This popular new eatery offers a well-executed menu of trendy, crowd-pleasing and value-minded eats

The din of spirited diners nearly drowned out the classic rock soundtrack that played on my initial visit to Kitchen Social. A couple megaphones would’ve come in handy that night for communication purposes. As for barely being able to hear old school “top 40” songs? I chalked that up as a win.

Musical tastes and decibel levels aside, the value-minded dishes I tried on that loud-and-crowded evening — and during other, less-boisterous dinners in Kitchen Social — arrived in a timely fashion and were well-executed. That’s partly because the eatery is run by experienced professionals who’ve left prominent positions in the corporate restaurant world but still prize efficiency. Kitchen Social’s good-tasting food isn’t a snooze partly because those restaurant veterans have created a place with broad but up-to-date appeal.      

Social’s team leaders include former Bravo Brio CEO Brian O’Malley and Phil Yandolino, Bravo Brio’s ex-corporate chef. Their new collaboration has spawned an attractive, big and airy Polaris-area establishment with a light color palette, tall ceiling, pale brickwork, plants in large window boxes, a concrete floor, pillow-adorned white wooden banquettes and knowledgeable servers wearing aprons, jeans and gingham shirts.

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Social’s cuisine could be classified as “Columbus contemporary.” In 2020, that means offering a few Korean flourishes. It also means offering a currently fashionable dish that’s the vegetarian answer to chicken wings: battered-and fried cauliflower florets tossed in a spicy sauce. The two trends coalesce in Social’s slammable Korean BBQ Cauliflower ($10), which mimics addictive Korean-style fried chicken with its candy-like shells and tongue-tingling sauce.

In addition to a respectable wine list, cocktails shaken with locally distilled Watershed liquors are showcased. The Garden Mule ($10) and the whiskey sour-like Stock Yard Pony ($10) counter semi-bitter flavors (from Chartreuse and from Aperol, respectively) with ample sweet notes.

Upgraded Big Mac-style sandwiches are all the local rage these days, too, and the Double Stack Burger doesn’t disappoint ($13 with crisp, if oil-rich, hand-cut fries). Seared Angus beef patties, tart house pickles, blankets of melted American cheese, plus an on-point sauce elevate the crowd-pleasing assembly.

Good ingredients that include crisp Daily’s bacon, Tillamook cheddar, a tangy buttermilk dressing that’s properly applied, shredded romaine lettuce and chicken tenders that are better than they have any right to be lend distinction to the Crispy Chicken Salad ($12), which could function as an entree or shared appetizer. With a sugary crust and honey-butter topping, the fluffy and irresistible Cheddar + Scallion Biscuits ($6 buys five) could function as your daily bread and your dessert.

Lemon lends refreshing zip to locally sourced, partially deboned, tender and juicy meat with bacon-like crisped skin in the bright-yet-comforting (and large) Seared Gerber Farms Chicken entree ($18). The bird’s able plate mates — skin-on fingerling potatoes and appealingly wilted and seasoned kale that could convert haters — likewise benefit from lemony accents.      

Pasta fans can enjoy thin noodles flattered by a notably tangy tomato-cream sauce, plus plenty of fine shellfish in the Blackened Shrimp Capellini ($13). The Honey Miso Cod ($19) is even better. In fact, the buttery, umami-flaunting ensemble of gently crusted, flaky cod atop a healthful, dynamic and inspired bed of farro, cauliflower “rice,” edamame, charred corn and butternut squash composed the most ambitious and best entree I sampled here.

Some locally in-vogue dishes I might try on future visits include a mod Pizza ($12) with sausage, sofrito and shishito peppers; nouveau Tacos ($10 and $12) served with local corn; and a poke-style Tuna Bowl ($14).

The rich, light-textured, warm Brown Butter Cake (desserts are $6) enhanced with cool-and-soothing creme anglaise and mascarpone cream, plus contrasting berries is so good that it’s hard to imagine not ordering it again to explore other tempting, house-made desserts such as Key Lime Pie and Butterscotch Pudding. Fortunately, I’m an efficient and experienced multitasker.