CMH Gourmand – Eating in Columbus & Ohio

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Archive for the ‘food’ Category

All That and…..a Bag of Chips! (Putting Sandwich Week in the Bag)

Posted by cmh gourmand on August 13, 2017

Well, that wraps up Sandwich week. As I was doing my sandwich sleuthing a few trends started to surface. One involved what some view as the lowly potato chip. Not so low in my book, in fact, I started to see them as a last hold out of a dying localized food culture. I noticed bags of chips in many varieties at any of the diners and dives I was eating these regional sandwiches at. More often than not the branding was unfamiliar to me. However as I started reading the labels and sleuthing their origins I noticed that these under the radar chips were often made not so far away from the epicenter of these regional sandwiches, if you drove 25 miles in an opposite direction you were just as likely to get a puzzled look asking about a Horseshoe Sandwich as you were about _________ Potato Chips. These two food trends travel back several generations before the ubiquitousness of food programing, the Internet and the homogenization of local and regional food cultures creating an affinity for boring and bland national brands. Every small town had a dairy, a brewery, a bread factory and a potato chip maker. That started to change in the 1980’s with the blitzkrieg like growth of Frito-Lay but even today we see embedded, splinter cells of regional potato chip lines, especially in my home state of Ohio. I grew up with Buckeye Potato chips, which has since crumbled away, but there are still many regional potato chip brands within Ohio and many loyal fans that swear by their chip from the old block. Here are a few examples:

Ballreich’s Potato Chips – Tiffin
Conns Potato Chips – Zanesville
Jones Potato Chip Company – Mansfield
Mike-Sell’s – Dayton
Shearer’s – Canton

Grippos – Cincinnati

Gold N Crisp – Massillion

Why so many potato chip factories in Ohio (2nd in the country for production). Part of that answer is due to our waistlines but the rest is history. Potato chips have been pleasing our palates for the past 150 years.

America’s love affair with this tantalizing treat began in the summer of 1853 when a patron of Moon’s Lake House on Saratoga Lake in New York sent his fried potatoes back complaining they were too thick. Cook George Crum sliced up more potatoes paper-thin and fried them to a crisp. They became a hit with the patrons and became known as “ Saratoga Chips.”

The recipe soon spread to other restaurants along the East Coast, but in 1895, William Tappendon of Cleveland, began making chips in his kitchen and delivering them to neighborhood stores. He later converted a barn to manufacture the snack and is credited as the first potato chip retailer in the country.

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The (Louisville) ((Kentucky)) Hot Brown (Sandwich Week)

Posted by cmh gourmand on August 10, 2017

The 1920’s was a very different time than today. Hotels were cultural hubs typically not only providing the best food in their home cities but the best entertainment. Such was the case for the storied Brown Hotel in Louisville Kentucky. During the Roaring 20’s the Brown was THE place to be featuring 600 rooms in 16 stories. The hotel offered nightly dance parties for up to 1200 guests that often continued well past the last evening so exhausted revelers often needed a hearty late night snack to recharge while resting up their tired dogs. The hotel’s chef, Fred K. Schmidt, created the Hot Brown in 1926 to fill up these guests so they could go home or go to bed. The sandwich became so popular that it was added to the daytime menu and at one time it was the menu choice of up to 95% of diners. The popularity of the sandwich soon found others spread throughout the city and the state.

A Hot Brown is an open-faced sandwich consisting of the following: a layer of bread, sliced turkey, bacon and then covered in Mornay sauce (a white sauce made with butter, flour, milk shredded or grated Gruyère cheese). By report a bit of Parmesan cheese is sprinkled on. This is baked or broiled until browned and ideally a bit of crisping occurs where the cheese meets the plate. When the sandwich is ready to serve it is topped with tomatoes and pimento.

A spin-off version of the sandwich was also created at the hotel and was called the cold brown. The cold version consists of baked chicken or turkey, hard-boiled egg, lettuce and tomato served open-faced on rye bread then covered with Thousand Island dressing. There are two cousins to this sandwich: The Prosperity sandwich in St. Louis and the Devonshire in Pittsburgh.

If one is only going to have one Hot Brown, then the only choice is to eat it where it was originated, at the Brown Hotel in downtown Louisville. It is still a favorite although today, it is not quite 95% of the dinner service tickets like the good old days.

Of significant note and in my opinion, a mandatory pairing, is another Louisville icon, Derby Pie. The pie is a perfect combination of chocolate chips, walnuts and pie dough that is trademarked by Kern’s Kitchen. No one else can legally make or serve Derby Pie without violating the trademark. My pie had the word Derby Pie stamped into the pie crust ring to show it was authentic.

