CMH Gourmand

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

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Rubinos: A Bexley Classic, My Pizza Pilgrimage

Posted by cmh gourmand on February 1, 2015

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I had never been to Rubinos. Never, ever, although I know a lot about the place and its history. I once had a slice that someone brought to a Pizza Grand Prix. I never walked through the hallowed doors of one of the oldest, most famous pizza places in central Ohio. First: WTF. Second: I can sense the disappointment that you all feel knowing my dark secret now that I have come clean. Reviewing the archives of CMH Gourmand and cross checking with a short list of “classic” Columbus eateries, I’m trying to get my culinary history ducks in a row by visiting the few remaining outliers.

Any lifelong resident of Bexley has a militant love of Rubino’s bordering on obsession. The landmark spot feels out of place and out of step with the times in comparison to its neighbors. It is as older building with an interior that might have been refreshed in the 1970’s. Rubino’s is the type of nondescript joint one would expect to walk in to on the far west side, or near east side or just about anywhere other than downtown Bexley. The demeanor feels more like a diner than a pizzeria. Anyone that walks in knows what they want to order, so there is no need to hand out menus. The menu, mounted on the wall, is famously small – pizza, spaghetti, a pasta dish and salads. Beverages are served in a can and while pasta is served on a plate, if you order pizza, you are presented with a small paper plate. Based on my observations 99.9% of customers are regulars who are largely known by first name and who have clearly made Rubino’s a big part of their family traditions. Anecdotally, Rubino’s most famous customer, Bob Greene, made the spot internationally famous in his reminisces of growing up in Bexley. In research to ready myself for Rubinos I searched for other perspectives and reflections on the place so I could order the quintessential meal. I found this -> post which may be the most detailed pizza post I’ve ever encountered.

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I’ll now offer a few observations on my pizza experience. I would not place Rubino’s in the Columbus Pizza Category. First, and this may be hard for many of you to imagine, Rubinos to TOO thin to meet the criteria for Columbus style. The thickness is about the same as a Wheat Thin with about the same amount of crispness. The quantity of cheese would be considered to be on the light end of the spectrum (our server mentioned that most people order extra cheese). The sauce had a bitterness to it (unlike the characteristic sweetness of most Columbus Style pizzas) that was a little shocking on the first bite. If you weighed one of the 14 inches pies, I doubt it would weigh in over one pound. I ordered sausage on half of our pizza and I would say that this topping is the most memorable of any pizza topping I’ve ever encountered. The sausage is cut in rectangles and is even thinner than the crust – roughly the thickness of 2 sheets of paper. I’ve encountered countless pizzas, in over 50 cities and ten countries in my culinary life and nothing has been as unique as what I ate at Rubinos. This shop is one of the original shops in Central Ohio, opening in 1954. If you are not a Bexley native, do be advised that Rubino’s is not for everyone, including, Mrs. Gourmand who noted this is the first pizza she has had with me that she would never have again. Do come for the history and the tradition and a slice of the past. And to best experience the pizza like a typical Bexley native order your pizza “well done, with extra cheese, pepperoni and sausage” which appears to be what most people order.

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Another thing of note, especially for pizza history buffs, Rubinos uses special paper sleeves for their pizzas, which harkens back to the early days of these cheesy pies. The sleeves are “tented” to allow the heat to flow up from the pizza which is the perfect way to transport a classic pie home. And most importantly, take cash, Rubinos does not take Visa, Discover, Mastercard, American Express, Travelers Checks or barter just greenbacks and hard American currency.

Rubino's Pizza on Urbanspoon

Posted in culinary knowledge, pizza | Tagged: , | 3 Comments »

DK Diner: Kind of Dynamic

Posted by cmh gourmand on January 22, 2015

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My primary and secondary references to DK Diner have focused on their donuts. There are three reasons for that: 1) These donuts are among the finest in the state anywhere and I have the research to prove it 2) DK stands for Donut Kitchen – the previous name of this former Lawson’s location 3) As has been established before, Breakfast is my fifth favorite meal behind Second Lunch and Midnight Snack but I do make an exception for Breakfast – donuts. (Writer Note: I ordered 200 DK Diner donut for my wedding and there was only one box left the next day mainly because I hid it).

DK Diner originally established themselves as a breakfast destination (which can be confirmed any Saturday or Sunday Morning). I had forgotten I had breakfast there – once – I had to go through my notes to confirm such but I did indeed have breakfast there and it was good. I’m sure I had donuts. But there is more to dining life other than donuts and breakfast so DK Diner has continually been tweaking their approach to dining after Noon. (Writers Note: This post is dedicated to The Dining Duder who is the least favorite fan of the Ohio Donut Trail).

