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Brown Bag Deli: Deli-icious

Posted by CMH Gourmand on January 6, 2014


In the tale of the two deli’s of German Village, the story has been lopsided to Katzinger’s. It is a saga of north vs. south. Katzinger’s is the destination Deli on the main drag. Brown Bag is tucked away in a side corner on Whitter on the south end of German Village. Brown Bag is smaller and offers a more limited selection but it feels like an insider’s secret hangout.

What does Brown Bag bring to the table? It serves up much more than the name would suggest.

Take a look at the menu board above. In addition to a wide selections of sandwiches (cold, hot, toasted, grilled, vegan, vegetarian and more), you can build you own sandwich, choose from a selection of salads, soups, flatbreads, homemade sides and more. The sides are more than the typical potato and macaroni salad. The fresh selection of sides varies and it is always challenging to decide on just one. Deviled eggs are a standby and always in good supply. The dessert choices are deeper than one would expect from a kitchen this size. I’ve never encountered a dessert here that I did not like.

A few other options deserve a shout out. Brown Bag has the largest variety of gourmet potato chips I have encountered outside of Jungle Jim’s in Cincinnati. The same applies to the number of gourmet craft soda pop to choose from. If you want ice cream, you can always find a pint of Jeni’s in the cold case.

The Brown Bag may be the Cinderella of German Village eateries and area delis, but it is well worth repeat visits.


Brown Bag Deli on Urbanspoon

Brown Bag Web Site

Posted in beverages, restaurants, Vegetarian Friendly | Tagged: , | Leave a Comment »

Inner Circle

Posted by CMH Gourmand on August 19, 2012

In this post, several of my worlds collide. Since Inner Circle has a loose Clintonville connection, I am cross posting this here as well in Street Eats. Sadly, I am so busy at work, I have not had time to do any blogging on the job at the Food Fort….I barely have time to Twitter most days. Rich Stewart is one of our commissary clients but I feel this post is still objective….so here we go. Plus, I am trying to get my readers retrained to seeing posts one to two times per week from CMH Gourmand, so consider this practice as well.

Website – in progress
Twitter: InnerCircleCart

Inner Circle appeared on the scene early this summer to good reviews. Rich Stewart is Commander and Chef in Chief of the Cart. Vegans and Carnivores have had rave reviews of his homemade vegan sausages. He is in the process and refining stages of other items including burgers and more. The cart has hit the circuit this summer at St. James Tavern Mobile Mondays, Goodale Park Music Series, Pattycake Bakery and elsewhere.

In regards to the sausages, having sampled several I can say – wow. I think many people have low expectations for vegan food, especially in tubed form. In the case of Inner Circle, take your expectations, raise them by the power of ten and you will still find your expectations exceeded. The sausages have great texture and spicing. Placed in a fresh bun with ingredients that enhance the natural flavors of Rich’s hand crafted links and the result is flavor explosion.

This may be a Street Eats first, but an interview with Rich is included in this post as well. Read on Mobile Food lovers.

How long were you at Dragonfly?

I was with Dragonfly for nine months. Chef Magdiale Wolmark is a genius, glad to have had that experience.

What other places have you worked at?

I spent time with another great Columbus chef in Hubert Siefert at Spagio, also stints at The Lakes Golf & Country Club in Westerville, Digger & Finch in Dublin, Whole Foods here as well as in Chicago, and a stint at Green Zebra in the Windy City.

Where are you working now when not out with the cart?

I needed health insurance and more reasonable hours for my two five-year old children, so I took a job on the opening team with Market District, then transferred to a Giant Eagle within walking distance to my home.

What inspired the cart?

Another chef friend of mine John Franke and I were going to collaborate on two carts or a truck that had his omnivorous cuisine, with my vegan versions of each item. He ended up taking a sous position and had no time for the project. I didn’t have the funds to get a truck on my own so I went with the cart. I want to bring affordable vegan cuisine to my patrons so I started with the sausages, I’m building on that.

What would you like to do after the cart or in conjunction with it.

I do some catering as well, I catered a vegan waffle bar brunch wedding reception earlier in the summer, . I’d really like to find a bar with a working but vacant kitchen and move inside once the weather gets too cold. I know there are enough vegans (and vegan food loving non vegans) in Columbus to be successful. I’d like to have a truck next year if I can get a good following this season and convince a lender that I’d be a good investment.

Any new menu items for the summer.

A new sausage that’s inspired by the vegan favorite falafel, a tempeh meatball sub and a vegan burger.

What inspired you to do the sausages and how long did it take you to perfect the recipe?