Now, if you decided you are going to have at least two Hot Browns in your life, then there is (was) only one place to go, Lynn’s Paradise Cafe. (Update: sadly the cafe closed in 2013 so I’ve cut out most of my paragraphs on that so as to not be overly cruel). I’ll just say that the photo at the top of this post was one of their Hot Brown’s and it was truly an exceptional sandwich.

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The Horseshoe Sandwich, Springfield IL (Sandwich Week)

Posted by cmh gourmand on August 8, 2017

Springfield, Illinois is nationally known as the home of Abe Lincoln. Although virtually unknown outside a one hour driving radius of the Illinois capital, locals are almost as proud of their other hometown hero – the Horseshoe sandwich. The Horseshoe is the house sandwich of Springfield with many restaurants offering some version of what is often referred to as a “heart attack on a plate”.

Local lore generally places the birth of the Horseshoe at the Leland Hotel (closed in the 1970’s) in 1928. A few sources name other spots, among them the (Wayne’s) Red Coach Inn, as the originator. The original horseshoe was an open faced sandwich consisting of two slices of thick, toasted bread with ham placed on top of each piece, a pile of fries with the whole heap drenched in cheese sauce. The sauce is typically a closely guarded secret and varies from place to place but most published recipes use a variation of Welsh rarebit sauce. Typical ingredients in the sauce include beer, egg yolks, butter, Worcestershire sauce, cheddar cheese and a combination of spices. Horseshoe history decrees that the original sandwich used ham steak, which looked like a horseshoe after it was cooked. The French fries are supposed to represent horseshoe nails. The plate is an anvil and slices of bead represent hoofs. Today, there are many variations in the meat part of the sandwich and a few restaurants even pony up an occasional vegetarian version. If you want to be more health conscious order a ponyshoe, which is half of a horseshoe.

D’arcy’s Pint
661 W. Stanford Ave.
Springfield, IL
217-492-8800
(Closed on Sunday)

D’arcy’s Pint is consistently the local favorite for Horseshoes. This family friendly Irish themed bar / restaurant has only been around since 1998 and moved to it’s new, bigger location in May of 2005. D’Arcy’s serves up over a dozen varieties of shoes. The base sandwich is two pieces of Texas Toast; with meat placed on each slice served with either a traditional or spicy white cheese sauce and what seems like a pound of crinkle cut fries. Meat choices include corned beef, walleye, Italian sausage, and breaded pork tenderloin. The customer favorite is the Buffalo Chicken Horseshoe which is served with a side of hot sauce and blue cheese dressing. If someone in your party is afraid of ordering a pint (horsehoe) or half-pint (pony shoe), the menu also features traditional Irish favorites, bar food, and other famous sandwiches including breaded pork tenderloins, Muffalettas, New York style corned beef and Reubens.

Norb Andy’s Tabarin (actual spelling)
518 East Capitol Ave.
Springfield, Illinois 62701-1814
Phone: (217) 523-7777

There is a lot of history at Norb Andy’s. The building has been around since 1837 and it is on the national register of historic places. The name of this tavern is derived from the name of the man that owned it from 1937 to 1979 – Norbert Anderson. Norb Andy’s is a dark, cozy bar with nautical themed décor that is within easy walking distance of the Abraham Lincoln Library and Museum and most downtown sights. If you get lucky, you might even get a parking spot at one of the meters out front. Norb’s has eight varieties of “shoes” including Italian Beef and Seafood (shrimp and crab). Most customers order the horseshoe with hamburger patties, which is the baseline horseshoe in town. An insider tip from the bar staff – the bathroom is up front. Virtually everyone wanders off looking for it in the rear of Norb Andy’s only to find a small dining nook with a few tables and several portraits of famous ships of the 18th century.

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The Chicago Italian Beef Sandwich (Sandwich Week)

Posted by cmh gourmand on August 7, 2017

Italian Beef

(Disclaimer: This was written in 2005 and 2006 so some site info many no longer be accurate)

Chicago is a food lover’s town offering three homegrown culinary inventions – Deep Dish Pizza, Chicago Style Dogs and the third (and least traveled) of the triumvirate – the Italian Beef Sandwich. Few people have heard of this Chicago cultural icon outside of the Windy City metro area, – but once you get a big, wet, messy bite of this sandwich – you are hooked.

The history of the sandwich is about as clear as the juice the beef swims in. You won’t find this sandwich in Italy; most people agree the sandwich evolved in the Italian neighborhoods of Chicago in the 1930’s. A place called Al’s on Taylor Street has been around since 1938. Other local lore implies the origin of Italian Beef at a place called Maxwell’s. The popular sandwich rapidly populated Chicago’s neighborhoods with beef stands in the late 1940’s. Today the signature sandwich is served up at hundreds of places from old mom and pop stands to new fangled franchises.