All of this came about then I was picking up some donuts for Mrs. Gourmand. I noticed some specials listed near the cash register including a coney special. I love a classic hot dog snadwich but Columbus does not support a hot dog or coney culture so I felt a need, well actually mission, maybe even an obligation to support a coney special. So I made note to come back on a Monday so I could belly up my support.

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The coney special includes two coneys with cheese and onions with a hearty serving of hand cut fries. My coney cliff notes: Good combo and a great price. While consuming a coney I noticed another weekly special, Meatloaf. Meatloaf is the litmus test or the canary in a coal mine of any true Diner, so I planned on coming in during my next open Wednesday for more research. This special includes a fist sized serving of meatloaf, mashed potatoes with gravy, green beans (that are cooked not poured out of a can then reheated) and one half of a bun grilled to toast level crispness with a bit of butter. The meatloaf was cooked to perfection with just the right amount of ketchup baked in to the meat. This dish is all DK Diner needs for official diner status.

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Another item that caught my eye in the side dish category was potato chips. Well actually this caught my eye and kept it, so I ordered these as my appetizer for my meatloaf main course. Wow, these chips are great, they are spindle cut and deep-fried to order coming out fresh with plenty of crispness with just enough slightly chewy pieces intermixed in the mess of potatoes piled into a basket. Other than OH! Chips, you will not find a better fresh potato chip in Ohio.

Chips

While masticating meatloaf I spied this on the regular menu: “Schlamager Bratwurst – DK’s special recipe, served on a grilled torpedo bun with sauerkraut, grilled pepper and onions”. So I looked for a day to come back and tried this. Verdict: Sehr gut. I asked my server if she knew anything about the name of the bratwurst or the special recipe, clearly she knew I was trying to get some “intel” so she feigned ignorance. Heading back home, I did some internet research to “crack the Schlamager code” and while I found lots of references to DK Diner I could not find a Schlamager on my screen. What ever Schlamager subterfuge is going on here, the end result is that it is an exceptional bratwurst sandwich experience served with a side of chips (and during my meal, a free donut at check out). What could be better than that? Well. While I was doing research I discovered DK Diner did offer a special featuring this brat with baked beans and pierogis, that would be slightly better than what I had and I would like to see that as a daily special.

Brat

So what is the key to success at this dynamic diner? They adapt to the times. Over the years the business has added patio space, focused on building up their bar business with local craft beers and some locally sourced spirits from Watershed Distillery. Another cool thing in the beer offerings, each beer is displayed in a baseball card style format to help guide your drinking decision and to help DK avoid constantly printing new beer menus. While all of this is being crammed into a small amount of space, DK Diner does not challenge guest with complicating anything. Booths feature instructions on how to interact with the diner: Drinks are self-serve, when it is time to leave, go to the counter with your table number and they will ring you out. Want the wi-fi password? It is listed on the information sheet. Another handy feature is the donut menu so you can see what they have to offer. This simple approach to diner satisfaction because most old school diners cater to their regulars that already know “the rules” while DK Diner wants to make you an “insider” on your first trip.

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DK Diner on Urbanspoon

Posted in bar, beer, Diners, donuts | Tagged: , | 3 Comments »

Tremont Goodie Shop: New Discoveries at an Iconic Old School Spot

Posted by cmh gourmand on January 18, 2015

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After eight plus years of charting my eating and drinking I sometimes lose track of what I’ve written about. While taking Mrs. Gourmand to Moretti’s I noticed a sign at the Tremont Goodie shop that said they served Riverside Ice Cream. This intrigued me. As an ice cream scholar I had never heard of it. Luckily for me, Mrs. Gourmand and I usually dine out like the elderly, often arriving at our destination around 5 pm. This worked out well, because when I looked at the Goodie Shop’s hours, I observed the Friday closing time was 7 pm, which allowed time to dine and then a dash into the shop for goodies.

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As soon as we walked through the door, two very friendly teenagers told us we had to try the cinnamon sticks. They had some samples out and they were getting ready to bring a fresh tray out for the counter. I was intrigued by this since it is odd for a bakery to stock items less than 1 hour before closing time. My answer came soon enough. Within a few minutes of sampling the cinnamon sticks and checking out the other treats behind the counter, several people came through the door to pick up large orders of these delightful little treats. Interrogating the kids behind the counter I quickly discovered that these small squares of chewy, gooey goodness are beloved item for regular and new customers alike. Orders have been shipped all over the world and it is not uncommon to sell out every day.

