CMH Gourmand – Eating in Columbus & Ohio

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Archive for the ‘food’ Category

Archives: BHM Gourmand

Posted by cmh gourmand on April 19, 2016

CMH in BHM, (Bham, AL Y’all from December, 2006)

I made my first visit to the South with one goal – to eat at Johnnie’s BBQ which my friend Andrea has been talking about for several years. Since she was expected to have a hangover after a holiday party – I would be driving Ms. Andrea to her hometown of Birmingham, Alabama and flying back. This also gave me a chance to take a peek at Nashville, TN. And, as a Kansas City BBQ Society Certified BBQ Judge – I would have a chance to expand my palate, knowledge base, and belly.

I am fairly positive a saw a roadkill Bigfoot or monkey on the way down – but I did not have time to confirm this – there was eating to be done.

It is nine hours from CMH to Birmingham. We paused in Nashville for a late lunch at Corky’s BBQ (Brentwood location). Decent BBQ but not epic – however since it is only 1 minute away from the interstate – well worth the effort.

Corky’s BBQ

A BBQ Primer –a good southern BBQ joint adheres to a few basics. You should expect: a small menu, paper towels on the table, and sliced white bread served as a napkin alternative / delivery device for BBQ. Also, there will be extra sauce on the table. Tea – sweet tea (lots of sugar) and unsweet – will be the beverage of choice and you will have the option of half and half (1/2 sweet and 1/2 unsweet, Y’All). And since this is the south – expect PORK.


Upon arrival in Birmingham – it was time to eat again. Pickings were limited on a Sunday night – but we ended up at Dreamland BBQ. This was a surprise. Dreamland has been renown for ribs for years – so having a shot at this spot was a bonus. This is a franchise – but still good, I am sure the original is even better.

Dreamland BBQ

Sampled were the ribs, fries, baked beans, and Banana pudding. The ribs were well-cooked, tender, and meaty with good flavor. The sauce had a good kick to it. The Banana Pudding – was perfect.

The next day – with a bow to southern hospitality and for the sake of a birthday we dined at a Thai Restaurant – Surin West. This was good Thai. I really liked the Coconut soup and the Chicken Noodle Bowl. This is in the Five Points section of Birmingham.

Dinner was at Niki’s West. The restaurant does have a menu offering steak and seafood in it – but people head to Niki’s for the Meat and Three buffet. There are 5-7 Southern style cooked meat items and about 40 various side dishes to choose from including macaroni and cheese, greens, mashed potatoes, sweet potatoes, etc. Just choosing three is a struggle. There are also desserts. The Pecan Pie was perfect! The crust was a masterpiece. I loved it.

Review of Niki’s

Sign at Niki's

Southern Foodways History of Bham dining – Niki’s

Day Two –

O’Carr’s Deli & Catering
2909 18th Street South (Homewood)
(205) 879-2196

Tuesday through Saturday from 10am to 4pm
(No credit cards)


I had a crush on the (Homewood) O’Carr’s the second I walked in. The place is flowing with character. The prep area is overflowing with fresh fruits. This location has been around for 30 plus years – evidence of this can be found in some of the signed photos on the wall from the likes of 70’s rockers Boston, Ted Nugent and Foreigner. O’Carr’s has stood the test of time better than the people in the aforementioned photographs.


The menu is impressive. O’Carr’s puts the ham in Birmingham. The sandwich selections are filled with top grade meats including Prosciutto, Westphalian, and other types of ham as well as kuemmelwurst, braunschweiger, genoa salami and kosher salami

The salads and starters include broccoli salad, hearts of palm with blue cheese dressing, nut bread with cream cheese, asparagus and turkey on field greens with mango vinaigrette, crabmeat with cream cheese dip, cheese plates, etc. There are several soups offered daily.

Did I mention that have a big crush on O’Carr’s. Looking through the menu – I was hard pressed to pick just one thing. Looking around the crowded room, I noticed that 90% of the diners were getting the Chicken Salad and Fruit Plate. I sampled this and found it to be perfect. A generous serving of chicken salad (with a few cut grapes mixed in) was served with a selection of various crackers and a wide variety of cut fresh fruits. This is a destination dish. In 2002, the Chicken Salad and Fruit plate was listed in Birmingham Magazine’s 101 Best Things To Eat. I can tell you – I think there are at least 50 more things at O’Carr’s that should have been on that list.