My cart is designed to be a hot dog cart. The gas grill and steam wells make it very conducive for my sausages. I don’t have the storage space for a large variety, so a few sausages and soup fit nicely. Everyone likes a sausage sandwich and I didn’t want to use store-bought vegan ones. I don’t much care for those anyway and wanted to showcase my skills as an accomplished chef. It took a few trials to get a product that had a mouth feel of a meat sausage. My girlfriend, parents, kids and friends got to try each stage of the process.

Other than love is there a secret ingredient in the sausages that you might want to hint at.

I add a VERY smokey paprika to my sausages. It’s my favorite non maple syrup (true love) ingredient to add to anything.

Posted in CLOSED, Vegetarian Friendly | 1 Comment »

Green B.E.A.N. Delivery: My First Volley Against Winter

Posted by CMH Gourmand on November 30, 2011

I have several friends who subscribe to CSA’s. I know a few people who grow food for, fill bags for and who are a bit disappointed that I have never gotten one of their CSA or market bags. Does that make me a bad person….yes. At the end of the last winter I discovered the power a giant pile of vegetables has to fight back against the weariness of the season (thanks again Chef’s Garden). This year, I am filling up my arsenal against winter “meh” early.

Green B.E.A.N. Delivery combines some aspects of a CSA with elements of some home delivery services. Unlike a traditional CSA, Green B.E.A.N. delivers all year. In contrast to home delivery, there is a core group of items you can expect to receive which you can add to or subtract from as long as the order total is $35 or more. You can order once or every week. They also have a new office bin program to deliver health snacks to offices.

Green B.E.A.N. services six Midwestern Metropolitan areas including Columbus (Cincinnati, Dayton, Ft. Wayne, Indianapolis, and Louisville too, if you are counting). The company started in 2007 with green goals including making “healthy and sustainably grown local food affordable, accessible, and convenient.” Based on my order, my observation is they are achieving their goals. As for the bean part – this is what it stands for: “B.E.A.N. is an acronym that represents our core initiatives; Biodynamic, Education, Agriculture, and Nutrition.”

Local produce and artisanal foods are sourced when possible. If not available respected organic purveyors and ecologically sound companies are sourced from. These were some of the familiar names I could include in my order: Stan Evans Bakery, Blue Jacket Diary, Frog Ranch Pickles and Salsas, Luna Burger, Shagbark tortilla chips and City BBQ sauces (yes, really). The rest of the selections are regionally or nationally sourced from brands suchs as Naked, Kashi and Bolthouse. Other than beverages (I would love someone to deliver beer and wine to my house) and toiletries/detergent I could fill about 90% of my typical store list via Greenbean Delivery. Looking at the price points for the add-on items, the service is still reasonable when time, gas and other intangible costs are factored in.

I came home from work last Thursday to find this on my porch –

Inside was a reusable styrofoam cooler to keep my food cool. There was also an ice pack sealed in a ziplock bag to protect my produce and dry goods from a leaky source of coldness. (As someone who has ordered ice cream online and received melting mess in response, these small touches make a big difference). For $35 this is what I received: 1 Edible Columbus Magazine (comes free if you want one), 1 pack of Stan Evan’s Crackers ($6.75), 1 F2K Cranberry Almond Bar ($2.50)((It was really good)), 2 Butternut squashes, 1 large bunch of carrots, green beans, 1 bag of Klamath Pearl Potatoes, 4 Gala apples, 3 Navel Oranges, 2 avacados, 2 limes, 1 bag of mushrooms and 1 large head of Romaine lettuce. I opted out of the onions from my order and did not request a replacement.

So, you can adjust the produce to some extent but similar to a CSA you may find yourself challenged by getting an array of items you may not select on automatic pilot at the store. (I am a creature of habit, you can predict what I will pick up at the store with 99% accuracy. Many who know me and know how much I eat out (um, this is for professional reasons people, I do it all for you) often wonder if I can cook. I can, my specialties are most notably the hot dog arts, chili and soups. But looking at what I received – nothing daunting. I made several salads. Lime + Avacado = Guacamole. Green beans and potatoes was a staple as a kid and the non fruit leftovers made for a good soup.

I ordered the small produce bin which is intended for two to three people. It was a bit too much for me but if I get the bin two to three times per month it should work out well for CMH Tobias and I. (P.S. Green B.E.A.N. Delivery, my dog would like to see some dog treats and organic, grass fed rabbit in your mix).

The final verdict? Would I order again, yes. For the month of January I can probably avoid leaving my house at all using Greenbean Delivery. That is a good idea because I have a lot of blog posts to wrap up.

To learn more about what Green B.E.A.N. Delivery does in the the community take a look at their Facebook page.

