CMH Gourmand – Eating in Columbus & Ohio

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Archive for the ‘bar’ Category

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

Posted by CMH Gourmand on January 30, 2013

pizza pizza

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

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

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

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

pizza

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

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

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

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

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

Meister's Bar on Urbanspoon

Posted in bar, pizza | 2 Comments »

Ace of Cups: An Arsenal for Awesomeness!

Posted by CMH Gourmand on November 14, 2012


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

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

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

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

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

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

Quick Byte: Iron Grill BBQ & Brew

Posted by CMH Gourmand on October 2, 2012

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Iron Grill Brew & BBQ on Urbanspoon

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

Ray Ray’s 2.0: Two Trucks, Same Menu, Much Better Venue

Posted by CMH Gourmand on May 1, 2012

It was a sad day for Baja Clintonville. It was a great day for Old North Columbus, Jaime Anderson, Ace of Cups and the SoHud Non-Industrial Complex. After an extraordinary run in an unlikely convenience store parking Ray Ray’s Hog Pit has moved on.

There is no need for me to write accolades about Ray Ray’s – 96% of your already know or have read about Ray Ray’s and wanted to go but never did. You now have many more reasons to drive just slightly south on High Street for the full Ray Ray’s experience. The BBQ master is now based at Ace of Cups. What does that mean? It means beer…good beer, a patio, a great live music line up and a bar that will be successful in a location that has repeatedly failed. It also means better parking, twice the BBQ output and a pairing of two business that were meant for each other. By combining their strengths, the whole is greater than the sum of the parts. Ray Rays and Ace of Cups is the Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup, (the peanut butter and chocolate) of food pairings.

Marcy Mays is the owner and bartender in chief of Ace of Cups. You might have heard of her in a past life in the band Scrawl or maybe as a one of the founders of saloon called Surly Girl. She has taken a building that was a bank, that turned into a series of failed bars. It was a place that never seemed to come together. She is making it work while working fulltime and pursuing other projects at the same time. Ace of Cups has a ping-pong table to complement the patio and an inside menu, with vegan items to complete the carnivorous offerings of Ray Ray’s.

Jaime Anderson worked in the BBQ trade before finding a niche in a trailer that did great in an unwieldy spot. The secret to success: time, word of mouth and a commitment to the art and science of BBQ that polished this diamond in the rough. It worked. But not without some barriers. The biggest obstacles – some bull-headed bureaucracy and literally a handful of people who saw a small business person, running a BBQ operation in a trailer as a threat to their customer base or as someone who should be paying a higher rent elsewhere out of self-interest, not community good.

There is a downside to the story of Ray Ray’s 1.0. This is where the bureaucracy comes in. Jaime has a trailer. Pubic Health requires that a food trailer move every 45 days. There is some obscurely worded, arcane and unclear zoning and other city regulations that are inconsistently observed as requiring a trailer to move every day. From a health and safety standpoint – there is no support for this requirement. From a practical and pragmatic point of view the 24 hour rule is rarely enforced and often ignored but for some reason the microscope zoomed in on Jaime. Maybe he was too successful, received too much press or caught some bad karma. The 1% won against the 99% on this joust.

Jaime tried to get the city departments to explain to him why he had to tear down and set each day that he was in operation. He was only set up a few days a week so the possibility of being unsafe or unsanitary did not exist. Jaime continued to hit a brick wall fighting city hall and never received a real answer. He invested money and time, hired a lawyer and more. Eventually he had to give up, suck it up and waste three to five hours each business day setting up and tearing down for no good reason. In spite of this Sisyphean effort, he continued, thrived and has now moved on. For a point of record….there is another trailer business nearby which does not set up and tear down every day. There are several mobile businesses that dodge the hoops Jaime had to jump through. Is there some reason he was singled out? Whatever it was, he has moved on to a better place and Clintonville loses a bit of its character in the process. Fortunately, Ray Ray’s is still a short bike ride away from his original spot. The Ville will miss you Ray Ray’s but we could not think of a better spot for you. Thanks for being the peanut butter Ace of Cups. And now we watch a reason to visit Clintonville and discover our other independent businesses go away. Now Ray Ray’s is a side note in our community history of lost opportunities.

