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Enrico’s Pizza & Restaurant since 1988: An Immigrant Story

Posted by cmh gourmand on October 30, 2019

Regular or even infrequent visitors at Enrico’s, are often on a first name basis with Tiziana who runs the front of the house of this small, modest restaurant tucked in a strip development on the border of Dublin. She and her family commuted a long way to start their business, they are all first generation Italian immigrants to central Ohio. They settled in Grandview in 1968. Tiziana’s mother, Angelina, worked as a seamstress and Ottavio, her father, found work in construction. Both parents liked to cook so when Tiziana’s uncle opened Dante’s Pizza in Clintonville in 1973 it was only natural that they would lend a hand. Her mother’s brother, Joe Apollino, had arrived several years earlier and learned the pizza business working a variety of positions at Leonardo’s, an iconic Columbus pizzeria chain.

All of the family members worked at Dantes at different times over the years. The family, now including Tiziana’s husband Rick, decided to open Enrico’s in March of 1988. (Guess where Rick met his wife…..while working at Dante’s). The restaurant started as a largely scratch kitchen and has remained that way since day one. They make their own dough, sauce, pastas (especially beloved ravioli’s), house salad dressing, meatballs and sausage. One thing they do that few shops still practice is grinding their cheese from blocks of provolone instead of using shredded cheese. They have not changed a menu item since opening in 1988 and if they did “our customers would tell us.” It has always been a word of mouth business, they do not advertise and don’t offer coupons. Enrico’s has a loyal base of regular customers who plan in advance for the two times per year the business closes for a week for vacation. Tiziana says one of the best aspects of running the business is watching families grow up with Enricos by seeing customers bring their children and then seeing the next generation of children grow up and bring their own children in. Special orders are not uncommon with some customers asking for their pizza “extra crispy”, or triangle cut, or with all the pepperoni on top. Long time customers are familiar seeing Tiziana by the front counter greeting customers while “mom and pop” are in the back in their kitchen whites cooking away. Where does the name Enrico come from? The restaurant is named for one of Tiziana’s cousins from Abruzzo. They have visited each other in their respective home cities many times over the years. Maybe one day one of Enrico’s children will continue the tradition of coming to Columbus, starting a pizza place and naming it in honor of a relative.

Posted in Columbus, Columbus style pizza, pizza | Tagged: , , | Leave a Comment »

Lost & Forgotten Restaurants Podcast with This Week News

Posted by cmh gourmand on September 7, 2018

I was on a podcast with This Week News where we discussed lost and forgotten restaurants of Columbus.

Of course, I led off with The Galaxy Cafe

You can listen to the Podcast -> HERE (part 1 at least).

Which leads to some questions for you enlightened or mournful readers.


What Columbus Restaurants do you miss?

What Columbus Restaurants are you afraid of losing / would rock your world if they closed?

What is the Columbus Restaurant scene missing or what do you think could do well with an encore performance (a resurrected restaurant)?

Posted in CLOSED, Columbus, culinary knowledge | Tagged: | 2 Comments »

Lois Mann’s Restaurant – Southside

Posted by cmh gourmand on March 14, 2018

It is easy to drive by and miss Lois Mann’s. The restaurant resides in a nondescript building on South High Street just north of SR 104. The current location is in the Reeb-Hosack Steelton Village neighborhood. The area has some Hungarian roots but often gets lost in the mix of Southside neighborhoods and villages. Lois Mann’s opened at the present spot just over five years ago, but the name had a thirty plus year history on Parsons Avenue.

