22 February 2010

Bernard's Tavern

Bernard's Tavern opened in the Short North about five days ago. It is a bar with a good selection of craft beer alongside a full-service kitchen that offers a melange of vegetarian options on its menu.

The interior of Bernard's is brick and dark wood. There are six or eight flat screen televisions tuned to sports. The staff is friendly and attentive. Bernard's is open from lunch through 10 pm.

My starter was the Kentucky classic, fried banana peppers. The stem and seeds were removed from the peppers, which were then beer battered and served with a side of Thousand Island Dressing. The dressing adds a sweet note to the mild peppers. Although they were tasty, the peppers were slightly greasy and could have used a pinch more breading. Overall, they weren't perfect, but they were still pretty good.

The veggie burger, on the other hand, was a success on all levels. It was topped with red peppers, chopped portabella mushrooms, crumbled goat cheese, garlic chili aioli, lettuce, tomato and onion on a whole grain bun. The burger patty from local outfit Luna Burger showed nice griddle marks and was cooked very well. The side of Cajun fries was a spicy complement to the sandwich. They were redolent of both black and red pepper.

Other veggie options on the menu include a house salad, vegan black bean soup, hummus, soft pretzels with dips, baked macaroni and cheese, and a variety of other side dishes. They have French fries in plain, ranch, Cajun and sweet potato varieties. Dessert is a giant cookie served hot with ice cream.

The bar looks very nice. Beer options include Goose Island Matilda, a Belgian-style pale ale, Allagash White (which kicks the snot out of Blue Moon), Great Lakes Conway's Irish Ale, Rogue Dead Guy and Bluegrass Brewing Company Bourbon Barrel Ale. Bernard's also has a solid selection of bottled beer and high-proof options. The happy hour specials are similar to Bodega (half priced beer from 4-8 pm).

Bernard's is a cool neighborhood spot that has the extra bonus of a decent selection of vegetarian items. I'll have to return to check the place out at game time.

Bernard's Tavern

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19 February 2010

The Lucky Ladle

This isn't a review since I haven't gotten a chance to sample the wares yet, but the Lucky Ladle is definitely on my vegetarian radar. The restaurant, located in Kickstart, features a vegan and a lacto-vegetarian soup daily, and they deliver. Meatless soups include a curried chickpea stew, dal lentil soup and vegan chili. If you don't feel like tipping for delivery, you can cruise over to Kickstart on your bike (or your Segway or your gyrocopter) and save yourself a few bucks.

18 February 2010


DeepWood is a highly-touted Columbus restaurant that I had not yet sampled before yesterday. The lunch menu allowed me an opportunity to experience DeepWood and its vegetarian fare without breaking the bank.

DeepWood is captained by Brian Pawlak, a chef with an impressive pedigree consisting of stints in New Jersey, Boston, New York and Ohio. Pawlak applies his skills to a menu that offers many options for vegetarians.

The dinner menu one-ups my favorite restaurant characteristic: instead of marking vegetarian choices on the menu, DeepWood actually features a separate vegetarian menu! Vegetarian symbols on a menu make me happy; a separate vegetarian menu actually brings a tear to my eye because I get so ecstatic.

My starter was mozzarella-stuffed saffron risotto fritters. They were served with a smoked paprika aioli dip, adding a deep charred flavor that made the cheesy fried puffs sing with flavor. The fritters were absolutely dynamic.

My entree was gnocchi with roasted mushrooms, spinach and pumpkin in a brown butter sage sauce. The gnocchi were soft, and they picked up subtle nuances of the vegetables as well as the herbal undertones of the seasoning. The pumpkin adds an understated sweetness to the pasta. The dish is delicious.

Other vegetarian options on the lunch menu include the house salad and the vegetable sandwich, which is made with mushrooms, roasted peppers, arugala and goat cheese topped with a balsamic reduction. The soup of the day was a vegetarian pumpkin cream soup.

The bread basket was outstanding. The pistachio date bread was more savory than I expected it to be on first inspection. The sesame- and poppy-seed encrusted lavash bread was also delightful.

The staff was attentive and capable. The server was excellent at addressing vegetarian concerns, and he stated that DeepWood was able to cater to diners with vegan and gluten-restricted needs in addition to those who are vegetarians.

In addition to the lunch and dinner menus, DeepWood also offers a tavern menu. The tavern menu is mainly aimed at those dining at the bar or in the lower-key front room.

