28 September 2010

The Pickle

The Pickle is a deli in Downtown Columbus. The place generates a feeling of deja vu in that it formerly was a Quiznos, and now it operates as a sort of bizarro renegade Quiznos.

There are subtle differences between the menus at Quiznos and the menu at the Pickle. The Pickle doesn't have the Torpedos and Bullets that Quiznos does, but both offer toasted subs in three sizes. The Pickle offers pita sandwiches, The salad and soup options are similar.

The ingredient list for the veggie sub at the Pickle is identical to that from Quiznos. The Pickle also offers a plain cheese sandwich that Quiznos does not.

The veggie sub pairs well with the tomato basil soup, which is also vegetarian. The veggies on the sub are cut a little thicker than its Quiznos doppelganger. The wheat bread is not as pleasant as its white counterpart. The cup of soup was pleasant. Overall, the Pickle is a decent lunch option that is a little more expensive that typical fast food, and maybe it's a little better. If you like Quiznos, I'm sure you'd also like the Pickle.

For pescatarians, there are a few items like the lobster club at Pickles that are not a Quiznos menu item. Prices are comparable to Quiznos, with plenty of combo options for chips, salads, soups and drinks. The Pickle also makes open-faced breakfast sandwiches, including an egg and cheese sandwich and an egg and veggie sandwich.

The Pickle

The Pickle on Urbanspoon

24 September 2010


Loops is a new casual faux-Greek restaurant in Upper Arlington. The menu is small and gyro-focused, but the limited vegetarian choices are well made and delicious.

The concept of Loops is loosely based on Chicago's subway system. There are a veggie wrap, spanakopita, hummus, baba ghannoush, feta dip, tzatziki, fries and a couple of salads on the menu.

I'm always vaguely suspicious of a place that only has one vegetarian sandwich. It almost seems to me like these places throw veggie options on the menu as an afterthought. This is not the case at Loops.

The veggie wrap consists of a warm pita stuffed with griddled peppers, onions, mushroom, tomato, cucumber, cabbage, carrots and lettuce with a choice of sauces that include tzatziki, hotziki (spicy cucumber dip), baba, hummus or feta dip. The veggies were perfectly cooked, and the wrap turned out perfectly.

The hummus had hints of garlic and citrus. It was served with warm pita bread. Overall, the hummus was somewhat pedestrian and unspectacular.

The fries, on the other hand, were great. They were fried crispy and sprinkled with a blend of herbs and cheeses. The fries were fried to a perfect consistency and burst with flavor.

Loops offers fast-casual service. The inside of the restaurant is accented with metal and decorated with televisions. There is ample outdoor patio seating.

Prices at Loops are inexpensive. While there aren't scores of options for vegetarian diners, the few choices are surprisingly successful.


Loops on Urbanspoon

21 September 2010

Graffiti Burger

Graffiti Burger is a better-than-fast-food burger joint from Columbus filling the void that comes from In-and-Out Burger's unwillingness to expand eastward (and occupying the locations not currently housing Five Guys Burgers and Fries restaurants). There are Graffiti Burgers in Dublin, Pickerington and Grandview, with plans to expand to Old North Columbus soon.

The Grandview location seats about 40 inside with additional patio seating. The decor is graffiti-themed and loud.

Although Graffiti Burger is a burger place, they do have a veggie burger. Granted, the veggie burger is prepared on the same grill as all the other not-veggie burgers, so easily offended vegetarians and vegans should probably pass Graffiti Burger up. However, if you're willing to suspend disbelief by ignoring what goes on behind the scenes, Graffiti Burger makes a pretty tasty veggie burger.

The menu at Graffiti Burger is pretty simple: burgers, fries and shakes. Fries come in 1/4-lb, 1/2-lb and full-pound portions. Shakes come in chocolate and vanilla.

There are ample toppings available for the veggie burger. Free toppings run the gamut from ketchup, mustard, mayo, barbecue sauce, cole slaw, tomato, grilled onions and hot peppers to cheeses that include American, cheddar, pepperjack, provolone and Swiss. Premium toppings include blue cheese, roasted red pepper, sauteed mushrooms and guacamole.

The veggie burger patty is made with a variety of vegetables and has delicious black beans throughout. It is crumbly in texture. The bun is big and soft. The standard veggie burger is topped with provolone cheese, pickles, lettuce, tomato and Graffiti sauce (a spicy mayonnaise cocktail). The combo paired well with the guacamole.

The fries are thick and mildly seasoned. They were fried to a medium texture that was neither gummy nor crispy, and served with ketchup and vinegar.

The chocolate shake is malty and comes with whipped cream and a cherry. It is thick and somewhat viscous, requiring a steadfast commitment to drink.

Graffiti Burger's veggie burger is better-than-passable in quality. Prices slightly expensive, but through a variety of toppings, the quality of experience is improved upon.