This restaurant came to my attention when there was a brief buzz about a special Hungarian menu they were running on the weekends. On my day of arrival for a lunch time scouting mission, I found out that the Hungarian chef had moved on. Luckily for me, Lois Mann’s has a long history of dishing out comfort food classics. As I sat waiting for lunch, I had an opportunity to roam around the space and soak in a bit of history. Upon entering I had noticed an interesting assortment of items at the counter including but not limited to: candy canes, perfume, dolls, a Star Wars shower curtain, holiday decorations and a variety of CD’s. So in addition to serving food, Lois Mann’s is also an eclectic emporium with flea market fare. The other element that came to my attention is the pervasiveness of music in the space. There is a small stage near the front entrance. Guitars, many with names written on them, line a side wall just near the ceiling. Framed photos featuring legends of Country, Bluegrass and Rockabilly music decorate the walls showing the likenesses of the likes of Loretta Lynn, The Stanley Brothers and Jimmy Martin.

The dining area consists mainly of a multitude of four top tables. Seating is comfortable and an eclectic as the mixes of silverware on the table. Vintage music plays softly in the background. On my two visits, the place was lightly populated with a few regular customers who knew the menu and the staff was well as their family and neighbors. My first selection was cabbage rolls. While many might question how traditional this interpretation of cabbage rolls might be, I found this version to be superior. The dish looked like someone had travelled back in time to visit my home in the 1980’s and stole a large serving of the cabbage rolls my father made with great frequency. I’m not sure where in the mountains of southwestern West Virginia he found his interpretation of this dish but the version I was eating at Lois Mann’s was at least cloned from the meals of my youth. The meat to rice ratio was dead on. The tomato sauce had a strong consistency and flavor of tomato paste to it. My sides were not all quite as good. The green beans were a bit bland and lacked any discernible seasoning. The mashed potatoes might be better described as leaning towards whipped, but they had a great consistency and featured a gravy that would do MCL proud. I rarely find cornbread in Columbus that meets my exacting if non-traditional standards but I found my serving to be large, flavorful and flakey. I also tried the house potato soup while waiting for the meal described above. I thought this was fantastic. The soup was very dense, thick and filling. I found out on a future visit that not all of the soups are homemade, this one tasted like it, but if it is not, I’ll pick up a can on my next drop in.

On my first visit I spied an intimidating serving of spaghetti and meatballs a few tables over from me. I knew that was destined to be my next lunch and it was. This meal is far from authentic Italian but it brought back memories of any Columbus area Italian dining I experienced as a child. The mound of spaghetti noodles were buried in a rich, flavorful red sauce with a 2:1 ratio of sauce to meat. The meatballs were small and a bit spongy but had a consistentcy I recalled from elementary school cafeterias. It was served with a length of bread that was layered with plenty of powdered garlic. This meal generally comes with a salad but I asked if I could sub out for cole slaw instead. Longtime readers may have picked up over the years that I have a high standard for slaw that rarely leads to anything other than disappointment. What I like is very similar to what one might find at KFC but more flavorful. This is exactly what Lois Mann’s serves and I confirmed that they do make this in house. I’d rank this a 9.2 on my 10 point slaw scale. This second lunch was the epitome of a comfort food classic.

Lois Mann’s Restaurant is a place where time stands still. If you are looking for a hangout that will transport you to the 1970’s in terms of food, music, decor and clientele, this is a great fit for you. I think it is worth the effort. Fridays and Saturdays feature live music and later hours. If you are looking for a more sedate lunch, this is a great south side spot. The restaurant serves breakfast all day but that is not my gig. I will say taking a look at the massive breakfast portions featuring frying pan sized steak and ham servings, I’d be very tempted to go out of character and come back for breakfast too.

Post script: I do not think I have expanded on a critical item I look for at restaurants – the size, quality and consistency of ice. I then to lean towards pelletized ice but I found the format at Lois Mann’s to be exceptional for my serving of Coke in a can.

