The Pearl | Columbus, OH

The Pearl
(Facebook / @CMRColumbus)

641 N. High St. (map it!)
Columbus, OH 43215
(614) 227-0151
Open daily at 4p (open for brunch Sat & Sun starting at 10a)
Accepts cash & credit/debit
Vegetarian/vegan/gluten free? Y/N/N
Kid-friendly? Y (for brunch)

Visited: Sunday, May 26, 2013 at 10:00 a.m.

With the opening of a Cameron Mitchell restaurant, there’s always a lot of buzz in the food community, which puts a lot of pressure on the eatery, especially when the newest addition to the bunch is located in the center of Short North. Cameron Mitchell and his Columbus-based restaurant group maintain a small empire of restaurants across the country. He tends to offer restaurant concepts that are usually well-defined and well-patronized. These include local spots like Columbus Fish Market, Cap City Fine Diner, M at Miranova, Marcella’s, Martini, Molly Woo’s, and more. So it’s no surprise that The Pearl opened up to much ado this past February, with everyone weighing in on the menu, decor, service, and the broader trend of the gastropub.

Part of the hubbub stemmed from the fact that The Pearl is the first new concept from Cameron Mitchell in about five years. It’s located in the space once occupied by the Burgundy Room, near the southern end of Short North. The space has been completely renovated and flipped around, with the bar moved to the opposite side of the restaurant. The decor combines a lot of natural wood accents (like a pub) with some highlights of green subway tile and leather seating.

The bar area features a row of cab tables plus bar seating. Chalkboard menus list the latest beers on draft.

Further back into the space, two dining rooms provide more table seating.

Because of me and my focus, you know that Mrs. Bfast w/Nick and I visited The Pearl specifically seeking out their brunch. We were invited by the Cameron Mitchell group to check it out, so we gladly found some babysitting and actually sat and enjoyed a meal together, complete with grown-up conversation and without little hands picking the food off our plate. I had no idea a meal could be so relaxing! We started the relaxation with a Bloody Mary. The Pearl offers two types – mild and spicy. This is the mild version, but we sampled the spicy as well, and actually preferred that. I like a Bloody Mary with a little bite at the back of the throat. The drink is garnished with pickles (brined in-house) and pepperoni (also cured in-house), and it’s served with the trendy companion of a 7 oz bottle of Miller High Life. Our server said some folks drink the two separately, using the beer as a palate cleanser, while some add the beer to the Bloody Mary for a little bit of effervescence. We kept them separate.

Our server Jesse was more than willing to talk us through the menu. From the get-go it was clear that he knew and loved the brunch, going above and beyond to suggest dishes and pairings. Some dishes in the top section of the brunch menu – Snacks – may require a little explanation. Tavern Fries and Good Old Fashioned Deviled Eggs are straightforward enough, but do you know what a Rollmop is? Or Devils on Horseback? Because I certainly didn’t. On Jessie’s suggestion we tried the rollmop first. A rollmop is a Scandinavian dish featuring a rolled pickled herring. The Pearl’s version is loosely rolled and covered in a sweet cream. The herring was tender and delicious, and while the cream was a little overwhelmingly sweet for my taste, it still complemented the salty pickle of the fish. We ordered the rollmop with the Pot-O-Pickles (in the background), a bowl of pickles prepared in-house: sweet, dill, mustard, curry, and hot. Nice combination with the sweet pickled herring.

We enjoyed the rollmop and the pickles, but loved the Devils on Horseback even more. And what’s not to love? Dates wrapped in bacon. They’re soft and easy to cut, with the sticky sweetness of dates offset by a not-too-salty house-cured bacon. If our brunch dishes hadn’t continued arriving at such a quick pace, we would have ordered another plate of these.

The Pearl is clearly all about presentation. While we were finishing the rollmops and devils on horseback, a skillet of jalepeno spoon bread arrived, all decked out on a branded wooden board (which flips over for serving deviled eggs) and served with an adorable dollop of sweet butter and honey. The spoon bread was moist without being mushy, although the jalapeno spice doesn’t stand out too much from the toasted corn bread.

Part of The Pearl’s name and branding includes the oyster bar, so we knew – well before we visited – that we were going to have oysters. Mrs. Bfast w/Nick in particular loves oysters on the half shell. The menu lists three of them for $8, although our server pointed out that you can order any amount. We opted for two east coast and two west coast oysters, from Spinney Creek and Dabob, respectively. It’s funny that you can definitely taste the difference. The east coast in particular tasted more “familiar” to us, perhaps because we vacation more regularly on the Atlantic. The oysters are served with excellent house-made cocktail sauce and horseradish (made with a champagne vinaigrette).

Now for the actual entrees. For me, brunch is synonymous with an eggs benedict, so chose the Tavern Benny, which turns out to be more like sausage gravy and biscuits than poached eggs with hollandaise. To be clear, there are poached eggs involved here: they’re just topping biscuits, house-made sausage, and smothered in gravy.

It’s quite a dish: the gravy is very rich and not overly salted, which lets the eggs and the sausage patty stand out more.

The Mrs. ordered the short rib poutine, because uh, it’s short rib poutine. For those who don’t know it, poutine is a Canadian dish that’s simply fries, cheese curds, and brown gravy. Now, add some short rib and a couple poached eggs, and baby, you’ve got a brunch on. I preferred this over the tavern benny, mostly because of the short ribs and the gravy. Although the cheese curds certainly don’t hurt.

We finished the meal with a thin slice of brown sugar pie. It’s inspired by the Crack Pie at Momofuku Milk bar in NYC (although they can’t technically use the name), but there must be crack in this dish, too. It’s made with a crust of pressed oatmeal cookies, then filled with what is essentially a butter and brown sugar mixture and topped with a dollop of sweet cream. And it’s one of those dishes that I would eat endlessly if you kept putting slices in front of me.

