CMH Gourmand

Culinary Discovery & Misadventures in the Ice Cream Capital of the World (Columbus)

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Archive for the ‘bar’ Category

First Bite: Bar 145 (A Dual Review)

Posted by cmh gourmand on January 28, 2014

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I have long wanted to do reviews with more than just my spin on things. Think about Siskel & Ebert or American Idol style restaurant reviews. I always thought more perspectives equate to better information. I finally had my opportunity to try this out when I had a chance encounter with one of my 43 fans. Karl M. dined with me at Bar 145 and I asked him for his view of things and he delivered some fine prose. His review and comments will be in italics and mine will be in bold or regular font. I hope you enjoy this spin on things and if you would like to give this a whirl with me sometime, e-mail me at CMHGourmand@gmail.com


Serendipity — it’s more than just a 2001 movie starring John Cusack. This past December I brought my wife out to German Village for a date during the annual Village Lights Christmas open house. As we walked along the snowy, bustling sidewalks, we came across a booth for Columbus Food Adventures and Columbus Brew Adventures. The name was faintly familiar, so I inquired of the gentleman behind the table.

“Do you happen to know the author of the CMH Gourmand blog?”
“Yes,” he responded, “I’m the author, Jim”.

Serendipity, how you delight me. You see, when I first moved to Columbus in 2008, one of my first priorities was learning more about my new city. Stumbling across the CMH Gourmand website was a true blessing and has inspired many a food adventure. I was excited to meet Jim and to thank him for helping me appreciate the amazing culinary diversity and opportunity here in central Ohio. Having now met him in the flesh, I asked him about meeting for lunch sometime and after a little back and forth we settled on a new gastropub in the Grandview / 5th by Northwest area called Bar 145. It is an honor to be able to share my perspective, however pedestrian, on Jim’s blog.

I’m a details-oriented kind of guy and whenever I go into a restaurant it’s always the little things that catch my eye. Bar 145, set back in the new plaza on 5th Avenue that also houses Romeo’s Pizza and Firehouse Subs, is a very pleasant place to have lunch. The decor is an interesting mix of what I consider to be industrial and modern. There’s a subtle scarlet and gray thing going on too between the color and material choices (dark red and lots of exposed metal). The location features a good-sized bar, a wall full of windows, a sizable patio and even an upstairs loft seating area. With a view into the kitchen and free wifi, there’s plenty to keep you entertained.

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Upon being seated, the servers helpfully explained what exactly a gastropub was (a bar with a menu crafted by a chef), and pointed out a few of the highlights on the one-page food menu. Not being much of a drinker myself, I bypassed the drink menu and focused on the food. Immediately several items caught my eye, including Bavarian pretzel bites (being the good German that I am) and Poutine fries with truffle, duck confit, gravy and cheese curds. Eventually we both ordered the make-your-own burger (a $5 Wednesday special) and a few dishes to share – the pretzel bites, the fries and the bar wings.

My burger, a meat patty with artisan lettuce, goat cheese, mayo, bourbon steak sauce and tomato on a pretzel bun, was good, but didn’t blow me away. Jim and I both agreed that while the condiments stood out, the meat was stoic and was just that — a meat patty. For $5, I’d definitely get it again, but Thurman’s, you still have my heart.

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Both Karl and I liked the build your own burger option and with a checklist to help and the special $5 Wednesday price it was irresistible to us both. One of the options was artisan lettuce which intrigues both of us. Outside the lettuce, we tried to work as a team to sample as many different options on the burger as possible. I opted for this on my burger: beef patty, pretzel bun, artisan lettuce, pickle chips, cucumber relish, spicy bourbon mustard, cheese and chicago style BBQ sauce. I requested the burger 145 style which I would describe as medium raw. Next time, I’ll get the burger medium well. The whole was greater than the sum of the parts with this burger. I liked everything but the hamburger patty itself. It lacked any flavor, it could have been a veggie burger for all I could tell. I kept waiting to see Gordon Ramsey or Robert Irvine burst through the kitchen shouting “you call that a burger, where is the salt and pepper and the bloody flavor man!”

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The warm Bavarian pretzel bites, though good, weren’t what I was expecting. The menu describes them as “Butter Baked Pretzel Roll Bites, garnished with Chopped Bacon & served with Cheddar Chive Sauce.” Once again, Jim and I, clearly both great minds that think alike, commented on the fact that the pretzel bites were more like toast. They were tasty, especially paired with the cheddar chive sauce, but not satisfying if you were excited about pretzels. In addition, the pretzel buns – thick nuggets of soft toast that kind of look like a pretzel – didn’t really taste like one. Admittedly, I did finish them all.

Karl was spot on with the pretzel bites. The sauce was great but I felt that I was the victim of a bait and switch, I could consider the bites to be toasted bits of bread.

The loaded fries were served poutine style — that is, covered with gravy. This was my first experience with gravy and fries and I must say, it was delightful. Similar to the pretzel bites, the fries were good in a surprising sort of way. The menu painted an exotic picture of ducks wading in a stream lined with truffles. Instead, all I tasted were decent fries smothered in gravy. Definitely tasty, but not the destination fries that I was expecting. If anything, it heightened my desire to try other poutine-style fries. Any fry would be hard-pressed to dethrone the current king in my book – the fries at Loops.

