CMH Gourmand – Eating in Columbus & Ohio

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Ezzo Sausage Company – Too Cool for School

Posted by cmh gourmand on March 27, 2018

Ezzo Sausage Company is a pretty big deal. And chances are, you did not even know it existed. While the company was founded in Columbus in 1978, the extended family had experience encasing meats well before that. One of the founders, Bill Ezzo, used his OSU football playing experiences to land accounts and grow the company. The company has experienced many of changes since their origin. The biggest development was just a few years ago, when Ezzo moved into a new state of the art facility. The company has long been considered one of top makers of premium, artisan pepperoni but the new digs have helped them expand and grow to an even higher level. Their products are distributed in over a dozen states and all over the world. A prized pepperoni at most top pizza shops is their GiAntonio brand. In the old days, a person like me could pop into the former plant and try to buy some product, today, you can only get their pepperoni and other products from distributors. Local places that use their “Old World” pepperoni include Iacono’s, Massey’s and many of my top twenty pizza purveyors in Columbus. A lot has changed since the early days of the business. One thing that has not changed which is the key to Ezzo’s longevity in a highly competitive business, is Ezzo has never sacrificed quality.

Earlier this year I became aware of an opportunity to tour the company, so I contacted COO Mitch LeBrasseur and made my pitch to come take a look at the place. He was kind enough to cater to me and a small number of guests. My motley grew of meat heads included a brewery owner, a food truck chef, a local baker, two pizza shop managers and a (mad) scientist. At the end all were very impressed by the operation as well as the depth of knowledge Mitch had to share. The (mad) scientist proclaimed it was “the best day ever”, that is saying a lot.

Here are a few of the things I learned from Mitch. Many of their products are Halal certified and are shipped all over the world. Their all beef pepperoni is very popular in Musilim countries since it is both Halal and really good. Large school districts have been gobbling up their product since it allows them to meet the dietary requirements of students with limitations on eating pork.

There are many things that set Ezzo apart from their many (and much bigger) competitors. Once is a concept called least cost formulation. In a nutshell (although the full story is much more complex), the meat industry is not a matter a dollars but of cents. Meat prices fluctuate like any commodity and as a response, many companies work hard to micromanage their recipes to adjust to what meats are the best value on any given day so that they can maintain a consistent price point of their product. This can have some effects on consistency. Ezzo, does not do this, they stick with their core recipes and adjust pricing quarterly instead of their recipes daily. The end result is their product is several cents per pound more expensive than their competitors but by most objective benchmarks much better in quality and taste. The big benefit for pepperoni purists is a consistent product box per box and pizza per pizza. I also learned more about pink slime that I ever thought I needed to know. The good news, Ezzo does not use pink slime. I also learned an industry trick on hiding pink slime – paprika. I will never look at an ingredient list the same way again. Last (for this post, but definitely not least) pepperoni is a fermented product. It never dawned on me before but learning about the entire process from start to finish made me appreciate a good slice of pepperoni even more. Mitch walked us through the whole plant and taught us about every step in the production of Ezzo’s prized pepperoni.

As a side note, as some of you know I am a tour guide and as a few of that subset know, I run a pizza tour so I was motivated to learn more about one of my talking points. I’ve been on all types of food tours all over the world (a few favorites: Cadbury in New Zealand, Swan Brewing in Australia and Vienna Beef in Chicago) and while the mainstream public might not be as enthused as I was about the depth of information covered by Mitch in his tour, my band ate it up. I thought Mitch gave one of the best tours I’ve been on. A few things stood out about Mitch. First was his focus on customer service even though most of his career has been in the production side of the business. I was also impressed by the loyalty of the group he called his Meat Gypsies, people from companies all over the country that left their jobs and homes to come to Columbus to build this plant with him. If there was ever an all star team for pepperoni production, Ezzo would sweep the series with their group.

Learn more about Ezzo and read a few good articles below:
Ezzo Sausage Company

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Posted in Behind the Counter, pizza | Tagged: , , | 4 Comments »

Lois Mann’s Restaurant – Southside

Posted by cmh gourmand on March 14, 2018

It is easy to drive by and miss Lois Mann’s. The restaurant resides in a nondescript building on South High Street just north of SR 104. The current location is in the Reeb-Hosack Steelton Village neighborhood. The area has some Hungarian roots but often gets lost in the mix of Southside neighborhoods and villages. Lois Mann’s opened at the present spot just over five years ago, but the name had a thirty plus year history on Parsons Avenue.

