Posted by cmh gourmand on March 10, 2017
How do you describe Alana’s to someone who never dined there? Bohemian, eclectic, eccentric, artisan (before the word was over saturated), whimsical? No one word suits the place nor do the series of words I threw out touch the surface.
The doors are shuttered at Alana’s and the kitchen has thrown in the towel. The bar made it’s last call. Alana’s is closed for the count.
Alana Shock and husband/co-owner Kevin Bertschi launched the restaurant just over 18 years ago. The restaurant was housed, in a house but the previous tenant was A La Carte which was where college students dined if they wanted to upgrade from (of the era) the Cooker and wanted a fancier name than Casa di Pasta. Alana took care of the back of the house. Her kitchen experience including a stint in New Orleans and some very fine dining spots. She supplemented this with weekly trips to local markets (ahead of the trend or fad for some) for the freshest ingredients. Kevin took care of the wine, curating (before that word was over saturated) one of the better wine collections in the state and some of the best pricing as well. The bar offered creative cocktails with the same focus on ingredients and technique as the kitchen. The bar itself was upgraded in 2008 when the bar which had previously been tended at Jai Lai and Stache’s was installed on site here.
One aspect that has been part of the atmosphere from day one has been a lack of pretense. Another ongoing feature would be service (if occasionally uneven and in the case of one long time server perhaps a little unhinged) in the style of fine dining but in an atmosphere which was always informal. The walls and interior hosted a hodgepodge of colors and art. The atmosphere was always quiet and comforting with well-considered and eclectic music lightly playing in the background. To give you a sense of the food and the style it was served in, take a look at the (PDF may take a few clicks) menu below (from the second to last night of operation).
Reports and rumors of Alana’s demise started in 2015 and continued through December 2016 At first it was going to change locations, then it was sold, then the deal fell through, then it was going to be around another few years, then on the chopping block again. I found out definitely at an unlikely place in an unlikely manner, while having lunch with my wife at O’ Reilly’s in Clintonville (a favorite spot for Kevin and Alana). I saw them at the bar. Kevin told me I had better come in that weekend (February 25th) because it was likely to be their last, the paperwork had just been signed. Familial and professional obligations caused me to miss those dates but there was a short reprieve in transferring the space so an extra weekend became available and I was able to dine in on their second to last night of business. I am happy to say, everything selected from the menu for my last meal was exceptional which ensured my memories of my last meal at Alana’s would be memorable. In particular, while many places offer cheese plates, this is one of the few restaurants, in the world (I’ve been around) that really delivered a consistently exciting cheese plate – with delicious and hard to find cheeses. Alana came out not once but twice offering small bite sized Amuse bouche which were always a fun and interesting through the course of the evening. I can’t say there was a time that I did not see her do so herself. It was one of many quirks about the place that was amusing to most.
As you are reading this, you may wonder why you did not hear of Alana’s. For many food focused people it was in their top ten lists for nearly two decades but there were some barriers to Alana’s being fully mainstream. A big part of that was former Dispatch Restaurant writer Jon Christensen refused to list Alana’s in the top ten for many years. This was attributed to Alana’s interaction with a guest and Christensen determining that such treatment (if as alleged was true) disqualified providing any acknowledgment of the place. In addition to this incident, I heard a few stories over the years involving interactions with both patrons and staff but never saw such firsthand. The best tale, which may or may not be true but reads like a tall tale. The story involved a customer that may have taken too many special requests to an extreme so Alana walked across the street to a convenience store to get a microwaveable burrito to serve as an answer to one of those requests. If that truly happened, then I would just say it was a great story. As a personal aside, I always thought of Jon Christensen as the Gertrude Stein of Columbus Food writers – repetitive to the point that each of his reviews read like a template, bland and boring writing which did nothing to inspire a person to seek out a place or provide any insight to the spirit of dining therein. Those attributes to his writing, I feel may indicate that as a diner, he would have never understood Alana’s even under the best of any circumstances. To those that mattered and those that cared, Alana’s was a destination and in some cases a community not just of food but thought. If that worked for you, then you took the side of eccentric quirkiness and enjoyed the journey.
Alana’s will be missed but I think we will still hear stories of Alana and Kevin as time goes by.
Posted in food | Tagged: Alana's, Alana's Closed, Alanas University District | 5 Comments »
Posted by cmh gourmand on March 7, 2013
What is an Amuse Bouche you might ask? It is a small taste offered for free by a restaurant as a sample of what they can do. Alana’s is one of the few places in town that offers these, 99% of the time, presented by Alana herself.
On that note, there are a few developments at Alana’s which warrant bringing to your attention.
Dine Originals is observing their Tenth Anniversary next week and as such, they are doing more than the typical Restaurant Week. So of course Alana’s has taken this as another opportunity to do anything other than typical. For the first time ever, at least officially, lunch will be served for one day only – Friday March 15th. It promises to be a great meal for $20.
