29 December 2009

Bel Lago

Bel Lago is a tastefully-appointed, Italian-inspired eatery that has beautiful views of the Hoover Reservoir. Although the outdoor seating is far less enjoyable in the winter, come summertime, it will be a beautiful place to enjoy a cocktail while admiring the sailboats.

Bel Lago is located in the same location as the now departed Hoover Grill. The decor is far better at Bel Lago. They have replaced the cold, metallic interior of Hoover Grill with a combination of tan and brown accents. The fireplace makes the dining room warm and inviting.

The menu at Bel Lago features Italian cuisine, sandwiches, salads and assorted Mediterranean favorites. My biggest complaint is that with a menu this expansive, it should have been possible to offer a vegetarian sandwich and another vegetarian entree. Although the food is excellent, variety is the spice of life, and it feels like the vegetarian choices on the menu might have been added as an afterthought.

The staff is very helpful. Our server took the time to explain what items on the menu were vegetarian-friendly.

Bel Lago also has a nice selection of wine, cocktails and draft beer. I was impressed by the Bell's Best Brown and Goose Island Matilda beers available on draft.

I started with a twin hummus plate. Regular and spicy red pepper hummus are served on a platter with pita triangles, green, red and yellow peppers, broccoli, carrots and celery as dipping accoutrements. While the plain hummus was good, the spicy hummus was fantastic. I almost wanted to send my plain hummus back and get a full two servings of the spicy stuff. The veggies and pitas provided a variety of flavors with which to scoop both dips up.

My main course was linguine in a pesto cream sauce. Bel Lago makes all their pasta by hand, and the results turn out with great texture and flavor. The pesto sauce was rich but mildly flavored, with subtle hints of fresh basil and garlic alongside the delightful crunch of pine nuts. Fans of local eating will also be impressed that the basil was grown down the street by Westerville North students in their hydroponics class.

Other vegetarian options on the menu include pizzas. There is a Mediterranean pizza as well as a margherita pizza. There are also three vegetarian salads as well as a grilled vegetable plate.

The interior is not the only thing that Bel Lago has improved upon from Hoover Grill. The parking lot at the Hoover Grill/Bel Lago spot is too small for the amount of people that can be seated in the restaurant, and Westerville is not the most walkable community. Bel Lago has fixed the parking shortage by offering valet service on busy nights.

Despite shortchanging vegetarians on their menu options, Bel Lago makes quality fare that can be enjoyed with beautiful views of the landscape. If you aren't opposed to a limited number of vegetarian options, Bel Lago prepares quality food that, while somewhat expensive, pays close attention to presentation and preparation.

Bel Lago

Bel Lago on Urbanspoon

25 December 2009

Pattycake Bakery

It seems impossible for a Columbus vegetarian blog that has been in operation for three years not to have reviewed Clintonville's Pattycake Vegan Bakery. Christmas gave me an opportunity to make up for this egregious wrongdoing.

Pattycake's wares are found in a number of restaurants throughout the city. Proprietor Jennie Scheinbach is one of the most famous names connected to vegan dining in the Capital City, and she does a great job getting the word out about her delicious baked goods.

Pattycake was also open on Christmas (and will still be open until 6 pm Christmas night). They featured cookies, cupcakes, candies, pies and the holiday favorite, sticky buns.

The baked goods at Pattycake are so delicious so that ovo-, lacto- and not-even-close-to-vegetarians will not miss the animal products in their sweets. Pattycake also makes a number of low sugar, no sugar and gluten-free baked goods for diabetics and those with celiac disease.

Some items in the cases that looked particularly delicious include chocolate chip cookies, snickerdoodles, holiday sugar cookies, carrot cupcakes, whoopie pies, brownies and granola.

The sticky buns were delightful. Served piping hot from the oven, the soft rolls melt in your mouth with a spicy cinnamon kick. The icing adds another layer of flavor to the enormous pastry.

Baked goods can be picked up on location, on the Web, and at restaurants like Rad Dog, Cup O' Joe and many of the local farmer's markets. Those looking for guilt-free sweets should definitely head to Clintonville and reap the bounty from Pattycake.

Pattycake Vegan Bakery

Pattycake Bakery on Urbanspoon

24 December 2009

Yellow Brick Pizza

Columbus has seen a swarm of new pizza shops open in the last month or so. First Bono Pizza in Grandview opened (or re-opened, depending on your take); then, Clever Crow opened in the kitchen at Circus; now Downtown is getting into the act with Yellow Brick Pizza, an East Coast-style pizzeria that specializes in artisanal pies and craft brews.