This restaurant came to my attention when there was a brief buzz about a special Hungarian menu they were running on the weekends. On my day of arrival for a lunch time scouting mission, I found out that the Hungarian chef had moved on. Luckily for me, Lois Mann’s has a long history of dishing out comfort food classics. As I sat waiting for lunch, I had an opportunity to roam around the space and soak in a bit of history. Upon entering I had noticed an interesting assortment of items at the counter including but not limited to: candy canes, perfume, dolls, a Star Wars shower curtain, holiday decorations and a variety of CD’s. So in addition to serving food, Lois Mann’s is also an eclectic emporium with flea market fare. The other element that came to my attention is the pervasiveness of music in the space. There is a small stage near the front entrance. Guitars, many with names written on them, line a side wall just near the ceiling. Framed photos featuring legends of Country, Bluegrass and Rockabilly music decorate the walls showing the likenesses of the likes of Loretta Lynn, The Stanley Brothers and Jimmy Martin.

The dining area consists mainly of a multitude of four top tables. Seating is comfortable and an eclectic as the mixes of silverware on the table. Vintage music plays softly in the background. On my two visits, the place was lightly populated with a few regular customers who knew the menu and the staff was well as their family and neighbors. My first selection was cabbage rolls. While many might question how traditional this interpretation of cabbage rolls might be, I found this version to be superior. The dish looked like someone had travelled back in time to visit my home in the 1980’s and stole a large serving of the cabbage rolls my father made with great frequency. I’m not sure where in the mountains of southwestern West Virginia he found his interpretation of this dish but the version I was eating at Lois Mann’s was at least cloned from the meals of my youth. The meat to rice ratio was dead on. The tomato sauce had a strong consistency and flavor of tomato paste to it. My sides were not all quite as good. The green beans were a bit bland and lacked any discernible seasoning. The mashed potatoes might be better described as leaning towards whipped, but they had a great consistency and featured a gravy that would do MCL proud. I rarely find cornbread in Columbus that meets my exacting if non-traditional standards but I found my serving to be large, flavorful and flakey. I also tried the house potato soup while waiting for the meal described above. I thought this was fantastic. The soup was very dense, thick and filling. I found out on a future visit that not all of the soups are homemade, this one tasted like it, but if it is not, I’ll pick up a can on my next drop in.

On my first visit I spied an intimidating serving of spaghetti and meatballs a few tables over from me. I knew that was destined to be my next lunch and it was. This meal is far from authentic Italian but it brought back memories of any Columbus area Italian dining I experienced as a child. The mound of spaghetti noodles were buried in a rich, flavorful red sauce with a 2:1 ratio of sauce to meat. The meatballs were small and a bit spongy but had a consistentcy I recalled from elementary school cafeterias. It was served with a length of bread that was layered with plenty of powdered garlic. This meal generally comes with a salad but I asked if I could sub out for cole slaw instead. Longtime readers may have picked up over the years that I have a high standard for slaw that rarely leads to anything other than disappointment. What I like is very similar to what one might find at KFC but more flavorful. This is exactly what Lois Mann’s serves and I confirmed that they do make this in house. I’d rank this a 9.2 on my 10 point slaw scale. This second lunch was the epitome of a comfort food classic.

Lois Mann’s Restaurant is a place where time stands still. If you are looking for a hangout that will transport you to the 1970’s in terms of food, music, decor and clientele, this is a great fit for you. I think it is worth the effort. Fridays and Saturdays feature live music and later hours. If you are looking for a more sedate lunch, this is a great south side spot. The restaurant serves breakfast all day but that is not my gig. I will say taking a look at the massive breakfast portions featuring frying pan sized steak and ham servings, I’d be very tempted to go out of character and come back for breakfast too.

Post script: I do not think I have expanded on a critical item I look for at restaurants – the size, quality and consistency of ice. I then to lean towards pelletized ice but I found the format at Lois Mann’s to be exceptional for my serving of Coke in a can.

Lois Mann's Family Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

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

CHOP 5 Salad Kitchen

Posted by cmh gourmand on February 23, 2018

Curry bowl

It seems fitting that CHOP 5 would decide to set up in Columbus, in particular, the Polaris area. The stretch of Polaris just east of I 71 has been flooded with food concepts both old and new over the last few years. CHOP 5 adds a healthy addition to the mix. The menu focuses on custom made salads, bowls and wraps. If you miss the demise of salad bars throughout America, CHOP 5 will give you hope and healthier ingredients to choose from. It is also fitting that a salad based franchise would call Columbus home. Many sources cite Columbus as the home of the salad bar as we know it (Jack Bowman’s Steak House) and definitely the rapid expansion of the concept via Columbus based Wendy’s, Rax and others in the 1980’s.

There are five core ingredients in each offering with the option to add more as you progress down the assembly line to complete your dish. When CHOP 5 opened in 2016, there were five owners who choose Columbus as their test market for this fast casual concept. I was unable to locate more locations on the website so the concept may still be in the test phase. So far, it seems the concept is passing the test. In spite of the newly opened Sweet Carrot as a neighbor, the place had a steady pace of customers coming in the door. In addition to the core offerings, there is a kids menu, soups, snacks and cookies to complete the menu. Ordering is easy with plenty of support from the staff who guide you through the creation process.