Ray Ray's Hog Pit on Urbanspoon

Posted in bar, BBQ, Clintonville, Gastronomic Stimulus | Tagged: , | 6 Comments »

Rivage Atlantique: Exploring The Gastropub

Posted by CMH Gourmand on June 8, 2011

menu

When reading about Rivage Atlantique I found the name a bit off-putting. This new restaurant is located in the Olde Worthington Quarter in the former location of a few failed restaurants. I see no signs of Rivage failing. I also see a loyal following developing already. I did a walk through of Rivage one Saturday during the Old Worthington Farmers Market. I was instantly impressed. I asked a guy dressed in very casual clothes for a printed look at their fare and he gave me copies of the various menus. He also introduced himself as Rich and started talking about what Rivage wants do and serve. Considering I was unshowered, a little sweaty and donning my cool (?) cowboy hat, the extra service was unexpected. At the time I did not know Rich was the executive chef.

Parking at Rivage can be a little tight considering The Quarter also sees people flooding in to House Wine, Graeter’s, Worthington Inn and other places. There is plenty of public parking a short walk away so get a bit for pre-meal exercise with a stroll. Rivage is divided into two sections. The main dining area seats about sixty or so. The back room, which has its own entrance, houses the Gastropub featuring a not so traditional bar menu as well as the option to order off the menu from the front of the house as well. The Gastropub has a large variety of craft beers on tab as well as bottles. The wine selection has depth as well. The pub side has multiple TV’s set up for the sports crowd and an eclectic mix of music for the rest of us.

The Gastropub menu is more than a back room assortment of bar snacks. This menu easily stands on its own. Selections include an oyster raw bar, bisque and chowder, more oysters, shrimp, clams, low country crab dip, trout pate, Applewood smoked pimento cheese dip and more. Portions are generous and well prepared. The restaurant uses a stone hearth oven for a variety of pizzas including White Lobster Pie (lobster, basil, ricotta and olive oil) and the Butchershop (Italian sausage, pepperoni, salami, provolone and whole milk mozzarella with thick house made sauce).

The Cuban Sliders would get a thumbs up from residents of Miami. The bread is pressed in the grill just right to compliment the spiced pork loin (some meats are smoked in-house), ham, house-made spicy mustard, onion and swiss cheese. There are twenty items on the Gastropub menu which offers more than enough depth for a meal or a snack.

The menu in the front of the house deserves a mention as well. It is very seafood focused with half of the two page menu involving a variety of fish, scallops, shrimp, mussels and more.

Rivage is a worthy port of call when visiting Olde Worthington.

Rivage Atlantique
652 High Street
Olde Worthington

Rivage Atlantique on Urbanspoon

Posted in bar, restaurants | Tagged: , | 2 Comments »

Benny’s Pizza: Marysville

Posted by CMH Gourmand on April 30, 2011


When Marysville comes up in conversation four things are mentioned: Scott’s, Honda, Doc Henderson’s Restaurant and Benny’s Pizza. Benny’s seems to be mentioned the most and I became increasingly curious about the place. However, I could never convince myself to drive out to Marysville just for pizza. On my way home from Hot Dog University I found myself ahead of schedule and wanting to avoid rush hour traffic so I decided I would check on Benny’s.

The exterior (the exterior’s actually) of Benny’s did not suggest anything noteworthy. There are two buildings, one is a carry out only location for quick pick ups the other dining in location includes part of what I believe to be an old Frosttop Root Beer stand.

As I walked in, Benny’s looked more like a sports bar. The walls are lined with all things Ohio sports related. There is a signed 1976 Reds World Series team shirt, Ohio State jerseys, more Browns and Tribe memorabilia than some Cleveland bars have and much more. There are bleacher seats from old Riverfront Stadium. While sports enthusiasm is big at Benny’s, music is bigger. The walls are also filled with signed photos of rock and country stars including one of Eric Clapton’s guitars. An impressive bill of local and regional musicians fills the giant patio and/or the bar most weekends. The beer selection is extensive and should impress sports and music fans alike.

