The Top Steakhouse - High Steaks
2891 E. Main St. Columbus, OH 43209 (614) 231-8238
This is it. This is the place that all these new steakhouses are trying to be. The Top has been in business for 50 years, which means that when all the new joints start popping up, emulating 1950s retro steakhouse chic, they are actually emulating The Top. Leave it to the original to do it better, right down to the patina on the brass tacks that hold the leather onto the barstools and the illustrative marginalia on the menu. The hosts’ stand is directly across from a very uniquely shaped piano bar, which is the perfect place to have something in a martini glass, while listening to standard after standard as sung by a host of singers who seem to appear from every corner of the dining room and bar. After a cocktail or so, mosey on into the sunken dining room for the main event.
The Adkins’ family became the third owners of this notable haunt in 2006. Since they grew up in Bexley, and owned other restaurants in the area, such as Bexley Monk, they thought The Top would be a perfect fit for them when the spot became available. When we asked Reagina Adkins what made The Top so special, she said it’s a place where everyone knows everyone. “If you are not a friend when you come in the door, you definitely are when you leave.”
Plus, it’s the nostalgia that really gets people, Adkins says. It’s not a “staunchy,” stuffy steakhouse, so if that’s what you’re looking for, look elsewhere. Being in that nostalgic frame of mine, we also asked which Rat Pack member she would bring back. Laughing, Adkins was reluctant to answer, but pointed out that a Rat Pack picture hangs in the men’s room, which patrons are always trying to “borrow.”
The Top is open seven days a week beginning at 5 p.m. The restaurant closes at 10 p.m. Monday through Thursday; 11 p.m. Friday and Saturday; and 9 p.m. on Sundays. Reservations aren’t necessary, but suggested, since the spot is small.
You can’t miss this landmark if you’re traveling along the East Main corridor. You’ll find it in the blocks between Capital University and James Road. It sits on its own with a big sign out front. There’s plenty of parking, too, so no worries there.
The wine list, while American-heavy, like most wine lists in Columbus, is very creative and has some outstanding, rare and underappreciated bottles. A rose is an absolutely perfect place to start, especially if the first course is going to be shrimp or crab cakes. A loftier wine would work best with appetizers such as the French onion soup. We loved the sunken cheese, heavy onions and little bits of meat that settled to the bottom of the bowl like edible treasures.
Unlike its neophyte counterparts, The Top includes a salad with all of the entrees, as well as a potato – just like they used to do it in the ’50s. The lamb chops aren’t explicitly “Baby” or “Colorado” or “New Zealand”; they are simply chops. Applesauce is standard with the pork chops, the veal chop is a double-cut, two-boner and the porterhouse is humongous. Again, it’s all done just like they did it back in the ’50s.
The problem arises when trying to decide whether to have the prime rib this time and come back for the surf and turf or vice versa. Larger parties present more sharing opportunities, which can alleviate some of that problem and help to get through a bunch of the wine bottles that work fantastically with blast-furnace cooked red meat.
The salty, savory rind from a perfectly medium-rare prime rib makes an exquisite chaser for a cabernet, which you’ll find plenty of here on the wine list, and The Top offers them all at reasonable prices. These bottles are just waiting to sit next to a really marbled and full-bodied steak, like a rib-eye; they would also work with a leaner piece of meat that is not overcooked, like a black-and-blue filet.
Essentially, it is child’s play finding an appropriate wine in a comfortable price range to accompany The Top’s deftly prepared, aged meat and smoky broiled lobster tails. It does get increasingly difficult to make such pairings, the more the meat is cooked, but some of these bottles are so outstanding they can even rescue a steak from medium-wellness, although such behavior is never recommended. The Top is not responsible for steaks cooked well. It says so in the fine print on the menu, probably because there is no way to pair any wine with a steak that has been ruined like that, and they really want guests to try some wine with dinner.
After dessert, a liqueur or coffee drink is the perfect finale to the meal, especially back at the piano bar, listening to the guy from table ten nail the chorus of a song long forgotten. As tempting as it is in such a comfortable atmosphere, the belt and the top button should remain fastened until you get home.