CMH Gourmand – Eating in Columbus & Ohio

Dining, Donuts, Dives and Diatribes

  • Recent Comments

    Pat Woodward on Big Daddy’s BBQ Truck at…
    cmh gourmand on R&M Bakery – Newark…
    cbusconnect on R&M Bakery – Newark…
    cmh gourmand on Kolache Republic (German Villa…
    Norman Carmichael on Kolache Republic (German Villa…
    ExTex on Ravenhurst Champagne Cellars a…
    cmh gourmand on Ezzo Sausage Company – T…
  • Categories

  • Top Posts

  • Archives: August 2006 to Now

From the Archives for Fathers Day: Apple Cake Podcast

Posted by cmh gourmand on June 17, 2018

At Copan Mayan Ruins in Honduras 2009

Today marks my second year that I am the Father on Father’s Day. I never figured that is was going to be an easy assignment but I must say the last five months in the role have been a marathon. It is soul wrenching when your child has a challenge that you might not be able to help him with or know if what you are doing is helping or not.

However, I’m so happy for all of the time I get to spend with CMH Griffin. Spending time with him it makes Fathers Day a little easier to bear since my dad died on Father’s Day.

I have shared some of my dynamic with my father before: Apple Cake Eulogy and Senor Ellison esta aqui.

Recently, I found this audio episode from my short lived podcast, (the original) Columbus Foodcast. The sound quality is very good (although I must admit I started crying when I was testing out the audio file to make sure it was good quality). The amusing part for me and for anyone listening that may have known my Dad aka “Crash”, is how hard he trying to be “good”. Throughout this recording I can hear trying to restrain his language and more typical demeanor. You also get some sense of his “special” relationship with Tommy, from Tommy’s Diner in Fton.

This very special, “lost” episode of Columbus Foodcast lasts about 17 minutes.

Listen -> Here

Advertisements

Posted in culinary misadventure | Leave a Comment »

Big Daddy’s BBQ Truck at Campus Pitt Stop

Posted by cmh gourmand on June 10, 2018

Let me begin by sharing three words lead to intense disappointment when used in the same sentence: New, BBQ and Columbus. When I amd told about a new BBQ joint in Columbus, I get a bit giddy but just like Charlie Brown running to kick the football, new BBQ spots are most often like Lucy, pulling the ball / my enthusiasm away at the last possible moment. Columbus, as a metropolitan area has a very low bar for what I consider good BBQ. Many people still seem to view this as some type of exotic food that must be nurtured and supported until it can stand on its our merits without massive support. I still chase any new BBQ joint like I did any new girlfriend in the first decade of the 21st Century, with hope but somehow knowing I would be disappointed or burned in the end.

(Let me take a moment for a brief tangent. It is highly likely there will be some odd typo somewhere in the post. For the last couple years, this has been a consistent quirk of this web log. Let me assure you three or six months later or maybe one of two years from now, I will reread this post and correct it while I am rewriting at least two or three sentences of this. I do this with almost everything I write. For some reason, I need to read it fresh a few days or weeks later to spot the typos and fine tune my message. The whole reengineering process to posts makes them at least 3% better in the end (so reread the last 700 posts to see what I am talking about). So let me assure you, this will eventually be a perfect post, but probably not in the first month of online life).

When I heard about Big Daddy’s it was from an unlikely source – the Grumpy Old Man (known to some readers) aka The Chicken Whore (known to a very small subset of the CMH Gourmand readership). When he mentioned he had eaten Big Daddy’s three times already and was miffed that I have not told him about it first I was shocked. But the big shocker was that these meals had been obtained by his lovely but very status conscious wife. I could not imagine her going to a food truck or taking a risk on such a meal. However, she did and apparently was very enthused about it. This was disturbing to my world view but it provided great hope. I have well over a dozen BBQ places profiled in the annals of CMH Gourmand and almost all of them are in parts of town the bravest of my readers would fear to tread. Big Daddy’s is at Campus Pitt Stop located at the northeast corner of Lane Avenue and Kenny Road. This may be among the least intimidating areas in Central Ohio.

