G. A. Benton
The iconic mural of a woman in a lifeboat amid choppy waves had been changed during my recent visits to Strongwater Food and Spirits.
At the end of February, I noticed that the face in the mural — a reproduction of an old portrait of darling grace (she helped castaways in the 1800s) – wore a mask added to the pandemic. When I returned in mid-March, Grace’s coverage had been eradicated.
Fun variations like this demonstrate Strongwater’s considerable appeal: it can embrace change while commemorating the past.
Occupying a fashionable old-fashioned structure erected in 1910 in a neighborhood with a history of “strong water” floods, this hip, artsy neighborhood Franklinton The establishment is built on the vintage bones of a well-preserved former industrial and office space. Seating in the mid-sized casual restaurant is even available in the former semi-private offices.
The kitchen of chef Catie Randazzo, former owner of Ambrose and Eve, she took over the kitchen at Strongwater earlier this year – also embracing rejuvenation. And the dishes added by Randazzo (the basis of this review) took the kitchen in delicious new directions.
(Note: Strongwater is in a transition period and plans to revamp its menu again, so the following items may soon be unavailable.)
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A friendly waiter informed me that the three terrific slices of toast presented with creamy house cheese and drizzled with honey in the comforting small plate of ricotta and homemade bread ($10) came from a sourdough starter dating back to 1946.
Healthy but potentially boring greens were basically reborn as vegan dan dan noodles in Inspired Charred Broccoli ($13). The smoky, spicy and fragrant appetizer got its brilliant transformation thanks to a crisp Sichuan-style chilli sauce, ginger, garlic and crunchy fried peanuts playing on a lightly sweetened “cashew cream”. I just wish my broccoli was well cooked.
The smoked pastrami chicken wings ($15) were perfectly cooked. Served over hot and tangy homemade kraut, these old favorites resurrected from Randazzo’s Challah Food Truck menu were better than ever.
You could say the same about a reworked and once-discontinued Taco Bell item: the crowd-pleasing fiesta potatoes. This irresistible nighttime special ($7) consisted of four chilli-dusted, crispy whole potatoes, spiked with sour cream and a serious cheese sauce.
The menu listed “Franks and Beans” ($21) in quotes for a reason: the large plate had pork meatballs (mine was delicious but a bit stiff) rather than frankfurters. Instead of a BBQ-style sauce, this delicious reimagined pasta-style dish with cannellini beans in place of noodles had a tangy cream of fennel sauce enhanced with hints of garlic and wine.
More quotes and fancy flavors came with the vegan hot “chicken” sandwich ($15), one of many meatless dishes. A large block of homemade frying Seitan got a huge help from the tongue threatening chilli, an awesome vegan aioli, pickles, onions, a nice grilled seed roll and a side of addictive flour dusted fries.
To appease its spicy bite, many Ohio beers were offered. There was also a nice little wine list, with most bottles under $40. And don’t sleep on Strongwater’s creative and affordable cocktails.
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The Bloody Barron ($10.50), made with cinnamon-infused tequila, mezcal, Kahluablood orange puree, cloves and a scorched cinnamon stick tasted like something an adventurous bartender had invented after visiting Mexico.
Cinnamon and creativity came together beautifully in a dessert that seemed on track for Strongwater: the Chicken Waffle Ice Cream Sundae ($7).
If it’s not quite perfect – I wanted the salty chicken skin nubbins replacing the nuts to be crunchier – its fantastic homemade cinnamon ice cream, excellent homemade hot waffle and playful undertones of reinvention have made it a distinct, fun and delicious treat. .
Strongwater Food and Spirits
Or: 401 W. Town St., Franklinton
Contact: 614-928-3170, www.strongwatercolumbus.com
Hours: 4 p.m. to 9 p.m. on Wednesdays, Thursdays and Sundays; 4 p.m. to 10 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays; closed Mondays and Tuesdays
Price scale: $7 to $26
Atmosphere: casual and trendy medium-sized restaurant with personalized service, located in a well-preserved old building with a small patio and semi-private tables in former offices
Children’s menu: no
Reservations: recommended on weekends
Liquor license: full bar
Quick click: Creative yet crowd-pleasing seasonal dishes injected extra pizzazz into a consistently fun and arty restaurant and bar with good, affordable cocktails.