The Former Clifton Library is Now the Gaslight Bar & Grill, Serving Casual American Comfort Food in a Historic Space

A new neighborhood hang with a rooftop bar

Jan 21, 2019 at 9:27 am
click to enlarge Gaslight Bar & Grill - Photo: Hailey Bollinger
Photo: Hailey Bollinger
Gaslight Bar & Grill

Something new and different has come to my ’hood, and I’m pretty jazzed about it.

Gaslight Clifton has a small business district along Ludlow Avenue anchored by a few establishments that draw not just Cliftonites but also people from other parts of town. These “destination” businesses include the Esquire Theatre, the restaurant Postmark and the music venue Ludlow Garage, which books a wide range of mostly acoustic acts and has a bar and casual restaurant upstairs from the concert hall.

Now the owners of Ludlow Garage, Dave and Claudia Taylor, have renovated a historic building across the street and opened the Gaslight Bar & Grill in the old Clifton branch of the public library. It serves lunch and dinner six days a week, includes an expansive bar with a dozen seats and, when the weather warms, they’ll debut Clifton’s first rooftop patio. 

Whether this corner restaurant becomes another destination or mostly serves folks who live nearby, it’s already attracting enthusiastic crowds, especially in the evenings. As a Cliftonite, I’ve watched the renovations and rooftop buildout happen over the past summer and fall and couldn’t be happier to have the space morph into what I hope will be a good hangout.

Along with Chef/General Manager Kevin Worthington and Chef de Cuisine Manuel Mediodia, the Taylors opened the doors just after Thanksgiving and have seen “steady business,” according to Worthington. “We’re not slammed, which is great,” he added. 

Worthington and Mediodia put together the dinner, lunch and drinks menus toward what I would characterize as straight-ahead American comfort food with a few high-end flourishes. You can get soups, salads and sandwiches in the $5-$13 range or try pricier pasta entrées ($14-$27) or meat/seafood dishes ($18-$32). 

click to enlarge Fried oysters - Photo: Hailey Bollinger
Photo: Hailey Bollinger
Fried oysters

I’ve had both lunch and dinner at Gaslight. While it’s pleasant to have a new lunch option on Ludlow, dinner is Gaslight’s strong suit, along with giving the neighborhood the best bar it’s had over my 20-year time as a resident.   

The corner location provides plenty of natural light from the windows facing busy Ludlow Avenue; grab a window seat if you can, as it’s fun to see who passes by. The bar is at the back of the room and there are a few high-top tables that act as a transition space between seating for meals and stools for bar patrons. I like what the Taylors have done with the woodwork, lighting and other décor, although Worthington said the wall art is still to come.

The customers we saw at dinner included families with children, couples and groups of friends of various genders and ages — a room almost as diverse as Clifton itself.  

As per usual when I go out for a “review” meal, I ask my companions not to duplicate their orders so we can try as many different dishes as possible. We were a table of four and managed to split three appetizers and two desserts, and each of us had a different main course.

Nobody was in the mood to try one of the house cocktails — something I will save for another visit; we instead ordered from a small selection of wine and a larger choice of brews. Our appetizers made it to the table before we had finished the drinks, which was a good thing.  

click to enlarge Duck confit ravioli - Photo: Hailey Bollinger
Photo: Hailey Bollinger
Duck confit ravioli

Two of the three apps met with everyone’s approval: the excellent fried oysters ($11) and what the menu listed as a “beet plate” ($8) — very thinly sliced red and yellow beets with a large-ish serving of mild creamy cheese and balsamic drizzle. A friend said calling it “beet carpaccio” would have been more descriptive, and I agree.

The one appetizer that we didn’t appreciate was bruschetta ($9) with goat cheese, fig jam and prosciutto. The bread was nice and toasty but someone in the kitchen had a heavy hand with the fig jam, which overwhelmed all the other ingredients with a cloying sweetness.

Next came one of those lengthy waits for main courses that seems to happen much too often in my recent dining experiences. When I grumbled about it, my friend said, “That’s the way of the world these days.” As our entrées arrived, a plate of risotto — probably too hot and/or too slippery to handle — went crashing to the floor out of a server’s hands. The staff apologized profusely and chef Mediodia himself brought out the redo, affording the chance for a quick chat with him. He told us about the research he had done about the long history of the building in all its many guises, including the past 60 years as the library branch. The mushroom risotto ($16) was delicious, by the way, creamy as it should be and seasoned with leeks, asparagus and asiago cheese.

click to enlarge Greek spaghetti - Photo: Hailey Bollinger
Photo: Hailey Bollinger
Greek spaghetti

Just as tasty was the Greek spaghetti ($14; $2 upcharge with added bacon), nicely al dente and boasting hearty flavors of tomato, olives, onion and feta. The “chef’s choice” designation on the menu recommended duck confit ravioli, although the $27 price tag was notably high for a pasta dish. Three very large ravioli stuffed with a generous amount of duck meat came enrobed in the richest of brandy cream sauces — over the top, in my opinion. My dining companions and I couldn’t finish it, even when we all pitched in. 

The only disappointment among entrées was the grilled pork tenderloin ($22), which arrived overcooked even though I’d asked for it medium/medium rare, and the meat was drowned in too much vinegary sauce. 

We took a staffer’s advice when choosing dessert: He said the bread pudding ($7) was the bomb. I am usually underwhelmed with most restaurants’ versions, which turn out too thick and bready with no hint of pudding. This one surpassed my expectations by being pleasantly moist. The browned marshmallow topping added another creamy, sweet element.  

Of all the foods we tried, I’d definitely return for the fried oysters and the bread pudding. And because I’m happy to have this place in my neighborhood — I can’t wait for that rooftop bar.

Gaslight Bar & Grill, 351 Ludlow Ave., Clifton, 513-861-3663,