CMH Gourmand – Eating in Columbus & Ohio

Dining, Donuts, Dives and Diatribes

  • Recent Comments

    writerhelenrdavis on My Lonely Lunch in Spain …
    bob little on Gattos: Columbus Pizza, Clinto…
    Doris rink on Kuhlwein’s Farm Market a…
    Cindy Leland on In Memoriam: CMH Tobias One Ye…
    cmh gourmand on Reflections on Anthony Bourdai…
    Janice on Reflections on Anthony Bourdai…
    cmh gourmand on How Fairlife Saved My Lif…
  • Categories

  • Top Posts

  • Archives: August 2006 to Now

Archive for the ‘Clintonville’ Category

Gattos: Columbus Pizza, Clintonville Icon

Posted by cmh gourmand on July 13, 2019

Gattos Pizza was founded in 1952 by brothers Jimmy and Joe Gatto. It is the oldest continuously operated pizzeria in Columbus by that, meaning the same family at the exact same location for almost seventy years. Without an ounce of exaggeration, you can not create a place like this anymore. There are a few pizza shops that have a slightly longer history but the Gattos are among our founding families of pizza.

Mounted on the wall, is a large black and white photo showing the view out Gatto’s front window taken shortly after the business opened. Today, looking hard at the photo one will see little has changed from that opening day in 1952. The original vulcan gas oven was replaced by two newer models to increase production and the business started taking credit cards in June of 2019 otherwise you could still be in the 1950s. The majority of the employees over the years have been Gatto children, cousins and close friends which has continued a persistent family atmosphere to the pizzeria.

The founding Gattos grew up in Flytown, the Italian part of Columbus that is largely the Short North today. Joe’s family was living on the south side (near the original Donatos would begin in the 1960’s) when the pizza shop opened. “It was Uncle Jimmy’s idea and they chose Clintonville because the north side was growing” per Vince Gatto, a second generation Gatto who runs the shop today. Jimmy had experience working in bars and the family as a whole had a lot of restaurant experience.

Vince started working at Gattos when he was 10, wiping pans and rolling dough. He took the bus from the south side to Clintonville every Friday and Saturday to work until he was old enough to drive. Vince, his brother Joe (Joe Gatto II) and a cousin, Bill Fulcher (whose mother was a Gatto) bought the business from Joe and Jimmy in 1983 after years of working in the shop. At the time all three had full time jobs so they divided up days and responsibilities to keep the Gattos going. Vince took over many of the operational duties of Gattos in 1993 when he was one of 50,000 employees laid off from Sears on the same day. Today (2019) Joe II is no longer at Gattos and Don comes in once per week.

Vince says there are too many stories to tell from being a family run business in the same neighborhood for almost seventy years however a one day does stand out. In the early 2000’s a hurricane force storm stuck Columbus and especially Clintonville very hard causing the area to lose power for an extended period of time. Vince had the day off which he had started with a memorable day of golf with friends. He decided to check on Gattos because of the storm. When he called in he was told that they were getting ready to close the store because the power was out. Vince told the employee on the other end of the phone to “stay open and keep answering the phone” and he would be right there. He spent the rest of the day rolling dough by hand (like the old days) and prepping pizza which they could still cook out of their gas ovens. It ended up being one of their busiest days ever since no one else was open. By the end of the day, they had little product left which was great since they had no working refrigeration.

A great Gatto’s tradition is the annual “Sausage Party” which started in the late 1990’s. Every year, during the third week of December a collection of friends, family and long time customers gather to spend a day making Gatto’s sausage, often up to three hundred to four hundred pounds. Everyone takes some home to serve for the holidays.

The sausage recipe hails from Sicily and was handed down to the pizza shop by Vince’s grandfather. As is often the case of Italian and Sicilian sausage recipes, the mix has a hearty dose of fennel which is the common denominator for the handful of long time Columbus pizza purveyors who still make their own sausage. When asked why he continues this labor intensive endeavor, Vince responded he has tasted other commercial sausage over the years but never found anything he thought tastes better. Another unique property of the sausage used on their pizza is cutting it into rectangular slices instead placing on the cheese as crumbles.