Located on Oak Street east of Parsons, Yellow Brick Pizza proprietor Orin Hemminger is currently testing the waters with a low-key soft opening. There is seating for about 40 people in the dining room, as well as about 10 or 15 seats at the bar.

Yellow Brick makes pizza in small, medium and large sizes. You can build your own pie or select a few of the specialty pizzas. Yellow Brick also offers cheese pizza by the slice for $2.

There are a wide variety of meatless pizza options at Yellow Brick (sorry vegans--you're out of luck on this one!). The crust is soft and thin, akin to a New York pizza without the necessity of folding your slices.

Vegetarian pies include the Rhode Island Red (a crispy crust slathered in red sauce and olive oil sprinkled lightly with parmesan), the Big O (a red sauce pizza topped with feta, artichoke hearts, spinach, tomato, garlic and red onions in a swirl of pesto), the Mad Greek (a traditional Greek pizza), the Oak Street (alfredo sauce with mushrooms, garlic, onion and potato), Meggie's Veggie (mushrooms, artichoke hearts, green peppers, onions and tomatoes), and the Green Man (pesto sauce with spinach, green peppers, artichokes and green olives).

I sampled the Green Man, which is named after a character from It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia who used to be a high school mascot that gets used by Charlie while tripping on acid at a Philadelphia Eagles try out. As seen in the picture above, the Green Man is an explosion of secondary color with both green sauce and toppings.

The crust is soft, buttery and delicious. The cheese is well-portioned. The toppings are fresh and tasty, although the spinach somewhat overwhelmed the delicate nature of the pesto. Although the flavors weren't completely balanced, the pizza was still very good.

There are also a few meatless appetizers. These include French fries, cinnamon sticks and mushroom pizza sticks.

In addition to the delicious, eats, Yellow Brick also dishes up a decent selection of craft beers. Happy hour specials include half-off drafts and $1 PBR cans from 4 to 8 pm. Taps include Abita Purple Haze, Dogfish Head 60 Minute IPA, Founder's Porter, La Chouffe, Great Lakes Dortmunder Gold, and Stone Pale Ale. There is also a large list of beer in bottles.

With gourmet pizza popping up all over the city, it was about time that Downtown was added to the revolution. If you enjoy pizza, beer and/or the continued redevelopment of the Near East side, Yellow Brick Pizza should be right up your alley.

Yellow Brick Pizza

Yellow Brick Pizza on Urbanspoon

22 December 2009

Mellow Mushroom sandwiches

Mellow Mushroom is a Southern pizza chain that goes above and beyond the call of duty for the vegetarian-inclined diner.

Previously, I have reviewed the gourmet pizzas at the Polaris location. I first tried Mellow Mushroom in Hilton Head, South Carolina while on vacation.

Beyond the pizza pies, Mellow Mushroom also offers a variety of sandwiches that hit the mark for those who describe themselves as vegetarian and/or vegan.

Mellow Mushroom makes five different vegetarian sandwiches. Three sandwiches are hot and two are cold. Although all are made with animal products, the menu will leave the cheese out to delight the vegan crowd.

I tried the tempeh hoagie. Tempeh is a fermented soy protein that undergoes less processing than its more famous cousin tofu. Tempeh has a more rustic flavor than tofu, and it is also firm and granular as opposed to soft and solid like tofu.

The tempeh sandwich comes on a choice of French, wheat or pita bread. The tempeh is marinated and grilled, then served with pesto mayo, feta cheese, grilled onions, mushrooms, peppers and sprouts. The pesto and veggies add a bright contrast to the full-flavored tempeh base.

Other vegetarian sandwich options include tofu, portobello, tomato and mozzarella, and avocado. As discussed in the previous review, there are scores of vegetarian and vegan salads, appetizers, calzones and pizzas on the menu as well.

Mellow Mushroom is a cool option in the Polaris area for satisfying both health nuts and those who prefer their fat content pumped into overdrive. When paired with its extensive menu of craft beer, everybody leaves fat and happy.

Mellow Mushroom Sandwich

16 December 2009

Tuesday Tastings with Thirsty Dog

Before I get started here, I'll have to lay my biases on the table: when I first started college education, had to find a way to pay for beer.

Obviously, I needed to be educated, pay for books and gain insight from social interactions while in school. These were very important things as well. But in college, ultimately the most important thing was to figure out an effective method to pay for beer.

I killed two birds with one stone by getting a job at the original Thirsty Dog Brew Pub.

Fast forward many years into the future (namely last night) at Tuesday Tastings at Hal & Al's. The brew pubs have closed, but the operation has morphed into a regional microbrewery available in 11 states.

