Wining & Dining
Schmoozing clients doesn't stop just because the economy is down. Sure, the company's purse strings are tight, but you're still working the big accounts. Booking a private room at one of Columbus's fine dining establishments with plenty of good wine, juicy steaks and delectable desserts can still wow a prospect and-hopefully-seal the deal.
Diners have lost several power options since early 2009. The economy caused a few local casualties, including Handke's Cuisine, Morton's Steakhouse and three ventures by chef Richard Rosendale. Yet the news has been good for others.
"Our business is up over the last year," says Chad Allard, general manager of Hyde Park Prime Steakhouse's downtown Columbus location.
"People are calling us for private events saying they've been given budgets or the holiday budget for their events has been tapped. We completely understand, and we have special private event menus that cater to those people," says Lauren Rini, Hyde Park's local meeting and event planner, who books all four Central Ohio locations.
C.E.O. visited six local restaurants that offer some of the best food, service and atmosphere around. The best has a cost, of course, and while some menus are priced around $100 a plate, there are options for businesses whose budgets are more down-home than Dom Pérignon.
There's some romance in DeepWood; hardwood floors, oak chairs built by a local Amish family, and realized dreams. Amber Herron, owner and general manager, accomplished her career goal when DeepWood opened in the Short North in June 2008.
Named after the street Herron grew up on in Easton, Conn., DeepWood is inspired by the natural beauty of New England and her childhood home. "Both my parents collected oak antiques, so that's why you see the oak buffets and chairs," Herron says. "Trees are everywhere in Connecticut, so we used the support column as a big tree to kind of just branch over and encompass everything."
Demand for private events prompted Herron to buy the space next door, formerly an art gallery, and create the Oak Room, which can accommodate 60 seated or 100 standing guests. "We are respecting what this space was before and using it as a palette or a canvas for people to create their own experience," Herron says. "We always build our menu specifically for each function. Most of it pays respect to the heart of our dinner menu."
While the offerings vary depending on what a group wants, Herron says three courses-soup or salad, entrée and dessert-is the most common meal choice. Main dishes include venison, rabbit, lamb, lobster, cod, salmon, filet mignon and a fish du jour. Herron says most budgets allot $30 per person for three courses, but companies can go as low as $20.
For smaller groups, DeepWood can accommodate parties of up to 35 in a semi-private space in the dining room that's set apart with curtains.
Herron says three years' experience at Abbracci Steaks & Italian (the former tenant of the DeepWood space), combined with planning and saving between herself and partner and executive chef Brian Pawlak, have kept business going despite the economic downturn.
"This is all that I've ever wanted to do," she says. "I want for it to be an invitation not only into my home, but us as a restaurant family's home. I think there is an upfront expression of true and genuine hospitality. It's just a comfort you have when you're here that you're at a friend's house and you can expect to be taken care of that way."
Hyde Park Prime Steakhouse
Hyde Park's location on the Cap at Union Station offers a variety of private tables and menu options for business clientele. Located kitty-corner across High Street from the Greater Columbus Convention Center, the restaurant hosts private banquets daily, 95 percent of which are corporate events, Rini says.
"There's such a correlation between the convention center's schedule and our schedule that we have to be very much on top of it. We see the same people year after year when the conventions return," Rini says. "Looking out into 2011 and 2012, I already have events scheduled."
Hyde Park can accommodate events of six to 300 guests, and private parties can book one (or more) of six private rooms. Savoy Room A and Savoy Room B each allow for 21 guests. Both are decorated with paintings on the ceiling and 42-inch LCD televisions with laptop connectivity. Also boasting a 42-inch TV is Room Eleven, which seats 12 at a baroque, boardroom-style table under an elegant chandelier.
The restaurant also offers three boardrooms that can be reserved together for 40 people or separately for groups of 16, 12 or eight. "Our sophisticated décor is the perfect setting for entertaining business clients, delivering presentations and networking with other professionals," Rini says.
For larger parties or cocktail receptions, guests can book Eleven, an attached wine bar. "What a lot of our clients do, especially around the holidays, is a cocktail hour, and we'll section off [part of Eleven] as a lounge area and then escort them to their private dining area," Rini says.
Six dinner menus range in price from $52.95 to $95 per person. The cheapest is a three-course meal with salad, three entrée options (including steak, of course) and dessert; the most expensive adds hors d'oeuvres and wine pairings.
In addition to savory food and sophisticated décor, Hyde Park aims to set itself apart with attention to detail, like making sure silverware and wine glasses are polished, Allard says. "When a guest gets up, we escort them to the bathroom. We don't just point. We also fold their napkins and make sure the place setting is how it should be. That way when the guest gets back to the table, they realize that the server did notice they were gone," he says.
Opened in 1981 in historic German Village, Lindey's has always fostered a unique atmosphere. The restaurant's classic bistro décor includes walls adorned with original artwork purchased by owner Sue Doody over the years. A 2007 remodel took Lindey's private dining options to the next level, including upgraded technology.
"We've got modern amenities with a classic charm," boasts Todd Cumbow, managing partner. "The audiovisual is all brand new and state-of-the-art," he says, including 72-inch and 42-inch plasma TVs, a ceiling-mounted projector with a drop-down screen, and plug-in capability for guests' iPods and other music players.
Lindey's four private rooms are upstairs, away from the regular dining areas and bar. The event space includes an outdoor terrace that's available year-round. Combined, the space can accommodate 120 guests, with the largest seating 60. "Depending on the size of your event, you can rent a room or several rooms or the whole thing," Cumbow says.
