Posted: June 4, 2016 by Alexis Larsen
The space at 580 Lincoln Park has been home to many restaurant concepts over the years including Pavilion Grille, Lincoln Park Grille, Norton’s, and, most recently, The Tropics, which closed at the end of 2014. Is it the concept of the locations that has doomed the former business that tried to capitalize on proximity to the Fraze Pavilion? Despite being tucked away in the back of an office complex, my guy always went with concept. After enjoying several terrific meals at Park City Club since it opened at the end of last year, I think the location has finally found a recipe for success, and I am more confident in my answer.
The brainchild of chef Dana Downs, owner of Roost Modern Italian restaurant in Dayton’s historic Oregon District, Park City Club is a welcome addition to the dining scene. The 4,300 square foot restaurant features a spacious dining room that seats around 90, a roomy bar area, a private event area and a beautiful patio that looks out to Lincoln Park Civic Commons.
The restaurant boasts a menu of “upscale American cuisine” and minimal decor that is crisp, clean and serene.
Park has definitely its rhythm in the kitchen since opening, putting out innovative, flavorful dishes — some with a wow factor. Although the dishes have grown consistently better since opening, the service does remain uneven.
The ahi tuna ($30) is sophisticated in its simplicity. Two generous pieces of rare tuna are seared and served with a flavorful Japanese rice cake dusted with smoked wild mushrooms and green onion and garnished with orange rind and hijiki aioli. Between the preparation and the plating you know you are eating something special.
The buttermilk-poached fried chicken ($22) served with cornbread over bacon jam with a zesty cabbage, apple and cider vinaigrette slaw is a wonderful comfort food option with an upscale twist.
The bistro steak ($24) topped with soft goat cheese and a mustard lemon vinaigrette served with yukon potatoes roasted in duck fat and a watercress and watermelon radish salad is an example of how well the sides are chosen to compliment the star of the plate, which seems to be the case with all of the dishes I tried.
In three visits over the last two months my dining companions and I didn’t have anything we didn’t truly enjoy and savor. I still prefer the cocktails at Roost, but Park has stolen my heart when it comes to the food.
A burnt carrot salad ($10) was another standout with a rainbow of charred carrots nested together, almost in a carrot fort, topped with fresh avocado, gremolata and a sprinkling of pepitas laced with a balsamic reduction. It’s a great dish for vegetarians on the hunt for something different.
Other standout dishes include crab cakes ($27), blackened salmon ($22), pork loin ($24) and duck à l’Orange crêpes ($26) that were a featured special that became so popular they were added to the regular rotation of menu items.
The soups (cup $4, bowl $6) have been standouts as well both with ingredients and preparation, so be sure to inquire what’s simmering on the stove if you decide to visit.
The appetizers are also delightful, but many are surprisingly messy, most notably the calabrian chile fried chicken wings (5 wings for $9 or 10 for $17) that come with an avocado buttermilk dipping sauce and the baby back ribs ($10). Both seem like odd additions to the rest of the menu, but were very good nonetheless. The ahi tuna sliders ($13) can be paired with one of more than 10 sides, that fall in the $4-$4.50 range, to make a more affordable meal.
The robust wine list has clearly been lovingly curated, there is a modest selection of good craft beer and there are several specialty cocktails worth trying out including a house-made margarita on draft ($8) and a refreshing old fashioned ($10) made with Bulleit rye, maraschino liqueur, Angostura and Peychaud’s bitters and an absinthe rinse on the glass.
Despite a few service issues, I hope that Downs and her team can keep the momentum going and continue to build on the solid foundation they have been able to create. Park has quickly become one of my go-to spots for dinner, and I’m not alone. On two recent Saturday evenings, the place was packed with people at the bar, on the patio and inside the restaurant.
Restaurants come and go, but I’m hoping this one is here to stay.