The restaurant's craft beer and victuals team up for a memorable experience.

While mentally thumbing through my cranium-contained directory of restaurants for a casual, reliable yet boldly flavored dinner the other night, my noggin landed on the Columbus Brewing Company. "Yeah, that sounds perfect. CBC's one of those great places people seem to forget about," I thought.

Yet when I walked into the modern, comfy and stylish bar/restaurant and noticed its packed and happy crowd, I realized the place wasn't neglected at all. And after a few more visits, I remembered why: CBC's top-shelf, on-premises-brewed beers partnered with its jazzed-up comfort food make for an unbeatable combination (and the menu is peppered with food/beer pairing suggestions).

CBC's roomy, roof-covered Brewery District patio is back-porch relaxed, and its swooping main dining room (with windows onto the world of beermaking) features unusual tree form accents, but it's at the large, Block-O-like bar where you can enjoy one of the better happy hours in the area.

There, from 4-7 pm, those world-class suds are $1 off and appetizers are marked down (from about $9) to $5. Sure, the apps are just tavern-y things, but they're punched up with zesty ingredients and presented with obvious attention to details.

Take, for instance, the umbrella-garnished, nice and garlicky, sweet Thai chili-sauced fried calamari and, especially, the Pub Nachos ($9) - one of the better renditions in town. I really appreciated how the chips and toppings were carefully plated in fully covered layers and I really liked how the chorizo (!), Cuban-style black beans, house-made pale ale cheese sauce, zingy red chili sauce and tangy avocado sour cream brought out the best in the crispy house-fried chips.

Other notable starters were an impressive and velvety Sweet Potato soup of the day ($5/bowl) with a winning little chili kick and a garlicky, anchovy-heavy Caesar salad ($6) properly served with whole romaine leaves plus steak knife and fork. Unfortunately, the mayo-based Caesar dressing was gloppily applied.

Main course-wise, CBC's Cajun Jambalaya ($17) was an absolute knockout, and probably my favorite version in Columbus. A rich and intense, spicy and thyme-y tomato sauce deliciously drenched plenty of plump and meaty tiger shrimp plus appealingly seared discs of smoky andouille sausage. Also strewn throughout the addictive sauce were bits of chicken and salmon. Underneath all that boldness was a bed of brawny and nutty brown rice - a nice touch as it's more healthy and better able to stand up to the flavor onslaught than plain white rice.

Staying in a Southern vein, the Buttermilk Fried Chicken ($15) was also excellent. Juicy and tender boneless breast pieces were arousingly encased in a super-crunchy flour and buttermilk batter. Adding upscale interest to the down-home plate were a thick pan gravy infused with rosemary and corn hopped up on sauteed poblanos and onions.

For something cheaper, try the wonderful three-meat-packed Classic Cuban Burrito ($9.25) or one of the place's very nice wood-fired-oven baked pizzas (feeds two for $13).

For something sweeter, check out the homemade Key Lime Pie ($5.25). Which beer does that pair best with? I suggest you try them all to make sure.




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