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Convention center soon to undergo renovationsMarch 12, 2014

Convention center soon to undergo renovations

By Steve Wartenberg
The Columbus Dispatch • Wednesday March 12, 2014 8:12 AM

Link to Article: http://www.dispatch.com/content/stories/business/2014/03/12/convention-center-soon-to-undergo-renovations.html

Nashville, Tenn., recently opened the $600 million Music City Center convention hall. Cleveland cut the ribbon on its $465 million Medical Mart & Convention Center in October.

“And Indianapolis just finished a big expansion,” said Joe Bocherer, vice president of sales for Experience Columbus, referencing the $275 million expansion of the Indiana Convention Center.

The takeaway from all these projects? The Greater Columbus Convention Center needs to up its game to compete with these and other cities for the bigger and more-desirable conventions, Bocherer said.

And plans are in the works to do just that.

The convention center soon will undergo a $25 million to $30 million renovation that will improve “the finishes, the ceilings, the lighting, the wall coverings,” said Bill Jennison, executive director of the Franklin County Convention Facilities Authority.

The goal is for it to look similar to and blend seamlessly with the more-modern Hilton Columbus Downtown and Hyatt Regency hotels, which are connected to the convention center.

“We’ll have the same level of richness as the Hilton and Hyatt,” Jennison said.

The design process has begun and is expected to be completed by the end of the year. The renovation work itself could be finished by the end of 2015, Jennison said.

“We’ll do it in phases, like they’re doing at Port Columbus, because we’re a busy, active building and can’t close,” he said. “We have to stay in full operation.”

The architecturally striking, pastel-colored convention center, which local residents seem to either love or hate, was completed in 1993. It was designed by New York architect Peter Eisenman, with support from local architect Richard Trott.

The convention center expanded in 2001 and is about 1.7 million square feet in size. The $40 million renovation of the Battelle Grand ballroom, the largest ballroom in the state, was completed in 2010.

“We’re definitely on the older side of our competitive set,” Bocherer said of the convention center. “And customers have certain expectations today.”

The opening of the Hilton Columbus Downtown led to several site visits by meeting decision-makers from several large national organizations with lofty expectations.

“They loved the Hilton and the convention center. The layout is great, and it’s so easy to use,” Jennison said. “But it didn’t have the same level of finish as a modern hotel like the Hilton or the Hyatt. It has a lot of drywall and paint.”

The renovation will be a conversation-starter for Bocherer and his sales representatives.

“It gives us a new story to tell,” he said. “It gives us something to talk about with someone who was here in the past but hasn’t looked at Columbus in a while.”

A local hotel executive also has expectations that a convention-center renovation will lead to more bookings and more heads on the beds in the adjacent hotels.

“It’s time for a refreshment to stay competitive,” said Charles Lagarce, CEO of Columbus Hospitality Management. It operates the Crowne Plaza and Lofts Downtown near the convention center.

He cited the opening of the Hilton and renovations at several competing Downtown hotels, plus the upgrades to Battelle Grand, as lures for these meetings.

“We’re in great shape here with our hotels, but we need to keep all the components fresh, and the convention center is at the end of its cycle,” Lagarce said.

Central Ohio hotels attracted nearly 14 percent more visitors in 2013 than in the previous year, which Experience Columbus officials say was caused by the opening of the Hilton and the booking of additional conventions.

The city recently bid to host the Republican National Convention and is expected to bid on the Democratic National Convention.

“This renovation is unrelated to the presidential convention bids,” Jennison said, adding that it could enhance the city’s bid. “This renovation is for the business we have today and the business we’re bidding on for tomorrow.”

Nationwide Arena would be the primary site for either national convention, with the convention center used as the media center, according to Experience Columbus officials.

LMN Architects of Seattle will lead the renovation of the convention center, with support from Columbus-based Schooley Caldwell Associates.

“LMN did the Battelle Grand renovation, and they designed the new convention center in Cleveland,” Jennison said.

The funds for the renovation will come from the bonds paid for by the city’s 10 percent bed tax, a portion of which goes to the county.

“Because we’ve been so successful in growing convention business and the bed tax, we can pay off the old bond and issue a new bond,” Jennison said.



Visitors discovering a vibrant ColumbusMarch 5, 2014

Visitors discovering a vibrant Columbus

By Mary Vanac
The Columbus Dispatch • Wednesday March 5, 2014 11:24 AM

Link to article: http://www.dispatch.com/content/stories/business/2014/03/05/visitors-discovering-a-vibrant-columbus.html

Experience Columbus is aiming for a “world-class” label for the city’s convention and tourism business.

