The Wicked Hen Restaurant and Lounge: More than Columbus’s best New Southern restaurant

Bryant Walker, owner and head chef at The Wicked Hen, is a Columbus native whose trek through the culinary world took him to Athens and Colorado before returning home. After ten years at the Green Island Country Club, where he served as head chef of the Terrace Dining Room, Bryant opened The Wicked Hen Restaurant and Lounge, pioneering New Southern cuisine in Columbus.

What goes into the kitchen at The Wicked Hen makes what comes out possible. Bryant’s wide-ranging experience is just as important as the fresh, locally sourced ingredients that go into his innovative culinary creations. Sharing a few starters for lunch might entice diners through Bryant’s “wicked hens lay deviled eggs,” an exciting twist on the southern classic, with smoked salmon, crème cheese and capers. Another favorite are the “deep south duck egg rolls,” a surprising fusion with smoked duck confit, braised turnip greens, and Georgia-grown peach-fig marmalade; it’s an easy decision to order a second round.

For dinner, take another turn through the starters, which we are happy to see again on the evening menu, as a prelude to the main courses. Take a chance on a dish you’ll not find anywhere else in our area with the lamb burger, topped with dill Havarti, pecan smoked bacon, Berta’s buckshot pickles, and served with a side of sweet potato fries. The fries have a sweet and spicy glaze that transforms the southern staple into a side dish beyond reproach. A seven-ounce filet may not seem exciting at first glance, but with shallot-herb compound butter, goat cheese polenta and a side of bacon-wrapped asparagus, we are grateful that Bryant shows off his savvy on every dish. Bryant worked as a sushi chef in Colorado, and those chops are evinced in the sesame seared ahi tuna, with its wasabi-ginger vinaigrette, herb roasted purple potatoes, and another example of the bacon-wrapped asparagus, of which we cannot get enough.

Upstairs we find the other half of Bryant’s vision, a lounge area both intimate enough for date night and ample enough for parties. Ask your server or bartender for wine recommendations and you’ll enjoy an informed tour through a thoughtful list. If you’ve moved to the lounge after your meal—and we suggest that you do—enjoy a digestif or two, mixed by the confident bartenders. When the evening turns cool, enjoy your drinks on the patio overlooking the verdant hill rising toward Dinglewood, where fans pick up the breeze and the southern evening comes into full glory. And whatever else you do, before you set out for home, ask the host about reservations. You’ll be back soon, we’re certain.

 

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Tom Ingram

Tom Ingram is the editor of The Local. He is an English literature graduate of Columbus State University and Columbus native.

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