CMH Gourmand

Eat, Drink, Repeat: Culinary Discovery & Misadventure in Central Ohio

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Small Bite: Wendy’s Black Bean Burger; Big Picture Why Fast Food needs a Veggie Burger and why they aren’t working

Posted by cmh gourmand on March 14, 2016

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Ok, well one of many things you may not know about me, I have a strong internal calling to try out new veggie burgers at fast food places, especially when created by locally owned White Castle and Wendy’s. In my past, I had the fortune to do product sampling for both companies and tried a few veggie burgers at each over the years. (Please note previous White Castle Veggie Burger research -> HERE

So let us now cut to the chase. The new Black Bean Burger at Wendy’s looks and tastes like a Morningstar Farm Black Bean Burger I have tried many times. It includes some bean chunks and a few pieces of corn mixed in for variety. The price was $4.49. It rests on a very nice looking bun and is complimented by some fancy pepper jack cheese with some fluffy and pseudo artisan greens that had the taste and consistency of paper. Visually everything looked good. The flavor profile would best be described as bland and mostly flavorless – a good source of fiber and that is the best positive I can comment on. As served it is 560 calories and 24 fat grams. A Wendy’s single with Cheese is 550 calories and costs less.

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Now that the review is done, we can discuss the socioeconomic and philosophical points about fast food veggie burgers. I’ll add some additional background. I’m not here to attack veggies burgers. I lived off them multiple times per week throughout the first decade of this century. I used to drive to the Morningstar outlet store in Worthington to save a few dollars on patties and see what new products where out there. I had a great fast food veggie burger at an Australian Hungry Jacks (Burger King) in Melbourne in 1989. I have tried them throughout the USA and the world, mostly out of curiosity. I believe in the teachings of Michael Pollan and others (although I certainly do not practice those beliefs in this second decade of the century) that we are better off as individuals and as a society if we “Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants.” Our health and planet improves when we do so. I get it.

The key to making a fast food veggie burger work is to do what White Castle did to make the first fast food burgers work in the 1920’s – make them cheap and sell them by the sack. An expensive, fancy veggie burger does not drive consumption the way a dollar menu burger would or should. Anyone that is not a veggie person is not going to pay that price point for something they do not want. Someone that does want a veggie burger is going to pay three times as much at Northstar but get a better product with better nutrition. Give it a fast food veggie burger a basic bun, a slice of cheese and a nice pickle, plop it on the value menu then give it a generation to sink it and it will work by altering the eating habits of consumers with the balance of price and convenience. Make it (and price it) for the masses so the masses will eat it – better for business and maybe better for body mass. While this may seem far-fetched, it is good business sense. In India – where few eat beef, Burger King has been progressive and aggressive in launching a vegetarian line of sandwiches that are doing well – I’d love to try any of them here. In that subcontinent – Wendy’s offers a potato patty which by description and with a bit of research sounds better than their black bean offering here.

Posted in culinary knowledge, culinary misadventure, Food For Thought, Gastronomic Stimulus, Vegetarian Friendly | Tagged: | Leave a Comment »

Buffet Battle: Pizza

Posted by cmh gourmand on February 27, 2016

pizza buffet

The Buffet Battle Series begins with Pizza. Each Buffet is available Monday to Friday 11 am to 2 pm.

Three buffets were tested rigorously and these are the results. Ratings are on a 5 point scale. Since Pizza is the primary food at each spot, it gets an added criteria for this installment of the series.

Ange’s Pizza
Beechwold Center
4511 N High St
614 784-9000

Ange’s has a long history in Columbus dating back to 1953 and it might surprise readers in that there are 8 locations. I’m not sure if all locations offer a buffet or if there are differences in buffets at the different sites. If there are let me know.

The buffet here is fairly barebones – one or two pizzas, a cut up stromboli and a small metal bowl with a salad mix and packets of salad dressing on the side. Staff interaction is minimal. The eating area is small and cafeteria like with minimal seating and devoid of any atmosphere or character. The buffet also includes a beverage via styrofoam cup. The sign says the buffet is $7.49 after tax the total price is $8.03.


