CMH Gourmand

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

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Archive for the ‘restaurants’ Category

The Zen State – Brunch: Purple Chopstix; Athens, Ohio

Posted by cmh gourmand on April 4, 2014

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Over the last few years, I may have gotten a bit cocky about my knowledge about eating in Athens – my North American Home away from Home. In fact, as you will read in a later post, I developed a very happy rut of a cycle of places that I visit over and over again. Until one day when Dr. Balbo, Medicine Woman mentioned “why didn’t you go to Purple Chopstix?” “Purple what the who?” Apparently it is the Bees Knees of downscale hippy dining in the locavore mecca of Athens. Not only had I never eaten there, I had never heard of it. On my recent Bachelor Sabbatical to Athens, I was determined to try out the place. Unfortunately, I started my journey of discovery in a non Zen like state. Purple Chopstix Sunday hours on their website indicated that were open to 1 p.m. and I was running late in picking up my companion for the trip, the vice president of marketing and creative endeavours for Ohio Pop. In theory, we did not have time to make it before closing, but I was focused on meeting my need to dine at this place. Thank goodness for the Nelsonville Bypass, light traffic and good weather because we made it a few minutes before 1 pm. I was happy to see that the proprietors had hand written on to the hours sign closed….1:30 pm which allowed me to not feel like a complete douchbag for coming just before the door shut.

Upon arrival, my companion was a bit skeptical about my choice of dining establishment for first lunch. He was very hungry to the point of pre-crankiness and by nature he is very focused on the appearances of things and design. The exterior of the place would best be described as unassuming. While I am a variant of hippy my companion is anything but and I think he experienced minor discomfort when we saw the sign below.

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So of course I banged the gong. We waited quite some times and the gong was not responded to so I barged into the room and asked the most hippy looking person if it was OK to seat ourselves. It turned out that person was a customer but a very pleasant young lady then took care of us and gave us her favorite table for two. You can see the table below, the booth we sat in reminded us of an old train car dining station. I am happy to report I could fit in. Looking out the window I saw a peaceful, babbling brook, many trees, some interpretive art and an odd assortment of eclectic items decorating the landscape including numerous block pavers (expect a post about that in Bricks of Ohio Blog soon). I knew the second I sat down I had found my new spot.

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However, Purple Chopstix only offers a buffet on Sundays and we were arriving at the end of service. Some of the dishes were already wiped out and the rest looked unassuming at best. I was concerned that my dining companion would be displeased but to the contrary after we loaded up on our first plate he was completely in a blissful state I rarely see him in unless we are both intoxicated. The first item he sampled was a mini crepe which was exquisitely well executed. My first bite was a curry dish with vegetables and tofu. We quickly devoured our first round of breakfast items, salads and biscuits and returned for more. While my dining companion enjoyed coffee, I went out the patio area to explore and check out the landscape. I was pleased to see there were a few patio tables for use in better weather. I was pleased indeed.

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I’d write more about the food but our friendly server shared that the buffet is different every week. We stared at the regular menu long and hard then made a verbal pact to come back in the future for three days in a row so we could explore the dinner menu in the depth it deserved. My colleague Jared from Nothing Better to Do, wrote a fine post on this spot a few years ago which I will share -> HERE. The next day we ran into our server again at Farmacy, where she also works and she once again served us well by helping us find the best place in town to restock our supply of spirits for the rest of my sabbatical. I look forward to writing about Purple Chopstix in-depth later this year. In the meantime – please share your experiences here and let me know what to order on day one.

Purple Chopstix on Urbanspoon

Posted in Athens, Locally Sourced, Ohio, restaurants, Road Trip | Tagged: | Leave a Comment »

First Bite: Froglegs at Rice Bowl Restaurant

Posted by cmh gourmand on February 17, 2014

I have eaten many interesting proteins in my time including but not limited to: yak, venison, quail, shark, kangaroo, ostrich, emu, alligator, ants, slugs (Australian Bush Tucker Tour), a fly (not on purpose) and so on. Considering the many Chinese restaurants I have dined at, it is mildly shocking that I’ve never sampled frog legs.