A recent bid to host the Republican National Convention in 2016 and a likely bid on the 2016 Democratic bash are considered the latest evidence of how far the city has come.

"We’re going to talk about some of the transformation our community is undergoing and some of the many projects that are making Columbus more beautiful, accessible and vibrant for our businesses,” Brian Ross, CEO of Experience Columbus, told a full house yesterday at his organization’s annual meeting at the Greater Columbus Convention Center.

For instance, the city is studying passenger rail service to better connect Port Columbus with Downtown, said Columbus City Council President Andrew J. Ginther during a discussion with Ross and Franklin County Commissioner Marilyn Brown.

The discussion was introduced with driving rock music and photos of Columbus projected in the background.

“It’s not just about those direct flights and other things that we’re working on, but getting around Columbus once you get here,” Ginther said, citing new Car2Go and bicycle-sharing programs.

Brown pointed to the Columbus Museum of Art, which last year won a National Medal for Museum and Library Service, the nation’s highest honor for community service, as evidence of the city’s vibrant arts and cultural scene.

“We’re so fortunate that it is so vibrant, so wonderful, so accessible,” Brown said about the museum. “The arts scene is so important to bringing visitors in.”

Bicentennial Park at the Scioto Mile, COSI and Huntington Park also are draws for out-of-towners, Ginther said.

But the city’s arrival as an event destination was sealed in October 2012 with the opening of the Hilton Columbus Downtown hotel and its 532 guest rooms, said Lisa Hinson, the outgoing chairwoman of Experience Columbus.

Central Ohio hotels attracted nearly 14 percent more visitors last year, partly because of the new hotel, according to commercial real-estate firm CB Richard Ellis in Columbus.

“Make It Columbus,” an effort to attract more regional or national meetings that city residents would otherwise attend elsewhere, “resulted in bookings that represent an estimated $133 million in economic impact” in 2013, Ross said.

Meanwhile, the new hotel helped the Greater Columbus Sports Commission attract larger meetings and events, including the National Hockey League All-Star Game in 2015, said Scott Peacock, public-relations manager for Experience Columbus.

Hinson, a public-relations and marketing executive, said, “Our capacity to house that number of people certainly was greatly improved with the addition of the Hilton and its connectivity to the convention center.”

The city’s Arena District and Short North restaurants and art galleries are within walking distance of the new hotel and the convention center.

“Our foodie scene has grown and is getting national attention,” thanks to companies such as Jeni’s Splendid Ice Creams and Cameron Mitchell Restaurant Group, Hinson said.

In about two months, the Heart of Africa exhibit is expected to open at the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium.

“This has been a longtime dream of Jack Hanna,” she said, “and it’s sure to bring visitors to our city.”


Downtown Hilton’s success rubbing offJanuary 31, 2014

Downtown Hilton’s success rubbing off

By Steve Wartenberg
The Columbus Dispatch • Friday January 31, 2014 7:58 AM

Link to Article: http://www.dispatch.com/content/stories/business/2014/01/31/downtown-hiltons-success-rubbing-off.html

Central Ohio hotels attracted nearly 14 percent more visitors last year, and convention officials say it is in part because of the new Hilton Columbus Downtown.

The 532-room Hilton also has enabled Experience Columbus and the Greater Columbus Sports Commission to attract larger meetings and events that would have been out of reach in the past, officials said.

Hotel backers and experts say the upscale hotel on N. High Street, which opened in October 2012, is matching the high hopes that spurred construction of the convention hotel.

“Bidding on the Republican or Democratic national conventions (in 2016) and the NCAA women’s basketball Final Four (for 2017 to 2020) and hosting the NHL All-Star Game in 2015 wouldn’t be possible without the Hilton,” said Brian Ross, CEO of Experience Columbus, the city’s convention and visitors bureau.

About 115,000 additional hotel rooms were occupied in 2013 at area hotels, a 13.8 percent jump from the previous year, said Eric Belfrage, a hotel specialist with the commercial real-estate firm CB Richard Ellis in Columbus.

“It’s very noteworthy when we see that sort of additional supply absorbed as quickly as it was,” he said. “You ordinarily see demand grow 1 to 2 percent a year, and the growth we saw clearly indicates Brian and his team have been doing their job and getting events into the convention center.”