The building blocks of the Italian Beef are:
Bun – a Chicago style French roll – crusty on the outside – soft on the inside
the beef – thinly sliced and cut against the grain
the juice/sauce – a highly seasoned au jus with slight variations depending on the establishment but usually including some combination of garlic, salt, pepper, oregano, basil, red pepper flakes, and other herbs and spices
and the toppings – typically sweet peppers or Giardiniera (Jar Din Era). You can get cheese at a few places but for most Chicagoans that is like putting ketchup on a Chicago dog – you just don’t do it.

Before ordering a Beef – you need to know what to ask for. Each choice is critical and needs to be made before you approach the counter.

First decision – Dry or Wet. A wet sandwich will have the roll dipped in the juice as well. A dry sandwich will have what escapes the meat or a little extra juice the sandwich maker ladles in with the meat.

Second decision – Sweet or Hot? Sweet will get you roasted green bell peppers. Hot will typically give you Hot (Spicy) Giardiniera relish – the typical combination includes cut up cauliflower, celery, jalapeno and/or sport peppers, carrots, and spices (the recipe for this relish varies from place to place).

Third Decision – can you get a combo? The Combo sandwich adds Italian sausage to the Italian beef – can you say coronary disease!!!

Fourth decision – can you get “red Gravy/sauce? A few places offer a red sauce for the beef – this is basically spaghetti sauce – but this is rare and not favored by many Italian Beef aficionados.

Fifth decision – “ya want fries with that?”

Pat Bruno and Dennis Foley, famed food writers and known Beef eaters describe the Chicago Lean. An Italian Beef Veteran will often eat this sandwich standing up with the torso leaning forward or at least maneuvering the tail end of the sandwich to a strategic angle to avoid the drippings of the sandwich. Any strategy that avoids loosing the slightest bit of sandwich while protecting ones clothing is preferred. Some of the better beef stands invest a little extra in a thicker grade of wax paper to wrap the sandwich in – but even this will not guarantee keeping the sauce off your shirt.

Many of the places get their beef from Scala Beef – which has a great reputation in town. Most of the rolls are from Gonnella Baking Co. or Turano Baking Company – also highly thought of companies. It is not uncommon to see giardiniera served out of a large glass jar from one of several local purveyors. Considering all these commonalities – what separates one beef from another – quite a bit. Beef fans will scrutinize every detail such as how the sirloin is cut – too thin or too thick and how each place handles their beef from first cut to the last. Seasoning and toppings are critical too and always noticed by anyone that has been to more than a couple beef stands. Even small touches such as how the rolls are stored and whether or not the Giardiniera is self serve can be crucial factors.

My Chicago beef guide – who I will call Mac the Knife for safety purposes – said this after one place – “they say you can’t screw up an Italian Beef – well you can and _______ did!!” So to make sure your first experience is a good one – here are some places that consistently do everything right.


Looking for beefs around Chicago – you will hear the name Al mentioned more than once. The problem is there is more than one Al’s, so where do you go first – I will help you sort out A Tale of Two Al’s.

Al’s #1 Italian Beef
What does the phone book say: Al’s #1 Italian Beef

Locations: Over 10
Most convenient location:
169 West. Ontario
(312) 943-3222

Open since:
The Franchise started in 2001. But the Ontario Al’s does have common ancestry with the Taylor St. Al’s. This location has been around for several years.

Beef is cut and cooked in house: Yes

What you need to know. The Ontario location is within a baseball toss of Ed Debevic’s, Carson’s Ribs, Gino’s East Pizza and a Portillos – so you can cover all of your Chicago food needs on foot.

Getting there on the EL / Subway:
Brown Line to Chicago or Merchandise Mart

Can you get a beef on Sunday:
Yes

Inside seating:
Yes


or you could go to…..

Al’s #1 Italian Beef

What the phone book says: Al’s Bar-B-Q

Location(s): one
1079 West Taylor St
(312) 226-4017

Open since:
1938

Beef is cut and cooked in house:
Yes

What you need to know:
Mario’s Italian Ice shop, which is among the best in Chicago, is across the street. This Al’s has been listed in nearly every article written about Italian Beef. Little Italy is a great neighborhood for food lovers to stroll around.

Getting there on the EL (subway):
Blue Line to UIC-Halsted

Can you get a beef on a Sunday:
No

Inside Seating:
No – but there is room to do a Chicago lean inside and a few picnic tables outside.


more places to try:

Carm’s Beef
1801 S. Wolf Road,
Hillside, IL
708 449-0125

Any second or third generation Italian Beef eater will probably pause for a minute and smile when you mention Carm’s. Many years ago, there were four locations. The original and favorite was on Cicero Avenue. Today, just the Hillside location remains. Joe Mantenga seems to love the place – he has two autographed photos inside. This Carm’s serves much more than Italian Beef but it keeps the family recipes and legend alive with the most appealing looking Italian Beef sandwich in town.