(Another brief note): Campus Pitt stop is an odd type of business, the Columbus equivalent of Mos Eisley on Tatooine from Star Wars. At one time this was a gas station. In theory this should be a thriving retail outpost with easy proximity to Ohio State, Upper Arlington and other thriving areas. This lot is packed with cars that need a parking spot for OSU Football home games but otherwise it is often desolate. This is a carry out of sorts that also houses an odd assortment of what looks to be a rotating selection of flea market items. The only thing notable about the Pitt Stop is that they have the largest selection of Ballreich’s snack products I have seen anywhere outside of the Ballreich’s factory in Tiffin Ohio. The Pitt stop also offers a wide assortment of rental trucks and always seems to have a random number of cars on the lot with no owners or someone working on one of them. I also observed that is has been the home of many food trucks that probably never should have entered into the food truck trade.

Moving on to Big Daddy’s. The back story begins near Detroit. Big Daddy – who is not small but certainly not a large man, is very friendly and hard-working soul. He works as an electrical contractor during the week and runs the smoker connected to the Big Daddy’s Friday and Saturday (only open on these days) and on the seventh day, he rests. This is a family affair with his daughter and often a niece working the truck window while he tends the smoker. His BBQ origins begin with his father near Detroit. By report Big Daddy’s father was not an all-star at BBQ but he was a “foodie” before there was a name for such an affliction. Big Daddy’s Dad was always passionate about the journey to find the best of any food. While on this pilgrimage his son (Big Daddy today) discovered BBQ and decided to study it in-depth. This led to his own trips all over the country sampling all styles of BBQ from South Carolina to Texas. It took Big Daddy a long time to perfect and fine-tune his craft. He has now taken his hobby out on the streets in food truck format. He says the food truck business has not been easy (it never is) but he has learned from mistakes and is feeling good about the current location at the Campus Pitt Stop.

As an aside here, before I forget, let me say that there are a couple of elements to having a great food truck. Any good food truck needs to have good food, that is the baseline. But a great truck as a personality to it. Usually in the form of the owner or sometimes the team that works it together. Often owners become detached from their food trucks over time and let others operate them – these trucks are doomed to be average or they may start to suck. The food and the truck are a reflection of the owner and if the owner is not there – or if the owner is not interesting and/or passionate about their food you experience will not be the same. In a brick and mortar example, Cameron Mitchell Restaurants are consistently good but they were better when he was working his own kitchen and the place resonated that energy. In the same vein, Jeni’s ice cream was much better when Jeni was scooping her own ice cream. When you remove the creator from the creation something is lost.

On my initial trip to Big Daddy’s I played it safe, I selected a four meat sampler and a side of Mac & Cheese. I knew I was going to be pleased the moment I lifted the styrofoam lid.

I was intrigued by the giant piece of bread topping the mountain of meat. Big Daddy’s steers clear of the typical slice(s) of generic store loaf white bread with a slightly toasted, buttered and seasoned piece of Italian style bread. This holds up well to the rigors of large amounts of BBQ sauce and can be used as a napkin in a pinch. I moved on to the small cubed pieces of brisket. These were full of flavor and not fatty. The smoked sausage was well cooked and true to the roots of the Texas style favored by Big Daddy. Next, because it was my favorite, the grilled, BBQ chicken wings were absolutely fantastic by any rating scale.

The wings are served in their entirety – not just the drum but the entire wing. It was grilled properly and significantly sauced. The meat hiding behind the skin was moist, succulent and resonated with chicken flavor. As a Kansas City BBQ Society Certified BBQ judge I can say with some authority that these wings are competition quality. I also tried the ribs. By tried I really mean devoured with an intensity that would terrify a lion or tiger or bear with rabies. These ribs were perfectly cooked – plenty of meat and very flavorful with just a bit of char. Often when I try ribs in Columbus, they have been cooked to the point of mummification or are dry or the meat clings to the bone like a drowning man to the bow of a sinking ship. Not the case here these were also competition quality.

