Universal Appeal - Polaris Grill
1835 Polaris Parkway, Columbus, OH 43240, (614) 431-5598
The Polaris Grill took its moniker from days of old, when Polaris Parkway was burgeoning, bustling and still somewhat fresh. It marked itself as an original, a pioneer in the growing Polaris corridor. Now in 2012, one might overlook the spot as just another chain in the throng of urban expansion. But no, ownership reiterates that not only is their spot independently owned, the fact that it’s been successful since 1997 is testament of its commitment to consistency and a friendly high-quality dining experience.
Though opened in as the ninth restaurant of the 55 Restaurant Group, in 2000 the Polaris Grill was purchased by Columbus Restaurant Concepts, Inc., owned and operated by Darren Greene and Cliff Madden. Darren and Cliff met while working together in the mid-’90s. The main menu here has been adjusted, but some of the most popular dishes date back to the days of the 55 Restaurant Group, such as the 55 House Salad and Aztec Chowder, among others.
It’s a snap to find this grill. Before you even exit onto Polaris Parkway you can see it flanking the southeast side. Hop onto the Polaris thoroughfare and quickly make a right on Pulsar Place. Amidst the multitude of fast-food joints and gas stations, you’ll see signs guiding your drive all the way to the parking lot.
As has become ritual, we found a seat at the bar. The restaurant was remodeled last year, lending to a newly built home smell when we walked in. The bar rests in its own little enclave, ultra dim this night because of afternoon storms, with multiple booths and a roomy wood varnish-slickened bar with plenty of elbow room. We enjoyed a glass of Evolution White, a crisp and grassy Oregon blended wine, while waiting for out table. We witnessed an older crowd; it seemed like a corporate crowd, with one group nearby heartily laughing about a co-worker’s use of the word “anal” instead of “annual.”
Our dinner table rested near the new patio, flooded but a pretty backdrop to our upcoming dining treat. First up – salads. The 55 Salad comes assembled in a common fashion: mixed greens, bacon, tomatoes, red onion and blue cheese, but the quality of the ingredients stood out to us, and the greens were neatly tossed with sweet and tangy dressing. The Berry Salad, too, was given attention to detail brimming with lots of ripe berries and poppy-seed dressing. You’ll get a basket of French bread at the outset here, herbed and warm with garlic-tinged butter.
You could have a soup supper with these saucy crocks: The Aztec Chowder comes as thick as we’ve seen any soup. We had to cut through the spicy cheese, so flavorfully chewy, with a texture that seemed like it was made with cornbread crumbles. The Corn Crab Chowder tasted delicious as well, yet in contrast, rich and silky smooth with hunks of crab and corn throughout.
WHAT’S IN A NAME?
Polaris Grill used to belong to the 55 Restaurant Group. And though theres lots of lore about that number 55, management says the number merely comes from the fact the groups ﬁrst restaurant was located at 55 Nationwide Blvd.
The management team works together throughout the year to develop 4 seasonal menus: Taste of Mardi Gras, Floribbean, Napa Valley Harvest, and the one we experienced, Taste of the Eastern Shore, an offering of ocean delicacies.
A couple of fun plates arrived next. The Pan de Grill was like puffed pizza crust, herb-flavored triangles served with roasted garlic fondue, gooey and yummy slathered on the bread. Louisiana Gulf Shrimp comes as another appetizer option, with robust shrimp, succulent mushrooms and sizzling sauce. The spice in this dish married well with the warm and sweet cheddar cheese grit it was set atop.
The restaurant in full swing by this time – we witnessed mostly an older crowd – we set our attention to entrees. The grit stands in again with the Hickory Smoked Pork Chops, basted with maple mustard glaze and served with applesauce and green tomato chutney, which when mixed together stands as the perfect accompaniment to every meaty bite. Salmon Oscar, a juicy filet topped with chunks of crab, and Filet Mignon, even juicier dressed with a smearing of blue cheese, get mashed potato treatment. This version looks like instant, but that’s what made them remarkable. They even were lightly crusted diving into them.
The climax for us, and we were told it is a staff favorite, was the Shrimp and Scallop New Orleans, a linguini bowl loaded with scorching tomatoey zest.
It doesn’t stop there. We’re always up for another round, and were served with a final taste of what Polaris Grill is all about. The dense Chocolate Mousse Cake might be a chocolate lover’s dream: chocolate cheesecake, chocolate ganache, chocolate mouse, and chocolate crust, but the Pineapple Upside-Down Cake gets our nod. Such a cute presentation, pineapple rings stand as a base and a topper with warm juicy cherries in the center. We love being surprised by a restaurant’s lineup, and this place had quite a few stars.