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Archive for the ‘BBQ’ Category

Rooks Tavern – Sunday Brunch

Posted by cmh gourmand on February 22, 2017

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Let us first set the stage for a culinary adventure you may choose to pursue. Mention Chittenden Avenue to Ohio State graduates and different memories will materialize based on what era they traveled the area: parties, PARTIES, the demarcation line between safe and very unsafe, questionable housing, etc.

The Chittenden Avenue of today is different, well mostly, I did see some nice kids roaming the street cleaning up some post Saturday trash. Anyway, I don’t often get out of the house and when I do, it is not typically during prime time which is why when I spied that Rooks Tavern has a Sunday Brunch I knew I had an opportunity to pursue. As I have mentioned too many times to count I have virtually no interest in breakfast and brunch is not much more appealing but add in some BBQ and problem solved.

My first impression had nothing to do with Rooks food, I was happy to see that parking was easy and for times when it may be more competitive, Rooks has a sign pointing guests to a nearby lot. Walking in, I liked the look of the place, took a gander at the very impressive equipment on site for the art of BBQ and sauntered up to the bar. I immediately felt at home with one of my favorite food truck friends showing up to serve me.

First as a public service I should mention while this place celebrates BBQ there is a lot in the menu that would please any palate even vegetarians and vegans. But that is not my thing (although I was a 17 meal a week vegetarian for a couple years). I had one meal on my mind before I got in my car that morning, I wanted the Texas BBQ Plate (also billed as the Austin Hangover). Diners have the option of a 1/2 pound or full pound of either pulled pork or brisket both smoked eighteen hours piled on the plate. It also comes with with potato salad, house made pickles and peasant bread. I’m a fan of Austin but I have not danced with a hangover for almost a decade but I thought I was ready for this dish.

Rooks BBQ

As you can see, I opted for the brisket, they nailed it. It was perfectly tender, had fat where it needed it for flavor and was expertly dry rubbed. The potato salad was OK but it was way too fancy for my tastes, I wanted something more peasant style, like the bread: simple, starchy and filling.

For the sake of balance, I also opted to try the composed salad. The combination of ingredients change every week. The salad features a base of either pasta or grains (mine was grains) with seasonal vegetables (check out those carrots!) and a splash of smoked onion vinaigrette. I really enjoyed this salad noting a zen like sense of peace after finishing it.

composed salad

A few other notes. The cocktails and local beer selections are a big upgrade from anything else you would find neat the OSU campus. The two house BBQ sauces – Texas and Carolina style are true to their origins. The guys in the kitchen are hardcore about what they do. I spoke with chef at length and he is on the right track with Rooks

Rooks

Rooks is open for Sunday Brunch from 10 am to 3 pm. Feel free to go there any other times you choose and let me know what you think.

Rooks Tavern Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Posted in BBQ, breakfast | Tagged: , | 1 Comment »

The Pit BBQ Grille

Posted by cmh gourmand on February 19, 2017

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I’m always on the look out for an authentic BBQ place and as many have experienced, those spots are often off the beaten path. In the case of The Pit, it is a bit out of the mainstream of the city but not the typical dive that I gravitate to. The Pit is also a bit more upscale than most of the hidden BBQ finds I have written about in the past. There is also a small bit of celebrity associated with the The Pit mainly in the aspect of financing by some sportsball celebrities from OSU by the names Chekwa and Browning. One hails from the south and the other from Cleveland and he brought in two childhood friends to help out.

Some logistical footnotes before we begin and/or before you start your own journey of discovery. The Pit is buried inside the Northern Lights Shopping Center in North Linden. The front of the shopping complex is ringed with almost every fast food chain. The snaking ring of stores on inner part of the complex are fronted by a series of hodgepodge intersections and poorly delineated and marked parking areas that seemed designed to facilitate accidents and road rage. This is exacerbated by a large number of drivers that are either very old, very young or very new to driving, all wandering around this area trying to figure out how to drive as well as where they want to shop which makes this maze like parking lot a potentially hazardous journey. So here is an insider tip, from Cleveland Ave., turn where the A&W is located and that will lead you to the straightest and safest path to The Pit.

A few items fast tracked the Pit to the top of my to eat list. My cousin-in-law Greg mentioned the place to me a few times. Greg makes the best non-restaurant ribs in town and knows a lot of people who know BBQ. He had not dropped in yet but his sources had high praises. In my research of the online menu I spied a Polish Boy (a little known sandwich from Cleveland) and Turkey Ribs.

The possibility of a good Polish Boy in Columbus made a trip a high priority. The potential for Turkey Ribs made the trip a necessity. I have seen Turkey ribs on the menu at a handful of places but those spots never had them available on my visits.

