CMH Gourmand – Eating in Columbus & Ohio

Donuts, Diners, Dives and Diatribes

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  • Archives: August 2006 to Now

A Decade of Dining, Discussion and Digressions

Posted by cmh gourmand on August 28, 2016

Gourmand

Well, here we are ten years later and CMH Gourmand….continues.

For the last few years, I have struggled on whether to continue with this blog, occasionally stepping back and asking myself why I do this? Readership has not been what it was during the zenith of this (and other blogs) years ago but there is still a reader base none the less. I certainly like my base better the Republican base (which scare the shit out of me). I can take some solace in the fact that other media, like newspapers, have had the same decline as well. I’ve come to equate my base as comparable to people who still collect and seek out vinyl records.

I am also quick to acknowledge (knowing there are those that would be quicker to point out) that there is much I could do, fairly easily, to grow my own base: more social media especially Instagram, a dedicated Facebook page, updating layout and graphics and such. I could start doing all types of promotion – shameless and otherwise. However, I have no interest in any of these options. I’m content for this to be a true blog in the spirit of when blogs started way back (in 1994, 1997 or (mainstream by all accounts in 2004) depending on who you ask, a web log of my adventures and thoughts.

In the last months as I have asked myself, why blog? I have not felt the need to justify the answer back to myself. My response has been “why not?”

Another solace is that the heat is off since now that I am ten years into this, I have a body of work that can stand on its own without the perceived need and pressures to continue to churn out material on a regular basis. On a positive note, I did have a bit of a rally this year and crafted a respectable number of posts including a few I thought were really good or at least at least creatively different from other things I read day-to-day. Most people would not have noticed but I did invest several hours updating, fine-tuning and cleaning up some junk in this archive over the last year.

I updated the Eating Athens and Pizza pages, I added and will continue to work on my Ohio Ice Cream page. I deleted some older posts that were no longer relevant, updated and cleaned up errors in other posts and created a new category – CLOSED – for all of the places that no longer exist. Sadly 43 of my posts are about places that are no longer open, several of which were among my favorites. Links have been updated as well as my About/Bio section. To the dismay of the Dining Duder research has continued on the Ohio Donut Trail culminating in a dedicated page for those activities. For fans of the Donut Trail, I have almost completed the southern part of the state. I have one trip to Jackson and one trip to Cincinnati before I turn my attention north. Looking at my notes, when (if ever) the Ohio Donut Trail is completed there will be at least forty and potentially fifty great Ohio donut spots listed.

Moving forward this year and beyond, other than when I post the last entry in CMH Gourmand (which has been written) I will no longer posts marking off the anniversaries. There will be more “dining diatribes” as I increasingly become a grumpy old man. What I look forward to the most as CMH Griffin ages, is backtracking to all of the road trips documented here and having him enjoy each of these spots with me with fresh eyes, an open mind and very likely a large appetite.

My other shared “bodies of work” continue as well. Although I am not embedded in the Food Truck world as much as I was, Street Eats Columbus keeps on trucking as does (although very much in need of an updated census) Taco Trucks Columbus. Looking at the Venn diagram of CMH Gourmand and Bricks of Ohio Blog readership (overlap of 3), while I have not been on a brick foraging mission in 2016, I do believe I will find more as time goes on. One day the two worlds will collide when I finally create time to build a brick pizza oven.

A final observation. This is post 666, which my high school self, who loved heavy metal (although was wary of the culture that went with it), would have found hilarious.

Posted in Food For Thought | 4 Comments »

Whopperrito: I did it for you.

Posted by cmh gourmand on August 24, 2016

Whopperito

There is a young man living in the greater Grandview area that I am a bit of a fan of. However, had it not been for him and his social media baiting, I would not have known about the Whopperito. In fact when I first saw him mention it, I thought is was hoax, perhaps a prank. Well, the Whopperito does indeed exist. In fact, word has been out most of the summer with the general theme of the conversation being disdain. Apparently, this Whopperito is a thing.

