29 October 2008

Talita's Mexican Kitchen

I'm always kind of on the fence about Tex-Mex cuisine. Most Americans are more used to food from the American Southwest than they are used to the food from different regions of Mexico. A taco from Taco Bell looks nothing like a taco from Veracruz. You can't order chili or tortilla chips in Guadalajara, nor can you order ceviche at Don Pablo's in Kansas City. If you want AUTHENTIC Mexican food, you are better off going to the small neighborhood greasy spoon then you are going to Las Margaritas or El Vaquero.

Talita's is one of these cool neighborhood spots that provide the best of both worlds. You could easily drive past the small storefront on Southwest Boulevard and Broadway in Grove City. Once you find the restaurant, it becomes evident that they are more Tex-Mex than Mexican-proper. They proudly advertise their Brownsville-style fare on the windows and in the menu.

The good news for vegetarians is that both the beans and the rice are made with vegetable oil. They are, therefore, vegetarian friendly.

Talita's specializes in giant burritos. Vegetarians can order them wet and cheesy (drowned in enchilada sauce and cheese) or dry (with lettuce, tomato and onion). They can be ordered with a combination of beans, rice and/or cheese. You can also order a side of rice and beans for about a $1.50. The burrito was so big that I couldn't handle side dishes, but if you have a huge appetite, you should go for broke with extra rice and beans.

I also ordered chips with salsa and avocado dip (obviously this is Texas slang for guacamole). The salsa and chips are $1.50 extra. I wasn't wild about the salsa, although it was obviously homemade. It had large chunks of tomato and was fairly mild. The guacamole, on the other hand, was delicious.

The owners and staff are very friendly. The interior of the restaurant is replete with military pictures and commemorative decorations. If I had to guess, this might be the best place for service people to get a discount in Grove City.

Talita's does serve alcohol. I didn't get a chance to check it out, but they have beer and margaritas.


Talita's Mexican Kitchen on Urbanspoon

27 October 2008

Joy Lucky

I don't know if it's a reference to the movie or if they just picked two random English words out of the dictionary, but Joy Lucky is a strange name for a restaurant. Typically the adjective precedes the noun in a phrase like this. Honestly that's the biggest complaint I have about the place. The food is good, but the name is bad. Now that I have that out of the way...

Joy Lucky is a small Chinese restaurant in Grove City. It is part of a small shopping strip. The interior is rather plain, suggesting that most of the business is take-out. I can't say that for sure, but if I had to bet, I'd put my money on more take-out business versus more dine-in business.

There are about six vegetarian items on the menu. The vegetable spring roll is the only vegetarian appetizer. You get one spring roll (the deep fried kind, not the rice-wrapped kind) with packets of soy sauce and sweet and sour sauce carrying the disgusting label "Duck sauce." The ingredients were vegan friendly, but I didn't eat it because the label said duck. The spring roll was crispy and mildly flavored. It was decent but hardly spectacular.

The Szechwan tofu, on the other hand, was very good. Pan-fried tofu triangles and vegetables were covered in the classic spicy brown Szechwan sauce that accompanies dishes of this particular cuisine type. The vegetables include broccoli, onions, carrots, mushroom, water chestnuts and pea pods, and the entree comes with the obligatory box of white rice. The portion is quite large.

The prices at Joy Lucky are cheap for entrees, appetizers and dessert. I took advantage of the 50 cent almond cookie upgrade. Since I only throw fortune cookies away, I got two fresh almond cookies for two quarters. My total bill was less than $10.

Joy Lucky

Joy Lucky on Urbanspoon

25 October 2008

Travis Barker is a quitter

If his reality show and sophomoric music weren't enough to convince you that Travis Barker is a tool, the latest gossip about Travis going back to eating meat after 25 years as a vegetarian in order to treat his severe burns will definitely allow your prejudicial labeling mechanism to place Mr. Barker squarely in the "doofus" box. I'm not a nutritionist, Travis, but 1 gram of soy protein is the same amount as 1 gram of dead animal protein. It's like the quandary of weight: which is heavier, a ton of bricks or a ton of feathers? I'm sure your dietician knew the answer to that riddle. He also knew you wouldn't be able to figure it out for yourself.

