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  • Layciff's Tavern on North Clinton Street.

  • The Original Grinder and a cup of chicken noodle soup at Laycoff's Tavern on North Clinton Street.

  • Breaded musrhooms at Laycoff's Tavern on North Clinton Street.

  • Cross-section of one of the breaded cheeseburgers at Laycoff's Tavern on North Clinton Street.

  • Beef vegetable soup at Laycoff's Tavern on North Clinton Street.

  • Breaded cheeseburger at Laycoff's Tavern on North Clinton Street.

  • Garlic Cheese Bread at Laycoff's Tavern on North Clinton Street.

  • One of the legendary sausage rolls at Laycoff's Tavern on North Clinton Street.

  • The old-school bar side at Laycoff's Tavern on North Clinton Street.

  • Pepperoni roll at Laycoff's Tavern on North Clinton Street.

  • The snazzier family room is one of the great new features at Laycoff's Tavern on North Clinton Street.

  • Pork tenderloin sandwich at Laycoff's Tavern on North Clinton Street.

  • Grilled chicken chef salad at Laycoff's Tavern on North Clinton Street.

  • One of the nifty college-themed, Tiffany-style lamps that hang over tables at Laycoff's Tavern on North Clinton Street.

Sunday, April 23, 2017 1:00 am

Building upgrades pair well with great food

RYAN DUVALL | The Journal Gazette

Laycoff's

****

Out of a possible five

$$

It's what never changes about Laycoff's Tavern that makes it so good.

Regulars go there for the sausage rolls – which I think are the best in town – the pizza and, more importantly, the throwback bar setting and attitude, which makes it just the kind of place your dad loved.

But this city staple, on North Clinton Street just before the Coldwater Road split, went through big changes recently. The outside was overhauled thanks to a city facade grant, and the inside – especially the family room – followed suit.

So that old favorite is kind of new again, and that has only made it better.

By far, Laycoff's greatest assets are those sausage rolls. They are big, for starters, and always stuffed with the perfect ratio of finely ground, zesty sausage, cheese and tangy pizza sauce. The crust encapsulating it shines from a deft brushing of garlic butter that not only gives it its sheen, it adds a little extra flavor that most of Laycoff's rivals don't have. And don't forget some of the house barbecue sauce to dip it in. It's not complete without it.

From the traditional to pepperoni rolls to vegetarian rolls to even Mexican rolls, they are all great. I was a little miffed that the deep-fried rolls weren't offered on a recent Friday, but that was simply because the fryers were too busy cooking fish.

I wouldn't want my sausage roll tasting like fish and neither would the owners, so they eighty-sixed them that day. The restaurant is looking to expand its fryer count soon, so those little deep fried rolls, which you really must try if you have never had one, will be available all the time.

It probably makes sense given the quality of the rolls that Laycoff's makes good pizza, too. The crust was thin, crispy and so sturdy the slices almost stand straight when I held them from the edge. The sauce is tasty and there was no shortage of toppings on mine.

The garlic cheese bread, however, was anything but sturdy. It was not toasted enough and sort of soggy. I would pass on it next time.

The other appetizers were kind of lackluster, too. The cheese sticks were fine but nothing special, and the fried mushrooms had a sort of chewy breading and were pretty small. The soups were the appetizer stars and I would get a cup pretty much every time I visited.

The beef vegetable was straightforward with carrots, celery, onions, potatoes, corn and green beans. It had big, almost steak-like pieces of beef roast that were very tender and boosted the broth nicely.

The chicken noodle soup was also excellent with a well-seasoned, peppery kick to its broth and long, wide egg noodles swimming in that broth with nicely stewed chicken, celery, carrots and onions. Just what I expect from a chicken noodle soup.

The cheeseburger at Laycoff's was just OK, but the breaded burger was anything but. I was able to get one on the fish Friday and it did not taste like fish, which made me happy.

The one-third-pound patty was coated in a peppery breading that held in all of the juices of the beef, which was well seasoned with the same blend of spices used in the breading. With a slice of American cheese melted on top, I struggled to finish it – adding breading to an already big burger can be daunting – but enjoyed every bite.

The pork tenderloin sandwich was also worthy of praise thanks to that spot-on breading. The loin was not too thin so the sandwich was toothsome, and I would not hesitate to recommend it to lovers of the Hoosier staple.

I might not recommend the Chicken Chef Salad. It wasn't all that bad, it just wasn't all that good, either. The grilled chicken was nicely charred and juicy, and it had a whole sliced boiled egg, which was nice. But the iceberg greens were rather bland and with just onions, a few tomatoes and shredded cheese, it was begging for more ingredients.

Given pizzas can be topped with black and green olives, green and red peppers, mushrooms and even broccoli, it would not have been hard to improve upon.

My Original Grinder needed some improvement, too. It had all of the makings of a great grinder with plenty of cheese, a nicely toasted roll and just the right amount of Italian dressing, onions and peppers to give it some flavor punch, but it was missing pepperoni. Its ham and salami was OK and it was a decent sandwich. However, it would have been a great one if it had the added bite from the pepperoni.

The family room at Laycoff's was sort of an afterthought before the remodel. But now there are flat-screen TVs embedded into the cool, old barn-style wood-covered walls, and the Tiffany-style college lamps – which every fan would love to have – still hang over the tables. Not only is it not an afterthought, it was bustling even more than the classic bar side during my recent visits.

The service was perfect at Laycoff's just like it always has been. That, the much improved decor and, of course, those sausage rolls leave little not to love about the place.

Restaurant: Laycoff's Tavern

Address: 3530 N. Clinton St.

Phone: 482-1122

Hours: 11 a.m. to midnight Monday through Saturday

Cuisine: American

Handicapped accessible: Yes

Alcohol: Full bar

Credit cards: Yes

Kid-friendly: Yes

Menu: Soup ($2.49 cup; $3.99 bowl), garlic cheese bread ($3.99), breaded mushrooms ($5.49), sausage roll ($7.79), pizza (one topping $13.49 for 16-inch; $9.49 for 12-inch; $6.29 for 7-inch; two toppings $14.99, $10.49, $7.49; three toppings $15.99, $11.49, $7.79), Original Grinder ($8.79 for 12-inch; $5.39 for 6-inch) breaded cheeseburger ($5.49), tenderloin ($5.99), Chicken Chef Salad ($7.49)

Rating breakdown: Food: ** (3-star maximum); atmosphere: * (1 maximum), service: * (1 maximum)

Note: Restaurants are categorized by price range: $ (less than $20 for three-course meal), $$ ($20-$29); $$$ ($30-$39), $$$$ ($40-$49), $$$$$ ($50 and up).

Ryan DuVall is a restaurant critic for The Journal Gazette. This review is based on two unannounced visits. The Journal Gazette pays for all meals. Email at rduvall@jg.net; call at 461-8130. Past reviews at www.journalgazette.net. You can follow him on Twitter @DiningOutDuVall.