It may be sold out by the time you read this, but Alana’s will be hosting a fund-raising dinner for WCBE for the fourth year in a row on March 18th. The price is $57 per head to match the number of years WCBE has been on the air. Much of the meal will be served family style. Your servers will be from WCBE (but not me unless there is an emergency). Find more details -> HERE <-
I spoke with Alana and Kevin about this last week and they were really excited to offer a meal and support WCBE again. They both find they enjoy the evening as much as their guests.
What else is new?
A new door mat:
The image above is also on new business cards and magnets for the restaurant. The card is pretty cool with some visual trickery going on. I tried to capture some of this in photos.
Notice the change to the color of the text and the size of the eyes as you are being hypnotized! This is the same card being manipulated by me. I did not capture the eyes changing but they do. I am sure a card like this costs a little extra, but it is a lot more fun, not unlike the restaurant it markets.
Alana’s is a seriously good restaurant that does not take itself too seriously. The cards are inspired on the ongoing themes of Paul Volker whose works are found in the restaurant. They are also at least a nod to Kevin’s (the front of the house and wine guy) keen fascination with the humor of the Simpson’s and of the world in general.
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Posted by cmh gourmand on October 27, 2009
Gateway to Alana's
When asked why Alana’s is one of my favorite dining destinations I have sometimes struggled to articulate the intangibles that add to the mojo of the space. I opine that the art at Alana’s creates a sense of comfort and connection to the house of cuisine. Some people are can be put off by perceived high brow culture that can come with high quality cuisine. At Alana’s the art selection pairs well with the menu creations to give a sense of style and reflect the philosophy of the place. The food is local so is the art.
I have written about the art at Alana’s before, a majority of it crafted by Paul Volker. His simple style adds an element of ease to the fine dining experience. Much of the art is food themed with a pinch of humor and/or a dash of whimsical.
I was inspired to add artwork to my order so I bought some art to go after my meal (most of the works on the wall can be purchased at Alana’s). There is no surprise that my choices reflect my avocation. While any restaurant sends a message with a menu, the whole is greater that the sum of the parts. This applies to cooking as well – it is not individual ingredients that take something from good to great, it is the mix and ratios of all of the flavors. Such is the case for a great restaurant, food, service, ambiance and so many little things add to the experience. At Alana’s I add in art as that extra ingredient that adds to my meal and the mojo.
A few of my selections are below.
Searching for Salsa
For a serving of art and artisan cooking:
2333 N High St
North Campus / SoHud
Posted in restaurants | Tagged: Alana's, art in restaurants | 3 Comments »
Posted by cmh gourmand on February 19, 2007
Alana’s (Food and Wine)
2333 North High Street
614 294 6783
When the local media list the best restaurants in Columbus we always see Handke’s, The Refectory, M and the most recent flavor of the week. A name often falling off the radar is a restaurant that has equal pedigree – Alana’s. Since opening in 1999 it has built a great reputation with local gourmets, gourmands, gastronauts, foodies, and others that have a passion for food.
Alana Shock seems to be an artist at heart and this is reflected in the creativity of the cuisine and in the décor of her restaurant. While her background does include art – it also includes experience as a chef for Emeril Lagasse in New Orleans.
Alana’s is housed in an old house just north of the University District. The outdoor patio is busy in the summertime although the view of COTA buses passing by may be less than ideal. The inside is brightly colored and features art from local artists on display for sale. A small, comfortable wine bar is located in the back. The servers are professionals who care about the food and the service they provide. The atmosphere is informal but you can expect the extras you would find in a fine dining establishment. Diners can usually expect to see Alana popping out of the kitchen to check on guests and she will sometimes offer a small taste of what she is working on.
I wish I could list some suggested dishes however the menu changes constantly since the focus is on fresh seasonal ingredients that are locally obtained when possible. These are the things you can expect everytime: a choice of exceptional soups; new and innovative cocktails; an impressive wine list; an array of tempting selections on the cheese plate (from Curds and Whey) and several entrees that will make it hard to choose just one. Desserts are always exceptional and when paired with ice cream – expect it from Jeni’s. There are always plenty of vegetarian and vegan offerings as well as mouth watering meats for carnivores.
For the sake of example here are a couple selections from a recent menu:
Roasted Ruby Beets and Watercress with a Baklava of Feta, Pistachios and Cashew Drizzled with Fig Balsamic
Duck Breast with Kabocha Pumpkin Polenta, Collard Greens and a Bing Cherry Demi Glase
For fun and education – Alana’s offers Degustation Dining . Before you freak out – this is just a fancy term for a sampling menu. Typically, this is presented as several small presentations of favorite dishes paired with specific wines. If this sounds interesting call ahead and see what Alana has in mind.
Alana’s is not cheap, two people can expect to pay about $80 to $100 or more if you pick an expensive wine but it is worth it.
Posted in restaurant reviews, restaurants, Vegetarian Friendly, wine | Tagged: Alana's | 4 Comments »