Yankee Trader building becomes cocktail haven

  • Tom Dodge | DISPATCH PHOTOS
    Garry White, food and beverage director for the new Denmark on High, with the restaurant’s Brie Board
  • Tom Dodge | DISPATCH
    Denmark on High will offer a small-plates menu.
By

March 18, 2014

Denmark on High, a new cocktail lounge and small-plates restaurant, and the Secret Cellar, a meeting room and retail space, opened on Friday at 463 N. High St.

They’re located in the former home of Yankee Trader, a party-supplies store. The building, which has undergone extensive renovations, also includes loft apartments and Bareburger, a soon-to-open gourmet hamburger restaurant.

Denmark on High, with seating for 70 on the mezzanine level, is “a modern take on the old-school cocktail lounge where the cocktails are treated like food,” said Daniel Morris, Denmark on High’s managing partner.

“We’re using fresh ingredients, not pre-made mixes. We’re not running soda lines.”

Alongside those fresh cocktails, Denmark offers a small-plates menu of locally sourced snacks, salads and flatbread sandwiches. Also on the drink menu are bottled beers from around the world and a selection of domestic beers made within an hour’s drive of Columbus.

The name refers to the signature mid-century design style of Denmark, rather than to a style of food. “It’s a nod to their architecture, and the way they eat and live, not a literal translation,” Morris said.

He also is running the Secret Cellar, a combination private-party room that seats up to 50, small wine bar and retail space in the basement.

“It has retail wine and beer, but really focuses on local cheese and local snacks,” he said. “ There are so many people doing really good things with such passion, we wanted to give people a place to enjoy them in a chill environment.”

The event space, the North Room, is wired for business meetings but could serve many purposes, Morris said. “We like to think it could wear a suit during the day and a party hat at night.”

Given the age of the building, the renovation yielded some interesting features.

“This was not a ‘gut the inside and tear everything out and start fresh’ project,” Morris said. “ Everything was done with historical society approval.”

All of the staircases — even the nonfunctional ones — were preserved. “Denmark has a staircase behind the bar that basically goes nowhere,” Morris said. “The space between Denmark and Bareburger used to be the original grand staircase. It’s now encased in glass, and when you are inside Bareburger, you can see up to us, and we can see down to them.”

There were, of course, complications.

Only half the floors in Denmark are original. Wood that matched the rest of the space had to be found.

Creating a kitchen proved to be a challenge, in part because there was no way to add the vent hoods and fire systems necessary to support one.

Instead, “Behind the bar, we are doing a European-style microkitchen. The oven can cook flatbreads in 70 seconds. Everything at Denmark is happening behind the bar,” Morris said.

He’s confident, however, that the space and its uses were worth the effort and will succeed.

“It’s definitely the right concept and in the right location. At Denmark, cocktails and conversation are king. We’ve created a place for grown folks.”

It’s also a good fit for the neighborhood, he said.

“It’s great to be around (restaurants) that set the bar high. There is a great energy going on in the Short North, and I’d rather be down in the mix with the competition than away from it. We’re jumping in with the sharks, but I can’t wait.”

Bareburger, which will share the Yankee on High building, plans a soft opening on Monday with a grand opening on March 31. The chain, born in New York in 2009, specializes in burgers made with organic ingredients ranging from the expected, such as beef, to the exotic, including elk and ostrich.

Off the menu

• Hong Kong Buffet, 1831 W. Henderson Rd., closed on March 9 for renovations. It will reopen in April as Hong Kong House, a sit-down Szechwan-style restaurant.

• Bexley Pizza Plus will compete March 24-27 in the International Pizza Challenge in Las Vegas. In 2011, the shop’s Ultimate Pizza — featuring two types of mushrooms and two types of pepperoni — placed third in the traditional-pizza category.

• Bill Doehring has been named executive chef of Mitchell’s Ocean Club. He is the former executive chef of Hyde Park Restaurants.

Obit file

• George’s All American Grill, 155 Georgesville Rd., has closed. Several members of the family soon are to open a new place, George’s Coneys and Gyros, in Grove City.

• Champps Americana, 161 E. Campus View Blvd., has closed.

Dispatch restaurant columnist Denise Trowbridge can be reached at onrestaurants@dispatch.com.