28 August 2010

Whole World update

If, like me, you've been patiently awaiting the reopening of Whole World Natural Restaurant and Bakery, the wait is now over. Columbus' original vegetarian restaurant reopened June 29 after being closed nine months because of a kitchen fire. Luckily, the place hasn't lost a step during its short vacation from active duty.

Whole World was previously reviewed here, and the first time around, I greatly enjoyed their vegetarian and vegan takes on classic dishes. The fire did little damage to the dining room, and insurance payments the owners to make substantial upgrades to the kitchen.

The old favorites are all back, and as usual, there are specials based on seasonal ingredients that can change daily. I sampled the broccoli burger at ComFest before the official reopening, and the seemingly incompatible ingredients fuse into a delicious harmony that works out way better than it appears on paper. Whole World's most famous item is still a grand slam.

The daily selections were excellent. I sampled the gazpacho. The cold summer soup exploded with seasonal produce. It was a refreshing dish on the last few hot days of summer.

The seasonal quesadilla was stuffed with cheese, zucchini, tomatoes, onions, mushrooms, black olives and garbanzo beans. It was perfectly portioned and delicious.

I didn't realize how much I missed Whole World until it was gone. Luckily for me, it rose like a phoenix from the ashes both literally and figuratively. The place is a Columbus treasure.

Whole World open again

Whole World Natural Restaurant & Bakery on Urbanspoon

26 August 2010


Gooeyz is a new place featuring grilled cheese in the South Campus Gateway. Although it has the appearance of a corporate chain, for now it is the sole Gooeyz location.

Gooeyz shares a whimsical design and a comfort food focus that has been successful for a number of fast-casual operations that have opened locally in the last few years (Noodles & Co. comes immediately to mind). Diners order at the counter, and follow a river of cheese painted on the floor to pick up their orders. Prices are fair and average about $10.

Since Gooeyz is a restaurant focusing on grilled cheese sandwiches, it isn't vegan-friendly. It is, however, right up the alley of lacto vegetarians.

Sandwiches include the plain grilled cheese and a veggie grilled cheese stuffed with eggplant, zucchini, peppers, artichoke and mushrooms in melted pepper jack cheese with a tomato pesto dressing. Sandwiches come with a variety of breads, including Texas toast, wheat and 9-grain. Vegetarian appetizers include fried cheese balls, French fries and mac and cheese.

The veggie grilled cheese was very good. The sandwich is stuffed to capacity, and the flavors blend harmoniously together.

The mac and cheese was also excellent. It was creamy and redolent of black pepper. The staff told me they were working on the recipe, so the dish may change slightly in the coming days. In my opinion, it was a great side.

There are also limited breakfast options available in the morning. Choices include French toast and hash browns with (or without) cheese.

Gooeyz has a full bar with a limited selection of draft beers. It features discounts on food and drinks during happy hour.


Gooeyz on Urbanspoon

25 August 2010

Yuen's Restaurant

Yuen's Restaurant is a Vietnamese/Chinese restaurant in the Columbus Square plaza. The menu seems to offer a couple of vegetarian options, but upon further examination, Yuen's is actually a vegetarian wasteland.

Certain cuisines are famous for being less than vegetarian-friendly. Some of the most notable nations for ignoring veggies are Brazil, Argentina and Vietnam. Yuen's being a Vietnamese restaurant, keeps the tradition going (as a side note, Lac Viet in the North Market has a vegetarian banh mi sandwich; they are at least extending an olive branch to meatless eaters).

The menu is split into Chinese and Vegetarian choices. There are a number of tofu dishes. Since one is ma po tofu, a dish noted for combining tofu and pork, I asked what a vegetarian could order from the menu. I was given one option: vegetable tofu, an item that isn't listed on the menu.

While the vegetable tofu was competently prepared, it was hardly spectacular. Overall, it didn't make me long to return.

Luckily for diners, there are plenty of vegetarian options in the Columbus Square plaza as well as along 161 and Cleveland. While Yuen's is not recommended for vegetarians, there are plenty of vegan and vegetarian options in the area (Solay Bistro, Nazareth Deli, et al.) that can serve as a suitable replacement.

Yuen's Restaurant on Urbanspoon

20 August 2010

Cafe Ephesus

Cafe Ephesus is a Turkish restaurant in Dublin. As with other food from the Mediterranean, the fare at Cafe Ephesus is fresh and vegetarian-friendly.

