26 November 2010

Pizza Rustica

Pizza Rustica is a small pizza chain that started in the South Beach section of Miami. Its first Ohio outpost is located on the South Campus Gateway.

Pizza Rustica makes large, rectangular pies. They sell pizza by the slice or as whole pies, as well as sandwiches and salads. Hours run late-night, and Pizza Rustica does deliver.

This place is noted for keeping late hours for the Miami party scene, and the tradition continues on campus with weekend hours that run to 3 a.m.

The pizza crust is thin and soft. The sauce is bright with a hint of sweetness. Toppings run the gamut from three different types of mushrooms to sweet corn and roasted eggplant.

The by-the-slice pizza is actually a large rectangle cut into six squares. This costs about $5.

The pizza Margherita is made with mozzarella cheese, tomato sauce, olive oil, garlic and basil. The sweetness of the sauce and the buttery crust combine to create a deeply satisfying taste.

The three mushroom pizza is toped with portabella, shiitake and porcini 'shrooms, sliced tomatoes, mozzarella and fresh herbs. The different mushrooms add layers of flavor and texture.

The menu also features two meatless panini sandwiches and a few salads. The owner was friendly, and provided advice on menu specials. He's currently using this franchise as a guide before undergoing further expansion within the Buckeye state.

Overall, considering that this is a chain pizza shop, the quality level is very good. When the late hours and inexpensive prices are considered, the reasons for Pizza Rustica's success are clearly evident.

Pizza Rustica

Pizza Rustica on Urbanspoon

21 November 2010

Coyote Jane's

Coyote Jane's is a new Southwestern restaurant located in the southern part of Merion Village. Coyote Jane's held a soft opening the last two nights, and plans are to hit the ground running for dinner next Friday and Saturday with a firm schedule.

This restaurant is the latest member of the Banana Bean family (technically, Skillet is owned by one person who owns Banana Bean; that's enough for familial grouping in my head). It occupies the space that once housed Crater's, and although the interior might not yet be set in stone, the decor is functional, fun and festive.

The menu features tacos, burritos, salads, soups and chips and salsa. While there aren't piles of vegetarian items on the menu, even during the soft opening, Coyote Jane's was easily able to fabricate a meal that corresponded with my exacting vegetarian dietary standards.

The salsa was a fiery delight. It possessed a creeping heat that slowly built through the layers of bright fruity flavor. House-made chips soaked up the delicious dip.

The Sundance Kid is traditionally an egg-based dish (I ordered mine sin huevos). Although the Sundance Kid is identified as a burro, it is more appropriately labeled a chimichanga. It is stuffed with sauteed potatoes, tomatoes and scallions with cheese sauce on top and a roasted poblano pepper pesto sauce inside. It is large, visually appealing and quite tasty.

Coyote Jane's also has a full bar with a couple of cool micro brews and a cadre of frozen and on-the-rocks margarita options. The front of the house is set up to host live music. The staff was learning the menu, and despite not knowing the answer to every question, they provided friendly, capable service. This place will definitely be worth a visit when they get in the swing of things.

Coyote Jane's Menu

Coyote Jane's on Urbanspoon

20 November 2010

Bahn Thai Bistro

Bahn Thai Bistro is a small restaurant hidden in an Upper Arlington strip mall. Despite its low-key appearance and its Siamese provenance, the place churns out tons of delicious vegetarian fare.

While most Thai restaurants find sneaky ways of feeding diners animal parts (hello, fish sauce), Bahn Thai is able to prepare almost every dish on the menu in a vegetarian fashion. The staff was also fully knowledgeable about vegan dining concerns, and although vegan options are less plentiful than their vegetarian counterparts, vegan diners can easily be accommodated.

The majority of Bahn's business appears to be take-out. The decor is colorful, and there is a substantial amount of patio seating (for summer diners) and about 12 seats inside.

Vegetarian appetizers include veggie spring rolls, edamame, and deep fried tofu served with either sweet and sour peanut sauce or cucumber sauce and a peanut/coconut milk sauce. The spring rolls, which are prepared with egg, are crispy rounds stuffed with cabbage, carrots and mushrooms. It is served with house-made sour sauce and chile puree.

The fried tofu is perfectly breaded. The presentation is simple yet refined.

Meatless entrees include a variety of classic Thai dishes, including Pad Thai, drunken noodles and the rainbow of curry dishes. The red curry was a spicy preparation of bamboo shoots, bell pepper, eggplant and sauteed tofu garnished with Thai basil. It had layers of intense flavor.

One of the other interesting options is the wrap sandwiches. Vegetarian choices are basil and garlic.

Bahn Thai Bistro

Bahn Thai Bistro on Urbanspoon

11 November 2010

Mojo Tago

Mojo Tago is a taco truck that pops up at various locations around the Columbus area. I caught it this week at State and Third, but Mojo also has regularly been found on campus during Ohio State game day and in Westerville.

Owner Brian Reed's truck is big and well-appointed. It has a T-Shirt display rack and a tortilla chip window, placing its amenities at a slightly different level than those of the outer belt taco trucks. Its concept pays homage to the L.A. food truck scene that has garnered national media attention, but it also shares a common thread with Columbus' other mobile food impresarios like Rad Dog and Foodie Cart with a fun image not obscuring its focus on fresh ingredients.

The vegetarian taco is black beans, cabbage, cheese, avocado salsa and pico de gallo on a soft corn tortilla (2 for $5). It is messy, but delicious enough to clean up the fallout with tortilla chips.

Side orders include chips and dips, including avocado salsa or roasted tomatillo. The truck also offers a rotating special item.

Mojo Tago is Downtown through Friday for lunch. Check Facebook or Twitter for the location of the truck.

