27 July 2009


One of three partners interested in starting a vegetarian diner concept in Columbus is trolling Columbus Underground for market research. The other two involved in the project are Jennie Scheinbach of Pattycake Vegan Bakery and Tawd Bell of the Rad Dog Vegan Hot Dog cart. The concept is vegetarian breakfast food all day with select dinner options. Wherever it is (and whenever), I'll probably be there on opening day.

Bexley Pizza Plus

Bexley Pizza Plus is one of the two pillars of Bexley's pizza establishments (the other one being Rubino's, which I'll have to write up on another visit). BPP makes pizza, sandwiches and salads, and they offer a plethora of topping options.

Bexley Pizza Plus has a sister location in Gahanna. The Bexley spot brags about a number of pizza-making accomplishments. My favorite one is the World Pizza Championship in Salsamaggiori, Italy because every place that competes there makes damned good pizza.

The crust is medium thick. It is crisp on the bottom, and airy with a hint of butter in the middle. The sauce is medium sweet with a bright acidity. The toppings are of a good quality. I wish I would have known that I could have ordered fresh white or portabella mushrooms instead of blanched mushrooms (or that I could order a specialty pizza with all three and feta cheese). The cheese was mild, generously applied and well melted.

There are a number of meatless pizza options, including the veggie (blanched mushrooms, green peppers, onions, roma tomatoes and extra cheese), the six cheese (provolone, mozzarella, Swiss, colby, parmesan and romano), margherita, white pizza, the farmer's market (spinach, broccoli, fresh mushrooms, roma tomatoes and feta cheese), and the Primavera (artichoke hearts, spinach, roma tomatoes, garlic and basil). There is also a veggie sub.

The crust is the best part of this pizza. The toppings are also very good. There is better pizza around than Bexley Pizza Plus, but the combination of toppings, crust and coupons makes BPP a pretty safe bet. There is definitely worse pizza. I'll have to pit it against Rubino's to see how it compares. The $4.99 8-inch lunch special with a drink looks like a safe way to get acquainted with the place at any rate.

Bexley Pizza Plus
Bexley Pizza Plus on Urbanspoon

19 July 2009

J Gumbo's

Downtown's Gay Street restaurant corridor just got a little spicier with the addition of J Gumbo's. The small Louisville-based chain opened this Tuesday.

Gulf Coast cuisine is traditionally vegetarian unfriendly. J Gumbo's, however, features three vegetarian entrees and a vegetarian appetizer.

The three big bowl selections are Garden Creole, white chili and bumblebee stew. The appetizer is bumblebee stew with blue cheese and tortilla chips. Unfortunately, they do not have a vegetarian po' boy at this time.

Bumblebee stew is a New Orleans classic with yellow corn and black beans representing the colors of the bee. It's held together with tomato, green onion, rice and a mildly spicy butter base. I escaped for $6 with a fountain drink.

According to the Web site, the entrees are $3 after 3 pm with the purchase of a beverage. The menu trumpets Louisiana beers, which I imagine will be Abita and Dixie. Gumbo's is open Monday through Saturday from 11-10.

J Gumbo's

18 July 2009

Mama Mimi's

Mama Mimi's is both a blessing and a curse. For every positive characteristic (cheap prices, local ingredients) there is need for a glaring caveat (you have to bake the pizza yourself).

That being said, the regular coupons and specials are enough to weight the scale strongly in favor of the positive side of the equation.

There are coupons on the Web site, and there is also an email newsletter that features specials like the one I tried. For a grand total of $11, I got a large cheese pizza with honey wheat crust, a small Baby B (garlic olive oil sauce, organic arugala, tomato, marinated mushrooms, yellow corn, parmesan and mild blue cheese) and breadsticks.

The honey wheat crust is the better of the two crust choices. It is full flavored with a sweet finish. Both styles cook up very crispy and cracker thin. Mama Mimi's pizza is a similar style crust to the tavern cut pies that define Buckeye state pizza.

