Looking for the low-down on Understory, the new concept from Wolf’s Ridge Brewing founders? Go no further. Experience Columbus has rounded up the best things about this unique, close-to-nature dining experience!
1. Historic Space
Understory occupies a historic school building called the Open Air School, built in 1927 (yep, it’s nearly 100 years old!). When the founders of popular local brewery Wolf’s Ridge Brewing set out to open a new concept, they knew they wanted to create something that was different from Wolf’s Ridge and unique in the city.
“The history and layout of Open Air is really something you don’t come across very often, especially not for commercial use,” says Bob Szuter, Wolf’s Ridge co-founder. “When we saw the space, we immediately knew it could be something truly special for the community. The proximity to nature was really important to us, as we’ve wanted to create a space to better connect with the natural environment – a place where you can hide away from the busyness of the city.”
Throughout the building, you’ll see well-preserved and charming hallmarks of the building’s former life, from lockers in the hallways to the old cafeteria (now being repurposed as a casual café, complete with an actual window looking over the lager-aging equipment). Murals adorn several walls, and beautiful architectural characteristics can be seen inside and out. The Open Air School’s windows are the most arresting feature of the building – once an educational facility for students at risk of catching tuberculosis, the windows allowed for healthy air circulation. The result today is that natural light is let in at every turn, and some dining spaces have nearly floor-to-ceiling views of the surrounding natural greenery.
2. Walkable Location
The Open Air School can be found in the Old North, a diverse, walkable area. Popular with college students due to its proximity to OSU, the community is also home to a wide range of ages, interests, and lifestyles. And don't forget that the Olentangy Trail is literally in Understory's backyard! Whether you're a trail fan or you just enjoy bird-watching with your drinks, the Understory concept is truly a cozy, unique haven tucked away in the Old North neighborhood. Walk on over if you're local or drive in if you're not - it's definitely worth the stop.
3. Cozy Atmosphere
As soon as you open the door, you’ll be captivated by the serene environment that’s been created in the nooks and crannies of the building. On the first floor, step into Emmett’s Café for bright light, open décor with clean lines, and plenty of plants. Head further back into the first floor and stop in at the Lounge; you’ll find jewel-toned armchairs, warm leather couches, and lots of cozy, creative seating arrangements. Flanking the striking seating options are large windows with views of towering trees and the Olentangy Trail. Upstairs, Understory is finalizing beautiful event spaces with wood floors and sky-high windows, perfect for DIY classes or personal events.
As you stroll through the building, perhaps carrying your food or drink from one space to the next, you’ll pass original, cheerfully-colored lockers set into the walls. No matter your personal experience in school, these reminders of the building’s past life spark a sense of history and nostalgia.
Firecracker Shrimp, a fan favorite menu item at Understory
4. Unique Food & Drink
Calling to mind North Market and Budd Dairy Food Hall, Understory will play host to a variety of interesting food and beverage options. Currently open is Emmett’s Café on the ground floor, the breakfast + brunch + lunch hub’s second location. Also open and unique to Understory is the Lounge, the first of three public spaces that will include the Commons and the Patio. The Lounge currently serves cocktails, wine, beer, and food, and unique plates like celery root, hot cheese pork rinds, ahi tuna, and firecracker shrimp.
5. Proximity to Nature
All it takes is stepping into the building (or out onto the back patio – to say it’s serene is an understatement!) to reframe how close your dinner and drinks can get to nature in central Columbus. Settle into your spot – inside or out – and enjoy the sweeping view of the Olentangy Trail and its trees towering over the patio.
In warm months, you’ll be able to walk off the trail right up into Understory, have a drink and a chat, and stroll right back out to the river. “The space lends itself to so many cool opportunities to engage with nature, which we’re really excited about,” says Szuter.
“When we took another look at Open Air, we saw the potential for something really special that you just couldn't find elsewhere in Columbus. The ability to interact so closely with a special part of the city was really exciting and intriguing.”
Check out Understory for yourself, and keep an eye out for opening dates for the Commons and the Patio!