December 10, 2013
A German Village institution has been given new life by the folks who own the neighborhood pizza shop.
The Sycamore opened on Nov. 1 at 262 E. Sycamore St., in the former Sycamore Cafe space.
“I live in the neighborhood and would always ask about the Sycamore Cafe. The location is great, but (people in the neighborhood) said they wished someone would do more with it,” said new owner Chris Crader.
He and girlfriend Bethany Lovell also own Harvest Pizzeria, at 495 S. 4th St. “We got a call from a friend who works in real estate saying he thought the owners might want to sell.” Did he want to buy? “I said, ‘absolutely.’”
Was he nervous? Yes, “but they were good nerves,” Crader said. “It had a lot of potential.”
They have turned the Sycamore into a neighborhood tavern, with a menu featuring tacos, sandwiches and entrees such as braised pork and farm-raised Ohio trout.
It has a different feel and focus than Harvest Pizzeria, although “We are still sourcing locally and organically whenever possible,” Crader said.
The restaurant is an improved version of the space that has been there for generations.
“It’s been a tavern since Prohibition ended, and before that it was a neighborhood grocery store,” he said. “We really wanted to maintain some of that identity. We didn’t want to put something in there that was too far off the wall. We just wanted it to be a good neighborhood tavern, someplace that will hopefully be there longer than I am and complement the neighborhood."
Crader and Lovell took possession of the building in March. It took about three months to renovate. They completely rebuilt the inside and installed a new furnace, kitchen and bar and dining areas.
The finished space retains plenty of vintage character, with exposed brick walls and a tin ceiling.
With the Sycamore open, the couple seem to be on the cusp of building a small restaurant empire.
Crader and Lovell opened Harvest Pizzeria, which makes gourmet pizza from locally grown and produced in-season ingredients, in the summer of 2011.
The two are planning to open the Harvest Bar & Kitchen, a riff on Harvest Pizzeria but with a more-extensive menu and larger kitchen, in Clintonville in January.
The latter will feature burgers, sandwiches, hot and cold sub-style sandwiches and pizza, Crader said.
“The kitchen is about four times the size of the German Village location, so we can do a lot there that we can’t do in the other Harvest Pizzeria.”
This is “definitely what I hoped would happen,” Crader said. “I like the restaurant business, and if there is an idea that I find Columbus doesn’t have, if I don’t open it, somebody else will. So why not?”
The Sycamore is open 4 p.m. to midnight Monday through Thursday, 4 p.m. to 1 a.m. on Friday, and 11 a.m. to 1 a.m. on Saturday. The restaurant is closed on Sundays.
Coffee for a cause
Stauf’s Coffee, 1277 Grandview Ave., is donating $5 from the sale of every pound of coffee to the Grandview Heights Public Library until Sunday. The Grandview staple is also celebrating its 25th anniversary this year.
• Once again, restaurants are rolling out incentives and deals for customers buying holiday gift cards. Here’s a short list: Applebee’s, Benihana, Olive Garden and Chili’s are offering a $10 bonus card with each $50 gift card purchased; at Buca Di Beppo, it’s $15 for every $50; at Longhorn, Red Lobster and Max & Erma’s, it’s buy $25 and get a $5 bonus card or coupon. At Outback Steakhouse, El Vaquero and P.F. Chang’s, buy $100 in gift cards and you’ll get a $20 bonus card.
• If your tastes lean more toward local restaurants, Dine Originals Columbus has a long list of discount gift certificates — such as $100 worth of food and lodging at the Inn at Cedar Falls for $70 — at www.DineOriginalsColumbus.com.
Merlion Noodle and Rice, 5320 N. High St., closed on Dec. 2. A note on its website said the management decided to close when the chef retired because of health problems.
Dispatch restaurant columnist Denise Trowbridge can be reached at email@example.com.