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The cinnamon sticks are about three times larger than a fig newton and about as thick. They are light yet dense and a little chewy. They taste and consistency are like a blend between a cinnamon bun and a cake donut. As good as these were I was surprised that I had not heard of these or tried them before. I was certain I had included the Goodie Shop in (The Dining Duder’s favorite series) The Ohio Donut Trail but checking the archives, it is not listed. Then I realized I had only been to the place once years ago. Then I found that the only mention of the shop was one of the few CMH Gourmand guest post written by the avowed champion of The Tremont Goodie Shop Molly Kurth.

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Go figure. Now on to what lured me in to a place that deserved more of my attention. I’m pretty sure I had visited or sampled every homemade ice cream spot in Ohio. Back in 1997, I spent weekends traveling around the state to find the best ice cream in the state for an article for Ohio Magazine. So when I saw on the Riverside Ice Cream package that it has been made since 1953 I was truly befuddled. As it turns out, it does have a long history but distribution is limited to a few stores north of Columbus. I took a pint (plus) of Butter Pecan home to sample and found it to be good. Tremont Goodie Shop stocks a few flavors of the ice cream year round. If you live in Delaware or Marion you can find a larger number of flavors at Kroger.

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Tremont Goodie Shop on Urbanspoon

Posted in bakery, desserts, ice cream | Tagged: , | 4 Comments »

PSA: Monday Spaghetti Night at Iaconos

Posted by cmh gourmand on January 12, 2015

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I have a PSA for you, as in Pasta Serving announcement. I have not been out on the town much over the last twelve months but when I do get out, I keep finding new things at familiar places. It is not uncommon, with a familiar place, to order by habit or instinct instead of taking time to look at the menu. Such was the case at Iaconos, I have only ordered pizzas to go or dined in for the lunch buffet. A few days ago, while leading my Pitchers and Pizza tour, I had a moment to look at the menu and noticed something old that was new to me. Every Monday, Iaconos has an all you can eat Spaghetti Night. For $8.99 you are offered unlimited bowls of spaghetti (the first comes with a meatball), unlimited trips to the well stocked salad bar, rolls (on request) and a fountain drink with free refills. It is a really good value. What makes this exceptional is the quality behind the offer. The pasta is made in-house and in the spaghetti is a pile of long, thick and weighty egg noodles that taste fresh out of the kitchen. The sauce is made in-house. The meatball is made in-house. The rolls are not (or I think they are not) but they are piping hot, fresh, doughy and taste of butter without any added. And the spaghetti is served in a bowl – I can’t recall the last time I was served pasta in a bowl. The salad bar (as previously reported when I wrote about the pizza buffet) is no slouch with plenty of fresh choices and some comfort food classic like pasta salad (my favorite), chocolate pudding, cottage cheese and house made Italian dressing.

I hate to break the news to you, but the places in town that still offer you this much food that was truly made in the kitchen are few and far between and usually charge a lot more. For less than $10, this is an exceptional value. You can find this meal deal at the Iaconos on Kenny Road, I’m not sure if the other locations offer this on Mondays. For the record, I had one bowl of spaghetti which is not atypical, a fair number have two bowls and only a few make it to three.

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

New at White Castle: Veggie Slider and Desserts on Sticks. Verdict: Does Not Suck

Posted by cmh gourmand on January 7, 2015

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There are a few things I am a sucker for: loose change lying in a busy street, a smart dame and new items at White Castle. You may recall my previous investigation involving the White Castle Belgian Waffle Chicken Sandwich. This time my investigatory reporting was hindered by the lack of my trusty assistant. CMH Tobias was unable to eat pending surgery so I had to have Mrs. Gourmand step in to aid my culinary journalism. However, she was hindered by her own condition (knocked up by this writer) so that her olfactics which are heightened off the charts normally are further expanded by her pregnancy hormones. My own drive to investigate was augmented by a strong desire to eat something other than pizza (the defacto food de jour at Chateau Gourmand since November due to the odd food obsessions and peculiarities that come with knockupedness). ((Oddly, with some reflection, I have observed that I have eaten like a pregnant person since at least 2010)).

I stalked the White Castle Veggie Slider since I first read about it “coming soon” six months ago. While starting my journey through the drive thru lane I noticed a sign for dessert on a stick! How could I not get a few of those as well.

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I picked up my order and drove home with an excitement to begin my investigation. My first reaction, after reaching into my sack of research, was a snicker when I looked at the size of the packaging of the desserts. I guess I should have expected something pint-sized from White Castle but I was a little shocked by my first impression on the size of my subject matter (see below).