I tried the featured item of the month, the Curry Chicken Bowl. After a long, meat-filled winter, the crunch of heaps of vegetables made me feel just a tad more wholesome. The serving size and quality of ingredients in the Chicken Curry Bowl seems like a fair value for 8.99.

There are those that say there is no free lunch. Well, when you are a blogger, you occasionally get offers for tastings and other free stuff. I typically decline most offers but over the last eighteen months, the persistence of the marketing company that works with CHOP 5 wore me down and the photo of the bowl looked very appealing, so I am glad I accepted the offer. If you are looking for Chipotle style experience, with a lot more vegetables, CHOP 5 is a good choice.

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

Yogis Hoagies – The Original (Morse Road)

Posted by cmh gourmand on February 10, 2018

Yogi’s Hoagies

Let us begin with a study of sandwiches and sandwich culture. Sandwiches are ubiquitous. However in Central Ohio we don’t display the same love of John Montagu’s creation as Philadelphia, most of the northeast coast, any place In Australia I have roamed or for that matter much of the English-speaking world. These locales celebrate sandwiches by placing a mom and pop sandwich shop on nearly every corner slinging out infinite combinations of breads, cheeses, meats and vegetables. In these hallowed sandwich spots, purveyors further define their wares with terms like Submarine, Torpedo, Grinder, Hero and Hoagie. A Hoagie in particular, can trace origins to Philadelphia,, specifically to the residents of the Hog Island area. In Columbus, we never seemed to connect with a sandwich sub-culture unless you count chains like Jersey Mikes and Jimmy Johns. We do have an a few exceptions to our oddly obstructive approach to getting sandwiched.

These are two Yogi’s Hoagies in Central Ohio. One is in Westerville. The second is on Morse Road, in the Woodward Park neighborhood. Doing some rough calculating, I determined that I have driven by this location a minimum of 500 instances in my lifetime, more realistically, probably well over 1000. I never dined there once, although I’ve been to the Vietnamese place next door at least thrice.

While doing some research on Westerville for a project, I came across both listings for Yogi’s and notices the Morse Road Yogi’s had over the top rating on all of the food based rating sites. How could I have missed this place? Looking at the menu, I spied that had the word “Original” in the company name and the notation of 1977. Again, how could I have missed this place. Then as I dug deep into the menu and observed an overwhelming array of selections I determined I was not going to miss this place again.

Finding myself determined to right my error in eating, I felt an obligation to Yogi’s to really give it a detailed assessment in case my first selection was not the business at it’s best. For any situation involving my level a research which means eating the amount of food suitable for five hungry adults I try to take at least one person with me to split sandwiches. My reluctant assistant, or the Boo Boo Bear to my Yogi on this task (to fill up my Pic-a-nic Baskeet) was the notorious Grumpy Old Man.

(Note, while checking if this is a correct spelling of Boo Boo I came across this description on said bear: “Boo-Boo is Yogi Bear’s constant companion, and often acts as his conscience. He tries (usually unsuccessfully) to keep Yogi from doing things he should not do, and also to keep Yogi from getting into trouble..”. The Grumpy Old Man may not be my constant companion and rarely keeps me out of trouble but he does try to restrain by consumption).

On our first recon mission to Yogi’s our selections were the Franken-Hoagie, the Super Italian Hoagie, Chicken Noodle soup and a Chicken Salad and Cheese Bagel Sandwich allowing a diversity of items to be properly evaluated.

The chicken noodle soup was house made. It was just OK. I think it needs a stronger broth base and would have benefited from several more hours in a crock pot. These limitations combined with a smaller serving for $2.99 took this off my list of items to try again.

The chicken salad in the bagel sandwich was really good. It had good chicken flavor and a nice balance of mayonnaise and seasonings without being too wet or too dry. I’d try it again but next time in a hoagie format. The bagel was fairly generic and bland. It would have benefited from toasting to add a bit of flavor and to create a stronger barrier to any soaking from the chicken salad.

The Super Italian Hoagie features salami, ham, cheese with lettuce, tomato, onion, banana peppers, olive oil and oregano. What adds the Super to the name is extra meat and cheese. This was a good sub and very filling in the 8-inch version. I think the regular (non-super) Italian version would not have had enough mass for me.

The menu item which most intrigued me was the Franken-Hoagie described as “a Monster Hoagie, filled with Salami, Ham, Turkey, Roast Beef & Provolone with Tomatoes, Banana Peppers, Onions, Olive Oil, and Oregano! Use At Least Two Hands!” This was my favorite of what I sampled on the first scouting mission and I would gladly return for this sandwich even though I was able to eat it with just one hand.