The good news. The Pit had turkey ribs. It is a 20 minute wait for them but the turkey rib is a thing to be experienced. At the Pit these are big, meaty servings of meat that definitely taste like turkey.

turkey-ribs

There was a rib tip special on the day I visited. For $5 I got a generous serving of rib tips and some fries. The rib tips were perfectly cooked – tender to the bone, flavorful, and meatier than most I have tried in the past. The fries were not the typical airy, flavorless, out of the freezer fries often featured to save money and time, these Pit fries were fresh-cut and fresh out of the fryer. This was a great value for the price.

rib-tips

As for the Polish Boy, I would have preferred the sausage to be more spicy and flavorful as well as cooked a bit longer in order have just a trace of gristle. This version not as messy as other Polish boys I have tried but I am happy to have it on a menu in Columbus. The cole slaw on this was a bit of a surprise but I will get to that later.

polish-boy

As is my typical modus operandi for BBQ sampling I tried as many side dishes as possible. In many things in life it is “the devil n the details” for BBQ evaluations the devil is in the sides. My favorite of the bunch were the baked beans. Most places mess up by making the beans too watery or dumping a bunch of unneeded junk (peppers, large pieces of onion) in the bean base. These baked beans were made of slow cooked beans, a lightly spiced sauce and a trace of meat to flavor the mix. The consistency was thick and the flavors were balanced.

The greens were more firm than what I am used to. More often greens are cooked to the point of limpness, these leafy greens were still a little rigid. There was not much flavor to them but there was a giant slab of meat hidden under my pile.

Mac and Cheese is an easy dish to make but so few places execute this it well. The key is to keep it simple and slightly saucy. The Pit version was dense and cheesy the overall flavor was bit bland but with a bit of pepper or BBQ sauces added in this version beats most you can find in local restaurants.

The cole slaw was surprise. This interpretation here is different that any other BBQ place I have tried. There is a mix of large leaves of leafy green and purple cabbage with a light and slightly tangy sauce. It was good although very different and I found the pieces to be just a but bigger than mouth-sized which caused some problems when trying to eat the Polish Boy.

cole-slaw

So there you go, more than a few things that I think will entice you to give the place a shot. There is a good amount of inside seating. The interior looks a lot like a Chipotle with some metal sideboards and industrial looking wood finishes. Please comment if you pop in to The Pit.

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The Pit BBQ Grille Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Posted in BBQ | Tagged: , , | 2 Comments »

Baba’s Porch – Dan Kraus

Posted by cmh gourmand on November 2, 2016

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You may not know it but you have met Baba’s Porch before – in the form of That Food Truck and in particular, Dan Kraus.

I had an opportunity to have a sideline seat to the first generation of food trucks and the privilege to work with an All-Star Team of these early mobile food mavericks such as Ajumama, OH! Burgers, Pitabilities and That Food Truck.

All of these wheeled purveyors are my friends, but the one that has pulled the string of my stealth heart has been Dan Kraus from That Food Truck. I have seen the highs (being on Nightline) and lows (the break-up of the first team for the truck) and the ups (being named a tastemaker) and downs (the engine of the truck dying). I’ve had countless conversations with Dan over the last five years and have felt he was a bit of a Charlie Brown, having the ball pulled away from him at the last-minute for one project or another.

When the engine of That Food Truck died, Dan had to find another path to your stomachs. A bit tight on cash while building out his restaurant Baba’s Kitchen, Dan found a trailer and started working on a concept to compliment his brick and mortar project. He also took what he learned from a few years of smoking meats on the fly and built a new smoker to add to Baba’s Porch. Baba’s has been serving Friday nights at Seventh Son Brewing and occasional Saturday afternoons to fill in for other mobile vendors. As Baba’s Kitchen slowly….but surely, comes close to completion Dan says he will continue to keep to Porch out for Friday night service and catering.

When Baba’s Kitchen opens you will find the Restaurant at 2515 Summit Street near the intersection of Hudson Street and 3rd Ave. You can expect to see the Baba’s trailer at Seventh Son and special events.

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I checked in with Dan between courses and construction to find out more about Baba’s Porch.

1) Let’s start with the smoker you built for Baba’s, any design enhancements or special features on this smoker from the previous one you built. What makes this smoker extra special to you?

This was the first smoker I fabricated and welded from beginning to end. It was an education during the whole process and being so intimate with the whole thing gave me a chance to really understand the dynamics of space and draft. Making sure its airtight between the firebox and cooking chamber is what kicked this up to another level and maintain consistent temps regardless of barometric pressure.

2) What was the transition like from Truck to Trailer? You are accustomed to tight spaces but its looks like you have to get creative with the space. What do you like best about trailer life?

In many ways it’s a lot easier. Building the trailer out after having That Food Truck for so many years, we knew exactly what was needed and shed the rest. Simplifying the line and having only what is absolutely necessary makes it a breeze to have everything within reach – trim the fat to save the meat. The best thing about trailer life is no rusty ass engine to break down. I can rest knowing as long as I have access to a truck, I can make the gig, no problem.

3) Baba’s Porch will continue after you open Baba’s Kitchen, how do you think the Porch may change as the kitchen grows and you start the grocery aspect to the business?

The Porch will be our place to shine a spotlight on the smoked meats. Simple, smoked sandwiches will always be flying out the window. Having access to more produce and homemade items from Baba’s Kitchen will allow us to play with specials and sides.

