CMH Gourmand – Eating in Columbus & Ohio

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Posts Tagged ‘Lisska Bar and Grill’

Back to Lisska for Breakfast with Nick & Ginger & the Gang!

Posted by cmh gourmand on September 7, 2017

Just over two years ago I made my first trip to -> Lisska Bar & Grill on the east side. I recently received this comment on my blog from Ginger:

Our family comes every Thursday morning for breakfast and enjoys the BEST BREAKFAST IN TOWN! Our late parents enjoyed Lisska’s when they were “courting” in the 30s! It is an AWESOME “gathering place” – join us any Thursday morning for a great time about 9:30 a.m.

So how could I refuse an offer like that? As long time readers know, breakfast is not my bag as it is my fourth favorite meal, so I decided to have a consultant join me -> Breakfast with Nick. We checked our schedules for a Thursday that could work and then I contacted Ginger to let her know when we would be joining her.

This “breakfast club” of sorts started almost five years ago when one of Ginger’s brothers passed away. At that time, the three surviving siblings decided they need to ensure they spent regular time together so it was decided every Thursday they would have breakfast somewhere in the city. Lisska was there second Thursday stop and they have not found reason to change-up the venue since they rediscovered the place.

There are ten consistent regulars in this group with an ever-changing and eternally growing cast of special guests joining together at Lisska. On my visit, there were at least twenty affiliated members observing the passing of another in their cohort over the summer. Over time, certain traditions have developed in this cadre. They always say a prayer together before they start a meal. They rarely miss a Thursday unless an out of town visit family or a holiday gets in the way of one or more of the group, although Thanksgiving is no barrier to breakfast for this collective of breakfasters. Special bonus sessions recognize important life events such as birthdays and St. Patrick’s Day. Over time, Ginger’s go to breakfast was named in her honor. I’d call it a “Jack Benny Special” but at Lisska, it is known as The Ginger: half orders of Polish Sausage, toast (no butter), hash browns and one egg over easy (see below – as you can see, my camera has not had it’s coffee yet).

As I was introduced to countless breakfast guests I was quickly indoctrinated into this tribe. I learned what HEC, BEC and SEC stood for on the menu: Ham, Egg & Cheese, Bacon, Egg & Cheese and Sausage Egg & Cheese. When I learned that the Polish sausage came from Kowalski’s in Detroit, my order was simple, one SEC on wheat.

While I waited for my order, munching on a sample of homemade coffee cake (exceptionally good), I learned the stories of most of the members of this group while Ginger and I connected on her many stories of growing up in Clintonville in the 1940’s and 1950’s as well as her careers in the insurance industry, law offices, an employee benefit company and countless community causes over the years. She connected the dots on how these people intertwined with each other and how many of them are connected to others I have come to know over time. Listening to the background chatter amongst this group I do not think one Columbus area Catholic school or church missed at least one mention as updates were made on the multitude of charities and community organizations this group invests their time and hearts into.

As I indicated before, breakfast is not my thing. I would be hard pressed not to find a dessert I would not love, a price that did not seem like a steal or a story that ran on too long sitting on a stool here. My meal was fabulous but that was a side-line/dish to the company I was keeping. Sometimes a eatery creates a community among regulars or on occasion a community decides to make a place their own. Either of these phenomenons are rare occurences in this era. You can’t create the “glue” that creates a community like this on social media, in a corporate establishment or a new restaurant, even if independent, that has a business plan, extensive branding and lacks a less than a decade of grease on the grill. It takes a long time for a place to create a character for itself or to find a soul in its bricks and mortar and even then, you need to right mix of people on both sides of the counter to make the whole greater than the sum parts on the menu. This is an old school breakfast club that we could stand to have much more of today, even if other meals are involved.

I started writing about food because I was interested in the history and stories of the people behind the counter and because by talking about food and not myself, it was easier for me to connect with people. So this was a great opportunity to reconnect with writing with connecting with a new community. And I got to hang out with Nick for a while, something I have not done in almost a year. Thanks for the opportunity Ginger and thanks for creating a community space (by fate not intention) Lisska.

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Posted in breakfast, culinary misadventure | Tagged: | 3 Comments »

Lisska Bar and Grill: Crossed off My Bucket List

Posted by cmh gourmand on July 10, 2015

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For the last two years, on my way to Actual Brewing and over the last year on my way to pick up tools at the tool library (worst name ever, Rebuilding Together Central Ohio) I have passed by a bar that looks lost out of time. Lisska Bar and Grill probably looked ancient when it was a day old. From the outside, it looks like a neighborhood joint one might find in the hills of Pittsburgh or the east side of Cleveland. It is old and battered now, like the neighborhood it resides in.

In my mind, I envisioned the inside to look like the Nick’s bar (a bizarro Martini’s, from the alternate universe of a world without George Bailey) of It’s a Wonderful Life, with people slumped over tables with empty shot glasses and empty eyes. In spite of that vision, I still had a nagging interest in the place. In June, Lenny Kolada from Smokehouse Brewing shared that he spent part of his birthday at Lisska enjoying a $3 burger with his wife Joan. That sealed the deal for me. The place had food as well so I had to check it out.

I finally made it. It was what I expected and maybe more than I expected. It is definitely a beat up place. It features a large area to sell lottery tickets. Next to that is an old, old bar with a lot of booze piled on the back shelves. The bottles do not look like they move much but the frosty cans of Bud Light look like they do not linger long in the cooler. Sliding down that sight line, is an old grill area that efficiently churns out what you see below.

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Intermixed among these areas are some bits and pieces of furniture one might expect to see at a third hand flea market. There are some Polish themed jokes, a pencil sketch of an ancestor or grandfather of the proprietors in a 19th century Austrian uniform showcasing a sharpshooters medal and a long, narrow photo of an amateur football team from 1933. The place has a lot of character. The characters that come through the door come for the wisecracks as an entrée and the food as a side. The customers are mostly long in the tooth and have probably been coming here since it opened decades ago. Listening to the banter going back and forth from the counter is well worth an investment of time to walk through the door and linger a while. And the food, is not bad and reasonably priced. The standouts seem to be the homemade desserts (pies, spice cake and cookies were spotted) as wells as soups and chili.

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Posted in bar, culinary misadventure | Tagged: , , | 6 Comments »