Graffiti Burger

Graffiti Burger on Urbanspoon

18 September 2010

Taste the Future 2010

Taste the Future is an event that showcases some of Columbus best and brightest culinary talents at an institution noted for fostering burgeoning culinary careers. This year's event was September 14th on the campus of Columbus State.

The weather was perfect, allowing participants to browse the stands leisurely and sample small plates from about 50 places. Full disclosure: I benefited by getting free tickets as a food blogger. Tickets for the public were $100.

Overall, the event is a great opportunity to try tons of Columbus dining establishments. The event was not vegan-friendly, and there was a slight lack of non-cheese protein options for vegetarian diners. Despite the lack of tofu and veggie burgers, Taste the Future is still a ton of fun.

It's difficult to describe everything I tried. I'll try to cover the major highlights.

The cranberry salad on Belgian endive and tortilla chips with watermelon salsa from the Crosswoods Restaurant at the Worthington Hotel were both expressive uses of fruit. The cranberries in the salad and dressing added a nice, tart accent to the salad, and the watermelon salsa added a cooling influence to a slightly spicy salsa. The color of the chips was visually appealing.

The Caprese salad from Creekside was a fantastic use of the bounty of tomatoes. The cherry tomatoes were juicy, the cheese was soft and the dressing was bright and flavorful.

It was great to see Pasqualone's La Plaia at Taste the Future. La Plaia is a traditional Italian restaurant with great service and freshly prepared fare. I don't get to eat here nearly as often as I would like living in the city. The gnocchi in gorgonzola cream sauce was divine.

While the entrees and salads were great, Taste the Future is also a great opportunity to sample the wealth of delicious baked goods and sweet treats in Columbus. Mozart's Bakery prepared delicious mini-cupcakes.

Cherbourg Bakery was new to me, but it was worth trying out. Cherbourg is a gluten-free bakery. The espresso brownies and chocolate chip cookies were phenomenal.

One of my favorite items of the night was the doughssant from Auddino Bakery. It is a hybrid doughnut/croissant sprinkled in powdered sugar, and it is more delicious than it sounds (if that's even possible).

The Jeni's ice cream stand was packed all night. Flavors included salty caramel, dark chocolate gelato, pear riesling sorbet and the goat cheese with roasted red cherries.

This is but a small sampling of restaurants at Taste the Future. Some other notable establishments included Barcelona, Barrio, Burgundy Room, Elevator, G. Michael's, Lindey's, Luce and the Refectory. While not all of their stations featured vegetarian choices, these restaurants are accommodating to vegetarians.

Taste the Future is a blast. Although it's difficult to recommend to dieters, the event should be impossible to resist for foodies in the coming years.

Taste the Future

14 September 2010

Piada Italian Street Food

Piada is a new Italian concept in Upper Arlington featuring assembly-line wraps, pasta dishes and salads. Piada is the latest project from Chris Doody, who launched Bravo, Brio and Bon Vie restaurants.

Much like Chipotle, diners can build their own personalized wraps, pastas or salads from an array of toppings and sauces. The decor is fun, with images of Vespa scooters on the walls.

Piada the word actually refers to a whole wheat Italian flatbread, or a sandwich made out of this bread. The grilled vegetable piada is made with a zucchini, corn and bean mixture, a pepper and onions mixture, or both. Sauce choices include pomodoro sauce, red or green pesto, spicy diavolo, or creamy parmesan, and all sauces are meatless. Veggies and other toppings include mozzarella, parmesan and feta cheese, angel hair pasta, peppers, cucumbers, tomatoes, red onions, arugula, mixed greens, mushrooms, sprouts, avocados, black olives and roasted red peppers.

The green pesto had a great flavor, and the pasta adds a nice touch to the fresh veggies and cheeses. My advice to diners would be to unwrap one end of the foil from the piada, and unroll it as you eat it. This should help keep the piada in one piece.

The side salad is also built to your order at the front counter. The same veggie and cheese options are available for the side salad. Dressings include Italian and balsamic vinaigrette.

All pasta dishes are prepared with angel hair, and they come with a choice of sauces, cheese and grilled vegetables. Other vegetarian items on the menu include spinach and artichoke dip, tomato basil soup, breadsticks and cannoli chips. Piada also serves a limited menu of beer and inexpensive wine.

Prices at Piada are very fair. An entree and side with a drink costs about $10. It seems like this location may be a test subject to see if the place can be expanded. Based upon my initial experience, I wish them nothing but success.


Piada Italian Street Food on Urbanspoon

06 September 2010

Nazareth Restaurant and Deli

Nazareth Restaurant and Deli is a Mediterranean establishment in the plaza adjacent to the international smorgasbord that is Columbus Square. Nazareth features many vegetarian options that are freshly prepared in successful fashion.

Nazareth has been in Columbus in one form or another for 20 years. The menu features rice dishes, dips, and a fantastic maza, a plate of veggies, feta and harissa which adds extra accents to hummus, baba ghannoush and sandwiches. There are also Mediterranean dishes like tabbouli and grape leaves.

