There's nothing fancy about Pecan Penny's Bar-B-Q, co-owner Brad Hobbs said.

A complete overhaul of the erstwhile Ray Johnson's Fish Market, 113 E. Main St. in downtown Columbus, has left the space clean as a whistle, with diner-white walls and furniture, mixed in with a little light gray.

For its food, Hobbs prefers to let the spices and wood smoke do the talking.

Sauces are served but not emphasized, he said.

"The point here is we're going to serve you meat," he said.

Brisket, chicken, pulled pork, wings and baby-back ribs are sold in various increments.

"That's the thing -- keep it simple," Hobbs said. "Do a few things and do them well."

Also on the menu are popular barbecue sides, snacks and a couple desserts.

Hobbs and his business partner, Kevin Burns, who own Olde Towne Tavern and the Walrus Kitchen & Public House, want Pecan Penny's to embody the spirit of Ray Johnson's, which closed in 2007 after 100 years in business.

The seafood restaurant was known for its informal dining room that attracted people from all walks of life, from business executives to police officers, who would sup on inexpensive and unfussy food.

"That's the kind of way barbecue is," Hobbs said. "Barbecue is very communal. We kind of hope the food and atmosphere will do the same here -- bring the whole community together."

The interior seats 90-plus, with garage doors leading to two patios -- one in front and another out back -- each seating 50.

Ten beers are on tap, with other beers coming in 16-ounce cans, and the bar focuses on local spirits.

Hobbs and Burns let their staff build the menu, which features a central Texas style of barbecue.

Chef Tomi Reichard had an acute interest in the subject, as did Phil Richardson, who comes from a line of Oklahoma City barbecue fanatics.

Richardson also developed the scratch sauces: East Carolina vinegar, Alabama white (rich with mayonnaise and speckled with black pepper), Carolina gold, mild Memphis, G-Daddy's (Kansas City style) and Hot Grandpa (hot with peppers).

North Market Spices mixes the restaurant's proprietary spice rub.

Greg Schmidt is the smoke master, using a blend of oak and pecan woods in an enormous Southern Pride smoker that can handle 1,400 pounds of meat.

"We're ready for anything now," Schmidt said.

Hours are 11 a.m. to midnight Tuesdays through Thursdays, 11 a.m. to 1 a.m. Fridays and Saturdays and 11 a.m. to midnight Sundays; Pecan Penny's is closed Mondays. For more information, call 614-826-0750.

A Short North restaurant that is celebrating its 30th anniversary has reopened with a new name and reimagined Scottish fare.

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Mac's, A Proper Pub -- formerly Mac's Cafe -- was closed for six weeks while its owners retooled the menu and interior at 693 N. High St., Columbus.

"It looks dramatically different," said Doug Sexton, who owns the pub with Pat Melick and Ron Jezerinac.

They doubled the length of the bar, which now features a quartz top, and updated the wood paneling, added pub tables and installed an elevated booth area. Windows open to High Street.

Sexton said the pub features an impressive scotch and whiskey menu, with more on the way.

The mostly from-scratch menu offers classic pub dishes, such as Guinness stew, steak pie, fish and chips, roasted bone marrow, bangers and mash and assorted American fare.

"We are going to do haggis," Sexton said, but, he added, "It's not going to be on the menu regularly."

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Preston's: A Burger Joint at Woodlands Backyard and Watershed Kitchen & Bar are participating in the James Beard Foundation Blended Burger Project by using mushrooms to conserve the use of beef.

Both restaurants near Grandview Heights are trying to earn a best-burger title in the Blended Burger Project, which will be determined by a panel of judges who will consider the best five of 20 burgers that receive the most online votes.

People can vote on their favorite burger through July 31 at jamesbeard.org/blendedburgerproject.

Preston's, 668 Grandview Ave. in Columbus, sources its beef from Chardon's New Creation Farm, via Butcher & Grocer in Grandview Heights, and shiitakes from Tiger Mushroom Farms in Blacklick.

At Watershed, 1145 Chesapeake Ave. in Columbus, chef Jack Moore said Dee-Jay's Custom Butchering in Fredericktown is grinding beef and raw king oyster mushrooms together.

gseman@thisweeknews.com

@ThisWeekGary

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