The Hilton also was a boost for the nearby 633-room Hyatt Regency, which had more guests and a higher average room rate in 2013 than the previous year, said Hyatt General Manager Stephen Stewart.

The new hotel “brought in greater numbers of people and drove more attention here,” Stewart said of the Hilton’s effect on all the Downtown hotels.

“From a customer standpoint, it’s appealing to know the community is investing in more accommodations, and this is especially appealing to big groups.”

This is also good news for Downtown businesses, especially those near the convention center.

“Foot traffic from the hotel has been noticeably up,” said Jason Fabian, general manager of Barley’s Brewing Co., about a block from the new hotel. “Sales were up last year. We feel confident that the Hilton played a role.”

Rick Wolfe, executive director of the North Market, expects to see greater traffic for his merchants when the convention center lands more big events in the future.

“Now that we have this full-service hotel, a number of (convention) opportunities that weren’t there before are now on the table,” Wolfe said. “It will be a game-changer in the long run.”

The Hilton’s 194,000 room nights per year had a minimal effect on the overall occupancy rate for the city’s hotels.

The occupancy rate for hotels in metropolitan Columbus was 61.8 percent in 2013, down from 61.9 percent the year before, according to statistics compiled by STR, a hotel-research organization, and Experience Columbus. The occupancy rate for Downtown hotels was 64.5 percent in 2013, down from 66.6 percent the previous year, according to the two organizations.

The average daily room rate for hotels in the metropolitan area was $90.14, up from $85.99 in 2012.

For Downtown hotels, the average nightly rate was $123.71, up from $117.50 in 2012.

“I can’t mention our specific numbers, but they were very good, much better than expected,” said Christian Coffin, general manager of the Hilton Columbus Downtown. “It usually takes 12 to 18 months to ramp up, and we did it in six.”

Coffin has worked at Hilton hotels in Boston, New York City and Philadelphia and said the collaboration here between the hotels, local businesses, Experience Columbus, and city and county officials is “phenomenal.”

“Everything is firing on all cylinders, and there’s so much support,” he said. “And what the mayor and other folks are doing right now to get the Republican or Democratic national conventions here (in 2016) is exciting stuff and would really put us on the map.”

The $160 million Hilton was built with county-backed bonds. The hotel’s portion of the 10 percent bed tax is used to repay these bonds.

“We had a very good first full year,” said John Christie, chairman of the Franklin County Convention Facilities Authority.

“We paid (the required) $10.1 million for the bonds in 2013 and already have a balance of $3.7 million for the next payments,” he said, crediting Coffin and his team for the hotel’s smooth operations and better-than-expected revenues.

The Hyatt Regency’s Stewart declined to give specific occupancy and room rates for his hotel.

“When we compete with other cities, I know what Columbus offers is a large convention center, over a million square feet, and its connectivity with hotels and the Arena District,” he said. “For the community, additional hotel rooms mean additional conventions.”

Bringing in more big meetings is the goal of Experience Columbus.

“In 2011, we had 28 ‘citywide events,’ which is a meeting that booked 750 or more rooms on its peak night,” said Joe Bocherer, the group’s vice president of sales.

There were 33 such meetings in 2013, and Bocherer said the goal of 46 in 2017 is reachable.

Soon, say Bocherer and Ross, it might be time to build another large, full-service convention hotel.

“Our convention center will support at least another 1,000 hotel rooms,” Ross said.

Dispatch Reporter Mary Vanac contributed to this story.



Hilton Columbus Downtown: Artist's evolution of style intriguingJanuary 26, 2014

Hilton Columbus Downtown: Artist's evolution of style intriguing

Hilton Columbus Downtown: Artist's evolution of style intriguing

By Elizabeth Trapp
For The Columbus Dispatch • Sunday January 26, 2014 5:28 AM

Link to article: http://www.dispatch.com/content/stories/life_and_entertainment/2014/01/26/1-evolution-of-style-intriguing.html

The artistic career of 90-year-old Donald Roberts spans 50 years.

The evolution of his style is evident in the dozen paintings and drawings on view in the lobby of the Hilton Columbus Downtown hotel, with additional works at Muse Gallery in German Village.

All are from an exhibition at the Kennedy Museum of Art at Ohio University in Athens, where Roberts taught from the 1950s to the early ’90s. And each graceful painting and drawing demonstrates his lyrical relationship with nature.