Considering the focus on the above, I was not sure Benny’s would need to focus on the pizza. I was pleased to find out that they do take their pies very seriously and that pizza makes Benny’s the destination with everything else a significant bonus. The pizza at Benny’s delivers. It is a medium thick crust featuring a cracker style rim with a nice snap, crackle and pop to it. The cheese tends to char and brown on the crust edge in a most divine way. The cheese is thickly applied to the pizza on top of a sauce with a tease of sweetness to it. There are many topping combinations to choose from including “Garbage” which is all fourteen toppings. The pizza is served old school on a pizza tray. As a bonus, when I bounced into my booth, I was greeted with a basket of popcorn to nibble on while I studied the menu.

My pizza was great, I would place it in my top 10 to 15 for central Ohio based on just one pizza. The rest of the menu has a lot to offer including Stromboli, pasta dinners and Robin’s Ribs which are often mentioned as some of the best BBQ ribs in the area.

I was also happy to find out the place kept some of the Frosttop heritage by making and serving their own root beer in frosty mugs that they are not shy about refilling. I was also happy to see that they support local drinking by serving Eldchrist wines. Benny’s is well worth the drive for pizza and a beer and a show.

Benny’s Pizza
968 Columbus Road
Marysville
Dine In: 937.644.8383
Carry out: 937.644.0881

Benny's Pizza on Urbanspoon

Posted in bar, beer, pizza, Road Trip | Tagged: | Leave a Comment »

The Pepper Burger & Other Reasons O’Reilly’s Rocks!

Posted by CMH Gourmand on April 7, 2011


I have mentioned O’Reilly’s a few times over the years, most recently as the inspiration for the Clintonville Cocktail and the Clintonville Cocktail Royale. I might not want you to go to O’Reillys. I might not want O’Reilly’s to be more crowded so I can’t find a booth or barstool. I might use O’Reilly’s as a litmus test. But I might as well tell you about O’Reilly’s.

There are fifteen bars (give or take) in Clintonville. This may come as a shock since Clintonville is well known for having quirky and archaic alcohol laws and dry zones. I have been to every bar in Clintonville and most of them are, well, maybe there is a reason parts of Clintonville should be dry, let’s leave it at that. O’Reilly’s is a good bar. It is a very good tavern. It is a spot that makes Baja Clintonville a great place to be.

If the maxim “the whole is greater than the sum of the parts” was ever better applied I have not yet found that example. O’Reilly’s reminds me of the bars you find in most small Ohio towns. It is dark, maybe a little dumpy or “divey”. Because it has an Irish name it is infused with real and fake Irish bric-a-brac for character. The bar is sunken. There are a few characters you can expect to see there every day on one side of the bar or another. The staff have been there for years, some have been there for decades. Ann Marie is the kind of woman that is likely to lose her car keys daily but if you walk through the door once she is likely to remember what you want to drink and your name the next time you drop by. Johnny, the main grill cook makes an occasional appearance in the front end of the business. His personality and demeanor are more suited and more happy in the kitchen and for that we are all better off. Tom comes across as abrasive, surly and ill-tempered but don’t be taken aback by that because he is that way with everyone and it serves to amuse him and his regular customers the first time he encounters a new person walking through the door. The beer selection is not so great but O’Reilly’s pours a good Guinness properly. There is a Galaga machine in the corner, a respectable juke box and a selection of board games to play. These things combined make O’Reilly’s a good bar to go to. The menu makes it THE bar to go to in Clintonville.

Villbillies, as long time residents of Clintonville, are called have all eaten at O’Reilly’s in their lifetime. There is some debate on what is best on the menu. Everyone seems to have one or two items they get everytime. This is an interesting phenomenon to observe. The common answer when asked about the menu at O’Reilly’s is “I don’t know, I always get ___________”. The burgers are a common favorite. I have tried them all. I like them all. However, the one I always get is the Pepper Burger with a side of sweet potato fries.

The pepper burger is 1/2 pound of hamburger encased in cracked black pepper. The misshapen, handmade patty is topped with pepperjack cheese, plenty of pickles, provlone and bacon. The bun is fresh and light toasted so it does not collapse from the weight of the contents. The sweet potato fries are also hand made and served with some type of secret sauce. Place a dill pickle on the plate, add a pint and a glass of water and my meal is complete. When I walk through the door at O’Reilly’s this is what I want. If this is what I get then I am truly content when I walk out the door.