Carm’s Italian Beef
1057 W. Polk St.
312-738-1046

The Little Italy Carm’s is no relation to the Hillside Carm’s. This location opened in 1926 as a grocery store called Fontano’s. In the 1960’s the store moved across the street and this location started specializing in sandwiches and Italian Ices. The DeVille family knows many of their customers – people from the neighborhood and nearby University of Illinois at Chicago students. I lady at the counter asked me “who would want to read about Italian Beefs?” This book is the answer.

Boston’s Bar-B-Q
2932 W Chicago Ave (Corner of Grand and Chicago)
Chicago, IL
312 486 9536
(Closed Sunday)
Boston’s started out as a bar in 1949 but switched over to a Beef place as their sandwiches gained more renown. This place is a little out of the way in an industrial section of Chicago but is worth the trip – at least in the daytime. Over the years, Boston’s has been consistently listed as a top place when Chicagoans rave about the best Beefs in town. This beef stand is also highly frequented by the Chicago police and other public servants, which is a solid endorsement for any type of food. Beef eaters will also find a Godfather movie poster hanging on the wall – although not scientifically proven, this type of décor typically has a high correlation with good Italian Beef. If you have not had a combo sandwich – this is one the best places to do so.

Chickies
2839 S Pulaski Rd
Chicago, IL
312 762 2333 (BEEF)

Chickie’s is a classic Chicago Italian Beef Stand that blends into its working class neighborhood. The inside is standing room only but there are two picnic tables outside. The beef is strongly seasoned. The Giardiniera is homemade with a lot of large slices of celery mixed in with the spicy blend. The place has been around since 1962 and is a lunchtime favorite for nearby office and factory workers.

Duke’s Drive In

8115 S Harlem Ave
Oak Lawn, IL
708 599-0576
http://www.dukesitalianbeef.com/

Duke’s is kind of the new kid of the Italian Beef block. This south side establishment has been serving Italian Beef sandwiches since 1975. Duke’s is a quintessential drive-in, which makes it a favorite of truckers and classic car enthusiasts. Although some places have received higher rating for sandwiches – for the Chicago gull population Duke’s is the hands down favorite. Not even the multiple signs posted that state feeding the bird is against city statutes will keep these feathered French Fry eaters way.

Johnnie’s Beef
7500 W North Ave
Elmwood Park, IL
708 452 6000
(Second location –
1935 S ARLINGTON HEIGHTS RD
ARLINGTON HTS, IL 60005-4017
847-357-8100
(Closed Sunday)

Really good beef can be found outside the Chicago Loop and Johnnie’s Beef is worth the trip to the burbs to prove it. Expect to find a line of customers when you pull in this drive in’s driveway. Don’t let the sight of people queued up outside the door deter you – this place moves people through quickly because the guys at the counter are efficient order takers – much like the Soup Nazi in Seinfeld. If you forget to order your fries or the type of peppers you want because you panicked then you can drown your sorrows in one of the best Italian Ices this side of the Atlantic Ocean.

Max’s Italian Beef
5754 N Western Ave (near Hollywood Ave.)
Chicago, IL 60659-5114  
(773) 989-8200
(Closed Sunday)

The Estes family takes their business seriously – they post their home and work phone numbers on the wall so you can call them if something is not to your satisfaction. The stand has been around since 1957 and you can see a leftover wooden sign from the day that Beefs were well under a dollar. Today, the place has four tables and counter seating that rings the inside with plenty of TV’s for watching local sporting events. Max’s offers self-serve, spicy Giardiniera and a giant menu including their famous Ghetto Fries (BBQ sauce or gravy, Onions, Giardiniera, and a lot of melted cheese). When they dip a Beef at Max’s it comes out really wet – so be ready.

Patio
1503 W. Taylor St.
Chicago, IL 60607
312 829 0454
The Patio has been around for over 50 years with the last 23 at this location in the heart of Little Italy (http://www.littleitalychicago.com). There is no patio at the Patio (that was at the original location) but there is one of the least expensive Italian Beef sandwiches in town. As a bonus they wrap their sandwich a high-grade wax paper (extra protection for beef greenhorns) that is more resilient than what other places use. The friendly counter staff will make you feel at home in this cozy spot that seats about ten.

