‘Gastropub’ headed to Short North

by Tim Feran, Columbus Dispatch

Cameron Mitchell will launch his first new restaurant in five years when the Pearl Restaurant, Tavern & Oyster Room opens this fall in the Short North.

The Pearl — a “gastropub” that focuses on locally sourced, upscale food in a casual, tavernlike atmosphere — will be located at 641 N. High St. in the space formerly occupied by the Burgundy Room.

Mitchell started opening restaurants in Columbus in 1993, but the last time Mitchell introduced a new concept was in 2007, when his company opened the Italian themed Marcella’s in the Short North.

It was the location that lured the Columbus-based restaurateur to plan the new restaurant.

“We love the Short North,” Mitchell said. “Marcella’s has been very successful. We leased the space without knowing what we were going to put in there. I just knew I liked the space.”

At approximately 4,400 square feet, the Pearl is “a little bit smaller than Marcella’s,” he said, which is about 5,000 square feet. The new restaurant will hold 150-160 patrons, compared with Marcella’s 200.

The company leased the space last fall and began to talk with officials with the city and Victorian Village about making changes, including a new facade and relocation of a staircase.

“There’s just a lot of stuff we had to do before we could plan a restaurant,” Mitchell said. “It took a fairly long time, by our standards.” The changes will cost about $1.5 million, he said.

As for the menu, “the location really drove the concept of what we wanted to put there,” he said.

Like the Short North itself, the Pearl’s gastropub theme is trendy. The concept has been in vogue for the past five or six years in the United States after having been created in Britain.

“Most have a twist to them,” said Dennis Lombardi, executive vice president/ foodservice strategies with WD Partners.

The twist, in this case, could be the fresh, raw oysters that the Pearl plans to offer.

That menu item is “unique to the Short North,” Mitchell said.

The menu also will include locally grown and organic foods.

“Everything in the restaurant is basically from scratch with a high degree of culinary skill behind it. Even our steak sauce is made fresh,” Mitchell said.

The Pearl also will offer an extensive beer list “that reads like a wine list,” as well as an eclectic selection of wines.

The Pearl’s Short North location is “clearly the right place to put it,” Lombardi said. “In fact, it’s the only location that comes to mind just because of the density of residential housing, the proximity to the Arena District and Convention Center and the amount of traffic.”

Another restaurant-industry observer agrees that the restaurant’s future is bright.

“It’s got a lot of potential,” said Bob Welcher, president and CEO of Restaurant Consultants, Inc. “It follows a trend of high-end food and drink in a relaxed, comfortable atmosphere without pretension. (Mitchell is) blending all the things that are hot right now.”

Plans call for the Pearl to open at 4 p.m. and be dinner- only, starting with a happy hour and continuing into late night.