After the eating was over, I had an opportunity to sit back and observe my surroundings without being distracted by lunch meats. The set up of Yogi’s is a time warp to the late 1970’s when the establishment opened. The knick knacks and bric-a-brac on the walls are a hodgepodge of pop culture nostalgia of the 1950’s and 1960s. Any independent establishment in 1970’s Columbus I can recall (vaguely) showcased the same type of decor. There is a mix of beer cans, John Wayne photos, toys and a wooden paddle noted to be from Mister J. Allen, Room 304 at North High School. In the background music played from an old juke box with selections such as Elvis Presley, The Chi Lites and Albert Hammond.

A significant bonus point is awarded to Yogi’s for chip diversity. There is a rack of potato chips to select from as sides for many menu items and some daily specials. These are from harder to find Ohio potato chip makers Jones and Grippos.

I’ll dish out some historical notes on the business. It opened April 1st 1977. The current owner was the manager there for eighteen years before taking over as owner. The website notes that this is the Original Yogi’s Hoagies so the location in Westerville, which has similar signage, must be a remnant from empire building in the past.

On subsequent trips other I tried a few other items. I was intrigued by the pizza options offered. One is a French bread pizza which brought back memories of the 1980’s. I also spied Roman Pizza. There are several different definitions and interpretations of what this means in the world of pizza production. (I would defer to this definition as definitive). In the case of Yogi’s I’m not sure of the pedigree of their pizza. It reminds me of school cafeteria pizza. The crust, sauce and cheese were seemingly disconnected – all are present but they do not seem to intersect or co-mingle with each other, it was easy to remove the entire cheese layer from each slice with no effort.

Roman Pizza

Pizza at Yogis

I also tried the Garlic Steak (patty) Hoagie. The Garlic was strong, very strongly infused in the bread. If you feel compelled to get this selection, request cheese, maybe a lot of cheese.

I tried the meatball sub. It was above average, for this selection, I would also suggest requesting it with extra cheese and perhaps asking them to cook it longer.

All in all this is a good family owned business worth visiting. My survey and assessment indicates commonalities in each visit. The bread is always fresh. I’m not sure where they source their bread from but it is not Auddinos. The standard sandwich sizes are 8 inches or 16 inches so servings are substantial. The service is friendly and the prices are fairly fair for the quality and quantity received. The only item I would rush back for would be the Franken-Hoagie based on my visits to date but there is a lot more on the menu I have not tried. If you find a great item not covered in this review let me know.

Yogi's Hoagies & Dairy Bar Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

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

Goremade Pizza (A Great Place if You “Get It”)

Posted by cmh gourmand on January 2, 2018

Ultimately any eatery is about food. But a great restaurant, food purveyor, etc., is more than the sum of the parts. A great place has to have great food, that is a given, but it also an extra….. something. For some that je ne sais quoi is a collective approach to service or a favorite server. At others it may be offering something hard to find elsewhere or raising the bar of quality well beyond the bar. And sometimes, it is about the collective community of customers, employees and neighborhood that create something beyond what is on the menu.

I have encountered a few of this type of place, you might even call these a hang outs, in my lifetime. Most of my “hot spots” were in the 1990’s: Galaxy Cafe, Lost Planet Pizza & Pasta, Niki’s, Cancun, Fresno and Dagwoodz. All of these places are just memories now. Today the best example I can think of is Thurns – a place where you can step back in time to get forgotten types of meats and irreplaceable banter and knowledge from three generations of butchers.

I’m adding a new place to this list, Goremade Pizza. Goremade, is a bit of a play on words of Gourmet. Nick the owner, does have a gourmet approach to ingredients but his vision of Goremade goes well beyond what he puts on the plate. Nick the owner and maestro of pizzas has created something at Goremade which exemplifies the concept of a whole being greater than the sum of the parts.

At some subconscious level, Nick has created an atmosphere that provides a Cheers vibe. They may not always remember your name, but they are very glad you came. Conversation flows between those on all sides of the counter. Goremade tends to act as a magnet for people who like to talk about food almost as much as they like to eat it. The conversations don’t just stick to making pizzas, you are as likely to talk about making patios, figuring out how to make charcuterie board with some foraged black walnut or how to connect with the community. Guests hang out as much as they come in to dine. Some might opt to have a drink on the patio after a pizza while others may play a board game at the bar.

Nick offers some standard menu items but to really invest in the full Goremade experience, you should devote at least one half of your order to a leap of faith into the world of culinary exploration and allow him to create something for you. Nick sources from many local farmers as well as some non traditional ingredients for pizza combinations which at the mildest would be described as wildly creative. Exploration is not limited to pizzas. The bar features about one dozen house made infusions often combing concoctions from local distiller 451 Spirits as the base. The cocktails are exciting mixes of flavors including excellent small batch sodas from Forged and Sown. Throughout the food and drink menu the underlying theme to to explore what one can do with flavors, ingredients and ideas. And in the process of exploring, we see what we can collectively learn about our food and ourselves.