In my eyes – the fries were good but again, the bait and switch effect was in. I can’t say I think much of the truffle oil fad/trend so I did not order the fries for that. Therefore, I was pleasantly surprised to find I could not taste any truffle in the fries. The gravy was OK and I’ve never met a cheese curd that I did not consume” but this was probably the weakest poutine I have ever encountered and might make a Montreal native mildly irked.

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The bar wings — now those were fantastic! I’m not much of a bone-in wing guy, more of a BW3 boneless wing special sorta gent. These wings are far and away the best I’ve ever had. The skin was crisp and as you bit in there was a little heat followed by the meat literally falling off the bone. Next time I might just order the wings. They managed to put together a great tasting wing without resorting to smothering it in sauce. If your thing is to find the hottest wings around, these aren’t it. But if you are looking for a tasty bit of chicken wing and don’t mind just a touch of heat, definitely check these out.

While described as wings on the menu, these are really legs (as was pointed out to me by an astute observer of the obvious). These were fabulous and I would say the top three in the deep-fried wing/leg category in our fair city. Four legs (wings) cost $12.00 which is little steep in my book.

In conclusion, Bar 145 is a nice addition to the neighborhood. The only truly noteworthy dish that from my must-have food perspective were the wings. Granted, the menu boasted some potential winners that I didn’t get a chance to try — the apple pie burger, for example, or chicken and waffles. I could see myself returning for the burger special or to sit on the patio when the weather is nice – especially if it’s a chance to hang out with Jim. It’s a good addition to the 5th by Northwest corridor as it continues to experience a recent revitalization.


At the end of our meal Karl and I were pleased with the overall experience but felt we may have missed out on what Bar 145 excels at. After extensive quizzing of our server I decided I needed to return for the Chicken and Waffles, Coffee and Donuts and another order of the wing/legs. My report on trip two is below. But first let me digress by bringing a new term to your attention.

I first encountered the term Gas Bro Pub while engaged in conversation with three of the foremost lady experts in the field of food and beer analysis. I will not name which of the three threw out the term but as soon as I heard it, I thought of Bar 145. When you visit, think of what that term says to you and them let me know if that diagnosis is accurate.


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Now on to my second trip. I sauntered up to the bar and made the order you see listed above. Initially I was concerned about whether I could finish so much food. Fortunately for my girth and constitution the portions sizes were much smaller than I expected.

First, let me begin with my second order of the wing/legs. These were just as good as the first, maybe better because I felt I had a bit more sauce with these. These four legs were damn good. There is shredded carrot slaw underneath which is a bit bland, but when mixed in with any remaining blue cheese dressing from the wing/legs becomes a great dish by itself.

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As for the chicken and waffles. Overall I would say meh. However, there are some real gems in this dish. The side of macaroni with cheese meets expectations but the pairing of tasty bacon with the mac bumps things up a notch from mediocre. The fried chicken part of the chicken and waffles was really good. The chicken was juicy and tender and the breading was perfect. This may have been the best fried chicken I have had in town for a couple of years. The waffles were nothing to blog home about and the syrup tasted cheap and watery. All in all, it would be a good meal at $10 but I felt gouged at $12 for 1 1/2 chicken breasts, 1/2 of a waffle and a small side of mac and cheese.

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Last and somewhat least is the coffee and donuts. I was excited about this offering and had hoped for something to add to the Ohio Donut Trail. The coffee was really good, and that says a lot because I am not much of a coffee drinker. It had an added surprise of what looked and tasted like a giant junior mint floating on top of it. The donuts, would be what I would call fried dough croutons. They were small, hard, yet chewy squares of dough about the size of a 50 cent piece. These were good but overpriced and not what I would consider a donut.

All in all. I like Bar 145 and what they have to offer. I do want to try some more dishes and I’d gladly go back for the wing/legs and the Wednesday $5 build your own burger special. If you are looking for your first Gas Bro Pub experience and want it to be a good one, this is the place to go. At the time of this writing, Bar 145 has been open less than a month so I anticipate that it will improve and refine over time.

Bar 145 on Urbanspoon

Posted in bar, beer, hamburgers, restaurants | Tagged: , | 1 Comment »

Columbus Brewing Company Restaurant – Revisited

Posted by cmh gourmand on December 31, 2013

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It has been over six years since I wrote about Columbus Brewing Company Restaurant. However, It has not been 6 years since I have eaten there or even six weeks. I am also happy to report that not much has changed in six years, and that is a very good thing.

Many people do not know that Columbus Brewing Company and CBC Restaurant have different owners. Eric Bean has been brewer and owner of the Brewery for quite some time now. While the two business share a roof and a name, they are very different entities. The restaurant continues to feature and serve Columbus Brewing Company brews as well as to make the beers active ingredients in some recipes. As the Brewery has continued to expand as a business, the restaurants CBC offerings have contracted a bit. If you are a fan of CBC’s Bohdi (Double IPA) the restaurant is still one of the best places to find this award-winning beer but they also run out fairly frequently. However, there is no need to fear, the restaurant does a fine job of sourcing guest beers into their line-up with a strong focus on local breweries such as Actual Brewing Company.

