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Photo by Collins Laatsch.

Distillation Meets Design

High Bank plants new flag in Grandview.

About seven years ago, I tried out for a made-for-television cooking competition. I showed up in Chicago on a Sunday morn, smelly and surly and wearing my clothes from the night before. Throughout the day, I heard the same narrative, over and over and over again: I have an insatiable passion for food, so I left my career as a _______ and here I am!

I was underwhelmed. I had little to no passion at all and nothing to lose, and yet I was certain I was better at doing food-type things than everyone else in that building who wasn’t a walrus wearing white-framed eyeglasses.

I made it to callbacks two days later. I bathed and shaved and showed back up in Chicago to display my utter lack of passion. It worked. I did not get onto the show. (Didn’t want it anyway!)

The relevance of that story lies in the idea that sometimes there are people who actually find a way to fuse their talents with their passions, and they often win out.

You’d like for your city to have its own identity carved out with the help of local people with good intentions. So when a project like Grandview’s new High Bank Distillery Co. pops up in a town that for years sported just a pair of purveyors, it’s important to learn the origin story, for as Columbus continues to develop (and fast), we soon may look for such stories and come up high and dry.

Co-founders Jordan Helman and Adam Hines (along with two others) set the wheels in motion on High Bank years ago after they worked together in the cold-pressed juice arena. (See: Zest)

Hines, a CCAD graduate with a focus on industrial design, took his turn in the “real world,” working in agencies and then starting his own brand and design consulting firm. Family in Kentucky led him to taking dozens of distillery tours. He and Helman started talking shop, and here we are! From these seeds has grown High Bank, Grandview’s shiniest new jewel.

The space is open and bright and spills out toward Goodale Avenue in a way that makes it feel as though you could probably just wander across the street with a cocktail (don’t) or just pull your car up on the grass and start blowing out tunes (definitely do not; in fact, you should all read the parking suggestions on their website).

At over 17,000 square feet, the back room distillation gear doesn’t infringe at all on the bar, game room, or dining space. It’s a thoughtful design with one pretty obvious purpose in mind: Get people in here and give them a good time. There are high-tops and low-tops and rails with stools and tiny parlor games and lots of televisions and booze. Give it a name.

High Bank launched with three of their proprietary spirits ready to flow—organic vodka and gin and an 88-proof blended rye whiskey. Lovers of Watershed’s Four Peel will find the gin palatable. The rye was spicy but wasn’t as hot as I expected. The vodka … is vodka. I didn’t try any. But I’m sure it pairs well with their Bloody Mary mix.

I snacked on the sugar and spiced nuts ($5) with my rye and dipped into the “don’t call it guac” smashed avocado ($8) before rocking out on some deviled eggs ($10). I’d hoped for a dusting of cumin on the nuts, because I never really got over Rigsby’s. (Just the nuts. Not the whole thing.) I didn’t get it, but they were lovely nonetheless. The pistachio and feta swirl in the not-guac was a pleasant departure from the norm. The chip-to-dip ratio was lopsided, but even dipless Shagbark chips will find their way into someone’s unoccupied mouth eventually. The deviled eggs each sported a jaunty little cap made of crispy chicken skin. If I find the comment box next time, I’m putting in for “Bowl of Skin” as an addition to the menu.

The hangar steak sandwich ($16) with fried onions and tomato jam was spot-on. The steak was pre-chopped into end-of-your-thumb-sized chunks. I’d prefer a single contiguous piece of meat, personally, but the tips were tender and well-seasoned, and the sandwich as a whole was very satisfying. I’ll be giving the High Bank burger a whirl next time; $17 bucks with bacon and egg. No mushrooms in the grind as of yet.

The eggy doughnuts ($9) are a must. The dense, soppy-sponge interiors of the Timbit-esque orbs took well in spite of their high moisture content to the lengthy bathing ritual I instituted. Thirty seconds in the bourbon cream, thirty seconds in the guajillo chocolate sauce, then in. Sometimes you’ve just got to put the lotion on the skin.

Overall, the menu is well-appointed. Chef Todd Goodwin comes with a solid pedigree, working as exec with Nationwide and Tartan Fields. His product is straightforward; you’re unlikely to have a bad meal here.

Food aside, this place is just a good venue. An easy bike ride or cheap Uber from the Short North, there’s little stopping High Bank from becoming a new hot spot. If we get enough of them, maybe there’ll be room for everyone.

High Bank Distillery | 1051 Goodale Ave | highbankco.com

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