Grove City pizzas

I'm house sitting in (scenic? historic? rustic?) Grove City in southern Franklin county this week. Since I was stranded here, I decided to put the best pizza joints in the area to the test.

Most people have a hobby, or something they do to pass the time. I eat pizza. Sorry--it's what I do.

I know very little about Grove City. I went on hearsay from the few people I know in the area in order to determine who makes the best pie in town. The three places that top the rankings are Tammy's, Rotolo's and Plank's on Broadway. All of the places are small independent chains with somewhere between two and seven locations. I tried a small veggie pizza. I ate all three pizzas side by side. I ate them the day I bought them, and then I ate them cold and reheated the next day. I'll rank all three experiences on a one-through-three scale.

Hands down, Plank's on Broadway has the nicest storefront. Plank's is attached to a bar. The hard wood floor is accompanied by a number of tables. Tammy's and Rotolo's are more of the traditional pizza counter setups. I preferred the cleanliness of Rotolo's to the Spartan minimalism of Tammy's.

1). Plank's
2). Rotolo's
3). Tammy's

Again, Plank's is the clear winner. The staff was very friendly. They got the order ready the fastest of the three (15 minutes). Tammys' staff was personable, and they finished second (20 minutes). Rotolo's was staffed by the traditional college age counter guy. It took 25 minutes to get a pizza done.

1). Plank's
2). Tammy's
3). Rotolo's

Plank's vegetables were crisp. The onions were cut into enormous slices. The mushrooms were not canned. Rotolo's used good quality toppings, although the 'shrooms were canned. Tammy's also used good toppings, but the tomatoes were soggy and not of the best quality.

1). Plank's
2). Rotolo's
3). Tammy's

Veggie Pizza makeup
The topping quality is one thing, but for vegetarians, the choice of toppings is key. Typically, vegetarians show up to some random event. The host orders the obligatory pizza for them. It usually comes with at least one topping they hate. This metric gives the vegetable yuck factor some weight.

All veggie pizzas have to have mushrooms. It's an indisputable tenet of herbivorous philosophy. That being understood, Rotolo's had the least annoying topping combo. The banana peppers were the most annoying topping. Tammy's pizza had really awful tomatoes, making it slightly less picky-eater-friendly. The tomatoes and banana peppers were the most gag-inducing items on the Plank's veggie.

1). Rotolo's
2). Tammy's
3). Plank's

All three pizzas were thin crust and tavern (square) cut. Rotolo's crust was a little thicker, more savory and had a hint of butter. Plank's crust was crispy and delicious. Tammy's crust is a little softer than Plank's. It might have been the thinnest crust of the trio.

1). Rotolo's
2). Plank's
3). Tammy's

Plank's sauce is bright, mildly acidic, tart and tasty. Rotolo's sauce is light with a hint of sweetness. Tammy's sauce is the sweetest of the three, with an herbal undertone.

1). Plank's
2). Rotolo's
3). Tammy's

Cheese and other party favors
Plank's uses a great blend of herbs that elevates the pizza quality. Rotolo's cheese and accoutrements were similar to Tammy's (i.e. not as good as Plank's).

1). Plank's
2). Tammy's and Rotolo's (tie)

Rotolos' thicker crust made it keep better for the next day. It ate well both reheated and cold. Plank's got a little soggy overnight. It tasted okay cold but worked much better reheated. Tammy's got very soggy from the tomatoes overnight. It absolutely had to be reheated to remove the moisture.

1). Rotolo's
2). Plank's
3). Tammy's

Grand Champion
1). Plank's (20 points)
2). Rotolo's (18 points)
3). Tammy's (11 points)

I might have to reformulate my pizza scale, but the final results turned out about exactly how they did in my head. Plank's and Rotolo's were a class above Tammy's in my humble opinion. Try it out yourself. Maybe you'll have a different opinion.