Greenbean website

Green B.E.A.N. Delivery Ohio website

Green B.E.A.N. Delivery on Facebook

Disclaimer / Disclosure:
(I was contacted by Green B.E.A.N. Delivery with an offer to try a bin for free. At the time I had a 50% off coupon for them from Baconcamp and I was deciding on when to use it. So I saw that as a sign to take action. I do not often write in exchange for a product and when I do, if I don’t care for it, then I don’t mention it. That is my policy on such matters.)

Posted in culinary knowledge, Vegetarian Friendly | Tagged: , | 4 Comments »

Explorers Club: My First Expeditions

Posted by CMH Gourmand on October 23, 2011

I am pleased. I am happy. Darn it, I might even use the word ecstatic! I have waited ten years and two months for this sign.

So what is the big deal? The Explorer’s Club is open. Yes, it is a restaurant. Ricky Barnes is cooking in the kitchen and Tracy Studer is guiding the front of the house. If you don’t recognize these names then you probably did not dine out in Columbus from the early 1990’s to 2001 (The Galaxy Cafe, Lost Planet Pizza and Pasta, Ricky’s Galaxy). Ricky and Tracy describe the Explorer’s Club as the Galaxy grown up. A few of the dishes and all of the flavors of Galaxies past are on the menu. The menu, decor and focus on service reflect changes in Tracy, Ricky and the rest of us during the last decade.

So a blast from the past has returned. Many eaters from the Columbus dining scene of old have fond memories of Ricky’s culinary accomplishments. Another element adding to the bigness of the deal is the location. I have discussed growing downtown dining and why this is important to the city. A good restaurant can be a foundation or launching point for a community (for example Yellow Brick Pizza and Angry Baker in Olde Town East). The Explorer’s Club is located on South High in Merion Village. The plucky neighborhood has limited eating options within their community, so a successful restaurant with good food can be a vibrant asset to the area. A past effort in the space, Coyote Jane’s, was a horrible disappointment (Did I just write something negative? Yes, and readers know I never do that. I will say the food, service and, well, everything was memorable, but not because it was good).

So with all of this good karma swelling up I must admit I had some trepidation. This was like revisiting an old flame. Are things ever as good as we remember them? I changed, they changed. Was the awesomeness of the Galaxy just a fond memory I had built up over the years. What if I did not like it? More importantly, what if you don’t like it. I don’t know if I can deal with the Galaxy imploding again the Explorer’s Club closing it’s doors.

I visited during a dry run night and ate for free. I went the next two days for brunch and was happy to pay for meals just as good at a good value. The verdict: YES! wonderful, near perfect, exciting, tasty. The menu may have an aspect of nostalgia but the flavor is there and a explorers spirit of pushing the limits. Considering the Explorer’s Club was open just to test drive the menu, train new servers and cooks and for experimenting with a few ideas, the end result was spectacular. I typically don’t try out a new restaurant for at least a month after opening so they can work out any kinks and I can walk through the door with reasonable expectations. On paper the Explorer’s Club should not have had much of a chance to blow me away based on my fervent loyalty of the past. I am looking forward to what the Explorer’s Club can do with a more seasoned staff and a few weeks of menu enhancements. Changes are already in the works. A bar menu is in the process of development as well as a limited selection of cocktails.

The food and the music is impressively sourced locally when possible. Here is a list of some of the local purveyors used:

Used Kids Records (the genres of music mix well with the menu)
Growers First / Crimson Cup (Coffee and Tea)
Shagbark Seed and Mill Company (from my food first favorite Athens, Ohio)
Gerber cage free, organic vegetarian fed chicken
OSU Agricultural egg hormone and antibiotic free pork
Stutzman Farms (grains/flour)

Not local, but definitely reflective of the restaurant, is where the artwork is sourced from. Most of the prints are by Jeb Loy Nichols, Wales UK.

Nichol’s portraits of famous or infamous names you may have heard include: John Coltrane, Amelia Earhart, Hank Aaron, Wendell Berry, Miles Davis, Nina Simone, Harvey Milk and Woody Gutherie. All were pioneers in their fields and times. The tagline of the Explorers Club is Simple – Pioneering – Flavor. The Galaxy was a pioneer in Columbus dining in the day and today, Explorers Club has taken that spirit and refined it. Staking a claim in Merion Village could be pioneering as well, I hope others will follow to add to the spice of this neighborhood.

So after all of this historical and philosophic foreplay, it is time to focus on the food.

Dinner was my first experience (note a few menu items may change of get tweaked by the time you travel to the Explorer’s Club. The item I hoped to see the most was black bean hummus. It is on the menu and is now served with garlic citrus pizza bread (looks and tastes like the best pita bread I have ever had). The hummus is great. I do miss the giant pool of garlic sauce that topped the 1993 – 2001 version but since that causes significant “personal space” issues for me, I figure it was omitted for the safety of the general public.

