K2U 641 North High Street 461-4766

Kent Rigsby's K2U Bar and Grill has come a long way since first opening six years ago. With a larger dining area, a more extensive menu, and improved service, it's no wonder the place is busier than ever. There is even live jazz music on Mondays.

A mural painted by Rigsby's father featuring the likenesses of famous musicians, actors and historical notables encompasses the room.

I remember some of the mainstays of K2U's menu from its inception almost six years ago. The menu changes quarterly to accommodate seasonal ingredients and eating habits. The calamari fritti with chipotle (smoked jalepeno) mayonnaise is tender and lightly breaded, and the Cajun gumbo is hearty with a good melding of flavors.

The lunch and dinner menus are very similar, with the exception of daily and nightly specials. Interesting new additions are the Greek items: dolmathes with tzatziki (rice stuffed grape leaves served with cucumber garlic yogurt), roasted lamb gyro, moussaka (traditional Greek casserole with eggplant, beef and lamb) and Vaso's Minerva Burger with feta and cucumber-garlic yogurt.

K2U offers an interesting selection of Italian dishes and pasta; some reflect a more traditional preparation than others. The pasta e fagioli, a staple bean and pasta soup, is savory and uncomplicated, flavored subtly with rosemary. Ditto the penne al'arrabbiata, another simple but delicious vegetarian pasta.

More extravagant departures from traditional Italian recipes include capellini natasha; angel hair pasta with smoked salmon, red onions and capers in pepper vodka cream. Its been on the menu forever and everyone is glad. Another successful twist on starch is the risotto with mushrooms and black forest ham.

Nightly specials usually include a soup du jour, pasta, a seafood offering and some kind of lean meat. I would heartily recommend sampling the specials. My choices hit the jackpot. First, the potato leek soup, a puree, was delicate, not too thick and not too salty (common soup ailments). The house salad with Roquefort passed my multiple-green prerequisite, with radicchio to boot.

My partner-in-dine and I both ordered specials. He, the grilled pork tenderloin with potato cakes and tomato garlic sauce. I, the pan seared sea bass with roasted garlic and sundried tomatoes, a thick fillet with a moist crispy texture. My friend's tenderloin was generous and not dry. Accouterments of fresh, dense bread and a substantial portion of tender-crisp zucchini rendered our verdict: well rounded.

Although we were too stuffed to have dessert, our waitress was kind enough to offer us a wonderful chocolate sauce that's served warm over the Java cake. Served with coffee ice cream, this cake has been the mainstay of the dessert menu for as long as K2U's been open. I believe it is offered at Rigsby's as well. Also available are pumpkin cheesecake, some ice cream selections and a chocolate flourless torte.

It is worth mention that K2U also has a great bar. The high-ceilinged, post-mod utilitarian look belies an intimacy that the narrow room takes on when packed with people. A great selection of single malt scotches, top-shelf bourbons and cordials, such as chartreuse and honey liqueur, are available. Also the wine list is good and seasonal, with affordable offerings from domestic and European grapes, and even two varieties of port.

K2U's presence in the neighborhood adds another dimension to the world of Short North hangout spots. Definitely not your typical bar and grille. - Nancy Patzer

Lunch and Dinner 11:30 am-12:00 midnight Monday-Friday; Saturday 5:00 pm - 12:00 midnight.

Liz James