16 July 2015

Red Velvet Cafe

Red Velvet Cafe is a bakery with locations in Pickerington (the original) and Downtown Columbus. Come for the traditional cupcake offerings, and stay for the excellent sandwiches and coffee.

There are vegetarian and vegan items on the menu. The cafe is open seven days a week from breakfast to dinner. 

The cupcake flavors skew conservative with a rotating selection including German chocolate, banana cream pie, Buckeye (a.k.a. peanut butter-chocolate), carrot cake and apple cinnamon. Some less common choices include taro, made with taro cake, taro jam and taro buttercream, 

There are three vegetarian sandwiches for lunch and one for breakfast. The lunch panini options include a straight veggie, grilled cheese with avocado and Sriracha, and a traditional grilled cheese. The breakfast sandwich is made on ciabatta with roasted tomato, provolone cheese, spinach and egg.

The avocado Sriracha grilled cheese is a California style panini with Asian accents. It's rich, sweet, creamy and just about perfect.

The coffee bar is a treat. It carries selections from One Line in the Short North. There are a variety of international drinks offered from across the globe - Turkey, Vietnam, Cuba and more. Typically, a house bland and a single origin coffee are available.

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24 June 2015

Tom and Chee

Tom and Chee is Cincinnati's fast casual grilled cheese-ery. The small chain has three central Ohio locations - one in Pickerington, one in Hilliard and another in the University District.

The concept exists in other restaurants like Melt and Gooeyz. Tom and Chee focuses on the traditional grilled cheese and tomato soup with a few extra bells and whistles.

There are vegan and gluten-free options available. Sides include soup, salad and mac & cheese.

Sandwiches were passably better than what could be made at home. Junk-food add-ons like donut grilled cheese put a few interesting spins on the dish.

There are three tomato soups. The classic tomato and chunky tomato basil are vegan. The creamy tomato is a vegetarian dish.

The decor is bright and fun. Service is relatively brisk.

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12 June 2015


Durangos seemed to take forever to open. The inconvenient sign announcing the restaurant preceded its opening by 8 months. The business concept mirrors Chipotle with a Tex Mex spin, and the added bonus of delivery to Grandview, Upper Arlington and the Short North should help keep the place on people's radar.

There are plenty of vegetarian options on the menu. All of the beans are vegetarian, as is the cilantro lime rice. There are burritos, tacos, salads, enchiladas, salads, rice dishes and the requisite chips and dips.

A burrito is good, sure. It is a fine delivery device to carry rice, jicama, nopales, red pepper, beans, lettuce, tomato onion and guacamole to your mouth. But the delivery becomes better when the burrito is deep fried. It achieves perfection when it is drowned in red enchilada sauce.

Guacamole has a nice essence of citrus. It's a great add-on with tortilla chips for $2.45.

The laid back crew grows their own cilantro at the restaurant. The vibe is friendly.

Prices with delivery included match or are slightly lower than Chipotle. It's a fun carry out or delivery option if you can't stand the line at Chipotle.

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03 June 2015

Guild House

The Guild House is Cameron's Mitchell's latest shot in the quest to occupy every building in the Short North. The farm-to-table small plates concept is vegetarian/vegan-friendly, and business seems to have been brisk since its opening.

The decor features interesting juxtapositions. Dark wood gives the room a forest feel, the open ceilings add a modern touch, and the green chandeliers seem to have been time-warped from some past grandmother's parlor. The whole thing almost doesn't fit together.

The soundtrack was workout music played too loudly. The music seems a pinch louder than in other Mitchell restaurants, but the music also might have stood out because it sounds better on a weight bench than a dining room.

Despite minor atmosphere complaints, the menu shows promise. The menu favors local ingredients. Outstanding breads come from Dan the Baker. There are Blue Jacket Dairy cheeses. Ohio's original national ice cream Graeter's is part of the dessert menu.

Brussels sprouts were prepared with caramelized onions, white cheddar, pecans and sweet mustard dressing. The dish is rich, sweet and deeply addictive.

The house-made chips and onion dip are also a great bar snack. A couple orders at happy hour with cocktails seems like the right idea. 