Pop’s Italian Beef & Sausage
7153 W 127TH St
Palos Heights, IL
773 239 1243

14279 Wolf Rd.
Orland Park, IL 60467-1932
708 403-9070
10337 S. Kedzie Ave.,
Chicago, IL
773 239-1243
18328 Governors Highway
Homewood, IL
708 647-9999

Even though Pop’s family of restaurants has grown – the friendly service helps retain the feel of a Mom and Pop establishment. Pop’s has one of the best cost to beef ratios of any Italian beef purveyor, they do not hold back on the beef in their sandwiches. As for toppings, this small chain has the best self-serve hot giardiniera in town. This is a good place to come if you need a place to sit down since there is some seating available.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

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Palmers Beverage Center: Wine Wednesdays & 10 for 10 Tastings

Posted by cmh gourmand on June 4, 2017

Palmers Sign

Palmers Beverage Center has a long history in the Clintonville community. When wine first hit big in the Midwest during the 1970’s, Palmers was a go to spot for any wine enthusiast in or out of the area. Palmer’s still offers some hidden gems today. Before craft beer was cool, Palmer’s was a destination for beer too. Things have changed a lot over the decades. In the present the competition in Clintonville is intense with numerous new beer based businesses throughout the area. At one time, a few years ago, the community worried if Palmers would sustain, after the loss of an elder/senior family member in this small family operated business. So far it has, but with a lot of hard work and by my guess many pro bono hours from the family.

Today Palmers is still known for a few distinctive traits. Interesting phrases on their sign marquee, Pinky the Bulldog, the in-house customer relations specialist and a knack for often having a harder to find beer or wine. Here are a few other things you might know about Palmer’s. The original location was across the street at the present location of the Wild Flower Cafe (a Clintonville history factoid, the same building was also home to Clintonville Academy for two years). Palmer’s moved to the Oakland Park location because they needed more room to make bottle storage. Until the late 1970’s, bottle deposits existed in Ohio so customers could bring back bottles to get a deposit returned for each bottle. Palmer’s needed the basement storage space of their current space the manage the volume of recycling the area brought in. Today, that basement houses a pretty amazing private wine collection I could only dream about.

Pinky at Palmers

Palmer’s offers Wine Wednesdays every Wednesday from 6 to 8 pm. Four different wines are sampled, with some very tasty snacks. A few hard-core regulars have taken it upon themselves to supplement these snacks with more gourmet goodies. On the honor system, you drop a buck or two in the tip jar and all is well. Emily runs these tastings and she offers a good amount of knowledge with each wine she serves. I first met her when we were both wine judges for the (now defunct) Columbus Food & Wine Affair so I know she knows her wine basics.

Once per month, on the second Wednesday of the month, Wine Wednesday gets an upgrade (like Business to First Class) as host for a Columbus 10 for 10 Tasting. These are hosted by Landon Proctor, a very knowledgeable Vinophile. This is a safe place for all with an interest in wine because Landon does not quietly suffer wine snobs. The concept is simple, he offers ten samples of ten wines for ten bucks. He knows the ins and outs of each pour. He also sometimes brings a wine maker with him. Since this is Palmer’s, the same group of hard-core regulars often bring along some extra snacks to enjoy. These tastings run from 7 to 9 pm.

10 for 10 Tasting at Palmers

Food at Palmers Beverage Tastings

No matter which Wednesday you pick, you will have the opportunity to taste new wines in a comfortable atmosphere while you enjoy yourself and support a small business at the same time.

Palmer’s Beverage Center
Southwest Corner of Indianola and Oakland Park Ave.
(One block north of East North Broadway).

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The Brewery District is Booming!…….Again.

Posted by cmh gourmand on May 30, 2017

Daily Growler Brewery District

You may have missed it but the Brewery District is BOOMING again! If you were born after 1980 or if you were new to Columbus after 2001, it may be a real shocker, but this area south of Downtown and just west of German Village was the center for city nightlife for over a decade starting in the late 1980’s.

The Brewery District has become a big part of my life over the last several years as I lead tours throughout of the area and as a member of the Brewery District Trade Association, working to improve the area for residents and businesses alike. I have been happy to see a flood of new residents to the area with the help of locally focused real estate agents like HER Realtors. It has become my second favorite neighborhood, next to Clintonville (my pal Nick beat me to that post on my neck of the woods).

But let us begin with the first boom of the Brewery District. Louis (Ludwig) Hoster established City Brewery (near the current intersection of Liberty and Front) in 1836. Legend has it that when he passed through the city on a 4th of July, he was so smitten with Columbus, he was determined to come back to establish his roots. He certainly did, over the next seventy years, he and his descendants expanded the small brewery one of the largest brewing empires in the country as The Hoster Brewing Company. At its peak in the late 1890’s the brewery took up several city blocks and produced over 500,000 barrels of beer per year. Several other breweries fermented in the area during this same era including Schlee/Bavarian, Born and August Wagner Brewing. However, the Brewery District went bust long before prohibition. A combination of a growing Temperance Movement (started in Ohio) and the Anti-Saloon League (originating in Westerville) resulted in nearly two-thirds of Ohio’s 88 counties voted dry by 1908. Add in competition from growing national breweries (Budweiser and Pabst), a large labor strike and the anti-German sentiment brewing in 1914 due World War I (which suggested drinking beer was unpatriotic), most of the breweries went bust before 1918. This history is why the area is known as the Brewery District today, because it was the center of brewing in Central Ohio BEFORE prohibition. I say this because my company Columbus Brew Adventures leads tours of the Brewery District and we sometimes find people are confused by the lack of breweries in the area.