4) You have a secret weapon at Baba’s now – Tim. Can you share your history with him and why he is such a great addition to the team?

I met Tim in Culinary school in Portland OR ten years ago and we clicked right away. We have parallel ways of thinking about food and how it should be prepared. We started this conversation about our own place way back then with intent to open a truck in Portland. Literally life happened as my wife and I found out we were pregnant and decided to move back to Ohio. Tim went on to Hawaii and Minnesota and really honed in on some tight culinary skills. His high end expertise and managing a huge line at Lafayette Club has really matured his kitchen nature and often reels my more wild eyed approach. We can challenge each other in respectful ways to find the most delicious and efficient ways to build a plate.

5) Your other secret weapon is your wife Caroline. What are some of the ways she has helped with both projects over the last year?

Can I just say everything, lol? Caroline has supported every crazy idea and move I wanted to make. She gives me the foundation and real support anyone trying to do this would need. She gives words to my ideas and helps organize the chaos. Outside of the actual cooking she is involved in every aspect of the business. Concepts, construction, finance, design, and and networking, Caroline is all over it. Its so cliche, but she is my rock.

She is itching to get Baba’s blog populated with stories of the line and gorgeous food photos.

6) What one (or two) things do you want people to know about Baba’s Porch?

First that we have felt the support for the change of business. We lost TFT and were worried about re-branding and loosing some of the steam we had with the old truck. But Columbus people are awesome and have showed up hungry and left with smiles.

Its an elementary introduction to the food Tim and I can cook. Simple and quick as truck food needs to be. But what flies out of Baba’s Kitchen is elevated with the luxury of time and space. Basically, if you like the Porch food you will love what Baba’s is serving up!

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Facebook
Website
Phone: 614-262-2227

Posted in BBQ, FooderHero, Mobile Food | Tagged: , , | Leave a Comment »

B & K Smokehouse

Posted by cmh gourmand on June 22, 2016

BK Smokehouse

Here are a few things you need to figure out or be ready for before you go to B & K Smokehouse.

1) Cash or Credit (your call, as a fellow small business person, I say go cash if you can)

2) For sandwiches: White, Wheat or Bun. I’d go with the bun

3) For other smoked meats / BBQ: White, Wheat or Cornbread

4) Sauce on or sauce on the side: Sauce on the ribs, Sauce on the side everything else.

5) If you want a Turkey Rib, visit after 4 pm.

6) Sweet sauce or Mustard sauce: Sweet!

Now let us proceed with why you want to go to B & K Smokehouse. First item of note, the staff are friendly, on my first trip they spied me getting out of my car as they were walking from the smoker out back to the kitchen saying “Hi there, are you here for the carry out order”. I guess a really white guy in a Subaru stands out around East Main Street but hey, saying hi when I am 100 feet from the front door is a plus. I was here for the ribs and they did not disappoint. The B & K ribs are among the top three in the city. My BBQ judge instincts and my taste buds suggest these ribs are smoked at least 12 hours, maybe longer. The smoke flavor is good. Suspended in a pond of sauce even better. The meat is tender to the bone and pulls away with ease. You can taste the meat flavor. Good Job B & K.

B K Ribs

Let’s move along to the wings. I’d place these as among the top five in the city. These are also well smoked, tender with the meat falling off the bones in some cases and very meaty – no scrawny BW-3 wings here. Go with sweet sauce on these. I’ve tried them on two different occasions and the consistency is there.

B & K wings

Now let me walk you through my notes for most of the menu.

Brisket Sandwich: OK. Benefits from sauce. A bit fatty and tasted more like pot roast than traditional brisket. Served shredded.

Pulled Pork Sandwich: OK. Benefits from sauce. Served shredded.

Baked Beans: watery and addition of pickle relish to the sauce is not an upgrade, but it is daring. I would not order these again.

Corn Bread: dry and crumbling, I would not order this again.

Mac & Cheese: fair but missing flavor seems to lack salt, pepper or any cream to the cheesiness.

Cole Slaw: Reminds me of KFC cole slaw which is my baseline for good cole slaw. This is among my favorite in town. (Note: for many years I though cole slaw was called cold slaw, I just thought you should know).

Potato Salad: Good. Mustard base. Better than average.

Green Beans: Good would benefit from a bit more seasoning or a touch of bacon.

Carrot Cake: Better than average.

B & K sides

Now for a quick review. Get a slab of ribs with sauce, a dozen wings and large cole slaw. Get a few other items to try for yourself (taste is subjective so don’t order based just on may favorite) and expect to have a great meal.

I’ll wrap up with answers to a few B & K mysteries. B is the first initial of one brother and K is the initial of another. The framed collection of old Mad Magazine covers on the walls come from the collection of their dad.

And now, you know.

