10 December 2014

Momocho Mod Mex


Momocho Mod Mex puts the modern spin on Mexican cuisine in the heart of Ohio City. Chef-owner Eric Williams, a two-time James Beard nominee, operates a restaurant that's fun, festive and flavorful.

The menu is chock full of vegetarian dishes, including the ever-popular flavors of guacamole. There is an extensive gluten-free menu. The chef whips up guacamole with traditional ingredients, and offers variations loaded with fresh ingredients that put a spin on the classic dip. Current options include goat cheese and roasted poblano guacamole, and a jicama, pineapple, habanero and mint guacamole.

The decor is fun. The darkly lit venue is covered in black and white photos of luchadors and unnamed figures in a style akin to the Day of the Dead, as well as some amazing looking low-rider bicycles over the kitchen and the entrance.

Servers did a good job handling a large party. There were minor issues with pacing and handling explicit instructions from diners when business picked up. Service was pretty good if short of outstanding.

The taquitos at Momocho are nothing like the ones endlessly spinning under the hot lamp at your local gas station, or buried in the back of your college fridge. Fillings included roasted beets, spinach, spicy peanuts and queso fresco, or roasted butternut squash, goat cheese and salted pepitas, both served with a chunky pico de gallo. The ingredients change with the seasons.

The bar offers excellent margaritas in a different flavors and formulations with an excellent menu of tequila and mezcal. Beers are mostly Mexican with a domestic beer made in a Latin American pilsner style.



Momocho Mod Mex on Urbanspoon

26 November 2014

West Side Market


The West Side Market is the premiere market in Cleveland. Located in the Ohio City neighborhood, the 174-year-old market is a one-stop shop for culinary goods across the international spectrum.

Whether you are stocking your pantry or grabbing lunch, half of the adventure is exploring the offerings of the market's many vendors. If you can dream it, you can probably find it in the West Side Market.

The adventures in parking at the West Side Market share much in common with the North Market in Columbus. The parking lot of the West Side Market is a logjam at lunch and on weekends. It is usually easier to park in the neighborhood and walk to the market than it is to battle for a space in the poorly designed lot.

The open-air produce market is a visual illustration of capitalism in action with vendors shouting prices to customers, trying to outsell other vendors. 

International stalls represent the cuisines of Germany, Poland, Italy, France, Greece, the Mediterranean, China, Japan, Cambodia, Mexico and more. There is some overlap in the vendors, but each offers at least a few different things that set it apart from other vendors.

It is almost impossible to choose a place to eat dessert - or rather, to settle on only one. If you don't like what you see, keep walking and you'll find something. Cakes, pies, cookies and more should satisfy your sweet tooth.

The Ohio City location makes for quite a culinary tour destination. The West Side Market offers tours. The Great Lakes Brewery and Brew Pub are a short walk from the market, and Nano Brew is too. Some of Cleveland's top restaurants are also located in the neighborhood. It's easy to plan an afternoon and evening enjoying the foodie fun in Ohio City, starting with the West Side Market. 


15 November 2014

Noodlecat


Jonathon Sawyer is one of the names keeping Cleveland on the culinary radar. His restaurants receive accolades from publications like Bon Appetit and Food & Wine magazine, and the chef has made appearances on Iron Chef on The Food Network. Noodlecat is the fusion ramen project from Team Sawyer. Since the restaurant is looking into opening a location in central Ohio, I decided to check out the West Side Market location and get a sneak preview while in Cleveland.

While ramen shops often offer little in the way of choices for meatless diners, Noodlecat has plenty of options for vegetarians and vegans. The menu is coded to mark vegetarian dishes. There are vegetarian ramen bowls, salads and meatless bao sandwiches. Vegan items had to be requested at the counter, but could be accommodated. The menu is a Yankee take on traditional Japanese noodle houses with a focus on local ingredients.

The smoked tomato coconut curry udon possessed notes that were both Japanese and Thai. The kombu broth suspended udon noodles, poached tofu, bamboo, scallions, potatoes and roasted sesame seeds. The understated base was mildly spicy, and the richness was a perfect vehicle for the wheat noodles and the crunchy veggies.

The veggie bao was stuffed with sprouts, mushrooms, cucumber, carrots, radishes and red onions. The soft roll had a nice coating of a sweet hoisin-like sauce. 

The sit-down restaurant has an expanded menu with more choices than the West Side Market stall. Both locations are worth checking out. I plan on frequenting the Columbus Noodlecat if and when it opens.