Lois Mann's Family Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Posted in Columbus, restaurants | Tagged: , , , | Leave a Comment »

The Sidedished Food Blogs of Columbus

Posted by cmh gourmand on May 31, 2016

Blogging ain’t what it used to be. “Lifestyle” blogs seem to dominate the focus of most new blogs today with more focus on photography and aesthetics over substance and content. And what some call I blog I would by any definition define as a website. And for competition for grabbing people’s time and attention there are so many competing medias, social and otherwise, there may not be much mental space for a traditional blog any more. Since I am no longer a man about town, I did a quick search for new food blogs to see what I am missing but I have not found many of interest. So I decided to block out some time to get caught up on the “establishment food blogs” to see what the “base” is up to. I found that many blogs of the “good old days” are gone, inactive or on extended hiatus so my reading was shorter than planned. After doing so I thought it would be a good idea to share a few food blogs that may have flown under your radar over the course of time. These may give you a sense of what else there is to eat out there. For each, I’d suggest going back a few years to read older content then work your way to the present. I went straight to the source and posed these questions to a few bloggers.


Jarsloth

Jarsloth Blog

Year Started:
2010

Speciality/focus/favorite subject:
smaller, independent restaurants; Asian food

Short description of your blog:
jarsloth blog highlights the places I like to eat and drink (as well as chronicles some of my travels). The restaurants featured aren’t always the most glamorous, but they serve good food and drink and are local businesses well worth supporting.

Day job:
graphic designer

Why you started:

Blogs like Taco Trucks Columbus, Alt Eats, and CMH Gourmand opened my eyes to a whole new world of eateries that were in my neighborhood. These blogs helped me get out and discover places I never knew existed and I wanted to share them with others. Most of these small, independent restaurants didn’t have marketing budgets or any way to advertise except word of mouth and I wanted to help spread the word.

Why you continue:
There are always small restaurants that are overlooked or forgotten because they don’t advertise in popular publications. I like blogging and reading blogs because (unlike publications) bloggers tend to explore the places that aren’t always on the radar. There tends to be a more genuine appreciation of food in the blogging community as most of us do it as an unpaid labor of love.

What is the state of Columbus Food today:
The Columbus food scene is probably the biggest I’ve seen since I moved here in 2000; I can’t begin to count how many new restaurants have opened in the past year alone. While this is generally a good thing, both for our economy and for the food community, many seem to be following current trends and there’s a lot of commonality across the board in the dishes being served. However, there is also a growing selection of ethnic offerings (a benefit to our growing immigrant community) which adds some real depth to Columbus food options.

A favorite place you think is overlooked by others:
Diaspora on campus is my favorite Korean restaurant in Columbus. Because it doesn’t feature the table top grills, it’s often overlooked by those looking for the Korean BBQ experience. On any given night, however, it’s packed with Korean students from OSU (a good sign) and they have been consistently turning out good food in the 6 years I’ve been going there


Weber Cam

Webercam

Year started:
2005!

Specialty focus:
cooking methodology,
re-examination and exploration of simple foods
bread baking
smoking
pizza
grill fabrication/destruction (occasionally)

1-2 sentence description of WeberCam
I strive to bring versatile, reproducible preparations of deceptively simple foods to the masses.

Day job:
A job.

Why I started?
weber_cam is proof my memory is not good. My site was created for myself, an electronic kitchen notebook, but shared publicly. It’s not overly organized or pretty, just a good reference for myself and a handy place to offer links from. When I look back upon a bread I made 5 years ago, I’m often surprised at the appearance and it takes a few minutes to recall that I actually made it. It’s a memory prosthetic.

Why I continue?
My memory is only getting worse, I need every tool possible.

State of Columbus Food.
I’m so proud to be here. Our Japanese haven there on Henderson, all the Asian places on Bethel and Olentangy, MiLi, Huong’s, plenty of bbq, so much to be grateful for. I’ve honestly not embraced food trucks before, but as I meet more and more proprietors of the trucks, largely by hanging out at The Commissary, I’m getting hooked on them and seek them out. I’ve always needed a personal connection to engage with something I like. And most recently, I’ve come to meet a few more people in the business with my small mobile knife sharpening business (BladesOfGlory.org). I’m enjoying that immensely. (ha, shameless plug).