I started out with the mixed hummus/baba combo. It was served with pita triangles, and when the maza platter veggies and harissa were added to the mix, it worked out beautifully. The hummus is light with citrus accents, and the baba is smoky, earthy and complex. The harissa adds an intense spiciness to everything it dresses.

The Greek salad is a mix of iceberg lettuce, cucumber, tomato, black olives, banana peppers and feta cheese in a dill-accented Greek dressing. The salad adds a nice element to a meal at Nazareth.

The falafel sandwich is also excellent. The falafel is crispy with a deep green color. It rests atop a bed of mixed greens, tomatoes, onions, tahini, hummus and a bit of harissa I saved from the maza platter.

The food at Nazareth is very good. Prices are a touch higher than the typical neighborhood Mediterranean eatery, but the quality of the fare allows this to appear fair.

Nazareth has a full bar. Interestingly enough, the restaurant decor is a sports bar. There are televisions throughout the dining room, all tuned to sports programming. My favorite decoration is the illustration of a Jewish person, an Arab and a Christian sharing a hookah on the bar wall. Service is prompt and capable.

Nazareth Restaurant and Deli

Nazareth Restaurant & Deli on Urbanspoon

03 September 2010

Eddie George's Grille 27

With football season now under way after Ohio State throttled the Thundering Herd, it's about time to start staking out sports bars. Eddie George's Grille 27 is a sports bar/pub in the South Campus Gateway. It features typical pub grub with a generous array of vegetarian dining options.

Eddie George's has 27 craft beers on draft plus more in bottles, as well as a full selection of cocktails and wine. The atmosphere is pure sports bar, with televisions built into some of the tables as well as across the walls tuned to ESPN and other sports networks.

The menu also has my absolute favorite: markings identifying vegetarian fare. Eddie George's actually has a large amount of vegetarian appetizers, salads, sandwiches, pizza and pasta, conveniently marked with a green number 27.

Vegetarian starters include chips and salsa, hummus, roasted goat cheese, edamame, fried pretzels and a number of salads. There are three meatless pizzas, two vegetarian sandwiches and two pasta dishes. The menu is strongly biased towards lacto vegetarian dining, and does not appear to be vegan-compatible.

The roasted veggie wrap consists of a wheat wrap containing banana peppers, spring greens, mozzarella cheese and honey mustard. It is a tasty sandwich.

While the food at Eddie George's is solid, you definitely end up paying for the huge televisions you can watch at your table (or at the bar or in the bathroom). Prices seem a little high based based upon the overall quality of the food, although they do provide an admirable ocean of choices for vegetarians. If you're a vegetarian and feel like watching your favorite team that isn't part of the normal broadcast at the neighborhood pub, Grille 27 will at least get the job done. For diners, an appetizer and an entree should cost about $20 a person.

Eddie George's Grille 27

Eddie George's Grille 27 on Urbanspoon

01 September 2010

Hal and Al's vegan sushi

Every Tuesday night, Hal & Al's in Merion Village features a different tasting. Typically, it offers a full line of beers from a particular brewer, and participants get to take home a glass. Instead of focusing on beer this week, the tasting debuted vegan sushi from the Hal & Al's kitchen.

The kitchen at Hal & Al's has been reviewed here before. They feature a wide variety of vegan comfort food, including fried avocados, vegan hot dogs, Luna burgers, tacos and burritos. Sushi is a change of pace. The kitchen is considering whether or not to feature sushi as a permanent menu item or a semi-regular special.

For $10, the tasting offered four different maki roll pairs, sushi accoutrements, a glass of Tiger beer from Singapore and an excellent "Parsons Avenue: The gateway to Hal & Al's" pint glass. There were three pairs of uramaki (rice on the outside) rolls and one pair of hosomaki (seaweed on the outside) rolls.

The rolls were a fairly simple cucumber roll, a pepper and scallion roll dotted with toasted sesame seeds, an avocado roll drizzled with red pepper Veganaise and a fried avocado roll. The cucumber roll was fairly pedestrian, but the other three were well made and delicious.

Tiger is a complement to the sushi. The continental pilsner adds a clean, bracing finish to the sushi rolls.

The other benefit to trying the tasting at Hal & Al's is that after the tasting is finished, the night can continue by tasting the rest of the smaller batch beer selections. The new Saison du BUFF project beers are amazing and worth a try. Saison du BUFF is a collaboration between the unholy trinity of American craft brewing, Dogfish Head, Stone and Victory. The three brewmasters collaborated on a recipe, and then brewed the beer separately at their own breweries.

Saison du BUFF is a Belgian saison-style ale flavored with parsley, sage, rosemary and thyme. The layers of herbal flavor in the Dogfish beer were deeper and more complex than the Stone beer, which was slightly more understated. The brews were more similar than different, but it was interesting to compare the two takes on the same recipe. Hal & Al's didn't carry the Victory version, but it's probably worth searching out based upon its pedigree and the quality of the other two brews.

Hal and Al's vegan sushi