23 September 2008

Latin Cafe

Certain cuisines have it in for vegetarians. While food from the Indian subcontinent is made-to-order for the vegetarian diet, people from Argentina like beef, and almost everything they cook has some form of bovine flesh in it.

Caribbean cuisine also fits the "less vegetarian-friendly" mold. At Columbus' Latin Cafe, there isn't a single item on the menu that is vegetarian. The entrees are all made with pork, beef or fish.

As a vegetarian food blogger, it seems that I should launch into a scathing diatribe about the ridiculousness of only offering flesh food on a restaurant menu in the 21st century. I should pen a jeremiad about the hopelessness I feel when dealt these cruel, carnivorous cards. But I won't--because Latin Cafe managed to play the Get-out-of-jail-free card at exactly the right moment.

"How does one play this Monopoly card?" you might ask. The Get-out-of-jail-free card is played by introducing me to ethnic food that I had never heard of before, and preparing it for me even though it isn't on the menu. The mystery vegetarian dish at Latin Cafe is called mangu.

Mangu is a Dominican dish made from plantains (a Caribbean fruit similar to the banana) which are mashed like potatoes. They are seasoned, topped with onions and cheese. Mangu is mildly seasoned, and the onions add an extra dimension to the flavor.

Latin Cafe isn't going to be the most vegetarian-friendly place in the area. However, they succeed in getting my praise by introducing me to mangu. And for that, they get out of vegetarian jail free (Special side note--the salad was also very good. The croutons were deliciously seasoned).

Antonio's Pizzeria

Antonio's Pizzeria is nestled on the scenic shores (chuckle) of the Hoover Reservoir. The menu features pizza, pasta, sandwiches and other assorted pizza shop offerings.

I have always had a soft spot for white pizza. Antonio's offers two different white pizzas. I tried Nonna's white pizza, which is prepared on a flaky thin crust drizzled in olive oil, sprinkled with herbs and topped with mozzarella, ricotta and provolone cheeses and tomato cubes. The other white pizza uses only provolone cheese. But why settle for one cheese when you can get three instead?

The pizza is well made. The crust is light and slightly buttery. The combination of cheeses gives the pizza a vaguely lasagna-esque character. I prefer sliced tomato on a white pizza to chopped tomato. Considering this is my only complaint about the pizza, I'd still call this particular white pizza a winner.

Antonio's seems to have a pretty sweet lunch special as well. For the low low price of five smackers, you can get a half a veggie sub and a side salad or a 7-inch pizza with three toppings. There is also a pasta option available for a lunch combo, but it has the dreaded word "meatballs" in the description. But $5 should give you an opportunity to try the menu without breaking the bank.

Antonio's Pizzeria on Urbanspoon

19 September 2008

Casa Nueva's fall enchilada is delicious

Seriously, what else can I say? Just about everything made at Casa Nueva is delicious. I shouldn't have expected less from the fall offerings. The autumnal enchilada is made with spinach, scallions, mushrooms, carrots, lettuce and jack cheese. I chose the marinated tofu as my main ingredient. It was topped with a delicious apple salsa. If this looks good, you can also check out my previous musings about Casa, one of Athens' finest restaurants.

18 September 2008

Wellness Forum Foods

I saw a review of Wellness Forum Foods from ThisWeekNews last week, and I couldn't believe that there was a place that prepared vegan food in my backyard that I hadn't tried yet. Cross it off my list--and sign me up for the next round.

This place is tucked in an industrial park in the shadows and smog of the Budweiser facility. Del Sroufe and his staff prepare a tasty selection of vegan breads, soup, salad, pasta, sandwiches and other assorted items for delivery. There is also a lunch menu that is available for take-out or limited delivery area.

The creamy basil pasta salad (pictured above) is made with bow tie pasta, cherry tomatoes, artichokes and pine nuts in a basil dressing. I ordered the full lunch portion.

The white bean spinach wrap was also quite good. It was leafy greens, carrots and white bean hummus served in a pita with mustard.

