29 November 2008

Cafe Istanbul

It has been a long time since I have been to Café Istanbul at Easton. The place is under different management than the last time I was here. The menu is different. The interior is the only thing that has remained the same. I have to admit that I like the changes (not that there really was much wrong with the restaurant in its old form--I'm just a sucker for new things).

The new menu features a wider variety of traditional dishes outside of the realm of the typical hummus, falafel and baba options. There is a huge assortment of vegetarian items, including ezme, a tomato, onion, hot pepper and olive oil spread that makes the soft, doughy bread even more addictive. The Sigara Börek is a Turkish take on the Greek tiropita, made with an abundance of feta cheese, herbs and flaky phyllo dough. The grape leaves are also vegetarian (Items on the menu are marked with an asterisk to denote vegetarian selections).

Other vegetarian starters include hummus, falafel, baba ganoush, tabouli, and a host of other dips, salads and assorted vegetable items. I really applaud the number of healthy vegetarian starters (and I am a sucker for menus that label vegetarian items because they make my job that much easier).

My entree was a vegetable stew called türlü. It is a tomato base made with big chunks of roasted eggplant, onions, carrots, red peppers, potatoes, mushrooms, celery and whole garlic cloves. It is rustic and flavorful. Other vegetarian main courses include a grilled veggie plate and okra stew.

The bread is served with a spicy flavored olive oil. The mixed drinks are creative and tasty. I really like Efes Dark, a brown Turkish beer that tastes vaguely like Newcastle. The service is attentive, friendly and prompt. Café Istanbul is a great option for vegetarians as well as people looking for flavorful food with a healthful character.

Cafe Istanbul

Café Istanbul on Urbanspoon

24 November 2008

Z Pizza

Z Pizza is a health-conscious pizza shop with West Coast roots in the Short North. There are a wide variety of veggie-friendly options on the menu including salads, a sandwich and pizza.

The pizza is available with a pile of topping options. There are also great order-by-name pies, including the above pictured Berkeley Soy Cheese Veggie Pizza. I ordered a whole wheat crust made with a pesto sauce, bubbling soy mozzarella and a mountain of veggies including green and red peppers, tomato, mushroom, onion and zucchini with crumbled veggie burger in place of sausage. The pesto is garlicky. The vegetables were crisp and colorful. The crust was thin, delicate, flavorful, and hearty enough to survive the pesto coating.

There are a number of other delicious sounding pizzas for vegetarians. The Tuscan is described as: Homemade roasted garlic sauce, mozzarella, Cremini, Shittake and Button mushrooms, caramelized onions, feta, truffle oil and fresh thyme. There is also a Margherita-esque pie called the Napoli.

There is a more complete review of Z Pizza on Columbus Alive. It was a positive write-up.

The organic tomato sauce and wheat dough are cool reminders of the healthy foundation of Z Pizza. They sell pizza by the slice, and there is limited space to dine in.

Z Pizza

22 November 2008

Blue Ginger

Blue Ginger is the latest pan-Asian hot spot to spring up in Columbus during the last year. Blue Ginger features a multinational menu that jumps all over the Asian continent. There are Japanese, Chinese, Vietnamese and Thai dishes on the menu.

The restaurant decor is modern and relatively formal. Blue Ginger serves beer, wine and sake. They have a liquor license pending. The mango saketini was delicious, making me not miss the hard liquor license at all.

I tried the edamame as an appetizer. The simple soybean becomes an addictive treat when it's boiled in sea salt. They call edamame Japanese peanuts for a reason. They are really that good and really that addictive.

The vegetarian sushi plate is one of the best I've ever had. There are a wide variety of different vegetable combinations wrapped with rice and seaweed. There were avocado rolls, carrot rolls, a number of rolls made with pickled vegetables, as well as a lightly fried rice dumpling and a mountain of ginger and wasabi. The presentation made the rolls almost too beautiful to eat. Luckily I closed my eyes, and they went down just fine (picture me smiling, fat and sarcastic).

There are also a number of noodle dishes that can be made with tofu on the menu. Overall, Blue Ginger has a wide variety of vegetarian options, and the food, service and experience are excellent.

Blue Ginger
Blue Ginger Asian Fusion Bistro on Urbanspoon

21 November 2008

Taco del Mar

West coast chain Taco del Mar is taking root in the Central Ohio area. There is a location in New Albany and a location in Canal Winchester. The Seattle-based chain makes its name with its signature fish tacos, but they actually have a pretty good array of vegetarian and vegan options on the menu for non-pescatarians.

The decor is faux-tropical and the soundtrack is Jimmy Buffet and related acts. The food is made in front of you a la Chipotle or Subway.

The mondo burrito is pretty large, even by Chipotle standards. There is an option for additional charge that drowns the burrito in enchilada sauce and cheese (I said yes to this option). Del Mar offers a standard palette of vegetables, salsas, cheese and sour cream with which to build a burrito. I didn't see it, but there are supposed to be different tortillas available (spinach, tomato and the like).