The other burgers do deserve a mention: Bacon BBQ, Mushroom and Onion, The Deluxe Cheeseburger. My secondary burger of choice is the Jerk Burger (aka The Tom Burger, this is not me being mean, this is on the menu). The Jerk is slathered with spicy, peppery, tangy, jerk sauce. I suggest American Cheese with this one.

O’Reilly’s does Saturday morning breakfast specials September to May. You can order Egg Salad and Tuna Salad Sandwiches May to September. There is a daily dinner special which varies by the day and the week. If you get O’Reilly’s then I will probably get you.

O’Reilly’s
2822 North High Street
Baja Clintonville

O'Reilly's Pub on Urbanspoon

Posted in bar, Clintonville, hamburgers | Tagged: | 3 Comments »

Rusty Bucket Wrangles Rogue Root Beer

Posted by CMH Gourmand on March 27, 2011

I get many incredible offers. Most come from people in African countries that will give me millions of dollars just to help transfer some money from their country to ours to cut down on paper work and avoid hassle for the estate of a deceased relative with a horribly misspelled name. Some offers come from Russian mail order brides and maybe related to that, it seems that there are some medications I should be taking, I that I can get cheaply. Maybe I should consider the mail order bride option.

The type of offers I would like to get would include: Hey, you are awesome and resourceful and blindingly creative, here is a job that does not suck; or yes you really should write for us, starting now, because you are not boring or pretentious. These offers don’t come and years of trying for them have not yet been productive.

So when the Rusty Bucket asked if I wanted to drink root beer and get some remuneration for my trouble I was curious. I read further. It seems that said root beer was Rogue Root Beer. That fact changed no thanks to yes, pretty please PDQ. As fate would have it, I had Rogue Root Beer in PDX (Portland) recently which was a highlight of five days that were a low point.

I get an interesting array of offers from the food industry that tempt my wallet and threaten to stretch the scope of my blog and my ethics. I almost always say no. The Rusty Bucket offer was perfect. I knew I liked the root beer. I did not know I could get it in Columbus so that knowledge was a gift to me. Rusty Bucket is a locally owned company and aligned with Cameron Mitchell Restaurants so I could support them without hesitation. I knew I was going to rush out for root beer anyway so for the price of gas and a mug of root beer – game on! Yes, I will write for root beer so here we go.

It seems that if you are planning on going Rogue, Columbus is the place to do it. Rusty Bucket charmed this Portland-centric purveyor of tasty drinks into sending most of it’s product line here for serving. This is unique for Columbus and Ohio and the Midwest and most of the country for that matter. The only other states that have Rogue Root Beer are Oregon and Washington. You can pretend you are in Portland while sitting inside 270.

I am not a big pop drinker (we say pop in Columbus, accept it, move on). I NEED to have a coke with pizza to complete the experience. However, I am an absolute sucker for a good Root Beer. I have invested a good deal of time searching for the perfect root beer experience. I found a few that are worth traveling for – Virgil’s Root Beer and Sioux City Root Beer were my brews of choice.

Why might you want to make the effort to try Rogue Root Beer? Because they make it right and because Rusty Bucket pours it right. Rogue approaches their root beer with the same attention to detail and devotion they invest in their craft beers. Their root beer is made with 100% pure dark brown sugar. It has a nice dose of Sassafras. This is draft root beer, served from a tap into a cold, frosted mug with just a bit of foaming head. It may be the most perfect root beer experience in town. Visions of childhood bike rides to the Clintonville A&W drive-in come to mind when I take a sip. To appeal to the child in you or the child tagging along with you, Rusty Bucket also offers kid sized mugs and root beer floats in both sizes.

If you want to completely go Rogue, Rusty Bucket serves several Rogue beers on draft. You can also sample Rogue’s other roguish spirits including Dead Guy Whiskey, Spruce Gin and White Rum. A daily drink special involves soaking a giant chunk of pineapple with brown sugar, vanilla beans and Rogue white rum, then adding some ice and more rum. Yum.

