The nicest chefs in Columbus cook the best food. After five years of planning cooking classes with our cadre of culinary all-stars, I can say this with confidence. After having an opportunity to work alongside David MacLennan, the chef from Latitude 41 earlier this winter, I finally made it in to try his food on his terms, prompted by a tweet announcing their new happy hour. Half off appetizers (flatbreads and small plates) and $2.00 draft beers from 5 to 6:30 p.m. Sunday through Thursday. This, friends, was no Applebee’s.
Ben and I shared five small plates, starting with chicken and waffles. I’m a sucker for chicken and waffles; any time I see it on a menu, I order. This version contained a waffle with a heavenly slab of butter spiked with chives. The chicken — deboned thigh and breast rolled together and pan fried — was served over braised greens and grilled corn, just off the cob. As someone who prefers savory over sweet, the combination was perfectly balanced and not at all cloying. The sweetest part of the dish was the corn. Brilliant.
Next up, Korean chicken wings. Heavily sauced and kissed with delightful chunks of ginger, these wings were served over a bed of Ben’s favorite condiment, kimchee. Made in house by chef MacLennan (who paid us a visit at the end of our meal), the kimchee can be made in as few as two days, but, naturally, is better with age. The wings had the consistency of Peking Duck, and were wonderful, but incredibly messy. After every part of my napkin covered in sauce and I’d resorted to dipping portions of it in my water glass (flashbacks to my mother’s embarrassing mid-restaurant spit baths came to mind), we finally had to break down and ask the server for help. She appeared with several cloth napkins drenched in hot water, the upscale version of the wet-nap. Apparently this is a somewhat common occurrence with the wings. “It’s why I don’t order them,” our server confessed. That won’t stop me from ordering them again. I just plan on stocking my purse with the real thing next time.
Our second round of small plates started with dates stuffed with bleu cheese and wrapped with the smoky deliciousness of what I assume is Neuske’s bacon. Pockets of melted bleu cheese appeared in every other bite, “like a Chipotle burrito,” Ben noted. (A compliment, coming from Ben. He prefers the joy of a different taste in every bite and frequents that dining establishment on a weekly basis.)
Accompanying the dates was a big bowl of mussels beautifully positioned in a bath seasoned by lemongrass, chilies, ginger and cilantro. Perfectly textured — the mussels were far from chewy — the dish came together well. The accompanying pieces of toast weren’t porous enough to effectively soak up my sauce, so I just slurped up the broth using the bones as a spoon. (If this seems uncouth, know that I stopped short of drinking it directly from the bowl.)
A close-up view of one of my beloved bivalves.
We closed the meal with a locally-sourced deviled egg topped with fried onions and served with the only greens that we’d made room for on this visit. A nice bite or two to end the meal, the egg didn’t change our world, but it gave us something to eat while we finished our second round of drinks and perused the menu to determine what we’d eat next time.
My only complaint about the experience was that we were practically alone in the restaurant. Not that we need to be surrounded by people to enjoy a dining experience. But still. Our tab — with four drinks and five filling dishes — was less than $40. Columbus, where are you? Get thee to Latitude 41.
50, N 3rd Street
Columbus, Ohio at Renaissance Columbus Downtown Hotel