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I wrote about the Rice Bowl last November after my first trip there. Now that I have had a chance to work though much of their Americanized menu, I decided that I wanted to see how their traditional menu fared. I asked several of the servers and a few dishes were consistently suggested. Every staffer I spoke too strongly endorsed the frog legs. I was game for it. My order of 8 to 9 frog legs (I lost track) was more than I bargained for. While billed as an appetizer, it is easily a meal by itself. The legs are served on a deep bed of sautéed and strongly seasoned onions and fresh jalapeno peppers. The long-legged frog parts are meaty and much larger than I expected. They also tasted much better than I was prepared for. As for the flavor, the best approximation I could share would be 85% perfectly cooked and moist chicken blended with a bit of crawfish. The breading on the frog legs was the best I have encountered on any fried product in a very long time. The seasoning included a good amount of black pepper. For texture and taste the best example my palette could backdate in my memories was the KFC original recipe of my youth (not what exists now).

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If are looking to expand your bucket list of animal parts eaten, this is a an easy path to take. As for the mainstream menu items I tried (on my first Rice Bowl carry our order), the eggs rolls are still my favorite in town. They are served with a small amount of the house citrus / orange dressing. The sauce is so good. SO GOOD! I also tried the house lo mein, the noodles were clearly homemade and the mix of several meats and vegetables was generous.

So to update for those tracking my adventures. I have had four perfect visits to the Rice Bowl and my first frog legs were so good, I doubt I will find any better in town.

Posted in restaurants | Tagged: , , | Leave a Comment »

My Editorial about the Crest on WOSU’s Columbus Neighborhoods

Posted by cmh gourmand on February 9, 2014

I have been a huge fan of WOSU’s Columbus Neighborhoods since the series launched a few years ago. As a lover of Columbus and history, the series has been fun and informative. So when the Clintonville episode premiered I was glued to my seat absorbing every factoid and cherishing every minute of it.

As a writer and a person that creates content for a radio show, I understand the limits of time and space constraints to the daunting task of presenting every possible person, place and event in a community over the course of over two hundred years. So while a few segments ran a bit long on one subject or another, I say to each their own and kudos as well as a job well done on the episode.

With one exception.

The Crest Gastropub had a very long segment as part of the program. I’m no hater of the Crest but I was a bit irked that a business with barely a year in the community would warrant so much air time while our other long time food businesses were left out. Granted there was a 1/2 second frame with an image of Nancy’s but that was it. As for the Crest, it is a story about the future of Clintonville and I want the restaurant to thrive and succeed and continue to do better. However, I am more interested in the food businesses that have held the line for decades in our community which has been restaurant deprived since my earliest memories.

Again, there is no way all of what I will list could be presented in the few minutes that were devoted to the Crest, but I would have loved to have seen a montage or brief mention of each of these places instead as a tip of the hat to these small family businesses which have been the heart and soul of the Clintonville Community.

Villa Nova has been a gathering place for decades. The original owner came back to save the business from failure and since then it has never looked back. It has done so well that it could buy the parcel of land next door, knock down the original Just Pies location and pave it over with a parking lot to fill with customers to take their cars off the neighboring streets.

Just Pies original location is gone but what a great success story. The business has garnered national attention by just making pies.

Moving south down High Street the new Mozart’s in the old Beechwold Tavern space. The building has served as home to many businesses over the years. It was a hot spot in the 1930′s as a tavern and dance hall. It survived other less exciting purposes afterwards. It was vacant for a long time until Cord Camera picked it as a location but then they moved to the revitalized Graceland Shopping Center. The building was almost home to a national fast food chain but luckily Anand Saha from Mozart’s put all of his chips on the table to get the building first. He has restored the charm and character of the place and made it a true community treasure. The story of an immigrant who came to Columbus with little more than a dream and grew a business over twenty years that has done so much for the community is a more compelling story that the Crest.

Or how about the oldest vegetarian restaurant in Columbus, Whole World Bakery and Cafe? Nancy’s Home Cooking has been the unofficial Town Hall of Clintonville since the mid 1970′s, while it is not the same place in our hearts as when Cindy King was alive and Ed King was behind the grill, it still is a community icon with countless stories connected to it such as catering weddings, feeding the homeless, making special meals for firefighters and so on.

Weiland’s Market was just a meat market at the original location when I went there to pick up supplies while I worked for Knight’s Ice Cream in the 1980′s. It has since blossomed into one of the best gourmet markets in town and it revitalized a strip center which was on the downward spiral for years. Round all of this out with Dante’s Pizza and Gatto’s Pizza and you have over 200 years of food history in just a few businesses.