Chicken salad

Another must eat item at O’Carr’s is the cheesecake – thick and rich with real whipped cream on the top and a thin layer of fudge or fruit near the top. If the cheesecake is famous enough to be on a T-shirt – (for sale at the restaurant) – it is good enough for my belly.


The slogan for O’Carr’s is Eat by Color – there are many colors to choose from and I hit the rainbow pretty hard in one trip. However, there are several other things I wanted to try – including – the milkshakes, seven layer bars, a couple sandwiches, and another serving of the chicken salad.

Cameron Carr and his wife June have been running the restaurant for about 30 years and are starting to franchise. I think they have a great operation – but if you go to an O’Carr’s, go to the Homewood location, and go early to beat the crowd – the original can not be beat.

Pete’s Famous Hot Dogs
Pete’s History

Holly Eats – Pete’s

I will let these web sites do the talking. If you go to Pete’s, appreciate the history of the place.

Tip Top Grill
588 Shades Crest Road
(205) 978-8677

This little stand offers a great view of the area since it sits on a cliff right by Lover’s Leap. I had a good slaw dog here.

Johnnys Bar B Q
1401 4th Street Southwest
Cullman, AL
(256) 734-8539

Johnny’s Bar B Q

Johnnys menu

Cullman is about 45 minutes north of Bham. In a state saturated with good BBQ and a city with several famous places, my hosts insisted that we head to Johnnies for the “best”. Johnnies is a good spot. It was ranked as one of the best of 2006 in National BBQ News – not an easy thing to do.

Sign at Johnny's

The standout here is the (Bulldog Slappin’ good) Bar-B-Q Potato. This is a giant baked potato filled with shredded cheese, sour cream and a big pile of shredded BBQ. Yum.

BBQ Potato

The Original Pancake House
Leaving town the next day, I went back to Five Points for a “Dutch Baby” at
The Original Pancake House. The Dutch Baby – is gigantic – kind of a fusion of a pancake and dumbo ear from a state fair – with lots of butter, powdered sugar, and lemon (if you choose) for good measure. This is a mini chain that started in Portland, Oregon. It was ranked as one of the best pancake houses by USA Today a few years back

I wish I would have had time for:

Another trip to O’Carr’s

Sneaky Pete’s (a small hot dog chain in Bham)

Garage Cafe
2304 Tenth Terrace South
(205) 322-3220
A hard to find bar / Café famous for offering create-your-own sandwiches. You pick the bread, meat, cheese and toppings.  Sounds good to me.

Golden Rule is a respected chain in the area. They have a mini location at the airport but I was too full to think about eating when I left Bham.

Golden Rule BBQ

OK – it was not all food – I did some other things including –

A nighttime trip to Vulcan Park for a view of the City
Vulcan Park


This is Vulcan’s Butt.

And I went to the Birmingham Civil Rights Museum (very good). I also had a look at the 16th Street Baptist Church across he street – site of a lot of civil rights history.

Civil Rights Museum

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Archives: Chicago

Posted by cmh gourmand on April 19, 2016

After Berkley, Chicago is my favorite food town. I always try to hit the Billy Goat Tavern. I thought it would be touristy, but it was everything I wanted it to be – authentic, fun, and good food. It was much more than a Saturday Night Live skit – it was a true taste of Chicago on a day when I needed to have a good meal (I had a double cheeseburger as my hobbit style second breakfast for the day).((Traveling Tip – there is a Billy Goat Tavern Outlet at O’Hare Airport, near Gate C 19, – the burger is almost as good and the Italian Beef is worth a bite.)) A meal that was runner up for best spot of the trip was an insider tip from my friend Josh, a Chicago transplant. We had a great lunch at Heaven on Seven, a diner with some cajun undertones, hidden on the seventh floor of an office building.

Another bonus for Chicago style hot dog lovers – there is a Superdawg at Midway airport!

Here is a Chicago food primer for Windy City greenhorns.

