Photo by Brian Kaiser.

Brotherly Love

Are you looking for a new Taco Tuesday? Maybe you are in the market for a new weekend karaoke joint? How about a fresh spot to display your trivia dominance? A new happy hour serving fast, casual gourmet eats with a diverse and affordable drink selection?

If any of these options sound enticing and you enjoy supporting local neighborhood flavor and gourmet dogs (don’t even think about saying the words Hot Dogs), then I have the spot for you.

Located just south of Whittier on Parsons, Buns & Brews is the creation of brothers, business partners, and entrepreneurs Kevin and Will Hightower. Originally from Youngstown, the Hightower brothers moved to Columbus to attend The Ohio State University in the mid-’80s. Many career paths followed and the brothers tried their hand in the insurance game, promoting concerts, working in the cell phone industry and even making movies before they settled on the idea of opening a restaurant.

So what made them choose a destination on Parsons Avenue? To put it bluntly, the siblings didn’t choose the area, but rather it chose them.

“We originally had our eyes on Bexley, but that Main Street strip fills up fast,” Will said.

After much deliberation and exploring many options, the Hightowers chose Parsons. “We love it here and we love the location. Our customers are the best and we are glad we opened a spot here,” said Kevin.

Buns & Brews is cozy but not tiny, and hosts a bar and dining area. The vibe is warm and friendly and the walls are filled with photos of regulars as well as first timers, which makes Buns & Brews seem like they have been in operation for much longer than five months. In short, Buns & Brews manages to pull off the feat of being a new establishment that feels like it has always been part of the neighborhood fabric.

So, what does Buns & Brews aim to be? According to Will, who runs the back of the house:

“We want to be a unique, casual dining experience and a neighborhood institution—kind of like Cheers, but with food,” he said.

Kevin, who runs front of house, claims (against Will’s assessment) that he created the slogan Come for the dogs, stay for the greens. The two brothers good naturedly battle about concepts and who came up with which idea first and after spending time with them, it is easy to see that they work together well—in spite of, or perhaps due to the verbal jousting.

“I can tell what makes a good combo when I taste it in my mind. When I cook and actually eat it, I find that I am always right.” — Kevin Hightower.

So, is it difficult to work and be in business with family? The Hightower brothers don’t seem to sweat it. “It’s not like you can fire family,” Kevin says. Will retorts, “Rules are irrelevant and it doesn’t matter if you yell.”

The Hightower brothers chose the restaurant business partially because their mother was a catering veteran and because they both have been around food their whole lives. Another factor? Will claims to have the ability to taste food with his mind. You read that last sentence correctly.

“It’s just something I have always been able to do. I can tell what makes a good combo when I taste it in my mind. When I cook and actually eat it, I find that I am always right,” he said.

You should test his abilities in November as some of the Thanksgiving Gourmet Dogs (100 percent angus, turkey, or vegan) will be topped with sweet potato soufflé and bacon, corn bread with cranberry dressing, smoked gouda mac and cheese, red beans and rice with jerk chicken, and most especially pulled chicken with turkey gravy and mashed potato.

Other great options include a New Yorker Dog (Kevin’s favorite) topped with sauerkraut and spicy mustard and the best-selling Southern Comfort dog which has collard greens, onion, relish, tomatoes and onions. The Taco Tuesday I mentioned earlier? Choose either taco meat or pulled chicken and top it with lettuce, tomato, onion, salsa and a Dorito. Feel free to wash that down with a $2 margarita or shot of tequila.

And the sides? You have to get some sides. The baked beans, chili, potato salad, and cole slaw are all made in house and are all tasty accompaniments to the Gourmet Dog, but the real star of the sides show is the collard greens.

Made with smoked turkey, the collard greens have an authentic southern taste and are a hit because, according to Will, ‘They aren’t out of a can and you can taste the freshness’. In fact, Will was recently lauded by a customer who reported that she had eaten greens for 72 years and his was the best she has had.

Oh yeah…the Brews part. Buns & Brews has eight craft taps, daily drink specials, a ton of domestic beers and a mid to high range spirit selection that helps fuel game day drink specials. The game day specials, called ‘Buckeye Bombs’, are rotating specialty shots that change from game to game. The game day Gourmet Dogs specials also rotate, but the one consistency is that they can all be served ‘Brutus Style’ which entails a hefty quarter pound link of 100 percent angus.

Hmm. I can already taste it all—with my mind.

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