I also ordered the chicken quesadilla with charred salsa and sour cream. The salsa packed some significant heat but paired with the cool sour cream accentuated the flavors of everything on the plate.

The winner of the dinner entrees selected was the beef brisket (with black beans, redskin potatoes and jalapeno slaw). The brisket fell apart with very light pressure from my fork. It has a complimentary mix of flavors in the broth to spice things up. My dining companion is not a fan of the jalapeno but she found the proportion of pepper to slaw to be perfect balance of heat and cool.

For dessert there was only one choice I could allow, another blast from my past, Mrs. Barnes Pumpkin Dessert (I recalled this being called Surpise). Oh, yes. This is no pumpkin pie. It is served with cream and fresh berries. It might best be described as a fusion of cake, pie and cheesecake. It is good, that is all that matters.

I woke up the following day and got some of the old gang together to go back from brunch (after college a group of six to ten of us were there almost every Saturday for one or two meals). Longtime readers know I have little interest in breakfast with very few exceptions, Explorers Club is on the short list. I liked my group meal so much I went back the next day solo to sample the only item I did not try the day before.

Another menu item I was passionately, desperately, pathetically hoping for was museli. This simple dish was the hallmark for all other museli experiences in my life, with the exception of a serving I had in Zug, Switzerland every subsequent museli left me wanting and musing about why Ricky would create something so good and take it away. The 2011 version is as good as any and quite photogenic.

Next was the Sophie’s Choice of toast: Cuban French Toast with fruit vs. Grilled Cinnamon Bread with fruit and cream. The Gourmand approach to problem solving goes something like this, “when in doubt, get both”. It was the right choice. Both get “best of show” in their classes. I can not advise you to pick one over the other. The crunchy, funnel cake like batter on the French Toast is borderline addictive. French or not, Cuban bread is the finest way to experience this dish. As for the Cinnamon Bread, the cream was great – I would love to see more on teh side next time.

(I mean really, how could you choose?)

All the breads are made in-house at Explorers Club. The bread is fresh, hearty and serves as a great base for many of the dishes or a compliment for dipping sauces on the side. One their best uses of bread is the Fried Egg sandwich served on Ciabatta with Muenster Cheese and Jalapeno slaw with redskin potatoes on the side. This is a bit messy to eat but who cares, it might be the best breakfast sandwich (non-traditional category) in town.

Love at first bite? In my case, they had me at OPEN. Trying to be objective, would I feel the same way about Explorers Club without the prior history? Yes. If anything my expectations and hopes may have made impressing me more difficult. Considering that more additions and improvements are in the works for the coming weeks, it is easy to believe their grade of A going to A+. The Explorer’s Club is worth exploring. I would suggest going for both a dinner and brunch to gauge the potential that is here.

I will be writing about the Explorers Club more for sure. I am interested in what the bar menu will have to offer as well as the variety of cocktails appearing behind the bar. Did I mention I was really happy?

The Explorer’s Club opens the doors to the world on October 28th, 2011.

Explorers Club
1586 S. High Street
Merion Village / South Side

Explorers Club on Urbanspoon

Posted in CLOSED, Locally Sourced, restaurants, sandwiches, Vegetarian Friendly | Tagged: , , | 13 Comments »

Clever Crow: What You Need to Know

Posted by CMH Gourmand on January 15, 2011

Clever Crow Pizza has a lot to crow about. The pizza quickly drew the attention of the foodarazzi in Columbus and a fella by the name of Tony Bourdain. The first version/location of Clever Crow was featured on the show No Reservations (video – here) which both annointed the place as artisan and acceptably cool for pizza eaters in the capital city. (Footnote on the video: Anthony Bourdain never visited Clever Crow – he just did the voiceover. If you watch carefully you will see Jeni Britton Bauer from Jeni’s and Warren Taylor from Snowville Creamery in the background shots). Those that have tried Clever Crow have largely become diehard fans after some initial disorientation. Clever Crow is decidedly different from any pizza you may have sampled before.

In early January, Clever Crow opened a second location in the North Market down the street from it’s launching pad at Circus Bar. The North Market location makes the pizza more accessible to the masses with a more convenient spot and standard hours. What makes this pizza so special? First, the pizza maker himself. Gary Robinette has a food science degree from OSU. He learned the pizza pie making trade in Portland. He was also a brewer for Columbus Brewing Company. He takes artisan food crafting to a higher plain by making and curing his own meats (sausage, bacon, ham, etc). He buys much of his produce locally and pickles it for pizza posterity. As a pizzamaker he mixes and matches unique combinations of ingredients on his pies (such as grapes and Brie). People often refer to Clever Crow as the “place that puts corn on their pizza”. This is true.

