Central Ohio's latest upscale tavern takes over the former Handke's Cuisine location.

Rich McClusky had his work cut out for him at McCasky's Grille in the Brewery District.

His objective was to create a chef-driven menu interesting enough for epicureans, approachable enough for the average diner and -- perhaps most important of all these days -- affordable for everyone.

"I think we accomplished what we're looking to do," McClusky said.

"Everything that we've been able to accomplish from scratch, we've done. We're very happy."

McClusky and partner Brian Fuhrer are opening McCasky's in the former Handke's Cuisine location at 520 S. Front St.

They spent six months remodeling the 8,542-square-foot restaurant.

The venture was expected to open three months ago but the kitchen ventilation hood system had to be brought up to code and a federal small business loan fell through.

So, McClusky and Fuhrer opted for private funding.

"I think we're doing it right, taking our time," McClusky said.

The 2,000-square-foot first floor, which will service most of the dining public, offers a casual vibe, with a classic bar, a tin patterned ceiling, subway tile, extended wooden bar, exhibition kitchen and some modern touches.

The remainder of the space will be used for large parties and events.

Chef Chris East is in charge of the kitchen. His wife, Ramona East, joins him on occasion.

Mr. East has worked locally at such restaurants as the Refectory, Gibby's and Schmidt's Restaurant und Sausage Haus.

Mrs. East has spent a number of years with a local professional catering outfit.

"They were both huge in creating the menu and building the recipes from scratch," McClusky said.

Starters have a familiar ring with a chef's spin, including the house-made chips, topped with chopped filet mignon, boursin cream sauce, white cheddar, caramelized onions and scallions, and served with herbed pesto aioli.

McCasky's also offers a number of sliders and large sandwiches. Entrees also also have a chef's touch, such as the scallops over pomodoro risotto and drizzled with balsamic. They are in the $9 to $25 range.

Aside from the permanent menu, there will be a number of plates featured throughout the week. For example, McCasky's will offer a different cut of steak every week, with the hope of keeping those dishes in the $17 to $24 range.

"We want to keep it value-conscious and a really good product as well," he said. "There will always be a nice steak on the menu."

Monday through Thursday, there will be blue-plate specials costing $10 to $12 and chef specials on Friday and Saturday.

Unlike the current trend of offering extensive number of craft beers by the glass, McCasky's will have four beers on tap and 40 by the bottle, plus a respectable selection of wine and far-reaching variety of spirits.

That means creative signature cocktails, classic drinks and some Speakeasy-era recipes.

McCasky's is open dinner hours Monday through Saturday, late-night hours Friday and Saturday, and closed Sunday. For more information, call 614-715-8224.


Pizza Cabin is opening a second location.

The pizzeria is taking over the former DaVinci Pronto store at 18 Dillmont Drive.

It is expected to open in the middle of February. The 2,300-square-foot storefront is in the Park Place Center, at the northeast corner of North High Street and Lazelle Road East.

Preston Runyon and Bruce Grigor opened the original Pizza Cabin more than five years ago at 5808 Columbus Pike, otherwise known as North High Street, in southern Delaware County.

The place will offer homemade lasagna, scratch-made cheesecake, wings, sandwiches, salad and thin-crust pizzas cooked in a stone oven.

It will have counter-order service.

Pizza Cabin will open without alcohol, but the owners have applied for a license to sell wine and beer.