Gatto’s also makes its own dough from scratch as well as meatballs, sauce and the only salad dressing they offer, Italian. It is a hands on, labor intensive business following a model no new pizzeria would follow. Today the challenges of continuing the legacy are changing eating preferences, more competition, less available parking and nearby demographic of grad students and new residents who do not have the same tradition of going to Gatto’s by default. Those that have not discovered Gattos’s are missing out on good food and time capsule experience. Those that grew up with Gattos would benefit with a pizza to rediscover the shop and to confirm that nothing has changed over the decades.


And a here is a bit to connect the dots.

Pizza Community

Joe Gatto (founder of Gattos) and Romeo Sirij (who started the first pizzeria in Columbus) were best friends since their Flytown days and continued to be frequent visitors to each other’s businesses and homes throughout their lives. Tommy Iacono (Tommy’s Pizza) and Joe Gatto (Senior) were also great friends who saw each other almost daily when they retired and frequently played golf together for decades. A binding part of the original Columbus pizza community was that most of the shop owners from the 1950’s and 1960’s as well as their suppliers grew up together in the same tight knit neighborhood, attended the same churches and frequented the Italian American Golf Club (based at the Riveria Country Club for decades) when they could find a day off. They may not have worked together but they did enjoy playing together.

Advertisements

Posted in Best Pizza in Columbus, Clintonville, culinary knowledge, pizza | Tagged: , , , , | 1 Comment »

The Return of (G.D.) Ritzy’s

Posted by cmh gourmand on December 16, 2018

Ask residents of Columbus circa 1980 to 1991 and most will have fond memories of G.D. Ritzy’s. Many have a favorite item they remember from the era that Ritzy’s was a growing empire. In one online discussion about the new Ritzy’s one person was indignant that a vegetable dish from the early days was not in the current menu. I could not even remember said item, but to each their own. Ritzy’s model was to deliver 1950’s style food and service to the 1980’s. For the most part it worked. However, Ritzy’s was doomed to use the model that most Columbus based food businesses of the 1980s and early 1990’s followed – expand too much and too fast and land in bankruptcy (Damons, Max & Ermas, Cooker, Rax, 55 Restaurant Group, Salvi’s…..) the list goes on.

During the peak of the empire, there were one hundred plus locations throughout the Midwest. A handful of franchises survived the fall of the company and to this day, there are original locations including Huntington West Virginia and Owensboro Kentucky. I have visited both. These locations do not offer all of the original menu but show that the concept is sustainable. Ritzy’s was known for thin burger patties, old-fashioned hot dogs, shoestring fries, peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and home-made, super premium ice cream with big chunks of ingredients in the base.

My own memories Ritzy’s were hazy at best. Two things kept me from crossing the threshold very often, my budget and my job. I worked at Knight’s Ice cream so Ritzy’s was a competitor. My sole focus of my sophomore and junior year of high school was to save up money to buy a car. Making $2.85 per hour and later making $3.50 per hour as a very young supervisor, it took a long time to save for a used 1979 Chevy Camaro. I did not have the budget for Ritzy’s. While I was a student at Watterson, and the Clintonville Ritzy’s was a briefly a hang out for the high school crowd, I never had the right pedigree to be part of those reindeer games so I opted out. I do have strong food memories of the few times I did venture in – I loved the fries and ice cream. Doing and informal poll of other Columbus residents of my generation, fries is always the answer when asked about what menu item was their favorite.

There as a brief resurgence of the ice cream part of Ritzy’s with a short-lived Vienna Ice concept with Mozarts in 2011 which helped keep the ice cream memories of the business alive at least as a reminder of days gone by.

Graydon Webb was part of the original Ritzy’s team and is the leader of the resurrected concept with his sons Bryan and Corey Webb and family friend Drew Devilbiss. The site selected for the relaunch has a lot of history to it. While it was a used car lot for a very long time, for much of the 1970’s to early 1990’s is was an A&W Root Beer, an independent hot doggery called (I think) Frosty’s and perhaps for less than a year the site of a (Dayton based) Casano’s Pizza. Most of those entities featured drive and park service. The Webb’s had to work with the city to make some adjustments to the street lights and intersection to make entry and exit a bit easier and the resulting work delayed opening day for some time. The site finally opened in September of 2018 and has continued with brisk business since.