The initial Tuesday Tasting event saw Thirst Dog owner John Najeway bring a litter of samples to the tasting at Hal & Al's, my favorite neighborhood bar. I also worked with Mr. Najeway at the original (now defunct) Canton location (and now my preexisting biases have been laid bare for all to see).

The event cost $5. For a bill with Lincoln on the front, you get a pint of the 12 Dogs of Christmas, a Thirsty Dog pint glass, and samples of six different brews.

The 12 Dogs of Christmas is available on draft at Hal & Al's. The beer is a spiced winter brew that is redolent of cloves, cinnamon, ginger and honey, balanced by a medium dark maltiness. It's in the same family as the Great Lakes Christmas Ale, although the flavor is different enough to make both worth trying.

The Labrador Lager is a golden lager with clean malt character and a faintly aggressive hop presence. It is a continental pilsner that is ready-made for drinkers who prefer Bud and Miller to Samuel Adams and Samuel Smith.

The Raspberry Ale is a fruit bomb. The blonde color hides a bounty of berry fruit that coats the palate in a sticky sweet melange of malt and berries. This is not my favorite style of beer, but the Raspberry Ale would be appreciated by those who prefer sweetness to hoppiness in their craft brew.

The Irish Setter Red is a ruby brew with a medium body, aromas of caramel and barley, and a great finish. It is a beer naturally made for celebrating St. Patrick's Day (or the other 364 days, for that matter).

The Stud Service Stout is the Thirsty Dog's take on Guinness. Although it isn't nitrogenated, the beer has the opaque black color, roasted malt notes and low alcohol of the Irish favorite. It is a fantastic stout.

The Old Leghumper is a more robust porter. It has a brown color, and sweet aromas of chocolate, coffee and smoke jump out of the glass.

Cerberus is a Belgian triple-style ale named after the mythological canine guardian of Hades. Like the gatekeeper to the underworld, Cerberus is a brute with 10 percent alcohol by volume. Cerberus seemed to possess a greater clarity than a traditional Belgian triple, although I was assured that the beer was not fined or filtered. The yeast esters are pronounced on the flavor and aroma profiles. The beer is very well made.

Of course I have some biases that make the Thirsty Dog and Hal & Al's hold a special place in my heart. Thirsty Dog started my long romance with craft beer, and Hal & Al's sells me craft beer and vegan hot dogs within a three minute walk from my house. Despite my prejudices, however, both Thirsty Dog and the Tuesday Tastings are worth checking out.

Next week's tasting is not yet defined, but two weeks from today, there is a Bell's tasting. I will definitely be there with bells on!

09 December 2009

Mustard Seed Market & Cafe

The Mustard Seed Market & Cafe uses the freshest ingredients to create wholesome food that is as healthy as it is delicious.

The Cafe upstairs from the Montrose market is one of the Akron area's oldest vegetarian eateries. The benefit of visiting either location is that foodies can stroll through the market before, during and after eating at the cafe, giving them an opportunity to peruse the aisles of local produce and prepared foods.

I lived and worked in the Akron area for many years, and I used to eat at Mustard Seed regularly. Even though Akron has more vegetarian options since VegiTerranean and Aladdin's have opened up, Mustard Seed is still a great option for those looking to eat a fresh and delicious meatless meal.

The menu at Mustard Seed Cafe features salads, sandwiches, pasta, sushi and Mexican food for vegetarian, vegan, macrobiotic, and any other type of adjectival diner. Also, Mustard Seed labels the vegetarian and vegan items on the menu, which always wins a pile of bonus points from me. The chefs will also work with diners to accommodate any special dietary restriction.

Mustard Seed Cafe has a juice bar, which freshly squeezes a wide assortment of fruit and vegetable juices. I sampled a banana, papaya and coconut drink that tasted bright and delicious.

The edamame was prepared improperly. The soybeans were originally frozen, and some of them were served cold. Although many of them were correctly heated, about a third of them were not correctly cooked. This was the sole mistake of the meal.

My main course (portobello and tomato focaccia sandwich), on the other hand, was fantastic. Two mushroom caps were grilled and placed on fresh-baked focaccia triangles with tomato, Bermuda onions, lettuce, melted provolone and walnuts in garlic mayo and Dijon mustard. The smoky mushroom was perfectly supported by fresh veggies and crunchy walnuts to create a complex taste and texture experience.

