Pretzels will make way for upscale fare at new gastropub
Former Crest Tavern will reopen with new look, 'wholesome' chef-crafted menu
Abed Alshahal stands in front of the Crest Gastropub, 2855 Indianola Ave. The gastropub, run by Alshahal and his two brothers, will grow food in a rooftop garden, have a kitchen run by a nutritionist, and will offer a variety of beers on tap when it opens permanently sometime in the next month. Buy This Photo
As Abed Alshahal stood in the parking lot of the old Crest Tavern, a man driving by on Indianola Avenue honked his horn and gave him a thumbs-up.
"I've been getting that a lot," Alshahal said, basking in the apparent approval of passers-by as he and his brothers oversee the phoenix-like transformation of the venerable old bar, which opened in 1933, from the exterior to the interior to the rooftop and even the parking lot.
It will be a pub, but it won't be serving grub.
"We're not going to be typical pub-style food," Alshahal said. "We're getting away from the fried. We're very kind of health-conscious."
The new enterprise will be called the Crest Gastropub, and it's scheduled to open late this month or early in May at 2855 Indianola Ave. -- though irregular "sneak preview" hours have given Clintonville residents a taste over the last couple of weeks.
A gastropub is a pub or bar that serves high-quality food. The trend took off in the United Kingdom in the late 1990s and has spread to the United States over the last decade.
Much of the food to be prepared by head chef Dustin Brafford in the newly installed kitchen will be locally grown.
Try the roof of the building. A garden has been installed there, and plans are in place to grow herbs around the patio.
"To me, this is the way food is supposed to be," Brafford said. "This is the way food used to be. We're not inventing the wheel here."
Brafford is a Dublin resident who grew up in Columbus and has studied food preparation abroad, including in Lebanon.
The menu, which Brafford said will constantly change, based on the availability of fresh products, will be "wholesome, modern American- or Mediterranean-inspired," Alshahal said.
While the entirely modernized and updated tavern, with touches out of the past such as slate from a 187-year-old middle school and bathroom doors rescued from a former building at Ohio State University, is the work of the Alshahal brothers -- Abed, Ismail and Ali -- Abed Alshahal said an entire team has become involved in the project.
This includes artist and interior designer Ashley Puckett; Trish and Aaron Clark of T&A Urban Farms and Local Matters; mixologist Annie Williams; "head of beer" Brayden Volk; and Will Davis, head manager of the soon-to-open establishment.
In addition, said Abed Alshahal, the owners of the Gastropub are collaborating with Friends of the Lower Olentangy Watershed and the Lower Olentangy Urban Arboretum on planting trees and conserving water.
"We knew that we were in a neighborhood that was a little different," he said. "We knew that people actually appreciated foods, appreciated different lifestyles."
The Alshahal brothers knew all this, he added, because their father, who came to the United States from Lebanon, was at one time owner of Weber Market, just up the street.
"We grew up in Clintonville, kind of," Abed Alshahal said.
The brothers got to know Craig Dupler, former manager of the Crest Tavern. When he died of a stroke in 2011, the Alshahal brothers approached his sister, Christy, about taking over the old establishment.
"We saw so many different things that we could change around in here," Abed Alshahal said.
"It only made sense to kind of lighten this place up," Ismail Alshahal added.
Adding to what's become an impressive array of beers on tap along Indianola Avenue, from Studio 35 to the new Savor Growl, the Crest Gastropub will have 60 beers on tap, half of them locally brewed or, as Abed Alshahal termed it, "Ohio-proud."
"That's something we're trying to put back in Ohio, in Columbus," he said.
Not completely breaking with tradition for the establishment, Abed promised live music and open-mike nights still will take place at the Crest Gastropub, which seats 91 inside and 31 on the patio.