The toppings are far superior to the crust. The blue cheese was mild and added an extra kick to an already tasty pizza. Along with the tomatoes, the cheese also added a vibrant acidity to the flavor profile. The mushrooms are not canned. The corn adds a subtly intriguing element to the flavor profile. The garlic comes through strongly on the finish.

The breadsticks cook quickly. I would recommend cooking them on the lower end of the recommended time if you want softer bread. You can cook them for 10 minutes if you prefer crispier breadsticks.

There are a number of other vegetarian options on the menu, including many signature vegetarian pies. There are also salads and vegetarian lasagna.

I went to the Grandview location inside of Gentile's. There are currently three locations with plans to open three more stores soon.

Although I disdain having to cook my own pizza after picking it up, the 99 cent specialty pizza deal with free breadsticks was too good to pass up. It's hardly the best pizza money can buy, but you'd be hard pressed to spend $11 better on dinner for three.

Mama Mimi's

14 July 2009

Danny's Deli

Some places are trendy, cutting edge, or vaguely avant garde. Other places are well-worn classics. In the shadows of the Huntington Building resides a place befitting the latter description.

Danny's Deli is one of the many sandwich options designed to nourish the working class in and around Downtown Columbus. The place is always humming during business hours, which is a testament to the quality and speed with which Danny's cooks up breakfast and lunch.

Danny's in Columbus is the second location. The original Danny's, namesake of owner Danny Georges, is in Cleveland. The menu is essentially classic breakfast items and sandwiches with chips, fries, onion rings and other deep fried side dishes. They are in no way affiliated with the equally delicious Danny's Subs in Westerville.

Although the menu is laden with Dagwood-esque creations piled with layer upon layer of corned beef, there are a few options available for the meatless-eats crowd. There are a grilled cheese sandwich, a garden burger and a number of breakfast items for those who eat ovum.

I tried the veggie wrap. It is essentially a well-dressed salad in a flour wrap. Lettuce, tomato, red onion, black olive, cucumber, mozzarella and cheddar cheese are crammed into a wrap after taking a bath in Italian dressing.

The sandwich is a healthy item. I completely undid all of the health benefits by ordering it with onion rings.

Prices at Danny's are reasonable. It's difficult to spend more than $10.

Danny's Deli

Danny's Deli and on Urbanspoon

13 July 2009

Vegetarian wins Home Run Derby

Prince Fielder wins the 2009 Home Run Derby, proving the value of the vegetarian diet for the environment, your health and your ability to smash a baseball into the upper deck.

08 July 2009

The latest from the Web

There is an article in the Los Angeles Times that delves into the ethical dilemmas of food blogging, using a popular social networking food Web site in L.A. as the case study. In this particular instance, a site harshly critiqued a restaurant based upon an anonymous tip that the restaurant was passing off low quality food items as more expensive fare and ignoring health regulations. The allegations turned out to be false, but the damage was already done in the blogosphere.

The right of free speech comes with a burden of responsibility that was ignored in this case. Libel attorneys must be licking their chops waiting to squeeze every last bit of juice out of Eater L.A., and if they can estimate damages that include a closed restaurant caused by misinformation, it's an open and shut case that would result in a substantial windfall. I applaud the efforts of the food bloggers who created a Food Bloggers' Code of Ethics, but I'm curious as to how this toothless code with limited adherents would improve the quality or the nature of restaurant coverage. I'm curious if anybody else has any opinions on this, or if people see food blog ethics as a non-issue.

From the department of research that validates my world view comes the American Dietetic Association's findings that vegetarian diets are healthful and useful in preventing and treating certain types of disease. So your poor pleas that not eating meat would kill you will now fall on deaf, scientifically sound, healthy ears.

06 July 2009

Casa Sazon

Sometimes you have to consider when something reaches a saturation point. When is there too much reality television in prime time? When are there too many Starbucks in your neighborhood strip mall? When are there too many Venezuelan restaurants in Downtown Columbus?

Wait a minute. Did I just say too many Venezuelan restaurants? How is that possible? Let me explain.