Value 3.75
Quality 3.75
Quantity 3.5
Pizza Grade 4
Kid friendly Quotient 2.75


This location is hard to find buried behind a Panera in a strip mall that is hard to enter and exit. This seems to effect the number of people who try the buffet and thus may effect the volume of items offered and subdue any staff excitement about the buffet.

Massey’s Pizza
BEECHCROFT/RT. 161
1951 E. Dublin-Granville Rd.
614 888-0022

Massey’s is also a long time player in Columbus pizza, the original owners were among a small group of early pizza pioneers in Columbus. Massey’s grew into a large empire which collapsed and has been rebuilding in the last decade. I was surprised to see there are eleven local locations as well as one in South Carolina. This is one of the oldest Massey’s locations and is smaller and more austere than most of the new sites.

This buffet included a variety of pizzas, a pasta dish (spaghetti), a mixed salad, a pasta salad, small slices of subs all served via styrofoam plate with a beverage in a styrofoam cup for 7.99. Here you pay first when entering and then eat away. Although the site is busy with carry out orders the staff do make an effort to keep the food stations filled.

The eating area is low on ambiance with several small beat up tables and chairs. It is also noisy from a TV and the acoustics of an old building. My favorite items were the small sections of bite size cut subs, perfectly cooked with great flavor, I went back more often for these than the pizza.


Value 4.25
Quality 4.25
Quantity 4.5
Pizza Grade 4.5
Kid friendly Quotient 2.5


Iacono’s Pizza and Restaurant
4452 Kenny Rd Columbus
614 451-0234

While Massey’s tag line is the Cadillac of pizzas, Iacono’s has earned that moniker for their buffet. Two years ago it was $8.75, until 6 weeks ago it was $9.75 now that we are firmly in 2016 it is now $10.75. That price may scare off some but the value is hard to beat. The buffet features a full salad bar including a variety of house made dressings, cottage cheese, pudding, macaroni salad, potato salad and bacon bits, home made soup, two to three full pizzas which are typically served in half styles so a total of 6 varieties are usually available. The staff often ask what type of pizza you like and typically you will see that as a new selection while you are eating. A dessert pizza (a mix of apples and cinnamon). A beverage is included and staff are aggressive in making sure your cup is not half empty. The space is large with many tables and some half booth / table seating along one wall. There are several high chairs available and if you need to find a place far from the madding crowd, you can find it. The in house music is not overly loud and is typically features the best of the 1970’s.


Value 4
Quality 4.75
Quantity 5
Pizza Grade 4.75
Kid friendly Quotient 5


While this buffet is the most expensive, you definitely get what you pay for and this the whole is as great as the sum of the parts….and the pizza.

And thus ends the first Buffet Battle.

Posted in Best Pizza in Columbus, Buffet Battle, pizza | Tagged: | Leave a Comment »

Buffet Battle: The Series

Posted by cmh gourmand on February 14, 2016

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It is easy to malign and maybe have some true contempt for the concept of the buffet. The buffet is a symbol of American excess and gluttony. Often it is a guarantee for both poor quality food and ingredients. It is easy to see a buffet sign and keep on driving by.

However for the right food with the right attitude a buffet can easily exceed expectations while offering good food and value. The best example of a great buffet (which is long gone) is the Lost Planet Pizza and Pasta lunch buffet (circa 2000), most weekdays one could walk in for all you could eat pastas and pizzas (at least three of each). The food was fresh and I was more than happy to flex my work schedule so I could enjoy it at least once a month. A place (still open) that really does a great job with the buffet concept is the Mon Ami Restaurant and Winery in Port Clinton Ohio. People are known to drive hours for the experience. I’ve tried it and thought is was a steal for the price – especially for fresh seafood and meat dishes. So we know it can be done well.

