28 September 2009

Classics Sports Bar

Classics Sports Bar is located in part of the old Victory's space. They feature a limited selection of draft beer, mixed drinks and bar food. There are veggie pizzas and sandwiches as well as a few meatless appetizers.

The pizza at Classics is fairly average in quality. It is thin crust and tavern cut. The sauce is bright and fresh-tasting. The crust is crispy if not slightly uneven. The toppings are unspectacular. Having tried multiple Classics locations, I found the pizza from the Westerville location to be superior to that of the Columbus outpost.

Overall, Classics Pizza is more of an effective way of cutting through a beer-induced haze during football games rather than something you'd search out. Plank's across the street is much better pizza.

Classic Sports Bar

23 September 2009

Anna's Pizza, Cookies and Ice Cream

I unearthed a gem that took me back to my childhood while visiting my brother this week. Stark County is hardly a hot bed of gourmet pizza. However, when I was younger, one place called the Pepper Mill shone brighter than all the other stars. The proprietors Anna and Tony ran a bare bones pizza shop that made great pizza with a medium thick, buttery crust, brightly flavored sauce and high quality topppings. After many years went by, they retired from the pizza business.

However, the friendly couple have now re-entered the pizza fray with Anna's Pizza, Cookies and Ice Cream in Jackson Township. The pie is very similar to the Pepper Mill, and the jovial conversations by the proprietors are identical.

I didn't use a camera to capture the pizza, so you'll have to stop in to relive the magic. The roasted garlic pizza comes highly recommended from my brother.

The Mad Greek

The Mad Greek is a bustling little Greek spot located in the outer limits known as Whitehall. As with most Greek restaurants (and contrary to My Big Fat Greek Wedding), The Mad Greek features many options for vegetarian diners.

Vegetarian appetizers include veggie grape leaves, eggplant salad, hummus, tzatziki, spanakopita, skordalia, cheese and olives, and many different salads. Vegetarian main courses include veggie grape leaves, Greek pasta and a mixed vegetarian combo platter.

The spanakopita was tender and flavorful. The pastry was flecked with soft feta cheese, and the earthiness of the spinach marries well with the cheese.

The vegetarian combo has many pita triangles cut to scoop up the hummus and eggplant salad. There is also a fresh tabouli and two sesame-seed coated pieces of falafel. The eggplant salad is a delicious mix of roasted eggplants and red peppers, olive oil, garlic and walnuts. The tabouli was a perfect combination of cracked wheat, parsley, olive oil, lemon juice, tomato and onion. It tasted far more fresh than the average tabouli that has been sitting in the fridge all day. The hummus and falafel were also well done.

There is a fairly broad dessert menu. It includes Greek staples like baklava and classic favorites like cheesecake.

Diners have the option of eating in the restaurant or they can use the carry-out counter in the front of the store. The festive dining room with its loud depictions of the Greek coastline is a choice, as is the small outdoor patio which should remain in use until fall tramples outdoor dining probabilities.

The Mad Greek

Mad Greek on Urbanspoon

14 September 2009

Creole Kitchen

Those immersed in the cuisine of the Gulf Coast view vegetarians with the same level of contempt and consternation as residents of the planet Earth would view an encounter with an alien life form. As I discovered in my travels to New Orleans, however, if you search long and hard enough, you can find meatless gems filled with the character that makes Creole food a world classic.

Creole Kitchen in the King Lincoln District follows the same formula as many other Gulf Coast establishments. Vegetarian options on the menu are few and far between. However, the few vegetarian options on the menu are full of flavor without the burden of blackened animal pieces.

Chef Henry Butcher's restaurant is hidden in a shopping plaza that is easy to drive past without noticing. Butcher has a long track record in Central Ohio, with stints at Tony's, the Delaware Hotel and Ollie's in Grandview. Creole Kitchen is a take-out joint. It has no tables or dishes.

The main attraction at Creole Kitchen is the roster of po boys, one of Louisiana's two signature sandwiches. Po Boys are the New Orleans rendition of a submarine sandwich. Creole Kitchen has a vegetarian po boy made with three different melted cheeses and grilled cabbage, onions, mushrooms and green peppers on a soft white roll. The seasoning blend, a mixture of black and cayenne pepper with hints of garlic and green herbs, adds a great flavor to the grilled veggies.

The veggie po boy costs $5 and comes with a side of herbed potato chips. The chips are tasty. A few of them were soggy, but they definitely blew away anything made by Frito Lay. The whole package is an absolute steal for $5. Let the sandwich cool down a bit, because it is stuffed with so much veggies and cheese that the toppings will explode everywhere if it isn't eaten carefully.

A few of the side dishes are vegetarian. The macaroni and cheese is vegetarian, but the red beans and rice, which contains sausage and ham, are not.

There are limited breakfast items at Creole Kitchen. Beignets, or New Orleans doughnuts, are a sweet and savory way to start the morning if you're so inclined.

Creole Kitchen is tough to find but easy to love. Although there are limited choices available for vegetarians, the vegetarian po boy shows that they take as much care with their vegetarian fare as they do with the other Gulf Coast favorites.