Based on this one visit, I was very hopeful. I had an obligation to go back. I had to make sure I was not dealing with a BBQ fluke or the possibility I had lowered my standards subconsciously after so much mediocrity in the past. Also, I had promised I would be back. While chatting it up with Big Daddy’s daughter and asking too many questions about the sauces (sweet and tangy are the two choices) and inquiring if the Daddy’s Boy sandwich was similar to the Cleveland cult classic Polish Boy, I was told I had to have that sandwich. There was a clear call to action.

On my second visit I ordered the Daddy’s Boy sandwich and more wings. The wings were great the second time around. The Daddy’s Boy is similar to a Cleveland Polish Boy. The sandwich features a foot long BBQ Sausage (I did measure it), pulled pork, cole slaw, french fries and a lot of sauce (I opted for sweet on the second visit).

This is a good sandwich. It has many similarities to the Polish Boy of Cleveland. The Big Daddy’s tangy sauce does have the unique flavor and a slight purple or pink hue to it like the Polish Boy sauce but it is a different sandwich. I could not eat this in one sitting and I could not consume it with my hands. The use of the Italian style bread here is a plus because it holds up to the weight of the sausage, pork and fries and does not disintegrate due to the saturation of sauce. The sandwich is a good introduction to Big Daddy’s because it lets one sample about one half of the menu in one box.

I tried the mac and cheese. The Big Daddy’s version is true to the tradition of most BBQ and/or soul food joints, it leans toward a reduced ratio of cheese (creamy) to macaroni. I liked that Big Daddy’s was not reluctant to limit peppering their version. I prefer my Mac and Cheese to be cheesier but that did not limit me from enjoying this and finishing the container.

The greens were good. This is saying a lot. The best greens I have ever had came from Woody & Jo’s which as been closed for years. I rarely find greens that I enjoy. Typically they lack flavor or seasoning or both. Often they are overcooked or undercooked. And sometimes the greens are not sufficiently diced before serving. The only place I have ever ordered greens more than once is Ray Ray’s therefore those serve as my current standard. Big Daddy’s runs a close second in my hierarchy of greens. These are properly cooked, seasoned well and have a large amount of tasty meat integrated into the mix.

In conclusion, Big Daddy’s is likely to please your palate. Tips go to the college fund to send Big Daddy’s daughter to college and my guess is so will much of the profits. Enjoy good food while supporting a small family business at the same time.

Big Daddy’s BBQ on Facebook

Posted in BBQ, Mobile Food | Tagged: | 1 Comment »

The Late Night Slice Pizza Box

Posted by cmh gourmand on May 29, 2018

Let me introduce you to the Late Night Slice pizza box, at least the current version (#4). The economics of pizza boxes are more challenging than you think. If you want something fancy, with art work and all, like the Late Night Slice box, but you also want to stay in business, you need to buy by the semi load to make the price point affordable.

Late Night Slice started with a “cover” on each box by year. But the dynamics of pizza box ordering make ordering tricky because one does not want to under or over order if you are linked to a year. Due to this, the 2016 boxes premiered late in said year. Then I waited, and waited and waited for 2017 to appear but I keep seeing vintage 2016’s each month. I then wondered if the 2017 box would be skipped or premiere in December until I saw the box showcased at the beginning of this post. This box caused a bit of bewilderment because I wondered how I missed #1, #2 and #3. However, the number of the boxes does make sense when you consider the previous changes in cover art that were to be by year not by version. All of the art is created by local artist Pat Moore. Pat has a long history of supporting local business and hanging out with the Late Night Slice gang so this local collaboration makes sense.

Late Night Slice box

Some features carry over from box to box no matter what the version is. You can always count for two of the sides to spell out the mantra that has allowed Late Night Slice to grow into an empire: PAY, EAT, LEAVE. The bottom of the box also has artwork on it and is always changed when the front cover is updated. The “mascot” you see on both is named Mr. Pizza Face. You may be glad or disturbed to know there is a life sized costume version of him complete with leg hair. Classy.