As for food, Brian Cook is still in the kitchen which is good news for me and some of my favorite dishes. I think CBC Restaurant has some of the best nachos in town and if you are dining with mixed company (vegetarians and carnivores) they do a fine job of deconstructing their nachos to meet everyone’s tastes when needed. The Cuban Burrito with a mix of meats, chips and plantains remains nearly the same as the version I raved about years ago. Another favorite of mine is the beer cheese soup which is typically available in the evening is a perfect starter for a fall or evening meal. Desserts are top notch as well (insider tip: sign up for the restaurant e-mail list for a free dessert of your choice with your next meal). Another dish worth mentioning is the Bye Bye Miss American Pie: a wood-fired pizza with house-made fennel sausage, banana peppers rings, pepperoni and smoked provolone cheese.

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The restaurant recently expanded hours to include Sunday Brunch so there are plenty of opportunities to see the depth of the menu the kitchen can push out. I’m happy to report that six years later that this place has retained everything that made it a great dining spot and if anything, has upped their game.

A final side note, I am slightly addicted to the house smoked chipotle sauce found on the nachos and the burrito. The restaurant partners with CaJohn’s to bottle their sauces so you can take them home with you. So there are two types of bottled products originating under the same roof.

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Posted in bar, beer, pizza, restaurants, Vegetarian Friendly | Tagged: | Leave a Comment »

Swooping into the Coop’s spot at the Hey Hey

Posted by cmh gourmand on August 11, 2013

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The Hey Hey is an iconic dive bar located in Merion Village / German Village. It previously served as host kitchen to Angela Theado of the Coop. The Coop will soon be perched in a new spot in Clintonville so Angie put out a call for another Food Truck chef to fill her spot. Matt Heaggans swooped in to get that spot as the brick and mortar extension of his Swoop Food Truck.

Actually, the official name of Swoop is Swoop Food Group and it is now a combination of a food truck, two food carts and a lot of good culinary ideas. The Swoop truck was birthed in Washington D.C. a few years ago. It was at that time that my relationship with Swoop began. The captain guiding the ship at Swoop is Chef Matt Heaggans. About two years ago, I started e-mailing with him as he was planning his journey back to Columbus. I have come to know Matt and his crew well over the last year. The constant theme in anything Matt does is a desire to do more than expected and do it better. He maintains a high standard for all of the food he prepares from a lowly tater tot to the most haute of cuisines. Matt is a man of many words however, I enjoy him best when he is quiet. Let me clarify that. I have watched him intently crafting a dish in a kitchen with intense concentration and focus. At these moments he is in the zone and it is truly a pleasure to observe. What I enjoy best is watching him silently watch someone who is enjoying what he has created for them. He watches, smiles briefly then moves on. Sometimes the smile is a smirk and other times it is a large grin but it is always from the heart. Matt is happiest when he can see someone enjoy the craft of his labors.

The Hey Hey has a long tradition of serving food. The old standard expected from any chef who calls the kitchen home are the sauerkraut balls. Yak was added to the menu by the Coop and it continues as the signature protein of the Swoop menu. A bit of back story on Yak. The son of the owner of the Hey Hey operates a Yak Farm. The Coop featured a Yak Burger when it was a food truck. That relationship fostered the transition of the Coop to roost in the kitchen of the Hey Hey. Yak was quickly embraced by the very diverse clientage of the Hey Hey and has become so entwined with the Hey Hey experience that it had to remain on the new Swoop menu.

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I am sure that menu may change over time. I am also confident that two of the new menu items will remain as long as Matt is cooking in the Kitchen. The first is a burger that was described by one person I dined with as the “best fucking burger ever”. That was from a man who rarely uses profanity. His wife, who does use profanity frequently, took a different approach. She silently ate much more of the burger than she planned, a lot more. She was impressed too – but speechless about it which is the highest of compliments. The Yak Attack is a double Yak Burger served on a toasted brioche bun (made by Matt Swint formerly of the Per Zoot Food Truck), a special sauce (which I can not reveal) and a garnish of arugula, diced onion and tomato. It may sound exotic but I would say it is the epitome of a classic American burger just with yak instead of beef. It tastes lean. The bun is moist and has a slight crunch but just enough firmness to hold everything in place. It is among the finest burgers I have ever had. Given the opportunity to sample a few more over the course of time, I may even come to call it the best burger ever. I don’t give praise like that away. The Yak Attack is all that but does not need the bag of nuts.

The second menu feature I foresee as an enduring feature is House Pimento Cheese with Toasted Bread. The cheese dip has just enough spicy kick to it to keep your attention. The toasted bread is dense, chewy and filled with plenty of holes to soak up the dip. This is the perfect item to share with friends. Soon you will be interested to find how many other menu items you will find yourself spreading leftover cheese sauce on.

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There are many good reasons to go to the Hey Hey. You can go to enjoy the bar, soak in the history of the place, enjoy one of the wonderful live music performances hosted there, or partake in some exquisite people watching. And now the Hey hey adds in some of the finest bar food or any food for that matter. Check it out Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays evenings.