B&K Smokehouse
1114 East Main Street
Old Towne East
NW Corner of East Main and South Champion
614 252 7917

Monday to Wednesday 11 am to 7 pm
Thursday and Friday 11 am to 8:30 pm
Saturday Noon to 8:30 pm

B & K Smoke House Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

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

Barbeque (BBQ) Shack

Posted by cmh gourmand on May 16, 2016

An underlying fiduciary responsibility I have as the caretaker of this blog is to seek out and discover new BBQ and boldy go, outside the city center. In the case of the Barbeque Shack I did the equivalent of a blind blog date. I saw a photo of some of their food on social media that looked interesting. I was surprised I had not heard of the place before and since it is not too far from CMH Griffin’s school year daycare I opted to give it a try without any significant research other than the address. This being said, I would not typically write a post about such a place based on one trip but since it shows great promise but more importantly because it is in suburban sprawl, I’m asking you, my core handful of loyal followers to give this place a try as well and then add your comments to this post so we have a definitive analysis of this place.

Taking a quick look at the menu online, I place a carry out order for the following: Lunch Special – 2 Brisket sliders with mac and cheese and green beans, 1/2 rack of St. Louis style ribs, side of cole slaw, side of baked beans and bourbon bread pudding. They gave me a pick up time 30 minutes in the future which is great because that is drive time with a few minutes factored in to load a car seat. This place is hard to find. It is buried between a Home Depot and a Wendy’s that has at least two if not three drive thru lanes. When I finally figured out where I was and where it might be this is what I saw.

BBq 1

The shack is indeed a shack. It may have been a Rallys or a coffee to go business at some point. If you are old enough to recall Fotomat, it is not much bigger than one of those. The building is partially obscured by a small tree. It is drive thru / window ordering only but it does have a small shed nearby and several picnic tables on the periphery for dining. While I was waiting a few cars deep in the drive thru queue, I spied a woman wandering the parking lot with a bewildered look on her face but the determination of an Old Testament Jew in the desert. She approached me in my car and asked if one could order without a ca? I told her it looked like drive thru only but good luck. She then approached a window, placed an order and was gone before I became the second card in line.

When I did arrive to the window I was pleasantly surprised to find that my order was 10% less in price than I was quoted because they we too busy when taking my order to explain the discount process to me. I was then asked if I wanted sweet potatoes. I replied that I had not ordered any and they said that was fine, did I still want them. Since is was a family sized looking serving and free I said YES. After I paid they pointed out on my receipt that the next order is 10% off if over $20 if I bring my receipt back with me. So far, all good. Upon arrival back home my research began.

BBQ 2

The first to be sampled was the lunch special. The brisket sliders were good and unexpectedly on French style bread which helped the sandwich hold up to the sauce and the meat. The mac and cheese was better than average. The green beans were above average too (the best green beans in town can be found at Smokehouse Brewing in case you were wondering). So far a promising place but I was not blown away yet.

BBQ 3

Next the ribs. I’m not sure they meet all of the requirements for St. Louis style ribs but they were good. They were sauced properly (neither too little nor too much sauce – the Goldilocks zone). The meat was tender pulling easily from the bone. I wonder if I received the (on the menu) Ohio style ribs instead – which is a term I have never encountered. So still promising but not yet giving up on Ray Ray’s.

I tried the cole slaw. Also good but a bit too creamy than I prefer.

BBQ 4

Next, I decided to take one small bite of the Bourbon Bread Pudding. The moment the first morsel connected with a taste bud I was exceedingly pleased. Most BBQ places have easy deserts as an afterthought. This bread pudding tasted like someone’s great, great grand-mammy made it. It is true perfection mixing great flavor with moistness but not over saturated with any one flavor. At $4, the large serving is a bargain and well worth trip for that alone.

BBQ 5

I then back tracked to my previous foods, sampling each again and still having good thoughts about the items when I recalled I still had some untasted baked beans. Baked beans are almost always a horrible disappointment at any place I encounter them. Most places add a bunch of unneeded junk to them or try to fancy them up so that the other ingredients take away for the core ingredient – the lowly bean. My baseline for baked beans can be found in a can, Bush’s Vegetarian Baked Beans are my go to. They are good by themselves but with just a touch of gourmanding, they can be out of this world tasty. The BBQ shack baked beans exceeded my wildest dreams. While not impressive looking enough to warrant a photograph they were nonetheless great. The sauce was pleasant, neither over or under favored and the only additives were some slow cooked meats – some small bits of shredded brisket and perhaps a few bits of bacon. These are now the local gold standard for baked beans.

And then on to my free sweet potatoes. I had even lower expectations for these but again, I was surprised beyond comprehension. I might rename these holiday style sweet potatoes. Think about the best Thanksgiving sweet potatoes you have ever had – these are better. I can’t fully articulate how, other than saying the consistently is perfect and the taste has just enough sweetness to it to aid digestion.

