CMH Gourmand – Eating in Columbus & Ohio

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Archive for the ‘BBQ’ Category

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

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

Ray Ray’s Revisited: The Good, The Bad and The Yummy

Posted by cmh gourmand on January 17, 2014

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I seem to have a tradition to write about Ray Ray’s once per year. So I’ll start early for 2014. Let’s get the bad over with. Ray Ray’s Chicken Wing Shack is no more. The project had a good run and created some of the best wings in town, but it is no more. RIP Ray Ray’s Chicken Wings.

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Chicken lovers, don’t be downtrodden but instead rejoice, for out of the ashes like a phoenix has risen a new menu item. The Pulled Chicken BBQ sandwich with Pineapple Cabbage Slaw. Oh Boy! This is a phenomenal combination. It is available Fridays and I have had it on a Sunday too. The chicken is cooked well and shredded to ease the chewing process. The slaw has plenty of fresh shredded purple cabbage mixed with a bit of pineapple to accentuate and compliment the sweet flavors from the house made BBQ sauce. This sandwich is the total package. It is a great addition to the menu.

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Everything else that we love about Ray Ray’s continues as always. There is still easy access to the Ace of Cups patio and interior so you don’t have to eat on the run.

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

Find Your Food Tribe & Plan Your Party: Inspired by Not So Polar Q

Posted by cmh gourmand on May 25, 2013

Last weekend I was invited to a party. The description below is from the Facebook page for the group.

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Now for a little Polar Q history via Steve Hamm:

This BBQ has been going on since Superbowl Sunday in 1990. There were 4 cooks that day, Steve Hamm, Charlie Kuhlman, Joe Coles (Chef at Rigsby’s at the time) and Larry Tuten, plus a dozen or so wives, girlfriends, partners and friends. By year six there were 35 cooks and 250 people including two Master Chefs (Hartmut Handke and Rod Stoner from the Greenbrier) joining in the fun. Now that Polar Q is no longer being held on Superbowl Sunday the name morphed into “Not So Polar Q”. Just as much fun with a lot less snow! All three major network TV stations have sent a crew out over various years.

Please add your own stories and memories and post your photos from the last 22 years. We hope you can join us this year and pass this on to those we may have missed!


To find out more about Not So Polar Q, check out their Facebook page.

The cook-out party featured Anna and the Consequences as well as a few guest musicians. The food was great – grilled, chilled and otherwise. It was hosted at City Club a bucolic hideaway tucked into a residential area near Hoover dam. The club is run by a group which has existed since the 1920’s. I had heard of City Club for years but never had an invite to go. All of the above, inspired me to drop in under the radar to experience the party. I knew a few of the people there vaguely but not enough to really embed myself in the festivities, so I sat back and watched the party with some detachment which inspired me to muse a bit about the culture of the Midwestern get together.

As residents of the Midwest, we are trained from an early age to expect, prepare for and recruit for cook-out’s between Memorial Day and Labor Day. For some, this level of preparation is on par with a Doomsday prepper (and for those of you that are so uber-organized and gung-ho!, I salute you). I say parties of these ilk should occur all year-long, but clearly the ones in the core party phase of the summer and something we look forward to and something that should be special.

What can you do to heat up your summer cook-out to make it memorable and more than meh? I think we can learn something from the Not So Polar Q folks.

1) Find your Tribe: Too little or too many people make a party bland. Sure the food is most important but the company, camaraderie and conversation run a close second. In my life experiences, for parties, I lose track of people once the 12-16 person zone is crossed. More than that, people get lost in the crowd.

2) Pick your theme: Grilled meats, cocktails, a regional cuisine….whatever, find a common thread to the grub to guide the evening and perhaps add to the after meal chatter.

3) Have a heart: The core of any group needs an organizer. Someone that changes the conversations from “we should do this” to “here is the plan”. Back in the day, there was a collective in Clintonville known as the West Californians. I was adopted into their group event though I reside in Beechwold. We had several memorable parties over the years but the core driver of each was “The Coop Dawg” who would say, “hey ya’ all” let’s get this thing going”. It does not take much, but someone has to light the fire to action and get the group in motion. Someone has to be the heart of your group.

