A heaping portion of Mystery Meat à la carte, a splash of Special Sauce atop a bed of — is that lettuce? Rice? Such is the menu — an eerily tasty blur of mysterious mediocrity — at myriad campus operations. But never fear: If you care about what you’re ingesting, a number of nearby off-campus venues serve up fresh, farm-to-table fare. One such venue? The Table.

Driven by the mantra “Fork responsibly,” a commitment to local and environmentally conscious sourcing, this surprising and simple Short North venue serves up high quality food in an intimate, refreshing environment. Situated at 21 E. Fifth Ave., it’s just a quick bus ride down High Street.  

Framed by high ceilings and a vast wall of windows, the dimly lit interior is spacious, yet peppered with careful details: a candle here, a wine bottle-turned-vase there. The open kitchen adds a relaxed, cozy dimension — a rustic simplicity. Environmental consciousness extends beyond food sourcing decisions, with its china and wood paneling either recycled or repurposed.

Now to the food. To tide us over, we ordered a basket of house-made bread, generously packed with ciabatta, baguette and whole grain slices. Was it the subtle notes of salt, occasional nuttiness, or all-around-freshness that transformed me, quite literally, into a human vacuum? Along with the bread, we ordered the charcuterie plate, which, with various mix-and-match cheese and house–cured meat options, could easily add up (we, for example, ordered three selections for $15). 

The plate’s presentation made me again transform, albeit briefly, from human vacuum into Iggy Azalea (that fancy). The garnishes — a dash of Dijon mustard, a brush of mixed-berry jam, a peculiar chunk of red-pepper-pineapple jelly — were not just garnishes; they added dimension to the dish, a diversity of flavor that bolstered the scrumptious yet mild Gouda and roast beef. 

At first, the menu seems small — not quite the 252-page food-rotica novel of, say, Bob Evans. But what it lacks in quantity is more than made up for in quality and inventiveness, appealing to a variety of tastes and preferences. Zesty and intriguing plates like “Thai Mussels” ($15) and “Squash Ribbons” ($8) sit alongside a host of entree options: some as simple as “Chicken” ($20), others more culturally inclined like the Indian inspired “Curried Chickpeas” ($17).

The main course came out in the nick of time, just as my bread-to-blood ratio was reaching dangerous highs. I ordered the “Squash Fondue” ($18): sherry-sage Brie atop quinoa and wild mushrooms, all served within a roasted acorn squash. Though not quite in line with my very-American expectations (think chocolate-fountain), the dish was rich but not too rich — flavorful and dynamic. The squash was sweet and mild, if not a little undercooked, but generally satisfying. 

With all this in mind, I was impressed by The Table. A degree of transparency and care with respect to ingredients — an artful attention to process, presentation and flavor — worked in confluence with an authentic atmosphere for a satisfying experience. Small, subtle additions likewise added an element of surprise (Did I ask for pickled okra with my cheese? No. Did I enjoy it? You bet I did). 

Intrigued? The Table offers brunch and lunch from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays and dinner from 4-10 p.m. on Tuesday through Thursday and Sunday, with dinner hours extended to 11 p.m. on Friday.