The new University District restaurant has an American regional menu

They were like a lot of young chefs, commiserating over beers after working long hours in a high-volume kitchen.

Daniel Scalzo, Jarod Norris and Tyler Minnis -- at the time, all chefs at Latitude 41 -- asked each other over and over again: What if we opened our own restaurant?

Minnis called it the "late-night pipe dream."

"We basically wanted to do our own food," Minnis said.

An upcoming opening will show that sometimes even pipe dreams have happy endings.

On Friday, May 2, the trio of chefs will open Angry Bear Kitchen in the former Sage storefront, 2653 N. High St. in the University District. Its interior has the same basic look as the previous occupant -- a high ceiling, brick walls and original artwork.

There are a few individual touches, such as accoutrements made from wood salvaged from Minnis' family farm in Muskingum County. The three also opened up the space so the kitchen is more visible to customers.

They describe the venue as casual fine-dining. Their menu, meanwhile, is American regional cuisine, Minnis said.

Small plates include a "poutine," with beef tongue, cheese curd and homemade gravy over fresh-cut fries; homemade lemon and ricotta gnocchi, with wild mushrooms and shaved Parmesan; and Dungeness crab with avocado mousse.

Among the larger plates are handmade fettucine with vegetable carbonara, braised pork shank and an onion and goat cheese tart. Prices range from $7 to $22.

A few desserts, made daily, will be subject to the whim of the chefs.

All said they were somewhat apprehensive about opening a chef-driven restaurant in a shaky economy. But they're confident in central Ohio diners and the evolving food culture.

"I think the Columbus scene is on the way up," Norris said. "We're super excited to be in Columbus."

Phil Richardson, bartender at Basi, has helped put together the beverage program, which includes signature cocktails and a small but food-friendly wine list. There's no draft beer but a fairly extensive list of craft and domestic beers, including Miller High Life and Pabst Blue Ribbon, appeals to the younger clientele.

Angry Bear is on the line that straddles South Clintonville and the University District, which until recently had few upscale options. Scalzo said the menu mixes well with the demographic.

"It's a younger neighborhood," Scalzo said. "I think it fits with what we're doing."

They think they've figured a way around the parking issues: complimentary valet service.

Now, about that name of Angry Bear. The chefs said they earned the nickname because they were known to be a bit temperamental at times but, they said, that was only to ensure quality control when things got hectic in the kitchen.

Angry Bear Kitchen is open for dinner only Tuesday through Saturday, brunch only on Sunday and closed Monday. For more information, call 614-884-0639.


Buckeye Smoothie & Cafe in Powell has changed its name to Be Fit Cafe, serving as a reminder that there's a broad swath of healthy items on the menu.

"The majority of people who come in here for the first time don't know we have food," assistant manager Andy Pride said.

The cafe is located at 10259 Sawmill Parkway.

He said there are more than 80 items on the menu that have fewer than 700 calories each. The menu includes sandwiches, wraps, salads, pizza and soups, with breakfast fare served all day. Most items are in the $5 to $8 range.

And, of course, there's a wide variety of smoothies.