4) Brand your Tribe: Make a sign, pick a name, print up T-Shirts… do something to own the name of your event and get people involved. If you do this once, you are likely to create an event that will recur and be looked forward to every year.

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Looking for an idea but stumped or intimidated by having limited cooking skills? I’ll give you four themes to inspire your creativity or you can copy off of me.

A) Hotdogpalooza: Buy as many different hot dogs as you can. Gather a multitude of mustards and toppings. Buy some really good buns. Grab a grill, cook your hot dogs and enjoy the evening.

B) Pizza Grand Prix: Have everyone bring a medium pizza from their favorite pie shop and share buffet style.

C) Chilifest: Each person brings a chili or soup and let the ladling begin.

D) Donut Tasting: Pick any baked good, but I would advocate for the lowly donut (but you could do pies, cakes, breads, whatever) and have each guest bring enough samples to feed twelve…mix, match and hope you have plenty of couches to slumber on status post sugar coma.

Armed with some ideas and inspiration, go forth and create something special this summer. And if you are outside, have a fire, that is the best way to gather your tribe.

Posted in BBQ, Food For Thought | Tagged: | Leave a Comment »

ManBque: An Anthropological Analysis of an Urban Mens Movement

Posted by cmh gourmand on April 25, 2013

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A few months ago I was invited to ManBQue. A what the what? Man – B – Que. Simply put this is a gathering of men who want to celebrate and extol three things: Meat, Beer and Rock n Roll. This month I was invited again by Chef Ed Kowalski. I looked at the ManBque website, read his pitch and decided I may have to give this a shot. I have sampled Ed’s culinary work in several places over the last couple years so I knew I would eat well. And, I was honored, this was an invitation only event. I was uniquely qualified for invitation because I am a man.

A few disclaimers and notations before I begin. Most of my friends are women. The few male friends I have, while valued, would, like me, never be accused of being high-test, testosterone manly men. I can’t speak for them but for most men of the Midwest I must be an absolute conundrum. Well, a manly man would not use that word, he would probably just grunt or something. I just never fit in with roaming herds of males. What are some of my failings: OSU Buckeyes….who cares, sports – meh, cars and muscle machines – I drive a Subaru, playing lots of blood and guts video games – nope. Sporting a ball cap, driving a pick up truck, while wearing jhorts and engaging with other dudes in horse-play….is not something I can pull off. I never adapted to being in the pack. I dropped out of Indian Guides because it was too structured. I did a Fraternity rush my junior year of college and just could not drink the Kool-aid. The only man based group I have ever been associated with on a long-term basis is called Nerd Night which involves watching TV and eating pizza with a female librarian. There is one exception to this long history of lack of manliness. You might call this a fling. For two years I was a member of the Loyal Order of the Moose. I joined so I could eat a really good $2 hamburger and play pinball during lunch time and then walk back to work in two minutes. I was often the only one there. Now don’t get me wrong, I like the ladies but I don’t hang out at the Stitch and Bitch classes or watch Grey’s Anatomy. I have never been one to run with the herd. Usually, I just saunter off in the other direction and do my own thing. The only really macho thing I can say about myself is that I am an Appalachian Porch Hound Trainer.

So as cool as it may seem to gather as a tribe and worship Meat, Beer and Rock N Roll, three things that rank high on my hierarchy of needs, it is not by my nature to do so in an organized pack. But, because I care about my readers and I have a mission to explore the world of culinary trends I was resolute to investigate the ManBque meat up which is quickly becoming a world-wide thing. On the plus side of going, the April Manbque was at Savor which is close to my house and would ensure quick access to good beer. I also knew than Rin, the Beer Knowledge Goddess of Savor would smack down any out of control mantics (man-antics) and made sure I had someone to talk to in a pinch.