The by-the-glass wine list features an interesting array of selections from the Old and New World. The bottle selections are not encyclopedic, but the list is made up of enough interesting selections to keep the beverage selection fun. The beer selections are equally interesting, with choice options like J.W. Lee's Lagauvulin Cask Ale in bottles and Founder's Breakfast Stout on tap. There are also numerous cocktail options at DeepWood.

The restaurant's decor is beautiful. The dining room is designed like a forest, with wooded imagery marking the tables, the walls and the ceiling of the restaurant.

Overall, prices at DeepWood are expensive. Considering the quality of the experience, however, the cost is worth it. The lunch and tavern menus are noticeably cheaper than the dinner menu.

The hype about DeepWood is well deserved. Considering its commitment to vegetarianism, DeepWood should give meatless gourmands another destination in Columbus in addition to Dragonfly and Alana's.


DeepWood on Urbanspoon

16 February 2010

Hellas Grill Express

Hellas Grill is a no-frills take-out place that specializes in the Hellenic staple, the gyro. Luckily for vegetarians, Hellas also makes veggie gyros and a number of other meatless Greek options that pack a pile of flavor into a very modest price.

The menu at Hellas Grill Express is somewhat strange in that it features Greek favorites alongside pizzas and subs. Vegetarian pizza options are the mixed veggie and the Margherita. There is also a veggie sub made with tzatziki.

However, considering the fact that I was headed to an establishment whose name is derived from the nation of Greece, I did the proper thing and limited my order to Eastern Mediterranean fare.

The spanakopita was tasty, although it seemed like it was a pre-fab, frozen spinach pie rather than the fresh variety. Considering that it cost $2.50, it was at least passable.

The falafel gyro, on the other hand, was outstanding. The falafel was made with chickpeas as well as fresh veggies including green peppers and onions. It was topped with lettuce, tomato, red onion and tzatziki sauce and served in fat pita bread. Although the falafel gyro was a daily special, it showed that the veggie gyro would also be pretty tasty.

I also have to give the staff at Hellas credit at addressing vegetarian concerns. I asked about the falafel gyro, and the gentleman explained the dish using to word vegetarian three times without me even uttering the v-word. That was more than enough to assure me that like most Greek restaurants, Hellas is a safe place for vegetarians to grab take-out fare.

Prices at Hellas are inexpensive. My bill was about $7.50. From walking in the door to paying the bill, I was at Hellas for 20 minutes.

Hellas Greek Express

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11 February 2010

Cowtown Pizza

Cowtown Pizza is one of the many pizza places tucked into the gourmet pizza corridor that is Grandview. Overall, Cowtown produces good food at a fair price that is tremendously safe for vegetarians.

Grandview has a plethora of options for those who don't want to eat the same pizza every night. Aside from Cowtown Pizza, there is Dewey's, Panzera's, Bono Pizza, Figlio and Mama Mimi's, all located in and around Grandview.

Although the design of Cowtown Pizza makes it appear as if it is a chain, the spot on Grandview Avenue is the only Cowtown Pizza in existence. It is operated by Jason Slagle.

Cowtown Pizza takes great care with the ingredients. The sauce is house-made daily, and they only use vegetarian cheeses from Grande.

Vegetarian items on the menu include the vegetarian pizza, Mediterranean pizza, build-your-own pizza with 23 vegetarian topping options, garlic bread, mozzarella sticks, fried mac and cheese, a garden salad, a vegetarian baked sub, a vegetarian stromboli, and a build-your-own stromboli.

I could have went the safe route and ordered pizza. I'll have to wait until next time. Instead, I ordered the vegetarian stromboli. I can safely say that I did not make a bad decision.

The large stromboli is 14 inches long. It is stuffed with provolone cheese, roasted red peppers, tomato, red onion, sliced mushrooms and roasted eggplant. The crust is brushed with buttery garlic before it is baked, and a hint of garlic bursts through in your mouth. The stromboli is served with a side of brightly flavored marinara sauce. The only minor complaint I had was that the mushrooms are canned. I prefer fresh mushrooms, but those who do not should be thrilled by Cowtown Pizza. That notwithstanding, it was a delicious stromboli.

Cowtown Pizza is priced similarly to Donatos. A large specialty pizza is about $16, and the stromboli was $15. However, there are coupons on the menu and on the Web site that will save you a couple of bucks.

The storefront is designed for delivery, as Cowtown has no seating. Cowtown delivers to Grandview and parts of Columbus. It is open until 11 during the week and 12 on weekends.