22 October 2008

Watch where you eat

It's official--the sodium-laden, greasy crap people eat (a cuisine known to those in the nutrition field as the Western diet) is bad for your heart. According to recently published research, all that mass-produced, garbage food that America perfected makes people fat and keeps their heart unhealthy. Part of the problem is attributable to meat consumption according to the Canadian Institutes of Health Research study. The crazy part is that the negative effects of McDonald's dining are taking their toll worldwide. It sounds like it's time to put the donuts down and climb on the treadmill, tubby. Put the Big Mac down, copy this text, paste it into Babelfish and try eating something that hasn't been submersed in hydrogenated oil.

Surly Girl Saloon

Okay, okay, I forgot my good camera and took my cell camera with me when I went to Surly Girl the other night. So sue me. I have a bunch of poorly exposed pictures of delicious food and beer. If you want to see what's going on for vegetarians at the Surly Girl Saloon, you'll have to stop in yourself. I highly recommend that you do so.

My shortsightedness notwithstanding, the Surly Girl is another of Liz Lessner's many operations. Lessner, who co-owns the Surly Girl alongside her other operations Betty's, Tip Top and Dirty Frank's, specializes in comfort food and delicious intoxicating beverages in much the same way that I specialize in eating comfort food and drinking delicious intoxicating beverages. Her menus are also very kind to vegetarians.

Surly Girl features a wide variety of draft beers, running the gamut from Pabst Blue Ribbon to Bell's, Brooklyn Brewing and Stoudt's brews. There is also a great range of cocktails that are as delicious as they are non-traditional (the bourbon-spiked root beer comes immediately to mind).

Surly Girl, alongside the other Lessner operations, offers many options for vegetarians and vegans. I started with the red bean hummus, which features a Cajun-spiced bean dip alongside an array of dipping tools that include pita bread and vegetables displaying every color of the rainbow. Most of the other starters are vegetarian or are available with a vegetarian option.

My entree was a Southwestern chili mac made on a bed of homemade mac and cheese. It is a great combo, topped with onions, tomatoes and cheese, served on a bed of cheesy pasta, beans and roasted peppers. If I were Ebert and Roeper, I'd give it two thumbs up.

The one caveat for most restaurants in Liz's empire is that unless you eat at off-peak times, you will often have to wait for service. We waited about 75 minutes, which was 15 minutes longer than the wait the hostess expressed. However, the drinks and your ability to order appetizers at the bar relieve some of the pain of waiting for a table.

The Surly Girl Saloon is a great entry into the fray of gastropubs, a dining concept where great food and great drinks at late hours theoretically keep the house packed night after night. The convenience and selection coupled with the great atmosphere and vegetarian-friendly vibe makes this place well worth checking out.

Surly Girl Saloon on Urbanspoon

17 October 2008

Sophie's Choice

Oh Sophie. How the mighty have fallen! Nearly two weeks ago I had you ranked on top of my hottest vegetarian list. You were guaranteed my vote for the coveted PETA sexiest vegetarian award (I call it a coveted award because I've been begging for one for years--it will really increase my street credibility down at the farmers' markets).

But now the cat is out of the bag. The Australian eye candy was spotted in a KFC. It gets even worse when you see Sophie walking out the front door with Colonel Sanders' goodies tucked under her sexy wing. Ms. Monk claims she was buying food for a homeless person, which sounds good, but it begs the question: were there no Subways or Chipotles around so you could use your charms to improve the dining habits of the housing-distressed residents of Hollywood? Make your assistant buy the chicken for your charity effort. That's what they're for, after all.

Maybe the media got it wrong. I know how merciless the Australian tabloids can be. Sophie, if you need some help, call me. I'll be like an Alcoholics Anonymous sponsor that will keep you away from the disastrous consequences of poultry. If you don't need a sponsor, I can also give you a shoulder to cry on. Despite your claim of being a dud, in bed, your above-pictured good will for animals says otherwise.