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I approached the location with caution. After parking, I heard the music of Bob Marley wailing through the air. I could smell smoke….of charring meat and cigars….. floating through the air. I followed these sensory clues to the back lot of Savor to find one green egg, three grills, 2 large speakers and twenty plus males from 22 to 62 engaged in grilling, eating, drinking, smoking and laughing. After taking a few more whiffs of the meats being cooked, I knew I was in the right place and my sense was I made the right choice.

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Rob the vice-president of the Columbus Manbque cell, seeing I was a newbie, greeted me and showed me where the communal beer cooler was. I tracked down Ed inside Savor buying more beer. I mingled among the members and listened in on some of their conversations. I asked a lot of questions. While this is a very fraternal group it is not a fraternity-style group…well probably not, I was told there is not any hazing or odd rituals. Members do not need to wear weird hats like in the Flintstones (I was bummed about this). The most common thread I found among each of these guys was a passion to eat meat that is cooked really, really well. After Ed was done preparing some exceptional bone marrow, he as both my host and the president of the Columbus chapter of Manbque explained more about the group both locally and nationally. Each month members bring meat to cook and share with the group as well as beer to do the same. Among the feast of meats I dined on: bone marrow, pork loin, bacon wrapped chicken breast, bacon wrapped shrimp, and several cuts of marinated and seasoned beef cooked to perfection.

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ManBque started in Chicago and has since expanded throughout the USA and abroad. More than just a manly meet-up, the group hallows the holy trinity of cooking meat, drinking craft beer and celebrating great rock n roll pretty seriously. Each of these three elements are respected for the skill of art and science it takes to craft them. The growth of these local ManBque groups has been expansive and is expected to become exponential after the release of a cookbook in the near future. While “no girls are allowed” this is not a he-man woman haters club. Locally there will be a mixed group meeting in June. In Chicago – there is an all female group with the same goals who have engaged in a competitive but friendly rivalry with their male counterparts. In Columbus, as the group continues to grow, Ed and company want to add in classes, special events and serve charitable causes too.

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There are a few rules to the group. New members must be invited by a current member. Meat-ups occur during the week, not on weekends. At the end of the evening (this is where I started to worry about the hazing part) new members are given their ManBque name while the group stands in a circle. I think there may be something to this ManBque thing. I had to cut out early, so I did not get issued my official ManBque name but…I would go back, to the pack, to do so.

Want to learn more?
ManBque.com
Facebook

Interested in membership? Contact Ed: e.kowalski@yahoo.com

Posted in BBQ, beer, culinary knowledge | Tagged: , | 2 Comments »

Smokeout BBQ: Doing Business in Clintonville

Posted by cmh gourmand on March 24, 2013

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I first noticed the Smoke Out BBQ trailer set up for the BBQ trade one Saturday afternoon in the dead of winter. It was set up at Robbie’s Hobbies in Clintonville conveniently near my abode. Inconveniently, I had just eaten at Ray Ray’s. This niche spot in the Beechwood subsection of Clintonville hosted the mighty Per Zoot Food Truck for a few days last spring. Across the street, Beechwold Hardware hosted Tatoheads in the early days of the Tatonation’s birth. This is not the easiest part of town to start the mobile trade. The parking lots are small, the traffic is dense and there are blue hairs just around every corner getting ready to pull out right in front of you at 1 mph. However, the neighborhood loves to support new local businesses and there is a certain mobile karma in the area.

So back to my first encounter. I was full so I just bought the smallest sandwich possible and samples of each uniquely names sauce (Fargo, Athens and Amarillo). My diagnosis. Good sauce. Good que. I hoped that I might see them again. More Saturdays than not I saw them plying their trade at the corner and hoped they might stick it out. As it turns out, they will be so here is my exclusive world premiere interview with John Becker – the man with the handlebar mustache.

Smoke Out BBQ and Catering
4578 N. High Street
Beechwold / Clintonville
614.256.7900
Facebook
http://www.smokeoutbbq.com
Fridays and Saturdays 11 am to when they run out, most recently, about 2 pm

Who else works on Smoke Out with you?
A: I have a business partner, Eric Grant, and our wives may be on
location from time to time. Our sons will be learning the art in the
years coming.