Overlooked food find:
The Growl / Lavash combo is a blast. Fantastic selection of brews and a Lavash menu. It’s a favorite collaboration for me to enjoy.


And some status updates on other blogs.

Nothing Better To Do
Jared was the most post-lific of food bloggers in town and one of the earliest. He also focused on vegetarian cuisine. He has/had a knack for finding vegetarian options in the most unlikely of places. He moved to Chicago which has put his blog on hold but he may resume it in the Windy City later this year.

Pie Are Round
When two blogs collide! Pie are Round married the author of another blog out of commission, Tania Explores Columbus. And they followed a similar path as me (just a few months behind me) – get married, take a honeymoon, buy a house, get really busy and struggle to keep up with writing.

Breakfast Grub Guy
When I first became aware of this blog I thought “who is this um,…dude…. , have they not heard of Breakfast with Nick”. But then, I figured out he was a blogger who was transplanted to Columbus and just picked up here where he left off on the east coast. After a few years of Columbus adventures including one with me our attempt to eat a 30 inch pizza, James has headed back to to the greater Philly area. He writes posts of places I’d love to try out but will have to be content to read about from afar.

And last and not least because it is not a blog, but served an important function, RIP the Columbus Underground Messageboard which was a source of food news, discussion and was a primary research resources for the early days of Taco Trucks Columbus and Street Eats Columbus. I met a lot of friends through the message board and used it to create Pizza Grand Prix among other things. It also served as one of the primary referring sources to CMH Gourmand so I will miss that extra traffic and interest.

And now, so you know there are still people out there exploring and discovering new places for us, there is a blog that is crossing the two year threshold – still a whippersnapper compared to the rest of us, but I think blogging with the right spirit.

Screen Shot 2016-05-25 at 9.34.13 PM

614ortyNiner tracks the discoveries of a California native transplanted to the capital city.

Specialty/focus/favorite subject:
I lean toward the Central Ohio food scene, but I’m excited by other aspects here like beer, music, arts. My spouse and I also love to travel, and I enjoy sharing our adventures.

1 to 2 sentence description of your blog

Long-time West Coaster learning (and still learning) about life in and around Ohio.

Day job
Administrative

Why you started
I’ve had other blogs before, but for very specific topics and audiences. The description above really explains why I continue to have a lot to write about.

Why you continue

The blog itself helps keep me mentally limber and document our experiences. Perhaps more importantly, I have met some wonderfully nice and talented people through my writing and travels – this blog really wouldn’t mean as much personally without that interaction.

What is the state of Columbus Food today.
The promise is undeniable, with lots of booming areas (craft beer and food trucks come quickly to mind) and plenty of energy and talent within the scene. However, there is the “safe” mindset that is still prevalent: there is a reason why this city is still considered prime testing ground for chain restaurants. The evolution away from that will take time, but it is happening slowly but surely and I am real excited to be here during this time.

A favorite place you think is overlooked by others.
I don’t think any of my favorites are necessarily overlooked by others. I think there are segments of the local restaurant scene (namely the African restaurants) that are just waiting to be uncovered by the public as a whole. I admit myself that they don’t immediately pop into mind when we’re thinking of places to eat, and that’s something that we need to change.


That is a taste of what is out there for you blog readers. If you know of a new (and good) food blog I have missed let me know.

And do keep in mind, every time you read a blog, an angel gets their wings….and we need a lot more angels in this world.

Posted in Columbus, culinary knowledge, FooderHero | Tagged: , | 2 Comments »

Ohio Donut Trail: Golden Donuts and Diner, Columbus..Southside

Posted by cmh gourmand on May 7, 2016

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I’ve been making a list and checking it twice to make sure I have not overlooked any critical donuteries in Central and Southern Ohio. While I still have a handful to complete before I turn my primary focus to the north, one place in Columbus was absolutely unknown to me. I found a reference to Golden Donuts and Diner buried in a discussion thread about good donut shops. From there I found unprecedented love of the place in Yelp. This prompted even more research as I was convinced that I was going where no bog had gone before until I found a post from James, The Breakfast Grub Guy (who has moved back to the east coast). The post from BGG seemed to indicate the donut were promising and since I have been on a quest to make sure that Mrs. Gourmand has access to the best blueberry donuts money can buy, it became imperative to investigate since this variety had a lot of mentions in the praise for the business.

