23 July 2014


Challah is a regular participant in the Food Truck Food Court at the Columbus Commons, and it pops up regularly at other spots around town. The ladies behind Challah prepare fresh comfort food rooted in Jewish cuisine, particularly the kind from Eastern Europe.

There isn't a ton of options available for vegetarians from Challah, but there is a meatless sandwich and side dish on the menu. The bread is good enough to make sandwiches a must-have from the truck.

There were differences in the bread for the tomato sandwich on separate visits. The interior with heirloom tomatoes, Emmental cheese, endive and mayonnaise is a perfect marriage of ingredients for a summer sandwich. The sweetness of the tomatoes amplifies the richness of the cheese and the spice in the greens in perfect synergy.

The latkes, served with sour cream or apple sauce, are made with thin ribbons of potato. It is a superior side to the somewhat ordinary cole slaw.

The cart handled a high volume of business well with minor timing flaws. Staff capably handled vegetarian questions and fixed all service issues. 

Challah on Urbanspoon

16 July 2014

Rishi Sushi

Rishi Sushi is the latest concept from David and Song Kim, who also own Moshi Sushi in Bexley. Rather than a straight down the middle sushi bar, Rishi is more of a small plates concept with interesting fusion dishes with one foot in Japan.

The restaurant has a focus on fresh, local ingredients. There are vegetarian and gluten free items identified on the menus. 

The sushi menu has pretty standard vegetarian offerings. In addition to meatless starters and salads, there is a veggie burger and a couple of generous vegetarian ramen bowls.

The edamame hummus is plated with cucumber, carrots and rice crackers. The dish creates a subtle harmony between the essence of Asia and the spirit of the Mediterranean.

While sushi is featured in the restaurant's name, the ramen is a real star. Bowls are piled with a vegetable broth, fresh ramen noodles, edamame, corn, scallions, shiitake mushrooms, bean sprouts, spinach, bok choy and seaweed. While the Lazy Summer Day is deeply satisfying, masochists can also inflict the Good Luck Ramen challenge, made with scorpion peppers, upon themselves.

The bar has excellent cocktails and a decent beer and wine selection to accompany the food coming out of the kitchen. There is a happy hour menu with sushi, small plates and drink specials. 

Rishi Sushi Kitchen and Bar on Urbanspoon

09 July 2014

AJ's Cafe

AJ's Cafe is a fast-casual spot Downtown that offers soup, salads and sandwiches. It is located in the spot that formerly held C-Town Market and Deli.

The owner, Ajay Kumar, owned the Taj Mahal on campus. It was sold to relatives and reopened as Mughal Darbar. While Kumar didn't bring the menu with him from his old restaurant, he definitely brought the Indian flavor profile to a number of the dishes at AJ's.

There are many vegetarian and vegan dishes on the menu. The restaurant is open Monday through Friday for breakfast and lunch, and Saturday for lunch.

Soups include an outstanding vegan lentil and spinach, as well as broccoli cheese. There is a vegetarian green salad and a vegan lentil salad. There are a variety of baked goods in the morning as well as a vegan breakfast wrap.

The spiced chickpea wrap hints at dal makhani, and the tamarind chutney adds another layer of sweet Indian flavor. It makes a filling lunch with a side dish.

Prices at AJ's are reasonable, and service is quick. It is another strong option for the Downtown dining landscape.

Aj's Cafe on Urbanspoon

25 June 2014

La Tavola

La Tavola resurrects an old name run by area favorite Rick Lopez. Lopez had a hand in Columbus' original haute Mexican outpost Tapatio, the old Polynesian-themed Kahiki and the fast-casual and (temporarily) closed Knead. La Tavola was open from 1999 to the late 2000s in Powell and Dublin. The new restaurant is on 1st Avenue in Grandview.

House made and seasonal items make up the backbone of the menu. There are not a tremendous number of vegetarian items on the menu. There is a vegan pizza. The server checked with the kitchen on specific vegetarian concerns. 