The corn is just not on the pizza, it is infused into it. The dough is a fusion of sourdough and cornmeal. It is cooked in a deep pan producing a thick, dense, chewy and crispy on the edges crust that is initially disorienting to new consumers. This is not your daddy’s pizza. This is not what you grew up with. If you can adapt to a crust and flavors that turn your pizza world upside down then you are likely to move on to the next slice.

The North Market Clever Crow offers pizza by the slice. I suggest getting several different slices to share with friends since each flavor combination is very different. You can also purchase whole pies to pick up or eat at the market. Do beware and use caution. The density of the pizza paired with ingredients piled high means that two slices is usually a meal for most mortals. Good luck Gary and Brooke with Clever Crow 2.0.

Clever Crow Pizza
North Market

Posted in pizza, Vegetarian Friendly | Tagged: , | Leave a Comment »

CLEGourmand: The Chef’s Garden

Posted by CMH Gourmand on December 21, 2010

There is a world class grow to order farm which is the darling of almost every chef you have heard of and many more you have not. The Chef’s Garden is in Huron Ohio and while many have driven by it on their way to Cedar Point few in Ohio know the international reputation this garden has with the culinary elite of the world. The Chef’s Garden is a Mecca for hot, haute chefs from all corners of the planet.

The genesis of Chef’s Garden is very humble and actually more than a little sad. In 1982, a nineteen-year-old Lee Jones watched the farm his family had owned for generations sold off item by item at a Sherriff’s sale. He described the experience as watching your soul being sliced out one piece at a time. The family started again with six acres and three battered trucks that no one wanted to buy or tow from the Jones fields. What saved the farm and launched this garden of the culinary stars? A zucchini bloom and a cute chef.

The family was selling what they had out of truck beds at various farmers markets. Lee Jones met Iris Bailin when she came looking for zucchini blossoms. Because she was attractive and insistent, Lee Jones paid attention. Over time, the family learned to cater to the whims of many chefs, growing by request and supplying a demand for food grown for flavor instead of yield. It took a long time (the family did not pay the tag fees on their battered trucks for five years). A few chefs became regulars then their peers became intrigued as word and tastes were spread by mouth.

Today Chef’s Garden grows over 600 kinds of vegetables and herbs year round including over 60 varieties of heirloom tomatoes. They changed the rules of traditional farming by finding a niche catering to chef’s needs. The farm balances innovations with some old school farming techniques. The sustainable farm has over year round 130 employees (with benefits, health insurance and paid at a livable wage). Every plant is bar coded and tracked from seed to table catalogued in a computer system so the entire history of each seed and planting is known. This allows customized enhancements to plants by growing the best of the best from the previous year. The farm uses root cellars and cold frames to grow year round. Micro greens are harvested with hand scissors. Crops are rotated and grown naturally without chemicals. Visitors often remark that this is food that tastes like……food, with real true flavors that they distantly remember eating at a grandparents table or maybe the Garden of Eden. It is not uncommon for an order to go from field to plate in twenty-four hours (produce is shipped to 2500 chefs around the world). Some of the Chef’s Garden equipment is from the 1940’s while other tools have been designed by their own workers to enhance their productivity and quality of work life. For example, one platform was designed on site so that harvest can be done laying down so employee farmers do not get back injuries from repetitive bending and kneeling.

The food focused, forward thinking frontman and Chief Farming Officer is Farmer Lee Jones. Within about fifteen seconds of meeting him, I was enchanted by the passion he has for what he does and the food the farm grows. He even gets excited speaking about the plates in the chef’s test kitchen at sibling spinoff Veggie U. Jones practices what he preaches by focusing on flavor, consistency and food safety instead of mega farm volume. The industrially produced foods we eat as well as how our nation farms has affected our waistlines and the bottom line of our economy for a long time. Jones would like to change that one bite at a time. Food should taste good so if you treat every aspect of growing and preparing it with respect and passion then you can farm for flavor and make a profit instead of farming to subsist on unhealthy as well as unsustainable foods and business models. I drank the food first Kool Aid pitch that Farmer Jones was pontificating due to his passion and sincerity. I believed it because I tasted the finished product and experienced flavors I had never tasted before. I was sold. You can check with the farm for a tour or you can pretend you are a Top Chef and order directly from Chef’s Garden. I would do both if given the opportunity.

Chef’s Garden
9009 Huron-Avery Road
Huron, Ohio

Posted in CLEGourmand, Vegetarian Friendly | Tagged: , | 1 Comment »

CLEGourmand: Lucky’s Cafe

Posted by CMH Gourmand on November 1, 2010

The town of Tremont, nestled in a bend of the Cuyahoga River across from the Flats has great things going on. The community has wonderful views of downtown Cleveland, an amazing assortment of eclectic historic churches, neighborhood spirit, spunk and an accelerating, independent, local fueled food scene. Tremont has been called “A small town in the heart of the city”. In the heart of the heart is Lucky’s Cafe.