Unless you have lived under a rock or are a very recent immigrant from an obscure country you have encountered a Whopper in your life time and most likely eaten one. But just in case you are not familiar with the Whopper let us digress for a bit of history. The iconic burger debuted in 1957. The classic Whopper consists of: flame grilled quarter-pound burger, sesame seed bun (since 1970), mayonnaise, lettuce, tomato, pickles, ketchup and sliced onion. In college I could get two Whopper’s for $2.22 and for a while that became a late night snack to soak up Natural Light or if I was living large a well drink cocktail certainly my tastes have changed with time but I can still be nostalgic. Maybe I’m responsible for the Whopperrito, especially if the parent company has been tracking my blog posts and eating patterns for the last year of so. Perhaps they were emboldened by their decisive win in the epic Burger King vs. Wendy’s 4/5 for $4 face-off.

As for the Whopperrito, it is a Whopper in burrito form with minor tweaks. It is a mix of the regular Whopper ingredients minus the ketchup and mustard. The meat is served in large chunks of broken up Whopper flame grilled beef that is seasoned with a special blend of spices and thin queso-like pepper cheese. Nutritionally it is 570 calories, 29 grams of protein and 11 grams of saturated fat vs. a traditional Whopper which is 630 calories, 26 grams of protein and 11 grams of saturated fat.

In addition to a bit of subliminal twitter taunting, the existence of a Whopperrito drew me to eat it like the USS Palomino to a Black Hole. It was inevitable that this would happen. Typically I am impervious to most fast food advertising and gimmicks with a few exceptions: White Castle, occasionally Wendy’s if the item is “bold” and when Burger Chef included Legos on their kids meals. This new product merged my positive leanings towards Whoppers with my affinity for burritos. What was the result? The Whopperrito is greater than the sum of its parts. While not enjoyable it was edible. If any BK executives are monitoring this post, these are my suggestions: make the pickle pieces smaller and replace the pepper cheese queso sauce with a thicker, cheesier American cheese/Velveeta styled sauce to hold all of the parts together more cohesively.

whopperrito

My verdict. I would always pick a Whopper over a Whopperrito. If my suggested changes are put into place, I’d still choose a Whopper nine times out of ten. My experience with the Whopperrito did give me a better appreciation for the Whopper. The whole is greater than the sum of the parts with the Whopper and the key to that burger persisting for nearly 60 years is the power of proportions – it has just the right blends of all of the ingredients, nailing the ketchup to mayonnaise ratio.

A brief side note. I was not sure how I would feel about the Whopperito or if I could finish it. So as a preemptive strike, I ordered a hot dog too. For the price Burger King serves a respectable hot dog. They use a good quality bun that seems lightly steamed (?) or at least it is fluffy, and grill the all beef hot dog then add a right amount of mustard, relish and (heaven forbid, ketchup). In an emergency it will do.

hot dog

Posted in Food For Thought | Tagged: , | 6 Comments »

Mrs. Renison’s Donuts, Marysville (Ohio Donut Trail)

Posted by cmh gourmand on August 23, 2016

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On my way back from The Donut Shop (at Indian Lake) I decided to check the hours for Mrs. Rennison’s Donuts in Marysville which was the mid-point for my drive back to Columbus. Checking the map, it is just a few minutes away from 33 so I decided to cram in a second donut run into my morning. The second it came into view I experienced Donut Trail Deja Vu. The place looks a lot like The Family Donut Shoppe (now in my top three donut places in the state) both in building size, design and they have a drive through window and parking lot sets up that are similar.

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Looking at the sign and seeing that the recipe dated back to 1929, I was excited. When I got home I found out that this business dates to 1989 so at first I was less excited, then I found out where the 1929 reference comes from:

Crispie Creme Donuts began in Portsmouth, Ohio, and was owned by Mr. and Mrs. Jack Renison.

It is known by names such as Mrs. Renison Shops, Mrs. Renison’s Doughnuts and Mrs. Renison’s Crispie Creme Donut Shop. Shops have been found in Ohio in Lancaster, Marysville, Wheelersburg and Chillicothe.

It appears that at some point the Renisons sold the business or franchised the name to allow other similarly named businesses to operate. For example, the Marysville shop that opened around 1989 is run by Keith and Cindy Hill, using “Mrs. Renison’s original recipe from Portsmouth

I’ve been to the Crispie Creme in Chillicothe so now I saw the historical connection.