The BBQ warrants additional investigation which will not happen for me until Fall 2016 at the earliest. But in the meantime as you call all help me out with your own research so add your comments to this post. And when you get your order, please drop off the following at my house: the largest serving of baked beans they will pass through the window and the same for the sweet potatoes and the bourbon bread pudding

Barbeque (BBQ) Shack
5755 Maxtown Rd, Westerville, OH 43082
(614) 899-9227

Barbeque Shack Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Posted in BBQ, desserts | Tagged: , | Leave a Comment »

Mallory’s Rib Shack

Posted by cmh gourmand on May 26, 2015

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Powers greater than myself may have led me to Mallory’s Rib Shack. First I received an e-mail asking me about Mallory’s Rib Shack and I had to report I did not know anything about it. Then a few weeks later, while out walking on my street, I ran into a person I have not seen in a couple of years and one of the first things she asked was “have you been to Mallory’s Rib Shack?” She has not been but it seemed to her that Mallory’s was the type of place I would frequent. That piqued my interest. A few weeks after I took a heap of left over building materials to the Restore (if you have never been drop in to check one out). Just a few blocks away (I drove right past it on the way to the Restore) was Mallory’s. I knew that if Mallory’s was open I was going.

Mallory’s is located near the intersection of Westerville Road and Innis Ave in a part of town that has seen better days. The building was once a Diary Queen. It has a drive through window, a handful of outside tables and a window to order through. Also on the plus list, a hand painted mural of a Rib Shack. While some of this might scare people away, these elements could only serve to lure me in. Since the closing and destruction of Woody and Jo’s I have been looking for a BBQ dive to meet my BBQ needs.

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On my first visit I took a cautious approach and just ordered a couple of wings and one of each side. Based on my many questions, perhaps my innate charm and the novelty of a fella from outside of the neighborhood dropping in, the owner gave me a couple of complimentary rib tips as well. Let’s begin with the sides. I tried Collard Greens with smoked turkey, potato salad, mac & cheese, cole slaw baked beans and fries. All of the sides were above average with the exception of the fries which looked and tasted to be out of a bag. The other sides were all clearly homemade. Of the lot, there are three that are well worth heading back for (which I did) the collards, potato salad and Mac and Cheese. The collard greens were some of the best I have tried. I have not had them with bits of turkey before so the novelty of that alone, makes them worth trying. The greens themselves were larger/longer/less finely cut than the typical and less cooked down. There was also a hidden kick of heat in them. The mac of cheese was the perfect balance of a blend of cheeses and cheesey consistency. Most mac and cheese in town (in my experience) is either too runny or too bland, not Mallorys Mac, in my book it runs best in show for local BBQ joints. Last, and in my experience, best was the potato salad. I rarely find a potato salad I want to have again but Mallory’s has quickly become my favorite. It is clearly “down home potato salad mixing thoroughly cooked potatoes with bits of egg, mustard, pickles and maybe a dash of mayo. Mrs. Gourmand who is a potato salad purist really liked the small amount I let her sample.

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I am not a huge chicken wing fan but I did like the wings especially the breading. On my second trip back I intended to get a slab of Turkey ribs but they were out (note that many not have any ready if you order mid-week). I did get a 1/2 slab of pork ribs and my consolation prize MeMe’s Special. The special is a great intro to what the shack has to offer. The special includes two wings, 2 pork ribs, 2 rib tips and your choice of a side dish for $13.50. The pork ribs I have sampled so far have been very meaty as were the meat tips. I’m still trying to sort out my feelings about the BBQ sauce at Mallory’s. As a certified Kansas City BBQ Society BBQ judge and culinary traveler I have sampled countless styles of BBQ sauces: Kansas City, St. Louis, Memphis, Texas. North Carolina (3 to 4 regional styles), South Carolina, mustard and more. This sauce defies categorization. It is moderate in consistency and does have a glue like cling to the bones, it has a trace of sweetness and a very light hint of brown sugar. It reminds me or a blend of an asian BBQ sauce and a sauce I have most often found in Cleveland on Polish Boy sandwiches.

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Mallory’s does a great job putting orders together. The meat area of the bottom of the styrofoam carry out container has a sheet of aluminum foil to hold the sauce and retain the heat. On top there is a sheet of wax paper to protect the sides. On top of the wax paper is a plastic bag with two slices of white bread in side – perfect boxing and presentation.

Mallory’s has been open about three years. The origin of the recipes come from father Ralph Mallory who came to Ohio from Luvern, Alabama. The tag line for the shack is “best soul food in Columbus”. I’ll have to visit a few more places before I can endorse that fully but based on my trips to date, the shack is a strong contender.

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Mallory’s Rib Shack
3386 Westerville Road
Columbus, OH 43224
614.269.8981
Facebook:MallorysRibShack
Open:
Wednesday & Thursday 11 am to 7 pm
Friday & Saturday 11 am to 11 pm
Sunday Noon to 4 pm

Mallory's Rib Shack Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Posted in BBQ | Tagged: | Leave a Comment »

Lake Hope Lodge – Not your typical dining hall

Posted by cmh gourmand on April 7, 2015

For no good reason, when I think about a dining in a state-owned park, cafeteria quality food comes to mind. While that may apply to many dining options with government oversight, such is not the case of the Lake Hope Lodge Restaurant. Lake Hope is a state park located about 20 miles from Athens. I have journeyed there at least once per year since the mid 1990’s and it very quickly became my go to state park (after a fair amount of vetting). While my tent camping days are probably over, my first cabin experience was at Lake Hope and now an “Iron Furnace” Cottage is as close as I get to roughing it. I can’t say we visited the lodge in the center for the park for anything other than picking up keys but I did visit shortly after it burned down around 2005 or 2006. The lodge was rebuilt in 2012 with a lot of attention to detail considered through the construction. The lodge is largely built out of locally sourced wood and stone. The design and decor reflect the history and heritage of the area – with photographs throughout the lodge showcasing the people, places and structures of the Lake Hope area from the 1800’s to the 1950’s. The restaurant in the lodge is privately owned and operated with a result that is both appetizing and appropriate to the current culture of the area.