To begin – some information on Chicago pizza:

Food Timeline – Chicago Pizza

Wikipedia – Chicago Pizza

And now on to the Italian Beef –

Wikipedia – Italian Beef

Pat Bruno is the authority on Chicago Food – here his Beef overview –

Pat Bruno – Hemispheres Magazine June 2006

And Chicago Hot Dogs

Wikipedia – Chicago Style Hot Dog

Some of the Windy City’s best Dawgs – (I vote for Byron’s and Clark Street Dog)

In 2005, I was researching the fabulous Italian Beef Sandwich in the Windy City – this is what I learned.

Chicago is a food lover’s town featuring three homegrown culinary inventions – Deep Dish Pizza, Chicago Style Hot Dogs and the Italian Beef Sandwich (the third and least traveled of the triumvirate). 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’re 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 recipe used 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 by chance.

Second decision – sweet or hot. Sweet will get you roasted green bell peppers. Hot means 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 most 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 Company or Turano Baking Company – also highly regarded bakers. It is not uncommon to see giardiniera served out of a large glass jar from one of several local purveyors. Considering all these commonalities it might seem that all Beefs are created and served equal – such is not the case. True Italian Beef fans will scrutinize every detail such as how the sirloin is cut – too thin or too thick and how each place cuts and handles their beef. Seasoning in the juice and quality of 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.

If you have a large group in tow and you need more seating and variety than the typical beef stand has to offer keep an eye out for these two chains – Portillos and Buona Beef. Both places serve a good beef and offer other Chicago style treats as well as catering. Mr. Beef is a famous place inside the Chicago Loop. It is just across the street from the Scala Beef plant downtown and has been a celebrity favorite for decades – the wall across from the counter is plastered with glossies of actors and local notables.

My Chicago beef guide – who I will call Mac the Knife to protect his identify– said this after visiting one well-known place – “they say you can’t screw up an Italian Beef – well you can and _______ did!!” The better beefs are often off the beaten path. To make sure your first experience is a good one – here is a sample of places that consistently do everything right.

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.

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. The lady at the counter asked me “who would want to read about Italian Beefs?” (Ok – the book died – but this did make it on the blog).

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.

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

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 –
ARLINGTON HTS, IL 60005-4017
(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.

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 ( 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

14279 Wolf Rd.
Orland Park, IL 60467-1932
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.

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 – this will help sort out A Tale of Two Al’s.

Al’s #1 Italian Beef
13 locations
Most convenient location:
169 West. Ontario
(312) 943-3222
The Franchise started in 2001. But the Ontario Al’s does have common ancestry with the Taylor St. Al’s.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. You can take the Brown Line to Chicago or Merchandise Mart.

Al’s #1 Italian Beef
1079 West Taylor St
(312) 226-4017
Born in 1938.
As an added bonus, 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.
Subway access on the Blue Line to UIC-Halsted, and then a bit of a walk.

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Thanksgiving 2015 PSA

Posted by cmh gourmand on November 23, 2015

First, this semi-annual joke from Pierce Brothers Cleaners never gets old.

Turkey cleaning

Honeykiss Bakery stopped taking pie orders last week.

Just Pies stopped taking orders last week too. But you have a couple options. There might be a couple of pies you can get at the retail stores on Tuesday. At the Clintonville/Worthington Store you can pop in at 2 pm and try to buy any unclaimed pies before they close. It is good people even if you do not get a pie.

Last but not least, a nice Thanksgiving tradition to start is to go to Smokehouse Brewing for an early morning beer and watch people pick up their Thanksgiving catering orders for the day.

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B Spot gets a B+

Posted by cmh gourmand on March 8, 2015


I have been a fan of Michael Symon before I ever ate his food or saw him on TV. I read about him in Michael Ruhlman’s Soul of a Chef and made note to keep an eye out for him and his restaurant. There has been no shortage of reminders since I read that book years ago. Recently, one of his spin-off concerts, B Spot opened on Hamilton Road. I was not surprised by the expansion to Columbus, that is a logical step that many Cleveland icons are taking (Melt, Noodlecat) but I was surprised by the location. My first thoughts were “why not the Short North or somewhere more hip?” But with more thought and six other locations in the growing empire, it made more sense. On some level, getting some of the Symon philosophy of food outside of city centers makes sense and cents for him and is the key to growing a chain to be.