Three of the Hilton works, dating from the mid-1960s to the ’70s, aren’t Roberts’ strongest, but they are in step with the reigning style of the time — the hard-edge abstraction of Frank Stella. Clean lines and repetition characterize Aureole — Winter, a pristine painting evocative of computer- generated design. Varying geometric forms are drawn on the canvas, with some aspects of the composition illuminated with flat coats of paint.

Roberts’ later work, from the mid-1980s to the present, replaces the hard-edge abstraction with energy, fluidity and motion — expressed in broad marks.

His charcoal drawings are perhaps the strongest works.

Two of them, Island Sky Garden — Sphagnum and Untitled, capture the simultaneous dance of grace and aggression that Roberts has with the paper or canvas. You can almost feel his arm sweeping around the paper.

Not only are his hard-edge forms replaced with expressive strokes, but all-over, biomorphic forms also encroach on the surface of his work. The strong visual connection to early abstract expressionists Arshile Gorky and Willem de Kooning is especially evident in Roberts’ more recent paintings.

Stone Garden, representative of his smaller paintings, is filled with vibrant veils of color created by the watery gouache medium and other painted pieces collaged to the painting’s surface. This creates a slight sense of three-dimensionality.

The use of expressive contour line, in Hermes carries the graceful qualities of the charcoal drawings into a larger-scale oil painting. Diaphanous forms, which seem to be derived from a botanical source, emerge from the mostly white surface in pockets of yellows and flesh tones.

To make the retrospective fuller, more than a dozen additional works by Roberts — ranging from pocket-size to large-scale paintings — are on display at Muse Gallery. They are shown with more representational paintings of his wife, June Carver Roberts.

The playful dialogue created by husband and wife adds even more spirit to his work.

4-Diamond AAA rating goes to five local hotelsJanuary 21, 2014

4-Diamond AAA rating goes to five local hotels

By Steve Wartenberg
The Columbus Dispatch • Tuesday January 21, 2014 10:11 AM

Link to article: http://www.dispatch.com/content/stories/business/2014/01/21/4-diamond-aaa-rating-goes-to-five-local-hotels.html

In the hotel industry, a Four Diamond rating from AAA is a big deal, even for gleaming new convention hotels.

When officials of the Hilton Columbus Downtown announced it had received the top AAA mark at a recent meeting with the hotel’s staff, “A big cheer went up,” said Julia Hansen, director of sales and marketing for the hotel, which opened in October 2012.

Four other local hotels received the recently announced Four Diamond designation: Embassy Suites Columbus Airport, Hilton Columbus at Easton, Hilton Columbus/Polaris and the Renaissance Columbus Downtown.

“It’s one of the most-important designations and is looked upon by the industry and by consumers as a way to find great hotels,” said Matt MacLaren, CEO of the Ohio Hotel and Lodging Association.

High ratings and high scores on customer-service rankings can lead to more room bookings and additional convention business, Hansen said. She declined to give specific occupancy numbers for the Hilton Columbus Downtown in its first full year of operation but said, “We beat expectations.

“The longer you work in the hotel industry, the more you understand how important this is.” She added that earning four diamonds was one of the hotel’s goals when it opened. “It’s the best-known rating system.”

Fifteen Ohio hotels received four diamonds, while only one — the Inn Walden in Aurora — earned five, the top designation. The Westin Columbus was awarded four diamonds in 2013, but received three in the most-recent rankings.

“This shows we have some great hotels here” (in central Ohio), MacLaren said. “And it shows they’re doing well and are well-managed and are putting money back into their properties.”

There are about 240 hotels in the Columbus area, says Experience Columbus, the city’s convention and visitors bureau.

Two local restaurants received AAA’s Four Diamond rating: the Refectory Restaurant & Bistro and M at Miranova. Ten Ohio restaurants received this rating, while none achieved five diamonds.

To achieve four diamonds, a hotel must “be stylish and refined with upscale attributes,” AAA says. “Guests receive personalized attention from an experienced staff and expensive amenities in a luxurious setting.”

Three of the five local hotels to garner four diamonds fly Hilton flags. The Hilton at Easton has been on the list since 2001.

“It ties in with our brand standards,” Hansen said, adding that the amenities the Hilton Columbus Downtown has include an indoor pool and whirlpool, fitness center, executive suite, in-room dining, restaurant/bar and valet parking.

AAA inspectors make unannounced visits to 1,200 hotels every week.