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I ordered Gooey Butter Cake and Fudge Dipped Brownie desserts on sticks. While the packages looked small, the prize inside was even more petite. This caused me to laugh a bit more as I walked the treat to Mrs. Gourmand to sample with me. Exceeding both of our expectations these pint-sized desserts were really good. Both had a dense cheesecake style quality and plenty of flavor. For two good bites each, both were well worth the 99 cent price.

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Excited by being two for two so far in the testing process I proceeded to the Veggie Burger to which Mrs. Gourmand made it clear that her services were no longer available. The first thing I noticed was the thickness of the patty. The veggie burger is just over 2 times wider than the standard White Castle slider. My next observation – the burger looks like a burger. It is round. It is the color of a typical burger. While I don’t know the pedigree of the innards, it tastes similar to a Morningstar or other higher grade veggie burger. I also liked the distinct packaging that comes with the product. I’ve sampled many a fast food veggie burger (my favorite hails from the Australian version of Burger King – Hungry Jacks) and this one is a keeper. Although I would suggest ordering this with cheese and seeing if a pickle can be placed on top for extra flavor. The only downside to this (which I noticed on a previous trip) is that the buns on non slider tend to be dry or to have a corner that seems a bit crunchy or stale vs. the alluring steamed moistness of a slider.

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I have photos of some of my research below. First I compare the size of a veggie slider and a standard slider. You can also see the difference in color.

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Next take a look at the Veggie Slider box. White Castle does a great job with their packaging and branding. The example below is a fine example, nice graphics and color coding to set products apart.

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Posted in desserts, Food For Thought, Vegetarian Friendly | Tagged: , | 4 Comments »

Don’t Be a Dining Douche Bag

Posted by cmh gourmand on December 19, 2014

I’m feeling extra hum buggy. So let’s discuss some of what inspires that. The fall and decline of civility in Western civilization as experienced at public eateries. Consider this a complimentary addendum to my Restaurant Rants series of a while back. There is a certain type of person that drains the life from the rest of us wherever they go. To better understand the slice of the pie these folks operate in outside of a restaurant I have some examples below.

There are examples those that plague us. You know who I am writing about, they:

take 17 or more items to the 12 items or less lane

take at least two parking spaces in a crowded lot

don’t flatten cardboard boxes before putting them in a public recycling dumpster / and or leave stuff outside the dumpster like mattresses or bags of trash

don’t toot or honk their horn, they lay on it long and hard and for no good reason

cluster in a crowded buffet line moving slow, lingering too long as if each item choice was a life or death decision

at a crowded party – they pick the area that needs to be the most efficient path of quick flow back and forth and plant themselves there – parked in front of the table of food, blocking access to drinks or cozy in physically blocking the egress from pre party to party central

They take a third donut before making sure everyone else got at least one.

Yes…. those people.

So what type of behaviors are causing my disdain when observed in restaurants? Well here we go.

Cell Phone Use:
Let’s treat cell phones in restaurants and public spaces like we to treat them in air travel – turn it off when we start the journey and not back on until the end.

OK, so you say that can’t work, then how about another option. Take the cell phone, turn the ringer off and place it where you can’t reach it easily or face down on the table and then engage in the company of your guest(s) or a book or enjoy the sound of silence in your mind.

If you get a call and you can not ignore it, take your phone and yourself and walk to the entrance or an area where your boring conversation is not going to disrupt my digestion.

One initiative I would like to see. Somewhere, there has to be is a warehouse with thousands of phone booths in storage, stacked on each other. It would be great to bring those back and place in restaurants so people could walk inside them to take calls. Let’s do that.

Vapor Smokers
Even if there is not a sign that says no e-cigarettes or vapors in the dining area, just don’t do it. When you use your device in a restaurant space you look like a douche.

Smoking
Don’t chain smoke by the entrance and don’t ditch your butts on the ground by the entrance, I don’t want that smell before or after my meal.

Tipping

We all think we know the rules. The first rule of tipping is to tip. The second rule is don’t overtip for average or less service and don’t undertip for exceptional service. Doing so throws the world into chaos.

Do you tip when you pick up a carry out order?

I say no, others say yes. I still say no, unless the restaurant employee went above and beyond by wrapping your food exquisitely or putting in an insane amount of extras like wet naps.

Do you tip at a buffet?
I say yes. But I’m still not sure how much. I usually do one dollar or two. One dollar for having someone bring me a drink and taking the plates away. Two dollars for refilling the drink with vigor and not making eye contact when I eat like a farm animal.