I’ll add a few more places in. Flippos, was a burger and shake restaurant named after long time TV personality Flippo the Clown. It was located on High Street, just a bit north of East North Broadway where Donatos is today. I used to go there after T-Ball games as a kid. The Marzetti’s plant on Indianola may be too industrial to be a sight for sore eyes, but the company has an incredible history in Columbus including a nationally known restaurant decades ago. And while Clintonville received a bad rap for being unwelcome to food trucks (not really true) the rise of mobile food owes some debt to a community which supported Ray Ray’s, Mya’s, The Coop, Boston Berts and others through the years.

It is not all about food, but there was a lot in Clintonville that was overlooked in favor of the new whippersnapper on the block. So for non food related memories I would have liked to see a mention of Clintonville Academy (since 1978 – guess who was in the first class of students there) and the original Columbus Zoo which has a few buildings and bridges still hidden away in Beechwold.

To repeat. Good Job WOSU Neighborhoods you did a fine job of compressing 200 years of history in less than 1 hour but I think you could have represented the history of our community better with a brief mention of a few of the businesses listed above and less time devoted to the Crest. Maybe there are some gems in an extended edition DVD that will come out in the future. If not, I hope you will have an opportunity to come back to Clintonville to profile more of the history that was missed out on. The would mean the world to the hearts of those of us who have lived our lives here and made it a true community.

Posted in Clintonville, culinary knowledge, restaurants | Tagged: , | 6 Comments »

Back to Crest Gastropub for Breakfast/Brunch

Posted by cmh gourmand on February 5, 2014

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It seems that there is a little bit of a love/hate relationship with Crest Gastropub. Some people love to hate it, other hate to love it and many people love the friction between those two groups and the rest. It does not seem that things have changed much since my last visit there. And as most of you know breakfast is my sixth favorite meal (Brunch is fifth, Snack time is fourth, Second Lunch is Third, then dinner and finally lunch). However, I had a $40 gift card taking up space in my wallet and I had not had any quality time with the Dining Duder in quite some time.

Taking a lesson from the duder, who frequents the Crest frequently, we opted to arrive at opening and watched the place fill to capacity in about twenty minutes. I did a little Crest research to prepare for my visit. I read then disregarded the Yelp reviews and took a look at any other recent articles to look for common themes. The only writer I have a good sense of palate for is G.A. Benton since our tastes seem to be consistently aligned so I reread what he had to say but popped through the door with an empty stomach and an open mind.

First we will analyse aesthetics of the place. It looks great. For brunch, it seems they feature live music instead of Muzak. The quality of the musicians was good but the volume was too loud (and not because I am too old). It was difficult to hear our server and occasionally our conversation. Neither the staff nor the musicians seemed to pick up on this. In my book, anything other than light background music is too much. The conversation with a meal and sometimes the quiet of a meal, is as important to me as the meal itself. I was sad to see the wood serving boards are still in use. They look worse for wear and still serve no practical purpose.

Service was fine, it met expectations but I have yet to visit and have expectations exceeded. As is often the case, the first two beers I tried to order were not available. Not a big deal if the Crest is going through beers that fast it is good for them and the craft beer community. I’m not sure how they can figure out a way to have their printed menus keep up with their beer sales.

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Now for the food. What I really wanted to try was the coconut quinoa porridge but this was not available. The duder ordered the Shagbark chili made with adzuki (hails from Japan) and black turtle beans, with cilantro and sour cream. The beans and the chips all come from Shagbark Seed and Mill in Athens. My pre entrée order was honey-glazed cheese balls which never disappoint. The great balls of cheese are made with fried Lucky Penny chevre goat cheese dipped in honey with slivered almonds and a scattering of micro-greens to mix with the leftover honey. My main was the Ohio bison burger with pancetta, house made boursin cheese, charred onions & mixed greens on a brioche bun. It is a fine burger with very good sweet potato fries. But not craveable. I will still take a burger from nearby O’Reilly’s over just about anything. The Dining Duder and I were both happy to see the Lebanese flavors of the chef and the Mediterranean / Middle Eastern traditions of the owners making more appearances on the menu so we shared the Mediterranean breakfast. This includes grilled halloumi, lebneh, olives & hard-boiled eggs with hummus & pita. Loved it for being simple and sophisticated at the same time. Halloumi is a cheese made with goat and sheep’s milk. Lebneh is a style of strained yogurt that is perfect for dipping and mixing with other foods.

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So decent food, good beer list and still some things to hammer out to move on to the next level but considering they have less than a year in the game, I think they are doing well. One final note, the house made hot sauce on each table is a great addition to the flavors on the plate and the feel of the place. I look forward to the summer and seeing what the Crest can do with their gardens.

