New/Old school in Old North: Trillium dinner, Dick’s nightcap

Something old and something new; who can complain about that pairing?

Definitely not us which is why we’re introducing you to Old School/New School where we guide you through a night of nostalgia and new beginnings.

Both destinations have to be within walking distance of each other and the first stop will be for dinner and the second stop for a nightcap.

Park once, drink twice, support local. Get it?

For this edition, we will spend the evening in the Old North neighborhood. If you haven’t heard of the Old North, don’t worry…it is just a term that self-important know-it-alls (such as myself) use to refer to the culturally rich neighborhood that connects north campus and south Clintonville.

We are going to plan the perfect summer date night with a trip to Trillium for diner and a nightcap with local music at Dick’s Den.

Trillium

2333 N High St. •  trilliumkitchen.com

Who among us has not gotten nervous about filling big shoes? Maybe you were nervous when you took over for the beloved and experienced boss? I know you were nervous when that first child came along.

Two guys that had big shoes to fill are chef Bradley Balch and managing partner Michael Kulikowski. What did they have to be nervous about? Nothing … except for filling the shoes of famed Columbus restaurateur Alana Shock and revamping the Columbus culinary institution she ran for 18 years, Alana’s Food & Wine.

No pressure there.

In fact the only thing Balch and Kulikowski seem anxious about is becoming a part of their new neighborhood. Fitting in in the Old North is so important that when they opened Trillium less than a year ago, they chose the name because the Trillium flower, native in Ohio forests, becomes an irreplaceable part of the habitat in which it roots.

Well played.

When it comes to food, Balch, who was a former co-owner and executive chef at The Sycamore, puts an emphasis on quality food and working with local merchants in the community.

His menu changes seasonally, but his commitment to quality does not. Balch likes to work in different disciplines and enjoys serving Asian, Classic French and South & Central American Cuisine.

When pressed with the question of what to order from the menu, his answer was quick and simple: seafood.

Balch, though not boastful, is proud of the fact that the seafood he serves is usually swimming in the Atlantic Ocean only 36 hours before it is served.

Kulikowski, the former general manager of Tucci’s (where Balch once worked in the kitchen), was more than happy to show me around the front of the house.

Much has changed and much is improved as Trillium pulls off the rare combination of staying true to its roots (get it) while branching out (If you have the time, I have the dad jokes) into the new community.

First things first: the patio—tis the season, after all—remained the same size, but needed a full ground revamp, which Kulikowski and Balch did basically by themselves.

Uprooting trees and laying bricks on July weekends is not easy work, but when you own a restaurant, you wear a lot of hats.

The hard work paid off and the spacious and open patio provides a comfortable setting to eat dinner, relax with a drink or people watch. Which, if you have spent any time in the Old North, you know is prime people watching real estate.

The inside of the restaurant is classy, cool and comfortable. A long bar runs across the northern side of the building and behind that long bar is a selection of Ohio drafts (I partook in the Four String Hilltop Heritage Lager), top shelf whiskey, bourbon, and scotch and an impressive wine collection.

If you can’t find something to drink at Trillium, maybe you shouldn’t try and be a part of the neighborhood.

Trillium also sports a wine room that is great for larger reservations and a large but intimate dining area that comes equipped with a beautiful original fireplace. Need to host a party of 20 or so solidify your baller status? Trillium has you covered there too, just give them a call.

Now that you finished your locally sourced dinner, chose a beverage from the high quality drink selection and basked in chic dining comfort, let’s switch gears for our nightcap and walk a block to the north

The Year in Eats

Focusing on carefully sourced seasonal ingredients and seafood, Balch’s versatile and alluring Trillium menu draws influences from Asia, Europe and the American South. The lemony Wild Gulf Prawns is an elegant little starter; the Lump Crab Wontons, a transcendent version of generally forgettable crab rangoon, is a larger starter.

8 New Columbus Restaurants to Know

With a mix of small and large plates, Balch's menus both approachable and global. He may venture to the South through dishes like fried green tomatoes with basil-corn pesto or showcase Southeast Asia with Duck Confit Vietnamese spring Rolls. Above all, Balch emphasizes seasonal ingredients and quality seafood like Ahi Tuna, Ohio Trout, and Wild Gulf Prawns. 

Trillium Kitchen & Patio: New eatery on way to making its own mark

Trillium Kitchen & Patio is named for the Ohio state flower, the celebrated patio is retained from its predecessor and a sharp kitchen crew is led by talented chef and co-owner Bradley Balch, formerly of the Sycamore (which Balch still co-owns). Not mentioned in Trillium’s official title: a dramatically remodeled interior that is sleek, bright, modern and awash in brown wood, which starkly plays off white paint and tile.

The crisp look extends to a prominent bar. There, sophisticated cocktails ($10) are produced, such as lemon-scented and potent Ohio vesper shaken with Cocchi Americano plus Watershed vodka and Four Peel gin. A solid, reasonably priced wine selection is offered, too.

Balch’s cuisine is well-described on Trillium’s website, which cites global influences plus a focus on high-quality seasonal ingredients and seafood. His menu is compact, versatile and alluring.

Upscale Ahi

Location is everything in real estate, especially in the restaurant business. But when your new restaurant happens to be the former home of a favorite neighborhood haunt, preserving the legacy of that location adds another layer of complexity to already enormous expectations.

Now add the pressure of leaving another celebrated restaurant and you’ll start to understand the stakes facing Bradley Balch, former executive chef at The Sycamore, whose new restaurant Trillium recently opened in the space occupied by the venerated Alana’s Food and Wine for nearly two decades.

“We knew coming in here it was going to be a challenge. We weren’t trying to replicate; it wasn’t going to be Alana’s 2.0,” Balch said. He and co-owner Michael Kulikowski had no illusions about the inherent anxiety Alana Shock’s loyal patrons would have. “We knew there would be a lot of comparisons as we created our own identity, while still serving and entertaining her clientele.”

Trillium Kitchen bringing new experience to former Alana's space

Visitors to Trillium Kitchen & Patio won’t have to leave the restaurant to have a full night out.

The new restaurant is opening July 6 at 2333 N. High St., the former home of the venerable Alana’s Food & Wine, which had occupied the space for 18 years until.

While there are nods to the space’s history, co-owners Michael Kulikowski and chef Bradley Balch are setting off in new direction.

“You’re going to be able to be here for different reasons,” Kulikowski told me. “You can transition through the space, have a progressive night out without having to leave.”

New Restaurant ‘Trillium’ Will Replace Alana’s Food and Wine This Summer

When opening a restaurant that’s supposed to replace a longstanding favorite, like Alana’s Food and Wine, the first priority is maintaining the standards that people have grown used to over the last 18 years. Trillium, planned to open this summer in the space Alana’s called home, is set by co-owners Bradley Balch and Michael Kulikowski to be comparable in quality while also creating its own identity, niche and legacy.

Columbus Underground, April 27, 2017