The new downtown spot is open for breakfast, lunch and dinner.

Mark Dempsey said his restaurant is ready to fill a void left by the closing of the Clarmont, a Columbus institution for 65 years.

Dempsey's Restaurant, 346 S. High St., is poised to attract the judges, lawyers, politicians, businessmen and VIPs who gathered at the Clarmont to dine, socialize and wheel and deal.

"Those are big shoes to fill," Dempsey said of the Clarmont, "but we are catering to that clientele."

Dempsey's, at the corner of High and Mound streets, is in the downtown political hub - across from the new Franklin County Court of Common Pleas and cattycorner to the county Municipal Court.

Dempsey has reconstituted a narrow 3,000-square-foot space and created an old-school steakhouse vibe, with exposed brick, high ceiling, seductive dark wood and a lengthy bar.

"We built this place to make it look old, make it look like it's been here for 100 years," he said, noting that it's been vacant for about five years.

Like the Clarmont, Dempsey's is open for breakfast. Unlike the Clarmont, which was located several blocks south on High Street, Dempsey's does not have a parking lot. But, Dempsey was quick to point out, there is a 700-space parking garage directly to the east of his restaurant.

Breakfast is mostly a la carte and there's a help-yourself coffee bar, using locally roasted Impero coffees, for the grab-and-go crowd.

The place offers a decidedly classic American menu, with mostly meal salads and sandwiches for lunch and a full slate of upscale dishes - jumbo sea scallops, pan-seared salmon and wild mushroom risotto, to name a few - on the dinner menu. Most lunches are priced below $10 and daily specials start at $6.95. Most dinner entrees are in the $15 to $20 range, save for steak dishes, including an 18-ounce bone-in ribeye ($42.95) and the surf and turf ($39.95).

The chef is Noah Yates, who graduated from Hocking Technical College's culinary program and worked locally at the Refectory and at Limited Brands.

Dempsey, who grew up in German Village, said he never had a strong political leaning until a friend asked him to hand out literature on behalf of Democrat Michael Dorrian, who was running for mayor against Dana G. "Buck" Rinehart, a Republican who went on to win the race.

That was 1983, and Dempsey has been a Democrat ever since. He's worked at City Hall, the Franklin County Clerk of Courts Office and the Ohio Treasurer's Office, but rolled up his sleeves at an early age in the restaurant businesses, working at such places at Juergen's, Diebold's (which is closed) and Patrick J's. After leaving the public sector, he cashed in his public pension to open the restaurant.

And while there is a political tone to the interior of his restaurant, Dempsey stresses it's a bipartisan tone. The walls are lined with political photos - some local and some national - including President Ronald Reagan sharing a laugh with former House Speaker Thomas P. "Tip" O'Neill.

"I'd like this to be neutral ground for Democrats and Republicans," he said.

Dempsey's is open for breakfast, lunch and dinner hours daily. For more information, call 614-586-0511.