Other vegetarian and vegan items on the menu include a veggie burger, tofu and veggie wrap, avocado club wrap, tofu lo mein, vegetarian bean enchilada, tofu and cashew stir fry, a Middle Eastern platter, nachos, pita pizza, broccoli alfredo, vegetable quesadilla, stuffed avocado, mushroom saute, artichoke and spinach dip, pasta primavera or alfredo, tempeh reubens, tofu Napoleon, and various salads. All dishes made with cheese can be prepared with soy cheese.

I have not visited both locations of the Mustard Seed. I cannot address the positive and negative characteristics of each location as I have only visited the one in Montrose.

Mustard Seed Cafe is an Akron veggie standby that is more than worth your time if you're in the area. I live in Columbus, so I only make it by a few times a year. But I enjoy it greatly every time I stop by.

Mustard Seed Cafe

Mustard Seed Market and Cafe on Urbanspoon

07 December 2009

New (for me) at the North Market

I haven't been to the North Market in about a month. Since I've been gone, there are a number of new options that have popped up at the gourmet playground of the Capital city.

Unfortunately, I showed up on the day (Monday) when half of the vendors are closed. Boo! Oh well. At least I can still walk around, take some pictures and write about what I'm going to eat at the North Market on my next visit.

As a proud Pole, I was super-excited when I saw that the newest place opening in the North Market is Hania's Olde World Cuisine. Although the menu (like the cuisine of Poland) is meat-centric, they do make potato pierogi. If you'd like to try to impress the staff with your Polish, you can try winning them over with the phrase, "Czy jest karta wegetariaƄska?" (Do you have a vegetarian menu?). If not, vegetarian diners will be limited to pierogi.

Although it isn't brand new, Taste of Belgium is another outpost I've yet to try. I checked the menu out, and in addition to Liege waffles, Taste of Belgium also makes a vegetarian crepe. It is made with red peppers, spinach, and goat cheese. I'll definitely have to sample something from the city's only Belgian eatery next time.

Since I couldn't try any of the new places, I was stuck with Sarefino's Pizza and Jeni's ice cream. Sarefino's makes tasty New York style pizza that I failed to photograph. Jeni's makes possibly the best ice cream on the planet. I tried one of the new seasonal flavors at Jeni's, the white chocolate evergreen with red currant garland. The evergreen base provides a hint of menthol and eucalyptus, the white chocolate flecks add a buttery undercurrent, and the currant swirls wrap the package up in a subtly sweet bow.

The ice cream was a delightful way to wrap up my failed attempt to try the places at North Market where I haven't eaten yet. At least I left with a smile on my face.

New at the North Market

01 December 2009

China Dynasty

China Dynasty is a Columbus institution that has been serving Chinese food since 1990 (1987 even, for the Upper Arlington location, which I did not visit). You only need to watch local broadcast TV at or around midnight to see a China Dynasty commercial, after which you will inevitably get the China Dynasty theme song stuck in your head ("China Dynasty...the home of the Happy Buddha,"...damn it, I'm going to be singing that song for the next week now!).

China Dynasty prepares inexpensive food that is better than its price range would indicate. It's hardly the top tier of Asian food available in the Capital City. However, the food is good quality considering its price point. There are a number of vegetarian entrees on the menu.

I started with a vegetarian spring roll. It is a Chinese-style spring roll, deep fried and filled with Napa cabbage, bamboo and mushrooms. It is somewhat bland, but the flavor is kicked up a notch by Chinese hot mustard.

The spicy bean curd is essentially a version of the classic ma po tofu (vegetarian note: ma po tofu is often made with shredded pork. At China Dynasty, it is recommended that you ask for the spicy bean curd without pork). Piles of tofu are pan fried in a spicy brown sauce with green onions and red peppers. China Dynasty does a solid job with a Szechuan standard.

China Dynasty has a full bar. The decor in the large restaurant is tasteful. The aim of the staff is to get a quick turnover at most tables.

China Dynasty makes solid if unspectacular food. Since it has a decent amount of vegetarian options that can be prepared quickly for a low price, China Dynasty is a good quality, inexpensive option for lunch. While you could definitely do better than China Dynasty, you could also do far worse.

China Dynasty

China Dynasty Chinese on Urbanspoon

25 November 2009

Schneider's Bakery

Schneider's Bakery has been satisfying the sweet tooth of Uptown Westerville since the good old days when the suburb was a virtual palisade of prohibition. No matter your opinion of alcohol in Ohio's capital of temperance, everybody agrees that a run to Schneider's is always a sweet proposition.

Schneider's offers a wide range of baked goods including cakes, cookies, pies and danishes, but Schneider's earned its reputation with the doughnuts. The 1 am weekend doughnut runs have created miles of smiles for bleary-eyed Otterbein College students for generations.