Walking through the door, I was greeted by fast and very friendly service. Feeling a bit bloated already I tried to order just eight donuts but my new friend at the counter pointed out that for a few cents more I could have one dozen. And the price was right $9.50, sold!

This shop offers a wide variety of yeast and cake donuts. The standout to me was the cinnamon. It is a six-sided yeast donut with a bit of a swirl on the inside and a thin glaze of vanilla icing on top with some cinnamon sprinkled on top. The other winner was the last of its batch on the shelf. A dark chocolate cake donut with a thick layer of chocolate icing on top. The level of chocolate was almost overwhelming but not off-putting.

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622 E 5th St, Marysville
937 642-7008

Mrs Renison's Donuts Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Posted in donuts, Ohio, Ohio Donut Trail, Road Trip | Tagged: | 3 Comments »

The Donut Shop & Bakery, Russells’ Point/Indian Lake (Ohio Donut Trail)

Posted by cmh gourmand on August 21, 2016

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In 2016, I’m wrapping up the southern leg of the Ohio Donut Trail and focusing my eyes on the north. A few readers had suggested The Donut Shop (known as Hinkle’s long, long ago) at Indian Lake. I decided to make my move while it was still summer to get a feel for the vibe of the place. I’ve never been to the area so I budgeted out some time to drive around Russel’s Point to explore the community. I thought this would be a good way to tip my toe into the water of the northern Ohio donut trail.

Reading some online reviews, the only complaint I could find about the Donut Shop was that there is not inside space to the place. Everyone orders from a single window in the shop. The donuts are displayed through the other windows. I could see where this might be a drag in the winter but from my perspective that gives the workers a lot more space for donut production so I support the business as is. There is a large variety of yeast and cake donuts to choose from as well as cookies, cinnamon rolls and other baked goods. The two signature donuts here are both yeast style donuts. The first is the Buckeye which is a mix or peanut butter, chocolate, cream filling and a bit of whipped cream. The flavors on this donut were big and rich. The other signature donut is the maple bacon. The maple glaze had a good flavor to it but the bacon bits were a cursory adjunct at best. My favorite donuts of the dozen I sampled were the vanilla cake and the apple fritter. The fritter had a good shelf life to it, still tasting great two days after I bought it. It also had great apple flavor. It is one of the better apple fritters I have trip along the Ohio Donut Trail. As I was rounding out my order of a dozen I was asking the woman at the window if there were any favorite donuts I missed? Before she could answer her co-worker said – “well there is at least one you can’t have.” (I wondered, what did I do wrong and then I thought, this is a challenge, there must be some type of donut they think I won’t eat). As it turned out I was just here at the wrong time. The most popular donut in the shop is pumpkin which is a fall only seasonal flavor. A close second is an apple crisp donut which rolls out at the same time.

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The kicker for the Donut Shop is everything else it has to offer. They offer ice creams and sandwiches during the weekends. I was impressed to see they serve Homemade Brand Ice Cream (from UDF the best “macro” ice cream maker in the state). While the shop closes at noon during the week, they stay open as late as 9 pm on warm weather weekends. They also have two good deals: Box lunches for $5 and day old donuts (not many to choose from) for 25 cents each ($3 for a dozen). Another perk is a great view of the lake.

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Also noted as I looked at the windows I saw this sign, which I had seen at another place before. I took a liking to the concept of a Donut Party – both politically and socially. I have hosted donut parties in the past. But politically, the concept of a donut party appeals to me during this election year I could best describe as insane.

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The Donut Shop and Bakery
104 Main St E, Russells Point
937 842-1969

The Donut Shop on the Lake Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Posted in donuts, Ohio, Ohio Donut Trail, Road Trip | Tagged: , | Leave a Comment »

Morone’s Italian Villa: Buffet Battle – Pizza (Addendum)

Posted by cmh gourmand on August 17, 2016

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This is a late entry to the Buffet Battle – Pizza, Series.

Morone’s Italian Villa
Bethel Centre
1490 Bethel Rd
(614) 457-7444

My connection to Morone’s goes back to my high school days in the area. Morone’s was a little more fancy than the other pizza places in North Columbus, so if you were heading out with a group – Morone’s was a big deal. I recall in high school eating carry out Morone’s Pizza (sausage and pepperoni) at a friend’s house many Saturday nights and looking forward to it week after week. The last time I could recall dining there was 1991? But as fate would have it, I wrote about it in 2007 when I tried their French Fry Pizza at an evening buffet. (I did not figure this out until I got home and started writing this).

