Latitude 41: Changing the Attitude on Downtown Dining
Posted by cmh gourmand on June 2, 2011
Some say Downtown Dining is dead. Others loath downtown, fearing one way streets, parking meters and the search for a parking spot without an obscure towing ordinance. If you are ready to change your attitude on these matters then it is time to try out Latitude 41. This restaurant is “all that and a
bag serving of chips (with sea salt of course).
To the casual observer, Latitude 41 might have some elements going against it. It is downtown. It is in a hotel. It does not look like a restaurant from the outside and it takes a bit of side stepping to get to the dining area when arriving. These are all trivial. Three facts trump these concerns. The food is phenomenal, the service is most often superior and valet parking is three bucks.
Why does bargain valet parking make a difference? If it can woo me, then it can woo you too and let you do the right things which would be dining here frequently. As a rule I do not engage in valet parking. This is due to long-established history of frugality. I will often drop off my guests and drive around searching for free parking while they enjoy the services of the restaurant. Such is not my case at Latitude 41. For three dollars, I leave my car at the door and walk in like a rock star. I don’t have to worry about finding a place to park and having change for a meter. I don’t have to worry about the weather on the way back to my car. Doing the math, $3 may be less than I would put in a meter since my average stay for dinner usually exceeds two hours. If you are doing dinner and a show downtown, this valet deal is a steal. It is a little touch but it makes a big difference. Use the money you save to tip your valet.
Simple touches and a subtle approach to all things are the hallmark of Latitude 41. The kitchen crew and front of the house team are dedicated to executing everything well from your greeting to presenting your bill. The enthusiasm and authenticity of manager Roger Vivas is infectious. He welcomes as many diners as he can and makes a sincere effort to get to know his customers by name. The customer focus is shared by his staff. I have visited six times this year. In addition to having my favorite servers Tiffany and Sarah to help me with my selections, Roger always makes an effort to check in when he has time and truly makes me feel welcome, often adding a cocktail suggestion to his greeting.
I am a bit biased about Chef David Maclennan in part because I have had a few beers with him in our off hours. However my true bias comes from the respect I have for his food first focus. David does value good presentation however all of his dishes have real substance. This is simple fare with a twist or an upgrade instead flair and a gimmick. The food is locally obtained when possible and Chef Dave is in the process of planting a rooftop garden to supplement is locavore fare. Chef is also open to having some fun with his food such as Brezel pretzels served with house made cheese sauce and rabbit pot pie made on a double dog dare.
An excellent introduction to what Latitude 41 has to offer comes in four course and six course tasting menus. This is the opportunity for the kitchen to show their cooking chops in several signature plates. The selections vary but most often several are pulled from or inspired by the current menu. If on the fence between six courses or four, opt for the larger and ask your companion go with the smaller version. Another excellent first encounter can be had by attacking the menu via the artisan flatbreads and small plate selections. Some of my favorites from the current line up are the Lobster Mac and Cheese (includes orechiette, mascarpone, truffle oil, parmesan and tuile) as well as their two styles of fries: the hand-cut fries served with truffle, parmesan cheese, spicy house made ketchup and malt vinegar aioli or the Frenchie Fries featuring idaho wedges covered with beef bourguignon, farm style cheese curds and a soft poached egg. Think of the later as poutine on steroids. When available, mussels are a sure thing. It is not uncommon to ask for extra bread to scoop up the “broth” left on the bowl when finished.
The atmosphere of the “house” is refined and relaxed. Jeans are as common as a three-piece. Service reflects this approach as well. Servers are friendly but professional in tone and offer just enough attention without being distracting or interrupting the good conversation that comes with a meal. The bar is a comfortable spot for solo diners although your host or hostess does a wonderful job choosing just the right spot for a table for one. Plenty of window seats allow visitors to watch the coming and goings of downtown Columbus along Third Street. Latitude 41 unveiled their outside patio this spring. It is small area that seats about twenty along East Gay Street. There are a few burners placed outside for warmth and cozy ambiance at the tables. A growing following is choosing the Latitude 41 happy hour as a great excuse to stay downtown past quitting time.
Downtown Dining is not dead, it is growing. In addition to Latitude 41 several other “pioneers” including Tip Top Kitchen and Cocktails, Little Palace and The Jury Room are carrying the flag to get our citizens back in the habit of taking a break from the suburban parts of our city to support the growing urban culture of downtown.
in the Renaissance Hotel
Corner of 3rd and Gay Street