Pair puts bold signature on unassuming favorite
In April, George and Anita Keller bought the Inn Between restaurant in downtown Columbus. The restaurant, which will be renamed the Hungry Soul Cafe this fall, offers light breakfast, signature cocktails, daily specials and a brighter interior. Buy This Photo
Even in the center of downtown Columbus, amid some very tall buildings with many employees, the Inn Between restaurant has consistently maintained a modest profile.
George and Anita Keller are trying to change that.
The couple, which recently purchased the 100-seat restaurant, said they've cleaned up the place and tweaked the menu while preserving the laid-back atmosphere it's enjoyed for decades.
The two had never owned a restaurant, but they were looking for an opportunity in the industry when they stumbled upon the Inn Between. Mr. Keller worked 25 years as a mechanical engineer. His wife, who served on the Grandview Heights school board, worked in child care. They ate there a few times -- discreetly, of course -- and felt comfortable with its size and steady customer base.
"We decided it was a really good opportunity for us," Mrs. Keller said. "It's what we've wanted to do for a long time. We are foodies."
Granted, the restaurant, 30 S. Young St., is not conspicuous. It's basically located in an alley between Broad and State streets. The narrow, 3,800-square-foot, bi-level storefront has a look from a bygone era: extensive wood paneling, booths and brass railings. Some additional cosmetic changes are planned, but nothing to take away from the warm feel of the space, the Kellers said.
There's even a name change in the offing. This fall, the Inn Between will become the Hungry Soul Cafe. But the couple has and will tread carefully with the fare, as the Inn Between has built up a loyal following over the years.
"We have a menu that's comfortable to a lot of people," Mrs. Keller said.
They have maintained some classic dishes, such as the "rumplemeyer" -- a BLT with homemade chicken salad on toast -- fresh-cut potato chips, and the fresh, hand-patted burgers seasoned with chef Rob Brown's special spice mixture. A double cheeseburger also is available by request.
The menu still focuses on salads, and three dressings -- ranch, blue cheese and a vinaigrette with sun-dried tomatoes -- are made in-house.
The couple have introduced severaldaily specials -- stuffed cabbage rolls, kielbasa, pork chops with collard greens and cornbread, and Mrs. Keller's homemade baked goods, to name a few -- which are advertised on Facebook and on a chalkboard at the restaurant's entrance.
They painted the black ceiling white, polished up the brass and gave the place a thorough scrubbing -- much to the customers' delight.
"It was nice to hear that they noticed," Mr. Keller said.
They say their personalities complement each other and the restaurant. Mr. Keller is the numbers guy and Mrs. Keller relishes being a front-of-the-house maven meeting folks.
"That's been a real joy," she said.
For the early-morning crowd, they now offer grab-and-go breakfast: yogurt parfaits, fresh fruit and homemade muffins and rolls, and fresh-brewed Stauf's coffee, plus a few assorted teas.
For now, the restaurant closes at 7 p.m. The Kellers said they would like to stay open for dinner, but there isn't enough business yet. However, they've improved the beverage selection and developed several signature cocktails. They also kept a long-standing happy-hour offer: An array of complimentary appetizers is available for those who purchase an alcoholic drink.
The restaurant is open for breakfast through early evening hours Monday through Friday.
For more information, call 614-224-1944.