Noodlecat on Urbanspoon

08 November 2014

Cambridge Tea House


*Cambridge Tea House is an adorable spot to grab a spot of tea in Marble Cliff, alongside all the accompaniments that go well with the classic beverage of China/India/the U.K. The menu is replete with teas of all types, as well as soups, salads, sandwiches and baked goods.

As one would expect at a tea house, the age demographic skews on the old side. Service was relaxed and a little uneven due to a busy lunch crowd.

The decor is tastefully restrained. The colors, table cloths and curtains call back to yesterday. The exposed brick adds a nice touch to the interior.

The tomato bisque lived under a thin layer of Parmesan shavings. The flavor was bright with layers of basil and time showing through.

The veggie sandwich was served on a thinly sliced, eggy white bread. The bread was spread with lemon hummus, and then stacked with sliced carrots, cucumbers, sprouts, cucumbers and avocados. The variety of textures work well together, and fresh vegetables marry well with the citrus in the hummus.

The scones come in many flavors, and they look like the perfect accompaniment to a pot of tea. 



Cambridge Tea House on Urbanspoon

29 October 2014

Arepazo Latin Grill



Arepazo Latin Grill brings all of the things you love about the Downtown location of Columbus' global Latin favorite, and then they add tapas and a full bar. Carlos Gutierrez brings the same formula working at his Gahanna operation.

The space is open and inviting. It is much larger than the Downtown restaurant. There are plenty of options for vegetarians.

Like the other two locations, every dish tastes delicious smothered in the famous cilantro sauce. Dishes originate in Latin American countries in North and South America.

Vegetarians can order meatless arepas, patacons (a stuffed fried plantain boat), burritos, tostadas and three tapas for lunch. Dinner has a wider selection of meatless tapas options.

The bean and cheese empanada might be the best way to spend $3.75 eating in Columbus. The fried corn pocket is crammed full of black beans and white cheese until it's about the size of a small Nerf football. The appetizer is almost a lunch portion by itself.

A few of the vegetarian tapas involve perfect tostones, or fried plantain chips. Arepazo's tostones have a crispy exterior, but are thick enough to also display some of the fruit's softer textures. They are great served with a garlic aioli, and even better topped with roasted red peppers, parsley and slivers of Manchego.

Servers were able to answer questions about vegetarian items on the menu, and served multiple meals quickly enough to keep lunch crowds moving.



Arepazo Tapas Bar Grille on Urbanspoon

21 October 2014

Westies Gastropub



Westies Gastropub is a sleek spot on the south side of the Brewery District. It's a great place to catch a game with large high-def TVs lining the walls, and the kitchen turns out tasty comfort food classics that pair well with craft beer and cocktails.

Its location is a bit south of some people's normal Columbus travel radius. Hopefully they ignore the address, because plenty of great restaurants are found outside of the more high profile neighborhoods.

The restaurant focuses on local, organic ingredients. The bar has a great selection of local brews.

The menu has vegetarian starters, salads, sandwiches and pizzas. Some items, such as the potato and cheddar pierogi, can be prepared in a vegetarian manner by request. 

The grilled portabella mushroom, served on a grilled brioche bun, is prepared like a veggie burger. It is topped with pepperjack cheese, lettuce, tomato and chipotle mayo. The smoke flavors were nice, though the texture was slightly gummy.

Other vegetarian entrees include the grilled cheese and tomato sandwich and the vegetarian delight, which is grilled tofu with carrots, edamame, onions, brussel sprouts, slaw and arugula with a quinoa side salad. 



Westies Gastropub on Urbanspoon

17 October 2014

The Carvery


The Carvery is an Italian sandwich stop in Downtown Columbus that is a cut above the rest of the competition. A meal can be eaten quickly here, but the slow-food roots show in everything that comes out of the open kitchen.

There is one regular vegetarian sandwich on the menu, as well as a few meatless side dishes. Additional vegetarian sandwich make irregular appearances as specials.

The vegetarian sandwich, served on ciabatta, changes along with the seasonal produce. A recent visit saw the sandwich piled with beets, onions, mushrooms and goat cheese.

The pesto pasta salad was a nice side. Fresh basil and garlic take turns in the driver's seat, anchored by al dente bow tie pasta.

Counter staff capably answered all questions about dietary restrictions. Service is quick, and it can be even faster with call-ahead ordering.