Several other local hotels offer excellent service and amenities, MacLaren said. “But they don’t have all the amenities required to get four diamonds. A lot of times, it’s because of food and beverage. ... They don’t have a full-service restaurant.”

To make the AAA Four-Diamond grade, a restaurant must “offer a distinctive dining experience, complete with creative chefs, imaginative menus, fresh top-quality ingredients and knowledgeable staff,” AAA says.



Best Residential/Hospitality Project: Hilton Columbus Convention Center HotelNovember 18, 2013

Best Residential/Hospitality Project: Hilton Columbus Convention Center Hotel

By John Gregerson

Link to article: http://midwest.construction.com/midwest_construction_projects/2013/1118-Best-ResidentialHospitality-Project-Hilton-Columbus-Convention-Center-Hotel.asp

Scaling of the 13-story, 532-room Hilton Columbus Convention Center Hotel not only responds to pedestrians but also nearby low-rise vintage structures and taller glass and steel-clad buildings that serve as a backdrop for the hotel.

To mediate among the three, project team members incorporated combinations of glass, stone and masonry into the facade at varying heights and a series of setbacks along major elevations.

A block-long "flying-carpet" glass canopy addresses the challenges inherent in designing an entrance facade along a thoroughfare with a grade increase of more than 6 ft across the 240-ft-long site.

Other configurations maximize efficiencies, with a ring-shaped guest tower sited atop a rectangular three-story podium housing a ballroom, lobby functions and meeting space. A 400-seat restaurant and bar are located on the podium roof, which serves as the base of a 10-story interior atrium framed by guest room wings and capped with a sloping glass ceiling, allowing natural light to flood spaces below.

In a nod to sustainability, team members specified high-efficiency boilers, low-flow fixtures and other systems, targeting a 32% reduction in energy consumption, a 30% reduction in water usage and 7,870 fewer metric tons of CO2 emissions on an annual basis.

In all, 86% of construction waste was recycled and 11% of building material derived from recycled materials. Nearly one-quarter of building materials were sourced within 500 miles of the site, with more than half of the wood certified by the Forest Stewardship Council.

After learning that extended shutdown of a major artery wasn't an option, team members elected to pre-assemble a 138-ton, 105-ft-long pedestrian skybridge linking the hotel and the Greater Columbus Convention Center.

To do so, design and construction teams collaborated to develop alternative schemes that maintained the original design intent, including modifications to welded and bolted connections.

Crews performed hoisting operations over a weekend, limiting a shutdown of the street to only two days.

Key Players

Owner Franklin County Convention Facilities Authority, Columbus, Ohio

GC Turner Construction Co., Columbus, Ohio

Designer HOK, Chicago

Columbus, Ohio: A Destination For CouplesSeptember 14, 2013

Columbus, Ohio: A Destination For Couples Part 3

Published: September 14, 2013
By: Kristen of Mudpies & Tiaras

Link to article: http://www.mudpiesandtiaras.com/columbus-ohio-a-destination-for-couples-part-3/

I worked with a PR agency to facilitate these reviews. I received 2 nights free lodging, a food tour, some free passes and one $25 gift card. Some places reviewed were done so at my own expense. No other compensation was received and as always, all opinions are my own.

This is part 3 in a series about Columbus, Ohio.

Read part 1 here.
Read part 2 here.

A dinner so spectacular it gets it’s own post. While we were in Columbus, we had the opportunity to have a dining experience at the Gallerie Bar & Bistro at the Hilton in downtown. It. Was. Wonderful. From the moment we walked in we loved the atmosphere of the hotel itself.

It was an open concept type of place. With a great view of the night sky. Inside the restaurant it was open as well which gave it a lovely ambiance. The big, open view and sparkly white lights glistening above the tables. We decided to take our servers suggestions on most everything on the menu. I started with a Spinach Salad and my husband tried the Bistro Salad. Both were just exceptional.

Next the chef sent us an Amuse-bouche of seared tuna with an awesome wasabi sauce! Our entrees were even more amazing though. The Gallerie Bar & Bistro proudly buys much of their menu from local farmers! Since this is a big reason to eat there, I ordered the Summer Vegetables and they blew my mind! Each bite was perfectly done and literally bursting with flavor. My husband ordered the servers suggestion of Lamb Loin done to the servers suggestion as well which I believe was Medium Rare.

Did I mention we also got desserts? Oh yes we did! Our server brought us each some hot coffee.

