Worthington eatery ably walks the line between upscale restaurant and neighborhood bistro
Simplicity isn’t always simple to achieve. For example, converting meat and potatoes into a meal offering clear and clean flavors and appealing textures requires skill and restraint. That sort of cooking aesthetic is evident in the accessible cuisine graced with panache that makes the dishes from The Whitney House so easy to like.
Since it opened in the heart of Old Worthington in late 2014, The Whitney House has maintained a precarious balance: It’s an upscale restaurant that’s not overly fancy or pricey, and it’s a neighborhood bistro that’s a good fit for special occasions. Bonus: Ordering takeout from The Whitney House is as easy as, well, peach and blueberry cobbler.
After consulting the takeout menu for lunch or dinner, customers place an order by phone. A well-estimated wait time — probably 20 to 30 minutes — will be quoted. Upon arrival, customers ring again, and shortly thereafter, a friendly server wearing gloves and a face covering will provide curbside delivery of the food, much of which will be stowed in cardboard boxes.
Salad fans should target the Buttercrunch Bibb ($8). It’s a lively jumble of engaging ingredients such as tender bibb lettuce, pretty watermelon radishes, fennel slices, crushed-and-toasted pecans and grape tomatoes. The plant matter is flattered by herb-kissed, house-made croutons and a nifty horseradish dressing (think kicky ranch).Get a new dining review delivered to your inbox every Monday when you sign up for our daily newsletter
Crisp house croutons and shaved Parmesan are the well-selected DIY garnishes for the Tomato Soup ($7). Rather than a cream-bomb, this eminently likable preparation is tangy, lean and tastes mostly of roasted tomatoes.
Both of those starters are available for lunch — which concentrates on sandwiches — and dinner. While dinners were more impressive, the two sandwiches I sampled were fine midday meals boosted by sides of a cuts-above potato salad that was thankfully easy on the mayo and which complemented hearty chunks of Yukon-Gold spuds with a touch of onion.
The Crispy Chicken Sandwich ($14 ) showcased a thick hunk of white meat encased in a crackly, fish-and-chips-style batter. A virtual arugula salad accompanied the good-tasting poultry on puffy, toasted ciabatta bread.
If it were up to me, I’d rename the Banh Mi Wrap ($13) to a “pulled-pork burrito.” That way, diners could enjoy its juicy, flavorful braised pork and fresh veggies rolled in a large flour tortilla without being distracted by the ensemble’s lack of Vietnamese-style character and nonexistent baguette.
Moving to evening entrees, if you request the Seared Ruby Red Trout ($24), expect your eyes to widen like mine did upon first glancing at a huge and beautiful piece of fish. And expect the trout to taste as good as it looks — even without being doused with the sweet, creamy and just-tingly Tabasco-butter sauce presented in a plastic container.
The hefty fish fillet — which offered tender, fresh-tasting flesh offset by a pan-crisped exterior and mild, crinkly skin — arrived splayed atop an inspired hash of dense and antioxidant-rich purple potatoes, sweet corn, slightly bitter greens (I wanted more) and crisp, perfectly salty bacon that all merged together like a four-part harmony.
Juicy and flavor-packed lean beef made a natural match with an imposing load of audibly crunchy, dark golden-brown potato wedges (likely fried multiple times) in the Grilled Flatiron Steak ($27). A bold and addictive chimichurri sauce, plus a tangy aioli, gild the meat and potato lilies respectively.
Cooked fruit is highlighted by a standout streusel spiked with cinnamon and cardamom in another ostensibly simple dish — the Peach and Blueberry Cobbler ($8). Served with first-rate vanilla ice cream, this irresistible creation also proves that offering a delectable dessert with healthful elements in it isn’t just pie in the sky.