The vegetable lasagna is topped with crispy garlic, asparagus pesto, cabbage, onions, peas and more. The pasta carries a deconstructed version of the dish that showcases a bounty of vegetables.

Desserts were very good to excellent. The flourless chocolate torte with peanut butter mouse and vanilla tuille looks too good to eat. It isn't, but it's close. It's a must order barring nut allergies.

The house-made doughnuts were greasy. They would have succeeded if the pasties were better executed.

 The two person cocktail served in a glass porthole looks like a blast. The wine list has a nice range of selections, and there are a few draft beers, including one from North High Brewing.

Guild House is a great farm to table concept packaged in a strange dance club. Despite a few problems, there is plenty to like here.

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22 May 2015

Alchemy Juice Bar

Alchemy Juice Bar is tucked in a developing strip of Parsons Avenue near Nationwide Children's Hospital. The store is tough to find from the street, but the place puts a nutrition focused spin on the classic all-natural Berkeley juice bar/restaurant. Walk past the gym once inside, and follow the signs.

The menu consists of sandwiches, salads, smoothies, shakes and a few other odds and ends. There is coffee and gourmet toast for breakfast.

Vegans and gluten-sensitive diners have plenty of options. Smoothies and shakes are available with most of the requisite nutritional additives.

There are three meatless sandwiches - a bean burger on a brioche bun, a hemp pesto Caprese Florentine, and a hummus and hemp pesto sandwich with tomato, avocado and kale. 

The drinks are thick. The vegan peanut butter chocolate had a creamy mouthfeel that might have benefited from a colder serving temperature. The fruit smoothies had vibrant flavors.

Alchemy gives the South Side (End?) a great option for health-conscious diners. A few others have popped up around the city in the past six months. I'm not sure how it compares to the others, but it certainly exists in a vegan vacuum on Parsons Avenue.

Alchemy Juice Bar + Cafe on Urbanspoon

13 May 2015

Panzera's Pizza

Panzera's Pizza has been keeping Grandview satisfied for a half century plus. The shop serves classic thin crust like many others in the area that's simply better than most of them.

The crust is a soft pocket in the middle blanketed by by a crisp exterior. Pizzas were served with a nice amount of browning from the oven, including the toppings.

Toppings include most of the old school classics. The shop sells beer and wine. There is a limited amount of dining spaces. Panzera's delivers.

The veggie pizza was covered with mushrooms, green peppers, onions and banana peppers. It's pretty traditional, The diced white onions might not be for everyone.

There are plenty of outstanding pizza options in the Grandview/5th-by-Northwest/Upper Arlington area. Panzera's stands out if you're in the mood for a simple thin crust pie.

Panzera's Pizza on Urbanspoon

24 April 2015


Other cities are furiously hoisting Mod Mex taquerias upon Columbus, and Nada is the latest entry from Cincinnati. The colorful restaurant can be found in the Arena District.

Nada has fewer vegetarian options than competitors like Condado and Bakersfield. It is also expensive related to portion size. While $14 seems like a reasonable entree price, the three tacos are small. They require a side dish and substantial appetizer to make a full meal, pushing bills skyward.

Guacamole was at best unmemorable. At $12 for a large portion, it's better avoided.

Other vegetarian starters include a salsa sampler and Mexican macaroni and cheese. The vegetarian hongos tacos are made with portobello mushrooms, guacamole, black beans, Chihuahua cheese, rice and pico de gallo.

The bar features cool cocktails, some on draft, as well as sangria, an array of Mexican beer and a few carefully selected craft beers. The drinks are reasonably affordable, helping ease the financial hit of $14 micro tacos.

Service seemed disinterested. With so many other options for tacos in central Ohio, it's hard to justify keeping this one on the radar. 

Nada on Urbanspoon

15 April 2015

Condado Tacos

Condado is a Modern Mexican taqueria with fusion influences packaged in a nifty casual environment. The endless variations on build-your-own tacos give diners the option of customizing their perfect taco.

There are plenty of vegan and vegetarian options. Taco fillings include portobello mushrooms and Thai chili tofu. Taco shells include soft, hard and soft wrapped around a hard shell with guacamole and queso - obviously the wisest choice.