The space is open, and the decor is warm and inviting. The ironic wall paper also doubles as the background on the restaurant website. 

The pasta was magnificent. The strozzapretti, a loose, eggless pasta twirled into a tight, lengthy s-shape, was bathed in kale pesto, mushroom, green beans, yellow pepper and shallots.

The bar had a small but well chosen selection of draft beer. There are also sodas from Boylan's and Grown Up, as well as Brioso coffee.

Desserts are prepared by Krista Lopez. There is bound to be something to like on the list of Italian sweets which go from tiramisu to gelato and semifreddo.

La Tavola on Urbanspoon

18 June 2014

Hudson 29

Hudson 29 is the latest Cameron Mitchell concept, and the first one opened this year in Upper Arlington on Lane Avenue. The kitchen produces classic steakhouse fare and sandwiches paired with sushi and flatbread pizza.

The menu has a couple of vegetarian options, and the staff dealt well with questions about dietary restrictions. Service at the restaurant, however, was uneven beyond that. 

While one lunch visit in a nearly empty restaurant saw attentive service and great attention to detail, a second night visit was severely overbooked on reservations. My reservation seating was 90 minutes late, and while the front of house offered free cocktails because of the delay, it did not make up for the continued service issues in the dining room. The server never brought water to the table despite numerous requests. Other orders were delivered incorrectly. It would be kind to say the experience was a disappointment.

The food was from chef Jonathan Basch was very good despite the hemorrhaging service flaws. The veggie burger, in particular, was a standout. The house made black bean patty was topped with pepper jack, avocado, lettuce, tomato, red onion and sweet pickle mayo. It was served on a toasted bun.

The cheesy bread rolls are a worthwhile expense. The arugula salad was forgettable.

The vegetable flatbread was piled with arugula pesto, shiitake mushrooms, kalamata olives, pickled red onions and fresh arugula. The flavor is a nice blend of savory, salty and fresh vegetable notes that play together nicely with  subtle garlic.

The wine list is heavy on New World labels with some fun choices. There are limited brews with Rockmill carrying the local banner. Cocktails were a nice mix of classics with a few more modern spins.

The dining room and sushi bar are sleek and modern with a nice organic warmth. The couches in the waiting area by the fireplace create an inviting place to relax while waiting for a table.

An inviting space and a few tasty morsels from the kitchen, however, will not be enough to save the place if the front of house is unable to control its reservations book. Improvements in execution will be needed if the restaurant concept is to be duplicated successfully.

Hudson 29 on Urbanspoon

12 June 2014

Raisin Rack

The Raisin Rack is Westerville's locally owned organic market/grocery store. The offerings include fresh, frozen and prepared foods with a heavy emphasis on vegan, vegetarian and gluten-free dining options.

In addition to fresh veggies, frozen and boxed meals, there is a salad bar with dieatry restriction information included on each item. The vegan samosas, hummus, stuffed grape leaves and gluten free Thai peanut noodles on the hot bar looked fantastic.

The cafe makes soups, sandwiches and burritos. Orders can be eaten on site or taken to go.

The three bean veggie chili was full of beans - kidney, black and cannellini - as well as tomatoes, onions and peppers. It was rich, a little spicy and deeply satisfying.

The cheese sandwich comes with a choice of cheese - the deli has about 10 different options - as well as organic lettuce, organic tomato, organic red onion, sprouts, mayo, mustard and choice of bread. The nine grain loaf was hearty and gave the sandwich a layered base with a subtle sweetness. 

The avocado sandwich is hot with toasted bread slathered in organic avocado, melted cheddar, mozzarella and provolone and ranch dressing. 

Desserts are from local gluten free operations Cherbourg and Eban's, as well as vegan favorite Pattycake.  

Raisin Rack on Urbanspoon

10 June 2014

Halwani Cuisine

Halwani Cuisine is a pizza shop along the Grandview strip. Shawn Halwani's restaurant makes thin crust and hand tossed pizzas, and the menu is pork-free for kosher/halal diners.

