Skillet, Rustic. Urban. Food. (hereafter referred to as Skillet) opened up to much fanfare late last year in the Schumacher Place location formerly occupied by Banana Bean Cafe until they moved over to much larger digs on Greenlawn Ave. While the space was definitely too small for the volume of Banana Bean Cafe, it was reinvented brilliantly with Skillet, the new concept from father and son Kevin and Patrick Caskey, who were also key in Banana Bean Cafe’s success.
Skillet focuses on simple, seasonal and ingredient driven honest food. Patrick, in particular, has a passion for this type of cooking, and his passion shows in the menu. You’ll see a lot of things on Skillet’s menu that you don’t often see anywhere else. He’s not afraid to experiment with ingredients and flavors, and with the able assistance of his father, is able to usually knock the food out of the park.
Upon entering for the first time, it’s a little confusing on what you’re supposed to do – there’s no one there in the front of the house to greet you, so it takes a moment to realize that you pick up the menu and place your order at the front window, and then seat yourself. However, once you get past that minor hurdle, it’s easy to remember to do that on future visits.
Since there were three of us dining there for lunch, we decided to just order a bunch of dishes to share, so we could sample all of them. We’ve had their amazing porchetta as a take out item and were hoping it was on the menu that day, but no such luck – one of the other items I had hoped to sample, the Savory Sweet Potato Folded Egg Omelette, had sold out earlier in the day.
As a lover of all things pork, my favorite dish from among all I tried was the Spicy Pork Belly Quesadilla ($8), which is mostly your classic preparation of meat, cheese and flour tortillas, with a lot less cheese and a lot more porky goodness. Topped with a salsa verde sauce that added a little heat but didn’t overwhelm, this was just a perfectly balanced dish that worked surprisingly well. This is a dish that, like the porchetta, I could find myself craving regularly.
Their Truffled Griddled Cheese on Brioche ($8) has two different types of cheese on it – a cheddar cheese that’s paired with an herbed boursin cheese, then topped with a touch of truffle oil. Much different from previous incarnations of grilled cheese I’ve had, but in a good way. The truffle oil lent a bit of earthiness to it without overwhelming it or tasting artificial as truffle oil often does.
As part of the grilled cheese, one can choose a soup of their choice. Even though they were out of the pumpkin-black bean soup, the one they did have (Cream of Tomato) is the one that you most associate with grilled cheese. It, like most credible cream of tomato soups, made a terrific dipper for the grilled cheese. Even so, we had a little tomato soup left over, which you’ll see I found a perfect use for a little later.
Their Spiced Lamb Burger ($12) was a nicely sized patty cooked to order – in our case, we asked for it to be pink but not bloody, and it came out exactly that way. It was served on a soft Ciabatta roll with cumin mayo (whose flavor kind of faded into the background), a grilled slice of sheep’s milk feta, and a bit of fig-orange vinaigrette dressed arugula. While the burger as a whole was good, the individual ingredients got a bit lost in the mix. Still, a solid burger all around.
My husband, in particular, loves their Crispy Fingerling Potatoes and Burnt Ends ($3) – for those not in the know, the burnt ends are actually pieces of brisket, which complement the browned and roasted potatoes. The potatoes have a solid rosemary flavor to them, which is either a great or a bad thing, depending how you feel about rosemary. I thought the potatoes, as a side to the lamb burger, brought out the best in it. Rosemary and lamb is one of my favorite flavor combinations in the world.
The Braised Beef Short Rib Sandwich ($11) piled super-tender short ribs with a spicy pepper mixture between two slices of buttery brioche. While it was a bit too spicy for it to be my thing (the apple-horseradish crema helped a bit, but not quite enough for my spice-sensitive palate), the two other people with me who love spicy foods thought it was great. Agreed – I’d order it again, but ask them to go light on the peppers, because minus the heat, the flavor was fantastic.
On the side, we had Anson Mills Stone Ground Grits with Sharp Cheddar ($3) – these are some of my favorite heirloom grits (I order them myself here at home). While I liked what the smoked tomato pan gravy brought to the party, I thought they were absolutely amazing with the remainder of my cream of tomato soup poured over top like a gravy.
In short, everything we ordered here was extremely comforting, just all around good food that was reasonably priced. Drink service is either bottles of pop or water that you get yourself. I really like that they make quality food accessible, non-pretentious in a super-casual space. It’s a great fit for the neighborhood and we’re looking forward to visiting again.
If you’d like to go: Skillet, Rustic. Urban. Food., 410 E. Whittier Street, Columbus, OH 43206, 614-443-2266