He ordered a Peach dessert that almost too beautiful to eat. It was something like Peach shortbread with sliced peaches and homemade peach ice cream. I ordered the dessert called Chocolate & Peanut Butter. Divine.

This dinner was lovely. I did not even want to leave. But then our server told us that the hotel boasted artwork done by local artists and that if we had time we should explore. So we did. We were amazed at the local talented represented and I had to get a photo of our favorite. At first glance it appears to be a great photograph. But check out the sign beside it.

That is an Oil painting. That blew my mind! Amazing job! Thank you Hilton for the most amazing meal of my life. Next time we want to stay at the Hilton and eat there again.

Ohio: Hilton Columbus DowntownSeptember 13, 2013

A hotel that doubles as an art gallery also strives for artistry on the plate

Published:September 13, 2013
By Karen Shimizu

Link to article: http://www.saveur.com/article/hotels/ohio-hilton-columbus-downtown?src=SOC&dom=fb&l=OrMCe04Lcp0lODlM-Ec-0xYP3E57PzhLEIm6T5--PtAQ6UcyB0FG1G-OujMHOpTJxfQiUme7oEoK6UG1mSR67NPK_LF9_gd6cTgKw3NtIaIlOAo

Since the 1980s, the neighborhood in Columbus known as the short north—14 blocks in downtown Columbus—has been and continues to be a bustling arts district, home to 40 art galleries and dozens of great restaurants. The neighborhood’s biggest gallery—and the only one open 24/7—also happens to be a hotel.

A stay at the Hilton Columbus Downtown, which opened in late 2012, feels very much like what it might be like to sleep over at the Museum of Modern Art. At the heart of the building is a soaring, 15,000-foot tall atrium, and all of the public spaces, and each of the 532 rooms, are appointed with works purchased or commissioned from local artists. Behind the front desk of the Hilton Downtown Columbus there hangs a pointillist composition by Granville, Ohio artist Christian Faur of 30,000 crayons stood on end, the crayons creating a pixel-like effect that adds up to a picture of the Downtown Columbus skyline. The spacious suite where I stayed commanded an amazing view of the city (the hotel is the tallest thing around, so you can see clear to the horizon). Vibrant paintings from local artists hang on the walls, as well as over the beds. (One of the restrooms in our suite had a Thurber print—a dubious homage to one of the city’s most famous native sons.)

The hotel restaurant, Gallarie Bar & Bistro, set in the Atrium, also strives for artistry on the plate. Executive chef Bill Glover (also of Sage, an American fine dining restaurant on nearby High Street), serves hearty bistro-ized new Amerian food: locally sourced Amish chicken stuffed with herb mousseline; scallops in blackberry ketchup; braised veal shank; moules frites. Our favorites were the appetizers–scallops topped with foie gras with red pepper marmalade; bone marrow with a caper-arugula salad and grilled bread—and a hell of a breakfast. And "Eggs Bennie"—poached eggs and shaved ham served over a savory bread pudding of croissants steeped in a sage-infused custard—that I can’t wait to try again when I’m next in town. —Karen Shimizu

ColumbusUnderground.com Restaurant Review: Gallerie Bar & BistroMay 31, 2013

ColumbusUnderground.com Restaurant Review: Gallerie Bar & Bistro

Restaurant Review: Gallerie Bar & Bistro

Published on May 31, 2013
By: Miriam Bowers Abbott

Link to Article: http://www.columbusunderground.com/restaurant-review-gallerie-bar-bistro-ma1

Alright fancypants, let’s check out Gallerie Bar & Bistro. It’s the restaurant inside of the new downtown Hilton.

First, there’s the Gallerie/Gallery part. Throughout the hotel floor that houses the bistro, there are giant, gorgeous murals hanging on the walls. You don’t really see guests chilling out, ogling the art… but it’s worth some eye-time. The colorful masterpieces are scattered all over the place. An art conniseur would have something more intellectual to say about this collection. From a food-person’s perspective, it’s just super pretty.

Then there’s the Bar/Bistro part. It’s a funky hybrid between utilitarian and ritzy. Guests will find containers of sugar packets on the dining tables, and slide-y seats on the dining chairs: those could be the trappings of a down-home diner. Then again, bright white booth seating and asymmetrical vases of flowers on each table say “upscale”. It’s a quirky-cool mix.

The servers are not quirky at all. They’re pure professionals: friendly and polite, but not too chatty.