When did you first get interested in BBQ.

A:I spent summer and winter breaks of college working for a landscape
company. We would cut mature apple trees from a local orchard, split
the wood, and sell it to local BBQ joints. Back at OU in Athens,
through trial and error, I learned to take a fatty cut of meat, wood
smoke, and patience and turn a cheap cut of meat into something better
than steak.

What is your BBQ style – Texas, Carolina, etc., if any?
A: I have eaten BBQ extensively in the Carolinas, Texas, Memphis, and
St. Louis. I enjoy good BBQ anywhere. The food we offer is the food we
like to eat with the meats being smoked by local cherry wood. Smoke
Out BBQ is pork oriented, but we also offer pulled chicken and brisket
on a rotating basis. The menu will expand once spring hits.

What inspired the trailer?

A:Eric and I both have experience in construction. We bought the
trailer shell and turned it into a fully functional kitchen ourselves.

You make many of your own sauces, any stories about that; family recipes, win any competitions, etc.
A: As much as possible, our offerings are homemade: sauces, rub, slaw, Mac N Cheese, etc. I’ll take a thumbs up or a smile from a customer who likes our food over an official award any day.

What are the next steps for Smoke Out? Do you hope to open a restaurant, do more catering?
A: I am just happy that I have the opportunity to share my favorite BBQ with my neighbors in Columbus.

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

High Beck Corner Tavern (Hi Beck)

Posted by cmh gourmand on February 21, 2013

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Before we begin…..let’s have a quick history lesson. The Brewery District has seen the best of the boom times and could have been classified as a ghost town in other eras. Long ago, before prohibition, it really was a Brewery District supporting over 600 bars and Taverns in Columbus and more elsewhere and business was very good. The High Beck opened in 1921, after Prohibition started, during the “meh” era of South High Street. In the early 1990’s to early 2000-aughts, it was the boom times and the Brewery District was THE place to be. Parking was scarce, Victory’s was the premiere meat/meet market to be for the gold chained, polo shirt wearing, pegged jeans and big hair crowd while the pre-dawn of hipsters were hanging out at Hoster’s and the Columbus microbrew world was experiencing the first renaissance that did not persist. At the epicenter of this, at least for many I knew, was the High Beck. (We called it the Hi Beck, as per the sign on the south side of the building). Often crowded beyond comfort, this joint, was the place to go for great local music and good beer. While I saw a few good bands here in the 1990’s, I never really hung out there otherwise and promptly forgot about the place. But then, the area fell out of favor again and many businesses went bust and the district faltered. The area is taking off again, but during the limbo era in between, the High Beck Corner Tavern survived the lean times while Victory’s, BW-3, The Clarmont and others bit it.

Why High Beck? The tavern is at the corner of South High Street and Beck Street, hence the name. Why has the High Beck survived? Regulars can answer that question better than me – and they are much of the answer I am sure, so if the High Beck is, your spot, please post here to enlighten me. The joint still features live music but not as much as in days gone by. As far as how the tavern came back on my radar the answer is easy….pizza. During of the Pizza Gran Prix events I used to do, some wonderful person brought in a SmokeHouse Combo Pizza from the High Beck. The Smokehouse features both the house made Texas BBQ brisket and hickory smoked pulled pork on top, house made BBQ sauce at the base with some mozzarella mixed in so it can be called a pizza and not a sandwich. This was easily one of my favorite speciality pizzas and more importantly, it ages well for next day consumption. However, I always had the pizza to go and never experienced it in house. It has taken me years to get back to the High Beck and the pizza got me through the doors. However, this delay on my part still lacks any rational reason. On Mondays, the tavern offers FREE pizza from 4 pm and after. On Tuesdays….FREE coneys….and yet, contrary to all things that define me….I never made it there for free food.