I'll definitely have to check out some of the other items on the menu here. This looks like it could be a pretty tempting option for busy health nuts like myself.

16 September 2008

Yanni's Greek Restaurant

Throwbacks are a quandary. Sometimes, they take you back to a better time or an old memory that brings a smile to your face.

Yanni's is a bit of a old time Greek establishment that could be described as a throwback. It is a small Mediterranean eatery that features classic dishes prepared by a friendly, talkative staff surrounded by authentic decor.

Unfortunately, the throwback status also takes the menu back to a time when everybody eats meat. The appetizers have many vegetarian options (hummus, saganaki, Greek salad, spanakopita, et al.), but the main entree is limited to Greek pasta, the vaguely Italian tomato sauce dish topped with feta to make the dish more Alexandrian. The pasta was good, but it's definitely more ho-hum than the variety of options at places like Happy Greek.

The salad was dynamite. The dressing was exceptionally flavorful, and the vegetables are crunchy and perfectly suited to the dish. The spanakopita is also very good. The saganaki was a great mix of citrus and bubbly cheese, but the small interior eliminates the "opa!" that comes alongside the famous dish being lit ablaze. Most of the appetizers are big enough to share, so also plan accordingly for that.

The menu features a limited selection of soda and low alcohol beverages (i.e. beer and wine). I recommend Mythos lager.

The restaurant is small and it fills up fast. The owner is an absolute treat. He is very talkative, and he provides great service alongside friendly conversation. The meat eaters I ate with enjoyed their dinners, so the best way I can put it is that Yanni's comes highly recommended to omnivores by a vegetarian. However, I'd like to see another vegetarian entree on the menu, or maybe I'd recommend that vegetarians share a bunch of appetizers in order to optimize their experience.

Yanni's Greek Grill on Urbanspoon

10 September 2008

New fun stuff

I saw a review in ThisWeek about Wellness Forum Foods, a vegan establishments that offers take-home dinners and a dine-in lunch menu. Wellness Forum features pastas, salads, wrap sandwiches, soups, breads, desserts and about anything else you can imagine repared free of animal products. I haven't gotten a chance to sample Chef Del Sroufe's wares, but you can guarantee I'll be there for lunch in the very near future.

Beer drinkers should also have a full palette of activity this weekend with the return of the Columbus Microbrew Festival. Seven Buckeye State breweries will be pouring drafts that should help wash down the North Market eats. Barley's, CBC, Elevator, Gordon Biersch, Hoster and Weasel Boy Brewing Company are all participating in the festival. It should give people a chance to sample a wide selection of Central Ohio's finest liquid bread.

06 September 2008

Elevator Brewery and Draught Haus

Elevator isn't exactly the most vegetarian-friendly brew pub in Columbus. But when you make beer this good, I could almost care less (Editors note: I will do just about anything for beer for those looking to bribe me--that's right, I absolutely can be bought).

The menu is biased towards flesh food. There are a limited number of salads on the menu in addition to the hummus and the vegetable strudel (my veggie selections). These aren't vegan-friendly eats. Wash it down with an Oktoberfest and don't say I didn't warn you.

The Oktoberfest is the latest seasonal. It has a malty aroma with a rich, caramel flavor accented by a mild hop bitterness. The lager is light and clean with a hints of anise and tree fruit. The Coal Porter is opaque, showcasing layers of coffee, chocolate, soy sauce and brown sugar flavors that round into a delightful quaff. There are a number of other drafts brewed by Elevator that are featured on a regular basis, as well as a constantly changing array of seasonal offerings. Brewmaster Vic Schiltz's beers are always tasty, and the brews are matched to the items on the menu.

Elevator is a different concept than most brew pubs. The food is definitely more upscale and pricy than the typical neighborhood beer bar. Happy Hour is always a good shot to save a few bucks off the regular prices.

The Refectory on Urbanspoon
Elevator Brewery and Draught Haus on Urbanspoon