The space is small, seating about forty people. There is also a small outside dining area for the warmer weather. There is an outside service window for ice cream ordering. The walls have posters and old ads from the original G.D. Ritzy’s including some from the original Clintonville location. The menu brings back the hits from the 1980’s. The burgers are made with a special blend of ground beef, buns are baked in-house daily, the shoestring fries are hand cut and the a rotating selection of 48 ice creams are offered 16 flavors at a time. The food business consultant/mystery shopper in me could not help but notice that the layout of the kitchen and ice cream area creates a few significant bottlenecks in service and observationally, the distribution of work among employees seems to be uneven at best. On my two brief visits I witnessed one or two employees with too many tasks on their plate and the rest with too few or none. I’m sure these workflow issues will resolve over time but a major need is a redesign of the grill prep area and I can’t see enough available space to make that work. My best advice would be to be patient during peak hours and have a good idea of what you want to order before it is time to start the ordering process.

When it is time to order you are given the option of choosing your own toppings for your burger and hot dogs and these are assembled for your Chipotle style (which was Ritzy’s style in the 1980’s) in front of you. Burgers and hot dogs are grilled when you order them. I had forgotten how thin the burger patties were. They are just a bit thicker than a White Caste patty with frayed edges. Most diners would be best off with a double or triple burger to get more meat in their meal. I found the hamburger part of my burger to be lacking in flavor however I did order a single. The whole can be greater than the sum of the parts, at least with my burger order. The bun was very fresh and the variety of ingredients to pile on can make for a tasty burger experience.

I also tried a hot dog. I was very pleased with the entire hot dog experience. Ritzy’s scored points with me by doing things “right”. The bun was a fresh, grilled New England style bun. The hot dog was all beef and looked like it might have been sourced from Falter’s meats. The coney sauce was the perfect consistency and seemed to be a differently spiced take on Cincinnati style chili.

The fries did not disappoint either. These are classic, hand cut shoestring fries. I could find no fault in them, I could have eaten pound of them if such an option was available. The potato flavor really stands out. Guests are given the option to pile all types of extras on to the fried but the fries can easily stand on their own.

On to the ice cream. To date, I have tried four flavors. As I mentioned before, my first job was in an ice cream shop. I know how to make ice cream and have high standards for it. If I ever made a fortune and have free time, I will take the famous Short Course at Penn State then open an ice cream shop in Athens. In the meantime, back in reality, I think Ritzy’s does an exceptional job with their ice creams. The flavors are rich and flavorful, filled with large chunks of chocolate, cookies, etc. There are several tiers to ice cream with Super-Premium being the highest. What this translates to is a dense ice cream (less air in the mix) with a high fat content (more cream) and high quality ingredients throughout. Ritzy’s holds its own to Graeters and Handels both of which are exceptional in my book with their super premium ice cream offerings.

Overall, my Ritzy’s experience was good. I hope Ritzy’s learned a lesson from (G.D.) days gone by and if growth is in the future, grow the business slow and steady instead of fast and furious so they can sustain this good thing for a long time.

Where to find Ritzy’s
4615 North High St
(Clintonville/Beechwold Borderlands)

Posted in Clintonville, hamburgers, hot dogs, ice cream | Tagged: , , | Leave a Comment »

A Wistful Wendy’s Eulogy for #22

Posted by cmh gourmand on September 19, 2016

 

img_5385

A little bit of restaurant history disappeared last week, well at least my history. The Wendy’s located at 3592 North High St was demolished to make way for a new design. It should be up and running by early 2017. While Wendy’s is ubiquitous in Central Ohio my hazy early childhood memories can recall when it was a new concept. The location in Clintonville was the 22nd Wendy’s since the company started in 1969. It opened in 1973. By 1976, there were 500 Wendy’s all over North America. Today there are about 6500 worldwide.

One of my earliest food memories is Burger Chef, I can not recall anything about the food there but I do remember the prizes with their kid’s meals. In contrast I can distinctly remember the first burger and first chili I had at Wendy’s. The burgers served were bigger and fresher. And with their square patties, as what was once the the tag line for Wendy’s, they seemed old fashioned compared to their competition. The Wendy’s chili of the 1970’s was so much better than what is served today.

