Upper Arlington News

'The Grille' just what UA ordered for Lane Avenue

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Cameron Mitchell's plan for a "polished casual" American grill is exactly what Upper Arlington officials had in mind when they approved the city's community entertainment district along Lane Avenue.

"The Grille" -- the restaurant's working name -- is expected to open next February. It's one of two new concepts the Columbus restaurant entrepreneur has planned for 2014; the second is an "upscale casual" steakhouse in a Gahanna barn that once was home to Hoggy's Restaurant & Catering.

"Restaurants are such a part of the social fabric of a city, "said Mitchell, founder of several iconic local restaurants, including Cameron's American Bistro, Cap City Fine Diner & Bar and M at Miranova, not to mention national chain Ocean Prime.

"Columbus is a great restaurant town," he said. "We're all trying to make it better."

Robert Lamb, Upper Arlington's community and economic development manager, said he is "very pleased" about Mitchell's plans.

"It is always great to see residents investing in the community," he said. "Cameron's restaurant is exactly the type of amenity the city has sought to attract to the Lane Avenue Community Entertainment District. The city has many great restaurants in the area and we believe the addition of more restaurants will help to create the vibrant atmosphere the city is seeking for Lane Avenue."

Mitchell described The Grille as a "cleaned-up version of our Cap City (Diner), which has been very successful for us."

The menu will focus on fine wines by the glass, appetizers, flatbreads, rotisserie meats and entree salads, with a couple of fish and prime steak dishes.

No white tablecloths here: "It will be warm and cozy," he said.

When Mitchell and his colleagues opened the Pearl Restaurant, Tavern & Oyster Room in the Short North this year, it was the first new concept for the restaurateur since the economy took a nosedive in 2008.

Early that year, he completed the sale of Mitchell's Fish Market, Columbus Fish Market, Mitchell's Steakhouse and Cameron's Steakhouse restaurants (22 restaurants in all) to Ruth's Chris Steak House for $94 million.

The deal helped Mitchell repay investors and allowed his restaurants to weather the recession. Now, the restaurant company is growing again.

Cameron Mitchell Restaurants plans to open Rusty Bucket restaurants (in which Mitchell is a partner) in the Cincinnati area in the fall; in Naples, Fla., in January; and "a couple in Detroit" next year, Mitchell said.

The company and its partner opened a Rusty Bucket in Easton last week and are renovating the menus and facilities of existing Rusty Bucket restaurants, he said.

The company also plans to open another Ocean Prime upscale seafood and steak restaurant in Philadelphia in September, and one in Beverly Hills -- its first foray into California -- in April.

Mitchell is smart to target the "polished" or "upscale" portion of the casual-restaurant segment, said Darren Tristano, executive vice president of Technomic, a Chicago restaurant- and food-research firm.

"It's a much smaller segment, it has a faster growth rate, with a better quality food and experience, and higher price point," he said. "And, of course, no drive-through."

Tristano isn't surprised to see more new concepts from Mitchell and his restaurant company.

"They have a successful track record of developing and growing concepts," he said. "And when they sell off great concepts, they refocus their efforts in different directions."

ThisWeek reporter Nate Ellis contributed to this story.

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