As a life long resident of Columbus, I had never traveled on Lockbourne Road….ever. As a side note – this area has has lot of history including an air force base, the Tuskegee Airmen, The Monypenny Distillery and canals. I found The business just north of SR 104 in what looks like a former Jolly Pirate building.

Surveying the space, there was a brisk breakfast business going on. From what I could see and smell there are some promising breakfast items here if breakfast is your thing. The display counter indicated about 25 to 30 types of donuts are available at any time but at my arrival there were about 15 different choices. All looked promising so I ordered a baker’s dozen of donuts including blueberry cake, Cherry cake, Blackberry (filling) with vanilla icing, German Chocolate (which I would call an everything donut), peanut, and a “special” which was a donut cooked a little longer than a typical donut and available in both stick and round form. Over a dozen donut knocked me back less than $10 so there is a good value for these sugar bombs.

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The special intrigued me. When I asked about it, the woman at the counter stared at me (English is not her first language, but people staring at me after I ask elaborate food based questions is not an uncommon experience) but within seconds of hearing my question (and surveying my interest in his work), the donut maker came out to fill me in on how he makes the donuts known as special). Mark a point for this place for having people who are proud of their craft.

The donuts I sampled were good. The most noteworthy were the German Chocolate and the Blue Berry and other Fruit based cake donuts. The base of the German Chocolate donut seemed to be a German Chocolate cake base with a hint of Devil’s Food consistency to it. It was encased bits of peanut and shreds of both “white” coconut and toasted coconut.

As for the Blueberry and Cherry cake donuts, these were intriguing. These do not have holes in the middle and instead look like the tops of muffins, see the top view example below.

Screen Shot 2016-05-06 at 4.01.52 PM

Overall – a good basic donut shop with a large variety and the bonus of full breakfast, lunch and dinner service.

Golden Donuts & Diner
1928 Lockbourne Rd, Columbus, OH 43207
Monday – Saturday, 6:00 AM – 6:00 PM
Sunday 7:00 AM – 12:00 PM

Golden Donuts & Diner Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Posted in breakfast, Columbus, Diners, donuts, Ohio Donut Trail | Tagged: , , | Leave a Comment »

Hounddogs debuts new delivery vehicle

Posted by cmh gourmand on June 15, 2015

IMG_2784

In the early days of Hounddogs Pizza, the business had a couple of trump cards in their small business deck: they served pizza 24 hours per day and they had a kick ass car with a hounddog mounted on top. Starting January of this year, the business is no longer open 24 hours. And for well over a year, the iconic black limo with a hounddog mounted on top languished in a parking space unused. In March, it was finally taken to the scrap yard to open up a spot for the new car. Several cars with a mounted canine on top served as the calling card for the business since the early 1990’s but for the last several years that was a missing piece of the delivery pie. This week, we will start to see limited run by the new Hounddogs mobile. How many pizza delivery guys do you know drive a car with a historic car license plate? The hounddog on top is new (the original has been preserved) and was created by the maker of the previous versions. Many are unaware that the dog was modeled after the owners (now deceased hounddog).

IMG_2761

hounddogs

Posted in Columbus | 1 Comment »

Victor Ecimovich: Brewer Laurate of Columbus

Posted by cmh gourmand on April 27, 2015

Victor Ecimovich III is a name you probably can’t pronounce and may never heard of. While interviewing Ecimovich (at a bar of course) we were approached by Kelly Sauber. No slouch in brewing experience, Sauber brewed for Marietta Brewing Company for fifteen years, then started Fifth Element Spirits and West End Cider House in Athens. Sauber apologized profusely for interrupting but he wanted to “shake the hand of (Ecimovich) one of his brewing heroes.” Sauber shared that one of his inspirations to pursue brewing was the beer Ecimovich was crafting in the 1990’s.