Your bill is brought out tucked in an old book, and you’re encouraged to write a note about your meal. Our server said that they use older books, including having used a first edition Great Gatsby – yikes!

Opposite the bar-side of the restaurant is the oyster bar, with the menu above you…

…and cases of fresh oysters on ice below.

Next to that is the oyster preparation table.

In addition to curing their own meats and pickles, The Pearl barrel-ages or infuses many of their own spirits. You can see the work-in-progress on the shelves along the back walls.

I can’t speak to the lunch or dinner offerings, or whether the gastropub trend is played out already, but in terms of brunch, The Pearl well worth the visit, especially if you’re willing to let your server walk you through the menu. The menu incorporates the gastropub and oyster bar elements that define the restaurant, so it features a wide variety of dishes that you can’t get anywhere else in town.

(Disclosure: this meal was provided in part by the folks at Cameron Mitchell Restaurants. Opinions are my own.)

Special bonus! Cameron Mitchell Restaurants has provided a $50 giftcard to The Pearl for my readers. Enter the random drawing for it by commenting on this post by 11:59pm on Thursday, May 30. To enter, look over The Pearl’s brunch menu and leave a comment with the dish you’d most like to try. EDIT: Contest is closed.

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  1. Rachel says

    I can’t WAIT to get my hands on that Tavern Benny. Eggs Benedict is my all time favorite brunch dish, so I’m always game for a new one!!

  2. Andrew says

    Wow, that all looks fantastic! I’d definitely be between the Ricotta Dumplings and the Short Rib Poutine, probably just end up getting both!

  3. Maribeth M says

    I want to try everything on the brunch menu! But if I have to pick, then it would either have to be the Tavern Benny, Huevos Rancheros or the Frittata. :)

  4. says

    I was drooling over everything! I took your word on Katalina’s and Pistacia Vera, so I will definitely stop by soon. Thanks!

  5. Nicole H. says

    I had the Tavern Benny at Easter Brunch there, and it was tasty, but I could have made a meal of the Devils on Horseback. The Grilled Cheese sounds amazing. I think I’d try that next.

  6. says

    I have a very hard time deciding between the poutine or perhaps the frittata with a side of bacon. And a plate of oysters. And those devils on horseback. And…

  7. says

    I’m a sucker for pancakes, but I can’t go to the Pearl without having the Gulf Shrimp Boil. It’s the closest thing I’ve had to the way we boiled shrimp back home. So maybe shrimp and pancakes. That’s the beauty of brunch!

  8. Lindsey says

    Everything sounds delicious! I think I’d like to try the Short Rib Poutine or the House Smoked Salmon.

  9. says

    I am so glad you got the dates!! How mouth-watering delicious were those. A Moscow Mule is a must try too.. Served in a traditional copper cup that you can purchase (which I did lol). I got the Brie Grilled Cheese which was great but had a bit of food envy of the Huevos Rancheros the person across from me ordered!

  10. says

    Looks great, Nick. Will definitely have to try it out. I’ll pour one out for my homies with the High Life, though – that’s a sacrilegious accouterment.

  11. says

    Lots of great options to ponder, but Devils on Horseback is a definite must. I can’t resist a sweet and savory combo that includes bacon!

  12. Mauriel says

    I want to try the short ribs poutine. Although, everything sounds delicious. Great write up and pics!

  13. Tom Rottmayer says

    It all sounds so good – but I;d have to try the Jalapeno spoon bread and the Huevos Rancheros! YUM!

  14. Stacie says

    We’re going this weekend, I am so excited! I absolutely love oysters on the half shell & eggs Benedict.This sounds like my kind of place & Thanks to Breakfast w/Nick, I’m now aware & can’t wait to try it. Thanks Nick, never would’ve been able to experience all these wonderful places if it wasn’t for you & your book.

  15. Seth A says

    I’d start with these little Horseback Devils and then on to the frittata with a side of sausage. How was the breakfast sausage anyway? Though, the huevos rancheros is tempting. I wonder who goes to a Cameron Mitchell restaurant and gets the granola? Oh, and a cinnamon roll for dessert.

  16. Sara says

    The Pearl looks fantastic!! I would, without a doubt, try the Tavern Benny. Who could resist? The Devils on Horseback sound quite tempting as well. Yum!

  17. Barb says

    Jalapeno spoon bread looked interesting and I would definitely love the short rib poutine. I just want to come in and sit and watch the passing parade. Love CM places

  18. says

    Looking through the comments, I’m glad to see that I’m not the only one who might want to order grilled cheese at a fancy brunch! Also tempting are the huevos rancheros, devils on horseback, and jalapeño spoon bread. Mmmmm….

  19. mokonkwo says

    Nick, you should choose me so my husband and I can have a nice date after he returns from 2months of travel in Nigeria for his data collection/discertation.

  20. Darci Henry says

    This caught my eye as our soon to be daughter’s name means ‘Pearl’. :)
    I’m a sucker for buttermilk pancakes so I’d have to talk the hubby into something more unusual for us both to try.

  21. Kelli Blinn says

    HOW does one choose?! I think I’d go for the Hanger Steak or the Southern Fried Chicken. My mouth is already watering! Thanks for the detailed review of this place, you’ve totally convinced me to give it a try!

  22. Jamie D. says

    It all looks amazing – I can’t wait to check out their brunch. I think I would start with the Devils on Horseback and the Jalapeno corn spoon bread. It is a toss up for me between the Huevos Rancheros and the Poutine.


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