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Henry Social Club Restaurant Review – Trendy, Tasty Spot in Columbus, Indiana

By Amy Munice with Photos by Peter Kachergis

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There are several spaces within the space, with different size tables and surrounding decor

 

You know you are in the architectural Mecca of Columbus, Indiana when the proprietor of the town’s most trendy dining spot begins his tour of the restaurant with a detailed accounting of his collaboration with the restaurant’s designer.    

 

Lacey Gobert, wife of Executive Sous Chef Matt Gobert, looked around the room and estimated that about 2/3 of the people were locals on the night we visited

 

Gethin Thomas, Proprietor and lead chef of barely one year-old Henry Social Club points out the white subway tiles lining some walls, admiring how his designer, Nikki Sutton of Level Interior Architecture + Design, picked a look that assures his patrons of the restaurant’s cleanliness. 

 

The large tables in the back room adjoin the open kitchen

 

To this one-time New Yorker, this subway tile design touch coupled with the friendly buzz coming from the bar and table surrounds was akin to Proust taking a bit of his famed cookie. 

 

Nikki Sutton, of Level Interior Architecture + Design, collaborated closely with Chef Thomas to give him the space that he wanted. Photo courtesy of Nikki Sutton

 

Did we land in a trendy Brooklyn watering hole or were we still in Indiana

 

Chef Thomas and his wife Candace also have a catering business. The chef was living in Kennebunkport, Maine, docking his boat alongside that of George Bush I, when Cummins, the engine company that sparked the architectural explosion in Columbus, recruited him to be their executive chef. Given Cummins' prominence in Columbus, that made Thomas an overnight rock star celebrity chef in the town

 

With the high regard for all things art, architecture and design you pick up from so many Columbus denizens, Thomas elaborated, “I got this space and then found the designer—Nikki Sutton.  She started by asking me what the menu was going to be and then she asked for the play list of music.  She picked the Eames chairs and how the pizza oven would look.  We wanted a big cocktail bar with all the booze visible. ..We found these mirrors in the basement—they date back to 1921.  This had been a delicatessen most recently with the tin ceiling painted in orange and black, which we changed to a battleship grey.  Marble, cement, stainless steel—these are all hard surfaces…”

 

Opened less than a year ago, Henry Social Club has a buzzing scene even in the middle of the week

 

And so the tour continued.  Indeed, the way in which the restaurant was carved into separate spaces for different levels of dining intimacy—from the large tables for big crowds set near the hustle and bustle of the open kitchen to the small intimate two-person tables shielded with high backs to their seating—is thoughtful and worth taking the time to admire. 

 

Eric, the smiling and welcoming manager at Henry Social Club who you can clearly see is a competitive bodybuilder during his off hours, is a Columbus native now raising his young family there, and says, "Columbus is a surprise. People don't usually expect much in a town of 45,000. The diversity here has exploded over the last fifteen years or so and you can be exposed to many things here. It's a wonderful place to raise a family."

 

Then again, you are in Columbus, Indiana, where a good day’s tour of modern and post-modern architectural highlights gets your head trained to really see your surrounds.

 

Marinated olives in chili, garlic, cinnamon and citrus

 

Bread and pizza dough are made fresh daily, and have a hint of pork fat flavor that make them especially tasty

 

Stomach will soon compete with eyes at Henry’s Social Club—and win handily and happily. 

 

Arugula salad: apple; radicchio; shaved fennel; candied walnut; shaved cheddar; poplar cider vinaigrette

 

Pork stuffed steam buns with kimchi, jalapeño aioli and cilantro

 

 

Whether it was deceptively simple deviled eggs that made an impression with their marriage of pickled jalapenos and bacon, or the springy texture of the ricotta gnocchi, or the cinnamon linger after a bite of the olives, or more—all the food we sampled was very tasty. 

 

Ricotta gnocchi with wild mushrooms, peas, parsley

 

Chef Thomas shares that this "Right Reverend" signature cocktail at Henry Social Club came from his grandmother in Mobile, Alabama. Thomas quips, "If you were invited to her home you were served one of three drinks in her parlor-- this (Right Reverend), a Miller beer, or some OJ. If you picked the OJ you were never invited back again...She lived until she was 97

 

More, all Henry’s fare seems to have in common a take-away feeling that the main flavors of any dish are being influenced by the thoughtful surrounds in their recipe but never overly tugged. 

 

La Bete Noir flourless chocolate cake with raspberry coulis, candied orange and pistachios

 

Executive Sous Chef Matt Gobert, who does most of the day-to-day attention to details at Henry Social Club, with his wife Lacey, who was the first manager of Henry Social Club when it opened

 

Plop Henry’s Social Club down in New York City and it could more than hold its own.   Even if you don’t have time to take in Columbus’ architectural tours, if you are on an I-65 or nearby route and getting tired of road trip food, Henry’s Social Club is well worth a detour. 

 

Cod fillet baked with lemon and butter with potato puree, spinach, chorizo and fire roasted tomato broth

 

We visited Henry’s Social Club on a school night and it was quite crowded with what appeared to be business dinners, locals out on the town, and a healthy slice of the tourist crowd.  It’s probably best to make reservations ahead of time.

 

Henry Social Club 

423 Washington Street

Columbus, IN 47201

(812) 799-1371

 

 

 

Published on Oct 29, 2015

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