The proprietor/chefs are Matt Rapposelli and Eric Lee, both highly training chefs with plenty of experience including gigs at Ohio University and operating Big Chimney Bakery among other ventures. The menu reflects the locally sourced focus that residents and visitors to the area prefer. The beef for the burgers comes from the Ohio State farm, chips in the nachos are sourced from local favorite Shagbark Seed and Mill, Raven’s Glen Wines add an Ohio option to the wine list and craft beers include Great Lakes and Elevator Brewing Companies. The meats are smoked on site and pizzas (evening only) come fresh out of the wood-ired oven. The menu is not extensive but is “right sized” to have just enough options with a selection of appetizers, salads, burgers, sandwiches, pizzas and desserts as well as a non insulting kids menu to provide a good choice for any picky diner.

On our visit we tried the nachos featureing a mountain of Shagbark chips, cheese, smoked pulled pork, lettuce and a more diced tomato de gallo than pico de gallo with a side of sour cream. The nachos were good but they would have benefited from more “goo” either more cheese, a side of BBQ sauce, or something to add some wetness to the dryness (not a bad dry) to the chips and pulled pork.

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I tried the Smoked Turkey, Bacon and Swiss sandwich with: smoked Ohio turkey topped with giant slices of cured bacon and Swiss cheese on freshly made bread. The smoked turkey was exceptional with great flavor and juiciness. The sandwich would have benefited from more and stronger Ohio Swiss cheese. The side of hand cut fries were very good.

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Mrs. Gourmand opted for the Warm Brisket and Bleu salad (opting to sub in cheddar due to her knocked up state) which included: slabs of slow-smoked, Ohio-raised brisket served warm on romaine lettuce with cheese, red onion, carrots and tomato. Mrs. Gourmand and I thought the brisket was very well crafted – tender and flavorful without being overly smoked. CMH Tobias also gave the scraps two paws up when he tried them later. The salad came with a fresh baked roll which could easily be converted to a sandwich bun for some of the brisket.

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For those with challenged digestive systems and eating preferences, the lodge does have a good veggie burger and gluten free pizza crust. For those that like BBQ you can buy all of the meats by the pound to enjoy at home or for a party (or to pretend you are “roughing it” at your cabin.

In addition to very good food, the lodge offers a great view of the lake as well as several good walking trails to allow you to burn off the calories after a meal. The lodge is obviously popular with visitors to the park whose nearest dining options are 15 miles away. But the lodge is liked by locals as well who drive the 40 mile round trip from Uptown Athens and beyond to dine. In fact, I ran into Kelly Sauber (Marietta Brewing, Fifth Element Spirits and West End Cider House Fame) who confirmed that Athens, Meigs and Vinton County residents are more than happy to head to the lodge for a meal.

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Drive time from Columbus is about 1 hour and forty minutes (or 1 hour 29 minutes in my old Subaru which handled SR 278 much better than my current cars). If you are staying overnight and want to explore the area in more culinary depth I can also strongly suggest and endorse the following in Athens: O’Betty’s Hot Dogs, Casa Nueva, Bagel Street Deli, Millers Chicken, Jackie O’s Brewpub, Avalanche Pizza, Purple Chopstix, The Athens Farmers Market and West End Cider House (and yes, I often visit almost all of those places in one day).

Lake Hope Lodge
27331 State Route 278
McArthur, OH 45651
740-596-0601

lakehopelodge.com/menunew

Winter Hours (end April 1st):
Monday & Tuesday: CLOSED
Wednesday & Thursday: 11am-8pm
Friday & Saturday: 11am-9pm
Sunday: Brunch Buffet 10am-2pm

For more about the history of the rebuilt lodge and the origins of the restaurant, click -> HERE.

Lake Hope Lodge on Urbanspoon

Posted in Athens, BBQ, Locally Sourced, pizza, restaurants, Road Trip | Tagged: , , , | 1 Comment »

My Interview on Columbus BBQ

Posted by cmh gourmand on July 1, 2014

I was approached by a writer working on a book about the 100 Best BBQ joints in the country. He asked me a few questions about our BBQ scene in town. The link to the interview is -> HERE.

So what do you think? Where is the best BBQ in Central Ohio?

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What’s New at Smokehouse Brewing?