The lunch buffet is offered Monday to Friday from 11 am to 2 pm. In addition to pizza, there is a salad bar featuring mixed salad, tomatoes, cheese, three dressings, cottage cheese, chocolate pudding, two pasta salads, cole slaw and a few other things for a total of nine items. There are also two pastas, a soup (that is hard to reach unless you go to the opposite side of the station), and some toasted Italian bread.

The pizza I tried was a bit fluffier, airy and more doughy that most other Columbus pizza places. There was a bit of char of the crust ring which had some crispness. The pepperoni seems like a slightly cheaper grade – but did have the curl I like to look for. The sauce was lightly applied to the dough and seemed a bit generic. The potato pizza I tried was a bit daring and added diversity to the offerings. The price for all of this with a beverage included was $9.69.


(Scale of 1-5)

Value 4
Quality 3.5
Quantity 3.5
Pizza Grade 3.25
Kid friendly Quotient 4


The food, especially the pizza did not taste like I remembered it (in 2007 or 1985 to 1991). While chatting with one of the cooks (when I still thought I had not been there since the 1990’s,) he mentioned he worked at Morone’s in the 1990’s but left and since that time, there had been three different owners until the present. So that explained the disparity between my memories and my dining experience at the buffet.

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Morone's Italian Villa Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Posted in Buffet Battle, food, pizza | Tagged: , | Leave a Comment »

Lil Donut Factory – Hilliard (Ohio Donut Trail)

Posted by cmh gourmand on August 16, 2016

Mr. Donut Face

Exploring the Ohio Donut trail took me reluctantly to….Hilliard. Longtime readers may be puzzled by my reluctance to travel such a relative short distance. The conundrum is created by my long-established willingness to travel hours through the state to other destinations or the many occasions to roam around the state in search of donuts and more. I’ve never connected with Hilliard for a series of gray reasons – it makes me think of urban sprawl, most of it feels like an extended strip mall and getting there always seems to be inconvenient to me. So I have outed one of my many old man biased thoughts.

However my desire to cap off the Columbus zone of the Ohio Donut Trail drove me to drive out of my comfort zone and into this suburb but still with some dread. Over the years I made two attempts to visit the Lil Donut Factory but both were busts, once the place was closed unexpectedly and the other time the donuts were decimated.

As I approached my gut told me I would be disappointed. The Lil Donut Factory is an unlikely business, in an inconvenient place near a slightly off kilter three-way intersection that ends in a mini mall Sunoco gas station complex that also features a bar called Nasty’s and a Goodwill drop off site. The sign of the factory was nearly faded away by the sun. You would have to know this place existed to find it. My donut-y heart continued to droop.

Within moments of arrival, my reservations were cancelled before I even tasted a donut. In the Lil Donut Factory I found a thinking man’s donutery. The walls have a hodgepodge of comic book art including a framed 1941 Super Man Sunday comic. Other elements that struck my fancy: Star Trek art, a Four String Brewing howler, framed classic vinyl records, a nice selection of books for customers to read and a guy at the counter that offers suggestions on books by lesser known German authors. Last but very much not least, the front window sports a Bernie 2016 sign….pretty daring in this section of Hilliard. At this point, I did not even care if I liked the donuts.

I tried blueberry, stick, cinnamon twist, maple, maple-bacon, and apple fritter and a few others. The price was $9.50 for a baker’s dozen (a real deal). However my latent aversion to Hilliard must had caused a unconsious desire to get rid of the evidence because I accidentally deleted all the photos I took on site. The only visual I have to offer is a face made out of my remaining donuts. Insider tip for the Lil Donut Factory – go as early as you can while the selection is large and the donuts are fresh. If you have time, hang around for some coffee and good conversation.

Update: Special thanks to my blogger-pal Joe, from 614ortyNiner for sending me this photo of the Lil Donut Factory.

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Lil Donut Factory Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

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

Anthony Bourdain brings “The Hunger” to Columbus

Posted by cmh gourmand on July 31, 2016

Does this guy look familiar to you?

