puns, news and entertainment delivered to your inbox: Sign up for our daily newsletter
High-quality pork enriches numerous dishes, including The Old Spot Salad ($9), graced with smoky bacon. The lively, entree-sized ensemble also includes crushed hazelnuts, creamy goat cheese, lightly pickled grapes, good lettuces and an assertive vinaigrette.
The ground-pork filling in the Sichuan Gyoza ($9) tastes like delicious spicy sausage. I only wish the stiff, if attractively pan-seared, dumpling wrappers hadn’t been undercooked.
Don’t want pork on your fork? The huge, distinct and recommended Classic Caesar Salad ($9) enhances crisp romaine with a virtual snowfall of grated pecorino, herbed breadcrumbs playing the part of croutons, plus a rich-and-creamy, anchovy-kissed house dressing.
Another engaging veggie dish is a culture-hopping creation called The Bowl ($14). It’s a load of black rice livened by a soy-based sauce spiked with Calabrian chilies. This is garnished with Romanesco broccoli, lentil hummus, snow peas, pickled shallots and good-tasting, harissa-scented carrots that were curiously about half-cooked.
The Old Spot lists sandwiches under — come on, it was inevitable — “Hamwiches.” There, fans of Knead, a defunct Lopez eatery, will locate a couple of much-missed old favorites served with crisp, pepper-flecked fries: the Cuban-OH ($12) and the Mother Clucker ($12).
Although not assembled with a traditional smashed roll —terrific toast is used — the Cuban-OH is an elite local Cuban sandwich. Standout house ham plus tender and juicy, braise-and-pulled pork are the stars. Good pickles, aioli, grainy mustard and melted Swiss give strong support.
A thick slab of righteous fried chicken breast and crispy house bacon form the crowd-pleasing foundation of the Mother Clucker. A roasted poblano, honey, aioli and lettuce, plus a puffy-and-sweet toasted bun, complete the irresistible package.
My platter-spanning Pork Schnitzel ($18) featured tender, fresh-tasting meat underneath a crispy crust. Because it was under-seasoned and oily, though, it was upstaged by its first-rate plate mates: uncommonly flavorful pan-seared chive spaetzle (possibly cooked in stock) and addictive shredded red cabbage enhanced by bacon.
The hefty Oatmeal Cream Pie ($6), another appreciated Knead reprise, is a big upgrade on its Little Debbie inspiration. The chewy, oat-specked and delectable cookie sandwich tastes even better if you add a scoop of the impressive “salted and malted“ house gelato ($3) with bonus almonds and chocolate chips. Items like this are why The Old Spot is among the more promising new restaurants I’ve visited lately.