At the Carvery, a lot of work goes into making things simple.
The new downtown lunch option, 51 E. Gay St., has a total of five sandwiches, plus a special of the day, each costing $8. The emphasis is on efficiency, as everything takes about 30 seconds to prepare for a rushed lunch crowd.
"If you have a few quality options, you don't need 100 mediocre options," co-owner Dave Ruhl said.
Partners Ruhl and Pat Daly, who worked in fast-casual dining in Massachusetts and Columbus, decided the Gay Street district had the vibrancy they wanted.
"We really feel like there's a good energy and we want to be part of it," Ruhl said.
Take, for example, the porchetta sandwich, the signature choice at the Carvery, made with pork purchased locally from Falter's Fine Meats. It is pork loin wrapped in pork shoulder, showered in spices and slow cooked to crisp up the pork skin. Chopped into pieces, the pork -- as with all sandwiches -- is placed on a house-baked ciabatta bun.
The bacon for the BLT is cured in-house. Meatballs are hand-rolled, using beef, pork and prosciutto. Turkey breast is dry-brined, a technique that leaves the interior moist.
The vegetable sandwich changes daily. Recent offerings included pulled summer squash topped with a mayo bourbon barbecue sauce and homemade coleslaw and Belgian endive braised in white wine.
Also among the offerings is a daily soup. Choices have included Italian chili; butternut squash soup; bacon beer and cheese; and chicken noodle.
The house salad gets a choice of homemade dressings: Parmesan peppercorn ranch, lemon vinaigrette and Dijon vinaigrette. There also are a few sides, such as pork-roasted potatoes, pasta salad and coleslaw.
Pastry chef Nikki Oppliger, who trained at the restaurant school and Walnut Hill College in Philadelphia, is responsible for the fresh bread and homemade baked goods, such as cookies, brownies, eclairs, muffins and such.
"We wanted a little more -- I don't want to say refinement -- but care," Ruhl said "It doesn't have to be complicated to be beautiful, but everything you see is here for a purpose."
The Carvery takes over a narrow space that incorporates wood, stainless steel and glass panels that separate customers from the kitchen. It seats 40.
Columbus has no shortage of sandwich places, and the center city, now, is known more for its lunch culture than swarming dinner crowds.
But like many downtown restaurateurs, Ruhl and Daly like the new urban apartments, condos and activities.
"I think we're on the cusp of a real renaissance down here," Ruhl said.
The two have kicked around the idea of applying for a license to sell beer, but it's not an immediate necessity, Ruhl said. They plan to open for dinner after winter, but have no plans to adjust the menu. He said they would like to open additional locations, but none is planned for the moment.
"We are concentrating on this one until further notice," Ruhl said.
The Carvery is open for lunch hours Monday through Saturday, closed Sunday. For more information, call 614-221-2252.