I can recall finding out that there was a double and a triple burger and feeling determined to try these larger offerings. I think my third or forth Wendy’s burger ever was a triple. Not bad for five year old. I finished it of course but it was the only time I have consumed a Wendy’s triple. I can recall the original decor involved high top tables covered with recreations of old ads. The decor was very similar to Farrell’s at Graceland…..which did not last too long lots of wood, some beads creating a 1920’s feel. Some of the old school tables can be found at Thurman’s in German Village.

My next memory was the Wendy’s salad bar (originating in 1979) which seemed amazing to me. I can remember frequent trips there to make salads to bring home. There was a poppy seed dressing we loved to get and things like bacon bits and fresh croutons seemed like a big deal. As a reflection of how times have changed as an 8 year old I could ride my bike there and order food and eat it there by myself. I can’t imagine eight year old’s doing that in Clintonville today. I’m not sure I can imagine myself riding my bike there in the present, although I need to.

On one of my later bike rides there (when I was 13) I lost my retainer. I rode my bike home to tell my mom I could not find it and she told me to ride back and keep looking for it. Three hours later when I had not returned home, she drove down to check on how I was doing. I was digging through bags of trash at the rear dumpster. She walked up and the very first thing she pulled out…..was my retainer.

The next big deal for me at Wendy’s is something that did not last long enough – the SUPER Bar! When it started, for $2.99 it was all you could eat salad, baked potatoes, Mexican Taco bar, pastas and more. It was phased out in the early 1990’s but in my first years of college, it was a splurge meal option that fit my budget.

My last memory was in college as well. I was eating at Wendy’s with my girlfriend and somehow at a four top table, I thought I had pulled the chair out to sit down but there were only three chairs at the table….so when I squatted to sit, my ass landed on the floor. About twenty people stared at me wondering if they were watching someone loose their mind…..that happened about twenty years later.

While the corner will only be empty for a few month before it is replaced with a new state of the art Wendy’s restaurant it will not be the same for me. It is interesting how something as mundane as a fast food restaurant can intertwine in your life in ways you don’t recognize until it is gone.

Posted in Clintonville, Food For Thought | Tagged: | 2 Comments »

Don Pedro (Taco Truck) now in Clintonville

Posted by cmh gourmand on June 2, 2016

Don Pedro Truck

(Update – June 13th – Sorry to say these guys have vanished already).

Long time fans of Taco Trucks Columbus know we/I would include Don Pedro’s as one of our Top Ten Taco Trucks over the years. Their hours, locations and operation have been hit or miss during the last couple years to the point I was fairly sure they were closed. That is a shame because we came to know the owners, actually the whole family, as we enjoyed their food and showcased them in some events. For some history take a look at -> this, -> this and -> that.

So while running some errands this week, I was surprised to see a new food truck at the Super Food Mart on Clintonville ( 3166 N High St, Columbus, OH 43202). This location has a long history as a food truck destination starting with Ray Ray’s, then Mya’s Fried Chicken and El Manantial Latino. From a distance, I was not sure I wanted to block out time to check out this new mobile food vendor. Approaching the blue and yellow truck (always popular in OSU obsessed Columbus) the owners recognized me at the same time I recognized them. After a mini reunion and catching up, it was time to order food. I opted to get something safe for Mrs. Gourmand by ordering a quesadilla. It was just as good as I recalled it and Mrs. Gourmand using her litmus test (of how does this compare to Taco Nazo) found this to be very good too. One warning. I forgot how hot their green salsa is but fortunately there was about 1/2 pound of sour cream with the quesadilla to quench my burning taste buds. I opted for chicken but I could have had ham, pork, beef or even hot dogs as my protein of choice.

Don Pedro Food

The menu is deep and diverse including the standards – tacos, quesadillas, burritos, (some of the best on the city) Tortas, agua frescas and coming soon some daily and weekend only specials. They just opened this week and could use some foot traffic for an infusion of capital to stay in the area and add to the menu. So if you are in or near Clintonville, I’d love for you to drop in for a meal and welcome them to my/our barrio. There are two picnic tables nearby for eating on site if you choose.