Late Night Slice Pizza Face

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

Arrivederci Adriaticos (1.0)

Posted by cmh gourmand on May 19, 2018

Adriaticos spent much of 2018 in a state of limbo. In the Fall of 2017, The Ohio State University announced a plan to take their building as part of an expansion for the OSU Optometry program but a firm date has not be released to the public other than by September 2018. There were talks of a relocation near the campus but no site was indicated. No new site could ever reflect the character of original Adriaticos which has called this small brick building home since at least 1987, when I first attended Ohio State as a freshman. The University and Adriaticos were committed to finding a spot near the original location. For Adriaticos this would be an opportunity for a larger kitchen and more dining space. For many, but especially south campus dorm students and all of the nursing staff of the OSU Medical Center, Adriaticos was more than just food, it was a public service and in many cases a critical need. By this I mean the Buckeye Pizza Special – a large sheet of pizza that would be a tight fit in Car to Go and can feed 12 or more people with ease and at a low price. Cheap pizza is rarely good, but this a great pizza at a great price.

I only had Adriaticos a few times while I was a student and never on site, it was always too crowded. I can vaguely remember having a few slices of a Buckeye Pizza (really big, square-shaped Sicilian pizza at a party). My budget did not supporting buying a whole pizza so I would just throw in a few bucks when on campus friends ordered it.

I do recall in detail, meeting there with some of my older friends who were back in town for the weekend to visit with other friends in the OSU MBA Program. It was not until the inception of the long running Nerd Night started around 2009 that Adriaticos became a regular fixture in my life and for many years, a weekly fixture. In early 2014, a reliable source told me that Adriaticos was slated to close at the end of the year so the university could use the building. I contacted the owner about the rumor and he strongly denied such a thing as a remote possibility and urged me not to write anything about the rumor so as to not spread panic. I was relieved. That was a good thing because later in 2014, Adriaticos was the featured late night snack for drunk revelers at my wedding in April 2014. It was a mainstay for my wife during pregnancy and continues to be the default emergency meal (with great frequently because it has been one crisis after another since we got hitched) after we moved into our new house and started to raise a pizza loving child.

In early spring 2018, word came out of a new location for Adriaticos. They will be taking over the old Aveda space, just around the corner at 1681 Neil Avenue. The new location is an upgrade in many ways: more dining space, more craft beer selection and a larger kitchen which equals a greater choice of items on the menu. Parking will still be a challenge but that does maintain at least one tradition of the original. The new location is expected to open by the end of summer just in time to serve a new generation of freshmen as they move into the dorms. The old location will close mid summer 2018 so there will be little to no down time for people who need their pizza fix.

In April to ensure CMH Griffin Gourmand had enough original Adriaticos in his DNA I took him for a dine in experience. We both discovered something we did not know. Their bread sticks are amazingly delicious.

Posted in CLOSED, pizza | Tagged: , , | Leave a Comment »

R&M Bakery – Newark (Back on The Ohio Donut Trail)

Posted by cmh gourmand on May 13, 2018

Family Gourmand has been kicked in the nuts for the bulk of 2018 with one calamity, illness, etc., after another. So there has been little time for writing and even less for donut exploration. This post is the result of pure “serendonutipity”. I never had R & M Bakery on my radar but while doing a brewery run in Newark, I happened to notice the sign for the bakery. Then I spied a donut display case I could see through the window while I was waiting for a stop light to change. Although I was very pressed for time, I decided to pop in for a look. From outside appearances, I thought the place had a lot of potential. The building looks to be at least 100 years old. The nearly non existent parking lot is made of turn of the 20th century brick street pavers. I nearly did not see the business signage because it is old and faded. Walking into the shop, I had pretty low expectations. Interior design and decor is definitely not a priority of the owners but that is neither a pro nor con on the donut trail but did help to lower my low expectations It was late on a Friday afternoon and no self respecting bakery should have much stock at this time of day. R&M delivered on that unwritten law of bakeries, the shelves were nearly bare. Donut Trail criteria is based on dough alone.

I typically judge a potential Ohio Donut Trail spot the merit of their cake donuts (because those are the best) but all I had to choose from were a few yeast donuts, long johns and a few specialty items. While chatting up the young fella at the counter, I discovered that the bakery is very well-known for the quality of their cakes and cut-out cookies. None of those were available to sample and to be true to form, this is the donut trail so that is not relevant but still noteworthy. However, I should mention that I did try one Oreo ball and it was beyond divine. It was a small dense and moist ball of chocolate cake with a touch of Oreo flavor to it that was encased in dark chocolate. Really good. Best Oreo Ball ever. Small in size but big it flavor. It will not disappoint. (Written in Trumpian style for no reason).