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The BBQ itself is worthy of mention. The house made sauce can be found in squirt bottles on the tables. The menu tells us that the house BBQ is created by Tiny. Tiny’s BBQ was perfected over 15 years in the south now to find itself in the land that spawned the war of Northern Aggression piled on top of an Italian Pizza Pie. This may seem like an odd twist of fate yet I have no complaints. I know many people (mostly of the female persuasion), that hate BBQ pizza as an abomination to the purity of the pizza concept. I do not. There are many foods I would add BBQ to if social constructs were more forgiving, but I usually know how far to push things. Well, sometimes I do, maybe not for food. Tiny, keep making BBQ and find more stuff to pile it onto.

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But if BBQ is not your thing, the High Beck has some belly busting chili cheese fries that will balance out two or three beers with no effort at all. Or, maybe you would like to try out their make your own bloody Mary Bar? Finally maybe food means nothing to you (so why are you reading this?) if that is the case you will find a good selection of beers, ping-pong, foosball, darts and a pool table to pass the time and wonder why you keep thinking about getting a BBQ sandwich.

The High Beck Corner Tavern
564 S. High St
Brewery Distrct
614.224.0886

art

High Beck Tavern on Urbanspoon

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

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 »

Casa di Pizza: The Best Ribs for the Buck

Posted by cmh gourmand on July 18, 2011

I found out about Casa di Pizza from my dental hygienist. Over several conversations with her between spitting and mumbling in a dental chair I trusted she would only give me a good tip. When she highlighted the ribs at a pizza place I was intrigued but more than a little skeptical.

Casa di Pizza is a carry out well off the beaten path. It has an innovative service window connecting to a bar next door for constant food shuttling. The menu is more progressive than would be imagined. Beverages include Hanks Sodas and Blenheim Ginger Ale. There are three pizza sauces: Red, Creamy Alfredo and Roasted Garlic. Pizza choices include The Defibrillator, appropriately named since it is piled with pepperoni, bacon, ham, Italian Sausage and salami. For the less heart-attack inclined there is the Double Double (two layers of cheese and two layers of pepperoni) and the Chicken Cordon Bleu (Alfredo Sauce, chicken, provolone, ham and Swiss Cheese). If you are undecided you might order all fourteen toppings on the Kitchen Sink. The most unexpected combination is Ziggy’s Steakhouse mixing rib eye, steak sauce, mushrooms and hand cut fries. Speaking of the fries they are near perfect, especially if you like them state fair style, balancing just enough grease with the right proportion of potato.

Enough foreplay, it is time to cut to the chase. The ribs. The ribs are incredible. Start with the Casa Teaser Sampler of four ribs. It will make you a believer. The ribs are not technically BBQ based on how they are cooked but who cares. They are cooked in the pizza oven but I am not sure of the other special preparations for the racks and I did not want to pry. The sauce balances sweet and tangy with a stick to everything thickness that somehow does not adhere to your body parts. No wetnaps are needed. You are most likely to eat the ribs with a fork and knife or your fingers. The meat falls off the bone by the touch or a gentle breeze leaving behind a barren, white rib bone which looks like a fossil. The bones are bare – they seem to be a delivery device for the meat – nothing sticks to the bone so there is no work involved in consumption. This seems like cheating.

Are the best ribs I have ever had…..no. However these are the best value and most instantly rewarding. Considering the price, consistency, ease of eating and hours of accessibility of Casa di Pizza ribs I would almost choose over Ray Ray’s if Casa di Pizza was closer. When a pizza place nails ribs, it is worth the effort. Do you recall that I mentioned there is a bar next door? As an added bonus I will provide this tricky tip. If you can’t convince your significant other eater of the need to go to Casa di Pizza, pretend that you want to do something educational. Visit the Campbell Memorial Park just north on McKinley. The Shrum Indian Mound located there would serve as an acceptable picnic site for rib or pizza consumption.

Casa di Pizza
2986 McKinley Ave
Located in the strange netherworld between Grandview, San Margherita, Hilliard and a quarry
614.586.1342

Casa di Pizza on Urbanspoon

Posted in BBQ, pizza | Tagged: | 4 Comments »