Don pedro Menu

You can find Don Pedro at:
Super Food Mart
3166 N High St, Clintonville 43202
(corner of East Pacemont and High Street)
614 584 7149
Hours (being established)

Don Pedro Taco Truck  Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Posted in Clintonville, Mobile Food | Tagged: , | 2 Comments »

Slice of Clintonville: A Serving of Community

Posted by cmh gourmand on November 5, 2015

IMG_3601

Tonight I served as a judge for the second annual Slice of Clintonville, an evening of all you can eat pizzas from the greater Clintonville area. This was the first year for judging so my honorable colleagues and I had the daunting task of tasting and evaluating three to seven types of pizza from each of the following: Ange’s, Bella Pizza, Donatos, Hounddogs, Lucky’s, Mama Mimi’s, Mikey’s Late Night Slice, Pizza House, Sbarro (open 4 days just down the street), Smiths Deli, Villa Nova and Z Pizza. If you are now full from reading that imagine how I feel right now.

IMG_3597

We opted to try to tame that overwhelming variety by getting creative with our criteria. We tasted the standard Pepperoni pie from each place then compared our top three choices among the three judges to determine best in show. Then each of us picked our favorite specialty pizza for an honorable mention. The end result: Pizza House was our winner. Late Night Slice, Hounddogs and Mana Mimi’s got Honorable Mention and Villa Nova received the diversity award for their Taco Pizza. The People’s Choice award went to Mama Mimi’s. It was a good showing by all.

IMG_3600

There are many events in Columbus – typically too many to choose from. Some are too big, some are too small, a few too frequent and a very small number are just right. This is a true community event, at least for me. I was able to judge with Nick from Breakfast with Nick and spend some time with his family. I was able to sample pizza and catch up with friends from Late Night Slice and Hounddogs that I work with on the Pitchers and Pizza Tour and see other that I have known for years serve pizza from their shops and see neighbors I have known, in some cases all my life, enjoy the fruits for these local pizza slingers. And finally a few Clintonville charities were able to show off what they do. It is hard to create an event that truly represents the community but Slice of Clintonville is just that a slice of what the community has to offer. See you next year.

Posted in Clintonville, pizza | Tagged: | 2 Comments »

Pay It Forward: Nancy’s Home Cooking

Posted by cmh gourmand on June 1, 2015

IMG_2773 (1)

Nancy’s has been a Clintonville institution for over forty years. A significant part of the tradition of the eatery has been serving the community. For years, the homeless knew they could come in for a meal, for some customers it was their only place for community and a place they could find a kind word with a warm meal, and for many years fire fighters knew they could expect a Thanksgiving meal delivered while they were at work away from their families.

The current version of Nancy’s is different on some ways from the Cindy King era (and I am working on a post where I try to sort out the good, the bad and the ugly of those differences) but that sense of service remains. The diner has started a Pay it Forward Program. Customers can buy a meal for someone who needs one – all they do is pay and write a few words of encouragement on a post it note. If someone needs a meal, they can redeem one of the post it notes. There are well over 50 post it notes on the wall waiting to be redeemed. It is a simple and direct way to serve the community the way this spot always has, one meal at a time.

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

The Best Sub in Clintonville….is not at India Oak Bar and Grill

Posted by cmh gourmand on March 26, 2015

sub

Since my return to being a full-time Ville-Billy, I have heard mention that the best sub in Clintonville is ballyhooed as coming from the India Oak Bar and Grill. There may have been a time when I might have bought into that proclamation. I ate a lot of subs at the Oaks in the 1990’s but that was a different time with different owners. I’ve had the sub there recently, a couple of times in fact, and while it was respectable, I can’t pull out anything from my experiences that would suggest it would be the best. Granted there are not a lot of candidates for the title in Clintonville, but seeing as there are more than one to contend for the honor, I decided to revisit some places to see if my standards are flawed or if the bar had just become lower.

As many of you know, I’ve written about O’Reilly’s more than a few times and they have a very good sub. But I am an O’Reilly’s loyalist so my objectivity could be compromised. Therefore, it became critical to even out the field. I recruited Mrs. Gourmand who never lacks for an interest in a submarine sandwich. I asked her to join me to sample four other Clintonville (traditional) subs and she gladly accepted. She recently stated “I can never be a vegetarian” and has been observed eating more fruits and vegetables that is her norm. That combined with her state due to her pregnant nature, she has had a lot of hankerings for meats and bread. She was hungry for some subs. It also helps that she is Italian-American so she has plenty of experience in all things Italian and high expectations for sub consumption.