Mojo Tago

Mojo Tago on Urbanspoon

08 November 2010

Joey Chang's

Joey Chang's is a Chinese/Thai restaurant in Hilliard. It shares ownership with Chi Thai, an upscale fusion bistro on the Northeast side, and Joey Chang's prepares many of the same dishes as its sibling in smaller portions with a somewhat less formal atmosphere.

The menu at Joey Chang's offers five vegetarian appetizers and nearly 10 vegetarian entrees. Veggie appetizers include tofu vegetable soup, hot sesame noodles, veggie spring rolls and vegetable dumplings.

The sesame noodles are warm pasta drowned in hot peanut sauce with thinly sliced cucumber. The appetizer is big enough to serve two but delicious enough to keep all to yourself.

The veggie dumplings are stuffed with spinach and served with a soy ginger sauce. They are a boiled dumpling, and offer a wide range of pleasant flavors and textures.

My favorite dish at Chi Thai is the spicy pot of gold, and it remains strong at Joey Chang's. The presentation in Hilliard is a little more restrained, but the concept is the same. Unbreaded fried tofu triangles are combined with scallions and other greens, floating in a classic spicy Szechuan black bean sauce. It is sweet, smoky and spicy.

Other vegetarian entrees include spicy eggplant, ma la string beans, and Thai curries with tofu. Thai dishes can be prepared without fish sauce upon request.

The interior at Joey Chang's is a combination of kitschy Asian decor contrasted by modern flair. There is a full bar with beer, wine and cocktails. Happy hour during the week runs from 4-7. Prices for food and drinks are reasonably inexpensive. Service is brisk, and Joey Chang's also does a decent take-out business.

Joey Chang's

Joey Chang's on Urbanspoon

06 November 2010

Rad Dog again goes brick-and-mortar

According to a post on Columbus Underground, Tawd Bell is hanging up his Rad Dog chef's hat and passing the baton to the fine folks at Pattycake vegan bakery. This will be the second winter that Rad Dog will be located indoors--last year, it set up residence in the Hal & Al's kitchen.

Plans are for the cart to be retired for the cold months. The best idea is probably to pick up a vegan sticky bun and ask the staff yourself about the coming changes.

05 November 2010

Venky's Spice House

Venky's Spice House is an Indian restaurant tucked in a drug store strip mall in Hilliard. Interestingly, the restaurant has a large Mediterranean market next door, making it a one-plaza stop for shoppers looking to buy pakoras and hummus.

The Spice House has tons of options for vegetarians. Some fare can be prepared vegan upon request.

There is a Southern Indian influence at Venky's Spice House. The cuisine is representative of the city of Hyderabad in Andhra Pradesh. The area traces its roots to Persia, which is the root of its Islamic heritage. It also explains the Middle Eastern market/Indian restaurant juxtaposition in this plaza.

The lunch deal is exceptional. For $5.99 (or $6.99 if you order the top-shelf options), diners get a main course, a rice dish, an appetizer, a daal, a side curry dish, a dessert and a basket of naan.

The paneer tikka masala was prepared with a slow rolling heat that subsided slowly. Despite its nomenclature issues (tikka means chicken, but the dish is poultry-free) the entree is delicious. The strips of pepper and zucchini in the dish add layers of flavor to the dish. The soft cubes of paneer cheese soak up every bit of flavor from the sauce.

The curried cabbage was a delicious side. Tiny peppers made the dish slightly spicy, but ultimately, the dish was successful because it provided great textural and flavor contrast.

The green lentils (dal or daal translates as lentil dish) were also great. The side was earthy with subtle citrus notes. It was a fantastic dip along with leftover masala gravy for the naan.

The dish was also served with a saffron rice, vegetable pakoras and a mango yogurt pudding. It is served on a modernized thali that had partitions rather than separate bowls.

While the cuisine at Venky's is rooted in Southern Indian traditions, many of the choices on the menu are also somewhat Northern Indian in their origins. This probably is related to the city that inspires the food being slightly south of the middle of the country. It also makes the restaurant a winner for fans of varied Indian cuisines. Although the place doesn't have classic Southern offerings like dosas, the Persian cuisine influences and the thali serving dish firmly place Venky's Spice House in the Southern Indian tradition.

There are a number of non-traditional dishes at Venky's Spice House. Although there are pakoras and samosas, they also make dishes like the chili baby corn, stuffed breaded chili peppers and a roasted eggplant entree. When combined with Taj Palace, I am considering Hilliard Columbus' best Indian food suburban district now that Bayleaf has closed in the Polaris area.

Venky's Spice House

Spice House on Urbanspoon

02 November 2010


Zydeco is a Cajun/Creole restaurant that opened Monday in the old Brewery District BW3. As with most Bayou-based restaurants, vegetarian options are somewhat limited. However, considering that I live six blocks away, I work Downtown, and I'm always looking for more lunch options, I found myself drawn to Zydeco.

If the name of this place sounds somewhat familiar, it's because the family that ran Cafe Zydeco in the Riffe Center basement also runs Zydeco on High. The High Street location is still in its formative stages; check back in the next few weeks if you want to see the place running at full speed.

The menu at Zydeco features a variety of sandwiches, a couple of appetizers and side dishes. The vegetarian sandwich is called All Hat, No Cattle, and is a grilled portabella sandwich served on a soft, warm roll with red peppers, lettuce, tomato and red onion. It is served with house made chips topped judiciously with scallions and mayo.

Vegetarian side dishes include mac and cheese, garlic mashed potatoes, sweet potato and regular French fries. The mac and cheese was creamy and delicious.

Prices at Zydeco are inexpensive. For now, Zydeco is open for lunch. Plans are to be open for dinner at a later date.

Zydeco Cafe on High on Urbanspoon