November 5, 2013
Columbus restaurateur Liz Lessner’s dining spot in the Gateway Film Center will feature an escapist, undersea vibe when it opens in early December just south of the Ohio State University campus.
As envisioned, the Torpedo Room “takes you into a mysterious, dark, slightly twisted and almost sci-fi dining adventure inspired by Jules Verne,” Lessner said.
Construction on the restaurant started yesterday, said the Columbus transplant known for her “ anti-establishment” restaurants and bars, including the Surly Girl Saloon and Dirty Frank’s Hot Dog Palace.
The former cafe in the cinema, 1550 N. High St., has been closed off and will be “rebuilt into what I hope will feel like a magical trip,” she said in an email. “We’re working with local artists, as well as artists from Minneapolis, to create a dreamy, warm, cozy and inviting space just in time for the cold months leading up to Oscar season.”
Think Mysterious Island or 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, with warm colors and velvety textiles to soften the cafe’s punk-inspired walls, ceilings and equipment, she said.
“It’s very much inspired by the works of Jules Verne,” said Chris Hamel, president of the independent film center. “We think that fits really well with what we’ve been doing here for the last four years, which is being one of the premier independent cinemas in the nation.”
The cinema is adding a few walls to make the restaurant more private, Hamel said.
In-theater dining at the movies is a growing trend nationwide, according to trade publication Film Journal International. But Gateway’s Torpedo Room is aiming largely at pre- and post-movie diners.
“We are really trying to create a space where, whether you’re going to a film or not, you can come in and enjoy food and drinks,” Hamel said.
The menu will include salads, scratch-made soups, appetizers, spreads, sandwiches and entrees, Lessner said.
The Torpedo Room will offer 28 draft beers, a few wines, and a handful of cocktails and liquors. Because Gateway is close to Ohio State, the restaurant will enforce a zero-tolerance policy on underage drinking, Lessner said.
She also already is tweaking the cinema’s concession-stand offerings.
“We have a flavored popcorn made fresh each day (today is pumpkin and bloody mary), house-made nacho cheese (inspired by Betty’s Fine Food & Spirits), spicy chorizo for your nachos and house-made flatbreads,” she said.
“In addition, we are looking forward to introducing Columbus’ own Rambling House,” she said. “ They’ll be crafting our own draft ginger beer. We’ll also be serving spiked cider slushes through the holidays.”
Also, the concession stand will be moving toward a goal of “zero waste,” replacing disposable cups and popcorn bowls with reusable versions.