But Goremade food is not fully focused on being all artisan and avant-garde, Nick is a craftsman as well. He built out much of what is in the space with materials often sourced from friends and family. The wood-fired oven, which goes by the name of Ferdinand would receive nods of approval from practitioners in New York and Naples alike. The size and shape of the oven limits mass production of pizzas, he can do about two at a time at full speed. However, what is missing in quantity is made up in quality. The oven maintains a steady, consistent temperature without wasting any wood. Nick coaxes out a bit extra from each crust and flavor with his attention to detail or eye for ingredient pairings.

At Goremade, guests can choose their own adventure. You can order, safe, sensible and traditional dishes or take a journey and see where it leads you. Either way you will feel the spirit of the space among of community of people who care about what they eat and who they eat with.

Goremade Pizza Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Posted in culinary knowledge, pizza | Tagged: , | Leave a Comment »

Cakes & More (a lot more: Empanadas, Chivitos, Fried Chicken…….)

Posted by cmh gourmand on December 26, 2017

Cakes and More could not have a more cumbersome location. It is sandwiched between a tattoo parlor and a tobacco store in a dingy strip that also features Pita Hut and the cultural hub of the Midwest, Bob’s Bar. It is just north of the very busy Morse Road and High Street intersection. Attempting to turn into the small lot, heading northbound is a non option during any peak traffic times and a leap of faith dependent on the good will of southbound drivers at most other times.

The business has been open since 2011. I have a very vague memory of popping in to look at the counters after a trip to Pita Hut in the late summer of 2011. It was an odd interlude of my life so my memory of that time is hazy at best but I think I walked in, saw few offerings that interested me then walked back out to head home. It as a ten second introduction.

Flash forward to the late summer of 2017. A banner was added to the sign offering the unusual combination of Empanadas and Fried Chicken. As they say in the old timey picture shows….Hello Nurse! That is the kind of combination that would interest me very much. I finally made my first trip to investigate in November with very low expectations. However this time I immediately connected with the place. I saw display counters filled with mouth-watering cakes, cookies and confections. I spied traditional treats from Mexico as well as Central and South America. It surprised me to see a few continental classics including eclairs and Napoleons (aka mille-feuille). As I stood pondering my options, I spied several signs listing out sandwich options, empanada prices and a Friday grilled meat special. Cakes and More definitely fulfills the sweet and savory needs for this Gourmand. My intense study of everything caught the attention of the man at the counter, who happens to be the husband of the owner/baker/pastry chef. He hails from the Dominican Republic, so a few items from his homeland are featured. His wife’s background included roots in Argentina and Uruguay. The items showcased in the cases are a collection of favorites from their collective comfort food classics and travels.

I made three research visits to write this post. On each visit I have consumed empanadas and eclairs. The empanadas are $3 each. I think they are the best I have had in Columbus. Fillings are either chicken of beef. The shell is flavorful and flakey with a great twisted crust. I think two for $5 is a great value and makes a filling meal. Having tried three eclairs on three occasions I can find no flaw in their execution and as long as there is one available it will be a default order on each visit.

I have only tried the Napoleon once (because they are rarely available). It is with the greatest confidence that I state it is the best I have had in my lifetime. As a child, there was a place forgotten to time where we bought Napoleons all the time and I loved them. These are even better and a good value at under $4 for a large piece.

A surprise discovery and the best value, is the Chaja. It is presented here a ball form of a traditional Uruguayan treat. I did not know what to expect when I bit into this ball but I was pleasantly surprised to consume a base that tasted like a fusion of cake and cookie with a dulce de leche center in the middle.

On my first visit I saw a sign for a Friday only Argentine Grill special. Having missed the consumption opportunity on my first two visits I figured the key to this experience is to pre-order the limited number prepared for the day. This special includes a grilled sausage, an expertly grilled cut of steak, a flavor-filled chimichurri sauce with a standard salad as well as a potato, carrot and pea salad. I enjoyed this dish but given the effort it took me to get it, I would be content to trade it for six empanadas.

I tried a small amount of the fried chicken because I was full of empanadas and eclairs. I decided to give the rest to my official fried chicken canary in the coal mine tester/expert. Some readers may be familiar with the Grumpy Old Man who is sometimes “forced” to go on my out of town missions to Southeast Ohio during and after which he complains about all the food I make him eat and the negative effects that high ABV beers have on his constitution and marriage. The Grumpy Old Man just happens to be a self-proclaimed Chicken Whore. His immediate diagnosis was that this was a fine representation of south of the border fried chicken. His endorsement was confirmed by his trip to Cakes and More for more fried chicken a few days later. His Puerto Rican wife found the fried chicken to be acceptable, which is a strong indicator of quality. Few things or people meet her standards so an acceptable opinion is a pretty big deal and a potential get out of jail card for his next offense.

Last but not least, one of the sandwich options is the Chivito. This combines thinly sliced and well grilled beef (churrasco), ham, bacon, cheese, boiled egg, sweet pickled red peppers, Heart of Palm, mayo, lettuce and tomato on fresh bread. If after reading that combination of ingredients your thought was “that sounds great”, you thought right. This sandwich has origins in Uruguay and I have not found it elsewhere in Ohio throughout my many travels.