The concept is simple: burgers with several twists and maybe a turn or two, a few other comfort food sandwiches – bologna, brats and chicken, a couple of salads and sides and several shakes with lots of added in ingredients. The menu is small and (hopefully) easy to execute. A nice addition is the ability to add-on to and customize almost everything. Burgers can be: beef, turkey, chicken, veggie or bologna. Added toppings include nine types of cheese, eight additional meats (garnishes – such as pastrami, bacon, chorizo and etc,) and various other topping such as a fried egg or bacon slaw. So pretty quickly, what seems like a simple menu becomes overwhelming with an endless array of possibilities.

Fans of Michael Symon get a glimpse of what his original restaurant offers with the option of Lola Fries (think cut fries with a big dash of rosemary). Or you could go hog-wild with porky fries which include pulled pork, cheese whiz and pickled chilies.

Speaking of pickled, Michael Symon has a long fascination with pickling things (as do I) so I was happy to see B Spot features a self-serve pickle bar with several types of pickles and pickled vegetables.


So what is the verdict? My grade is a B+. The burgers were good but did not blow me away. The space was comfortable with bits of bric a brac(y) fun, such as the letter B spelled out in a beer can collection to that takes up most of a wall. Hamburgers are ubiquitous but I think where gourmet burgers go south is by trying to be too complex, often simple is best. What adds to plus to the B spot? Bad A** shakes. Standard shakes include the standards Chocolate and Vanilla Bean as well as more adventurous such as Vanilla Bean Apple Pie and Bacon. Putting pie in milkshakes is something that should happen more often. So much in fact that I once drove an extra 100 miles while researching pork tenderloin sandwiches in Iowa so I could have one at the Hamburg Inn #2 in Iowa City. On my visit to B Spot I sampled a seasonal shake infused plenty of peanut butter and cookies. When he server described it, I actually blanked out for a moment and had to have her repeat the ingredients for me because I could not believe the combination was that perfect. Another thing that excited me was a selection of four tasty sauces (for burgers, fries, onion rings and more) Coffee BBQ, Shasha sauce, Lola Ketchup and of course, a Cleveland classic, Ballpark Mustard.



To sum it up. Check out B Spot and if you can’t decide what to get, order two milkshakes.

B Spot on Urbanspoon

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Little Sicily’s: Pizza Worth The Drive

Posted by cmh gourmand on December 29, 2013


The far east side is a bit of a wasteland when it comes to destination dining. There is no lack of choices, there are plenty of chains to choose from but nothing exceptional comes to mind when I mentally walk through my options for that quadrant of town. Years ago, I had friends who lived in Pickerington and the far, far east end of Broad Street. One was in town for the holidays and when we were looking at options to meet up, he suggested Little Sicily’s Pizza.

I had forgotten about this place. In days past, Little Sicily’s was consistently in my top ten list. I had their pizza countless times as carry out while visiting friends. I’d never dined in before and it had been years so I was ready to rediscover the place. Little Sicily’s is tucked in a very modest building near the intersection of Brice and Refugee Roads. It was so busy, I was unable to find parking and had to get creative to secure a suitable spot nearby. The inside is as unassuming as the outside, there are a few simple tables, some nick knacks on the walls with a few TV’s mixed in. All of the customers were long time regulars who the servers knew by name.

The menu is streamlined with a few choices: pizzas, sandwiches, salads, spaghetti with meatballs and lasagna. The only surprise on the menu was a gluten-free crust option. I wish I could elaborate more about the food but the only combination I have ever had is a large pizza with pepperoni, sausage and extra cheese. The extra cheese option makes for some serious thickness and weight. The sausage is thick and chunky. The pepperoni’s are liberally applied on top and sometimes layered on top of each other 2 to 3 slices deep. The crust and sauce are non-descript but serve as a suitable delivery method for the toppings.


Little Sicily’s has been an institution in Brice since 1975 and exceeds the expectations of a typical neighborhood pizza joint. I typically avoid the Brice Road area with a vengeance but if I was within 15 minutes of Little Sicily’s, I would be strongly tempted to call in an order. The tagline on the menu is “The Pizza Worth The Drive” and from my observations, it looks like a lot of people make that choice.