Menus can be customized for any type of event and typically cost $35 per person for a three-course dinner and $16 for a two-course lunch, says Lincoln Workman, manager and director of events. "We can do anything from an hors d'oeuvres party to a five-course wine tasting. We do buffets, we do sit-down dinners, we do continental breakfasts for early morning meetings. We pretty much run the whole gamut of services," Workman says. Bistro fare abounds, including fresh seafood, steaks, pastas and chops.
"The thing about Lindey's is that you walk around and you might think that this is very expensive, but it's really not," Cumbow says. "It's very affordable and value-oriented. If they sat down and really looked at it, I think it would surprise a lot of people who just see it and think it looks like a destination, when the reality is that we're just a neighborhood restaurant first and foremost."
M is dominated by a philosophy familiar to guests at any Cameron Mitchell restaurant: No matter the question, the answer is "yes."
"We'll do whatever it takes to accommodate our guests while they're dining with us," says Kristen Luff, general manager. Located Downtown on the first floor of 2 Miranova Place, M serves eclectic American fare with influences from Europe and Asia.
A private dining room that seats up to 15 people is dominated by a large, glass wall that looks out into the restaurant. The room's clean, contemporary design offers the perfect atmosphere for getting down to business. "This room is great for audiovisual presentations and also if you're conducting more of a business meeting during dinner," Luff says. Don't worry about privacy: A curtain can be drawn or remain open.
The semi-private Barrel Room seats eight in a space partially enclosed by wooden slats to resemble a wine barrel. "This room would be suited for entertaining business clients because the atmosphere is open to the dining room, but candle-lit and secluded at the same time," Luff says.
M also can accommodate up to 40 guests in the front dining room by reserving a section blocked off from other diners, Luff says.
Three banquet menus are available: a three-course, $53 per-person option with filet mignon; a three-course, $60 option with New York strip steak and Chilean sea bass; and a four-course, $76 option that includes a shrimp cocktail or sea scallops appetizer. Private parties don't have to limit themselves to the banquet menus, but Luff recommends that option for budget-minded businesses.
Special accommodations, such as additional audiovisual equipment or dietary requests, can be arranged. "Every day it seems like there's something. Our chefs create gluten-free menus or vegetarian menus. If a guest is requesting something not on our menus, lamb for instance, we'll have it here for them. Another thing that we do is to accommodate business requests to have lunch parties here when we're not actually open for lunch," Luff says.
Luff says M serves business clientele on most weekdays. "We understand that businesspeople may be bringing clients here to impress them or to showcase Columbus and what we have to offer, so ultimately we accommodate that by providing great service."
Gourmands who enjoy a fine merlot or chardonnay with their ribeye or porterhouse will fit right in at Mitchell's Steakhouse, a three-time winner of the Award of Excellence from Wine Spectator. Offering more than 100 selections, Mitchell's wine list was honored for overall quality and a thematic match to the menu in price and style.
Mitchell's Polaris location, one of three owned by Ruth's Hospitality Group, has three rooms available for private events. All are audiovisual-capable. The Wine Room seats up to 36 guests, while the Prime Room accommodates up to 20 people and includes a working fireplace and a flat-screen TV for guests who might want to catch the Buckeyes over dinner.
For those with fewer dinner companions, there's the Cellar Room, which seats up to 14. "It's nice and cozy for small, intimate dinners and business meetings where conversation needs to be private," says Alissa Atkinson, the location's general manager.
Parties of 15 or more order from the banquet menu, which typically includes three courses and starts at $49 per person. Side dishes are served family-style, and entrées include chicken, seafood and the requisite beef.
The restaurant's modern décor, dominated by red, black and brown hues, is simple, sophisticated and inviting. Mitchell's serves plenty of regulars who always request a certain server or dish. That includes repeat corporate clientele for holiday parties and the like, Atkinson says. "We pride ourselves on making sure that every guest who walks through our doors feels like they're in our living room rather than out at a restaurant."
Husband-and-wife team Kent and Tasi Rigsby have been offering art on a plate in the heart of the Short North since 1986. Their original restaurant, Rigsby's Cuisine Volatile, served a mix of Mediterranean fare from Spain, Italy, Greece and southern France. Now called Rigsby's Kitchen, the restaurant skews more Italian. Walls covered in original art, a soundtrack of jazz, classical and opera music, and an exhibition kitchen reinforce the artistic theme.
The restaurant offers space in the back for private parties of up to 40 guests. However, businesses looking to take their event up a notch may want to head down the street to Ray's Living Room. Opened in June, Ray's doubles as a gallery showcasing local artwork and a private event space, which seats up to 120.
The Rigsbys' gallery is named for the late Ray Hanley, former president of the Greater Columbus Arts Council. The space can be customized with flowers, entertainment, audiovisual equipment and more, says Tasi Rigsby. Food and price options vary as well.
"We don't really have a set minimum, but generally sit-down is $42 per person for three courses. We try to work around budget," she says. The catering menu includes a choice of two of the following entrées: basil ravioli, rolled fillet of sole, pan-roasted salmon, grilled shrimp skewers, roasted chicken breast, fennel-dusted pork, grilled flatiron steak and roasted duck breast.
The food appeals not just to guests who love fine dining, but those who enjoy eating healthfully, Rigsby says. "We make everything from scratch. There are no preservatives. It's for people who love food and for people who care about what they put in their body. We care about it, too," she says. Rigsby's uses local farmers whenever possible and makes all bread in-house through Eleni-Christina Bakery.
"Our service is really professional," Rigsby says. "We train the staff in food so that they can identify every ingredient. ... It's an extension of entertaining in your home. It's knowing customers' needs before they have to ask."
Michelle Davey is an editorial assistant for Columbus C.E.O.
Reprinted from theJanuary 2011 issue of Columbus C.E.O. Copyright © Columbus C.E.O.