Grandview has long been a haven for families, locals, and those just weary of the downtown bustle. The stretch of the main drag from Third to First packs a lot of punch, yet has always seemed to maintain its quaint, small-town vibe. The GC set root at the corner of Third and Grandview back in the 1920s. As restaurateur Brian Swanson blazes his path through Columbus (he is the current owner of Bodega in the Short North and new efforts Hadley’s and Balboa, the latter of which sits right next door to GC), it is Grandview Café’s history that shines through in this reinvention.
So much of the old space remains: the iron-banister staircase along the eastern wall, the central bar, the iconic marquee above the door. Thoughtful touches like a bar base built from antique suitcases, vintage light fixtures, and photographs of patrons of old lining the walls show just how much care went into the renovation.
Yes, modern hallmarks are there. There is the obligatory king’s ransom in flat-screen TVs backed up by a strong sound system. The western wall is now almost entirely open-air thanks to massive panel windows. And the menu, though it has seen many iterations in the last 99-plus years, finally feels like it belongs in the 21st century. More on that later.
Once inside, you definitely feel the familiar ambiance of the old Café. Booths and tables settle comfortably around a bar that can accommodate at least a couple dozen thirsty heads. Staff moves around and within the bar with ease. As you venture back, the open-air back patio seems to connect seamlessly to the rest of the Avenue, only furthering the communal atmosphere.
Having just opened days before the writing of this article, one might have expected some hiccups in service, but there were none to be found. At least not from a couple of bar stools.
On the menu, you have your standard beer selection. Sixteen taps—a solid slate. At a glance, the six-dollar price tag for a single pour seems hefty, but when you receive your 20-ounce glass (a handsome, can-shaped vessel), you’ll understand where that extra dollar went. (Hint: more beer.)
Anyone paying half an ounce of attention to trending tastes knows that people love to drink bourbon almost as much as they like to say they do. For the whiskeylips amongst us, there is a 28-strong American whiskey lineup bolstered by another 11 selections from across the pond. Once again, a neat pour comes in a smart little mid-century modern rocks glass. A small gesture, but a pleasant one nonetheless.
Feel like getting faded? Fret not. The new GC features something called Willy’s Weekender. As the menu describes, the “secret elixir” contains “[one] bottle of champagne, [and] an exorbitant amount of rum, juice, & fresh lemon” to “easily serve” four to six people.
The food is nothing flashy, but then, Grandview Café isn’t supposed to be. The previous menu was a behemoth—a labyrinth of international nods like Americanized spring rolls, “Sicilian” bread things with Bolognese, and nachos from south of the border (even though nachos are not technically from south of that particular border).
As those familiar with Swanson’s other locations know, the chefs he hires tend to keep things lean and logical. There’s a signature burger, topped with caramelized onions, smoked bacon, tomato jam, and white cheddar. There’s a very solid market salad to accompany any sandwich if you’re not into fried potatoes. There’s a fried green tomato BLT. And the daily specials feature things like Fried Chicken & Champagne Wednesdays and, of course, a Sunday Pasta Dinner & Wine Pour.
But still, Swanson knows well enough to bring back other classic Café facets regulars have been missing. Trivia Nights return to Thursdays for the local brainiacs (or anyone who just likes to drink and spout off). Games on the screens, drinks on the patio, and the rest of the Grandview strip a stroll away.
Yes, the return of Grandview Café is a welcome one. With luck, we can look forward to another century of quality and comfort.
Grandview Cafe is once again open at 1455 W Third Ave. For more, visit grandviewcafe.com.