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Eddie Merlot’s - Into the New

1570 Polaris Pkwy. Columbus, OH (614) 433-7307

Steak. It is everywhere in this town. It seems you cannot swing a cat (or any other animal – vertebrate or otherwise) without hitting a purveyor of steak. The delectable, fleshy comestibles come in all shapes, sizes and qualities. Some places offer you a giant slab of meat with the requisite potato and limitless bars of salad for less than you would ordinarily pay for a cobb salad. Those aren’t the places we will be addressing here. We will be focusing on the other end of the steak spectrum. Our concern will be the places that fancy things up, the joints with the linen and multiple courses and long, impressive wine lists. Actually, we are only concerned with one of those places, which might be the fanciest of all of the fancy places – Eddie Merlot’s.

As soon as an eager diner sets foot in Eddie Merlot’s Polaris location, it become obvious that the evenings dining experience is going to be superlative. A vaulted ceiling, marble bar and variegated comfortable chairs give Eddie’s a very deco feel. It is akin to the dining rooms of the five star hotels that we recognize from old movies, but in color. The place itself gives us the feeling that we are in for some old-school indulgence. It is right.

A brief stop at the long, wide bar is requisite. There the mixologists go about the business of creating classic cocktails the way they were created in classic times. The shakers are always going and it is never more than a couple of seconds before the adroit bar staff has offered a follow-up to your old fashioned or rusty nail. Never fear, however, if your tastes are more modern. Eddie Merlot’s has the constituents to prepare every imaginable modern concoction, even if it includes ridiculous ingredients like pomegranate or flavored vodka. The same thing happens with the bartenders even if you want a more modern cocktail. It never sits empty more than a minute. For some this can be a problem, so it might be a good idea to head to the table after completing the first cocktail. After all, as the giant glass case at the back of the room indicates, Eddie Merlot’s has a very impressive wine list. It won the Wine Spectator Award of Excellence in 2004, 2005, 2006 and 2007.

Once at the table, perhaps even before sitting down, it would behoove the savvy diner to order at least one of Merlot’s Hot Seafood Medleys. This massive plate comes adorned with bacon wrapped shrimp, lump crab cakes and sesame calamari. Each of these flavorful elements shines with any number of Eddie’s glass pours. Something unusual and interesting like a Sangiovese Rosato from Mendocino’s Miner could tackle the bold flavors of barbeque shrimp while caressing the more subtle ones in the sesame calamari. If there are enough people dining or if those who are dining are thirsty enough, the wines by the bottle open up a huge deluge of interesting possibilities from Joseph Drouhin’s Puligny-Montrachet to Schlumberger’s dry-finish Gewertztraminer.

If there is appetizer wine left over for the salad course, never fear. Any of the seafood appropriate wines on Eddie’s list will hold up nicely to the Chop, Caesar, Spinach, Wedge, Tomato and Onion, and even Eddie Merlot’s favorite salad, which boasts spring greens, tomato, cucumber, olives and bacon. If there is no wine left from the first course, get a transitional bottle of light to medium bodied red. Argyle’s Willamette Pinot Noir or something in a Gevrey-Chambertin would fit that bill perfectly, complementing the salads with their tart dressings while preparing the palate for what is about happen.

What is about to happen is probably the reason you are at Eddie Merlot’s in the first place – steak. Of course, steak is not the only option. Eddie’s does have a pan seared duck breast with sweet potato cherry hash, a rosemary mustard glazed chicken breast, double cut Colorado lamb chops, and a bone in pork chop, but they all take on a very steaky kind of air, and every one of them could stand up to that bottle of giant, juicy red that will certainly be on the table. As for the steaks… they are the best around. All the meat is prime and it is prepared perfectly by a team of culinary professionals who specialize in steak. Sure, steak is really hard to screw up, but it is equally as hard to make it stand above the fray, especially in a town as inundated with classy steak joints as Columbus. Eddie Merlot’s manages, however. Steak as good as what they offer at Eddie’s almost necessitates a splurge in the wine department. Something like Mt. Veeders 2001 Meritage blend could take every steak, whether covered in blue cheese and bacon or smothered, Oscar style. The giant juices and bold tannins make this wine perfect for steak. But, just because one wine is perfect, doesn’t mean it is the only one. A ’99 Mouton-Rothschild would fit the bill as well as Shafer’s ’03 Hillside Select. Eddie Merlot’s wine list is like a great big playground for the oenophile.

There will almost certainly be a drop or two of one of the big reds from the steak course left over by the time dessert comes around, since the steaks were so huge and the wine so plentiful. That is perfect, because Eddie Merlot’s chocolate cake begs for a big bold red. So do the s’mores. The carrot cake and the berry tart could most certainly handle one, but they might prefer something like a Port or an Ice Wine. Of course, Eddie Merlot’s has paramount examples of both.

Remember to leave Eddie Merlot’s feeling like you have indulged. You have. You have done some of the finest indulging anyone throughout history has done, and you did it at Polaris. That means you’ll be able to do it again and again, which is good, because Eddie Merlot’s really has too many dishes and way too many wines to get to in one visit.