Even in the splashy adult playground known as the Short North, Xhevair Brakaj and Koli Memushaj decided a more subdued approach was in order for Arch City Tavern.
Certainly, the details were important at their new restaurant, from the Amish-built tables and chairs to the restrained-yet-inspired menu. But overall, a casual vibe with accessible fare was what they were really after.
"I want people to come in and feel comfortable where they are," Brakaj said. "I want this place to be a neighborhood place with good food and good drinks."
Arch City, a nod to the retail strip's curvy accouterments, opens Tuesday, March 5, at 862 N. High St. in the old Havana location.
The 3,000-square-foot space offers dark-wood design, accented with exposed brick and a long, 16-seat bar.
One wall features a pencil-sketch mural of High Street in the Short North as it was at the turn of the 20th century -- arches and all.
The chef-driven menu is all of one page, featuring just more than a dozen items costing $5 to $15.
"Keep it short and simple and you're good," Brakaj said.
Chef Eric Gordon, formerly of Embassy Suites at the airport, will lead the kitchen. David MacLennan, formerly of Latitude 41 and currently with Basi Italia, and Chris Anthony, who was with the Athletic Club of Columbus, were hired as menu consultants.
The French onion soup is served in a colossal Spanish onion that's been boiled and hollowed out, filled with stock and topped with a crouton and Gruyere cheese.
Gussied up fresh-cut fries are drizzled with herb-infused truffle oil and served with rouille (similar to mayonnaise) and green goddess dipping sauces.
Top-shelf burgers are made from a blend of short rib, sirloin, chuck and brisket.
The signature Arch City burger gets a topping of grilled red onion, avocado, cilantro, Muenster cheese and chipotle sauce.
The Peruvian option is crowned with semi-sweet smashed plantains, Cuban-style braised pork shoulder and a cilantro cabbage slaw.
Artisan pizzas are made from fresh-tossed dough. One choice offers figs, arugula, pine nuts, prosciutto, goat cheese, roasted-garlic paste and truffle oil.
The long-term plan is to add a couple of specials each night, Gordon said.
Building a premium beverage program was another of their priorities. The place offers 24 mostly craft beers on tap and another 26 by the bottle. There are 11 wines by the bottle and another 10 by the glass.
The tavern's signature cocktail is the 862 Old-Fashioned No. 1: bourbon, spiced cherry syrup and Aztec chocolate bitters.
Arch City also uses locally distilled spirits, such as OYO and Watershed brands. For example, the Columbus Experiment uses clove- and cardamom-infused OYO bourbon, Laird's bonded applejack, green Chartreuse, maple syrup and lemon.
Brakaj and Memushaj have had their eyes on the Short North for several years and purchased Havana in 2012. They've been working on the space since early last summer.
"I've been looking to expand for four or five years, but I couldn't find the right space," Brakaj said. "Who doesn't want to come to the Short North? It's the best area."
Arch City will be open dinner hours daily. For more information, call 614-725-5620.