By REBECCA S. NIEMINEN
Special to The Vindicator
Because I live in Northern Trumbull County, I don’t travel to Columbiana very often. Recently, however, I paid a special visit to this picturesque town to dine at Homestead Kitchen & Cocktails, and wow, was it worth the trip.
Homestead Kitchen & Cocktails boasts so many wonderful and ingenious things: a spacious dining area with modern yet rustic repurposed and recycled decor; an adjacent garden where produce for use in the restaurant is cultivated; biodegradable to-go products; live entertainment on certain days of the week; locally sourced organic farm-to-table ingredients; warm, friendly staff and ownership; and, last but definitely not least, a menu of incredibly delicious, fresh and inventive culinary delights.
Located among the shops at Town Center at the corner of routes 7 and 14, Homestead Kitchen & Cocktails opened about eight months ago then celebrated an official grand opening in November 2018, after the owners made adjustments and additions to the menu.
IF YOU GO
Location: Homestead Kitchen & Cocktails, 163 Town Center Ave., Columbiana
Hours: Closed Mondays; Tuesdays through Saturdays, 11 a.m. to 10 p.m.; Sundays, 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.
More info: 330-892-7333; kitchenandcocktails.com
Husband and wife Dennis and Ann Bullen own the establishment along with their son Jarod Bullen. Dennis and Ann’s son Kyle Bullen, recently deceased, also was an owner.
“This is the first restaurant we’ve owned, but we’ve all had previous experience in the restaurant industry,” Ann said. “We wanted to combine city and country elements in a place where people could get delicious, locally sourced food. We wanted to be able to partner with area farms and create a community connection.”
Along with their chef, Amy Allen, who studied natural food and agriculture at Youngstown State University, the Bullens have hit the bull’s-eye in developing an amazing menu and creating a welcoming atmosphere that beautifully blends elements of urban chic and rural down-home charm.
I began my dining experience with one of the restaurant’s most popular appetizers: sauerkraut balls ($7).
I will admit that sauerkraut has never been one of my top choices, but these tasty little bites of sauerkraut, pork sausage and cream cheese filling with a dollop of spicy sriracha aioli offer a yummy twist on a traditional staple. Even if sauerkraut isn’t your thing, give them a try.
Additional appetizer options include crispy Brussels sprouts, hummus and flatbread, mozzarella burrata, shrimp cocktail, Maine lobster dip and Aukra salmon skewer.
After my appetizer, I was ready for two of Homestead Kitchen’s salads: the roasted beet salad ($11) and the kale Caesar salad ($6).
The roasted beet salad features a colorful spread of golden and ruby beets, toasted hazelnuts, crumbled goat cheese, lemon zest and basil. The tangy beets, creamy goat cheese, crunchy hazelnuts and the delicate zing of lemon and basil combine in an unexpected success of flavors and textures. Give this a try if you’re craving the a salad but want something that deviates from the usual bowl of greens.
The kale Caesar salad is fashioned from kale grown in the restaurant’s very own garden (located in an adjacent lot). Since it’s a cold-weather vegetable, kale can be harvested even during the winter. Drizzled with classic Caesar dressing and sprinkled with Parmesan cheese, croutons and anchovy, this bowl of kale looks pretty, packs powerful nutrition and tastes delicious.
Other salads on the menu include a warm spinach salad and the Homestead salad, which features locally grown lettuce, carrots, red onion, local eggs and Ohio tomatoes.
“We try to buy all of our ingredients local,” Ann emphasized. “Local organic eggs, butter, blueberries, jelly, mushrooms, cheese, beef, lettuce – these are just some of the ingredients we get locally.”
The lemon chicken sandwich ($10), which was the first entree I sampled, consists of Ohio-raised chicken, lemon cilantro aioli, watercress, avocado, peppers in oil and sourdough bread. Yummy and spicy, this sandwich came with a side of homemade, hand-cut French fries that were some of the best I’ve ever tasted.
Other sandwiches on the menu include a salmon BLT, a black bean burger and burgers made from Angus reserve, local grass-fed beef, or organic water buffalo.
The next entree delivered to my table – the coconut curry ($14) – was as beautiful to behold as it was to taste. Garnished with an orchid blossom and a pale, pink, paper-thin slice of watermelon radish, I almost didn’t want to ruin this dish’s aesthetic awesomeness by eating it. However, with one bite I was in love. The dish combines coconut curry broth, slices of chicken breast, tri-color peppers, onion, pea shoots and sticky rice. It’s truly unforgettable and is special to the Bullens because the late Kyle Bullen developed the recipe.
Kyle is fondly remembered and sorely missed.
“Kyle was the biggest player in making [this restaurant] come together,” Jarod explained. “He had a lot of great ideas and was very instrumental in the planning.”
In addition to Kyle’s unforgettable coconut curry entree, the Angus Reserve filet ($28) also deserves acclaim as one of the shining stars on the Homestead Kitchen menu. This 8-ounce, center-cut Angus filet mignon will melt in your mouth, it’s so fantastically tender. Mine was served with two delectable sides – lobster mac and cheese and sauteed Brussels sprouts.
By this time, my tummy was feeling rather full, but I made room for a few bites of mushroom pot pie ($16). Imagine poking your fork into a warm, flaky pie crust packed with a blend of local, wild-grown mushrooms, potato chunks, celery, carrots, parsnips, savory port wine broth and fennel. Adored by vegetarians, this entree is perfect fare for a blustery winter day.
Other dinner entrees include pork chops, sea scallops, cider glazed salmon and herb gravy chicken.
You won’t want to leave Homestead Kitchen & Cocktails without sampling a dessert, and if you enjoy creme brulee, make sure to try the restaurant’s version of this beloved classic ($7). Made from local, organic eggs and cream and topped with whipped cream and blueberries, this was the best creme brulee I have ever had. From the delicately crisp skim of sugary coating on top to the unbelievably sweet and creamy center – ahhh – total bliss!
Other dessert options include maple bourbon pudding, chocolate rum pot de creme, cheesecake and Belgian waffle.
Homestead Kitchen & Cocktails offers seasonal dishes and regular dinner and lunch specials. Fridays and Saturdays feature beer-battered haddock using beer from Birdfish Brewing Co. of Columbiana.
Every Thursday, Friday and Saturday live bands perform at the restaurant.
Homestead Kitchen & Cocktails seats about 165 and has a patio that seats 50 and a party room that will also seat 50. Guests can rent the room for special occasions such as birthday parties and bridal and baby showers.
The restaurant has a kids’ menu with chicken fingers, pizza, mac n’ cheese and grilled cheese, a Sunday brunch and Craft 62 soda products instead of traditional pop.
At the bar, patrons can choose from a fine selection of craft brews and wines. Behind the bar, visitors will notice a wall of live herbs for use in cocktails. This is just one of the many unique details that create a memorable and distinctive dining experience.
Although the restaurant is new, people already have recognized its excellence. In October 2018, Homestead Kitchen won Best Overall Restaurant in the 27th annual Taste of the Valley competition.