Although Schneider's is notable for sweet baked goods, they also make tasty loaves of bread, rolls and buns that are every bit as good as the sweets.

But as I said before, if you have only one option, make it a doughnut. And the extra added bonus is that you can feel good supporting them because they are a locally-owned family operation.

The glazed doughnut has a light, flaky dough that melts in your mouth. The balance of sweetness is tempered by a rich savory mouthfeel.

Schneider's prices are very reasonable when you consider the quality of food it offers. Some of the specials they offer include a doughnut and a drink for $1, and a danish and a drink for $1.75.

Schneider's Bakery

Schneider's Bakery on Urbanspoon

21 November 2009

Bono Pizza

I'm not going to be the first one to say that Bono Pizza is delicious. You can see the glowing reviews from Slow Food Columbus or Hungry Woolf or the Columbus Foodcast or Columbus Foodie or CMH Gourmand or Columbus Underground or Columbus Alive or This Week or Restaurant Widow to confirm the existence of a consensus built upon a foundation of effusive praise of Bill Yerkes' nomadic pizza outpost.

It appears that I am a little late to the party.

Nonetheless, since Bono creates such amazing artisanal pizza pies, I have to extol the virtues of their vegetarian pizza options.

I sampled the Hulk, which is a pesto and mozzarella pie made with green veggies. The green bounty included spinach, green onions and avocado as well as shaved parmesan. The garlicky pesto brings out the earthy notes of the spinach and the bright flavors of the cheese to create a pyrotechnic explosion of flavor.

There are many vegetarian pizza options on the menu at Bono. There is a cheeseless pizza made with tomato sauce, roasted red peppers, basil and eggplant. Bono also has a Margherita pizza, a five cheese pizza, a Greek pizza, a pizza made with what is described as "f**king hot peppers", a mixed mushroom pizza, and the obligatory build-your-own five topping pie.

The place is tucked into the back of a carry-out liquor store. The menu explains the paradox thusly: "Of course it's in the back of a liquor store, it's bonopizza." Bono seats about 12 people.

The address on the Urban Spoon site linked above is incorrect. The address is 1717 Northwest Blvd., and the phone number is (614) 906-8646. Bono is open Monday through Saturday from 5-11 pm.

Bono Pizza

Bono Pizza on Urbanspoon

Gross Vegan Thanksgiving Options

I applaud vegetarian and vegan options for all kinds of products. Sometimes it's necessary to provide faux-meat items so newbie vegetarians can make an easy transition to an herbivorous lifestyle.

That being said, the idea of
Tofurky and Gravy soda by Jones makes me want to throw up in my mouth a little bit.

In response to the popular-but-even-more-disgusting Turkey and Gravy soda that Jones releases most Thanksgivings, Jones now has a Tofurky and Gravy drink for those who can't stomach actual bird-flavored beverages.

Honestly, I may be going out on a limb here, but I've never been a big fan of
Tofurky. Their vegan hot dogs are good, but the gummy faux-turkey always has tasted funky and unpleasant to me.

My recommendation would be to buy the soda and use it for a decorative conversation piece. Or buy it and drink it on a dare. Either way, don't say I didn’t warn you.

If nothing else, you can feel good about yourself since Jones donates a $1 of each purchase to PAWS. Even if the flavor is frightening, you can still feel warm and fuzzy inside because of your generously charitable nature.

16 November 2009

Drelyse African Restaurant

I'm a sucker for any cuisine I've never tried before, so the first time I drove past Drelyse a few weeks ago, I knew I was going to have to check it out. Drelyse offers food from many different countries in Africa, and if you're in the area, the place is well worth checking out.

Drelyse is located off the beaten path, south of Dublin Granville Road between Cleveland Avenue and Karl Road. The owners are extremely friendly, and they took the time to explain to me what dishes on the menu were vegetarian-safe.

The kitchen crew is multinational, representing three countries in West Africa. Each nationality brings native dishes to the menu, although the cuisine of Ghana is the most prevalent choice. There are also dishes from elsewhere on the African continent, including Senegal, Kenya and Ethiopia.

The majority of the menu is dishes made with beef, chicken, goat or fish. However, they are planning on adding a vegetarian sandwich to the menu in the near future.

I started with an order of vitumbua, a Kenyan/Tanzanian bread that makes your mouth water with its soft, savory mix of flavor. Vitumbua is a rice bread made with coconut and cardamom. Imagine a less flaky biscuit that melts in your mouth and you can just about picture the satisfying flavor of the steaming baked good.