As for the cakes, I have not tried any yet, but they all look good. As you have read, Cakes and More has much more that cakes. Here you can have your cake and eat more too.

Cakes and More Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Posted in food | Tagged: , , | 4 Comments »

An Airing of Grievances for Festivus

Posted by cmh gourmand on December 23, 2017

December 23rd is the day Festivus is observed. An important part of this holiday tradition involves an airing of grievances. I embrace this tradition with great passion. I will not list out my very long list of personal grievances but I will detail one small subset of grievances as they relate to the realm of food & drink.

Some related musings can be found in previous posts Restaurant Rants and Restaurant Rants the Sequel.

1) Sportsball People that shout at TV’s

I’m not sure how it found its way into the constitution but a large segment of people seem to believe it is their god given right to scream at TV’s during sporting events. Usually with unnecessary loudness, vigor and typically laced with profanity. I will allow that if one is at a clearly designated sports bar and everyone at that establishment is clearly there to watch the same sporting event, then this type behavior is marginally acceptable but still juvenile and annoying. Such hooliganism in another environment and especially a restaurant where people have paid to eat a meal while enjoying the company of others, is not acceptable and it is indeed reprehensible. After the first offense / the offending shout, the party or head shouter should be asked to leave after paying the tab for anyone in earshot.

2) Large parties without reservations

There is many a weekend evening I have seen a large party amble in to a restaurant and expect to be seated immediately and served with great speed. Who do these people think they are? Reservations are both a courtesy and a practical step to improve the experience for those on both sides of the order.

2 a) These same people often exhibit other poor behaviors. Often they treat their dining area like their family room. They and their ilk exhibit space creep physically or through hooting, hollering and other uncouth behaviors spreading their lack of decorum to all that can see and hear them. When they leave, they typically tip poorly and leave a giant mess in their wake. It is herd mentality at the lowest.


3) Loud talkers at restaurants and bars

A restaurant or bar is a public space. Yet, many find that for some unknown reason they have an inherent need to raise the volume from 5 to 10. For some, this change starts the moment they walk through the door, for others, it ramps up as each drink is quaffed. Not needed, not appreciated and not cool.

4) Loud music at restaurants and bars

Continuing with the theme. There are few places where music adds to the ambiance. Where this does apply, using a muted, background music can create a pleasant white noise to mute some of the noise pollution caused by those that commit grievance number 3. There are so many places that have music cranked up but no one can hear it and often what is selected is just something the bartender likes not something that adds to the mood the business might want to create.


5) Different rules of engagement because one is drunk or buzzed

A sizable majority of people seem to feel that they are not accountable for being an asshole when they are drunk. In my experience, whatever annoying habit or personality issues a person brings to the table only amplifies when they are drunk. An asshole by any name or state of intoxication is still an asshole and accountable for it.

6) Family dining is not a license to trash your table

I have a high energy 29 month old. When we go out to eat, he makes a mess. We clean it up before we leave. We might miss a pea or two, but we always make the effort. Our server is not our servant. Many people I observe out and about have a different point of view.

7) Bartenders that do not tend the bar

I spend a lot of time in a lot of taprooms. The level of service varies significantly. There are many places that seem to invest no time training their staff and seem to do not value quality control on how their staff tend bar. People that were good at whack-a-mole as kids are usually pretty good bartenders. Good bartenders have an ability to observe the entire bar. Bad bartenders tend to focus only on what is right in front of them. Good bartenders prep and clean when they have downtime. Bad bartenders gaze at their phone when they have less than 2 customers waiting for a beverage. Good bartenders know their cocktails and craft beers and can ask a few questions to help you make a good first pick. Bad bartenders might pass you a menu if it is not inconvenient. Good bartenders make great tips. Bad bartenders lose a customer after the first long wait for a bad drink and cost their businesses they work for a lot in lost profitability.

8) Businesses that do not tend to their parking lots and bathrooms

I do not expect a restaurant or bar bathroom or parking lot to be immaculate or fully stocked all the time. However, when it is clear it has not been cleaned in days or weeks, it is usually a safe bet that other key things are being missed as well. The same applies to things like clearing out leaves, yard waste, etc. It might not be their businesses property but a mess still reflects on the business and attention to detail for the entire guest experience.

9) Resisting Recycling

There are not many good recycling options available or area restaurants and bars, but at bars in particular, when I see trash cans full or bottle and cans on their way to the trash, it breaks my heart.


10) Dogs in bars and taprooms / children in bars and taprooms

I am not against all dogs in all bars and taprooms. I am not against all children in all bars and taprooms. And I am not against all adults in each of these places. However, there are some adults, some children and some dogs that should never go to any of these places. And there are some places no creature should go to. To be safe, it is probably best that I be the sole arbitrator of these decisions.