Little Sicily’s Pizza
2965 Brice Road
Brice, OH
614 868 1937

Little Sicily's Pizza Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

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Something different but loosely restaurant related

Posted by cmh gourmand on September 6, 2013

Confessions of a Non Buckeye Football Fan

I am one of the 1%, not that 1% the other 1%. I am among the people who don’t wear scarlet and gray throughout the fall and who don’t reply IO to the OH. I’m not the guy who daydreams about the perfect personalized fan plate. For years, I have been unable to answer the question – who are the Buckeyes playing this Saturday. I’ll use a conversation about the weather to throw you off track when I’m clueless about the stats for the season. Yes, I am that guy.

In this city one can be allowed to have a disinterest in professional football, even all sports for that matter. The good-natured folks of the 614 area code, with their Midwestern manners, will allow that aberration to exist as strange of a concept as it may sound. In their eyes, football apathy is like being a vegetarian, kind of cute but silly. However, there is one cardinal rule within 270. You MUST love the BUCKS. How could you not? How dare you not!

I’m not a hater, I don’t hate the game. I played football as a kid and wanted to have Archie Griffin’s number on my Jersey. Digging into my childhood photos there are plenty of images of a young lad, who still had hair, wearing an Ohio State Buckeyes jersey. My lifetime membership to the OSU Alumni Association is buried in my filing cabinet. I even tossed the football around in the stadium back when you could sneak in at night. Somehow, in spite of my upbringing Buckeye Football Fever never stuck with me. I’m not sure when I was inoculated but I’m more than happy to skip the game every Saturday.

I suppose I first noticed this when I stopped signing up for my alumni tickets. A few years after, I even stopped making an effort to watch the OSU Michigan game. That is the moment when I could no longer hide my nature. It was evident for all to see. I was no longer a Buckeye….not even trying.

I believe those like me, maybe forty or fifty in all, are an oddity to the rest of you. We share notes about the phenomenon of the Buckeye cult. It is odd to be on the outside looking in. We wonder about all of you and your zeal. We occasionally hit a tailgate or two to try to mix in with the crowd. However, while we curse the congestion of game day traffic our secret is that we love Columbus between the first kick off and the final whistle.

While the 99% are out worshipping the cult of Brutus we are enjoying an abandoned city. By timing your excursions just right the city is pretty amazing on a game day. I will highlight a few of the perks of being footloose and football free. The first thing you notice is driving is fun. The streets are abandoned; everyone is in the shoe, a sports bar or entrenched in their man cave watching the game. Parking is easy to find. No waiting at the gas pump. Life behind the wheel is good again.

Game day is a fine day for shopping. The aisles are empty. There is no waiting in the checkout line. All of the employees stuck working are excited to see you. You will be greeted with a GO Bucks and promptly asked for the score. At this point I punt and say “I’m not sure… my radio is on the fritz”. Saddened, they are still glad to see me and very helpful because they are very bored. All my shopping needs can be accomplished in one half of the time. Even during away games, if you do encounter any other customer, it is only as they grab and go at half time to restock on a few critical supplies so their disruption to my optimal experience is minimal.

However, the best perk of the day, is being able to go to any of my favorite restaurants (with one television or less) without the need for a reservation and enjoy any table I choose with the most attentive of wait staff. The restaurant business is a gut-wrenching on fall gridiron Saturdays. If the home team triumphs the restaurant can do well after the win is marked in the books. If the Bucks lose, well, there is no joy in Columbus and no patrons to be fed. So during those precious hours before the fate of the shift and opportunity for tips are determined your server is focused and aimed to please their only customer.

So all in all, despite being an outsider, membership in my small exclusive club does have privileges and the benefits outweigh the costs of being a football pariah. Go Bucks!

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Happy Anniversary: Thank You Readers & The Seven Year Itch

Posted by cmh gourmand on August 28, 2013

I have been at this for seven years. A lot has changed in that time. I thank each of you who continue to read and hopefully enjoy the ongoing works and adventures of CMH Gourmand.


