161 N. High St. Columbus, OH 43215 (614) 228-0500
The number of haunted ex-brothels-cum-speakeasies in the tri-galaxy area that serve filet mignon on a 450º rock has to be in the low teens. Limit your search to those that have a completely restored pool table from the late 1800’s and that number plummets. Only two of those haunted brothels have two or more pool tables, and if you want to be able to choose from at least a dozen proprietary brews on tap to rinse down a little nine-ball and some beer-battered, fried bratwurst, you’re limited to pretty much one place in the known universe: The Elevator Brewing Company and Restaurant.
The pool tables aren’t even the coolest thing about this place, and that’s really saying something, since one is an eight-footer from 1891, and the other is an ornate seven-footer that was first played on in 1884. Both are still in use today, which is really freakin’ cool, but still isn’t the coolest thing about this joint. It isn’t the bar, either, which is equally as unbelievable, since it is an officially-listed, wonderfully-ornate, hand-carved Ohio landmark that won the blue ribbon for craftsmanship at the 1893 World Columbian Exposition in Chicago. Neither does the coolness title belong to the owners’ table, which sits in a lofted and slightly recessed mezzanine, just behind the impressive archway that leads to an awesome (literally, not colloquially) vaulted dining area, lined with huge art in even larger frames and an entire wall of stained glass. It isn’t even the downtown patio, or the hand-tiled foyer, or even the repertoire of exclusive, house-brewed beers that run a serpentine gamut from refreshing to chewy.
What is really cool about the Elevator is that it feels exactly like Columbus these days. It sits at the intersection of our city’s significant, fascinating and all-too-often forgotten history and the vibrant, creative and extremely modern movement to create a cosmopole to rival any in the country. Our downtown is quickly transforming from an after-five ghost town to one of the hottest, hippest areas in the country—thanks in no small part to entities like the Elevator.
Maybe it’s that reassured feeling you get from knowing that you can leave the car parked where it is all night, while you wander up High to the Arena District and Short North; maybe it’s the happy and well adjusted ghosts cascading through you as you enter the lofty, beautiful and original foyer of this one-hundred-eight-year-old building; maybe it’s the sounds of people enjoying great beer, creatively tasty food and a wide variety of social intercourses. Whatever it is, it’s palpable.
Elevator is good for just about everything. Just drinks? They have booze galore and always at least twelve beers that they make and sell exclusively. Dinner? Chef Nate Crockett has put together a summer menu that actually does have something for everyone, even the vegans (and it’s not the typical afterthought rabbit-food, either). Entertainment? Remember, there are two completely refurbished hundred-plus-year-old pool tables in the back on a slightly raised platform that provides a panoramic view of the entire establishment. However, to get there one must meander through the dining room, which is always awash in tantalizing aromas. It may be a better idea to grab a bite at the bar or on the patio before heading back to the gaming tables.
Speaking of grabbing a bite… The new summer menu at Elevator is extraordinarily approachable, widely varied and deftly presented. There are tried and true standards, like a fried calamari that’s dusted in semolina (the same flour that gives us pasta) and drizzled with Thai sweet pepper sauce. The Caesar is as classic as it gets without being prepared tableside. The whole leaves of romaine are tossed in the olive oil, wine vinegar and Worchester that they should be, and then topped with croutons and whole anchovies (they’ll leave those off, if you want, but why would you want that?). Have a pint of Lift Light or Xtra lager with this salad. And then there’s the Rock Filet. This hand-trimmed center-cut tenderloin steak is served uncooked on a 450º Finnish Tulikivi firestone, so you can cook it yourself, to whatever temperature you like. The magic firestone actually stays hot enough long enough to cook the entire steak all the way to medium well, but don’t do that. If you’d rather, get the Ahi Tuna Rock Steak. It’s the same concept, but with tenderloin of tuna instead of beef. Both are great with the Necessity IPA or Dirty Dick’s Nut Brown.
Some of the more adventurous sounding dishes are worth overcoming any sort of food timidness that might otherwise dissuade someone from trying them. The Champagne Brie, for example, is a whole wheel of brie, slow cooked in a crispy puff pastry and topped with dried cranberries and pears with a champagne vinaigrette. It’s great with the wheat beer. Pistachios crusted on rare, seared Ahi tuna loin may sound a bit peculiar, but Chef Nate tops it with candied ginger and serves it with savory, sun-dried tomato infused mashed potatoes. It goes perfect with the 13th Floor Pale Ale. And, the previously alluded to vegan dish is nothing like the big salads and wood grilled veggie platters that less inspired menus tend to offer. The Vegetable Blue Plate boasts fried jicama, sautéed greens, radishes and Israeli cous cous (that’s the big, buckshot sized cous cous). It is as satisfying as the Rock Steak, especially with a glass of Coal Porter.
Sure, there is a lot of beer to drink while dining at the Elevator, but fortunately there is no need to drink a pint of each. They offer a flight of mini beers, which allows appetizers, salads, soups, middles, mains and desserts to all be accompanied by the appropriate malty companion. For those that must drink their beer in pints, Elevator offers the Masters of Beer Appreciation (MBA) program, which involves a diploma, a mug and special discounts. And, if you try to finish the program in one visit, a wicked hangover.
Actually, it might be a good idea to cab it to the Elevator. Then, after dinner, a game or two of cutthroat, and the requisite couple of beers, the walk to the dance club, theater or music hall, pavilion or whatever, will be a welcome repose. Plus, you can catch a cab home from the Arena District or Short North or wherever you end up. But, if you really want to drive, bring a DD and just leave the car in one of the many lots convenient to the Elevator, which, as previously mentioned, is itself convenient to almost everything else you’ll want to do after.