Ghana's signature vegetarian dish is called red red. Red red is black eyed peas pan fried in palm oil with onions, tomatoes and a liberal dose of spices. Some places will prepare red red with seafood or a food additive called maggi, which is an African version of bouillon. However, Drelyse prepares its red red vegetarian.

Traditionally, red red is made with a side of plantains. The plantains were perfectly fried. They were not greasy at all. The sweet and starchy fruit was a perfect complement to the Indian-esque main course. Both were delightful.

Drelyse also offers a limited selection of traditional African beverages like non-alcoholic palm wine and malt beverages. Much of the clientele spoke languages I am unable to identify (and as we all know, patronage by residents of the homeland is a great indicator of restaurant quality).

The combination of great food, friendly service and vegetarian options makes Drelyse a great option if you're in the area. Yesterday was my first experience with some of these dishes, but it definitely won't be my last.


Drelyse African & Amer on Urbanspoon

10 November 2009

Easy Street Cafe

Easy Street Cafe is a diner/bar located in German Village on Thurman Avenue. Easy Street prepares breakfast lunch and dinner that is rooted in American and Greek traditions.

Easy Street is decorated with standard neighborhood restaurant imagery that invokes memories of a bygone era. The crowd can go from sparse to busy depending on the hour in which you arrive.

The combination of Greek food with American diner fare is less strange than it seems at first because the pairing is rooted in American history. Many Greek immigrants achieved the American dream by working in and owning American diners, all the while maintaining the cultural practices of their Hellenic homeland. This link is evident at Easy Street.

The Greek classics like saganaki, gyros and spanakopita are available from Easy Street, as are standard diner items like omelettes, sandwiches and pizza. Pizzas are half-priced on Monday nights.

I started with the Greek quesadilla. This dish wrapped classic Greek ingredients like feta and kasseri cheese, kalamata olives, spinach, tomatoes and red onions in an equally famous Mexican package. It comes with tzatziki dip, and the flavors are savory, fresh and delicious.

My main dish was the veggie gyro. Kalamata olives, cucumbers, lettuce, tomatoes, onions and tzatziki sauce are stuffed into a thick, warm pita bread. It is served with a side of potato chips. I added the optional hummus filling to the sandwich for an extra dollar, and it gives the gyro a great peppery note.

Other vegetarian items on the menu include a Mediterranean pizza, grilled cheese, and a mixed Mediterranean platter.

The bar has a nice selection of beer and liquor with a limited complement of wines. I am particularly fond of the seasonal Great Lakes tap, which at this time is the beguiling Nosferatu.

Easy Street Cafe

Easy Street Cafe on Urbanspoon

07 November 2009

Rad Dog-South review

I made it to Hal and Al's for the grand opening of Rad Dog's storefront. If you like the vegan hot dog cart, you'll probably find something you love at Rad Dog's latest incarnation.

I covered a few of the things I tried during the soft opening here. I sampled a few of the other wares last night, and I was more than happy with the results.

The vegan macaroni and cheese is augmented with slices of veggie sausage. The flavor is rich enough to make you forget that the dish is meat- and dairy-free.

Additional side dishes at Rad Dog include hand cut fries, fried pickles, fried mushrooms and chili. A hot dog with a side dish makes for a filling meal. Two hot dogs and a side dish would be a ton of food.

So far, I can attest that the Radneck (a battered brat topped with mashed potatoes and gravy), the Polish Roadblock (a hand-battered corndog), the Sloppy Joe dog, the Rad Dog (kraut, peppers, onions and mustard), the Cowabunga (a coney) and the Bi Bim Bop (fried dog with pickled veggies and Korean hot sauce) are delicious. The pickled veggies and hot sauce combine for an interesting if non-traditional tube steak topping on the dog named after the Korean staple.

Other great looking dogs include the Frenchie, which is topped with French fries, ketchup and veganaise.

Rad Dog also features Pattycake Vegan Bakery cookies for dessert. During the Friday grand opening, Pattycake proprietor Jennie Scheinbach was walking around passing out bite-sized vegan peanut butter chocolate cupcakes.

The other benefit of putting Rad Dog in a bar is that now you can have an adult beverage or five with your meal. Hal and Al's has about six draft beers that include Great Lakes Nosferatu. They also have some great things in bottles, including Rogue beers, Chimay, Goose Island Honkers Ale and Abita Turbodog, as well as plenty of cheap beer in cans.

Rad Dog Hal & Als

Rad Dog on Urbanspoon

06 November 2009

Rad Dog sneak peak

Last night, I went to Hal and Al's, my go-to neighborhood bar, to watch the new episode of It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia. I was treated to a sneak peak of the new indoor Rad Dog menu in the meantime as an unexpected surprise.

