Along time ago in Greece, Plato was kicking around some ideas on reality and form. He eventually, with a few nudges from Socrates, came up with this concept of the Platonic form. Basically, there is a pure and perfect form of everything – table, tree, tank – that exists on a not-of-this-earth plane. Everything that we experience on the actual Earth is just an imitation, an inevitable failure to attain essential perfection.
I’ve inserted this little philosophy nugget here because I wholeheartedly believe that there is a Platonic form that has landed right here in Central Ohio. Yes, the Platonic form of the pork chop has manifested itself on the menu of The Barn.
Like, for real. It’s a true metaphysical miracle.
Cameron Mitchell’s latest concept to hit the 614 market, The Barn, offers a landed gentry experience, if only for one meal. The monolith of a space – 10,000 square feet – opened recently, yet already has the air of old money and taste. A wall-spanning mural by local artist Michael Gearhart features cows grazing in a somewhat naïve style, while a collection of roosters march down a banquette. While waiting for a table, sink into a plush chair and take your pick from a small library to pass the time – a little Tolstoy before dinner? Dark wood, horsey and hunter-y objects d’art, lots of British green, and casual luxury give the building a sense of country club backslapping amidst friends.
Inspired by Mitchell’s desire to create a Southern steakhouse, The Barn offers up low-country hospitality, impeccable yet unobtrusive as always. The “southern” part of the steakhouse is repped by barbeque, brisket, and ribs featuring homemade barbeque sauce, freshly fired in the outdoor smoker. It’s a familiar, alluring smell that greets visitors, turning casual diners into voracious hangry monsters that practically run to their seats to order food now.
Following the woody scent, visitors also pass a couple of windows where they can peek in and see the bakers at work. Hey, there’s the coconut cake that’s gonna end up on your plate at the end of the night. This theme of transparency carries over into the restaurant as well, as the “meat room” has a huge window allowing patrons to watch as butcher Hank Miller – who is quick with a smile and a wave – slices through huge slabs of beef, pork, and plump chickens while dressed in a parka and hoodie, listening to Jimi Hendrix.
Everything is big at The Barn – the space, the steaks (just check that 16-hour prime rib 18 oz cut $38), and the whiskey. Serving over 50 takes on the amber liquor, there are also a trio of barrels sitting on the bar. Whole whiskey barrels, tipped on their sides with a little spigot, are the focal point of the Bourbon Lounge. This place is so whiskey-centric, the libation crew hit the road to Kentucky to create a unique blend of Woodford Reserve specifically for The Barn. There are barrel-aged Manhattans that are next level – go for a flight if you want to find a favorite. Stick to the Southern theme and order a Hurricane Punch, a much more sophisticated concoction that nods toward, rather than imitates, its French Quarter inspiration.
To accompany cocktails, appetizer favorites include spicy sauerkraut balls ($9) which show off the charcuterie chops of the kitchen via homemade sausage and the soul rolls – these are particularly interesting because they are a true North-South mash-up, the parker roll getting its name from the Parker House hotel in Boston and the filling a Southern dream of brisket, braised greens, and barbeque sauce.
Now, back to that pork chop. Called a “five-finger” chop ($28), this chop is fit for Fred effin’ Flinstone. It has been pump-brined, applewood smoked, and grilled, served with a reduction of its own jus and it is crazy amazing. Moist, savory, with a bit of that grilled crispiness that runs across the edges for that surprising bit of texture. It was absolutely divine. Honestly, I avoid pork chops because many times they are dry little triangles with scrappy bones. This dish, however, shows a kitchen that is operating at top level. Truly ideal, the chop is pork at its finest, porcine at its peak. Chewing slowly to enjoy the flavor and juiciness, sitting on the outdoor patio, pausing for a sip of warming bourbon and looking out over the Rocky River, this might be the Platonic form of an autumn meal as well.
For menus, including the new Sunday brunch extravaganza, visit thebarncolumbus.com. Also, The Barn will open on Thanksgiving Day and, believe me, they cook better than you.