For tipping some say the baseline is 15% others (typically wives and girlfriends say 20% is the baseline). I say base the tip on service and that 20% is not a default but also weigh in some factors into the tip.

1) How busy is the place?

2) If the place was busy and the server made you feel it was not, then 20% and over for sure.

3) If my server struggled to met minimum expectations and only had my table – I might not tip 15%, if they had 10 tables and I could see one of the tables was full of dining douches then I’m going to tip on the high-end.

Dining douches don’t tip well under any circumstance. That is a fact.

Start with 15% – if service exceeds the baseline – then 20% or more. Those are just suggestions. But tip and tip with some thought that the person serving you will probably appreciate you tipping them more than 5%.

Kids in Restaurants

Kids in restaurants is not an issue. The issue is how their parents fail to feel that the rest of the restaurant guests and employees should have to endure their inability to parent effectively….or ever. Restaurants do not serve as baby sitting facilities or places where kids should run back and forth screaming and shouting and basically being amuck. If your can’t control your kids and yourself don’t leave your home.

If you want some more tips on dining with kids, check with Mrs. Breakfast (with Nick)

Noise
When you are in a public place use your inside voice. Or more importantly, use the voice I would use inside a public space which would be a 4 on scale of 10.

You have been there – the people next to you are loud or worse they are loud and obnoxious or even worse they are loud, obnoxious and drunk and no where close to asking for their check. I really hate people like that and I find this type of behavior more often at more places. As the esteemed Nick Offerman said “Its better to have 8 people with one beer each, than to have one dude with eight beers.” Oh drunk people. Typically annoying sober people are really annoying drink people and they thrive on projecting that annoying behavior to as many people as possible. If you want to annoy people with being loud and obnoxious go to an OSU game.

What can you do? You can ask them to be quiet which is awkward and rarely effective or you can ask management to ask them to shut up or you can ask your server to get you another table – if they have space – they will do it. I’ve done in more than a couple of times. You paid for a meal with also included a side of ambiance so don’t be afraid to get your moneys worth. You paid for a meal not to endure a pack of assholes.

Special Orders….don’t upset us?

We seem to have so many people with food issues these days. Some are legit, some are “self-created.” People have gluten issues, special diets, vegans, vegetarians, etc. I’m all for asking for adjustments to a menu – hold the onions, substitute fries for a salad, etc. Most businesses can and are happy to make adjustments if needed. But asking and expecting are two different things. I can’t count the times I’ve overheard people demanding what seem like multiple and ludicrous adjustments to their entire order. It goes beyond the level of Meg Ryan’s character in When Harry Met Sally. All I can say is if these people get their food spit into, they had it coming. If you are going to a place to eat and feel you need to ask for a modification to each item you order, then you made a bad choice – so politely explain that with your server and leave.

The Customer is not always right

Complaining:
Having worked in the service industry I can say, the customer is not always right. Often if they are almost right or wrong but asking nicely, you give them a recourse to their real or perceived wrong. However sometimes customers are both wrong and rude and that should not be rewarded no matter what the threat is. Assholery should never be rewarded.

If you have an issue with a meal or food you were served your first course of action is not to get on your phone to write a negative review. Address it with the manager of the place and if they don’t address the issue or don’t care at all that you had a bad experience, then go online and go to town.
And if you have a legitimate concern, do know that a good business wants to know if they missed the mark with you and they will want to fix it for you and know it is something they need to address to provide good service for all of their customers. Identifying an issue to be resolved is proactive. Creating and issue online about something that was an easy fix is reactive and douchebaggishness.

Time Management
You paid for a meal not rent at the table. Take your time to enjoy your meal. Enjoy the company of your friends and family. However, if it is a busy night and other people are waiting over an hour for a table and you can see the place is packed and bordering on anarchy….enjoy your stay but don’t linger. When you are done….leave, don’t hog your table chatting away and asking for multiple water refills. Have your credit card ready for your bill and expedite your ass out the door.

Herd Behavior
The larger the group, the more issues they create and compound for the restaurant and by default the rest of us that could get seats. The large groups typically have no plan for sharing payment and most of the members underrate what they ate and drank and then the table comes up short for the communal bill and we all end up waiting longer for the tables and the server gets a crappy tip because people can’t do math or fail to recognize the rule of herd eating – it is going to be 40% less fun and should cost you 30% more than what the menu says and what you expected because at least one of the members of your pack is a low down, dirty, cheap skate. The weakest link in the chain always skimps on their share, makes the meal longer and less fun and makes group activities as dreaded as group assignments in graduate school.