11) cell phones

If you are in a public place, please don’t share your conversation with the rest of us. We don’t want to hear it. Don’t answer your phone. If you do go to the lobby or parking lot, or perhaps into the nearest street if you do need to have the conversation. Also, in a public place, place all of your tones, alarms, etc., on mute. And if you have an obnoxious YouTube video you want to share with everyone at your table, e-mail it, don’t play it at your table at high volume.

These are a FEW of my least favorite things.

Please feel free to air your own grievances here as comments.

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Vick’s Gourmet Pizza, Reynoldsburg

Posted by cmh gourmand on December 21, 2017

Vick’s Gourmet Pizza has a history going back by name to 1961. It also has a pre history with the founders working at CY’s Pizza and 3C Pizza in 1958.

Doug Vickers’ is the current owner of Vicks. His parents, Hollis and Louise, opened the original Vick’s. Doug and his wife Charlotte took it over 36 years ago. Vicks moved to the current location in 2017, just two store front down from the original. Looking at old reviews, the new location is a BIG upgrade in space and atmosphere from the original. The new space is in the former location of Connell Hardware which started as a family business in 1872. The building has a lot of history to it with Vick’s incorporating the best elements of the space create a comfortable and inviting atmosphere. There is ample seating as well as a fully stocked bar seating area.

A local institution like Vick’s could get away with cutting a few corners but they don’t. Almost everything is made in house except the desserts. The dough is made fresh and hand tossed. The sauces are slow cooked. There is no sign of skimping on high quality ingredients.

I have sampled two pizzas. The extreme pepperoni which pairs dense layers of spicy and mild pepperoni. I also tried the Greek Pizza which tossed these ingredients together: Artichoke hearts, Black Olives, Sun-dried
Tomatoes wither Feta and Asiago cheeses. The pizza is a few millimeters thicker than the typical Columbus style pizza and the crust edge has a satisfying crunch that is neither to hard or crumbling. I discovered the kitchen uses a very high gluten flour which adds a bit to the density and flavor of the pizza dough.

I was even more impressed with the subs. The meatball sub was one of the best I have sampled. There was plenty of sauce and meatballs on the sandwich. The cheese was thick and dense with just a trace of char on the edges. The sauce was flavorful, well-seasoned and tasted slow cooked. The bun was sturdy and held up to the weight of the meatballs. Doing some deep research, I discovered the sub buns are shipped in from a highly respected bakery in Pittsburgh. The meatballs contain applesauce for moistness and the sauce is cooked with the sausage.

As I was walking out after my first visit, I commended Mr. Vickers on a very good meatball sub. He thanks me and then strongly suggested I try the Italian sub next time because the “capicola is out of this world”. When I tried the Italian sub on my next visit, I found it was perfectly cooked with a nice meat to cheese ratio but not over seasoned or dressed. The bottom bun had a trace of mayo thinly spread along the length to keep the bun from disintegrating from the grease.

I don’t have cause to visit Reynoldsburg in my day to day doings, but Vick’s is well worth the trip if you want subs and grub with a gourmet approach to quality ingredients.

Vick's Gourmet Pizza Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

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Bono Pizza (or Jake 2.0)

Posted by cmh gourmand on December 8, 2017

Bono Pizza

(Update: This Bono location is slated to close January 31st 2018 – but the owners are looking for a new location and may run a mobile operation while in limbo).

Bono Pizza has a long, storied history of being found in the most unlikely of places. At the current (Jake 2.0) location, the tradition of improbable places continues. Today’s Bono is hidden in an apartment complex right next to another pizza place (Cowtown Pizza) and a bar. To better understand why this is not unusual new readers will need to go way back in time.

In 2008, I outlined some of the history of Bono and it’s first owner / visionary, Bill Yerkes. Bill is known for many things – some of which I should not put into print but it is indisputable that he is a pizza Picasso. He spent many years in Italy and used that time to perfect the art and craft of making pizza. After a return to central Ohio, he eventually set up near Delaware and developed a strong following. Then he made his way to the Short North where a cult-like following boosted Bono to new heights. After a long hiatus including a creative approach to crowdfunding called Bono Bucks, Bono 3.0 started in part of a convenience store in the Grandview / 5XNW area. This is where current owner Jake Wilch came on board as an apprentice of sorts. Towards the end of the lifespan of Bono 3.0 Jake was the full time owner and Bill faded into the sunset so to say. Mirroring his mentor, there was a bit of a hiatus between Bono 3.0 and 4.0. When the current location launched there were some fears it would sink, but Jake persevered and pizzaed on. Thank goodness.

It is hard to describe the Bono experience to non visitors. The whole is definitely greater than the sum of the parts. Bohemian does not fully reflect the spirit of the place but a new term I thought of comes close: Bono-hemian: “having informal and unconventional social habits” but formal training and intense passion in the art of pizza production.