Moving along to the donuts, although what I tried were items that would typically be on the second tier of my donut consumption pyramid, each variety I tried was exceptional for the category it represented. I tried a vanilla glazed yeast donut. The icing was flavorful and the donut tasted crazy fresh for a Friday afternoon. I tried a maple long john. The icing was lightly glazed on to the top of this tube-shaped treat but tasted true to the maple traditions of most Ohio donut shops. I sampled a vanilla cream as well and was impressed with the light fluffiness of the icing as well as the flavor. I also tried a baked good I had not encountered before which is called a Chop Suey Roll. I picked it because it was the last of its kind left in the display case. The base of this treat is a cinnamon roll style dough that looks to be cut in thick noodle or French fry form that is then mashed together and covered with a thick layer of vanilla icing. This was very good so I saved a few bites for CMH Griffin Gourmand to munch on one hour later when I picked him up from daycare. He gave it two thumbs up. My boy is no slouch when it comes to donuts so I hope you can appreciate his opinion although he is still under three years old.

I also tried an apple fritter, a staple of any Ohio Bakery. The fritters here are leaner that the typical fat and sassy fritter found in these parts but it did not fail for flavor. There was a very good sugary glaze coating throughout the exterior and the interior housed several fresh apple bits. I was impressed.

For an unplanned exploratory mission, I tried enough to want to visit again. If you go, I advise you to look for off street parking nearby. The bakery is at a pretty busy intersection. The brick parking lot is short and narrow, it might fit two cars if the drivers are considerate of each other and not in a rush to get in or out.

Doing a bit of sleuthing, the bakery has been around at least thirty years with a largely supportive local following minus a few Facebook rants back and forth in the past.

Note:
The correct phone number seems be: (740) 345-3615.

R & M Bakery Incorporated Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Posted in donuts, Ohio Donut Trail | Tagged: , , , , | 2 Comments »

Kolache Republic (German Village / Brewery District)

Posted by cmh gourmand on April 30, 2018

A bit of back story before I get to the meat of the matter. I am biased about Kolache Republic. I will not even pretend to have the pretense of objectivity. I met Dusty Kotchou, Rick Jardiolin & Doug Sauer in the first week of my tour of duty at the Food Fort. At the time, they were figuring out how to use a food cart to market two things still foreign to Columbus, mobile food and Kolaches. They gave up on the mobile aspect but they went whole hog into the Kolache aspect as one of my first clients to open a brick and mortar location. I lost track of them for a short time as I worked with the likes of Pitabilities, OH! Chips, Dos Hermanos, Ajumama and more but I did stalk them on social media. I was recently invited to get reaquainted with them and Kolaches so get ready for an education.

First, you need to figure out what a Kolache is. And that is not always a straightforward matter. Let’s begin with pronunciation: pronounced ko-LAH-chee. The origins date back hundreds of years to Central Europe and Czechoslovakia. They made their way to north america and settled with central Texas with Czech immigrants. Over time they transformed from a snack or treat to a meal and the fillings changed from simple cheeses and fruits to all manner of things such as savory meats in Sloppy Joe format. They have been the rage in Texas for decades and have slowing spread to a few select places via migrant Texans and super fans.

While Columbus is a long way from Texas, our fair city shares a lot of characteristics with Austin Texas so Dusty, Rick and Doug saw an opportunity to make Kolaches a thing in the capital city. Their location on South High Street (Brewery District/German Village) churns out Kolaches for breakfast, lunch and catered orders.

Here is a handy graphic I borrowed from them to walk you through how it all works.

And pictured below is a typical menu of daily offerings.

As you can see Kolache Republic has diners covered for sweet and savory – breakfast, lunch and even dinner to go. The daily specials are areas where they really excel in creativity. The in-house chef is allowed to push across the traditional boundaries of fillings and toppings. I hope you will block out some time to explore what they have to offer.

Kolache Republic Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Posted in desserts, sandwiches | Tagged: | 2 Comments »

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

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 »