Posted in breakfast, Clintonville, restaurants | Tagged: , , | 1 Comment »

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 »

Portia’s Cafe

Posted by cmh gourmand on January 10, 2014

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There is a chance you made a New Year’s Resolution to eat more mindfully or with a healthy focus. Or maybe you are a vegan or have a gluten intolerance and find dining out a frustrating experience. Regardless of your path, if you are looking for the most alternative way to dine in Columbus, Portia’s has you covered.

The street address is a little less than ideal but the location is well suited for the mission of the cafe. Clintonville is home to the oldest Vegetarian restaurant in the city, Whole World Natural Bakery and Restaurant. If there would ever be a community that would and could embrace Portia’s it would be Clintonville.

With the exception of honey most Vegans would find that cafe would find acceptable. The ingredients used are largely organic, generally free of gluten and GMO’s (genetically modified organisms). The Cafe has assembled a menu that is accessible for carnivores and raw foods fans alike. Now at this point, I think some of you may be a little intimidated and wondering how you would fit in eating all of this “weird food”. Well, if you had to pick a place for your first foray off the eaten path, than Portia’s is the place to dine. The staff are friendly and knowledgable and answer inquiries in a way that you know there really are no dumb questions. Even the menu is helpful, with instructions on how to eat a lettuce wrap. Another example of the philosophy of Portia’s is the approach to ice. Water is served but ice is only added on request (a good bartender or foodie will tell you some of the possible health issues related to ice makers).

As for the food some of what I tried was really good and some was average. Nothing tasted like leaves and twigs which for many would be a surprise but hopefully this will give some the courage to try Portia’s as their gateway meal to healthy eating.

For your first bite, I would suggest the appetizer sampler which will allow you to choose a selection of small bites to try out before you move forward in the menu.

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Portia's Cafe on Urbanspoon

Posted in Clintonville, restaurants, Vegetarian Friendly | Tagged: | Leave a Comment »

Brown Bag Deli: Deli-icious

Posted by cmh gourmand on January 6, 2014

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In the tale of the two deli’s of German Village, the story has been lopsided to Katzinger’s. It is a saga of north vs. south. Katzinger’s is the destination Deli on the main drag. Brown Bag is tucked away in a side corner on Whitter on the south end of German Village. Brown Bag is smaller and offers a more limited selection but it feels like an insider’s secret hangout.

What does Brown Bag bring to the table? It serves up much more than the name would suggest.

Take a look at the menu board above. In addition to a wide selections of sandwiches (cold, hot, toasted, grilled, vegan, vegetarian and more), you can build you own sandwich, choose from a selection of salads, soups, flatbreads, homemade sides and more. The sides are more than the typical potato and macaroni salad. The fresh selection of sides varies and it is always challenging to decide on just one. Deviled eggs are a standby and always in good supply. The dessert choices are deeper than one would expect from a kitchen this size. I’ve never encountered a dessert here that I did not like.

A few other options deserve a shout out. Brown Bag has the largest variety of gourmet potato chips I have encountered outside of Jungle Jim’s in Cincinnati. The same applies to the number of gourmet craft soda pop to choose from. If you want ice cream, you can always find a pint of Jeni’s in the cold case.

The Brown Bag may be the Cinderella of German Village eateries and area delis, but it is well worth repeat visits.

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Brown Bag Deli on Urbanspoon

Brown Bag Web Site

Posted in beverages, restaurants, Vegetarian Friendly | Tagged: , | Leave a 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 »

First Bite: Jerry’s Galaxy Cafe

Posted by cmh gourmand on November 30, 2013


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Long time readers know about my fond memories of the Galaxy Cafe which closed years ago. Starliner Diner and The Explorer’s Club have Galaxy connections in their kitchen DNA. So when I heard that Jerry Burgos, co-founder of the original Galaxy Cafe and long time driving force at the Starliner Diner, was opening a new place I was curious to see how this new restaurant would compare to my memories. Jerry sold his share in Starliner about 4 years ago but wanted to come back into the business of owning a restaurant and running a kitchen.

This new incantation in the Galaxy Universe opened in mid-November. Long time fans will find the elements they associate with the name. The fare will be comforting to Starliner and Explorer’s Club fans. Most of the dishes are southwestern / Cuban themed eclectic classics. The decor is a hodgepodge of folk art, flea market and cool cookie jars mixed with bright walls and black and white checkered ceiling tiles.