The concept of a buffet is not that far removed from Chipotle, Piada, Fusian and etc., which are essentially assembling food to order. What many people don’t recognize is often the concept of buffet at many restaurants is only a matter of where you food is served – in front of you or in the same containers behind the doors of the kitchen. In the case of Ethic foods, a buffet can be a wonderful first contact with a new culture in a setting that allows a variety of foods to assist with the beginning of a culinary journey.

An additional bonus that buffets offer, they can be child care friendly. Now with the addition of CMH Griffin to may days I am often looking for a place where I can take a car seat filled with an energetic baby boy and sit down for a decent lunch that is fast, filling and not expensive but also situated so I have a good spot for him and I can make a quick exit if he has a melt down.

Hence the Buffet Battle Series. I have been scouting Columbus for six months trying to find places that might be series worthy and now that I have a critical mass of material, let the series begin!

These are the criteria, ranked on a 5 point scale.

Quantity
Quality
Value
Ambiance / Amenities
Kid Friendly Quotient

Having surveyed the offerings of our fair city the first three battles will be: Pizza, Indian and Chinese food. The Pizza Buffet Battle post is coming soon. If you have contestants for Indian, Chinese or another buffet category, let me know.

Posted in Buffet Battle, culinary misadventure | Tagged: | 8 Comments »

Two New(er) Food Trucks to fight the Winter Blahs

Posted by cmh gourmand on January 20, 2016

Are you starting to feel a little cabin fever? Or in need a change of pace, space or flavor but can’t afford the airfare? Well these two newer food trucks my fix what is ailing you.

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Facebook:alohastreatery
Twitter:alohastreatery
Phone: (614) 943-3523

Aloha Streatery hit the streets of Columbus in the fall of 2015 bringing some welcome menu diversity to the mobile food scene. What many do not know is Hawaii was a mecca for food trucks before most of the mainland showcasing diverse menus in the islands of Aloha for decades. Aloha Streatery brings authentic flavors via a menu that hits the spot that is refreshingly simple and with price points that are refreshing.

Owner Sara Siv leads with a menu that is slider based and features the full on flavors of Hawaiian Street Food. The clam like home-made lotus buns (light, fluffy but a very firm base to pile on toppings) have just a trace of sweetness to them. Typical toppings include Hawaiian mainstays such as BBQ Chicken, grilled pineapple, Spam(!), pork belly or homemade tofu. (FYI: Hawaii is the largest per capita consumer of Spam in the world). Depending on the sandwich pour or pile on house made peanut sauce, sriracha mayo, house make pickled veggies, and add in an optional fried egg and you might you feel yourself transported to Maui.

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Other menu items include a spin on a Hawaiian icon Loco (No) Moco – sweet chicken with steamed jasmine rice, grilled pineapple, cilantro mayo and a dash of freshly chopped cilantro. Tater Tots and Fries with an island twist round out the main menu. Specials are well worth your time and attention as well examples include wraps and Banh Mi.

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Two things I really like about Aloha which shows this newcomer is savvy enough to go the distance. First price points – many menu items are under $4 which is appealing to first time visitors and regulars who want to explore the menu in-depth. The second inspired decision is having a menu ordering system that allows customers to text in their order without having to lose their seat or brave the elements.

Aloha.

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Facebook:HornOKPlsFood
Twitter:hornokplsfood
(614) 446 4613

I have been waiting for mobile Indian food for a long time. Horn OK Please made a debut in the fall of 2015 and five visits to date they have never disappointed me. The menu focuses mostly on traditional Indian dishes but with a very practical twist. Most items offer a small (on a stick or in a boat) or large portion so those new to Indian food or mobile food or both can dip their ties in ethnic food waters with small monetary risk or create their own mini buffet by ordering several small portions. My favorite dish to date is Reshmi Chicken in wrap form: chicken marinated in almonds, ginger, garlic and cilantro chutney with some pickled onions on the side and of course the optional fried eggs
added.

Food

One fusion food that is a crowd pleaser is the Horn OK spin on Tater Tots:topped with chickpeas, tamarind, yogurt sauce and cilantro chutney!