The menu makes that same bridge between fanciness and comfort. You can sort of see it right from the beginning with the Bistro Salad. If you’ve ever had a wilted lettuce salad, you recognize a concoction with some white trash roots. Wilted lettuce is actually a briny wonder that ties lettuce and hot bacon (and hot bacon grease) together with a simple vinaigrette.

So it’s cool that the Bistro Salad ($8) feels a little reminiscent of that old classic. True, the frissee upon which the hotel’s offering is based is relentlessly perky, but it’s also loaded with lardon (the best menu term ever used for thick-cut bacon: “lard-on”), sweet pickled onions, and a nice vinaigrette. There’s a poached egg too. Simple, yet fab.

For something a little greener, there’s the straight-up Mixed Greens Salad ($7). It’s a combo of mixed greens, almonds and a Dijon vinaigrette.

At lunch, there are sandwich options such as Croque Monsieur ($9). Again, it’s a comforting dish with three layers of thinly cut brioche piled high with ham and topped with a double-rich combo of béchamel and gruyere.

There’s also burgers. The lunch menu actually features two burgers, one is a $22 number: the Rossini Burger. It apparently involves foie gras, morbier cheese and truffle mayo. It could be that an ethical objection to force-fed-goose-liver-pate explains why the Rossini went un-tried. In reality, $22 seemed like an insane price for a burger, even for a lark.

So, for less adventurous pocketbooks, there is the reasonably priced Bistro Burger ($12). It’s got arugula for a fancy lettuce, and more of those pickled onions. At the end of the day, it’s a good burger.

For the fork-and-knife-crowd, Flatiron Steak Au Poive ($18) is a thoroughly pleasant option. It’s a generous, lean cut of tender steak. While it’s not quite the same as a dry-aged number, it’s a good steak. It came with a sauce (“congac veal jus”) and teeny cubes of potato hash, both elements made it more interesting.

You can check out the Gallerie Bar & Bistro at 401 N. High Street inside the Hilton hotel.

More information can be found online at www.hiltoncolumbusdowntown.com.

Photos by Mollie Lyman of www.fornixphotography.com.

Playing to the GallerieMarch 2013

Playing to the Gallerie
Recruiting veteran chef Bill Glover was a smart move for Hilton restaurant

By Shelley Mann
In the March 2013 issue of Columbus Monthly

Link to article: http://www.columbusmonthly.com/March-2013/Playing-to-the-Gallerie/

Ho-hum hotel dining is so expected, it feels rare and special to find a hotelier that entrusts a chef to create a notable restaurant—sometimes at the risk of allowing the restaurant to outshine the hotel itself.

Hilton hotels seem to have a knack for this. In Cincinnati, Todd Kelly’s Orchids at Palm Court is regularly named one of the city’s top spots; celebrity chef John Besh heads up Luke, a well-regarded brasserie inside Hilton’s New Orleans business district hotel. Gallerie, the restaurant inside the chain’s splashy new Downtown Columbus hotel, with a plum location adjacent to the Short North and the Arena District, is on track to do the same.

As with those other hotel restaurant standouts, much of Gallerie’s appeal lies in its chef, Bill Glover, whose face you may recognize from Sage American Bistro, where he still pulls double duty as executive chef.   

Glover seemingly came out of nowhere to wow Columbus with Sage, an intensely personal north-of-Campus restaurant named after his daughter. His imaginative approach to food is refreshing in the sometimes stuffy realm of fine dining, and is a nod to his self-taught background—Glover skipped cooking school to soak up inspiration through travels, and honed his technique at country club gigs.

The heavily tattooed, chatty chef knows how to cook, and also how to have fun—this is the guy who once pulled off a seven-course “monochromatic” wine dinner in which each course stuck to a single color.

With Gallerie, Glover and his team, including Michael Mejia, former general manager at Martini, have established a restaurant that’s just as appealing for out-of-towners hankering for an impressive Ohio-style meal as it is for locals looking for a fancy night on the town.

The restaurant makes its unconventional location an asset, essentially borrowing the hotel’s atrium for its 12-story dining room. A few half-walls carve the dining room into separate sections, and give brightly lit white leather booths the illusion of privacy—despite the fact that windows in every room provide guests a peek at the diners below. In that way, Gallerie is the near opposite of Sage, a cozy, low-lit, brick-walled space.

But at its heart, this new restaurant feels just like Glover’s original spot—