Anthony Bourdain

I wish I could say this photo was taken at my house but in all my travels and shrinking social circles, I have never met Anthony Bourdain. The photo and the information below, were sent to me as part of a press release for his live show – The Hunger.

Internationally renowned best-selling author, television host and multiple Emmy-award-winner Anthony Bourdain is roaming the country for The Hunger, an 11-city North American tour launching October 25 in New York. Bourdain’s first cookbook in 10 years, APPETITES (published by Ecco), also hits shelves October 25. The Hunger serves audiences an all new live show featuring an unyielding, brutally honest monologue reflecting on diverse culture, street cuisine and his travels to lesser-known locations around the world, followed by an open Q&A session. Currently filming the hit CNN original series Anthony Bourdain Parts Unknown (season seven premiered Sunday, April 24; 9pm ET/PT), Bourdain will bring audiences a menu loaded with lots of laughs, serious discussions and unapologetic irreverence.

For more information including tour dates and tickets, visit www.AnthonyBourdainOnTour.com, because his show is coming Saturday, October 29, 2016 to Palace Theatre to Columbus!

Keep reading there is more….and a big incentive to keep reading. One of the first books I read that got me excited about food was Kitchen Confidential. As “food TV” and the celebrity chef craze grew I was never able to drink the Kool-Aid for it, with a few exceptions (mainly Michael Symon), the best example being Anthony Bourdain. While I can’t say his hard-drinking, chain smoking, New York style bravado appeals much to my personality style, I always enjoyed his views on food and straight forward approach to everything without any pretensions. He definitely raised himself to a high level of respect in my view when he started the show Parts Unknown. His blend of love for food and how it intertwines with local culture and history strikes a chord with me because it reminds me of how I prefer to travel and explore the world. So while I do not normally get giddy about a show coming to town, I am stoked that he is coming to Columbus as one of his eleven stops on this tour.

So here is your chance to get really excited…..

Stay tuned to my twitter feed – CMHGurmand because sometime before the show I will have a ticket giveaway for two tickets for the show. Whether you win the tickets or buy your own I hope to see you there, this is well worth one of our rare babysitter covered nights out on the town.

In the meantime, since there is a Q & A segment during the show, how about sharing a question you would ask him if given the chance.

Posted in food | Tagged: , , | Leave a Comment »

Mama Renie’s Pizza: McArthur Ohio

Posted by cmh gourmand on July 29, 2016

(An installment in the Route 56 Trilogy and the Grumpy Old Man Saga)

Our tale of Mama Renie’s involves several sidetrips both literally and figuratively so let us begin our journey. The path to Mama Renie’s was a long and winding trail. it began when I became aware of Family Donut Shoppe in Londonderry which started my exploration of Route 56. For this trip to McArthur I sought out a co-pilot in the Grumpy Old Man. Readers may be familiar with the Grumpy Old Man from another installment in the Route 56 Trilogy – Carl’s Townhouse. One the first exploration of Route 56, I talked the Grumpy Old Man into going to Family Donut shop the first time by promising a trip to O’Betty’s in Athens after. At the mid-point of our first Route 56 adventure we passed through Mcarthur and the place below caught my eye. My eatery sixth sense kicked in and knew I had to head back some day (soon).

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(Take a look at the sign in the photo). A sign on a pizza place which says Breakfast 6 am is the sign of a full service establishment that warrants investigation. Looking at the brick work (glazed enamel which was high-end in the 1920’s) of this building I could tell this place has a lot of history which meant – the potential for a lot of character.

So once again, I talked the Grumpy Old Man into joining me on another Route 56 adventure. This time we would go to Carl’s Townhouse and since Family Donut Shop was only 15 miles away we would head back there and then proceed to McArthur for a very detailed scouting mission.