Honestly, I couldn't even finish the burrito because of its inordinate size. It was comparable to Chipotle, Qdoba, Baja Fresh and related properties in both construction and proportion. The prices make Taco del Mar a good option for a quick lunch.

Most items on the menu have vegetarian options. There are tacos, burritos and quesadillas alongside chips, dips, beans and rice. Despite the seafood bias, Taco del Mar actually does have a number of decent choices for vegetarians.

Taco Del Mar

Fiesta Mariachi

Fiesta Mariachi is another of the cookie cutter, one-size-fits-all Mexican eateries that dot this great nation of ours. If you GPS Fiesta Mariachi, it might take you to the old location. Don't sweat--the newer digs are right down the street.

There are about 8 vegetarian combos on the menu. There are complimentary chips and salsa, as well as frozen and on-the-rocks margaritas in a variety of flavors. There are a few top shelf tequila brands.

My entree was a tostada, a bean enchilada and a quesadilla. It resides in about the same neighborhood of quality as El Vacquero and Las Margaritas. Fiesta Mariachi does offer vegetarian items on its menu, but it isn't necessarily a destination worth seeking out. If I was in the area, I'd definitely go to Talita's.

Fiesta Mariachi

19 November 2008

On the Fly

I tried a bunch of things at the soft opening for On the Fly, the new venture from the folks that brought you Dragonfly. The space adjacent to the gourmet vegan spot is conceptualized as a take-out featuring street food in all international forms and flavors.

There were a number of samples available. I tried different empanadas (for some reason the chalk board menu had a tilde, although it isn't spelled that way to my knowledge). There was a curried vegetable empanada, a chili empanada and an apple empanada that was a dessert.

The falafel sandwich was divine. The falafel was soft, mildly seasoned and deeply green. It came with tomatoes, onion and some type of thin green lettuce in a tahini sauce/hummus combination. I added the hot sauce, made with restaurant-grown peppers. Proprietor Magdiale Wolmark was pleased as punch with his hot sauce. It was not mislabeled. It wasn't a mild sauce. It wasn't a slightly spicy sauce. It was a fiery hot sauce that added enough bite to some of the dishes to bring a smile to my face. I'll give it a thumbs up on the sauce and a thumbs up on the falafel sandwich.

I'm going to have to go back to try the Vegan cheesesteak, made from portabella mushrooms and a vegan cheese sauce known as V whiz. There is also a veggie burger known as the rowdy burger.

They offer a limited selection of organic soda, beer and wine. They had Wolaver's IPA and something from St. Peter's. There also was an inexpensive white and red wine that were featured. I'm not sure if there are additional beverages or not--I swung in and out pretty quickly.

This is a really cool idea. Vegan comfort food made by a talented chef seems like a home run in my book. Think of it as Dragonfly food on a Panera Bread budget.

On the Fly

On the Fly on Urbanspoon

18 November 2008

Zamarelli's Pizza Palace

Zamarelli's in Grove City is a small, family-owned pizza shop in Grove City. The crust is thin. The menu is pretty basic. Zamarelli's only takes cash and they do not deliver, so plan accordingly.

The best part about Zamarelli's pizza is that they have great crust. It is flaky with a hint of butter. Although it's thin crust, it is a little thicker than the traditional crispy cracker crust. The sauce is nice. The vegetable toppings were adequate. The peppers and onions were good. The mushrooms were bad--they were definitely canned.

The menu also features a vegetarian lasagna. Zamarelli's didn't make my favorite pizza, but maybe the pastas would be worth a shot if you were in a pinch.

Zamarelli's Pizza Palace

17 November 2008

On the Fly soft opening

There is a new press release from the vegan temple Dragonfly. It's about their new venture On the Fly. Instead of offering haute cuisine, On the Fly makes vegan street food. It should be delicious. You're supposed to be an email list member to attend this event, but you might be able to sweet talk your way in by signing up for the email list on the Web site.

From the press release:

ON THE FLY Dragonfly's NEW street food SPOT next door to the restaurant OPENING WED. 11.19 @ 10am - sneak peak and samples for our dfly guests

Be one of the first to try DRAGONFLY'S new street food spot ON THE FLY.

We're still putting the finishing touches on her, but the ON THE FLY menu will be up and running on Wednesday November 19 @ 10am-3pm and 5pm - 7pm.

We will be operating limited hours in the first few weeks, but expect expanded hours and format to be in place soon.


We will be opening with some of the Dragonfly kitchen's signature STREET FOOD creations including a PORTABELLA PHILLY 'CHEESE' STEAK with V whiz, A SELECTION OF SWEET AND SAVORY EMPANADAS, OPEN FACE FALAFEL with ON THE FLY HOT SAUCE (made with chili peppers from the Dragonfly kitchen garden), STREET FOOD SALAD AND SESAME ROLLS, AND introducing THE ROWDY BURGER.

Also a unique selection of beverages, cool affordable, yet really good wine and beer, batidas, low tech caffeine, and other pick me ups will be available.



Gregory's Family Restaurant

Gregory's Family Restaurant is an old fashioned diner in Canton with a decent number of vegetarian options on the menu. They are only open for breakfast and lunch, and they are not open at all on Monday. The service is laid back, friendly and helpful.