I reviewed Rad Dog before, and I've posted about the vegan hot dog cart about 12,000 times on this blog. With the glut of new hot dog establishments popping up in and around the Capital City, Rad Dog stands out by offering fare that is comforting and completely vegan.

The old standards are still available. The Rad Dog (peppers, onions and kraut), the Cowabunga (vegan coney) and Luna Burger (an Ohio veggie burger) are still on the menu.

However, there are also new delicious creations made to satiate that which makes you salivate. The coolest one is the Rad-neck, a deep-fried, battered veggie brat topped with mashed potatoes and vegan gravy. It is a hugely satisfying combination of seasonal flavors.

I also don't remember the house-made corn dog at the Rad Dog cart, although it has been a few months since I last ate at the street cart location. The breading is thick and crispy, and it is delightful. The corn dog looks small, but the batter is coated so thickly, it is actually very filling.

The sloppy joe dog was also very good. Imagine a coney topped with vegan sloppy joe rather than chili, and you're basically there. It was a great combination of two comfort food staples.

There are also side dishes available, including vegan mac and cheese. I'll be swinging in with my better camera to test out more of the menu tonight during the grand opening.

04 November 2009

Louie's Grill

If Columbus-area foodies know one restaurant in Hilliard, that restaurant would be Starliner Diner. Some former employees of the celebrated Pan Latin eatery opened a new fusion spot (Louie's Grill) further down Cemetery Road that very well may have put another Hilliard eatery on the map.

The menu at Louie's Grill has a similar approach to the aforementioned Starliner Diner. There are American, Italian, Cuban and Mexican dishes on the menu. Although the menu has a few vegetarian items on it, Louie's is less vegetarian friendly than Starliner Diner.

Luckily enough, the vegetarian items on the menu are delicious. I absolutely adore plantains, and the fried plantains with a creamy red salsa dip were delightful. The soft, sweet fruit has its flavors augmented by the bright and mildly seasoned dip. The plantains are available both as an appetizer and a side dish.

The vegetable burrito contains a wider array of veggies than conventional burritos found at other establishments. The large flour tortilla is exploding with peppers, onions, carrots, broccoli, cauliflower, corn and beans. It is topped with a traditional red sauce and cheese, and it is served with a side dish of black beans and rice. The fresh pico de gallo is fantastic, adding cilantro and spice to what is already a flavor explosion.

The atmosphere at Louie's is far more restrained and tasteful than the kitsch factory that is Starliner Diner. Service is prompt, attentive and friendly.

I didn't get a chance to try the margaritas, but I've heard that Louie's margaritas and mixed drinks are delicious. The bar also features draft and bottled beer as well as a limited selection of wine.

Although the menu contains less vegetarian options than Hilliard's original fusion restaurant, Louie's still offers quality vegetarian food for a reasonable price.

Louie's Grill

Louie's Grill on Urbanspoon

31 October 2009

Whole World fire

A fire has torn through Clintonville vegetarian outpost Whole World. The restaurant hopes to re-open by December 1 of this year. (Whole World was also written about on my blog back in its infancy). Click here to read more about the fire.

28 October 2009

Rad Dog at Hal & Al's

Event: Rad Dog! Grand Opening @ Hal & Al's Bar"Good Drinks, Good Dogs, Good Times!"

Start Time: Friday, November 6 at 4:00pm

End Time: Saturday, November 7 at 2:00am

Where: 1297 Parsons Ave. Columbus Ohio 43206

To see more details and RSVP, follow the link below:


27 October 2009

Mo Joe Lounge

Mo Joe Lounge is a coffee house/bar with three locations. I visited the one in German Village, and the other two are located in the Short North and at Easton.

Mo Joe's menu features pizzas, sandwiches and assorted appetizers for vegetarians. Prices are reasonably inexpensive.

My appetizer was the hummus plate. It was made with a red bean and a chickpea hummus with pita triangles, celery, cucumbers and carrots as dipping accessories. The herbal undertones to the standard hummus made it slightly more pleasant than the smokier red bean hummus, although both were quite good.

The black bean veggie burger has a Southwestern character. The patty is akin to the Morningstar Farms black bean burger with beans and corn, but it is softer and it does not suffer the indignity of being frozen. It is served with house-made chipotle ketchup that adds a mildly spicy, smoked flavor to the burger. The black bean burger is outstanding. It comes with a choice of sides that includes corn salad (pictured), salad, rosemary skillet potatoes and spicy cole slaw.