The restaurant has pizza, stromboli, sandwiches and standard pizza kitchen sides. The hand tossed crust is still relatively thin with hints of garlic in the dough. The thin crust is cut tavern style and is cracker thin.

Meatless specialty pizzas include the Margarita, Napoletana, vegetarian, Greek and white pizza. Topping are fresh and plentiful.

The Margarita pizza had classic toppings including fresh tomato and basil. The basil was slightly overdone, and it would have been improved if it were added later in the process. Despite the minor flaw, the pizza was excellent.

Halwani Cuisine is reasonably priced. The majority of business is delivery and take out. It is a good change-of-pace pizza option in an increasingly more competitive marketplace in the Grandview/Upper Arlington area.

Halwani Cuisine on Urbanspoon

03 June 2014

Wolf's Ridge Brewing

Wolf's Ridge Brewing is one of many brew pubs to open up in Columbus over the last year. Guided by Chef Seth Lassak, the operation is on the radar of most if not all the foodies in central Ohio.

The restaurant offers a printed vegetarian menu upon request. It indicates gluten-free options with an asterisk.

There are meatless salads, appetizers, soups and entrees. The kitchen's course is determined by seasonal ingredients, meaning specials and some items change regularly.

The kitchen makes haute cuisine that pairs well with the house brews. The staff handles dietary restrictions well, although the menu overall seemed to lack multiple options for vegan diners.

The kale salad is a perfect synergy of ingredients playing off each other in a delightful harmony. The dressing and goat cheese have acidity, the fruit and candied pine nuts have a great sweetness and the kale gives the dish an understated bitterness. Flavors can be combined by the diner to highlight a variety of characteristics from each individual ingredient.

The selections on the cheese plate came from different classes of cheese. The fruit, house made crackers and bread accompany the cheeses.

The saffron risotto was creamy, piled high with assorted mushrooms, candied red onions and smoked paprika oil. Its appearance was surpassed only by the layered, unctuous taste.

The brewery produces a number of beers in a variety of styles from the traditional (pale ales and cream ales) to a few less common options like Zane's Trace, a roggenbier (German-style rye ale) named after a famed frontier road that ran through central and southern Ohio. The sampler is a great way to try six different brews. Cocktails look delicious, but might be tough to justify ordering since the beer is so good.

Wolf's Ridge Brewing on Urbanspoon

29 May 2014

Angry Wiener

The Angry Wiener is a Columbus food truck that specializes in hot dogs. It shares ownership with The Cheesy Truck, another food truck that makes appearances all around central Ohio.

The veggie dogs at The Angry Wiener are made by The Good Frank, a local company. They are served in a split New England roll, giving the dogs a unique bun that differs from many other local carts and shops.

Diners can build their own dog or choose from a number of off-the-menu options. Side dishes include beer battered fries and mac & cheese.

The Cheesy Wiener is topped with fried jalepeƱo peppers and elbow mac & cheese. It is a bit of a mess, and it goes down like a deeply satisfying heart attack.

The Greek is topped with  tomato, black olives, feta cheese, red onion and tzatziki sauce. The Mediterranean elements play together nicely.

The Angry Wiener makes regular appearances Downtown at the Columbus Commons Food Truck Food Court. Other appearances can be tracked on Facebook and Twitter, as well as other mobile food social media.

Angry Wiener on Urbanspoon

20 May 2014

Phatt Taco

Phatt Taco is a fast-casual lunch option in Downtown Columbus. It is located in the building that formerly housed Fresh 50 and Otero's Food Bar. It shares an owner with Phat Wraps on campus.

The dining room seats about 60. The menu features tacos and build-your-own tostadas. While vegetarian options are not plentiful, the counter service allows diners to customize dishes to order.

Topping options include vegetables like lettuce, tomato, onion, radish, stewed carrots, potato and hot peppers, rice, beans, salsas, sour cream, cilantro and sauces. 

There are also desserts available like cookies. They also eschew high-fructose corn syrup in beverages.

Phatt Taco on Urbanspoon