When Basil Restaurant opened in 2009, the Columbus Dispatch reported on owner Rhome Ruanphae's inspiration: his mother’s string of successful Thai restaurants—beginning with Thai Village in Chicago’s Wicker Park neighborhood—that she ran with her husband while he was growing up. Rhome borrowed his mother’s culinary mastery for Basil, which teleports taste buds to Thailand with a menu of authentic Southeast Asian cuisine. Chefs gather rice or egg noodles to lay the foundation for many entrees, such as specialty kee mow, a soft or crispy maelstrom of rice noodles with thai basil, tomatoes, and bell peppers. The menu also features a rainbow of curries, soups, salads, and appetizers to keep ravenous diners from eating their napkins.
The seasoned confines of a former antique shop welcome diners to Basil Restaurant, decked out with bare brick and a retro advertisement for ice painted on the back wall. As a glittering chandelier casts light on colorful curries, wine-dark panels of varnished wood gaze at diners from the wall, and exposed lengths of ductwork add a neoindustrial aesthetic without the overkill of steam-powered dessert trays or austere Orwellian maitre d's.
The cobbled stonework that comprises Coaches Bar & Grill's exterior serves as an apt metaphor for how hard it can be to turn down items from the roster of burgers, pizza, and sandwiches. This cuisine basks in the glow of flat-screen TVs that stream a steady flow of sports games. As monitors display feats of athleticism, the kitchen staff displays feats of culinary prowess by cooking half-pound patties bedecked with cheese and bacon, along with a mélange of hot subs, sandwiches, and buffalo-chicken pizzas. From behind a dark wooden bar, their bartending counterparts pour beers and cocktails, which they disseminate to far-flung diners by shooting them out of a T-shirt cannon. The team also brings its serving game to the outdoors patio, where umbrellas shade picnic tables granting clear sightlines to several televisions.
The menu features Mexican staples such as tacos and fajitas side by side with American favorites such as pizza and cheeseburgers, proving that nothing unites differing factions like the gooey brotherhood of coagulated milk protein. Start the meal by plowing through a plate of gigantic nachos, a foot-tall mound of fresh seasoned tortilla chips, melted queso, shredded lettuce, jalapenos, sour cream, and tomatoes ($7.99). For an appetizing non-appetizer, order a pair of tacos that can be stuffed with barbacoa, carnitas, chorizo, or even seasoned gyro meat ($7.99–8.99). The southwestern burger (avocado, pepper jack cheese, and chipotle sauce on a half-pound patty; $7.99) and a spectrum of eight pizzas—heaped with toppings such as spicy shrimp, pesto chicken, and feta cheese—provide tasty north-of-the-border alternatives ($9.99).
Given how much food emerges nightly from Red Brick Tap & Grill's kitchen, it's a minor miracle everything fits onto two menu pages. Specializing in classic diner food, the cooks put tastebud-surprising flourishes on each dish. Bacon-wrapped brats are topped with garlic-herb aioli and fried eggs while the Cuban sandwiches get a zest of Guinness mustard atop a pile-up of smoked pork butt, ham, and chipotle mayo. Matching the feasts in sheer abundance, Red Brick stocks more than 30 draft brews and 70 bottled beers that mostly hail from domestic craft breweries like Stone and Lagunitas.
According to Columbus Crave, stone-cooked pizzas "are where this eatery shines." Guests can make their own or choose from specialty combinations, such as the Porky's Revenge—a pie crowned with chipotle ranch, smoked pork belly, fried jalapeños, and smoked gouda—or the Lisa Simpson, scattered with smoked tofu and optional vegan cheese. But whether it's pizza, burgers, or hot dogs, Red Brick's culinary team can sprinkle more than 45 custom ingredients, including brisket, corn salsa, and sweet-honey goat cheese.
The pizzas (along with the drinks) are available by the slice until 2 a.m. every night, giving diners ample time to savor Red Brick's sunny outdoor patio or the black-and-red dining room adorned with comic books along the back wall. Red Brick also delivers throughout nearby neighborhoods and parallel universes within two points of divergence.
By Columbus CEO's count, Kevin and Lori Ames have graced the city with nearly 20 restaurants, including the Press Grill and Cafe Lola. These days, they own and operate Front Street Bar & Grill, which elevates classic pub and comfort foods to gourmet stat. Case in point: the aptly named "fancy grilled cheese," whose muenster, provolone, and aged cheddar trio joins oven-roasted tomatoes, basil pesto, and bacon between its locally-made slices of bread. Housemade chips, meanwhile, complement homemade salsa or guacamole, and braised short ribs lend some upscale flavor to poutine topped with fried egg and white cheddar cheese curds. Guests can, of course, pair these edibles with refreshments from Front Street's bar, which is lined with wine, craft beer, and fixings for cocktails such as ginger mojitos and various margaritas.
Feasts unfold amid the eatery's exposed brick walls or on its covered outdoor terrace, Lola's Backdoor Cantina, which offers modern Mexican fare. In between bites and sips, visitors can play rounds of pool and ski ball, or pick a tune on the jukebox, which is a preferable alternative to begging the bartender for a serenade.