Now long time readers of this blog are thinking “why would the Grumpy Old Man need to be talked into what sounds like a great day trip?” Well, the back story is complicated but I’ll provide some bullet points. I’ve known the Grumpy Old Man for almost thirty years and along the way we have had many good adventures: camping trips, a trip to Baltimore where I slept under a pool table and wore reindeer pants, a 4 day trip to Puerto Rico that nearly led to my death by pork and rum overdose and at least six trips to Lake Hope. The Lake Hope adventures are the ones that lead to the trepidation the Grumpy Old Man has when I make a trip pitch to him. Lake Hope Adventures typically involve the following: five to seven meals per day in Athens (sometimes going to the same place two to three times in a day), a long hike where we are sometimes unclear if we will finish…or survive, a hangover, often extended bursts of intestinal gas and on our last two trips drinking one bottle of Yering Station Fortified Shiraz which is the finest and one of the most potent wines in the world. And unfortunately for me can only be found at the Yering Station winery in the Yarra Valley and my supply is now depleted which is fortunate for the Grumpy old man. While the Grumpy Old Man enjoys a trip to Lake Hope he has found the rigors of my itineraries wear him out and age him about 1 year in 3 to 4 days. A shared bottle of fortified Shiraz seems to age him about 3 years. My additional selling point for our McArthur scouting run is that this little town is only 14.7 miles from the cabin we stay in at Lake Hope. Somehow in all of our trips to Lake Hope and the surrounding area we have never been to McArthur. So if McArthur did indeed have a good place to eat, I would have an alternative to Athens on our adventures and thus he would have some protection from my indulgences at Jackie O’s, Devil’s Kettle, Little Fish, West End Cider House and such. This added to a guaranteed trip to Family Donut Shoppe allowed the Grumpy Old Man to commit to be tripped.

However, after lunch at Carl’s and second lunch at Family Donut Shoppe, the Grumpy Old Man asked if we were going to skip McArthur and just head home. Of course my response was merely a roll of my eyes as we moved on down the road to our destiny (this is why I always drive so that my agenda can’t be trumped).

Upon arrival in McArthur we did a quick drive by of our target sites in town then exited the vehicle to explore McArthur on foot (which took about 10 minutes). We were not sure if Mama Renie’s was open and the Grumpy Old Man was reluctant to enter so I scouted it solo by trying to find an unlocked door. I was a bit disoriented upon entering because the interior is very dark with minimal lighting as well as a very dark, long wood bar and booths. I knew based on the look of the bar alone that Mama Renie’s was worth this trip. I returned outside to fetch the Grumpy Old Man and apparently I was not just scouting for myself, as two frumpy twenty something ladies that were also casing out the place entered when I came out to give the thumps up.

Since Grumpy and I were both full from our previous meals we just opted to order a beer a piece as we took time to soak in the atmosphere of the bar. I explained that we would not be eating but that would still like to look at the menu. The menu looked very promising offering a full breakfast menu, some sandwiches and of course pizza. One thing caught my eye because it was completely unexpected…..homemade potato chips. So against the protestations of the Grumpy Old Man I placed an order. You can see where the chips fell below.

chips

These chips were great. Some were very crispy and a few still had some chewiness. All together the best barroom snack for a place like this. While we munched away we began to chat with our server/host to find that her son has owned the restaurant for over 15 years but in the past the place had hidden tunnels and trap doors used to hide and sell moonshine during prohibition. Other things that caught my eye during my exploration of the building were decades of photos of local sports teams – mostly basketball, which is big in Vinton County. I also found an old business license and photo of owners from the late 1940’s. All in all the place has the look and vibe of many of the neighborhood bars in Cleveland so the Grumpy Old Man felt right at home. I continued my discussions with our new friend behind the bar I decided that I needed to order a pizza (to go – even I was beyond full at this point) because she kept talking about how good the pizza was. We also covertly watched what the other people were eating (everything looked good) and heard an older couple struggling over what pie to order. In the process of their deciding we overheard that the pie purveyor Mama Renie’s uses is well-known throughout Vinton County. We did see a few slices of pie and they did indeed look exceptional.