You might be wondering about the name – well and explanation is included in the truck decor – see below.

Horn Ok Please

And the owners always have a book out for display which showcases many of the classic and colorful rigs of the Indian Highway (so you know what is up with the Horn and the color scheme).

Book

The menu is small but has enough depth not to get bored and you can usually count of a special of the day. Another interesting connection, the owners received some help in their build out from Johnny Oak – a long time Columbus BBQ purveyor and occasional mobile fooder.

Keep an eye out for Horn OK Please at local breweries and the usual lunch spots.

menu

Posted in Mobile Food | Tagged: , | Leave a Comment »

Hounddogs Hallowed Delivery Icon(s)

Posted by cmh gourmand on January 18, 2016

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4 cars, 3 rockets and 2 dogs make one Iconic Columbus Car
(The story of Houndogs delivery machine)

Chances are even if you have never tried Hounddogs Pizza, you have wondered about the iconic car that delivers “pizza for the people”. In the beginning, or 1997 in this case, this dog star was born as non-traditional marketing. The inspiration came late one night. Owner Jeff Stewart had a vision of a Hounddog strapped to a rocket that he could mount to a classic car he recently acquired. Stewart started the project the next morning.

The original dog was make by a local artist, Mike Foley. Stewart called CCAD to find a sculptor and was eventually referred to a former student. When asked about his credentials, Foley replied “come over to my house on Indianola to see my work.” Stewart found a house filled with sculptures of all sizes and shapes and knew he found the right person to craft his canine.

The first night out was quite memorable, the rocket was sheared off of the dog when it caught on a low hanging parking garage roof. Since then, things have really taken off for the car and the pizza joint.

There have been three rockets over the years. The second was remounted on the original Hounddog and then attached (in order) to: 1971 Cadillac Coupe de Ville (1997 to 2001), 1988 VW Golf (2002-2003), 1985 Cadillac Fleetwood Broughham Limo (2003 – 2013). After a hiatus, a new dog with a new rocket was mounted on a 1962 Cadillac Fleetwood in the summer of 2015. The “new” car is red like the original with diamondback plate mounted on the roof as a base for a hallowed hounddog creating an unforgettable delivery vehicle.

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Bonus stuff below:

It Takes a Village to Craft a Car

Jeff Stewart is not one to toot his own turn, for anything Hounddogs, he is quick to state all accomplishments are a team effort. His team for the mobile delivery service encompasses twenty years of hands on experience. One of his drivers has over a decade of service under his belt. Andy, at Campus Auto has served has ER and surgeon to keep Hounddogs classic cars clunking along since the original rolled onto his lot nearly a of score years ago.

Quick Facts
The first rocket took 15 hours to fabricate. The second took off in just a few hours.

Stewart had a basset hound in college, which was part of the inspiration for the logo and car art, but because of the long hours he put in for the pizza shop, he had to give him up to a friend.

All cars except the Golf have been called into service to run family and friends to the airport, creating a memorable start to many vacations.

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Posted in culinary knowledge, Food For Thought, pizza | Tagged: | 1 Comment »

El Ranchito and My Southside Adventure

Posted by cmh gourmand on November 26, 2015

A friend of mine started raving about a Mexican Restaurant over the past summer. Since the world of Taco Trucks and authentic Mexican cuisine are in my domain and because I sustained a 7 month internment in Grove City he assumed I was aware of all south side establishments of this ilk. The more he talked about it throughout the summer the more I became intrigued. The downside, this friend does not pay much attention to restaurant details (well let me be honest, most people do not to the level I do – because they are, well, normal) so he had no name and a vague sense of location. Fortunately, I have experience going off on adventures with little to no information and perhaps the possibility of danger such was the case for my south side adventure.

If the south side was to have a mascot, it would the character Pig Pen from Peanuts. No matter where you go – there seems to be a little cloud of dust floating around nearby. The area is a little rough around the edges but in my eye that only adds character. However, neither aspect of the area helps when wandering around looking for a Mexican Restaurant. But my persistence paid off eventually and near the intersection of Brown Road and Hopkins Avenue I found El Ranchito.