Introduced to brewing when a friend threw in the towel on a home brewing kit, Ecimovich decided he would “like to give it a shot.” He always enjoyed cooking and figuring out how to make things so he quickly discovered that he preferred yeast and hops to his electrical engineering studies. On some level, he was fated to ferment since his grandfather had been a brewer for Meister Brau when it was a favored Windy City beer. Ecimovich found his way to the Siebel Institute’s brewing program (luckily located in his hometown of Chicago) “as an independent.” Ecimovich was one of only two students paying his way for an eleven-week course, the rest of his colleagues were sent by breweries from around the world. Ecimovich made an impression on his instructors so before he studies were over, he found himself brewing beer on weekends at Millstream Brewing in Iowa (a 3 ½ hour drive away). When offered the position Ecimovich recalls “I knew if I thought about it too long, I would talk myself out of it, so I just said yes.”

Ecimovich’s recollections of brewing with the traditional German brewers at Millstream sound (to this writer) like drill instructor scenes from the movie Full Metal Jacket. After a few years of training (or surviving the heavy handed hazing) in the traditional techniques of lagers, helles and bocks, Ecimovich found his way to a new upstart called Goose Island back home in Chicago. In 1994, Ecimovich, having never visited Columbus signed on as brewer from the Hoster Brewing Company in the Brewery District. During the hey day of the 1990’s the corner of High and Hoster was the place to be in Columbus in part due to the wide variety of highly regarded beers Ecimovich was brewing.

In the case of Hoster (closed in 2002) the glory days ended when, the Brewery District lost its allure as The Arena District and Easton caught and kept customers attention. In 2004, Daniel Myers partnered with Ecimovich (Vice President of Brewing) to buy the rights to the Hoster brand and recipes in order to revive Hoster’s signature Goldtop beer. Production resumed in 2005 with Ecimovich balancing overseeing offsite contract brewing of Goldtop (currently in north east Ohio) while working in the construction business.

Today Ecimovich finds it is “an exciting time for beer drinkers and brewers alike”. In the 1980’s and 1990’s, Ecimovich (like his other band of microbrewing brothers) had to brew beer that “would win the hearts and minds” of a new wave of beer drinkers. If someone “tried a craft beer they didn’t like, you lost them” as a customer and a craft beer drinker. “Subpar breweries either had to get their act together quickly or go out of business” and many did tap out during the craft beer bubble of 15 years ago. Craft beer has changed a lot since then. “Thank goodness” say Ecimovich, “now there are so many bars with fifty taps, more breweries than I can count, and new brewery seems to open every month or even every two weeks.” Ecimovich equates the “old school” brewers and the new, bearded kids on the block, with downhill skiers and snow boarders doing half pipes – he can appreciate what the new brewers are doing but he is happy to keep speeding down the mountain doing what he knows best.


Gold Top

The Three Eras of Hoster Brewing

1836 to 1919
The Hoster’s were the first family of brewing in Columbus. The Hoster Brewing Company was open longer than any other brewery past or present. During the heyday of the beer barons of the 1890’s, Hoster was one of the top ten breweries in the country producing up to 300,000 barrels per year; in comparison Columbus Brewing Company (today) does about 12,000.

1989 to 2002
The brewpub located at Hoster and High was the center of nightlife, food and beer in the Brewery District until other entertainment areas stole the limelight and allure of the area. The brewpub closed in 2001 and brewing stopped in 2002.