Cowtown Pizza

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08 February 2010

Cafe del Mondo

Located on the southern border of Italian Village, Cafe del Mondo is an Italian coffeehouse that features sandwiches, pasta, salads and baked goods. The menu is small, but the food is house-made and delicious.

Cafe del Mondo is the storefront for Frutta del Mondo, which is a wholesaler of Italian culinary imports. This definitely gives Cafe del Mondo a leg up on choice ingredients from the boot-shaped country.

The cafe is family-owned, and the staff is very friendly. The greet everybody who comes into the restaurant, and they are personable and attentive.

The menu has a few vegetarian options. These include cheese ravioli in marinara sauce, a veggie panini, a tomato-mozzarella sandwich, an Italian salad, a gorgonzola salad and an artichoke salad. Sandwiches and salads are available in full- and half-sized orders.

I started with a Caprese salad, the Italian classic made with tomato and mozzarella cheese. Although winter is hardly the prime season for Caprese, the salad was well made. The tomato slices are topped with disks of soft mozzarella cheese, sprinkled with fresh basil and piled atop purple and green lettuce (I think the purple one was endive, but I'm terrible with identifying leafy veggies). The salad comes with a serving of vinaigrette that adds a savory, bright finish to the dish.

The veggie panini was also great. The Italian bread shows the obvious griddle marks from the panini press, and the sandwich is served nice and hot. The panini is stuffed with artichoke hearts, onions, roasted red peppers, black olives and provolone cheese in a subtle balsamic dressing. It is topped with a pitted green olive and served with a side of crispy chips fried in peanut oil.

Since it's an Italian coffeehouse, Cafe del Mondo offers cappuccino, espresso and cafe latte along with a rotating array of pastries. They also sell espresso machines and coffee accessories at Frutta del Mondo.

Prices at Cafe del Mondo are very fair. My final bill was about $10 for a panini, half a salad and a can of pop.

The interior of Cafe del Mondo is bright and clean. The cafe is decorated with classic art work, such as a print of the Sistine Chapel ceiling. There is seating for about 20 people. Carry-out is also available.

Cafe del Mondo

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06 February 2010

NYTimes op-ed: Eat more dog (or less pig)

A New York Times op-ed piece examined the logical problems of Westerners viewing some animals as food while viewing others as pets. The article hardly figures the whole tangled mess out (the author ends up eating a dog, so don't say I didn't warn you). However, it is one of those puzzles that makes you think.

Read more

04 February 2010

Shish Kebab Express

Shish Kebab Express is the latest Mediterranean dining option to open in Columbus in the last 12 months. Much like its predecessors Ali Baba and Lavash Cafe, Shish Kebab makes fresh, wholesome fare at reasonable prices.

Calling Shish Kebab Express a new place, however, is somewhat misleading. In actuality, Shish Kebab Express is a spin-off of Shish Kebab Mediterranean Grill on Bethel Road.

Like other Mediterranean restaurants, Shish Kebab provides numerous options for vegetarian diners. Even some of the salads and dips are vegan. My favorite characteristic of a menu (vegetarian choices marked with an asterisk) is in play at Shish Kebab.

There are many salads and traditional Middle Eastern starters like hummus, baba ganoush, stuffed grape leaves and falafel. I, however, chose to try the slightly less common sigara borek. Sigara borek is feta cheese and parsley wrapped into finger-sized phyllo tubes. It is bright, creamy and pairs well with the tomatoes on the plate that act as garnishes.

The sandwiches at Shish Kebab are also very interesting. Instead of offering stuffed pita bread as a wrapper, the falafel sandwich was prepared in a crusty sandwich roll topped with sesame and poppy seeds. The bread added another layer to the flavor profile. The taste of the sandwich is more akin to that of a veggie burger than a traditional falafel sandwich.

The only shortcoming of the sandwich is that it used a small amount of lettuce and a light coating of tahini sauce. The addition of more vegetables and tahini would have made a very good sandwich superb.

Shish Kebab Express serves a limited selection of desserts and a typical array of fountain drinks. Both delivery and catering services are available.

The interior of Shish Kebab Express is bright and modern-looking. There is seating for about 40 people inside. There are two flat screen televisions in the dining room. The staff is friendly and quick, although orders at Shish Kebab come out at a fast casual rather than fast food pace.

Overall, I have to say that I prefer Ali Baba and Lavash Cafe over Shish Kebab. The falafel sandwich at Shish Kebab should be a change of pace from those at the other two places if nothing else. I eat enough Mediterranean food that I can see myself eating at all three places in a future week.

Shish Kebab Express
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