However, the second boom of the Brewery District was related to beer as well. In 1988, the first microbrewery in Columbus (and second in the state) Columbus Brewing Company started out in the Brewery District. In 1989, the Hoster name returned to the area with Hoster Brewing, a great brewery and restaurant located on High Street. In addition to two breweries, the district was considered the premiere bar hopping area of its era with Victory’s, Hi Beck, Gibbys, BW-3 (when we called it that instead of B-dubs…) and many others fueling the weekend escapades of the city’s young professionals and college kids looking for a break from campus dives. The rise of the Short North, Easton and a change in tides in what was hip, saw the Brewery District start to nose dive in the early 2000’s as people lost interest in the area. Hoster closed in 2001 and many other areas businesses followed suit.

CBC Restaurant 2017

In the last two years, the area has started to see a resurgence in interest driven by the addition of many new businesses willing to wait it out, with the philosophy of, “if we serve it (beer, food, fun) they will come”. The venerable CBC Restaurant (not now or ever a part of Columbus Brewing Company) has survived years of nearby construction and is thriving as it celebrates its 20th anniversary this summer. Hi-Beck, Victory’s and Tony’s are still around and they have been joined by several exciting destinations including Copious/Notes, Brick American Kitchen, Rockmill Tavern, and El Arepazo Latin Grill. These destination restaurants are bringing diners back to the area and in the process, these folks are discovering what else is going on in the area after their meals.

But wait, there is more! This third boom in the Brewery District is being fueled by beer as well. Most people don’t know it, but there is one active brewery in the Brewery District. Although it is not open to the public, Commonhouse Ales is housed in the former Columbus Brewing Company space behind CBC Restaurant. There are many cool things about Commonhouse Ales, but the most compelling is that $1 of every six pack sale of their Six Point One Four Good Ale, goes to the Columbus Foundation and then pours out as grants to different Columbus charities and non profits. The previously mentioned Rockmill Tavern (voted best new restaurant in 2016) is the taproom for Lancaster based Rockmill Brewery as well as a sour beer aging facility. The Daily Growler is now established as their third location in the Brewery District and Seventh Son Brewing is starting a new project, slated to be open by the end of the year called Antiques on High. This will serve as their aging facility for sour and barrel aged beers and will host a taproom to explore these new beers as well as craft beer from the Seventh Son Brewery. More new businesses are on the way as well. It is exciting to see the resurgence of the Brewery District.

Food at El Arepazo

Arepazo Bandeja Paisa Platter

I’d like to go into a bit more detail on one of the spots leading the resurgence in the area, El Arepazo Latin Grill. Looking at the history of the area, immigrants had a huge part in growing the area in the first Brewery District Boom. Carlos and Carolina Gutierrez have maintained that tradition, they have worked hard to make their third location a destination for the area. Years ago, Carlos and his family were encouraged by area residents to open a restaurant when they served their Venezuelan delicacies to rave reviews at the Festival Latino year after year. Carolina, brought her Columbian family favorites to the menu as they were establishing the first Arepazo in Pearl Alley over a decade ago. They knew they were taking a risk when they launched the Brewery District location. They occupied a space that used to be one of the busiest BW-3’s in the country during its heyday. Then another restaurant took over and struggled. As they were getting ready to launch a few neighboring businesses went belly up but they decided to persist anyway, knowing the first year or more might not be very profitable. But they were determined to make a difference and knew the space had a lot of potential for them to showcase menu items they did not have the space to do at their other restaurants. They added in a wine room, host a weekly salsa night and more to add flavor to the space. Because I am such a fan, I am offering a prize for one of you that reads this post. Comment with either your favorite Brewery District memory or a dish you would like to try at Arepazo by midnight June 10th and one commenter will be chosen at random to win a $25 gift card to Arepazo. Good luck and I’ll see you in the Brewery District.

Tres Leches Cake at Arepazo Brewery District

Tres Leches Cake at El Arepazo


Disclosure: this giveaway is a partnership with Nakturnal. Opinions, content and photos are my own.

A winner was selected on June 10th and the contest is closed. Thanks for reading and an extra thank you to those that commented.

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Eating Lunch at Baba’s Kitchen

Posted by cmh gourmand on April 21, 2017

Even though I am late to the show, I’m happy to announce that Baba’s Kitchen is open. Please note it has been open since November of 2016. The eatery had what some would call a soft opening in November, I would call it a stealth opening. Because breakfast is not my bag (luckily you have Breakfast with Nick for his a.m. perspective on Baba’s) I have just been going for lunch since January.

I have a LONG history with the owners Dan and Caroline (see the links below for a few chapters of that relationship).