It is an established fact that I do not get too excited about breakfast (with a few exceptions: Starliner Diner, Casa Nueva and Skillet come to mind). Breakfast is the meal that takes space away from lunch and dinner. I was slated to have breakfast at Lucky’s as part of a culinary tour of Cleveland. I was a bit bummed because Lucky’s had been on my hit list a long time and I was worried about missing the dishes I really wanted. After one trip to Lucky’s I can happily say I will have breakfast there anytime.

Lucky’s was featured on Diner’s, Drive In’s and Dives, the Guy Fieri Food Network show. The place is no dive. A quick look at the hippiesque, locavore and sustainable menu would scare the pants off most old school diner fans. However anyone would be satisfied in an eatery that nails the classics and creates unique spin offs of traditional fare with top notch ingredients.

The woman that makes this all possible is Chef Heather Haviland. Most ingredients are from within 100 miles of Cleveland. Heather made a conscious choice to buy from local farmers and she has a vegetable and herb garden across the street from her restaurant to add to her produce selection. The menu is all natural. The place is packed on the weekends filling up every seat inside as well as the picnic tables outside when weather allows. While eating around Cleveland we would ask various chefs where they liked to eat. Lucky’s was mentioned frequently. There is no greater endorsement than when peers make the choice to eat at your establishment. The accolades are deserved and I will add to them.

The place itself has a quaint and quirky charm which seems to be found in heaping portions in Tremont. A local artist created the unique signage for Luckys. Each month a new installation of a local art is spread around the dining area. The baked good selection at the counter has great depth and diversity. The servers are friendly and know the menu. As I mentioned in a tweet: Grilled cheese of the day. I am smitten. I am not easily smited. There were many things that smote me here. The concept of a new grilled cheese option everyday made a very good impression.

Among the items getting my immediate attention: freshly squeezed orange juice, special house blends of coffee, pecan crusted bacon and pumpkin pickles. Lucky’s makes almost everything for their menu including pickles, ketchup and sauerkraut (which ferments in the basement). Not bad for a restaurant that used two camp stove propane burners to cook everything for the first two years.

OK so what I have mentioned so far would excite hard-core breakfast eaters but I am a hard sell for breakfast bliss. What was the key to my conversion? One word: SANDWICHES. Lucky’s serves sandwiches all day. My eye immediately fell upon the Vietnamese Grinder (Black Forest ham, pork pate, pickled pumpkin, fresh cilantro, cucumber, mayo and diced jalapeño).

I was torn by several selections I wanted. Fortunately I was eating with people willing to share. The favorite of Chef Haviland and apparently most of Cuyahoga county is the Lucky Reuben (as seen on TV – Food Network’s Guy Fieri probably called this awesome). This Reuben is just the basics: corned beef, sauerkraut, rye bread and Thousand Island dressing (all house made) served with Swiss cheese. The whole and the parts were all delectable. Yum. My field notes read as follows: The Reuben kicks ass. Serious ass.

Heather and the staff insisted we share another house favorite, Baked Mac-N-Cheese: (Cheddar, Brie, Parmesan, and Mozzarella cheeses, baked with pasta and real cream then topped with Brioche bread crumbs and served with housemade apple sauce). This would have made any cheesehead happy. We also sampled the waffles which were wonderful. In fact, our group seemed unanimous in finding the waffles perfect especially served with real whipped cream.

If you are intent on a “real” breakfast, you are in good hands with Lucky’s signature the Shipwreck: a blend of hash browns, eggs, seasonal vegetables, bacon, and cheddar cheese. It is massive but probably worth the heart attack.

Lucky’s was worth the trip for breakfast. I can’t wait to head back for lunch.

Lucky’s Café
777 Starkweather Avenue
Lucky’s Cafe website

Lucky's Cafe on Urbanspoon

Posted in CLEGourmand, Diners, Ohio, Road Trip, Vegetarian Friendly | Tagged: | 1 Comment »

First Fridays: Pirohi and Cabbage Rolls

Posted by CMH Gourmand on May 10, 2010

Some things are predestined.

I was predestined for Pirohi/Pireogi (Pierogi to you and me).

While I was tracking down a new Taco Truck on the Northeast side, I passed by the sign above. I quickly spun around (legally) and took a photo for future reference. I knew that I had to experience what this hand painted sign had to offer. Last Friday I dropped in on First Fridays and I was not disappointed.

Arriving in the parking lot, I was not sure which of the three buildings to enter. The parking lot was empty and I saw no signs of life. I rolled down my window and then the aromas of ethic cabbage fueled food embraced my senses pulling me to the building in the rear.