Overall, the best tip is to remember that less is more when selecting taco fillings. Scores of ingredients might score a messy taco.

The sweet Thai chili tofu is breaded and doused in a sweet-hot red sauce. It's a solid filling with more flexibility than the mushrooms. 

The bar is stocked with craft beers, top-shelf liquors and cocktails. There is an armada of margaritas that go great with everything. 

Service, like the atmosphere, is casual. Decor is heavy on the Day of the Dead. Vegetarian and vegan questions were answered effectively. The cards to order are located on each table, allowing diners to customize meals quickly and easily. 

Condado on Urbanspoon

06 April 2015

Black Sheep Burritos and Brews

Tucked right off the Marshall University campus, Black Sheep Burritos and Brews is a cool modern Mexican fusion restaurant. Ohio diners might be familiar with Casa Nueva and Mad Mex, two establishments with similar menus and bars.

There is also a Black Sheep in Charleston, West Virginia. The atmosphere in the Huntington outpost is laid back, and service matches the decor. 

The bar features a number of craft beers, as well as great cocktails. Margaritas are a safe bet. The horchata drink, made with the traditional spiced Mexican rice drink, Rumchata liqueur, cinnamon and cardamom saffron simple syrup, should make cocktail aficionados with a sweet tooth smile. The barrel-smoked Old Forrester Old Fashioned sounds bourbon-snob approved.

The menu is loaded with vegan and vegetarian dishes. Burritos, quesadillas and tacos are filled with international fare with the flavor of the Mediterranean, Thailand or China. There are also gluten free items. Side dishes are all vegetarian with a few vegan choices.

In addition to meatless salads, there are also chips and salsa, guacamole and queso dip. Veggie taco options include portobello mushroom, tempura fried avocado and beet. Burritos include Thai tofu, General Tso's tofu, falafel and hummus, a regular Mission style burrito and a vegan burrito with miso glazed smoked tofu, kimchi and  seasoned rice.

The vegetarian nachos are piled with black beans, queso, pickled jalepeƱos, pico de gallo and lime Sriracha crema. It's a satisfying combination that sometimes over-saturates some of the chips into a mess.

The Thai burrito is filled with tofu, rice, pickled daikon carrot slaw, smoked cashews, cilantro and peanut hoisin sauce. There are crunchy textures as well as delicate tofu. The burrito is sweet with a hint of spice.

 There is also a popular brunch menu at Black Sheep. There are plenty of sweet and savory choices, as well as a vegan tofu scramble.

Black Sheep Burrito & Brews on Urbanspoon

16 March 2015

G. Michael's Bistro & Bar

Chef David Tetzloff operates the must-try G. Michael's in German Village. They produce low country cuisine rooted in the bounty of fresh local ingredients.

Just about everything works at this perennial favorite. The interior is striking. The bar is outstanding. The service is top notch. And of course, the kitchen is firing on all cylinders.

The restaurant is larger than it appears from the outside. There is a long bar and two lively brick dining rooms. 

The bar befits a restaurant of this caliber. The wine list has great selections in every price range. Cocktails are well made reinventions of classics as well as faithful renditions of traditional favorites. 

The menu has a limited selection of vegetarian items as one would expect from a place with a Southern spin. The server stated that the kitchen was able to produce items in addition to the ones on the menu for specific dietary restrictions if required. G. Michael's also offers a gluten free menu.

The sauteed Brussels sprouts can be eaten by the truckload. The soft veggies swim in a creamy Canal Junction Abondoce cheese with spicy honey balsamic vinegar. Some might want to add the optional bacon or ham to the mix, but vegetarians won't miss it.

The winter menu entree was a mixed vegetable chef's selection. The plate was piled with roasted squash, broccoli rabe, sweet potatoes and greens as well as a mountain of cheesy grits. The portion was huge and wholly satisfying.

The new menu features a great looking Carolina barbecue marinated broiled tofu. It is served with winter vegetable succotash, fried pimiento cheese croquette, beet chips, and cider gastrique. 

Desserts provide an excellent conclusion to your meal, assuming you haven't stuffed yourself on previous dishes.

G. Michael's Bistro and Bar on Urbanspoon