Table Talk

Bodega makes major changes to improve flow

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RYAN M.L. YOUNG/THISWEEKNEWS
The bar at the renovated Bodega Beer + Food, 1044 N. High St. in the Short North, now runs along the north side wall of the tavern. There are also more areas for patrons to rest their beverages while chatting.

To the faithful, Bodega Beer + Food will look a lot different.

The bar, which once contoured the south and eastern walls, has been moved to the north side of the building. The rebuilt wooden fixture is now straight, allowing for better flow through the interior, said Collin Castore, co-owner of the restaurant at 1044 N. High St. in the Short North.

There are more communal tables and railings where patrons can rest beers while they stand, and seats by the window.

But make no mistake: Bodega retains its title as a pioneer in the craft-beer movement in the Short North. The place retains 49 taps -- having eliminated Miller Lite and Pabst Blue Ribbon -- that feature all American craft and Belgian beers, plus one cask-engine beer and one mead selection.

Among the bottles, there are Trappist, sour beer and a handful of domestics, Castore said. Growlers also have been added to the mix.

Food service has changed dramatically. Castore said the 1,700-square-foot space was too confining for full service, so the format has changed to counter-order service.

"Overall, we tried to cram more and more into the space," he said. "Now, instead of working against the space, we're working with it."

The kitchen is still small, so the menu has been pared down to about 12 quality items, including fried smoked chicken, fried fish, salads and some vegetarian options. Desserts and bread will come from the Table, owned by Sang Lakhani, Castore's partner in Bodega.

Most menu items cost less than $10. When orders are completed, the food is shuttled out to the tables.

"We say it's a food-truck-sized menu because it's a food-truck-sized kitchen," Castore said.

Even the front looks different. The panels above the awning out front were purple and blue; they are now gray, orange and black.

Castore said he's been working on the project for more than two months, while juggling his other two projects: Seventh Son Brewing Co., a microbrewery in Italian Village, and Barrel & Bottle in the North Market.

The plan was to close Bodega in February, typically the slowest month, but delays pushed the project back about six weeks.

Coincidentally, this opening coincides with American Craft Beer Week, May 12-18.

Castore said he opened Bodega with the goal of it becoming a casual coffee shop with a beer carryout element.

"We always hoped it would do well," he said. "It was never intended to be really busy."

Bodega is open for dinner only Monday through Friday and lunch and dinner Saturday and Sunday.

When the food service hits its stride, lunch will be added weekdays, he said.

For more information, call 614-299-9399.

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Baghdad Restaurant will join the restaurant-rich Bethel Center in a week or so.

Owner Mustafa Al Azzawi said the food might look familiar -- hummus, kebabs, babagannoush, tabouleh and such -- but will have its own distinct flavoring.

Among the choices will be the layered, spit-roasted shawarma and grilled whole fish. All menu options will be competitively priced, he said.

Baghdad replaces Philly Steak at 5230 Bethel Center Mall.

Al Azzawi also owns Baghdad Bakery in Hilliard.

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Cheryl Sher quietly closed Sher Bliss in Gahanna and has opened Bliss in a Bottle in a kiosk in the Center Court at Polaris Fashion Place, featuring bottles of wine covered in a corresponding chocolate.

That means that for the first time in almost 15 years, Sher is without a retail storefront. Her last store was located at 1394 Cherrybottom Road in Gahanna.

"I just wasn't getting the traffic," she said. "And I have a very strong corporate gift business that wasn't reliant on being open six days a week."

Sher said she's moving her business into a warehouse to fill her corporate and Internet gift orders.

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