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Creole Kitchen: An A for Authentic

Posted by cmh gourmand on March 21, 2013

A fortunate circumstance of my paid profession, is my proximity to Creole Kitchen. As much as I drool when hearing the mention of Chef Butcher’s Beignets, Étouffée, or other goodness, the hours and location on Mt. Vernon Ave., was just not convenient to my day-to-day travels in my previous work life. Now, I am a short five-minute drive away. This winter I have been getting lunch to go about once per week. I used the first three months of 2013 to study Creole Kitchen. These are my observations.

Let’s start with the location. As mentioned, it is off the beaten path. It my be mildly inconvenient to many food enthusiast’s outside of the neighborhood. The place is easy to miss buried in a newer strip mall in an old neighborhood. That is no problem for Chef Butcher, he has no problem getting customers through the door. He chose the location and the neighborhood to make a commitment to the community. Much like Franklinton, the King Lincoln District has been “up and coming” for a long time. Unfortunately the upward slope of that bell curve has been pretty flat, but Chef Butcher is a man of patience.


Now a segue at the pedigree of the place. Chef Butcher was born in Louisiana. He had has cooked and “chefed” extensively in many places. He had a much written about run at Michael Oliver’s in the 1990’s getting some press and attention as one of the few culinarians in Central Ohio that could do Cajun and creole right. Even though Chef Butcher is advanced in years, he ability to move a line has not slackened after years of blackening.

The place is small, simple and spartan. There is standing room for carry out orders. While there is 2 to 3 small two top tables, unless it is very slow and not crowded, you wont find anyone eating at them. For those that know to ask and visit at the right time and crowd volume, there is a “Chef’s Table” back in the kitchen area. A few select people (I did it once) can eat at a beaten wooden table that seats 2-4 depending on the collective girths of the party. The kitchen crew includes a family member or two and the service counter is always efficient and often friendly if it is not too busy.

Here is an inside tip. Call your order in. The phone will often get picked up. If it is busy, it may ring forever or you might get placed on hold and forgotten about. This is not a negative reflection on the staff, there are just so many orders once can take and actually be able to fill them. If you do happen to walk in and place a “live” order don’t fret, you will still be served. If orders are backed up and you have time to kill, might I suggest driving to the Angry Baker on Oak Street to get a dessert to go. The round trip to and from Angry Baker to Creole Kitchen, with a few moments to make a selection, can be done in as few of 19 minutes. There is one advantage of just dropping in to place your order. There are always five to six really good daily specials (see some examples below) like a meatloaf sandwich.


Now for the food. For whatever reason, the offerings at Creole Kitchen don’t photograph very well, so there will be little food porn. Take a moment to study the menu below and I’ll elaborate on some of the item you may want to try in a bit.


Everything I have sampled is great. It tastes of true Louisiana roux. On may dishes you will be given an opportunity to choose how spicy you would like it on a scale of 1-10. The scale is more spice than heat, but a 10 will not sear your tongue, but it will tame and clear your sinuses in quick order. My favorites include the Mac and Cheese, Crawfish Étouffée,, Chicken Andouille sausage Jambalaya, the french fries and a simple Po’ Boy. I have not had an opportunity to try breakfast. I have heard it is great and often crowded so that being the case I’ll leave that breakfast to Nick.

The Mac&Cheese is simple, plain pasta with a think but saucy mix of cheese. It often serves as a buffer to the heat of another dish. It will remind you of the best diner or cafeteria Mac&Cheese from your formative years. Sadly, as simple as this dish is, and as much as it is a staple of The US of A, I rarely find one I like.

What is it about the fries that makes them so good? They still have the skins on them. They are like fair fries but a bit denser and yet somehow soggier at the same time. The fries also serve as a heat buffer when needed. If you look in the bottom of our carry out bag, you will always see packets of hot sauce to douse your fries in, in case you feel you need the kick.

What makes Crawfish Etouffee and the other dishes so good? I’m not sure. It is in the sauce and the simplicity of the ingredients themselves. The whole is always greater than the parts at Creole Kitchen.


The Po’Boys are make better by their bulk – very large sandwiches for sure, but the clincher is the bread. It is toasted, lightly buttered and the slight crunch of the bread adds to the complete Po’ Boy experience and also keeps the sandwich from collapsing from the slightly wet fried proteins inside. I only have one bone to pick with the sandwiches. The Muffuletta on the menu does not meet my definition of the sandwich or my other eating experiences with them elsewhere. But, I’m not from Louisiana and Chef Butcher can run circles around me in any kitchen, school me up on a thing or three and probably whup my ass good too.