It’s not just a job, it’s an adventure in bad behavior

Your server is a person not a plaything. Don’t make them endure your bad jokes, poor or worse wardrobe choices – dirty tank tops with shorts that are too tight, sexist jokes or act as a babysitter for your kids while you linger at the bar. Some servers and bartenders are bad. Recently I have started to feel that the bad ones are made worse and the good ones are made average by the soul sucking behavior of dining douche bags. So the moral of this story. Don’t be a dining douche.

Posted in Food For Thought | 4 Comments »

O’Reilly’s Revisited Again: Daily Specials and Subs

Posted by cmh gourmand on December 14, 2014

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I’ve written about O’Reilly’s before to acclaim their burgers and heap on accolades about the wings. I also wrote about a Clintonville cocktail I tried to invent with some inspiration from O’Reilly’s and I’ve mentioned a few epiphanies that occurred in the booths there.

Although O’Reillys has been around just over thirty years and I’m a life long Clintonvillian I’m a late comer to the place, having only started visiting ten years ago. I found a post from 2011 where I mention an awareness of their daily specials but it has only been recently that I started to explore them. The daily specials are offered Labor Day through Memorial Day and are posted on a board weekly. The specials are offered Monday to Saturday and change each week. The only constant I have noticed so far is the presence of the two chili dogs and chips. This is offered one day each week with the day changing each week. Other specials I have seen, but not quite weekly include: stuffed green pepper soup, tuna noodle casserole, meatloaf with mashed potatoes and veggies (vegetables at O’Reilly’s are typically canned green beans or canned corn), Sloppy Joes, Meatball Sub and Chili Mac with a side salad and roll. There are other specials to choose from as well. All are priced well under $8.

During the summer the specials disappear but Tuna and Egg Salad return. I’m still deep in my investigation of the daily specials but initial research has been promising. Something not related to the food but equally important is the vibe. Enjoying one of these meals, especially at lunch time reminds of the community feeling that I experienced when Cindy King was still with us serving Chicken and Noodles, with a side of commentary and advice from behind the counter at Nancy’s. There are regulars that come to experience a “family” meal with the staff and other regulars. Many of the recipes at O’Reilly’s have a back story.

Many of the recipes are based on what was on the menu at placed called Tangos, which was popular in the 70’s/80’s, the recipe for tuna salad came from Cindy King’s mom, the “crack sauce” for the sweet potato fries was passed along by Tim Lessner from Tip Top Kitchen and Cocktails. Most of the staff has stories are well, many have been there for decades and many knew Marty, the owner, when then they were kids. There is a lot of history at O’Reilly’s and it is just not on the walls, it is in the relationships among those that work there.

There are two of the specials I’ve tried during my research to date, the first is meatloaf with mashed potatoes, corn and a roll.

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The second special is chili macaroni with a salad and roll.

O reillys Chili mac

I’ve also branched out (a bit) on my exploration of the regular menu. The two most noteworthy items are the chicken tenders and the Italian Sub. The chicken tenders have never disappointed me. They are always substantial and while a choice of sauces are available, the best option is buffalo sauce paired with a side of blue cheese. As for the subs, Mrs. Gourmand fancies herself an expert on subs and this is one of her favorite in Columbus (the best for her so far seems to be at Thurman’s, while I’m still inclined towards Susie’s Sub Shop). The O’Reilly’s sub adheres to all of the rules for a good submarine sandwich: the bun is toasted, the meat is grilled, the ingredients are ample and there is just enough crunch to the bread and the cheese.

Sub

O'Reilly's Sub

One final note, O’Reilly’s finally has a local craft beer on tap, Brass Knuckle Pale Ale from Four String Brewing. I’m looking forward to seeing more local beer on the draft menu there. As for what to do in between bites. The Galaga video game I mentioned in a previous post is gone but there is still plenty to entertain guests. There is always the option to people watch as well as a mix of board games and a few books including The Complete Irish Pub Cookbook. You won’t see any of those recipes on the menu but you will experience the feel of an Irish Pub at O’Reilly’s.

I hope that I have given you at least one reason, if not more to give O’Reilly’s a visit.

O'Reilly's Pub on Urbanspoon

Posted in Clintonville, Sub Dude | Tagged: | 3 Comments »

Athens Adventures: Bagel Street Deli

Posted by cmh gourmand on December 2, 2014

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Mention three words to any Ohio University graduate from the last two decades and you will see their facial expression light up and a bit of drool slide out of their mouth. Those three words are Bagel Street Deli. Oddly, in ten years of intensive eating in Athens I’ve never dropped by. Mrs. Gourmand is a big fan so we opted to get a couple of sandwiches to go after our latest Athens Adventure.