2004 to present
While production has waxed and waned, Hoster Goldtop (a signature beer of all three eras) had been brewed and kegged our of town for limited consumption under the watchful eye and experienced palate of Victor Ecimovich. The most likely spot to find a pour of Goldtop is Quaker Steak and Lube at Polaris.

What is Hoster Goldtop?
Goldtop is a flagship from all three eras of Hoster Brewing in Columbus. The beer is a Dortmunder / Export Lager. The gold / pale lager is named after a city and a brewery in Germany – Dortmunder.

Posted in beer, beverages, Columbus, culinary knowledge, FooderHero | Tagged: , , , | 3 Comments »

Belgian Waffle Chicken Sandwich at White Castle & and An Editorial

Posted by cmh gourmand on April 28, 2014

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First, old school advertising still works. At present, I live near a White Castle which I drive by 2 – 6 times per day depending on where my projects take me. Over the last week I perpetually passed by a sign for the new White Castle Chicken and Waffle sandwich. I did not want the sandwich. I needed the sandwich. How could I resist trying a fast food interpretation of an American classic, Chicken and Waffles.

So, I made my move, picked one up and brought it home to evaluate and rate with my able assistant CMH Tobias. My first thought was that the waffle was good. I had expected a Leggo my Eggo style waffle but the sandwich features a real deal, Belgian style waffle. It was neither too soft nor too hard. It fell in to the Goldilocks zone of just right. (A bit of post consumption research indicated the waffles originate from a company in Belgium which had been in the business since 1932). The gravy and bacon bits were an afterthought on my sandwich but complemented the flavor profiles well. Their true purpose is to serve as a brick and mortar to hold the sandwich together. The chicken patty was lightly breaded and kind of meh but still palatable. All together it was an acceptable fast food sandwich. I would not rush to get it again but I don’t regret my choice. I respect the effort made to try something different and off the beaten path. The only negative I can hone in on is the price. It was not worth $2.69. I’d say $1.99 might be fair market value.

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I offered CMH Tobias an opportunity to try the sandwich. His approach was different from mine. He ate the waffles first and the chicken second. I can’t say he wolfed it down as quickly as other items, but from our long-standing relationship and shared understanding, I believe he would rate the sandwich a B. (For future reference Tobias’s hierarchy of food starts at ice cream, then cheese, rawhides, almonds, beef, squirrel meat, other meat by products and then dog food). Since Toby refuses to participate in the labor economy he had no opinion on the price of the sandwich.

And now the editorial. White Castle gets a lot of snarky comments and snickers from a significant segment of society. I don’t think it is deserved. I’ve always had a soft spot for this underdog in the fast food wars. For the most part, the company has quietly gone about its business under the shadow of the Wendy’s, Burger King and the like. However, White Castle has done a lot of earn my respect. I’ll highlight a few of the items of note.

The company started in 1921 in Wichita, Kansas. It moved its corporate headquarters to Columbus in 1934 and has remained here as a family owned business for 70 years. That’s pretty local in my book.

White Castle was among the first employers to hire women and minorities. It was the first fast food restaurant as we know it. It has countless patents and food service inventions credited to the company. It has no franchises, each location is company owned. White Castle inspired a movie. So next time someone snickers at a slyder let them know you are proud that a local company has continued to stay in Columbus and stay true to its origins.

Posted in Columbus, culinary knowledge, Food For Thought, sandwiches | 2 Comments »

Iaconos (Kenny Road) Pizza Buffet

Posted by cmh gourmand on December 9, 2013


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In my high school days, we were frequent flyers of the Iaconos pizza buffet. If memory serves me, I think it was all we could eat for $6. While, I never forgot about Iaconos, I did forget about the buffet in college and afterwards.

As the years went by the general concept of pizza buffet downgraded significantly – equating with low quality pies and mass-produced mediocrity. Strangely although I love a true value meal I had forgotten about the Iacanos pizza buffet. During my temporary exile from Clintonville, I have required a centrally located base of operations for business meetings, so on a whim, I popped into Iaconos to meet with a client. I had forgotten how much I like Iacono’s and it was a bit of a homecoming as well bringing back memories of good friends and good times.