Hey Hey Bar & Grill on Urbanspoon

Posted in bar, hamburgers, Mobile Food, restaurants | Tagged: | 2 Comments »

QuickSip: Pub Out Back

Posted by cmh gourmand on July 24, 2013

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The Pub Out Back is an unlikely bar in a likely place. If that makes sense. It is tucked into a small space in a small strip of shoppes hidden behind the main drag of Olde Worthington. It is an easy place to miss. That is part of the charm of the place and why it is the pub out back. While Olde Worthington might not seem to be a pub crawl destination of choice, the area offers one of the best areas to do so, in a compressed block. In addition to easy to spot pubs like Old Bag of Nails and PK O’Ryans, the choices out front also call home to the bar at Rivage, House Wine, La Chatelaine and a really good happy hour at the bar of the Worthington Inn. Insiders, like Robert Kramer, of the independent village of Riverlea, know the upsides of the drinking choices of this mini-downtown and for folks like them, the Pub Out back was created.

This small place packs quite a compressed punch. The front bar seats just over a dozen and maybe 16 or so more at five tightly placed tables. Upon entering, you might think you entered the Cheers of Worthington. Everyone does not know your name but they are glad you came. The front bar also features seven large screen TV’s which is what was missing from the other bars of Worthington – lots of large TV’s. Free peanuts in the shell were promptly offered upon arrival. While the pub does not have food service, like many successful bars, the owners forged an alliance with a nearby pizza place to provide quick access to food for eating with beer.

There are 5-6 good drafts on tap and a deep selection of craft microbrews in the bottle to choose from. Hidden in a back corner is a barrel of games to share. While the place is small, it is not as small as I originally thought. In the back bar there are four tables, a few stools and a small table top shuffle board game of some sort. To show community pride a Worthington Cardinals image graces the wall in back. All in all a good bar especially for manly activities of drinking beer with other men interested in sports. I did my initial reconnaissance with The Drinking Duder. His response to our inaugural visit was “yeah, it was not bad.” In Drinking Duder terms, that means it was a good bar. As for me, my loyalties run deep with O’Reilly’s and St. James but since I have my hair cut nearby and I enjoy a bar off the beaten path, I think I may find myself back at the bar again munching on peanuts and cheering the next person to walk through the door.

You will not find the address too helpful in finding the Pub Out Back, but here it is:

679-C High Street, Worthington, Ohio 43085

Their Facebook page will help you: ThePubOutBack

For quick directions. Turn west at the intersection of New England Ave. and High Street. Turn north into the large parking lot. Park your car near the northern fence line and follow that to the second line of shoppes. The Pub Out Back with be tucked at the end waiting for you to visit.

Posted in bar, beer | Leave a Comment »

The Crest Gastropub Makes the Grade

Posted by cmh gourmand on July 13, 2013

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About two months ago, the night before I dined at the Crest Gastropub for the first time, I had a quick meeting with a well-known Clintonville Curmudgeon. We sat at O’Reilly’s as I shared that I had tried to get into the Crest but it was too crowded. To which he said (at least the gist, I was not taking notes), “Yeah, the place is OK, but it does not deserve to bear the name of the Crest.” “That place is just the shell of the building, everything else is different”. I could feel the pangs of nostalgia in his words. Unfortunately I could not share his feelings, I never connected with the Crest in my visits there. It always seemed like a place that could be much more than it was with little effort. I know from oral history there were many high points and a great community within those walls in the decades it was open but I never viewed the place as an asset to the community or I place I would want to go. (Pauses….waiting for the outraged comments to come).

When new owners took over there was a lot of excitement about Gastropub. Advance renderings were shared with the public, there was plenty of information shared about the food, the beer list and the plans to use lots of local, organic goodness throughout. Although some were concerned I was being a hater, I merely disagreed with one aspect of their marketing. I drove by daily watching the progress. After the Gastropub opened I drove by at night to see the place packed. That makes me happy.

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One my first visit, the past and the present intermingled again. As I was finishing my meal a late 50′s chronic alcoholic couple walked into the Crest and joined me at the bar. They admitted they were already drunk and acted accordingly. They both had the emaciated look and smell of deepwoods methheads. The couple was intent on loudly sharing their stories of their 42 years of patronage of the former Crest. They knew one set of past owners, admired the work that has been done on the place, asked how the rehab went as far as dodging around the old Edison era wiring and etc. They generally annoyed the undying shit out of me. The purpose of their trip seemed to be to sniff out the place, get a quick shot (of booze) and offer some suggestions on improving the parking woes. Their rightfully true observation was….this place is not the Crest. No siree. As the Clintonville Curmudgeon had stated the day before, “this is the Crest in name only”. (Please note, I am not typing to typecast former Crest patrons just showing that yes….things have changed). I will also note the staff handled these potential customers and definitely lifetime neighbors very well and professionally. Even though some have commended my own patience, I would have been hard pressed to endure these two professional drinkers for any size tip or any length of time.

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The building was gutted and rumor has it nearly one million dollars was invested in the building to make it something that is absolutely not the old Crest Tavern and very definitely a Gastropub in look, feel, decor and mission. The interior is full of recycled, repurposed and re-imagined items. Other than the exposed bricks in the walls and few critical structural pieces, I doubt much of the former Crest remains. RIP The Crest. All Hail The Crest Gastropub.