15 October 2008

Bombay Sitar

Bombay Sitar is an Indian restaurant in the Belden Village area located in the same space that used to be occupied by Aladdin's. It was a shame to see Aladdin's go, but putting an Indian restaurant in its place should keep the complaining vegetarians at bay.

The buffet is more than half vegetarian. There are also a number of vegetarian items on the menu. There is naan on the buffet. This alone makes the buffet a winner in my book as your typical Indian buffet does not include the delectable bread.

The mushroom matar was excellent. It contained tender mushrooms, peas and onions in a spicy sauce. The vegetable curry was a multi-hued delight, almost as good to look at as it was to eat. The buffet also had basmati rice, mango lassi, a salad bar and a full assortment of chutneys.

I'll have to stop back in and order from the menu. The buffet was well worth the price of admission, so I should expect the same from the dinner menu.

Bombay Sitar

News on factory farming

There are numerous situations in day-to-day life where the correct ethical decision is apparent. This is evident in the situation of animal rights related to factory farming. Deplorable conditions and cruel treatment of animals at factory farms creates environmental, health and ethical dilemmas that far outweigh the benefits of cheap milk, meat and eggs.

California is moving toward changing the cruel conditions of the mega-assembly line factory farms with the proposed Proposition 2 that is before voters on the ballot. This ballot option would require farms to allow farm animals enough space to move around freely. Current conditions in egg production and other farming operations often involve animals being kept in tiny cages in cruel conditions with little regard for the animals' health and well being.

This issue was covered by the L.A. Times and in an opinion piece in U.S. News & World Report. I don't live in California, but if I did, I'd support Proposition 2 to ease my karma and conscious if I did. Farmers will find a way to make a living. The caged animals get no vote, so the election is the only chance for their rights to be guaranteed.

09 October 2008

Vegetarian Friendly Ballparks

I meant to write about this earlier. At least I got to it just in time for my Cubs to get swept for the second year in a row. I can always try the list next year. This write-up is better late than never, so here goes.

PETA came out with their 2008 list of the most Vegetarian Friendly Ballparks. The champion for the second straight year is Citizens Bank Park in historic Philadelphia. The home of the Liberty Bell is as friendly to vegans as Philly sports fans are unfriendly to Santa Claus. The array of choices includes meatless cheesesteaks, faux crab cakes, vegan burgers, vegan dogs, and grilled eggplant sandwiches. The concessions manager expanded the menu as a way of drawing a new batch of fans. According to the Daily News, they use the quality vegetarian food options as a way to draw non-sports fanatics to games.

Other veggie-friendly parks include San Francisco, Seattle, San Diego, Chicago (Stupid Sox), St. Louis, Detroit, Atlanta, Colorado, Tampa Bay and Arizona. Only Tampa and Philly are left in the playoffs, so many of these are offline until next season.

The 2008 winners list also includes vegetarian options at non-winning ballparks, as well as a list of the best minor league vegetarian options. I propose that the Columbus Clippers and their Dime-a-Dead-Animal-Dog promotion may have to make way for Rad Dog Veggie Nite in order to build the fan base for future dates.

07 October 2008

Press Grill

The Press Grill in Columbus is one of the Short North's oldest dining establishments. It opens early and closes late. The menu is full of comfort food. I wouldn't call it veggie-heavy, but it definitely has a good variety of items for the vegetarian-inclined.

The interior is fairly simple. The dark-lit bar dominates the ambiance of the Press Grill. The service is personable and professional. It's fairly easy to get in and out for lunch in a rapid fashion.

I ordered the open face veggie sandwich. The base of grilled sourdough bread was topped with portobello mushrooms, roasted red peppers, roasted tomatoes, red onion, melted fontina cheese and drizzled pesto. It is a delightful combination. The pesto gives the sandwich the exact kick that it needs to stand out from the crowd.