The vegetarian chili is delicious. It is a thick blend of tomato chunks, kidney beans and soy crumbles in a river of seasonings alongside an armada of topping options (crackers, cheese, sour cream, hot sauce, et al.). It is available in a cup and a bowl.

Since this is a diner, most of the vegetarian entrees are sandwiches, pastas and salads. There are veggie hot dogs as well as a large number of classic side dishes with a vegetarian flair (fried poppers, onion rings and French fries). There are also breakfast items including pancakes, omelets and even vegetarian sausage pattiy sandwiches and side dishes. I didn't eat breakfast, but it is available as long as the restaurant is open.

My main course was a sandwich made with Gregory's homemade veggie sausage. It was a loosely packed patty that was similar to a veggie burger. The patty was covered in mozzarella cheese and marinara sauce. It was served with a choice of chips or pretzels.

I also tried my dining companion's sandwich--the dilled yogurt club. It was a triple-decker sandwich built on wheat bread with layers of cheese, lettuce, tomato, onion, cucumber, green pepper and pecan-dill cream cheese.

At first glance, you wouldn't guess that Gregory's would offer so many choices for vegetarians. It is well worth checking out if you're in the area.

Gregory's Family Restaurant

11 November 2008

Mellow Mushroom

I'm vaguely excited about the Mellow Mushroom Pizza Bakers going in east of Polaris (scheduled to open in January 2009). I tried this place in South Carolina. They make pizza with any and all kinds of toppings. They have a large number of vegetarian items on the menu, including multiple sandwiches. The place in Hilton Head featured a faux hippie vibe that was evident in the decor and the menu. The closest comparison I can make to a pizzeria in Ohio and the Mellow Mushroom is Avalanche Pizza in Athens and Lancaster. I do enjoy pizza and sandwiches, so Mellow Mushroom should give me another place to get fat.

10 November 2008


Ho-Toy is a Thai/Chinese restaurant in the heart of Downtown Columbus. The place makes its name with inexpensive take-out that it fires out with rapid precision. There is a deceptively large dining room on two floors; the swarm of worker bees in the area takes ample advantage of the to-go menu.

The menu at Ho-Toy is very vegetarian friendly. There are almost 20 different vegetarian entrees in addition to a few vegetarian appetizers. Entrees are available in small and large sizes. The decor is plain and unspectacular.

I started with the vegetable egg roll. It was deep fried crispy brown with a cabbage, carrot, and onion filling drowned in a sea of hot mustard.

My entree was a basil curry tofu. Pan fried cubes of tofu were tossed in an earthy sauce with hints of citrus, green herbs and red pepper. There are onions, water chestnuts, green peppers, mushrooms and carrots in the dish. You can specify a heat level (I always go hot!). The small portion is less than $6. My total bill was less than $9 with a drink.

The quality of Ho-Toy is decent. This isn't the kind of place you go for the high-class experience. Rather, Ho-Toy features tasty food for fair prices, and they can get diners in and out in a rapid fire manner.

Ho Toy

09 November 2008

Framboise...my dirty little secret

Okay okay, I'll admit it. I love fruity beer. I'm a sucker for lambics made with any and all kinds of fruit. I love the bright acidity tempered by the beguiling sweetness, the avalanche of jammy fruit and Moscato d'Asti-esque carbonation that turns my frown upside down.

I don't want anybody to see me drinking it though. I fear that pleasures like the New Glarus raspberry tart will make me look unrefined to the untrained eye. I lock myself away like a hermit, enjoying the bounty of Oregon raspberries, Wisconsin wheat and Hallertau hops fermented in large oak vats with wild yeast all by myself out of a champagne flute.

If a person were on the outside looking in, it is unlikely that their social mores would approve of me drinking sweet raspberry concoctions out of proper French glassware. But the outsider has no idea how satisfying this ambrosia really is. Too bad--I'd drink this brew by the carafe if I could find it (no matter my--or anybody else's--scorn).

04 November 2008

Vegan Chicago

I just saw an article on Center Stage about vegan restaurants in Chicago. A couple I know and highly endorse (Karyn's, Chicago Diner, Handlebar and Alice & Friends) and a few others I'll have to check out the next time I visit the City of Big Shoulders (Earwax Café, Lakeside Café and Soul). It isn't dissimilar from my post on the same subject, although I was writing about vegetarian (not specifically vegan) restaurants.

Whole Foods

I feel like I'm writing about common knowledge here, but Whole Foods makes ridiculously good ready-to-eat vegetarian food. I had seitan enchilada pie (spicy wheat protein with eggplant, red peppers, onions, black olives and cheese), spicy Mexican eggplant, organic Colby cheese and some delicious organic Washington apples for lunch. That's just one of one million different combinations available to be eaten immediately on location or taken home for later consumption. The food bar items list all ingredients, making it simple to address any and all types of dietary restrictions.

All grocery stores should hope to be half as great as Whole Foods. The convenient take-out at Whole Foods now means you don't even have to be able to cook to reap the benefits of your friendly neighborhood organic grocer.