On Restaurants | Fresh off the vine
Cooper’s Hawk combines tasting room with fine dining, gift store
Four years in the making, Cooper’s Hawk Winery & Restaurant opened yesterday at 4230 The Strand in Easton Town Center.
“We’ve been coming to Columbus for four years, looking at sites and trying to get something done,” said Tim McEnery, founder of the Illinois-based restaurant group.
Each Cooper’s Hawk blends fine food with casual but elegant surroundings in a combination restaurant, full-service bar, Napa-style wine-tasting room and gift store.
The focus is on pairing food with wines, many of which are made at Cooper’s Hawk Winery in Illinois.
“The concept is modern, casual, upscale. We are wine-heavy, with a tasting-room experience, but we try to keep the menu and the wine approachable, from both an affordability standpoint and the diversity of menu items,” McEnery said. The food and wine “are very appealing to the novice as well as sophisticated wine consumers.”
The menu is comprehensive, encompassing several pages of appetizers, soups, salads, entrees and desserts.
Appetizers include Asian barbecued pork belly nachos, with scallions, sesame seeds, radish and sweet chili barbecue sauce; sweet chili calamari, featuring a mango-chili-ponzu sauce; and Thai lettuce wraps with soy-glazed chicken, julienned vegetables and a peanut, cashew and soy glaze. Appetizer prices range from $8.99 to $12.99.
Entrees include blackened, bacon-wrapped sea scallops in a tarragon wine-butter sauce; short-rib risotto with mushrooms, sweet onions, white wine, Parmesan cheese and white truffle oil; and maple and mustard pretzel-crusted pork medallions with potatoes and asparagus. Prices range from $14.99 to $34.99.
There is also a selection of sandwiches and burgers, such as the Zin Burger, with Zinfandel-braised sweet onions, gruyere cheese and garlic mayo; and a vegetarian black bean burger with tomatoes, toasted rolled oats, cumin and cilantro. Prices range from $10.99 to $11.49.
Desserts include “banoffee” pie, with a bananas and toffee filling served on a graham-cracker crust; truffles and chocolate-covered strawberries; wine and chocolate pairings; and creme brulee. Prices range from $2.49 to $13.99.
The restaurant is open every day at 11:30 a.m. except Sunday, when it opens at 10 a.m., according to its website.
The menus and wine lists are similar at all Cooper’s Hawk locations. On the flip side, “We always create our beer selection locally and customize our spirits to include products made by local distilleries,” McEnery said.
He describes the Columbus restaurant as “by far the most beautiful to date.”
It’s housed in what was a transitional retail space, transformed from bare bones to rustic restaurant in 10 weeks.
It is large, with high ceilings. A mezzanine-level dining room overlooks a portion of the kitchen and space below.
“It has a sense of grandeur,” he said.
The first floor houses a wine-tasting room designed to look like one in Napa Valley, a retail space and dining areas. The restaurant seats 400.
The decor is rustic but modern.
“We use a lot of wood and stone to bring the earth element in, but it also feels modern,” McEnery said. “We want diners to feel like they’re experiencing California wine country, to create a sense of escape and the experience of being there even if they are too busy to actually go.”
The first Cooper’s Hawk Winery & Restaurant opened in 2005 in Orland Park, Ill. The company is in expansion mode. It has restaurants in Illinois, Indiana and Wisconsin.
Columbus is the first Ohio location; another will open soon in Cincinnati. The company is also opening restaurants in Kansas City, Mo., and Florida.
In many ways, Columbus and Ohio were ideal for the growing chain.
People in Columbus, “in many ways, are similar to the people of Chicago, so it seemed like the right thing to do to stay close to home,” McEnery said. “This is a great market, and we’re sure our customers will enjoy the restaurant. We’re also opening with a little bit of brand exposure,” as many visitors to the company’s Chicago-area locations hail from central Ohio.
Denise Trowbridge, Dispatch restaurant columnist, can be reached at email@example.com.