The place received a lot of attention in the early weeks. A little too much attention in my opinion. You can’t judge a book by its cover and you can’t critique a new restaurant based on what they can or can’t do in the first week of operation. For a place like this – with all of the pre-opening expectations and the ongoing love affair with the place and space – multiple trips over time were warranted.

Let me run through my observations, my meals and why I believe The Crest Gastropub makes the grade.

The beer and spirits menu is deeply stocked full of local and Ohio craft beverages. In my visits I have counted 15 – 20 at any given time. The beverage list changes…. a lot. That can be frustrating to some and on occasion, I have had my heart set on having one beverage only to find it was gone. However in the world of multiple taps (60 here) – beer than moves fast stays fresh and tastes better. Also, that means the Crest is probably making money, that helps with sustainability. When you have just dropped a giant wad of cash on a business…..sustainable profit is great. You can be idealistic later after you pay the bills. In addition to a host of buckeye brewed beers the menu features local favorites likes Brothers Drake, Middlewest Spirits and Watershed Vodka. You will find a few wines on the list as well. Cheers!

Speaking of the bar, it looks good. It looks inviting, it looks…..expensive. The bar top is copper-topped. The chairs are sturdy and comfortable. There are six 32 inch television screens mounted near the ceiling, so there is enough to support people who want to watch a game but not so many that it feels like a sports bar. To counter balance the TV’s – there are purse hooks strategically mounted at knee level at bar side. Purse hooks are important, all of my female friends tell me so. As for the rest of the decor, the bathrooms look great – small but functional with lots of tile. They (well at least the men’s room) have the look of a 1930′s tavern in the heart of Chicago or London. The inside dining area is a mix of high-backed booths, high topped tables and lower placed four tops. There are plenty of seating styles and arrangement to meet the needs of the solo gourmand, the party of seven or the family of three. All of the spaces are filled with items such as windows from a former school, wood from a barn and so on, creating a place that while just a few months old has a character of an establishment much older. The patio is perpetually filled and covered with plenty of umbrellas for protection from the elements. On the outside there is a bike rack (which seems continually full) to comfort bike enthusiasts and Millennial hipsters alike. So The Crest Gastropub may sound busy to readers and let me assure it is….to the point where the neighbors have grown a bit irked by the lack of easy parking access in front of their homes. The owners have made an effort to be good neighbors to their neighbors by asking guests not to park on certain streets near the business.

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Some of you, maybe several of you, wince at the term gastropub. And according to the traditional definition of a gastropub the Crest….fits the mold. The menu is varied with choices suited from brunch, lunch, dinner or bar snacks. The ingredients are simple. Presentation is upscale. The end result are selections that are very good most of the time. Two items I would like to highlight are the Ohio Cheeseboard (with jams and nuts) and the Brezel Pretzels…with a twist (insert groan).

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The Crest Gastropub makes an effort to source locally as often as practical which is reflected and showcased on some menu items. They do have a roof top garden, as well as a patio and parking lot community garden so they have put their money as well as a lot of soil as well as a parking space or two where their mouth is. Some of those garden greens are starting to make their way onto plates now. More than just a gimmick, the gardens add to the character of the business and the aesthetics of the exterior. Throw in some rain barrels and a ladder that leads to the rooftop garden (not sure how sustainable that aspect is) and they have added quite a bit of green to urban Clintonville.

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The kitchen is on the smaller side but it packs a punch. The menu is reasonable in size but limits choices to one page which is a good idea for any restaurant but especially a tavern with limited cooking capacity. The best and most consistent bets will be the burger selections. The honey-glazed cheese balls (that would be with flash fried goat cheese) are my consistent starter of choice. The only main menu item I have been disappointed in so far was the grilled cheese. The grilledness (my own invented word) of the bread and how the varied ingredients comingle do not quite mix together.

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There are two things I can’t reconcile about the Crest Gastropub. It is really hard not to say….The Crest instead of the proper name of The Crest Gastropub. I am not sure how to resolve that. Three words is too much but just saying The Crest seems to be tempting the ghosts of the bar of the past and hurting the feelings of the Clintonville Curmudgeon. The second aspect of the Crest Gastropub I have a hard time abiding is the serving of most items on wooden cutting boards. It looks kind of cool but it is not practical, is probably a bitch to clean all of those and just too bulky on the tables. I have not been back in a while so maybe those were 86′d. Another note, service has been a bit spotty (especially if you read Yelp) but I would expect that for new staff in a new place and when I had less than ideal service I always felt the server was trying to the best of their ability. Overall a very promising start for a place I think will continue to improve and refine over time.

2855 Indianola Ave
Clintonville
614.261.7128
FB: TheCrestGastropub

The Crest Gastropub on Urbanspoon

Posted in bar, Clintonville, Gastronomic Stimulus, Locally Sourced, restaurants | Tagged: , , | 7 Comments »

Ray Ray’s Chicken Wings

Posted by cmh gourmand on May 7, 2013

There are several questions the people in North Columbus ask about Ray Ray’s.