Posted by cmh gourmand on May 7, 2014

Smokehouse Brewing

So what’s new at Smokehouse Brewing? Well a lot. But I suppose I should backtrack a bit. Smokehouse Brewing is the new name for Barley’s Smokehouse and Brewpub. First, I should caution you not to panic. The Smokehouse Brewing of today is largely the same as the Barley’s Smokehouse and Brewpub of last week. The owner is the same, so are the staff, so are the brewers and the beer. And what may alleve the most panic….so are the wings. The wings are still brined, smoked and grilled before they are served to you. So now that I have made things a bit more clear and reduced the likelihood of an anxiety attack, let me go back, back in time to the origins of Smokehouse Brewing.

The building has a long history in Columbus dining. It was once Jack Bowman’s Suburban Steakhouse home of the nation’s first salad bar (although a few other places debate this). Then it was a B.J. Salvi’s…oh, Pasta Salvi, how I miss you. In 1997 (or 1998 depending on a few interpretations of various things) Barley’s Smokehouse and Brewpub was born. Most of you know of Barley’s Ale House #1 located downtown. And 95% of those folks that know, know that Barley’s Smokehouse and Brewpub was connected to Barley’s by ownership until 2012. Smokehouse Brewing is still owned by Lenny Kolada. Angelo Signorino Jr. is still the head brewer in the house. While the name change was announced a few weeks ago, today, May 7th, is the day that Smokehouse Brewing decided to go big and stay home with a new menu. Many menu favorites of the last 15+ years are still on the menu but if you are a regular afraid of change, I encourage you to take the plunge into these new selections. If you have never visited, this is your opportunity to see what a brewpub can deliver (this is not a fish and chips joint).

I visited on the first day and as a rule, I never write about a first visit or a new menu. It’s not fair to anyone, but I’m OK breaking my rules in this case. With the assistance of Mrs. Gourmand, we tried out three of the new menu items. First on the list, Smoked Bahn Mi. As a disclaimer, the Bahn Mi is a favorite sandwich of mine so my standards are unrealistically high. As an additional disclaimer and sidenote, my favorite Bahn Mi’s are at Mi Li and Indochine and my favorite Bahn Mi inspired sandwich is the Bahn Meanie by Green Meanie. Those three are stiff competition for any contender. Smokehouse Brewing’s spin on the Bahn Mi involves: a thick pile of smoked ham, ample roasted pork, pickled vegetables (mostly onions), a light slathering of sweet chili sriracha aioli, shredded carrots and jalapeno, a dash of cilantro and mint on a Dan the Baker Baguette. If that sounds good, let me assure you it also tastes good.

Bahn Mi

Next on the table, the Greek Lamb Burger. To begin, I must admit that I made a rookie mistake with the new menu. I did not look at the add on’s for the burgers. While it was not needed, I wish I had asked for Double Smoked Thick Cut Bacon on this burger. The lamb burger was simple which made it simply good – the ground lamb was well seasoned, cooked just enough and served with tzatziki sauce and crumbled Feta cheese. The burger was skewered with a toothpick impaling two of the house made pickles on top of the bun. Good Burger but some bacon….and a fried egg and maybe something else…..might have made it even better.

Lamb Burger

Finally, under the subheading of Traditional Barbecue: Smoked Pork Barbacoa Three Way. This includes: pork shank on Asian slaw, pork belly swimming in honey chipotle BBQ sauce, pulled pork butt on a bed of lettuce (makes a convenient wrap on the fly) and with my serving, I had baked beans and cole slaw (while the menu says grilled asparagus and barley risotto). I think the substitution was an error on my part for not reading the menu in detail combined with my server working hard to give me what she believed I wanted. I’m glad I made an error because I really enjoyed both the cole slaw and the baked beans. I’m frequently disappointed by both so I am happy to report both sides were among the best of their style I have tried in town. As for each single part of the three way, as a Kansas City BBQ Society Certified BBQ judge I’d say they were each executed well. I first encountered the pork shank as a tasty snack prepared by our local Manbeque Chapter at a beer event in February. It made an impression on me as well as Lenny who was at the event as well. I am a proud convert to the pork shank. I will be eating that again and again. The pork was perfectly prepared and with the bone retained it adds to the flavor and makes it very easy to eat like a lollipop. The pork belly was neither cooked too much or too little, a tough balance for some. As for the pulled pork butt – it was well done but I would have enjoyed it more served in the barbacoa style I’m more accustomed to with some more spice and juices mixed with the meat. I’m a Butt man what can I say.

Barbacoa

All in all for day one and based on only three brand new menu items, I’d say Smokehouse Brewing is well on the way to defining (and maybe refining) their new name with this menu and truly making a new name/mark for themselves which will please regulars and converts alike.

Pork Shank

Barley's Smokehouse & Brewpub on Urbanspoon

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Whoa: Moe’s Original Bar B Que exceeds expectations

Posted by cmh gourmand on April 21, 2014

It has been a long time since I felt I had a new discovery or that I had beaten to the scene the other online and offline choices you have for your culinary voyeurism. After a long dry spell, I have a scoop. The thrill of the chase is the ultimate reason why most food writers blog. That moment of discovery when you walk through the door and find that you have found something worth writing about and that you get to be that person that opens a door to a new adventure for someone else. So here we go with Moe’s.