There are not many sub purveyors in Clintonville, but I did find four others that seemed worthy of consideration. I called in all of the orders and picked them up in the order of when orders were placed.

Patrick J’s – Indianola Italian Sub
Hot ham, hard salami, ham, cheese, lettuce, tomato, onion and banana peppers with Italian dressing. Served with a side of kettle chips and a pickle for $7.50.

Gatto’s Pizza – Italian Sub
Salami, pepperoni, ham, provolone, tomato, banana pepper and lettuce for $5.50.

Dante Pizza – Hot Sub
Cappacola, salami, pepperoni, lettuce, tomato, banana peppers with their special house made salad dressing for $6.25

Smith’s Deli – Super Sub
Ham, salami, pepperoni, provolone cheese, mozzarella cheese, Romano cheese, spices, lettuce, tomato, hot peppers, onions and dressing for $6.19. I oped for this over their Roman Sub which seemed light on the meat and cheese.

To maintain the highest level of objectivity – Mrs. Gourmand watched me unwrap the subs and cut each into pieces to be evaluated. All were still warm to the touch when delivered and were all picked up by me within 5 minutes of each other. I ate in a separate room, recording her observations as she shouted them out. I made my observations silently. These are our field notes from our submarine adventure.

Patrick J’s had the best presentation of all four subs. It was cut in half with great visuals and a big pile of chips with a pickle placed in the the center of the styrofoam carrier.

Gatto’s was clearly the best value of the pack. It was 69 cents less expensive than the second lowest priced sub and it was not smaller or less tasty than it’s peers.

Neither Mrs. Gourmand or I felt that our recollection of the India Oaks sub was clearly better than any of the four we tried in this tasting. Therefore their title of best sub in Clintonville is officially revoked.

We found all of the subs to be of good quality with none radically better that the other. With contention being very tight, my favorite sub was The Gatto’s Sub and my second favorite was Dantes. Mrs. Gourmand liked Smith’s sub more than the other three and she gave second place to Gattos.

These are our tasting notes. All of the buns appeared to be from Auddinos. All of the subs were baked in an oven and had a crusty, toasted texture. Smith’s was the most toasted and Patrick J’s was just lightly toasted. In the case of Patrick J’s the veggies were applied after cooking so they were not cooked with the other ingredients. That manner of vegetable placement is my preference going back to my sub making days at Knight’s Ice Cream. I also liked that the bun at Patrick J’s was not sliced all of the way through so it had a clam shell-like quality to it, which can help with consumption.

Patrick J’s was Mrs. Gourmand least favorite sub mainly due to the possible presence of mayo or a dressing she did not like and because the hot ham was too fatty for her liking.

We both liked Gatto’s sub because the bread had a garlic bread flavor and quality to it. I liked Dante’s because all of the meats had distinctly strong and fresh flavor to them – more that the other subs. Additional diagnosis determined that Mrs. Gourmand liked the Smith’s sub due to the extra cheese embedded throughout the sandwich. I found that I liked this sub as well.

All in all, we did not have a clear winner, but I think we have established that there are some great subs in Clintonville that are not at India Oaks. I was also happy that none of the subs sucked, they were all significantly above the average marker so that is a great benchmark to judge from.

Posted in Clintonville, culinary misadventure, Food For Thought, sandwiches, Sub Dude | Tagged: , , , , | 2 Comments »

La Poblanita: A Winter’s Tale (or a Mobile Food Moral on Morale and Marketing)

Posted by cmh gourmand on March 3, 2015

Oh, there was great joy last fall when La Poblanita opened in a used car lot across from Weiland’s Market. Then it moved to the parking lot of the dry cleaners 100 feet away. Then it got a professional looking wrap. Then it changed its orientation to face another part of the parking lot. All seemed like good, positive changes. The food was great, service was good and a community was rooting for the new chica in town. Then winter came and hours became erratic. Not that hours were perfectly consistent before, but even factoring in weather, one never knew when the trailer might be open. A competitor just down Indianola Ave, La Morelina, left its spot as winter progressed, then La Poblanita disappeared for a while. I found it a few weeks later in the parking lot of a barber ship near Boston Bert’s Seafood Trailer, four or five streets north of the original spot. On the plus side, the parking lot was bigger and nicer and for the vendor, it looked like they had plug-in electric hook up which makes a big difference in the winter time. (This barber shop used to host a coffee trailer in the past). And in theory, the proximity to Boston Bert’s could be good for both by creating a de facto Mobile food court. But then hours were erratic again. In mid February I dropped by to find the sign below.