The pizza buffet is a great value. For $8.75 you get unlimited trips to the salad bar, plenty of pizza, soup and a bottomless fountain drink. I think we all have low expectations for salad bars today. The Iacono’s salad bar does not have any surprises, it is stocked with the basics of what we expect in a Midwestern buffet bar: peas, carrots, cottage cheese, macaroni salad, potato salad, pudding, sunflower seeds, a multitude of dressings including a tasty homemade Italian house dressing, and more things that I have forgotten. And while what I have listed are standards, we often don’t expect them to be good. The peas are fresh and still have a pop to them. The carrots are freshly cut. The potato salad tastes good. The soup choices change daily. There are typically two pizzas available throughout the afternoon.

On my visits I have always observed staff asking arriving guests what their pizza preferences are and adding those requests to the pizzas coming out next. Shawn, the afternoon manager, greets guests and makes an effort to get to know repeat customers by name. And the pizza is as good as I remember it. Iacono’s pizza making history dates back to 1953. The Iacano family was among the founding pioneers of Columbus pizza. The crust has a nice “crackery” crunch and the sauce to cheese ratio is finely balanced. I always have a little lower expectation for buffet pizzas but what I have sampled to date has been on par with any dine in or carry out pizza.

Other things I have discovered about Iaconos since I found my way back to being a regular customer almost everything is made in-house from scratch – the dough, the sauce, meatballs, sausage, lasagna, most of the dressings and so on. The cheese is hand grated. It is the little things that add up to a big difference.

If you have low expectations of a pizza buffet – prepare to raise them with a trip to Iacanos. The buffet is offered weekly Monday to Friday 11 am to 2 pm.
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Iacono's on Urbanspoon

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Rice Bowl: South Side Gem

Posted by cmh gourmand on November 3, 2013


I have driven by Rice Bowl a few times in my day. It is located at the intersection of South High Street and SR 104. The sign looks like it is from the 1960’s but it turns out it is circa 1991. The Rice Bowl has a long history on the south side. It has existed with three owners and two locations since 1962. Rice Bowl 3.0 is a family affair that has operated the restaurant for a few decades. Judging from the outside and the location, I did not have great expectations for the Rice Bowl. However immediately on entering I had a good feeling. Looking at the menu, I had a very good feeling and starting with the egg rolls, I knew that I had stumbled in something very special indeed. You can not judge a book by its cover nor a restaurant by its mailing address.

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So let us begin with the egg rolls. The lowly egg roll rarely gets much respect mainly because they are typically reheated frozen fare. The eggs rolls are made from scratch at the Rice Bowl and are hand rolled each week. They are filed to capacity with to the point of being stuffed. The exterior is soft and crunchy and do not disintegrate with a light bite. The sauces are also made from scratch. The mustard sauce is hot and thick. The other sauce is made with fresh citrus and spices. It is much better than any egg roll sauce I have encountered.

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A staple of Midwestern Chinese restaurants is General Tso’s Chicken. The Rice Bowl executes this dish better than any restaurant I have visited. Each gigantic piece of white chicken meat is drowned in a spicy rich sauce. The portion size can easily feed two people. Looking around the restaurant I saw several other mainstay dishes that looked like they were award winners as well including Wor Sue Gai, Chow Mein and Frogs Legs.

What else did I like? The service was great. Rice Bowl has what looks to be a pretty well stocked bar. If you have kids, they serve burgers, Fried Fish Sandwiches and Grilled Cheese with Bacon.

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I look forward to exploring the menu much more and will gladly be adding an egg roll to each meal.

Rice Bowl Restaurant
2300 South High Street
(South Side)
614.445.8828
Rice Bowl Web site

Rice Bowl Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Posted in Columbus, kid friendly dining, restaurants | Tagged: | 4 Comments »