On Tuesdays, a featured drink is the Rogue Spruce Gin Gimlet. I had not been to Rusty Bucket for a while so I decided to try out multiple locations in my root beer research. For your first Rogue run I suggest trying out the Lane Avenue location and hoping that Katie is tending bar when you walk in. She knows all things Rogue and can talk you through your choices while you enjoy a frosty root beer.

Posted in bar, beer, beverages, culinary knowledge, restaurants | Tagged: , | 3 Comments »

The Burrito Buggy at Byrne’s Pub on March 19th!

Posted by CMH Gourmand on March 9, 2011

Fact: There is a young woman living in Baja Clintonville whose life was saved or at least made bearable by a Burrito Buggy Burrito.

Fact: There are many OU Alumni in Columbus and when you say Burrito Buggy they go a little crazy.

Fact: I love the Burrito Buggy and when I think about it, I go a little crazy.

During some wintery evening in 2010, I was discussing culinary missions and tasks for Columbus in 2011. At some point I said, “I want the Burrito Buggy here in Columbus”. “Where should it go other than my driveway?” The answer. “Yeah, Yeah, Yeah”. And then, “Byrne’s Pub, all the OU people hang out there”.

OK. My mission at hand, I researched, plotted and sent out e-mails. I asked every Burrito Buggy fan I knew if they were interested and how many burritos they wanted. Everyone was enthused. Everyone wanted at least two burritos. This seemed to bode well for everyone.

I contacted Pat Byrne at Byrne’s Pub, his response was:

“That sounds absolutely awesome, the 19th would be perfect.”

The 19th looks to be a big day at Byrne’s. It will be the third day of celebration of St. Patrick’s Day at an Irish bar. The John Smoltz Project will be playing in honor of St. Smoltz Day. A tent will still be set up in the parking lot and the Burrito Buggy will be here. It is a Saturday. It is almost spring. You will eat burritios, you will probably love them.

Byrne’s is paying travel expenses for the Buggy to come to town (I offered to cover these but Pat said Byrne’s would pay the fee for the sake of the burrito loving masses). If you see Pat say thanks, tip his staff, drink a beer and buy a bunch of burritos so that everyone involved considers doing this again. For the sake of everyone in line for food – bring small bills to pay for your burritos. Please be considerate of where and how you park in the surrounding neighborhood streets….it is going to be busy.

The Buggy will open around 2 pm (Athens time) and will stay until they run out of food, maybe as late as 2:30 am (Columbus time). I will tell you right now, I am getting six burritos, I know others will do the same. If you have been on the fence about street food or mobile kitchens – this is your gateway meal to understanding why this works.

Byrne’s Pub
1248 West 3rd Avenue
Columbus (really close to Grandview)
614.486.4722

Burrito Buggy

More Burrito Buggy info from me.

Posted in Athens, bar, beer | Tagged: , | 12 Comments »

Mojito Madness: Round One Recap and The Rest of the Story

Posted by CMH Gourmand on October 18, 2010


Alternate Title: CMH Gourmand and the Seven Lady Drinkers


Sometimes I get a notion…….

Good mojitos have been few and far between in my life experience. I had three or four perfectly mixed and poured mojitos after I landed in Brisbane, Australia after 26 hours in transit. Casa Nueva in Athens has a good seasonally themed mojito cocktail. However, my local mojito encounters had been lacking and might be better described a “meh-jitos”.

What is a mojito? A highball, Cuban in origin, it should consist of: white rum, sugar cane juice, lime, sparkling water and mint leaves. This cocktail is all about the quality of the ingredients and taking the time to mix them.

Using the power of Twitter, I asked for suggestions on the best mojitos in the capital city. I received many responses. Then I decided that the quest would be best if done with a company of cocktail connoisseurs. I figured if the mojitos were bad at least the entertainment (and blog content creation) value would still be high. I sent out a call for volunteers for my cocktail caper that read as seen below (not quite the Shackleton expedition advertisement, but still equally uninspiring).

