Despite the occasional misstep, Park Creek Kitchen offers several top-notch choices.

Into its second month of serving diners, Upper Arlington's Park Creek Kitchen's pluses far outweigh its minuses.

The farm-to-table-oriented place began with a great game plan - revamp a dinky to-go joint into a spiffy neighborhood eatery serving homemade, feel-good cuisine cooked by a real-deal chef using local ingredients. So far, though I've experienced a few learning-curve glitches, Park Creek Kitchen's been delivering on its promise.

Its space renovation has also been impressive. Out is the previous bare bones, seatless pizza shop, and in is a contemporary, stylish and bar-equipped bistro look.

Sporting room for about 30 people (and about an equal amount on the popular, if still unlighted in the nighttime patio), PCK's interior decor dramatically pits green painted walls against red cloth-covered chairs in a manner that conjures up cocktail olives.

PCK's single-page menu conjures up comforting pubby favorites - wings, calamari, burgers, barbecue sandwiches, they're all here. But unlike the norm, they appear in more creative and decidedly non-industrial forms.
Take the munch-tastic popcorn, for example ($4). On a recent busy evening, I was informed I could be seated, but since the kitchen was backed up, my order wouldn't be taken for a half hour or so.

Though this sounded like an odd procedure, I appreciated the honesty and asked for the popcorn to mediate the wait. Good move - as a simple snack was perkily enhanced by parsley, basil, asiago cheese, truffle oil and sea salt (Note: the order-later policy resulted in tardy and out of sequence dinner deliveries. Fortunately, this was smoothed over by free beer and friendly apologies).

Heartier starters included an elegant, lush and roasty Artichoke Soup ($7) with good shrimp, wine and herbs; lightly battered and crispy, golden brown Fried Homemade Pickle discs ($6) whose juicy acidity was offset by a mayo-based tarragon and mustard sauce; and meaty, tangy-sauced Chicken Wings ($7.50) served with a creamy blue cheese "fondue."

Salads were really top notch. Like the excellent Chopped Salad ($6), but especially the unusual, meal-in-itself Farmers Salad ($7). As visually striking as it was delicious, the latter contrasted a crown of fried-sweet-potato-strand "croutons" with a base of ruffly, purple-tinged leaf lettuce. Tying things together were a carrot vinaigrette and a hockey puck of pistachio-crusted goat cheese.

PCK's excellent hamburgers are made with house-ground beef, and the Southwest version ($10, with a fantastic fried green tomato, zesty chili sauce and aged cheddar) was outstanding.

Equally terrific was a We Three Pigs sandwich ($12), an unwieldy, unlikely and unbeatable combo of vinegary slaw, pulled pork, bacon, Amish swiss and a crispy fried pork cutlet. Sandwiches are served with superlative fries embellished with garlic, cheese and herbs.

From the handful of entrees, I liked the garlicky and buttery Pasta Americana's flavors, ($17), even if its chicken chunks were dryish and some of its wild mushrooms were stemmy and chewy. Better executed was the remarkably fresh Crispy Walleye ($21). Its crunchy crust and snow-white meat went great with a corn butter sauce, homey mashers and a nifty veggie medley.

In short, PCK's a contender for the best new restaurant short list.


To read G.A. Benton's blog, visit ColumbusDiningGuide.com