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The small lot was full and the place had rustic look that usually is a sign of potential good food but while swinging around the rear to look for a parking space I found a surefire sign that this place would be at least well above average……a little bit of culinary history.

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It seems the original Taco Nazo food truck has been in storage here for over a year and the owners know Quicho, the owner very well. While they have no plans of running a food truck, they do offer a taco truck style menu and do quite well with it.

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The kitchen is small, not much bigger than a food truck and the menu is the same size. This spot just does the basics but they do them well. If you are looking for a taco truck experience but you want to sit at a table to wait and dine this is the place you have been looking for.

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So, that was not much of an adventure, just a lot of driving, however if you are going to head to the south side you might as well make a day of it, so I should note that just next door to El Ranchito is D & E Z O’s Pizza. This place gets high marks from many in the area and when I used to offer the Pizza Grand Prix we could always plan on someone making the trek to Old North Columbus to share D & E Z O’s with the masses. So I’s suggest ordering a pizza while you eat a taco then taking the pizza home for later.

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But wait there is more. I drove by a sketchy bar call Bullshotz. I had a compulsion to check the place out. Good sense would have caused me to drive on but something in my DNA fueled by more than a few missions to locate my father in bars like this, drove me back to the parking lot to check this place out. Parking in the lot, I found a nice watch lying in the mud, which gave me an excuse to walk in….and have the ability to walk right out….so I proceeded in spite of a bit of fear. Please note, if you go to Bullshotz there is a one foot drop from the door to the floor. My guess is this is a cheap security system or litmus test however I have good balance and no one was looking as I nearlt toppled to the floor so I still had the chance to mix in the with crowd. It took about ten seconds to determine that I could never blend in at a spot like this. I did turn the watch into the bartender who looked like a fairly attractive professional ultimate fighter just starting retirement. I also discovered that the place features a regular lunch and dinner menu, that looked OK. Now you are prepared for your own South side adventure. Good luck!

Posted in culinary misadventure, restaurants | Tagged: | 2 Comments »

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.

Posted in food | 1 Comment »

What’s Up at White Castle: Turkey, Breakfast and Whatnot

Posted by cmh gourmand on November 13, 2015

As some readers are aware, I’ve written about White Castle before. I have a compulsion to try new products when they release them to the masses. I don’t love White Castle but I have always respected the company and their institutional commitment to innovate.

First for discussion, Turkey Sliders….just in time for the holidays.

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I tried the Turkey Dinner Slider: square (Butterball) Turkey patty, a big squirt of cranberry sauce and in my case a giant malformed sweet potato waffle fry. Verdict, one was enough. If you want to save some money I would suggest ordering the Cranberry Turkey Slider for 40 cents less and investing that savings in a full order of Sweet Potato Waffle fries. I’m glad I tried this concoction, don’t get me wrong but this is a novelty item but a destination sandwich.

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Second for discussion, Breakfast 24/7.

White Castle beat McDonald’s to the punch in making breakfast an all day affair. This pleased me immensely because as many readers know, breakfast is my fourth favorite meal. Other than anything at Starliner Dinner, anything served at Explorer’s Club and home fries with sausage gravy at Nancy’s, there is only one other breakfast item that I ever crave – the White Castle Breakfast Sandwich. I order the version on the bun (not the toast option) with egg, sausage and cheese. Doing very thorough analysis, this is the best value of any White Castle menu item. And since I am typically not near a White Castle at traditional breakfast times, being able to get this sandwich anytime has guaranteed a significant higher volume of consumption on my part. Good job White Castle.

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Third for discussion, smart ingredient integration that gives the customer the sense of an upgrade.

White Castle takes a clear plastic cup, fills it with Sprite and adds a dash of cranberry juice and markets it as a Cranberry Spritzer. Genius way to up sell a product using what they already have in-house.