The go-to spot for Venezuelan food near the Capital is El Arepazo. The tiny Pan-Latin spot is tucked into the Pearl Street Alley, and every item on the menu tastes delicious when slathered in the addictive cilantro sauce.

While Carlos is the captain of El Arepazo, Eliezer Molina, his brother-in-law, runs the show at Casa Sazon. Casa Sazon took over in the old Euro Cafe space. The menu at Casa Sazon kept some of Euro Cafe's sandwiches and lost the Eastern European offerings. They replaced the pierogies with arepas, burritos and cachapas (a savory corn pancake).

There are a few vegetarian sandwiches on the menu. There is a grilled cheese and a Mediterranean veggie wrap. However, if you want to compare the Casa Sazon to El Arepazo, you have to sample the arepas.

Arepas are griddled unleavened corn bread sandwiches filled with a variety of ingredients. At El Arepazo, the arepas are what one would expect in a South American sandwich, with black beans, lettuce, tomato and onion. At Casa Sazon, the vegetarian arepa is essentially a giant cheese dumpling. It doesn't have the veggies or beans like at El Arepazo, but it does come with your choice of the spicy or mild cilantro sauce (a condiment handed directly from God to a Venezuelan gourmand in some long forgotten era). The warm corn melts the soft white cheese, making the sandwich a savory delight.

I slightly prefer the El Arepazo arepa to the ones at Casa Sazon. However, both are tasty for different reasons. While I might get my arepas at El Arepazo, my only option for cachapas will be Casa Sazon, so they will have the corner on that market.

I'm not sure when Columbus will reach the saturation point with Venezuelan eateries. If the public feels that there isn't enough Venezuelan dining options, they can enjoy Casa Sazon for breakfast and El Arepazo for lunch. Since El Arepazo gets busy sometimes, perhaps Casa Sazon might benefit from some of the overflow. As with any other venture, the market will probably sort it out.

Casa Sazon

Casa Sazon on Urbanspoon

01 July 2009

Dirty Frank's

After a year's worth of delays, Dirty Frank's Hot Dog Palace was finally opened to the public today. The new Liz Lessner outpost combines haute dogs, slushies and an armada of booze into a colorful package that is a tasty as it is fun.

Although it's a hot dog joint, there are plenty vegetarian options on the menu. Most of the hot dog options can be made with a veggie dog, a veggie brat or a veggie Polish sausage.

Veggie sides include Sriracha cole slaw (which is as amazing as it sounds), macaroni and cheese with sport peppers, fries, onion rings, baked beans and fried leeks.

The first of the dogs I tried was the classic Chicago dog. Tomatoes, onions, relish, sport peppers, yellow mustard and celery salt are piled on a dog in a poppy seed bun. The fresh veggies make the Chicago dog tasty.

I also tried the Dog from Hell, which included a spicy giardiniera mix made from cauliflower and carrots with a liberal dose of cream cheese. The spicy pickled veggies provide a nice contrast to the cooling cream cheese.

One of the more interesting topping choices at Dirty Frank's is the dog that comes in spicy mango chutney. Although it isn't typically what you pile on a hot dog when you pull it off the grill, the mango chutney is interesting enough to make it work.

There are a number of other cool looking options including the Seoul Dog (made with kimchee), Beano (made with veggie chili) and the Nikola (made with Greek relish and tzatziki--yum!). At $3 a pop, it's easy for a pile of hot dogs to get eaten without breaking the bank.

The beverage selection is also very interesting. There are slushies available in a couple of different flavors. For those who like their drinks with a little stronger edge of fermentation, there are beers ranging from Old Style to Dogfish Head 60 Minute IPA, as well as cocktails like the Chris Sabo (cherry slush and orange vodka) and the Charlie Hustle (cherry slush, energy drink and cherry vodka).

The decor is bright. The wall art is rock music and baseball. I wish them success because few places Downtown stay open until 2 am. I know I'll be back.

Dirty Frank's

Dirty Frank's Hot Dog Palace on Urbanspoon