Bagel Street Deli is not the typical college sandwich shop, but the place is not atypical to the Athens eating experience. The business focuses on using locally sourced ingredients whenever possible and collaborates with other businesses as well including sourcing bagels from Sammy’s and Blocks in Columbus and cookies from Fluff Bakery around the corner. Whether a carnivore or vegetarian there is plenty to fill the bellies of both here. They offer 20+ varieties of custom bagel sandwiches, over 10 different meat & tofu options, six specialty cream cheeses and forty different toppings choices. There are truly too many choices but it is often too crowded to stand and ponder what to order.

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The exterior is unassuming, the brick interior is filled with signs to guide you through the ordering process and maintain the cultural etiquette expectations of Bagel Street Deli. I was also intrigued by what appears to be an informal collection of mini tinfoil sculptures randomly placed and attached to the walls and others areas.

I enjoyed the experience (we arrived at an off-peak time and I have a veteran customer with me). The steamed bagel sandwich I consumed, was really good – plenty of ingredients piled on top of each other and flavorful cream cheese to hold it all together. I’d go again and have added it to my Athens to eat list. A bit of trivia to wrap up, Art Oestrike, the owner of Jackie O’s is also one of the original owners of Bagel Street Deli.

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Posted in Athens, Ohio, Road Trip, sandwiches | Tagged: | Leave a Comment »

West End Cider House, Athens Ohio: This Cider House Rules!

Posted by cmh gourmand on November 30, 2014

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In other posts I’ve mentioned my approach to appreciating Athens which usually goes something like this: visit O’Betty’s, Casa Nueva, and Jackie O’s, then depending on time allowed repeat the previous and/or add in one or more of the following: Avalanche Pizza, Miller’s Chicken, Burrito Buggy, (new) Bagel Street Deli and then head home or repeat. I’ve added a new mandatory stop to the list, West End Cider House.

I’ve known Kelly Sauber for a couple of years. I met him in passing at Marietta Brewing Company many years ago and came to know him well when we started to put together the Athens Tour for Columbus Brew Adventures. Kelly is a whiz with all things brewed, fermented and distilled. He was a brewer for Marietta Brewing Company for about 15 years. He grew tired of the commute (about 1 hour) and decided to try his hand at distilling. Originally his distillery was known as Dancing Tree but there is another business with a slightly similar name so Kelly had to change the name to Fifth Element Spirits. Regardless of the name, Kelly crafts some divine distilled delights from vodka and whiskey to an extra tasty rum made with sorghum. I’ve never sampled anything I did not enjoy. Kelly is a wealth of knowledge so it is difficult not to spend at least several hours at his distillery (about 15 minutes southeast of Athens) when dropping in. Apparently Kelly found himself with a few hours of free time and was looking for another challenge so he partnered with his significant other to open West End Cider House in May 2014.

The West End Cider House is the sum of all of my obsessions: Athens + Craft Beverages + Block Pavers!

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I’ll just briefly mention the excellent integration of historic block pavers into the design and decor of the Cider House here and go into excessive detail on one of my other blogs -> Bricks of Ohio.

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Before we discuss the crafts of the business I’ll cover the details of the aesthetics of the building. The building itself dates back to 1880’s. It was once a confectionary or bar of some sort and it showcases some beautiful, original woodwork and cabinets from that era. The Athens area also serves as home to several great wood workers and they have had an opportunity to showcase their craft with some updates bar tops and other accoutrements. The block pavers I mentioned before are showcased on the back patio and the front of the building and include versions from about 20 or more Ohio brick / block making companies from the turn of the 20th Century. They not only look great but they highlight and preserve the history of the region. The space as a whole is just wonderful. It is easy to plant yourself at a seat at the bar and spend all day enjoying the space and what they have to serve.

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The cider is made in-house with the tanks featured in the middle of the space. Kelly typically has 4-5 of his (constantly rotating) ciders on tap with 3 to 4 guest ciders featured as well. The bar features cider samplers with detailed descriptions of each. The beverage choices also include a few craft beers (notably a selection of harder to find beers from Portsmouth Brewing Company) and plenty of local/ regional craft spirits, wines and locally inspired cocktails (like the Meigs i can). While there is no kitchen, there are several locally made bar snacks available and they often pair with local mobile vendors to have food near by. And, it is only a two-minute walk to Millers Chicken.