-Why are they just open on weekends?
-What happened to the original trailer?
-When are they going to open a restaurant?
-When will they make chicken wings again?

I have a hint to some of those questions below:

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The first and third questions are answered next. Starting on or near or at least close to May 11th, Ray Ray’s opens inside Ace of Cups to serve the people more often with more menu items.

Question two – the original trailer is for sale. Hopefully, it will help someone new make great BBQ.

And the fourth question. The chicken wings are back, permanently and with a vengeance. Take a look at the menu below.

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For those of you that have not been to Ace of Cups, long ago it was a bank. The former drive through window has now been converted to a walk up window for wings. The wings are sold by the pound with a choice of three sauces or rubs. And, going somewhat off the grid, the second choice from the fryer are Plantains. The dish is uncommon in Columbus but I think it will pair well with the beers and other libations at Ace of Cups.

The path of many Mobile Food chefs is to go from a menu on wheels to a cuisine under a roof. In the case of James Ray Anderson of Ray’s Ray’s, he has come full circle. Years ago, he honed his craft in restaurants, the last of which was Smackies. In 2009, he moved to a trailer and with a lot of hard work and patience he built a Columbus cult favorite. Now he is blending his two worlds to create one hell of a destination for food, music and beer.

After the lines die down and the menu is fine tuned, I am sure I will write about the wings. In the meantime, post a comment and let people know what you think of them.

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Ray Ray’s Chicken Wings
2619 High St.
Clintonville, OH 43202


Post Script
Astute readers (reading after May 17th 2013, who look at one of the photos will see the word Tostones in one of the menu photos. That name last about one day when Jaime (Ray Ray) was informed that his use of the word was not the same as the traditional use of the word in Latin Culinary culture….so it changed it immediately.

I stopped in to try the wings on day three of operation. I found them to be good, much better than BW-3. The plantains are decent but I would pass of them the next time. I prefer the style that Starliner Diner and Explorer’s Club serve. What might I like to see on this menu to go with the wings? I vote potato chips. For a serving suggestion, I would suggest go with a rub and ask for a sauce on the side, as pictured below. The second photo is of the plantains.

IMG_1994

IMG_1995

Ray Ray's Chicken Wings on Urbanspoon

Posted in bar, BBQ | Tagged: | 3 Comments »

High Beck Corner Tavern (Hi Beck)

Posted by cmh gourmand on February 21, 2013

menu

Before we begin…..let’s have a quick history lesson. The Brewery District has seen the best of the boom times and could have been classified as a ghost town in other eras. Long ago, before prohibition, it really was a Brewery District supporting over 600 bars and Taverns in Columbus and more elsewhere and business was very good. The High Beck opened in 1921, after Prohibition started, during the “meh” era of South High Street. In the early 1990′s to early 2000-aughts, it was the boom times and the Brewery District was THE place to be. Parking was scarce, Victory’s was the premiere meat/meet market to be for the gold chained, polo shirt wearing, pegged jeans and big hair crowd while the pre-dawn of hipsters were hanging out at Hoster’s and the Columbus microbrew world was experiencing the first renaissance that did not persist. At the epicenter of this, at least for many I knew, was the High Beck. (We called it the Hi Beck, as per the sign on the south side of the building). Often crowded beyond comfort, this joint, was the place to go for great local music and good beer. While I saw a few good bands here in the 1990′s, I never really hung out there otherwise and promptly forgot about the place. But then, the area fell out of favor again and many businesses went bust and the district faltered. The area is taking off again, but during the limbo era in between, the High Beck Corner Tavern survived the lean times while Victory’s, BW-3, The Clarmont and others bit it.

Why High Beck? The tavern is at the corner of South High Street and Beck Street, hence the name. Why has the High Beck survived? Regulars can answer that question better than me – and they are much of the answer I am sure, so if the High Beck is, your spot, please post here to enlighten me. The joint still features live music but not as much as in days gone by. As far as how the tavern came back on my radar the answer is easy….pizza. During of the Pizza Gran Prix events I used to do, some wonderful person brought in a SmokeHouse Combo Pizza from the High Beck. The Smokehouse features both the house made Texas BBQ brisket and hickory smoked pulled pork on top, house made BBQ sauce at the base with some mozzarella mixed in so it can be called a pizza and not a sandwich. This was easily one of my favorite speciality pizzas and more importantly, it ages well for next day consumption. However, I always had the pizza to go and never experienced it in house. It has taken me years to get back to the High Beck and the pizza got me through the doors. However, this delay on my part still lacks any rational reason. On Mondays, the tavern offers FREE pizza from 4 pm and after. On Tuesdays….FREE coneys….and yet, contrary to all things that define me….I never made it there for free food.