The cuisine of Turkey, particularly that from Ephesus, is an interesting mix of cultures. Ephesus is a city that had been ruled by the Greeks, the Romans, the Byzantines, and currently the Turks (although it is a historic site now rather than a proper city). While there are many classic Mediterranean and Greek dishes on the menu, there are additional items that are solely a product of Turkey.

Prices at Cafe Ephesus are reasonable. While dinner prices hardly break the bank, the $9 appetizer, entree and dessert combination is a fantastic deal.

Vegetarian starters on the menu include hummus, stuffed grape leaves, sigara borek (cheese stuffed phyllo cigars), red lentil soup, chopped eggplant salad and an assortment of salads.

I began with the red lentil soup. While lentil soup is a classic dish, the red lentil soup at Cafe Ephesus was an explosion of flavor. The savory lentils were augmented with the flavor of black pepper and garlic. It was a very satisfying dish.

My main course was mucver, a zucchini and potato pancake served with a yogurt dill dip. The creamy dip adds a fat layer of flavor to the dish. The dill adds an herbal undertone to the pancakes, which were delightful.

Dessert was sutlak, a thick, baked rice pudding accented with cinnamon. The dish is reminiscent of creme brulee, but the sweet rice and cinnamon add a different wrinkle to the course.

Service at Cafe Ephesus was evenly paced and competent. The server did a good job of pointing out the vegetarian items on the menu, and he highly recommended the turlu, a Turkish veggie stew.

Cafe Ephesus

Cafe Ephesus on Urbanspoon

16 August 2010

Windchimes Chinese

Windchimes is an inexpensive Chinese restaurant in an unassuming Dublin strip mall. I loved Yu's Fusion Bistro in Lewis Center (now closed), which shared the same ownership as Windchimes. Windchimes prepares more everyday Chinese fare than Yu's, which was a little more adventurous (and priced accordingly).

Windchimes features a decent array of vegetarian options. The kitchen is able to prepare vegan dishes upon request.

The only vegetarian appetizer is the fried spring roll, which is stuffed with cabbage, carrots and mushrooms, and served with house-made sides of hot mustard and sweet and sour sauce.

Vegetarian entrees include many tofu dishes like Buddhist's delight, a house tofu dish, popcorn tofu, ma la string beans, vegetarian spicy ribs, vegetable pad Thai and sauteed bok choy. Lunch portions, while cheap, are small. I would recommend eating two entrees and a spring roll, which would cost about than $12. Dinner portions are larger than lunch portions.

The spicy family style bean curd is tofu triangles prepared with a Szechaun brown sauce as well as onion, pea pods, button mushrooms, bamboo shoots and carrots. The Szechaun pepper adds spice to the dish. It is served with a side of steamed rice.

Service at Windchimes is brisk and capable. The restaurant seems to do a decent carry-out business. There is a full bar with a better-than-mediocre sake list.


Windchimes on Urbanspoon

13 August 2010


Tadka is a stylish Indian bistro located in the Sawmill/161 area. It is a small chain with four locations, and it is affiliated with another Atlanta export in Columbus, Inchin's Bamboo Garden.

Like most Indian establishments, Tadka offers a bounty of vegetarian menu options. The menu also offers to prepare vegan items on request.

In order to sample the widest variety of food, I tried the lunch buffet. For $10, I got eight vegetarian items and as much plain or buttered naan as a person could eat.

The taste at Tadka is expressed artfully, and the fresh vegetables and sauces are evident in the flavor profile. Service is well-paced and competent (it has been criticized by local media outlets).

The seasonal potato curry on the buffet was divine. It was mildly spicy, and the flavor of corn sweetened the dish up enough to make it sing in perfect harmony.

The daal tadka (a black lentil version of dal makhani) also was well balanced. The lentils provided a firm base for the delicately spicy and creamy curry base, which was flecked with white onion and garlic.

The muttar paneer was a blend of cubed Indian cheese, peas and tomatoes. Paneer is a great protein base for Indian dishes, and it shines brightly in Tadka's muttar paneer.

The sauteed mushrooms were a great savory side. The earthy flavor makes the mushrooms shine.