(Dan in his food truck)

(Dan in his food trailer)

I have delayed writing about the place until I felt there would not be anything new to add to the story. However, I have come to appreciate that Baba’s will always be a work in progress which is how Dan approaches his craft. There is always something new or different to try, always something that can be perfected more and Dan and Caroline work hard to respond to the needs of their regular customers so the result is constant evolution. During the short period of time since they opened I have seen the hours change, the table set up (changed from one large communal table being replaced by several smartly house crafted tables for two). Elements that have not changed since opening day: a passion for fresh food and ingredients, a nod to their grandparents in some classic baked good recipes and some killer smoked meats.

It has been a long time coming. I have checked in with Dan constantly as he and Caroline put sweat, tears and in Dan’s case, blood (several times I am sure), building out this dream over at least two years. The original building was lost at the last minute, funding fell through, construction needed to be deconstructed then reconstructed and much more. The outcome is a place that really reflects the character and spirit of the couple.

The menu is simple: a few breakfast times, a handful of lunch items and often a daily special. There are typically three to five types of baked goods available to supplement your meal or to enjoy later. The baked goods move pretty quickly but if anything is left at the end of one day, it is offered at 1/2 price the next day. If you see any, grab them, they are well worth the discounted price.

Although Dan is a meat focused fella, the kind that likes to butcher and parcel all of the meat he uses himself, there is always a vegetarian / vegan offering available reflecting the dietary direction of many of his SoHud / Old North Columbus neighbors. These dishes are good on their own, but as a bonus, any of them can be “upgraded” by piling meat on top – even the soups.

The house made bread is a fusion of a muffin and bun works well in breakfast sandwiches. It is the perfect consistency for a grilled cheese and makes a fine a burger bun. A frequent lunch special is three smoked ribs with some of the best French fries you will find in town. While the menu and the space is small, there is a much to enjoy. I encourage you to drop in to enjoy good food made by great people.

Due to all of the changes made to lanes on Summit, parking can seem a little confusing to people unfamiliar with the area, but there is a good amount of street parking nearby. You can also park in the lot just north of the restaurant – just look for the shell of That Food Truck and more days than not the Baba’s Porch Trailer.

Baba's Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

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Burger King on 5th: Best Fast Food Twitter Account in Ohio?

Posted by cmh gourmand on April 20, 2017

In a world overloaded with social media and in particular generic, mundane and uninspired corporate tweets managed by disconnected third parties churning out content from soulless cubicles, there is a refreshing ray of sublime sunshine, Burger King on 5th. If you are a twitter user, follow @BK5th. If you are not click on the link below and start reading.

Burger King on 5th

I am displaying a few choice tweets below.

If you’re looking for a great place to park and “make out”, the back of our lot is perfect. Buy something first though.

reviewing security footage for the past month; a rusty chevy cavalier parks in back of our lot for 30min between 2-5 am every night. Creepy.

Apparently @SUBWAY chicken is only 50% chicken. Ours is probably 100% but most importantly comes in french fry format, as God intended.

If you’re getting hammered in Columbus and it’s too late to go to @LateNightSlice just drink for a couple more hours then it’s #BKBreakfast

I wondered if this content was legitimate, and hoped it was not some type of fake account. In the spirit of investigative journalism I visited the Burger King on 5th to dig deeper into the story by showing them this tweet I received:

Show this tweet to the employee at the register and they’ll get you a special offer…if they’re in a good mood.

The response to my query was unenthusiastic. If you recall the show Different Strokes, then the phrase “what you talkin’ about Willis” would most equate the look I received back. So we may never know, is this the real deal from a cutting edge local fast food franchisee or the work of some prankster? In an age of #Fakenews or #QuestionableTweets who knows?

If this has whetted your appetite for questionable food related social media, you may be pleased to know there is more.

Nihilist Arbys
(279,000 followers vs. 60+ for BK on 5th)

“Tweet it your way at Burger King!”

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Seventh Son: Their Sign of the Times?

Posted by cmh gourmand on March 26, 2017

Commuters on Fourth Street often miss out on much of the scenery along the way as they dodge traffic on their way home or while looking for some place to park in the area. The billboard above appeared in November of 2016 and at that time many of us were trying not to pay attention to political advertising so we gazed right through the sign without reading it. You may have done the same yourself but look closer…….

That is no politician vying for your vote, is Jim, the dad of Seventh Son’s brewer Colin Vent and he does have an important message to share with Columbus Commuters, you just missed Seventh Son. This savvy, stealthy sign was created by Seventh Son with a bit of humor in mind. Their ad replaced a similar looking ad for a local judge. They got the distinguished looking Jim Vent on board and he even dressed up for the photo.