Tiny

The BBQ itself is worthy of mention. The house made sauce can be found in squirt bottles on the tables. The menu tells us that the house BBQ is created by Tiny. Tiny’s BBQ was perfected over 15 years in the south now to find itself in the land that spawned the war of Northern Aggression piled on top of an Italian Pizza Pie. This may seem like an odd twist of fate yet I have no complaints. I know many people (mostly of the female persuasion), that hate BBQ pizza as an abomination to the purity of the pizza concept. I do not. There are many foods I would add BBQ to if social constructs were more forgiving, but I usually know how far to push things. Well, sometimes I do, maybe not for food. Tiny, keep making BBQ and find more stuff to pile it onto.

fries

But if BBQ is not your thing, the High Beck has some belly busting chili cheese fries that will balance out two or three beers with no effort at all. Or, maybe you would like to try out their make your own bloody Mary Bar? Finally maybe food means nothing to you (so why are you reading this?) if that is the case you will find a good selection of beers, ping-pong, foosball, darts and a pool table to pass the time and wonder why you keep thinking about getting a BBQ sandwich.

The High Beck Corner Tavern
564 S. High St
Brewery Distrct
614.224.0886

art

High Beck Tavern on Urbanspoon

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Quickbyte: Be it Pi or Meister’s Bar, this Pizza is Pleasing

Posted by cmh gourmand on January 30, 2013

pizza pizza

Pizza has been on my mind for a couple of decades now but deeply calling to my senses for the last year. I have thought long on this. My favorite pizza is……Adriaticos. I can say there may be others that are the result of better ingredients, finer craftmanship or better pedigree, but Adriatico’s is the pizza that I crave. Pizza is the penultimate comfort food and to me that means that factoring out all other elements – a serving will deliver unto you….peace of mind and satisfy your desire without compromise.

There are several other pizzas I place highly as well: Bono, Rossi, Harvest, Hounddogs…..but the pie pictured above has been tempting me to name it as my alternate favorite comfort food pizza. The place, is under the radar. It might even be off the grid. Buried in the back of a bar, that is tucked into a corner of town that does not really have an identity there is a small kitchen the size of tool shed that crafts pizza that is unlike any other in Columbus.

Some may refer to the pizza as Chicago Style…. In the spirit of Windy City Pie – I say Aye. To the letter of the definition and practice of the style I would say….closer to nay. We could debate this to the end of time but I would choose not to because it would limit my time to eat this pizza.

I have been stalking this place for almost year and have yet to experience anything that would lead me to find fault with this creation. It is both simple and complex at the same time. It pleases the eye and the palette. The aroma is alluring. Options include pizza, deep dish pizza, cheese breads and subs. Simple menu, complex flavors. I have sampled the deep dish most often. The addictive qualities it triggers in me should be monitored by food scientists and people more learned than I. If there is a pizza Rehab I won’t go, go, go.

pizza

The deep dish approach works in reverse order to the typical laying of pizza. Bread – followed by cheese, then toppings, then sauce. Lots of sauce – usually a half-inch or so. This sweet and spicy tomato mash is infused with strong dumpings, not dashes, of herbs and spices. The crust end, or butt, or ring, whatever you might call it is crisp on the outside, chewy on the inside and about three inches high. The crust at the base is shy of an inch. I struggle to complete three slices. I said…I STRUGGLE TO COMPLETE THREE SLICES. Has anyone ever seen me fail to consume pizza with reckless abandon? Never. This is not such a bad thing, because the great hidden quality of this pie is that it ages well. Three hours from serving, it is even better. The next day, even better than that. The cheese and sauce solidify and the crust holds it’s own against the metamorphosis. Any good pie, in my eyes, should be good the next day. This pizza is better. That is a rare.

If I was to engage in optimal strategy I would order two pizzas and a small side of extra sauce. I would choose one pizza for instant gratification. I would eat a slice or two at Meister’s Bar while it cooled. Then I would drive them home, to eat a slice or two more in the comfort and safety of my home. I might share some with my trusted inner circle or like Gollum, I might guard my precious pie, watching for someone who might……. (sorry, a bit of a decompensation there). I would dip some of the crust rings in the extra sauce until I passed out. The next morning, I would consume what was left with renewed vigor.

The advantage of day two is that the pizza had congealed so that is can be eaten by the slice by hand instead of having to cut it with fork and knife while it is still hot. Gratification is instant instead of delayed by civilized use of dining utensils.

Where can you find my this precious….pizza pie? It is located at a place that some call Pi, in the back of Meister’s Bar. The bar is a suitable place for dining, if it comes to that. The beer selection is good and the patrons are quite accustomed to people staring longingly at their pizzas.

Pi
Meister’s Bar
1168 Chambers Rd
(Near Kenny Road, Near the 5XNW, Near Bono Pizza, Near Sparano’s Pizza, Near perfect)
614.427.3141

Meister's Bar on Urbanspoon

Posted in bar, pizza | 2 Comments »

Ace of Cups: An Arsenal for Awesomeness!

Posted by cmh gourmand on November 14, 2012


There is a lot of history at Ace of Cups. Some of it and the back story of Ray Ray’s moving to the spot were detailed earlier in the year – here. Consider that the prelude.

The Ace of Cups is located at 2619 North High Street in a building that housed a bank for decades and then a series of very lame bars including The Counterfeit Heist (really – what were you kids thinking) and Miani’s (again – what were you thinking, who was going to go to a bar that they would be hard pressed to pronounce or know if it meant anything drunk or sober). The space bolstered a bar scene of mediocrity serving college kids and folks training for El Dorado’s and Zuey’s. The area was helped by the arrival of Late Night Slice a few years ago to give people cheap pizza and slut sauce but that was not enough. What Old(e) North Columbus needed was a bar with character.