The fried potatoes were the forgettable part of the buffet. They were baked to the consistency of a new leather shoe, and no amount of mint or tamarind chutney could save the dish from inevitable failure. Both chutneys, while evidently house-made, were unable to save the fried potatoes. The mint chutney tasted fresh, and the tamarind chutney gave great rich, sweet accents to everything they touched.

The buffet is served with rice, chutney, yogurt, a tossed salad, all-you-can-eat naan served at the table and rice pudding. The price is reasonable considering the quality of the dishes. Prices on the dinner menu are more expensive, although not prohibitively so.

Some of the dinner menu items look great. There are a number of traditional Indian dishes in the Northern tradition, and a few Southern dishes as well. The signature dish at Tadka is the biryani.

The closest comparison I can make to another Indian restaurant in Columbus is to compare Tadka to Bayleaf India Bistro in Polaris. The food at both is better than its more inexpensive brethren, and the modern decor at Tadka further elevates the experience. While I give a slight edge to Bayleaf in overall quality, I'll definitely be back to try the dinner menu at Tadka soon. Variety is always a great benefit, and as far as I'm concerned, the more fantastic Indian eateries, the merrier.

09 August 2010

Ohio Deli and Restaurant

Ohio Deli is a Columbus establishment made immortal by Man v. Food. In the episode, Adam Richman takes down the Dagwood challenge, a sandwich made with a pound and a half of lunch meat with a side pound of fries and a pickle. It must be eaten in 30 minutes.

However, this is a vegetarian blog. So I figured that I would take one for the team and figure out what a vegetarian eats at a restaurant famous for having giant deli meat sandwiches.

Surprisingly, the Ohio Deli has an expansive, diner-esque menu. While there aren't tons of meatless options, there are a couple of meatless salads, sides and sandwiches available for those looking to avoid the physiological damage of the Dagwood challenge.

Vegetarian options include a few breakfast items, a house salad, fruit salad, stuffed tomato, French fries, onion straws, mozzarella cheese sticks, poppers, grilled cheese, and a veggie burger.

The French fry/onion straw combo comes with a side of (anchovy-less) remoulade sauce. The Mayonnaise-based side add a creamy, tart accent to the crispy fries and onions.

The veggie burger was average at best. While it was described as a patty made with black beans and veggies, they failed to mention that it was frozen and made by Boca burger (or one of their ilk). The bun is ample and fresh. Overall, it's a passable sandwich considering its price point. Order this or the grilled cheese if one of your unhealthy friends decides to undertake the Dagwood challenge.

Ohio Deli at least caters to vegetarians. While the meatless fare isn't great, since it's cheap and soundly made, it will do in a pinch.

Ohio Deli

Ohio Deli and Restaurant on Urbanspoon

03 August 2010

On the Fly brunch

I sampled On the Fly's brunch this Sunday. While I have previously raved about the "street food" menu at On the Fly and the above-the-rim offerings at Dragonfly, this was my first On the Fly brunch.

The Dragonfly brunch was always a tremendous way to experience one of the best restaurants in the city, as Dragonfly itself is a great way to show diners that vegan food can have as great a complexity as its animal-based competition. The On the Fly brunch offers a completely different menu than the one featured every day at Dragonfly's inexpensive carry-out, including Toad Hill eggs. Vegans can feel safe, though: the egg dishes like the huevos rancheros were able to be made as a tofu scramble, too.

Some of the other menu options included a breaded portabella cutlet, vegan bouillabaisse, vegan cioppino, eggs (or not eggs) Benedict and a French toast sandwich. On the Fly has expanded its outdoor seating, allowing more people to be served in the small space.

The cioppino was an interesting play on an idea. It was a great showcase for seasonal produce. Traditionally, cioppino is a tomato-based San Francisco seafood stew. The vegan preparation has great tomato and fennel notes. There is tender eggplant, summer squash, mushrooms, carrots and two giant potato ravioli, garnished with a toasted bread that helps soak up the flavor of the dish.

Brunch at On the Fly is definitely a great experience, as should be expected. It might be a decent option for those who couldn't drag somebody to a vegan restaurant kicking and screaming; now they can eat egg dishes. While some might see adding eggs to the menu of a previously vegan establishment as an issue, since the eggs are a local farm product, and since the menu is still almost entirely devoid of animal products, vegans can still go to On the Fly without fear.

On the Fly on Urbanspoon