Creole Kitchen

Creole Kitchen on Urbanspoon

11 September 2009

Alana's Food and Wine - Restaurant Week

Outside of Dragonfly, Alana's is probably Columbus' most vegetarian-friendly fine dining establishment. The regular menu lists items that can be prepared vegetarian and vegan, and many of the items on the Restaurant Week menu are available as vegetarian options.

Alana's is the namesake restaurant of chef/proprietor Alana Shock, a chef with stints at Spagio, Emeril's and Lettuce Entertain You in Chicago as a corporate chef. The decor of the restaurant features whimsical accents that highlight the fun nature of Alana and her staff.

Alana's was jammed for Restaurant Week. The staff seemed a little pressed with all of the business stacking up. I had few problems because I walked in and I figured I'd have to wait. Some guests with reservations, however, were complaining that their reservations were 45 minutes late. Hopefully the weekend sees an increase in staffing.

The Restaurant Week menu actually changes daily. Many of the items on the Web menu were no longer available Thursday night. Of course, the shifting menu guarantees the freshest ingredients will be used.

There was a vegetarian salad and a soup available for the first course. I chose the Indian lentil Dal curry soup because I have a soft spot in my heart for food from the Indian subcontinent. Dal is the Indian name for lentils, and one of the classic preparations is lentil soup. Alana's version was richly spiced with a thick, pureed lentil base and hints of tomatoes, garlic and green onion.

The main course was a risotto made with Ohio shiitake mushrooms and mild goat cheese. The texture of the risotto was perfect, the mushrooms were savory and the goat cheese brought the whole dish together beautifully. The only minor complaint I had was that risotto changes from ethereal to coagulated rather quickly, and the portion might have been slightly large to enjoy the whole dish at the perfect consistency. That being said, how often is having too much of something a bad thing?

The dessert was a chocolate tort topped with chocolate ice cream. The dish highlighted the bitter, dark notes of chocolate, and walnuts add another layer of flavor to a great meal's conclusion.

Alana's is a great restaurant. Despite her feud with restaurant critic Jon Christensen, Alana's is most definitely one of Columbus' 10 best restaurants. Her commitment to vegetarian dining quality also makes Alana's a can't-miss destination for meatless diners.


Alana's on Urbanspoon

09 September 2009

Vegetarianism in the News

Today's news is heavy vegetarian. Locally, the Columbus Dispatch Food & Life section lead story is about occasional vegetarians. There are three recipes for Meatless Chili, Grilled Vegetables with Peanut Sauce, and Pasta with Broccoli, Red Pepper Flakes and Feta included with the article. Whether you are a full- or part-time vegetarian, recipes always come in handy.

And on the National front, the San Jose Mercury News ran an interview with Top Chef also-ran Michael Chiarello as the intro to their profile of vegan cookbooks. If the three Dispatch recipes weren't enough, perhaps a new vegan cookbook could brighten up your kitchen performance.

08 September 2009

Black Creek Bistro - Restaurant Week

If dinner were a card game with gambling involved, Black Creek Bistro will see your four-course vegetarian meal and raise you local sourcing. The provenance of the produce at this Parsons Ave. bistro is exceptional considering many of the fruits, veggies and herbs come from the owner of the restaurant's farm.

Black Creek Bistro has a great menu for vegetarians during Restaunt Week. And since you can imagine from how close the ingredients came, it makes the experience that much more pleasurable.

The chili relleno was a fiery delight. It had substantially greater heat than I am accustomed to from the dish, but the spiciness added another layer to a great first course. The pepper was stuffed with queso fresco that melted to the consistency of cream cheese. The chili relleno was prepared with a vegetable ragout that added notes of tomato and onion to the dish, and a basil leaf garnish. Definitely consume this with a glass of water.

There is also a sqaush au gratin available as a first course option. However, I decided since the vegetarian main course also is made with squash, I was starting with the chili relleno.

All three salads were vegetarian. There was a spicy pickled giardinera mix and a Bistro salad.

I, however, decided on the heirloom beet salad. The foundation of the salad was a delicious pickled beet that supported a green and red lettuce (arugula or endive...I'm terrible at leafy vegetable identification), onions, red and yellow tomatoes, chevre, feta cheese, cucumber ratatouille and crushed pepper.

The tangy elements of the cheeses and beets were a perfect match for the bounty of taste in the vegetables. The tomatoes were magnificent, and the ratatouille acted as a flavorful dressing for the dish. The onions were crispy and judiciously applied.

The vegetarian entree is the Black Creek squash, which is served with vanilla-infused Ohio watermelon and cantaloupe, peppery shoestring zucchini and carrots. The melon flavors are savory, providing a great contrast to the smoky grilled squash and the zucchini and carrots. I could have eaten a trough of the melon, but the synergy of the ingredients worked exceptionally well.

The vegetarian dessert is a melon granitas. It is a light dessert with flavors of lemonade and watermelon. I was mildly disappointed that it didn't taste more like the melon side component to the third course, but nonetheless, it was a nice conclusion to the meal.