Bono location

Bono features several tables, a giant Pac-man / Galaga combo sit down video game, quick access to the bar next door and other amenities like comic books to keep one occupied. The wood fired pizza oven is located near the rear door out of sight of customers. Jake did not miss a step at Bono (4.0). The pizzas and salads are as good as I remember them from Bonos past and as close to pizzas that I consumed in Naples and other parts of Italy (side note: Naples is a pit) in the past with a few upgrades. The focus on a quality dough and (pizza) peeling a nice bit of char in the bottom crust at Bono is great however the real game changer is Jake does not skimp on the quality of ingredients. Each item showcases the finest quality meats, cheeses and vegetables Jake can source. There are few meals where I savor every morsel of every bite as much as I do at Bono.

Here are a few examples to whet your appetite.

I never met a salad I did not want a second serving of at Bono. Ingredients are always fresh and complement each other. There are never too many items or too few flavors mixed together, they are always the right combination or everything

At one time or another I have sampled every Bono concoction. I’m fairly certain that one evening at the Short North location, I consumed one of every pizza on the menu with the dedicated help of the namesake of the San Rolando Bono pizza. I will take a moment to list out the toppings of a few of my favorites. The previously mentioned San Rolando is one of the simplest of pizzas at Bono: fresh tomato sauce, pepperoni, sausage and mozzarella. The Greek Boy features tomato sauce, mozzarella, feta, kalamata olives, spinach and a bit of oregano. Those are just two of the twenty combinations on the menu. Like the secret menu at Chipotle, insiders have special combinations of different pizza types (two or three of the styles fused together in both ingredients and name) that Jake will honor…if you get the “secret” name right.

For the full Bono experience, one must dine in. First, you need a rest after making all of the effort to find the place. Second, you need to soak in the ambiance to fully comprehend what I mean by Bono-hemian, Finally, Bono is often ordered to go, but I find it is never quite as satisfying when it has a chance to cool and an opportunity for some of the smoke and char from the oven to dissipate during the trip by car from Bono to back to your point of origin.

Bono Pizza Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

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Creole Kitchen 2.0 (Dine in Seating)

Posted by cmh gourmand on December 3, 2017

It was a long time coming and a long time in getting around to writing about it, but something big happened in late 2016. Creole Kitchen expanded to offer dine in seating. That might not seem like a big deal but if you read my original post from 2013 you might be inclined to agree with me. If you need a bit of icing on that cake of convincing, then try a serving of -> this.

We don’t have many creole options in Columbus. My first introduction was Harold’s Cajun Glory Cafe in the 1990’s which closed many years ago. After several years of Cajun purgatory I stumbled upon Creole Kitchen. As a largely carry-out operation in a lightly traveled part of the central city, Creole Kitchen stayed off most culinary radars. That was OK in my blog/book, I was happy to keep it to myself and minimize my wait time in line. When I spied the sign in 2013 indicating a dining room would be opening soon, I knew it would be a game changer for Chef Butcher and his kitchen. But 2014 and 2015 came and went. At the beginning of 2016, I was still cautiously optimistic. Towards the end of the year, the good news came to me the space was finally open. Nearly one year later, I was able to finally have the full Creole Kitchen experience. And just to be safe, I made sure to try it out twice before writing about the experience.

The food remains the same. The advantage of the new space is seating. This means more chairs, but more importantly, the right type access for those that would not seek out food in a styrofoam container. The carry out side of the business remains business as usual, the space is unchanged. A year later, at least for the lunch crowd, I think the community us still getting accustomed to an eat in option. The space is simple, nice but not fancy. The dining room is open with tables spread out instead of crammed in to maximize profit. There is a relaxed atmosphere throughout that is mirrored by staff. There are no “faux” creole, Cajun, etc., knick knacks mounted on the wall. In lieu of something not connected to the heritage of the place there is artwork reflecting the community and the musical history of the neighborhood.

One change in service with the restaurant, when asked about the level of heat for each dish the scale is presented as 1 to 5. Five is hot, but at Creole Kitchen heat is about flavor not how many taste buds can be burned out from heat.

The is only one significant difference between the carry out and the dine in experience, how the food is presented. In some instances, it is downright pretty. Another difference, that depends on your disposition and that of your fellow diners is that you now have a chance to talk to someone else about what you are going to have or what you are having. In my two visits to the new space, I have had the pleasure to share conversations about what I like and what I want to try next with those around me.

I’ll share some of my meals below.

I’m not going to go into detail about the food, the photos speak for themselves (and my old blog posts) but I am going to offer a few suggestions for dining in. First, whatever, you order, make sure to get a side of macaroni and cheese. It is the perfect starch to pair with anything on your plate. I’d also suggest a side of bread. This is used to soak in any small amount of sauce that does not cling to your meal. An order of bread ensures nothing is wasted or left behind. Another thing you can do in the restaurant side of Creole Kitchen…is tip. Tip big because the servers waited a long time for a chance to serve you.

Creole Kitchen Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

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