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

11 September 2014

Vegetarian in Portland




There are cities where it is difficult to be a vegetarian. Portland, Oregon is not one of those cities. 

In many places, restaurants typically offer a few choices for vegetarian diners. There are a few restaurants that offer exclusively meatless or majority meatless menus. In Portland, most restaurants offer vegetarian and vegan diners an array of options, and exclusively vegetarian spots seem to be on just about every block.

There are options in different settings and price points, and there is something for just about everybody.

The destination dining options in Portland seem a little more affordable since there is no sales tax charged in the state of Oregon. It is an extra incentive to justify eating out at the highest rated spots - or any restaurant, really.


Some of the best high-end spots for vegetarians in Portland include:

- Ava Gene's: Portland's premiere Italian spot features a menu rooted in the Roman tradition with a focus on the local bounty of ingredients. The place is popular in Stumptown, but the national media have also caught on: Ava Gene's was named the No. 5 new restaurant of 2013 by Bon Appetit.

- Andina: The Peruvian tapas restaurant offers an excellent selection of authentic vegan and vegetarian dishes in the Pearl District. 


- The Veritable Quandary: This Downtown spot is Portland's dining Grande Dame. The menu is a nice mix of Pacific Northwest with an international flair.


- Toro Bravo: The top destination for tapas in Portland is the swinging Toro Bravo. It is Spanish in much the same way that Olive Garden is authentic Italian; however, the capable kitchen puts spins on dishes that make it easy to overlook the elements that merely share a framework with the country that inspires them.



Not every restaurant in Portland is priced to clean out your bank account. There are plenty of affordable locations that offer a lot of bang for the buck.

- Pine State Biscuits: The popular breakfast spot makes damn fine biscuits, of course, as well as many other items rooted in the Southern tradition. There are two restaurants, and they also offer their wares at the Portland Farmers Market.


- Whiskey Soda Lounge and Sen Yai: Sure, you have heard of Pok Pok. Andy Ricker's tribute to all things Thai has locations in other cities (one is in NYC,  and Ricker will soon open two in LA). Whiskey Soda Lounge, his Thai drinking food restaurant, and Sen Yai, his noodle shop, are also located in Portland. 


- Clyde Common: The modern gastropub is found in the sleek Ace Hotel Downtown. The hotel is an attraction in its own right, but Clyde Common seems to be the most exciting place to grab a bite there.


- ¿Por Que No?: The festive Mexico-by-way-of-Portland taqueria has lines down the street waiting to sample its wares. It's difficult to tell if they are there for the tacos or the margaritas, so you probably should order both. 


- Lardo: This Italian sandwich shop goes above and beyond your typical deli. There is lots of pig on the menu, but the veggie burger should keep the meatless crowd satisfied.


A city with a reputation for quality produce and hippie vibes is bound to be full of world class vegetarian restaurants. Here are a couple of the main attractions.

- Tin Shed Garden Cafe: This is not a completely vegetarian restaurant, but the organic menu is about two-thirds vegetarian and features many vegan dishes. This restaurant is much of the classic throwback wholesome West Coast variety, and it's open for breakfast, lunch and dinner.

- Harlow: Harlow is Portland's haute vegan/vegetarian spot, featuring dishes with local ingredients for meatless/animal product-free diners, as well as a nice selection of gluten free items. The cafe, Prasad, is more inexpensive and less formal.  


- The Sudra: This new vegan spot prepares international takes on Indian fare with some great happy hour specials to boot. It might not be the most authentic Indian restaurant, but luckily the kitchen kicks out food so flavorful that nobody will miss the animal products.



Portland is also a city on the cutting edge of mobile cuisine. Food trucks are incorporated into large blocks of the city, whipping up cuisine from all corner of the globe. An interesting vacation could be planned simply eating food served from wheeled kitchens. These are some interesting stops.


- Big Ass Sandwiches: These sandwiches, served on fresh-baked local bread and piled high with French fries and bechamel sauce, were featured on Man vs. Food and Best Sandwich in America on the Travel Channel. Why simply order fries when you can cover them in creamy sauce and eat them between two slices of bread?


- Koi Fusion: This truck fleet is riding the wave of Korean-Mexican fusion, putting Korean spins on tacos, burritos, quesadillas, sliders and rice bowls. The kimchi contains fish sauce, but there are still enough dishes made with spicy tofu to create an authentic vegetarian dish rooted in the culinary tradition of two continents.


- PBJ's: The gourmet spins on peanut butter and jelly sandwiches don't look anything like the brown bag lunch staple of school lunch rooms. There are menu selections built on challah, Oregon nut butters, house made jellies and other local ingredients as well as a build-your-own sandwich option. 


- Potato Champion: There are plenty of things you can put on fries, and Potato Champion does. Hand cut, twice fried Belgian fries come with a variety of sauces. There is vegetarian and vegan poutine, as well as fries topped with satay and palak paneer. 


Kargi Gogo: Georgia is a country at the crossroads of Europe and Asia. Dishes share characteristics with Eastern Europe, but are rooted in Asian tradition. The khachapuri, soft, layered, pita-like bread stuffed with a tart, mild melted cheese, can and should be eaten by the truckload.


- Emame's Ethiopian Cuisine: Ethiopian cuisine has lots of options for vegetarians, many of which can be scooped up with the pancake-like injera bread. The mesir wat is red lentils cooked with spices including garlic, ginger, paprika and cardamom, as well as tomatoes and onions. The sambusas, the cousin of the Indian samosa, is a good buy because it's about the size of a softball.