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Stay tuned for my next White Castle adventure….whenever a new product rolls or slides out.

Posted in culinary knowledge, Food For Thought, sandwiches | Tagged: , , | Leave a Comment »

R.I.P. Rigsby’s Kitchen / Cuisine Volatile

Posted by cmh gourmand on November 9, 2015

Rigsby’s Kitchen or Rigsby’s Cuisine Volatile if you have been around town a while, closed it’s doors this past weekend. It had a good run lasting from February 1986 to November 2015 in the same location and with the same owner which is impressive in the restaurant game. And when the doors closed the food was still good, the reputation still in high regard and the experience still special. Rigsby’s did not die out due to a loss of food quality or falling behind the times. While many reasons have been speculated on, a part of the demise is due to the success of the restaurant and the area it helped grow around it. Rigsby’s was a pioneer in the Short North in an age when the neighborhood still had shades of a red light district and the shadow of the Short North Posse in its aura. In an era before the Convention Center and downtown living, setting up business on the Short North was a risk. Owner Kent Rigsby took that leap of faith and in the process helped draw new people and new development to the Short North.

I won’t go on about meals I’ve had or for some of you readers meals you may not have had a chance to enjoy. I only wrote about Rigsby’s once – and I wish I had done so more. For me, Rigsby’s was a favorite place to eat during an OSU home game when I could plan on having the spot to myself.

Instead of food I’ll mention a few things that Kent Rigsby contributed to the Columbus dining scene during the lifetime of the restaurant, so in no particular order: he helped bring the Mona Lisa mural to the Short North, A James Beard Award Nomination in 2012, K2U, Eleni-Christina Bakery (named after his daughter), The Flatiron, Tasi Cafe, serving on the board of Dine originals, many top 10 of Columbus Dining awards and Ray’s Living Room (an art gallery).

Rigsby has never been one to toot his own horn or maintain a status quo for too long so I am sure the end of Rigsby’s means something creative and/or culinary somewhere down the line from Kent Rigsby.

If you care to share your own memories or comments on Rigsby’s, I’d love to hear them – comment away.

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

Slice of Clintonville: A Serving of Community

Posted by cmh gourmand on November 5, 2015

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Tonight I served as a judge for the second annual Slice of Clintonville, an evening of all you can eat pizzas from the greater Clintonville area. This was the first year for judging so my honorable colleagues and I had the daunting task of tasting and evaluating three to seven types of pizza from each of the following: Ange’s, Bella Pizza, Donatos, Hounddogs, Lucky’s, Mama Mimi’s, Mikey’s Late Night Slice, Pizza House, Sbarro (open 4 days just down the street), Smiths Deli, Villa Nova and Z Pizza. If you are now full from reading that imagine how I feel right now.

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We opted to try to tame that overwhelming variety by getting creative with our criteria. We tasted the standard Pepperoni pie from each place then compared our top three choices among the three judges to determine best in show. Then each of us picked our favorite specialty pizza for an honorable mention. The end result: Pizza House was our winner. Late Night Slice, Hounddogs and Mana Mimi’s got Honorable Mention and Villa Nova received the diversity award for their Taco Pizza. The People’s Choice award went to Mama Mimi’s. It was a good showing by all.

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There are many events in Columbus – typically too many to choose from. Some are too big, some are too small, a few too frequent and a very small number are just right. This is a true community event, at least for me. I was able to judge with Nick from Breakfast with Nick and spend some time with his family. I was able to sample pizza and catch up with friends from Late Night Slice and Hounddogs that I work with on the Pitchers and Pizza Tour and see other that I have known for years serve pizza from their shops and see neighbors I have known, in some cases all my life, enjoy the fruits for these local pizza slingers. And finally a few Clintonville charities were able to show off what they do. It is hard to create an event that truly represents the community but Slice of Clintonville is just that a slice of what the community has to offer. See you next year.

Posted in Clintonville, pizza | Tagged: | 2 Comments »

 
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