Other vegetarian options on the menu include grilled cheese and cream of tomato soup, cheese pizza, veggie pizza, spicy French fries and various assorted salads. Happy hour specials from 4 to 8 pm include $1.50 domestic bottles, half-priced draft beers including Great Lakes Noseferatu and Rogue Dead Guy Ale, and $4 one-topping 7-inch pizza.

Mo Joe Lounge

Mojoe Lounge on Urbanspoon

Hal and Al's is going vegan?

So Tawd from Rad Dog is taking over the kitchen at Hal and Al's, my favorite neighborhood bar. I'm so excited for the vegan possibilities that I could possibly scream.

22 October 2009

Vegetarian weekly

The only thing in life I enjoy as much as fine dining is fine dining reality shows. I adore Iron Chef-style reality cooking battles. Naturally, that means I am transfixed by the new season of Top Chef Las Vegas on Bravo. Next week's episode features my vegan star crush Natalie Portman, meaning that the episode should be constructed from a battle cooking frame with a strong vegetarian undercurrent. Since I was such a fan of the Zooey Deschanel episode of Top Chef: Masters, I'm expecting more good things from next week's episode.

17 October 2009

Bohemio's Mexican Restaurant

Bohemio's is the new incarnation of the campus Mexican restaurant formerly known as Xalisco. The menu consists of fairly standard fare made by a friendly staff.

The restaurant is small, seating only about 30 people. The interior is bright and festively decorated.

Vegetarian items are clearly marked on the menu. The beans and Mexican rice are both fully vegetarian items.

The dinner menu features about five vegetarian combination platters. The lunch menu features only vegetarian fajitas and cheese quesadillas.

The quesadilla was a large flour tortilla stuffed with a white cheese (either queso asadero, chihuahua or queso fresco). It is served with sour cream and salsa, and the portion is large for $2.50. The quesadilla is delicious, especially with the accoutrements.

The fajita is also delicious. The fajita consists of griddled peppers, onions, mushrooms and zucchini. It is served with a side of guacamole, and this adds a savory note to the smoky accents of the vegetables.

Prices at Bohemio's are reasonable. The salsa is mild with a hint of onion and cilantro. The chips seemed like they could have been more fresh, but they were at least passable.

The staff is very friendly. I had better luck conversing with the staff in Spanish than I did in English. This might discourage some vegetarians, but lucky enough, the vegetarian items are clearly marked on the menu.


10 October 2009


Skillet is a new spot in Schumacher Place that describes its concept with the whimsical yet seemingly contrary banner "rustic urban food." It is located in the old Schumacher Place Banana Bean location.

Essentially, Skillet takes orders at a window a la the neighborhood diner. Much of the menu is designed to be eaten as carry-out, although there is a bit of seating available inside the restaurant.

The menu is mainly sandwiches and soups with a limited array of pasta dishes. Vegetarian options on the soft opening menu included truffled grilled cheese, a potato and cheese pierogi sandwich, and vegan pumpkin soup.

The grilled cheese was delicately delicious. The brioche and mushroom accents added extra layers of flavor complexity to a dish that is a comfort food staple. The pumpkin soup was prepared with pepitas, or toasted pumpkin seeds, and black beans. The soup had a Southwestern character to it, and it worked very well in the chilly weather.

For the soft opening period, Skillet is serving lunch only, although later plans call for brunch and dinner menus following the official grand opening. Prices are reasonable. Since I can walk to Skillet in a minute, I'll be excited to see how the rest of the menu looks when the place gets running at a full head of steam.


Skillet on Urbanspoon

06 October 2009

Krema Nut Company

Few dishes take you back to your childhood quite like a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. The schoolyard staple shines at the Grandview-based Krema Nut Company, a local operation with wholesale and retail space west of 315 on Goodale.

The peanut butter recipe is admirable for its minimalism: the only ingredient is roasted peanuts. That makes the peanut butter more natural, meaning that sometimes the oil separates when the peanut butter settles.

Krema also makes candies, and there is a retail PBNJ stand in the store that makes sandwiches, shakes, and ice cream dishes.

I made myself a peanut butter sandwich with the hot and spicy peanut butter, cucumbers and white onions on toasted Italian bread. It was reminiscent of Thai peanut noodles (which I also plan on making with the hot and spicy peanut butter). I spiced it up with a hint of sriracha, and it turned out delicious.

Krema Nut Company is a great local spot that might be easy to overlook. I learned about it from an article on a local blog. The write-up profiled a tour of the Krema facilities, and reviewed the (mostly) vegetarian sandwiches and other fare. Both Krema and the blog entry are worth checking out.

Krema Nut Company