In addition to fabulous bread, The Carvery also produces other delicious baked goods, many for dessert. Methods of satisfying your sweet tooth include giant chocolate chip cookies, butterscotch-chocolate brownies, chocolate chip cookie pie and shortbread cookies.



The Carvery Sandwich Craft on Urbanspoon

06 October 2014

Tatoheads Public House


Tatohead's Public House in Merion Village is the brick-and-mortar incarnation of the Tatohead's food truck. The menu is expanded but it still centers around potatoes and things mostly built on spuds.

The restaurant is located in the space that formerly housed Hal & Al's, a popular South Side vegan dive bar. A great deal of discussion was generated about how much of the new Tatohead's kitchen would continue to produce vegan items. While the menu is no longer exclusively vegan, there are vegan and vegetarian choices on the menu, and the staff accommodates most dietary restrictions.

The bar still focuses on craft beer. There are a few less beer taps than before, and a limited selection of bottles. Buckeye State breweries are well represented.

Some items have transitioned from Hal & Al's to the Tatohead's Public House menu. The vegan sauerkraut balls were on both menus, and the fried guacamole calls back to the fried avocados from the Hal's menu.

The standout appetizer, however, were the fried cheese curds. Made with lightly breaded Laurel Valley Creamery cheese curds served with horseradish ranch, these can be eaten like popcorn - very fatty popcorn. Eat a few order and get your daily allowance of cholesterol in one sitting.

The food truck choices of fries or tots in your choice of seasoning and sauce is available in a modified form in the restaurant. In addition, Sophie's pierogi can be piled with a variety of toppings. Vegetarian options include Mediterranean, with hummus, tzatziki, Sriracha, cilantro and tomato, and chili cheese, which can be made vegan with Daiya cheese.

There is also a veggie and vegan burger, served with fries. It can be customized with brioche or pretzel buns and choice of cheese, including vegan cheese.

The menu seems to undergo small changes at an irregular basis. It is still a work in progress.

The interior transition has been slow and steady. Fast food booths were tight and uncomfortable, with the bar high-tops and seats being far more agreeable. There are still a few couches. The latest decor updates included rock music themes with a potato references.

Prices are reasonable. There is real money saving potential that could be amplified by  happy hour drinks.



Tatohead's Public House on Urbanspoon

26 September 2014

Brazenhead

Brazenhead is an Irish pub with an American menu of comfort food classics. Burgers, sandwiches, fried appetizers, soups and salads are paired with large-production craft beers and a few local taps.

The atmosphere is typical of an Irish American establishment. The bar is busy at happy hour. Bands play inside the bar area as well as on the patio some evenings.

There are multiple choices for vegetarian starters. Options include warm soft pretzel sticks, hummus, Greek fries, house-made potato chips and chili glazed cheese balls. The onion rings and pickles are breaded with Guinness, which contains isinglass, a fish gelatin. This is your vegetarian warning.

The pretzels are an addictive snack that can be eaten by the sackful. Though sometimes a little greasy, the piping hot starter tastes better with mustard and best with beer cheese dip.

The chips, which come standard with entrees as well as alone as an appetizer, are golden brown and delicate yet crispy. The subtle garlic dip adds creaminess and layers of flavor.

The vegan burger is a deconstructed take on the traditional veggie patty, made from eggplant, mushrooms, grains and onions. It is served on a brioche bun, topped with lettuce, tomato, sprouts, sliced avocado, balsamic vinegar and mustard.

The grilled cheese is slathered in Cabot cheddar pimento cheese and walnut pesto, with sprouts and pears making up the difference. The sandwich is served on nine grain bread.



Brazenhead Irish Pub on Urbanspoon

16 September 2014

India Oak

India Oak Grill is hidden on Oakland Park Avenue. The unassuming neighborhood pub makes delicious grilled submarine sandwiches declared, "The best in Clintonville."

For more than 40 years, India Oak has been located in the neighborhood in some form. It was originally called Hollies and found in the Huntington Bank spot on Indianola, Its current building used to be a car wash, and the take-out window is a relic from those days - it is not a drive-through.

The subs are made on toasted Auddino's sesame seed buns. They have a cheese sub and a veggie burger in addition to starters like the hummus platter.

The Cheesy Veggie Sub is topped with lettuce, tomato, onions, banana peppers, melted provolone and American cheese. The simple ingredients are simply perfect. It's a steal at $6.25.

The bar has a small selection of beer and liquor with some pretty reasonable happy hour rates. During happy hour, a beer and a sandwich cost about $10 or so, tip included. 



India-Oak Grill on Urbanspoon