It's worth visiting the one Stadium in Columbus still open for dining
You might’ve heard that the Buckeyes finally started the football season last Saturday? Speaking as a food writer who for decades has attended most of Ohio State’s home games, I for one was glad to eat some Stadium food again.
No, I’m not referring tothat stadium — even superfans are banned from going to games played in the Horseshoe this year due to the pandemic. I’m talking about Stadium, a splashy new sports pub in Gahanna’s Creekside development.
The latter is the latest project from serial restaurateur Darnell Ferguson. AColumbus native with an inspiring backstory — he overcame homelessness and legal issues and became a media-embraced chef with numerous appearances on Food Network shows under his apron — Ferguson is probably best known locally for having launched two popular eateries called SuperChefs.
Ferguson has severed his ties with those brunch-focused operations, but the fun-loving, no-holds-barred aesthetic he brought to life at SuperChefs lives on at Stadium.
Get a new takeout dining review delivered to your inbox every Monday: Sign up for our daily newsletter
Like a football game, Stadium’s menu progresses through four quarters. Because wings and/or nachos might constitute an entire food order in a sports pub, this organizing structure is fairly loose.
In other words, the large-sized All Star Nachos ($9) make a good starter or finisher. These puffy-yet-crisp wonton chips loaded with juicy and tender smoked chicken, plus a creamy “sweet chili queso” sauce offset by a spicy pico de gallo were a slammable example of Stadium’s cliche-dodging game plan.
Ditto for the likewise hefty and flavor-packed NBA Jam ($13), a thick-and-juicy cheeseburger on a toasted glossy bun. Served with seasoned waffle fries, the delicious, pink-in-the-middle beef had a deep exterior sear and garnishes of melted smoked gouda, arugula, garlicky aioli and a sweet bacon jam I’d request on the side next time.
The G.O.A.T. ($13, served with fries) will be a slam dunk for many fans of fried chicken sandwiches. Its star — a hulking piece of breast meat with a craggy coating — gets strong assists from a lively wing sauce and fine slaw.
Like your wings with bling? Stadium’s 24 Karat Gold Trophy Wings are made with edible gold and cost $50. I didn’t order those, but the Bone-In Wings ($8) with a creamy garlic-parmesan sauce sporting pleasant Caesar-dressing notes (about a dozen wing flavors are available) were crisp, meaty and good-tasting.
For a creamy cheese sauce that brings the heat, order The Mac ($10) Flaming Hot style; you’ll also receive corkscrew pasta capped with fiery Cheetos. Dairy was also highlighted in the Cheesy Caesar ($8), a salad that ran up the score with non-traditional ingredients such as roasted red peppers, pine nuts and pepperoni. The characteristic more-is-more creation was likeable despite being overdressed and assembled with iceberg lettuce rather than menu-promised romaine.
There were other miscues. An OK if undistinguished pepperoni pizza (The Pep Talk, $12) was missing its requested sausage add-on; those nachos didn’t have their “Asian guacamole”; and the normally good fries were limp on an evening when the 20-minutes quoted wait for a to-go order ballooned to a disheartening 40 minutes.
I’d call most of those muffed balls rather than fumbles. Because even with the unforced errors, Stadium’s pub grub was always fun and flavorful. That’s how this rookie achieves an easy “W.” Bonus: Stadium’s roomy setting beats much of the competition with its graffiti-style decorations, sports-themed bar games, garage doors, TVs galore and convenient patio.
Even dining on a table in the plaza adjacent to Stadium where the eatery’s TVs are visible was enjoyable — and helped mitigate the sting of not visiting thatother stadium recently. But it made me long for the days when I can again watch a non-pandemic-era game in a sports bar packed with strangers who become high-fiving friends while the Buckeyes secure another victory.
101 Mill St., Gahanna