pizza

Eventually, we reluctantly departed Mama Renie’s. The Grumpy Old Man was excited to head home but I told him we were not done yet, we needed to back track to check out the other place that looked good on our drive into McArthur. After quelling a minor mutiny we headed to Main Eatery to pick up a beverage only for the long ride back to Columbus. As we approached the building we noticed the 20 something frumps had followed us (henceforth known as the McArthur girls) and they did declare “we are not following you guys….really”. I know better, my guess is that they had spied the two boxes of Family Donut Shoppe donuts in my Subaru and were looking for an opportunity to steal them. So I gallantly insisted that they order first (so I could keep an eye on them and my donuts). After the McArthur girls ordered their shakes and planted themselves on the patio we started chatting up the woman at the ordering window. She went on at length about all Main Eatery has to offer including over 150 types of shakes, house make corned beef, fresh sauces, etc. Very impressive for a small building that just looks like a typical, generic soft serve ice cream stand. At this point the Grumpy Old Man was beyond distraught, thinking I was going to force another meal on him, he started to make a run for the house next door which had a Safe Place logo sign on the door. Since I was full and had a full pizza and box of donuts in my car, all I ordered as a small cole slaw for the road. We bid the McArthur girls adieu (until our next meeting, they did look like stalkers) and headed back to Columbus via SR 93 and 33.

I am happy to report both the pizza from Mama Renie’s and the cole slaw from Main Eatery were really good and made a fine dinner that evening. The Grumpy Old Man survived this adventure as well and still talks about the Family Donut Shop and the McArthur Girls each week.

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100 W Main St, McArthur, OH 45651
(740) 596-3300

Mama Renie's Pizza Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Posted in Ohio, pies, pizza, Road Trip | Tagged: | Leave a Comment »

Carl’s Townhouse – Chillicothe

Posted by cmh gourmand on July 24, 2016

Carls

My previous Chillicothe visits included: seeing Tecumseh! the outdoor drama, writing about a restaurant for Ohio Magazine in 1998, visiting two donut spots and picking up the vanity at Lowe’s (the only one in inventory for the whole state). Back when I was a government drone my job often took me to the Chillicothe Veterans Administration Hospital (which has roots going back to World War I) but duty to fix problems and ethical responsibility did not allow me to take side trips to explore the area. I never really explored the city or the downtown. Considering Chillicothe was once a state capital and it is fun to say and more importantly considering all of the other places in the state I have explored on a whim, Chillicothe was overdue for an extended trip.

I’m not sure of the exact series of searches that popped Carl’s onto my laptop screen but it was probably related to doing a search related to Family Donut Shoppe. I’m glad I did pay attention to Carl’s and felt the pull to make this my reason to head south. I enjoyed driving the streets of downtown Chillicothe looking at many 1880’s era buildings and small local shops while searching for Carl’s.

I scouted out Carl’s on various review sites and found almost universal love for the place and in particular their burgers. I lured along one of my research assistants, the grumpy old man, with promises of a trip to Family Donut Shoppe afterwards as well as a recon trip to McArthur Ohio. Within moments of arrival to Carl’s the grumpy old man was also pleased. Carl’s is the kind of diner that every community needs. A simple place with straightforward food where regulars come to catch up with each other as well as the events of the day. More diners could help Make America great again.

Having a research assistant allowed me to do extensive food research. I’ll start with the hamburgers. The trademark menu item here are slider style hamburgers. The burgers were much bigger and thicker than a White Castle slider. Students of hamburger history (such as myself) would recognize this as the typical burger of the 1940’s – 1960’s. Neither too big nor too small with a lumpy instead of perfectly formed patty and when paired with fries, a very satisfying meal. The burgers are great and I highly suggest them. I ordered the double cheeseburger basket (two double cheeseburgers and fries).

Double cheeseburger basket

As a student of hot dog history as well as a staunch hot dog advocate, I ordered a chili dog to boot. I was pleased with the presentation here. The bun was lightly grilled, the hot dog was split in the middle to aid grilling as well as chili retention. The chili was definitely homemade with a distinct flavor to it. Overall it was better than average.

chili dog

The grumpy old man ordered the pork tenderloin sandwich. I was happy to see this on the menu. Many years ago I did extensive research on regional sandwiches around the USA for a book project. I spent a week traveling around the Midwest trying out the best pork tenderloin sandwiches in Iowa, Indiana and Illinois which is the heartland of this regional delicacy. I found this version true to style. It was properly breaded and sufficiently – as is the tradition – much bigger than the bun it was served on. More points for Carl’s.

tenderloin sandwich

My favorite item of the lot was also my biggest surprise. I saw apple strudel written on the specials board and ordered that out of curiosity. It turned out to be Apple Strudel Pie! Even the grumpy old man, with his girl-like appetite, found room to take a bite and found it pleasing to the palate as well.