As a visitor to Seventh Son almost every Saturday on the Columbus Brew Adventures Downtown Tour I did not notice the sign until late December. I checked with the “other Colin”, Collin Castore who is one of the owners of Seventh Son and he had this to share. “We have the billboard for twelve months and are planning on changing it quarterly. Next one will probably be a little more artsy and reserved (don’t want to try and crack a joke all the time). Jim might come back for an encore at the end of the run though. Yes we are considering an assistant manager cat billboard of course.”

Meet me, the cat and see the billboard most Saturdays on the Downtown Tour with Columbus Brew Adventures.

(Authors Note: A new Seventh Son sign went up the day after this post – so now this is historical data).

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Alana’s: Adios, Au Revoir, Auf Wiedersehen, Arrivederci, Aloha, Annyeong

Posted by cmh gourmand on March 10, 2017

How do you describe Alana’s to someone who never dined there? Bohemian, eclectic, eccentric, artisan (before the word was over saturated), whimsical? No one word suits the place nor do the series of words I threw out touch the surface.

The doors are shuttered at Alana’s and the kitchen has thrown in the towel. The bar made it’s last call. Alana’s is closed for the count.

Alana Shock and husband/co-owner Kevin Bertschi launched the restaurant just over 18 years ago. The restaurant was housed, in a house but the previous tenant was A La Carte which was where college students dined if they wanted to upgrade from (of the era) the Cooker and wanted a fancier name than Casa di Pasta. Alana took care of the back of the house. Her kitchen experience including a stint in New Orleans and some very fine dining spots. She supplemented this with weekly trips to local markets (ahead of the trend or fad for some) for the freshest ingredients. Kevin took care of the wine, curating (before that word was over saturated) one of the better wine collections in the state and some of the best pricing as well. The bar offered creative cocktails with the same focus on ingredients and technique as the kitchen. The bar itself was upgraded in 2008 when the bar which had previously been tended at Jai Lai and Stache’s was installed on site here.

One aspect that has been part of the atmosphere from day one has been a lack of pretense. Another ongoing feature would be service (if occasionally uneven and in the case of one long time server perhaps a little unhinged) in the style of fine dining but in an atmosphere which was always informal. The walls and interior hosted a hodgepodge of colors and art. The atmosphere was always quiet and comforting with well-considered and eclectic music lightly playing in the background. To give you a sense of the food and the style it was served in, take a look at the (PDF may take a few clicks) menu below (from the second to last night of operation).

Alanas Menu

Reports and rumors of Alana’s demise started in 2015 and continued through December 2016 At first it was going to change locations, then it was sold, then the deal fell through, then it was going to be around another few years, then on the chopping block again. I found out definitely at an unlikely place in an unlikely manner, while having lunch with my wife at O’ Reilly’s in Clintonville (a favorite spot for Kevin and Alana). I saw them at the bar. Kevin told me I had better come in that weekend (February 25th) because it was likely to be their last, the paperwork had just been signed. Familial and professional obligations caused me to miss those dates but there was a short reprieve in transferring the space so an extra weekend became available and I was able to dine in on their second to last night of business. I am happy to say, everything selected from the menu for my last meal was exceptional which ensured my memories of my last meal at Alana’s would be memorable. In particular, while many places offer cheese plates, this is one of the few restaurants, in the world (I’ve been around) that really delivered a consistently exciting cheese plate – with delicious and hard to find cheeses. Alana came out not once but twice offering small bite sized Amuse bouche which were always a fun and interesting through the course of the evening. I can’t say there was a time that I did not see her do so herself. It was one of many quirks about the place that was amusing to most.

As you are reading this, you may wonder why you did not hear of Alana’s. For many food focused people it was in their top ten lists for nearly two decades but there were some barriers to Alana’s being fully mainstream. A big part of that was former Dispatch Restaurant writer Jon Christensen refused to list Alana’s in the top ten for many years. This was attributed to Alana’s interaction with a guest and Christensen determining that such treatment (if as alleged was true) disqualified providing any acknowledgment of the place. In addition to this incident, I heard a few stories over the years involving interactions with both patrons and staff but never saw such firsthand. The best tale, which may or may not be true but reads like a tall tale. The story involved a customer that may have taken too many special requests to an extreme so Alana walked across the street to a convenience store to get a microwaveable burrito to serve as an answer to one of those requests. If that truly happened, then I would just say it was a great story. As a personal aside, I always thought of Jon Christensen as the Gertrude Stein of Columbus Food writers – repetitive to the point that each of his reviews read like a template, bland and boring writing which did nothing to inspire a person to seek out a place or provide any insight to the spirit of dining therein. Those attributes to his writing, I feel may indicate that as a diner, he would have never understood Alana’s even under the best of any circumstances. To those that mattered and those that cared, Alana’s was a destination and in some cases a community not just of food but thought. If that worked for you, then you took the side of eccentric quirkiness and enjoyed the journey.

Alana’s will be missed but I think we will still hear stories of Alana and Kevin as time goes by.

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