Poblanito

On March 1st, I went looking to Poblanita at the new site….and nothing. I found Poblanita back at the old spot (minus the sign)….and there was no sign of life. I hope Poblanita comes back, I like the food and Clintonville needs that type of culinary diversity. Granted, this winter was sucky for any mobile food vendor but Poblanita made some avoidable errors that could have improved the odds for more customers on the good days.

OK, now for mobile food 101. The first rule of mobile food club is: Be Consistent. The second rule of mobile food club is: Be Consistent. The third rule: communicate to your potential and regular customers in as many ways as you can as often as you can. If you follow these rules, you could have average food and still have better than average chances of being successful.

These are some things Poblanita could have done:

Write your hours on a laminated sign and post to the trailer.

When you can’t keep those hours, have another sign that indicates when you will be back during normal business hours.

Make sure you have a sign that says open that can be easily seen from the road (100 or more feet away).

When allowed (sometime you can’t use stand alone signs on some properties in some parts of town ) buy or make a sign (use two by fours if you need to, paint it orange if you need to), so that when people drive by they know you are open for business.

If you can’t maintain your hours, change them and communicate to your customers what is going on, they will be more likely to visit you if they know that you can’t maintain the hours they might prefer.

Don’t just rely on Twitter, or Facebook, or Instagram to communicate to customers. If you picked one of more of those tools – keep with each and use them every day. If you did not, pick one and learn to use it. And no matter how many of those that you use, assume that few if any of your customers are paying attention to your social media at any given moment. And if you have a sign with your business hours, that sign or another one should list the social media you are using. Not just that you use it but the exact handle or address that you are using.

There are hundreds of other things that small businesses need to do to make it, but the first business that ever opened, and each one since then, has used signs to let customers know that they are open for business…..and when they are closed for business.

Post Script (March 2015)

Poblanita did not move, it can be found in the parking lot of Beechwold Barbershop at 3825 Indianola Ave (Intersection of Northridge and Indianola.). Open Tuesday to Sunday 10:30 am to 9 pm. Cash only.

Posted in Clintonville, culinary knowledge, Food For Thought, Mobile Food | 4 Comments »

O’Reilly’s Revisited Again: Daily Specials and Subs

Posted by cmh gourmand on December 14, 2014

IMG_2555

I’ve written about O’Reilly’s before to acclaim their burgers and heap on accolades about the wings. I also wrote about a Clintonville cocktail I tried to invent with some inspiration from O’Reilly’s and I’ve mentioned a few epiphanies that occurred in the booths there.

Although O’Reillys has been around just over thirty years and I’m a life long Clintonvillian I’m a late comer to the place, having only started visiting ten years ago. I found a post from 2011 where I mention an awareness of their daily specials but it has only been recently that I started to explore them. The daily specials are offered Labor Day through Memorial Day and are posted on a board weekly. The specials are offered Monday to Saturday and change each week. The only constant I have noticed so far is the presence of the two chili dogs and chips. This is offered one day each week with the day changing each week. Other specials I have seen, but not quite weekly include: stuffed green pepper soup, tuna noodle casserole, meatloaf with mashed potatoes and veggies (vegetables at O’Reilly’s are typically canned green beans or canned corn), Sloppy Joes, Meatball Sub and Chili Mac with a side salad and roll. There are other specials to choose from as well. All are priced well under $8.

During the summer the specials disappear but Tuna and Egg Salad return. I’m still deep in my investigation of the daily specials but initial research has been promising. Something not related to the food but equally important is the vibe. Enjoying one of these meals, especially at lunch time reminds of the community feeling that I experienced when Cindy King was still with us serving Chicken and Noodles, with a side of commentary and advice from behind the counter at Nancy’s. There are regulars that come to experience a “family” meal with the staff and other regulars. Many of the recipes at O’Reilly’s have a back story.