The side dish was macaroni and cheese. It was a typical elbow macaroni topped with a not-so-typical seasoned melted cheese. While I prefer the real cheese mac to its powdered dairy counterpart, I found the side to be good but not outstanding. I might suggest the fries as a side over the mac and cheese.

The menu features a few other vegetarian sandwiches (grilled cheese and fried egg--ewww!) as well as a number of meatless pizzas. The bar prides itself in mixed drinks, and they also feature a standard selection of better-than-Bud drafts.

Comfort food in a comfortable environment--that is the formula at Press Grill. They execute this plan well, whether you are eating at 11 am or 11 pm.

Press Grill

Press Grill on Urbanspoon

02 October 2008

Dragonfly Street Food

I just read the newsletter, and I'm going to go out on a limb and say that a Dragonfly street food take-out concept might be the greatest idea I've heard in my natural born life.

From the release:


This weekend we begin testing our street food bar menu, to be featured at the bar and our re-launched new venue next door to Dragonfly - ON THE FLY street food carry-out and provisions. It's another way to enjoy Dragonfly's amazing food.

Let's face it every chef secretly wants to cook street food and Dragonfly chef Magdiale Wolmark is doing it after carefully studying and dissecting the world's most famous street food fare. It's tough work, but he had to do it. From his famous hometown Philly cheesesteak to classic Latin American Empanadas to stuffed falafel pitas, Dragonfly is getting ready to unleash a storm of satisfying flavors that truly expresses where great food begins. It's delicious belly filling global plates that you can enjoy everyday at super good prices.

Tough economy news got you blue? We have the cure - delicious dishes from one of the cities most accomplished kitchens and wine specials to match.


Oh trust me--I will take liberal advantage of this new service. I might not make the preview event, but I see a falafel sandwich in my not-so-distant future.

01 October 2008


Yves Veggie Brats Zesty Italian Sausage
Mashed Potatoes
Patty Green 2006 Estate Ribbon Ridge Pinot Noir
Good Company

World's Oldest Vegetarian

Anthony Kedis of the Red Hot Chili Peppers was named the sexiest vegetarian piece of man meat for the year of 2008. There has to be somebody sexier than Kedis, who is one month shy of 46 (and to be honest, he doesn't look a day over 60). Leona Lewis fits the bill--she was the winner on the ladies' side of the bill. She is also half the age of Captain Blood Sugar Sex Magic.

If you really insist on voting for men for the Sexiest Vegetarian Award, I'm sure Tobey Maguire, Orlando Jones, Milo Ventimiglia and Andre 3000 are all sexier than Anthony Kedis (not that I'd f%$# any of them with your d*&% or anything like that...I'm just saying). This election is rigged somehow. Kedis' entire record label must have been voting for him or something. I demand a recount.

As an active voter in the vegetarian reality sex appeal popularity contest circuit, I can say I voted early and often in this poll, but never for the winners. I threw my endorsement behind Sophie Monk (because really, who wouldn't want to be behind Sophie Monk?), Carrie Underwood and Natalie Portman. But, as the cruel mistress Democracy has shown me before, my vote doesn't really matter. Whatever.

I'd just like to state for the record that I did not vote for Anthony Kedis. The general public may be voting for him as a sexiest lifetime achievement award or something like that. But the award doesn't say anything about lifetime achievement--it's a sexiest-right-now honor.


I got a chance to try the lunch buffet at the oddly-spelled Chutnys on Campus View near 270 and 23. The korma was absolutely amazing. I'm definitely going to have to try the full menu on for size at a future date.

The buffet had three vegetarian entrees (cauliflower korma, a veggie curry and a mild, nutty green bean dish). It came with papadums and dosas, and naan could also be ordered. There was a large chutney bar. There also were spinach pakoras (which I would consider a starter) as well as two soups (sambhar, the South Indian specialty, and lentil soup).

The interior is nicely appointed. The front sign is a banner, and the street signage refers to the space's previous tenant. The proprietor of Chutnys formerly ran Maharajas and recently returned from India. The menu I saw posted on the window seemed very vegetarian friendly. I'll definitely be back.