Here are a few more tidbit’s on the place. They make their own potato chips, served in a brown paper bag. These are a great choice to munch on if you think you will be waiting on your order for a while. You can also join the Creole Kitchen text club for a free bag of chips with your order. I will admit that I joined the club while I was placing my order the first time I tried the chips. It may not be a best practice but I was hungry and wanted to test the technology. The restaurant sells their own spice mix but I have yet to try it. If you do, let me know. They also support other local businesses including a cookie maker and a sweet tea company.

There is a lot more to like about Creole Kitchen but that should be enough to get you through the door. Creole Kitchen is too good and too cool to be forgotten but unless it is right in front of you, it can be an easy place to let fall by the wayside on your dining to do list.

Creole Kitchen
1052-B Mt. Vernon Plaza
King Lincoln District (The KLD)
614.372.3333 (FEED)

Monday to Thursday: 7 am to 7 pm
Friday: 7 am to 9 pm
Saturday: 7:30 am to 9 pm
Sunday: Closed

Creole Kitchen on Urbanspoon

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VOTE CMH GOURMAND: 614’s Best of Columbus Survey (to March 31st)

Posted by cmh gourmand on March 17, 2013

I am asking for your vote. 614 Magazine is asking the citizens of Columbus to vote on their favorites throughout the city. CMH Gourmand is listed as one of the choices for Best Local Blogger in the People and Community Category.

You can click ->HERE<- to vote.

You do need to create an account with 614 to vote, this will take less than one minute.


If you vote in 46 of the 108 possible category entries, you have a chance to win $3000 in groceries.
You do not need to vote in any other category other than Best Local Blog, if you choose not to. Therefore voting could take you as little as 2 minutes. Consider this to be like supporting your local NPR station – you are just supporting your local blogger.

I want to win. This is the first time I have been nominated.

During the campaign I vow to:

Run a clean campaign.
There will be no character assassinations of my fellow nominee's and there will be no sex scandals.
Because this will be like sweeps week, but longer, I am going to write a lot more content between now and March 31st.

If elected, I will:

Bring back Pizza Gran Prix
If I win by a very large margin – (defined as a blow out, where the next nominee is not even close), I will sing the song Elected by Alice Cooper Karoke at a place TBD before the close of 2013.
While there might not be a chicken in every pot, out of respect to my vegan friends, I will write about chicken or a chicken.
I will not sequester my posts for the rest or the year

How you can help:

Please consider me for your vote
Please share this post on Twitter, Facebook, as an e-mail blast to your friends, neighbors, family and co-workers unless you work for some lame state agency that forbids such things as forwarded e-mails.
Please let people know that have not read my blog, that it is worth reading and I am worth voting for. The best way to get up to speed and to drink the Kool-Aid of CMH Gourmand is to read -> THIS and THAT.

I would also ask that in consideration of the vote for CMH Gourmand, that voters consider the contributions made to Taco Trucks Columbus, Street Eats Columbus and WCBE Foodcast as a larger act of work. And finally, please consider, I get fat so that you don’t have to.

Update: I did not place 1st, 2nd, or 3rd. Thanks you those that voted. If you wanted me to win and are disappointed find more people to read my blog.

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Food For Thought?

Posted by cmh gourmand on August 26, 2012

This post is for the sake of discussion. See the photo below.

This billboard is at the corner of Second Ave. and Cleveland Ave. I drive by this intersection a few times a week while on the way to meetings as well as to add revenue to St. James Tavern. Looking at this billboard, my first thought was – hmm – not very good advertising. Then I started to think, wait a minute, maybe this is graffiti / vandalism / social commentary (i.e., the cockroaches? ). Then, when I stopped to get out of my car to snap a photo, I noticed this written among the bugs “Gov. Kasich says”. Hmm maybe it is social commentary. It definitely is intriguing.

As for my comments on Fair Food, it is good, if you know where to go and what to eat. We did a Foodcast episode on it a few weeks ago.

Readers, what do you think about any or all of the above?

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