Hello Brave Volunteers,

While I agree that the best mojito would be in Cuba or made at home,
sometimes while out and about, you have to have one, especially in
this heat. Over the last year I have been overwhelmed by mojito
malaise – too many suboptimal mojitos to count.
I know we can find at least one good one in Columbus and I am on a
mojito mission. I need help rating and evaluating mojitos.

This offers no pay, probably hazardous working conditions, the
possibility of alcohol poisoning, the potential for drunk tweeting
(not by me) and you might end up in a photograph on CMH Gourmand.
Here is the route – two days – one easy….one hard.

In the end, these were my volunteers. Their names have been somewhat protected to protect their somewhat innocence.

Hungry Woolf
DrElena
Twixlen
AmberHunt
NBCMonica
ItinerantFoodie

For one segment, we were joined by AmandyAnderson

The adventures are mostly chronicled on Twitter under this hashtag – #MojitoMadness

We picked up a few additional test tasters along the way with our growing party acting as Johnny Alcoholseeds and Pied Pipers. Some of the restaurants were following our progress on Twitter as well, much as people on the Florida coast watch the Weather Channel for hurricane updates.

Now a long alcohol inspired evening (starting at 3 PM) with seven women would normally be something that I would dream about instead of write about or experience. Well, unless it is Australia or Canada, I had similar adventures there. Nevertheless, it happened. There is a saying: “Well behaved women rarely make history”. That is true. I think that Mojito Madness as the event was called was very historic.

The surprise guest was Monica Day from NBC4. I did not know she was coming. Honestly, my first thought was “great, some high maintenance fashion plate is on this excursion”. I was very quickly proven wrong. Since I did not have a TV for the majority of 2010 and don’t watch TV when I have it, I had no idea who Monica was or that she was also a former Miss Ohio. Score one for Team Mojito Madness. Monica was perfect for our experiment and it was great to drink in her company. She is classy, observant, funny and flexible. Ms. Day you can join us for any adventure at any time! She also completed her journal of the evening two months ahead of me. You can read Monica’s well-written documentary below.

Monica’s Mojito Madness

I learned a lot during the field research for this project. Being the only male in a pack of seven strong-willed, mojito-fueled, bright, passionate, wonderful women on a rainy day with bars to hop and raindrops to dodge is no easy task. I was often lost in my own crowd. The game plan and approach were debated. I decided to just follow along for the ride instead of trying to steer the course of the ship. These are the places we visited or assaulted depending in ones point of view on day one.

Barrio

Mojo Lounge

Knead

Deepwood

Mouton

Northstar Cafe in the Short North

The Rossi

These are my field notes:

First stop Barrio. Met the group, organized the itinerary, and explained cocktail evaluation process. Debated cocktail evaluation process. Backseat driving has begun. Remember to eat. Round One of Mojito Madness was designed as a High Street tour of cocktails with ambitions to sample eight to ten different mojitos.

As a group we discussed what makes a mojito good. There were many different opinions. There were many competing opinions. There were many contrasting opinions. We discussed rating sweetness, mintyness (sp?), ruminess (same), mojitoness and taste. At the end of much back on forth we (kind of) agreed to a 10-point scale with 5 points for taste and 5 points of mojitoness (which includes mint, sweetness, mojo, etc.). Barrio has a Pomegranate Mojito, which a few of us tried and was found to be respectable. Not sure of how our group dynamics would play out and also wanting to be a good host I decided I would order a pitcher of mojitos with a few appetizers to share and pick up the tab for our first order. I appreciated the bartender’s willingness to pursue this poor idea on my part. As it turns out the Barrio mojito scored from one to nine on our scale with the low scores coming from those getting a drink from the bottom of the pitcher. I noted that I should avoid the pitcher tactic for our other stops. We all agreed that the fries at Barrio are really damn good.

As we decided to head for our next destination Mother Nature decided it was time to unleash the rain. A lot of rain.

I arrived at Mojo Lounge soaking wet and could find no paper towels in the bathroom to dry off. I did however, discover a secret parking spot in Goodale Park so all was not lost. We took our team photos here and I apologize to Twixlen for cutting her out of my photo in error. We universally liked that the Mojo Lounge mojito had slices of lemon and lime – so score a presentation point there. Several of us also thought it had a lemon shake up (fair drink) quality to it. We believe the alcohol used here was Barcardi Limon. Our collective score here was seven. Not bad.