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So yes, this Cider House is the perfect Athens area hangout, you won’t have to steer around students cramming in cheap beer but you are still close enough to the other local hotspots that you can walk (if you need to) to pace out your evening (or day) while in town. Oh, the the bathrooms are cozy and pretty cool to boot (note the sign below).

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You can check out what is going on at the West End Cider House at their Facebook Page below
West End Cider House

Posted in Athens, bar, cocktails, Ohio, Road Trip | Tagged: , | 1 Comment »

Ohio Donut Trail: Jack Frost Donuts – Cleveland

Posted by cmh gourmand on November 27, 2014

After extensive south of 70 research of Ohio’s bountiful selection of donuteries I finally had an opportunity to start exploring what Northeast Ohio has to offer. What I describe for you next may sound like a fantasy – but it did indeed happen. On my way to the Ohio Craft Brewers conference in Ohio City I had a little downtime and decided to check Jack Frost off of my list. The place had come in as a reader suggestion and in several online searches. I’m glad I made time for donuts. Well let’s be honest, I’m almost always glad to make time for (good) donuts.

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The first thing that Jack Frost has going for it is how conveniently located it is to Ohio City (which is the best square mile of food and beer in Cleveland). Located on Pearl Road, it only took a few zigs and zags through neighborhood streets to get back on track on Pearl Road and more tasty treats after I left the parking lot. The next plus, was close proximity to a windmill. Yes, nothing panics me more when looking for a new place than not having some easy to find landmark as a reference point in case I decide to drop in on a whim in the future. A windmill is an easy thing to remember. The next thing that made me feel warm and fuzzy before I pulled in to the parking lot was the exterior. A bit beat up, weathered and industrial, this was no foo-foo donut shop, Jack Frost was clearly an old school neighborhood hangout. Confidence was high for scoring a classic donut before I walked through the door.

I was worried as well. It was past 3:30 pm on a Tuesday and I was concerned that the cupboard might be close to bare (they frequently sell out). Fortunately, the shelves were packed with too many choices (Jack Frost was conveniently open to 8 pm) and ready to fill boxes for people heading to 2nd shift jobs or heading home. In fact, there were so many choices I was overwhelmed.

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Also adding to the pressure, this was my first trip into Northeast Ohio Donut research and I had just found out the place was voted best of Northeast Ohio (competing against more than a baker’s dozen other donuteries) the desire to get one of each was squelched by the fact that they had 35 – 40 different varieties ready to serve and I still had three breweries, Mitchell’s Ice Cream and a Mansfield Pizza place to visit (as well as some possible random stops) before I was call the day done. So I opted for eight different donuts to try. This was quite a Sophie’s choice – trying to decide on which donuts would go home with me, knowing it may be months or years before I would be back. I opted to go with: Salty Carmel, Maple Bacon, German Chocolate, Blueberry, glazed, Raspberry, Maple with peanuts and Peanut Butter cream. Oh, My, Goodness they were good. The kind store clerk also threw in a couple of complimentary donut holes as well, she mentioned they were a fan favorite and based on my (many, many) questions, she figured I might appreciate them.

The first thing I noted about the donuts is that they are just a bit smaller than the typical donut. However based how the massive amount of toppings and extras piled on to each, I felt no reduction of value, if anything the smaller donut may be a public service, in theory, less bulk could mean more consumption. Their cake donuts (my preferred style) were light and fluffy but sturdy enough to bear the weight of the toppings.

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I picked up two blueberry donuts for Mrs. Gourmand since it is her favorite donut variety and her litmus test for donut quality. She liked the blueberry flavor in them but still gives DK Diner the nod for best in (Blueberry) show.

The absolute best of what I sampled was the German Chocolate donut. It was full of rich flavors in both the donut, the German Chocolate base and the regular chocolate intermixed in the frosting. This was exceptional. A close second was a tie between the peanut butter donut and the salty caramel. Jack Frost has been in the business since 1937. I do not think the business has had the same family of owners for the entire history but whatever has been handed down during the decades is impressive. The base donuts are old school good – simple and true to style. The flavor combinations are much more modern, riffing off of what gourmet cupcake places wanted to be but typically did not deliver on during the cupcake crave bubble of the early 21st century. If cupcake places had the flavors of Jack Frost with the prices to match – they would be as ubiquitous as Starbucks. If you are heading to Cleveland or nearby, this place is well worth a small detour. Note: By report their Paczki are legendary resulting in the need for a tent and pre ordering during Easter time.

Posted in bakery, CLEGourmand, donuts, Ohio, Ohio Donut Trail, Road Trip | Tagged: | 2 Comments »

 
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