Many of the recipes are based on what was on the menu at placed called Tangos, which was popular in the 70’s/80’s, the recipe for tuna salad came from Cindy King’s mom, the “crack sauce” for the sweet potato fries was passed along by Tim Lessner from Tip Top Kitchen and Cocktails. Most of the staff has stories are well, many have been there for decades and many knew Marty, the owner, when then they were kids. There is a lot of history at O’Reilly’s and it is just not on the walls, it is in the relationships among those that work there.

There are two of the specials I’ve tried during my research to date, the first is meatloaf with mashed potatoes, corn and a roll.

IMG_2802

The second special is chili macaroni with a salad and roll.

O reillys Chili mac

I’ve also branched out (a bit) on my exploration of the regular menu. The two most noteworthy items are the chicken tenders and the Italian Sub. The chicken tenders have never disappointed me. They are always substantial and while a choice of sauces are available, the best option is buffalo sauce paired with a side of blue cheese. As for the subs, Mrs. Gourmand fancies herself an expert on subs and this is one of her favorite in Columbus (the best for her so far seems to be at Thurman’s, while I’m still inclined towards Susie’s Sub Shop). The O’Reilly’s sub adheres to all of the rules for a good submarine sandwich: the bun is toasted, the meat is grilled, the ingredients are ample and there is just enough crunch to the bread and the cheese.

Sub

O'Reilly's Sub

One final note, O’Reilly’s finally has a local craft beer on tap, Brass Knuckle Pale Ale from Four String Brewing. I’m looking forward to seeing more local beer on the draft menu there. As for what to do in between bites. The Galaga video game I mentioned in a previous post is gone but there is still plenty to entertain guests. There is always the option to people watch as well as a mix of board games and a few books including The Complete Irish Pub Cookbook. You won’t see any of those recipes on the menu but you will experience the feel of an Irish Pub at O’Reilly’s.

I hope that I have given you at least one reason, if not more to give O’Reilly’s a visit.

O'Reilly's Pub on Urbanspoon

Posted in Clintonville, Sub Dude | Tagged: | 3 Comments »

La Poblanita New to Clintonville

Posted by cmh gourmand on October 2, 2014

IMG_2334

La Poblanita
3825 Indianola Ave (Intersection of Northridge and Indianola)
614.598.9539
Open Monday to Sunday 10 am to 10 pm (closes at 6:00 pm on Sunday if business is slow)

It seems fitting that a Taco Truck is now serving food on a lot that served home to a soft serve ice cream stand that was a local favorite for years. La Poblanita opened at this spot in late September in the very heart of Clintonville. It is a one woman operation. Marcelita (Marci) the owner is happy to be running her first business and reports great feedback from the community so far. She is originally from Puebla Mexico but she has lived in Columbus for a long time and speaks English well.

Her trailer is small which limits the menu she is able to serve but what she does have is excellent. The standard menus includes: tacos, tortas, burritos, quesadillas and chuletas (pork chops). La Poblanita also offers the following specials when possble: Carne Asada Platter, Grilled Shrimp Platter and (some weekends) Tamales. The Taco Truck Tasting team has sampled the following on two visits: burritos, quesadillas, pork chops, Carne Asada, and grilled shrimp. Based on two trips and in spite of the fact that this business has been open less than 1 month, I declare this is one of the ten best taco trucks in town. Portion sizes and prices are very good. The vegetables in the side salads and inside the burritos are fresh and served in generous portions. Meat choices are steak, chicken and pork.

For platters in addition to the main dish you receive a side of seasoned rice, a side of pinto beans with queso blanco mixed in, a small salad with lettuce, cucumber and radish and when available a piece of candy. Platters are typically served with 4 fresh tortillas which are served steaming hot and fresh. Do use caution with the two house salsas – both the green and the red are very, very hot.

IMG_2342

The burritos are densely packed with meat and any other items you would like included. The pork chops were a surprise to see on the menu (not a typical taco truck standard). They were well cooked and lightly seasoned. They are not available every day and do not last long due to popularity. Although a one person operation, service has been very good and friendly. It is a one minute walk to Weiland’s Market across the street which is a nice way to spend some time if you are waiting for a large order. Check out La Poblanita muy pronto.

IMG_2338

La Poblanita  Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

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