Chorizo Queso Dip (top) and Fresh Hot Wings

If your neighborhood is Clintonville, Beechwold or Worthington, put this strip-mall gem in your regular rotation for comfort food and bar bites.

Story by Kristen Schmidt

In the 1920s and ’30s, Pat Murnan, with his loud plaid suits and diamond-studded shirt collars, was one of the most colorful characters in Columbus. His beloved wife, Grace Backenstoe, who ran a brothel Downtown, wasn’t far behind. Together, they lived at Graceland Stock Farm, on land that is today Graceland Shopping Center. It’s easy to imagine a bit of their outsize personalities when you step inside Pat & Gracie’s and gaze upward to the ruby-red glass chandeliers, the old-fashioned brocade-look wallpaper and hulking bar. The owners of this cozy restaurant and bar have managed to infuse a strip mall space with spirit, warmth and a charming story—and the mood extends to the menu, which is heavy on comfort food and bar bites.

This is just the kind of place I crave for a chilly Saturday or Sunday full of football. The food is generous on flavor (especially those game-day staples, cheese and salt). It’s made with thought and care, but it’s not complicated. The fried stuff is fried well so that it satisfies a craving for crunch, but won’t settle like a lead weight in your tummy, threatening your fourth-quarter enthusiasm. And the mood is relaxed, not hyperactive with sports paraphernalia. Pair your Buckeyes playoff game with a tray of Buffalo wings ($9.99), dunked in Frank’s RedHot and butter the way they should be. We’re pretty sure the Chorizo Queso Dip ($10.99) is made with Velveeta, making this a molten-gold guilty pleasure served with a huge pile of tortilla chips and a small dish of salsa.

For something more substantial, try Pat & Gracie’s burgers ($10.25 and up), hand-formed and served with a mountain of hand-cut fries (ours were under-salted, so keep the shaker close by), or a Salmon BLT ($11.99), pairing a thick salmon filet with bacon, lettuce, tomato and Sriracha mayo.

Salmon BLT

The best thing we ate on our visit? A bowl of extraordinarily thoughtful chicken noodle soup. The vegetables and chicken had been cut Goldilocks-perfect, neither too large nor too small. Noodles were fat and chewy. And the broth had rich, almost buttery, body. For once, “homemade” was the right label for something in a restaurant.

The cocktail list isn’t particularly innovative or daring, and the beer list isn’t the longest or most snobbishly curated in Columbus. And that’s great! No one needs to give too much thought to bitters or hunting for ultra-rare taps while trying to watch a good play.

German Villagers and Hilliard-dwellers, Pat & Gracie’s probably won’t become your new dining destination away from home. But for folks lucky enough to live in Clintonville, Beechwold and Worthington, this is a welcome addition to the regular rotation of reliable, friendly neighborhood spots.

PAT & GRACIE’S

138 Graceland Blvd., Beechwold

614-987-5147

patandgracies.com

Hours: 11 a.m.-10:30 p.m. Mon-Thu, Sun, 11 a.m.-11 p.m. Fri-Sat

Reservations: No

Recommended: Soup of the day, Chorizo Queso Dip, Fresh Hot Wings, Chimi Burger

GAME-DAY WINNERS

A few other spots we recommend for good game-watching and food to match:

Gallo’s Tap Room, North Side and Powell

Rockmill Tavern, 503 S. Front St., Brewery District

Westies Gastropub, 940 S. Front St., Brewery District