Our next stop was Knead (which is overdue for a report….coming soon). Since sobriety improves walkability, we were looking for ways to minimize mojito mayhem. Knead was happy to cater to our whim of wanting half pour mojitos for the sake of pace. I do not think the mojito was a standard cocktail on the menu (at least in August) but they made them anyhow. The consensus was that the mojito lacked mojitoness. Another comment was “tasted like my freshman year”. To elaborate on that comment more would take too long and feel too awkward so use your imagination. We did think the presentation of the food we ordered was good. A few said that while this version of the drink was not a good mojito, under a different name, they would rate it a good cocktail.

We headed next door to Deepwood. At this stage, the group was a bit boisterous to the point of my absolute mortification. I felt very bad for the couple across from us. Another member of our party noticed that her boyfriend’s grandparents were in the restaurant but it was too late for her to distance herself from us. Therefore, she sucked it up. We made requests for half pour mojitos here as well. The staff were happy (on the surface) to do so and adapted to our “boarding party” quite well with patience, decorum, and grace when taking multiple food orders from us.

(Aside: A few days later, I heard through the food enthusiast grapevine (we know everything) that our presence had been tracked on Twitter and that there was significant discussion and debate among the staff and owners about how to handle the half pour mojito situation. To everyone’s credit, we would not have guessed what was going on from our side of the table.)

We had some differing opinions on this mojito. We had two low scores and several 8’s and a 10. This turned out to be our (collective, not universal) favorite of the evening. Comments included: most minty, not too sweet and good ruminess (sp?). Many of us thought it was the best balanced of the mojitos we tried that evening. We all loved our food here. This was our main meal stop for the night although we continued with snacking to maintain our drinking sustainability.

Rested, fed, fueled and with the rain abated, we marched to Mouton. I must give Mouton great credit. They were aware of our intentions via Twitter and even though they did not carry all the ingredients to make a mojito (and did not have it on their standard drink menu), they sent someone out to get the missing components they lacked and invited us in with open arms.

Mouton led strong with most members of our merry mojito band commenting that this was the best presentation of the night. The mint looked and tasted minty. Even the ice (crushed) looked inviting. However, things when downhill from there. Field notes include these observations and opinions: “so limey I might die”, “tastes like sour mix”, “limijito?” and “tastes like my front yard”. Based on presentation and high spirits we had ordered a lot of mojitos when we arrived. Scores here varied from two to six. What we did universally enjoy was the food and other beverages and cocktails we tried.

The pouring and art of their cappuccino was wonderful (see the photo below).

We picked up some additional male members from the Twitterverse at this point and moseyed over to The Rossi to find it packed (not surprising for a Saturday night). We placed our party on a wait list then ran a gauntlet of interesting people watching fueled by the Gay Pride Festival on our way to Northstar Cafe.

Northstar failed the mojito test. Field notes here included: “not minty”, “not rummy” and “no mojitoness”. This did score high on the taste scale (four to five out of five from most of us) due to Northstar’s house made ginger ale. For me, I was happy because I had a peanut cookie to munch on which is a Northstar favorite of mine.

At 8:47 pm, we received the call that our table was ready….or almost ready so we rolled back to the Rossi. The hostess at the Rossi wins for service for the evening. She did the best she could under crowded and cramped conditions to squeeze our party into a space for sipping cocktails.

This was a stop I was looking forward to due to several positive endorsements from the public. I wanted the evening to finish strong. Opinions were contrasting here. Comments from my mojito mavens included: “I do not hate this mojito”, “Ewwww”, “goofy bitter flavor, cheap liquor?”, and “solid five”. There was one score of eight but the comments after could not be translated other than the phrase “hoo haa”. It was a busy night and several of us noted a grainy sugary taste to the drink so maybe the bar ran out of simple syrup and substituted another sugar product. At this point due to the crowd, time invested and such, we collectively called it a night. I left my notebook behind but it was secured and saved by a Hungry Woolf. I cabbed back to Clintonville and called it a day and a night.