Moe’s had a few things going against it. It is a BBQ joint. So many in central Ohio have tried but so few have succeeded at doing BBQ well. And by doing it well, I mean doing it right. BBQ joints frequently excite me at the beginning then quickly disappoint me at the end. The next challenge is the space. Moe’s is in a spot in downtown Granville has witnessed several concepts come and go. The one successful concept in the spot occupied by Moe’s was long ago a place called Brew’s Cafe. You may have heard of that place – everyone loves it and fills the place day after day after it moved down the street.

Business took me to Granville and one of the bonus’ of owning your own business is being able to pick where you meet and who you dine with. The original plan was to meet at Brew’s but while checking the hours of operation I found that a new BBQ place had just opened down the street. This changed the plan.

I hoped for the best but prepared my palette for the mediocre. It is not fair to visit a restaurant open less than 2 weeks and rate what they can or can’t do, but I was ready to give them the benefit of the doubt. I’m happy to report this rookie delivers.

The first sign of potential was the sign at the front door – see below.

thanksgiving sandwich

That’s right a Thanksgiving sandwich! Take the best food day of the year and compact it into a sandwich by using a simple bun as a base then adding smoked turkey, cornbread dressing, cranberry sauce and a drizzle of white BBQ sauce. I had to get this….but I was conflicted. I mean I can’t properly judge a BBQ place by a smoked Turkey Sandwich so I decided to go in-depth into the menu. Fortunately, Moe’s menu is set up to make grazing easy. So here is what else I ordered in half pint servings: baked beans, mac’n cheese, marinated cole slaw, potato salad, banana pudding, collard greens, skillet corn (relish) , Mississippi Mud Pie (Pudding), squash casserole, corn bread…..and a side of ribs.

Take a look at my spread below:

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Before I go into detail on the above let me share with you why some people consider me the devil. My lunch companion is working with a personal trainer and by ordering the same sandwich as I did – he had already broken all of the rules he with given for the day for calorie consumption. Then I had him help me try the sides. (Then later in the day I took him to wineries and a Moonshine Distillery). Maybe I am the devil, all I know is the devil in the details and Moe’s does the details right. I did offer to write a note to his trainer explaining that his client had no chance by hanging out with me.

The place looks and feels like a BBQ joint (or kind of like a BBQ themed Chipotle restaurant). There are rolls of paper towels on each table – all real BBQ places add that touch. The aesthetics are all rural, industrial and music themed. The furniture is sufficiently wooden, etc. Moe’s could be in North Carolina, Texas or ……Alabama. That’s right greenhorns, Alabama. There is an Alabama style of BBQ which I was schooled in several years ago by the Coop Dawg and O’Pa (might sound like a sitcom but they are real people). Moe’s does “Bama BBQ” as intended. Want a sandwich “Bama style”? Here is how you do it add: BBQ Sauce, White Sauce, slaw and pickles. White sauce uses Mayonnaise as the base instead or tomatoes and/or vinegar.

The owners go by the name Gallagher and they have bounced around BBQ country a bit but they missed Central Ohio and wanted to come home. The way for them to return was through owning and opening a BBQ restaurant. So taking stock of their different backgrounds the menu reflects their history by mixing several styles. The main dish BBQ entrees are Alabama style. The side dishes are inspired by the kitchens of North Carolina and the ribs are strictly St. Louis style. Regardless of what style you subscribe to the whole of the menu is greater than the sub of the parts, or the sides.

So back to the food. The Thanksgiving sandwich was exceptional. The turkey was perfectly smoked – just enough smoke in the meat to add flavor but not enough to dry out the turkey. As for the sides each one reflected the style one would expect at a picnic in North Carolina. My favorites were the Mac ‘n Cheese and the corn relish. Both were properly seasoned and flavored and if going up against other of their ilk they would have come in best of show. The mac in particular, had just enough sear and crunch caressing the cheese to make it just right for me.

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The slaw was a mix of long shards of cabbage and a sweet yet sour dressing. The banana pudding featured an out of the box vanilla wafer on top in a manner I would describe as old school. The St. Louis style ribs were true to the style, expertly rubbed and with meat that was tender and easy to pull from the bone. The cornbread had a corn muffin quality (which is how I prefer it) and paired perfectly with all of the sides and all of the sauces.

And about the sauces – there are several styles and levels of heat and all are made in-house. Also in the house – a great bar on the second floor and plenty of local beer including Buck’s from Newark and Homestead from Heath. There as a lot to like about this new kid on the main block of Granville and I look forward to the Gallagher’s growing their business and refining the menu to meet the meat needs of the community. I think this place is going to be a hit. And I was so glad to find a Bar B Que joint that did not disappoint.

Moe's Original Bar B Que on Urbanspoon

Posted in BBQ, Ohio, restaurants, Road Trip, sandwiches | Tagged: , | 1 Comment »