The bread was fairly average quality, although the butter was obviously artisanal. The beer and wine lists feature Ohio selections (an extensive series of Great Lakes beers, and Firelands Gewürztraminer, respectively). The beverage options also include national and international beers and wines from places other than Ohio.

Many of the wines come at state minimum pricing when purchased by the bottle and are reasonable priced. Trophy hunters can also order Gaja Super Tuscans or Rogue Imperial Stout if they are so inclined. Cocktail drinkers also appear to have some tasty looking options.

Black Creek Bistro is a great destination for locavore diners. And they did a damned fine job with vegetarian options for Restaurant Week, too.

Black Creek Bistro-Restaurant Week
Black Creek Bistro on Urbanspoon

07 September 2009

Katzinger's Deli - Restaurant Week

I started Restaurant Week at Katzinger's in German Village. Although it's a deli noted for its lunch meat creations, Katzinger's does a fantastic job of rustling up a wide variety of vegetarian and vegan sandwich options, including one created just for Restaurant Week.

The special at Katzinger's is $20.09 for two (or $10.05 for one) with a choice of sandwich, side dish and dessert. Although there is only one vegetarian sandwich on the fixed price menu, there are two vegetarian sides and two vegetarian desserts.

The vegetarian sandwich is roasted eggplant and fresh mozzarella slathered in a tomato jam with a few various greens tossed on top, served on sliced fire bread. The bread lends a rustic, smoky quality to the sandwich, the mozzarella adds a delicious creaminess, and the tomato jam lends a mildly spiced midpalate to the flavor profile. The sandwich is great.

The mesclun mix is augmented with sliced pears, walnuts, lucious goat cheese and a raspberry vinaigrette. While the salad components are stellar (especially the flecks of goat cheese, which were out of this world), the dressing was cloyingly sweet. It lacked the proper acidity to act as a foil to the other ingredients in the salad. The quality of the ingredients, however, more than makes up for the minor flaw in the dressing.

The flourless chocolate cake with toasted pine nuts and fleur de sel sea salt was a decadently rich conclusion to the meal. The notes of dark chocolate come through clearly, supported by fresh raspberries and a hint of mouthwatering sodium chloride.

Also on the topic of salt, the other bonus to eating at Katzinger's is obviously the pickle barrels. While waiting for my meal, I tried both a dill pickle and the insanely addictive garlic pickle. While garlic pickles are delicious, let me personally recommend that you not kiss anybody you love for at least a month after eating one. It seemingly takes weeks just to sweat out the garlic juice.

My older review of Katzinger's is here, and I have a few other pictures here. Whether it's Restaurant Week or not, Katzinger's Deli is always a treat for the vegetarian-inclined diner.

Katzinger's Restaurant Week

02 September 2009

Restaurant Week Vegetarian

For the second time this year, Dine Originals Columbus is presenting Restaurant Week. From September 7-13, 40 restaurants are featuring some form of a tasting menu for $20.09 or $30.09.

I scoured the menus for vegetarian options. There could be more options than what I list here. But these ones definitely caught my eye:

Essentially everything on the menu appears to have a vegetarian option. The total damage is $30.09 for three courses.

The options from Katzinger's include an eggplant, mozzarella and tomato jam sandwich and a choice of salad and dessert for two people for a grand total of $20.09.

Nothing Better to Do Review

The house salad is vegetarian and the soup appears vegetarian (check first; don't quote me on that one). The entree is sun-dried tomato and marscarpone cheese ravioli. The panna cotta dessert is made with gelatin, making it inappropriate for vegetarians. The other two desserts on the $30.09 prix fixe menu are vegetarian-safe.

For $20.09, two people get two salads, a pizza to split and two desserts.

Nothing Better to Do Review

The $30.09 prix fixe features three vegetarian starters, eggplant parmigiana as an entree and three different desserts.

Nothing Better to Do Review

Dinner for two costs $30.09. You get a choice of red bean hummus or jalepeño poppers as a shared appetizer. The Surly Girl pizza is vegetarian. Dessert is two cupcakes.

Nothing Better to Do Review

For $30.09, the vegetarian options include a spinach or mozzarella caprese salad, spinach, mushroom and pea ravioli, and three desserts that are vegetarian-safe.

The menu at Tutto Vino provides plenty of options for vegetarians. For $30.09, two diners get a choice of a cheese plate or salad and can build their own gourmet pizza. For an extra $20.09, they can also build their own five-choice wine flight.

Nothing Better to Do Review

Black Creek Bistro features four courses for $30.09. The appetizer options are squash au gratin or chili rellenos. All three salads are vegetarian. There is a squash-based entree. The vegetarian dessert is a melon granita.

Nothing Better to Do Review

The $30.09 menu buys a cheese plate, two pizzas and two glasses of sangria.

The three-course menu includes a house salad, pesto ravioli and a choice of desserts.

Nothing Better to Do Review

I'm sure I'll have a few entries posted during Restaurant Week. Check back for updates.