I always get excited to hear a new restaurant is opening, but when it's right in my neck of the woods, I get really excited. There just isn't much in the North Campus/South Clintonville area (I am sure to get attacked for that, but go ahead - bring it on. Tell me your faves in the area). Most people I talk to who live within the area agree: we just need a good place to go. Nothing fancy, just good and comfortable. Sage seems as though it's going to fit the bill pretty well.
The space is simple, with exposed brick broken up by fabric-covered canvasses on one wall, and original artwork on the other side. There is a small bar in the corner - small, but not so small you wouldn't want to sit there; we actually considered it, but there were four of us and we opted for a table instead.
Now, I'm not usually one of those people who reviews restaurants the second they open; having worked in the restaurant biz for awhile, I know it can take awhile to iron out the kinks. But I think there's a lot of interest in Sage, so I thought I should check it out for everyone. And I'm going to highlight the positive - really there wasn't anything really negative; certainly nothing experience won't fix.
They were full when we arrived at noon, so we sat at the bar to await a table. There is a nice list of mimosas and bellinis offered for Sunday brunch (brunch!); I chose the Bombay bellini (Cava - Spanish sparkling wine - is mixed with Mango nectar), and it was very nice. Husband had a champagne cocktail - Cava mixed with bitters (typically a sugar cube is added, but wasn't in this case. Not being a champagne cocktail aficionado, I can't vouch for which version is better). Both drinks were tasty pick-me-ups for a Sunday morning. There are also beer bloody marys available (no liquor on Sundays). The drink menu for non-Sundays looked pretty good; of particular interest to me was the house "Sage Martini," vodka with basil, tomato water along with a tomato and an onion. That sounds pretty tasty to me.
I'll say on thing about Sage: they managed to get a sort of who's who out on a Sunday morning. I must have seen about 15 people I knew (believe me, me and my ilk, we're the "who's who"), including Mr. Brilliant, who supplied me with some "Buy Local Columbus" stickers! So I'll be passing those out soon.
Fortunately, everyone ordered something different so we were able to sample the menu. I chose the black bean, chorizo and sweet potato hash topped with two fried eggs, and I think I made the best choice of all. This is what Northstar's hash could be like if it weren't dry. The next time I order it (and I'm sure there will be a next time), I'll get an order of toast on the side for dipping in the yolks. The dish employed a nicely spicy fresh chorizo, which I suppose was more of a Mexican vs. a Spanish chorizo, since it was spicy but lacked the paprika-y flavor and ruddiness I usually associate with chorizo. One the side was a nice (seemingly homemade) salsa verde, which had a pleasant and mild heat with a refreshing quality as well. Because I promised not to complain about anything, I will simply post the picture and, having read the list of ingredients, you can guess what's missing:
Husband, possibly in an attempt to compensate for a Hounddog's-related indiscretion at midnight last night, went light with a house salad, a sweet and busy mix of good lettuces, white grapes, apples, citrus segments and crumbled goat cheese, all tossed in a pleasant creamy dressing:
and the yogurt and granola parfait, which was nice and full of dried fruits. It was very nice, and certainly one could feel very proper going for this option:
Guest #1 had the enormous stack of buttermilk pancakes topped with bananas, walnuts and maple syrup. Perfectly competent pancakes - hopefully they will eventually be available by the single pancake:
Guest #2 chose the frittata, which included pancetta and mushrooms, and was also very tasty:
And, because we are complete gluttons, I ordered the creme brulee French toast for the table. Wow. The Texas toast is soaked in custard and then lightly fried and topped with a nice compote of berries and bananas. It was really good; not nearly as rich or as sweet as it sounded. I found myself going back for bite after bite:
All in all, I thought this was a great opening for a Columbus restaurant. I only saw a tiny bit of chaos one might expect for their first brunch ever. The food was all tasty and well-prepared, and I was pleased to see they had a basic breakfast - eggs, toast, bacon, home fries, because sometimes that's exactly what you want. I didn't have any coffee, so I can't vouch for that.
Dinner will come at some point, although like all good restaurants, they are closed for dinner on my only two days off. *sigh*
Okay, I'm not going to whine, just offer three suggestions, which, like everything I write, are very reasonable and smart:
- It would be great if you would have a sweet crepe option as well as a savory crepe option. We were all thinking about crepes but were disappointed that today's option was a sweet crepe. Otherwise, crepes are a great idea, and in retrospect, I suppose we should have tried them.
- Please, please, please put salt and pepper on the table. I really like to sprinkle salt on my egg yolks when I break them and if I've recently changed handbags, I don't always have my purse salt with me. That being said, I thought my dish was very well seasoned and I didn't miss the salt and pepper as much as thought I would have when I first noticed it wasn't there.
- You need another POS system. Trust me. Your servers and bartender will thank you every day. You could probably put the POS system so that it faced the restaurant and make the bartender walk around; that would save the cluster which goes on behind the bar with everyone trying to ring their food, pick up drinks, etc.
All in all, I think Sage is off to a great start, at least brunch-wise. I get constant requests for good brunch spots in Columbus, and I am always at a loss as to what to tell people. It's a bonus that Sage is within walking distance. Everything was priced very fairly - in the $7 -8 range for each brunch dish. Dinner options seemed to be almost (if not all) under $20. I think Sage is just what this part of town needs: nothing earth-shattering, no foam or sous vide or whatever, just a nice casual spot with unpretentious, good food from a good chef. (Alana, we can't eat with you every night - come on, now.)
Good job, guys - especially for your first week open, and your first brunch. I'll see you soon for dinner!
info: Sage American Bistro 2653 N. High St (North Campus/South Clintonville) 614.267.SAGE