The next day I headed to the hinterlands (to me), known to most of you as Easton to try out Smith & Wollensky. The original plan was to hit three places for part two of Mojito Madness but the day was not flowing well and my focus was flagging.

The bar enchanted me, enough that I could willingly be lured to Easton again. It may be the best place to drink on a Sunday afternoon. One half of bar area the opens to the patio. The bar top is copper-plated which creates an old bar feel. The bar service was good, classy and efficient. The presentation of the drinks was impressive. I watched the bartender prepare my multiple mojitos.

I tried the Dragonberry Mojito which is Barcardi rum infused with dragon fruit and strawberries and served with fresh mint and lime. I would give this an eight. Also on the menu was Miami’s Finest Mojito, made with Cruzan Citrus Rum, Monin Pure Cane Syrup, Sweet & Sour, lime, mint and soda.. I gave the Dragonberry an eight and the Miami an almost nine. I also swilled a very good Pomegranate Caipirinha made with Cabana Cachasca Rum, pomegranate, mint and lime. (Aside: Brazilan rum aka Cachasca, is distilled from cane sugar – not molasses like other rums. It is generally high proof and clear in a murky manner). At this point in time, I was feeling that the Smith and Wollensky mojito might be my winner or at least second place finisher.


The following weekend the destination was German Village to try out Lindey’s and Barcelona. Our research in the village was highly productive but hindered by some disorientation and some trauma (I was attacked by a branch). Ouch. Photos were suboptimal on this expedition due to low light. So, I am sorry that you not get the view these mojitos at their best.

We hit Barcelona on a busy, busy night but were able to secure two stools for the three of us. We were also able to secure four cocktails for round one of sampling. The Basil Mojito is a signature drink here and had received a strong endorsement from a few folks. This is Barcardi rum with lime, sugar, soda and basil leaves. We also ordered a Caipirinha (pitu cachaca, limes, sugar and soda). For the month of August, 10 Cane Rum was featured liquor so there were two more mojitos to try. One was made with 10 Cane Rum and the standard ingredients. The other was labeled the Millionaire Mojito, mixing 10 Cane Rum with Cava. All of the mojitos here were well made. The Barcelona bartender, in spite of being very busy, put great care into each mojito. All were well balanced with fine presentation. The mint itself was fresh and looked really good. Each cocktail was muddled and hand shaken with vigor. The basil mojito scored an 8.5. The 10 Cane mojitos scored 9.5. While the journey continues, this was the winner and at this point, my desire to continue looking was curbed. The Caipirinha was awesome resulting in more being ordered to ensure the first two were not flukes.

Our next destination was Lindey’s. A signature drink on their bar menu is the Cranberry Mojito. On a previous visit, I was told they were out of Cranberry (on a Friday night with a grocery store within walking distance….what?). This evening Lindey’s did have cranberries so we ordered their house version as well as a standard mojito. These were both good and worth ordering again. However, with the trauma of being attacked by a branch and the lingering recent memory of the Barcelona bar experience, it was hard to get excited about our drinks here. The food was amazing and was enjoyed in candlelight on one of my favorite patios in town.


In late September, I finally hit the last place on the original mojito hit list – The Press Grill. The Press is a favorite cheap eats hangout out of mine but I had never tried their mojito. I sampled this one solo. It was good but not great. I found it a bit too syrupy and gritty. In the range of all of the mojitos I tried for Mojito Madness, this would score in the lower end of the middle of the bell curve.


We missed a few places. M, the restaurant, called out to us via social media but we were not able to take them up on their offer to experience their mojito. Their bar staff have a good reputation in the cocktail community so it is a shame that logistics did not work out. I am sure there will be posted comments on other good mojito spots in Columbus. However, based on a good sample and plenty of sampling, I am comfortable stating that Barcelona has the best mojito in town. I will also state in retrospect, I prefer Caipirinhas over mojitos for my Latin flavored cocktailing.

There might be more #Madness sessions in 2011 – Manhattans and Bloody Marys are on deck. The format will be one place and one type of cocktail per meet up until we run the list of best in show for that cocktail in Columbus. Watch @CMHGourmand on Twitter for those details and read the results here, hopefully in a timelier manner.

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