Jerry has teamed up with his wife Jenny and a small staff to add the Galaxy to the dining choices of Hilliard. This is good news for people like me who feel that there are only a few good dining choices west of the Scioto (Olive Tree and Starliner Diner for me). However Jerry has some challenges to face with this new location so old-time fans that have been thinking about dropping in could give this new business a great holiday gift by dropping in before Christmas. Challenge number one is location. Jerry’s Galaxy is buried in a semi-residential area off the beaten path in Hilliard. It does not have a sign (look for City Kids Daycare to know you are close). It is near a bar names Nasty’s (really) ((Really??)) and the Lil’ Donut Factory (which often runs out of donuts). Challenge number two – the menu at the Galaxy is about the same as the Starliner and Louie’s (a Starliner spin-off) so they are competing against two mirroring concepts that are both less than one mile away.

As a new business that has only been open a few weeks there are a few glitches to tweak. Service was a bit spotty on my visit. The volume of the music is too loud, especially when the spaces are quiet. The menu is familiar but could use more detailed descriptions of some dishes. And the coffee cups are too small and too thin to offer an optimal coffee experience one expects at a diner.

All food sampled was good and worthy of the Galaxy name I just hope that Jerry will get the business needed in the early months to have a full opportunity show what he can do in the back of the house.

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Jerry’s Galaxy Cafe
4920 Scioto-Darby Road
Hilliard
614-319-4035

Jerry's Galaxy Cafe on Urbanspoon

Posted in Diners, restaurants | Tagged: , | Leave a Comment »

A New Chef at Latitude 41

Posted by cmh gourmand on November 13, 2013

I have written about Latitude 41 before. As a quick recap, the restaurant is located in the Renaissance Hotel downtown. While many people have low expectations for hotel restaurants, the Renaissance and their culinary partner Chef Dean Max, have very high expectations. The hotel sourced several very impressive chefs to date, including one of my personal favorites the departed (and missed) Chef David MacLennan. (Note: The downtown Hilton has Bill Glover at the helm so hotel restaurants in Columbus are bringing back the hey day when hotels restaurants were THE destination for diners).

Michael Koenig became executive chef at Latitude 41 in July. He brings over 20 years of culinary experience to the kitchen. Restaurants on his resume include these bay area notables: Café Delluchi Kuleto’s Restaurant, Scala’s Bistro, Restaurant Zibibbo (Palo Alto) and the Renaissance Stanford Court Hotel restaurant. Some local residents will want to know that he attended Michigan State University so we know the chef is well grounded in midwestern palates and football etiquette. The chef credits his mother and her Lebanese heritage for teaching him about food and ingredients. As with previous chefs at the restaurant, he is committed to sourcing local where possible and integrating those flavors into dishes. I had an opportunity to sample a tasting dinner with the Chef and I was very impressed with what he had to dish out.

Chef Koenig continues to source local when possible and plans to expand on that commitment with a larger roof top garden and if the stars align – a chicken coop for fresh eggs for the restaurant. If that happens, I hope to write about that and hope not to report that a chicken tried to swim in the Renaissance’s pool. Chef is also looking into adding a beehive to the mix on the rooftop. I like how he thinks.

A few notable local purveyors featured in the menu. Watershed bourbon is a star ingredient in the house made caramel sauce. Empty Watershed bottles were used for water at our table which was a nice aesthetic and good repurposing to boot. SaraBee Honey is also incorporated into some of the dishes for sweet results.

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Favorites from previous menus will continue including the Lobster Mac & Cheese but we should expect to see some changes in the menu as well as weekly specials based on what is fresh and in season. I have always enjoyed the flat breads at Latitude 41 however I now look forward to rediscovering them since Chef Koenig has changed the dough recipe and is focused on the dough being prepped by hand instead of rolling pin….that is old school and should make a good thing even better. Chef Koenig has interests outside of the kitchen as well. He has an interest in making mixers for the bar and makes an excellent Limoncello, both regular and creamy.

I asked the Chef, how his transition has been to Columbus. I know for me, if I was in the bay area as long as he was, I would have a little trouble transitioning to the Midwest. Chef reports that he has adapted quite easily to life in the capital city, he has discovered some fine restaurants and as well known, the cost of living is much more palatable. He also enjoys being a 4 1/2 hour drive from family instead of a transcontinental flight. Welcome to Columbus Chef, I look forward to the new ideas you bring to the table.

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Latitude 41 website

Posted in beverages, Locally Sourced, restaurants | Tagged: , | Leave a Comment »

 
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