Walking inside the auditorium, I was immediately at peace and found a wide, but depleted supply of homemade eastern European foods waiting for me on folding tables with handmade signs. The outside sign said “while supplies last” and they were not kidding. At that halfway point of 5 PM, a few items had sold out and several were down to just one or two remaining. I grabbed what I could gather in my arms and zipped to the counter to pay. That is when I discovered that I was short on cash reserves. I asked the friendly, long bearded priest in black, Eastern Orthodox Catholic style robes to guard my horde as I headed back to my car to empty it of change so I could pay for most of my selections.

First Fridays has been at tradition at the church for three to five years depending on which volunteer you ask. The next one will be on June 4th. These are canceled when the Friday falls during a major holiday weekend so this food emporium only happens about ten times per year.

Below is a list of what the all volunteer kitchen staff cook up for sale (subject to change).

Cabbage Rolls 6 for $8
Fri-Pie – Deep fried fruit filled pie
Pirohi (Sauerkraut, Potato and Cheese, Prune, and Sweet Cheese) for $5 for a dozen (frozen)
Halushki (cabbage and noodles)
Ukrainian Red Cabbage Slaw
homemade pies, cakes, cookies
Walnut, Poppyseed and Apricot Rolls

I sampled the cabbage rolls and found them to be very good. These are sold hot and can be eaten in your car if you can’t wait. A few days later I took the pirohi for a test taste with the usual suspects. We found them to be good and the prune pirohi bordered on great. It was noted that preparation was the key to a good pirohi experience (instructions for frying, microwaving, and baking are included with your order) and that some extras – salt, sour cream and lots of butter were essential.

Where to find these ethnic delights:

St. John Chrysostom Church
“The Kitchen” – Ladies Guild
5858 Cleveland Ave.
Columbus (Near Northeast intersection of SR 161 and Cleveland Ave)

Since there were several items I did not get to sample, I welcome your review of any of the items you have tried out.

Posted in Columbus, Vegetarian Friendly | Tagged: | 3 Comments »

Bono Bounces Back

Posted by CMH Gourmand on January 13, 2010

The summer of 2008 was THE season for Bono Pizza in the Short North. The unconventional ways of pizza purist Bill Yerkes meshed a traditional approach to pizza (well kind of) with many non traditional elements such as a unique partnership with a Short North Bakery in a location along an alley. The enterprise should not have worked. It did. In fact it prospered. It was the darling of Short North and Victorian Village residents and an unofficial meeting point for Columbus Underground ilk. However, like any burning sun, it was bound to extinguish and it did in the fall of 2008. (To learn more about this era see my December 2008 post and Foodcast episode 18 from August 2008.)

CU – Bono Bounces Back

There were attempts at rebirth. Bill came full circle with a location near his home at a site vacated by Cowtown Pizza. Showing his very unconventional side and some significant out of the box thinking, Bill utilized Columbus Underground as a means to raise some fast cash to get his operation going. (See below and below that)

CU – Taking “stock” in Bono

Always the non-traditionalist, Bill has put together a proposal for his loyal customers to help raise the extra cash quickly. He calls it the “bonoPIZZA Pay it Forward Plan. Effective immediately, bonoPIZZA will begin selling half-price gift certificates in $100 and $200 increments. The $100 gift certificate will cost $50, and the $200 gift certificate will cost $100, making it a great deal for anyone planning on dining at bono in the future. The goal is to sell approximately 75 of these certificates to cover the cost of raising the additional $5,000.

The equitable effort was successful but the site fell through. As a result, most of 2009 was a year without a Bono clause so the natives started to get a little restless. I was one of the people that invested (or donated depending on your perspective) money depending on how you look at it. The outcome was a new location even closer to Bill’s abode. Bill has the best commute to work in the local restaurant trade. Bono bounced back so I now have $200 worth of pizza in the form of twenty buy one get one free pizzas.

The new Bono Pizza is located in a carryout on Northwest Blvd in Grandview. It features a wood fired oven and the always entertaining personality and styling of Bill Yerkes. His wife Peggy is there most evenings to take orders and take care of her customers. I was technically the first paying customer and somewhere in the establishment there is a signed first dollar bill from me. Bono is still experimenting with hours (we could see an lunch option in 2010), the menu – a constant blank slate for Bill and other dishes (maybe a salad, maybe a pepperoni roll) and who knows what else. Bono also offers crepes for $3, espresso for $1 and more often than not creme brulee in shot style glasses. Beverages can be obtained in the adjoining carry out.

il gato - an mexican style pizza under development, served with a side of guacamole. This may be added to the regular rotation

The new site is not without challenges. There have been issues with the roof and the space itself calls for some creativity for business hours after the carry out closes. The walkability and charm of the old site are not the same but the “hidden clubhouse” feeling continues on in this incantation of Bono.

