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Restaurant review: Soulshine Tavern & Kitchen |

Restaurant review: Soulshine Tavern & Kitchen

Mostly scratch-cooked contemporary fare with a little flair is served in this pleasant, relatively new and casual establishment

The interior of Soulshine Tavern Kitchen is predominantly gray. While not a particularly thrilling tint, the neutral tone can convey tranquility and stability — hardly bad qualities, especially when it comes to a restaurant.

Open since last summer in the New Albany space formerly claimed by Ella Bistro, Soulshine offers a casual atmosphere and well-prepared, familiar fare with a pinch of flair. Taste buds might be occasionally nudged by the tweaking of popular dishes, but the place seems designed not to ruffle many feathers. It mostly achieves this — until, sometimes, when the bill is delivered.

In addition to shades of gray, the eatery features numerous TVs, wood, a prominent bar area with small tables and non-ideal stools, plus more-comfortable seats and tables in the dining room. During a less-enlightened culinary era — a couple years ago — Soulshine’s setting and often-indulgent spins on crowd-pleasing cuisine might’ve provoked its owners to designate the place a “gastropub.” Those days are largely behind us, so “tavern kitchen” it is.

Nine beers are on tap; most are produced in local breweries. The highlighted craft cocktails ($8 to $12) are nearly all powered by Columbus-distilled OYO liquors.

True to form, Soulshine’s appetizers are popular snacks enhanced with a twist, so wings are pickle-brined ($12) and deviled eggs ($8) get candied bacon. A conceptually more entertaining entry on this list is the Reuben Scotch Eggs ($8).

Flavored like the American deli sandwich but made like the famed British tavern treat, two commendably hard-cooked eggs (no gray on the yolks) are each wrapped in corned beef, coated in breadcrumbs and deep fried. The crunchy, golden-brown, grease-restrained spheres arrive atop beer-soaked warm kraut, are lashed with Russian dressing and, although not structurally sound, are fun to eat.

I could say something similar about the Pretzel Crusted Chicken Sandwich ($14): The messy construction doesn’t hold together, but tastes great. Crackly batter encases a thick slab of breast meat whose juiciness and tenderness suggest it’s been brined. Roasted tomato, melted smoked Gouda, chopped lettuce plus a heavy slathering of roasted-red-pepper aioli contribute depth, richness and a little sweetness.

Sandwiches are served with crisp fries dusted in flour spiked with spices. For another dollar, diners can substitute the creamy and garlicky mac-and-cheese fashioned with farfalle pasta or the huge and clearly scratch-made onion rings — mine were oily but good-tasting and featured far more onion than batter.

If “The Burger” ($15) seems a bit pricey, it comes with fries and stars cookout-worthy, grilled-and-seared locally sourced fresh beef purchased from the Butcher Grocer. Served on ciabatta bread, the smoky, juicy and delicious patty could stand on its own. Instead, it’s propped up with good accessories that, together, come off as rather heavy-handed: inspired bread-and-butter zucchini pickles, grilled red onions, oven-roasted tomatoes, melted white cheddar, “honey-cup dijonnaise” and lettuce.

Without question, the most impressive item I tried was also the most ambitious: Walleye Sweet Corn Risotto ($24). As pleasing on the eye as it is on the palate, the entree centers an almost-crisp, pan-fried, Lake Erie-caught fillet atop a comforting risotto studded with corn. The bright citrus-and-soy butter sauce forming a moat around the risotto provides a terrific foil for the creamy rice. Pickled cucumbers and carrots sprinkled with sesame seeds serve as a bridge between the dish’s Italian and Asian influences. The only problem: At this price point, I expect a piece of fish larger than a glorified garnish.

For a smooth and soothing finish to any meal here, I recommend slurping dessert by ordering the Strawberry Blonde cocktail ($10) last. Sipping the potent, sweet and creamy beverage made with OYO vanilla-bean vodka, New Albany-sourced Tessora limoncello and fresh fruit is like having your strawberry shortcake and drinking your martini, too.

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