Marcy Mays has a lot of character. To those that follow(ed) the 1980′s music scene of Columbus Marcy Mays is well-known as one of the members of Scrawl. Before Liz Lessner launched the empire that was Betty’s Family of Restaurants which is now the mighty Columbus Food League, Marcy was a partial investor in the first incantation of Surly Girl in the early 2000 – oughts. Marcy has a passion for music and bars and food and then more music so for our benefits she has invested those passions, and her heart, soul and retirement income into Ace of Cups. Although continuing to work a day job she, like many super heroines, has an alter ego as the proprietress, chief glass washer and booker of really good but somewhat obscure bands at Ace of Cups. She is assisted by an able body of local bar talent including the muse of G.A. Benton. The bar would best be described as eclectic hence the need for a ping-pong table in the middle of the floor. The place has the essence of what you would want a bar to have when you were in college with the addition of what you wanted a bar to have after college with a small dash of what you need to feel like you are not an old person hanging out in a bar. The whole works. The parts work. And it all comes together. The bar menu includes a strong beer selection, well mixed cocktails, homemade lemonade and vodka infusions. There is small in-house menu of simple snacks and nachos.

Adding to the electic mix mentioned above is Ray Ray’s. I will not wax on about Ray Ray’s because I have numerous times before. If there was ever a place that Ray Ray’s was made for, it is the patio of Ace of Cups. The pairing is like the marriage of friends that you know will last forever and you are a bit jealous of. Another perfect fit for the bar is Rogue Bakery. I am surprised that the goddess Demeter has not struck me down for failing to mention Rogue Bakery. I know the owner. I have tweeted about him, Foodcasted about him and eaten at least one hundred of his cookies in my lifetime. He once totaled his car shortly after delivering cookies to me. I owe him. But the most important thing I can say about Rogue Bakery is that Carl crafts the finest cookies with the best labels that money could buy. So here is the thing. THE THING! Ace of Cups has an exclusive Rogue Bakery Cookie. The only place, in the world, where one can obtain this special (and very good) cookie for consumption is at Ace of Cups. Quick reminder inserted here. Ace of Cups is a bar…..that has the best cookie in town. And the best BBQ. And really good beer. And character. The only thing the place is lacking….the absence of a vintage Galaga Machine and a barmaid that has a soft spot for me who slips me a free cookie with my beer on occasion. But who am I to want perfection when I am given pure awesomeness.

A few side notes on some other notable features: house made vodka inclusions, a comfortable couch and better bathrooms than one would expect.

Posted in bar, BBQ, beer, desserts | Tagged: , , | 1 Comment »

Quick Byte: Iron Grill BBQ & Brew

Posted by cmh gourmand on October 2, 2012

In the past, I mentioned the nachos at Pig Iron as potentially the best in they city. However, a potential problem came up. The place was sold earlier in 2012. I was wary of the outcome. BBQ places typically don’t fare well during transitions. Pits are a labor of love not something to be acquired in a business transaction. So I kept my distance, skeptical of anymore BBQ bliss coming from the new Iron Grill BBQ & Brew. I mean, they dropped pig from the name, what was I supposed to think?

However, doing a little research, I found out who bought the old watering hole down the road. Eugene Staravecka had done the same to Gahanna Grill about 8 years ago and at the time I had my fears about that too. My reservations were unfounded. Eugene fixed what needed to be taken care of – bathrooms, bar and patio and tinkered very little with the menu. He kept the character and cleaned up the rest. The Beanie Burger was still great and life moved on at Gahanna Grill without the slightest of speedbumps.

So what happened to Pig Iron? The Pig was dropped from the name. The Pink truck was moved to the back parking lot, the place has a new bar, booths, carpet and a patio upgrade. The key change is the tap selection increased to twenty from six – hence the addition of the word brew to the name. What else did Mr. Staravecka add to the bar? Rachel from Villa Nova down the street has come on board as bartender in chief bringing a crowd of regulars with her. Her back story is that she helped open Pig Iron years ago. When I was at the bar he added another great addition to my evening – a free shot.

The core menu remains the same but as penance for taking (some of) the Pig out of Pig Iron, the new owner added the best of Gahanna Grill – the burgers. This had me intrigued – could I still have my favorite nachos and yet add one of my top five burgers at the same place….but with better beer? The answer awaits below.

The verdict: The beer selection is great. The nachos, almost as good as I remember and they are still a great value at happy hour pricing. There seems to be something missing from the nacho mix that I can not place and the salsa is not quite as good as Pig Iron – but these are 95% as good as those I recall from days of yon. The Beanie Burger is good, but it lacks the extra je ne sais grease that comes from the decades of Beanie busting out burgers in the back of the original Gahanna grill.

In summary the BBQ place that had some beer is now the bar that has some BBQ and Burgers. That is an outcome I can live with.

Iron Grill BBQ & Brew
5295 North High Street
(The hinterlands between Clintonville and Riverlea)
614.885.4744
website

Iron Grill Brew & BBQ on Urbanspoon

Posted in bar, BBQ, beer, Clintonville, hamburgers | Tagged: | Leave a Comment »

 
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