A Greek Boy.....

The new Bono features eighteen specialty pizzas as well as a build your own option. All pizzas are $10 each. Bill perfected his pizza craft for twenty five years in Italy. His crusts and ratios are in the Italian style with all flavors balancing each other. His non traditional half or in his case 3/4 self, exhibits itself in the toppings and names (Hulk, Waikiki, The Greek Boy….) Here are a few examples of the pizzas:

San Rolando
Fresh tomato sauce, pepperoni, (real – really good too) Italian Sausage and fresh Mozzarella cheese.
This pizza is named in honor of Roland Kopecky, the best Bono customer of 2008 and future Pierogi King of Columbus.

Smithfield peppered ham/bacon, carmelized for three plus hours with onions then lathered on a layer of Asiago and real mozzarella cheese with a sprinkling of Parmesan and “pixie dust” (that came right off the menu not my keyboard, but at Bono….it could happen).
This pizza was created and inspired in part by the Grumpy Gourmet who has made an appearance or two at this establishment.

Most of a San Rolando...prior to delivery to Roland

Bono ToGo Pizza
1717 Northwest Blvd
as the menu says: “of course it’s in the back of a liquor store, it’s bonopizza!”

Open: Monday to Saturday 5 PM to 10 PM

Posted in pizza, restaurants, Vegetarian Friendly | Tagged: , | 1 Comment »

Saturday Sticky Buns at Pattycake Bakery

Posted by CMH Gourmand on January 6, 2010

We will get to the Sticky buns, in particular the Orange sticky buns soon, but first I must digress with some Pattycake preaching.

Columbus’ IF girl would have people to believe that I am a lobbyist for Pattycake Bakery due to some actions which include: bringing Pattycake baked goods to most social functions I find myself invited to, tweeting about Pattycake, writing about Pattycake, showing up to Pattycake events and apparently other “influencing” activities. Those things might be true. I do believe if the 45 odd pounds I added in 2009 could be isolated from my original December 2008 body mass about 17% would be Pattycake ingredients. In retrospect, I surmise my massive weight gain was due to a subconscious desire to become the Pattycake Doughboy. Believe what you may. One things is true, I LOVE Pattycake Bakery. Love is a strong word I don’t use often. I will not take back the statement even under duress or the offer of a Tollhouse Cookie, Orange Sticky Bun, Vanilla Cupcake and something else.

What is there not to love? Take a click at their website here. The Pattycakians clearly state that they love: sweets, you, animals, our community, the earth and the universe. How can one not love something that has that much love to give? There is at least 2% love in every baked good. What else is there to love? This is a place where they allow IOU’s if you are a bit short on cash and you can take silverware with you if you promise to bring it back. Pattycake is the home of the beguiling Sarah B, the devestatingly devine decorator of cakes Diana and Jenni “Kit(ten)” Scheinbach. They even let a man work on their team. R-E-S-P-E-C-T!

I feel like Norm from the sitcom Cheers when I walk through the door, as I hear shouts of JIM! I am their favorite Jim. I think the reason for this up with Gourmand movement is that I am of a select few customers that appreciates the Orange iced sticky bun. If you can appreciate this item as much as our secret splinter cell does, then the Pattycakians will probably scream your name when you walk through the door too.

On the far right, an Orange iced Sticky Bun, surrounded by several soon to be vanillaized Sticky Buns....sad.

I acknowledge the Vanilla iced sticky bun as an excellent product but the Orange has better staying power once the bun cools and the frosting hardens. It also wins out in the day after, reheating contest. While it would be a lie to offer false claims such as Orange sticky buns prevent cancer, I can say I have not been ill since I started eating them.

When can one get sticky buns? These are offered to the masses every Saturday. They are often offered on big holidays. The buns are frequently iced to order when hot out of the oven. I took the Orange for granted until Christmas Day when I walked in to order one. As it was iced, Jenni shared that few people order these. I was dumbfounded. Then I was perplexed. Then I think I started to rant. There may have been statements such as “what is wrong with our world” and “who are these freaks”. I am not sure what I was saying but I think I scared a new customer. Or maybe it was when I told the new person “we don’t say Starbucks in Clintonville”. It is not uncommon that you will miss out on the Orange sticky bun frosting window since it is offered on a supply and demand basis. Hence I want people to demand these more to increase my supply.

All of this may be lobbying.

I will say as an undisputed fact that Pattycake Tollhouse cookies have no peer on this planet and Orange sticky bun ordering might earn you elite status at a certain south Clintonville bakery.

Pattycake Bakery
3009 North High Street

Tollhouse cookie in primordial form

Posted in bakery, Vegetarian Friendly | Tagged: , | 3 Comments »