What We Know About Isla, Chef Andrew Smith’s Forthcoming Restaurant
The former Rockmill Tavern chef has honed his new restaurant concept through Roys Ave, an exclusive supper club held in his Westgate home.
Chef Andrew Smith, one of Columbus’ most experienced and beloved chefs, has been out of the restaurant game since leaving his role as executive chef at Rockmill Tavern in the fall of 2018. He’s now ready to jump back in—this time on his own terms.
For nearly four years, Smith and his wife, Devoney Mills, have been running Roys Ave, a hot-ticket supper club from their Roys Avenue home in Westgate. The monthly supper club will serve as a model for the pair’s first restaurant, Isla, coming to 3060 W. Broad St., the same building as Third Way Café, which will be relocating across the street.
"At the end of the day, [Roys Ave Supper Club] really isn't a business. It's just a club. It's just a bunch of people getting together and eating. And it gained so much popularity that we want to turn it into a business," Smith says. “The whole idea is to start out cooking two nights a week as an extension of the supper club and then go from there."
The 1,250-square-foot, BYOB restaurant will feature only 20 seats in the dining room and another six to eight at a chef’s counter, which will moonlight as the setting for private chef’s dinners.
Isla will take an untraditional approach to a restaurant, focused around an intimate atmosphere and Smith’s very personal, multicourse menus (usually eight to 10 courses)—a combination that has built a loyal following through Roys Ave Supper Club. Green-thumbed Mills, who is a manager at Greendigs Design Studio, will handle décor for the space.
Diners will reserve and pay for their seat on the Isla website, with gratuity included. “There won't be any transactions in the space. That way you can just enjoy the experience and not have to worry about any of that,” Smith says.
Isla's less-is-more approach stems from Smith’s time grinding in Columbus kitchens such as the Rossi, and bygone Salt & Pine and Rockmill Tavern. Smith admits that when he left Rockmill, he was burnt out and never wanted to work in a restaurant again.
“We've got [service] dialed in to the point where it eliminates a huge amount of stress that you would normally find in your regular restaurant setting, which leaves a lot of room for what I originally loved about it,” Smith says about his approach to Roys Ave and Isla. “It's definitely more sustainable, the way we've approached it, and the way we've been able to do it for the last four years.”
Isla is expected to open by next summer, but Smith says he doesn’t expect Roys Ave Supper Club to go away anytime soon.
“There's this special environment that we've created there, and we want to just keep doing it,” he says. “We want to keep it private and underground. That's for us, you know.”
Be sure to check out Columbus Monthly’s profile of chef Andrew Smith in our upcoming January issue.