Columbus Brewing Company now has quality eats on tap
After being shuttered for more than a year by the pandemic, the brewer’s West Side taproom reopened in June offering a limited but tasty menu
Getting reacquainted with fun places that temporarily shuttered because of the pandemic can feel like returning to sunlight after leaving a pitch-black, nearly abandoned movie theater showing a bad horror flick. The Columbus Brewing Company taproom, which reopened in late June after closing for a year, is one such mood-brightening place.
“Let the sunshine in again — along with some crisp Columbus Brewing Company beers,” I thought while entering the taproom recently, which was flooded with natural light and has a popular patio. Although not highly publicized, in addition to pouring refreshing beverages, the beer facility situated on a predominantly industrial stretch of the West Side offers a small menu of enjoyable food.
In fact, CBC’s burgers, fries, wings and pizzas could merit a visit to the taproom on their own. That said, this scratch-cooked fare is well-designed to partner with the operation’s 20-some house-brewed draft beers.
Fans of the pioneering Columbus brewery — its frequently teeming taproom will attest that we are legion — hardly look to it for subtle beers. Instead, most aficionados are drawn to CBC for high-spirited (in both senses of the phrase) creations such as the widely beloved Bodhi, a double IPA with an 8.3 percent ABV.
“Subtle” wouldn’t be a prime descriptor for the sleek but often raucous and bustling taproom, either. Its unsubtle standout visual feature injects whimsy into a huge room with neutral tones, brewery-themed photos and branded merchandise for sale: an expansive mural depicting mythical beasts feasting on hops plants.
My favorite way to feast on hops in there is with various snifters holding bigger-than-you’d-think beer pours measuring one-tenth of a liter (three to four ounces; $1.50 to $3.50). Some seasonal recommendations are the Pils, Insane Wanderer and Five Minutes of Funk.
Like such drinks, CBC’s food is ordered from servers roaming throughout the roomy, seat-yourself space. Because the friendly but sometimes overtaxed crew has to ferry the grub from CBC’s nearby food truck, table service isn’t always quick, and one of my three orders resulted in lukewarm dishes. But everything I tasted was good and flavorful — save for an apparent outlier of so-so queso blanco ($8).
The standout diner-style cheeseburger ($12), served with hefty and terrific fries, evoked (oxymoron alert) an artisanal Big Mac created with locally raised beef patties flattered by a tangy house sauce and zippy house pickles.
CBC also does something interesting with za’atar, an ancient and fragrant spice and herb blend that’s becoming trendy: It’s fashioned into an addictive sauce for the place’s big, crisp and brined traditional wings ($8).
Boneless “wings” (go za’atar sauce) are offered to add even more pizzazz to the recommended large house salad ($8; the wings are $4 extra) — good greens, pecorino Romano cheese and shaved carrot and radish energized by an aggressive pickled-shallot vinaigrette.
By offering pan pizzas with impressive toppings (e.g. Grande mozzarella, Ezzo pepperoni), CBC joins a new wave of ambitious thick-crust purveyors (Wizard of Za, Pie of the Tiger) bucking local thin-crust conventions. CBC's heavyweight pies feature a yeasty base that essentially fries in its rectangular baking pan to achieve an irresistibly crispy exterior with a springy interior.
I’d eagerly return for any of the three delicious pizzas I tried: a bold pie with excellent house-made chorizo offset by a vibrant salsa verde ($18); a pie with spicy crisp pepperoni showcased by a bright crushed organic tomato sauce ($16); and the cacio e pepe pie ($16), whose thick-and-soothing blanket of molten mozzarella, ricotta and Parmesan was countered by cracked black pepper of which I wanted more.
On a closing note, with COVID-19 on the rise again, I’d urge everyone to take the disease seriously. Because returning to bright, party-time places like CBC is a lot more fun than returning to a 2020-like, pandemic-darkened restaurant-scape.
Columbus Brewing Company Taproom
2555 Harrison Rd., West Side