apple strudel pie

One of the things that makes Carl’s a destination is the character of the place which comes from a long history in the community. When I work with clients, I often share with them how important sharing the history of a business is to customer loyalty. Carl’s does a great job in this category by sharing their history on the menu. As a local landmark, this is important, so I photographed that history to share with you below.

part 1

part 2

To wrap it all up. Carl’s is an iconic diner that dishes out breakfast, lunch, dinner and an extensive list of daily specials at affordable prices. If you find yourself in Chillicothe, this is well worth a visit. If you have a few extra minutes walk across the street to the antique shop and see if this trinket is still around. Even though it was $375 I was very tempted to take it home with me. If you are not familiar with the gentleman below, it is J. Wellington Wimpy. A personal hero of mine with an even greater affinity for hamburgers, he is best known for his insightful philosophy, “I’ll gladly pay you Tuesday for a hamburger today.” If you fetch Wimpy for me today, I’ll gladly pay you back with a burger on Tuesday.

IMG_4817

Carl's Town House Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

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Leones Pizza: It’s a Toss Up

Posted by cmh gourmand on July 3, 2016

Leones signJPG

Leone’s Pizza opened in March of 2016 and on its first day of business proved it was 100% better that it’s predecessor (Pizza Mart) which was best known as being a home for 20-30 stray cats. While the sign does provide a prompt, to make sure you are on the right page, Leone means Lion in Italian. Owner Ryan LaRose comes to the business with a lot of pizza kitchen experience and as a (former) member of the US Pizza team is a past award winner in dough tossing. He is such a good showman he won awards for his talents and made appearances on local and national television. So now you know why the tagline is “There’s a show in the dough.”

Excitement in Clintonville and Worthington trended high in the first week of business and has remained so because Leone’s offers what the area has been sorely lacking: New York Style Pizza. In my hierarchy of doughy needs my excitement was about the pizza rolls (rarely seen in our “fare” city), Pinwheels – which I can not describe but can attest to be superior based on a few I tried and (authentic) cannoli which is also a rare thing on our “fare city”. Another layer of excitement comes from the ability to get a “slice” during lunch.

The problem with my hierarchy is that the pinwheels and pizza rolls rarely seem to be available.

Moving into the pizza department, I have sampled quite a few pies and find that while I am a fan of the place and the staff, the pizza suffers from consistency issues.

The Stuffed Pizza is basically one pizza on top of another with toppings in between. This is available as a 16 inch pizza only (medium). The version I tried was good, but cooked several minutes too long (there was some char) and for what I received was overpriced at $28. It would have been a much better pizza at $22 minus the char.

The standard New York Style Pizza is true to technique although it trends a bit more greasy than my favorites in the Big Apple. The cheese used is exceptional. On the pepperoni side, I would prefer locally made Ezzo’s for flavor and mouth feel.

Pep

My favorite and the best executed pizza to date has been the Bianco which blends mozzarella, ricotta, garlic, olive oil and fresh Basil. This is a superior pie.

White pizza

In the non pizza area, I have only tried one sandwich….kind of. I ordered the Sausage Parmigiano. I was excited about this because they make their bread in-house and the sandwich features fresh marinara, mozzarella and sausage. When I brought the sandwich home and unwrapped it I found the bread to be very dark brown with some streaks of black scorch in it. The inside of the bun/roll still seemed fresh and a big doughy so I gave the less charred section a bite….and stopped. My tongue was fairly sure it connected directly with a salt shaker.

I called the shop and explained my experience. They apologized for not hitting their mark. They also told me my order was now on their wall of shame and that next time I came in I would have that same sandwich for free so I could experience how it was meant to be enjoyed. I was satisfied with the response and will look forward to trying it some time…..with a Bianco as a back up just in case.

There is a lot more for me to explore on the menu and I would encourage each of you to give this place a try. As a new business in an off the beaten path location, they can use some community support. For those of you that have tried Leone’s, please comment on this post to add your experiences to mine.

Leone's other sign

Leone’s Pizza
5413 Sinclair Road
614-547-7678
leonespizza.com

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

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