30 December 2011

Fresh 50

Fresh 50 is a new fast-casual Asian spot Downtown in the the recently vacated Spinelli's Deli location. It offers build-your-own rice and noodle dishes as well as salads and wraps with a variety of sauces and dressings.

The interior of Fresh 50 is mostly unchanged from the layout at Spinelli's. Orders take less than 10 minutes to prepare.

Vegetarian dishes are essentially veggie stir fries with the exception of the salad and sandwich. It might be nice to offer a vegetarian protein like tofu, which would pair nicely with Asian sauces.

The choice of vegetables includes traditional salad and sandwich standards, as well as cooked zucchini and squash or broccoli and mushrooms. Sauces include a sweet soy, teriyaki and salad dressings like ranch and Asian balsamic vinaigrette.

Portions are fairly priced. Everything is less than $7. Sauces can be applied individually or combined to make interesting hybrids.

The concept of fast-casual Asian for lunch is strong. Additional tweaks to service combined with a vegetarian protein source would give Fresh 50 some staying power.

Fresh 50 on Urbanspoon

20 December 2011

Hot Pita!

Hot Pita! Mediterranean Street Food is a food truck that whips up fresh Middle Eastern fare. The menu proudly announces that they use no frozen ingredients, and fans of falafel and hummus will find something to like from this vendor.

Like other mobile food operations, Hot Pita is easy to track on Facebook, Twitter and mobile apps like Hungerly. I caught Hot Pita at the Holiday Fair at Columbus Commons this past weekend.

The rolled falafel sandwich puts small falafel disks into a warm pita with chopped romaine, tomato, house made pickles and tahini. I develop a favorite Columbus falafel crush on a regular basis, and this is a great candidate to claim this prestigious mantle created in my mind.

The hummus from Hot Pita comes in three flavors: traditional, roasted red pepper and jalepeño. It is served with a choice of pita triangles or pita chips. The jalepeño hummus had just enough punch to make the spiciness linger. Portions are big enough to share.

The lentil soup with lemon is also vegetarian.

The photos of Hot Pita catering looked delicious. This is definitely an operation worth keeping on the vegetarian radar.

Hot Pita! Mediterranean Street Food on Urbanspoon

Chocolaterie Stam

Chocolaterie Stam is the new sweet stop in Uptown Westerville. It is one of three domestic locations for the Dutch chocolatier.

In addition to truffles and assorted candies, Stam also makes gelato. Flavors included chocolate, chocolate hazelnut, blackberry, raspberry, eggnog and peppermint. Flavors rotate with the season. Candies, syrups and fruit are hand stirred into the dense dessert.

The chocolate hazelnut gelato, called Donatella, was delightful. It was tan rather than the customary brown color of most chocolate ice cream. Ribbons of hazelnut add a rich layers of flavor to an Italian classic.

The milk chocolate at Stam is sweet and creamy. The dark chocolate has subtle roasted bitterness that marries nicely with nuts.

Stam also makes sugar free chocolate bars and candies, including toffee.

Although there is already a Graeter's in Uptown Westerville and Schneider's, the 24-hour donut shop, Chocolaterie Stam's candies gives greater variety for Westerville residents with a sweet tooth.

Chocolaterie Stam Westerville on Urbanspoon

13 December 2011


Zoup is a Downtown lunch spot for soups, salads and sandwiches. The chain has about 50 locations in the Midwest, the East and Colorado, and it has a variety of vegan and vegetarian soups that rotate regularly.

Customers can sample soup at the right end of the counter, and they order to the left of the sample station. The setup for the Downtown storefront is confusing for all but the regular customers.

The soups have a reconstituted character. Most have as much depth as Progresso. Vegan and vegetarian options are clearly marked.

The broccoli and cheese soup was milky nacho cheese with flaccid, lifeless broccoli florets drowning in its essence. The macaroni and cheese soup has a similar base with gummy elbow macaroni replacing the broccoli.

The vegan chili is made with kidney beans and textured soy protein. It was remarkably average chili.

The Cali Veg sandwich comes on a multigrain flatbread wrap stuffed with cucumbers, lettuce, tomatoes, provolone cheese, guacamole and tzatziki. It is essentially a salad in a tortilla.

The Greek salad was traditional with the exception of the balsamic dressing.

Combo orders are served with bread. The portions are adequate, but upsizing the soup is a good idea considering the portion size and price.

Although Zoup provides choices for vegetarians, the cookie cutter soups and middling fare are not worth the effort.

Zoup! Fresh Soup Company on Urbanspoon

05 December 2011


Hopleaf has been a world class beer bar in the Andersonville neighborhood of Chicago for years. Around 2004, Hopleaf expanded and opened a kitchen featuring Belgian bistro fare.

The gastropub specializes in Belgian classics like frites, which allows the dishes to be paired with Hopleaf's stock of Belgian brews. The dinner menu is surprisingly vegetarian friendly.

The frites are served in an ample portion with a side of aioli. The fries are well seasoned, and would be a great accompaniment to beer if served hot. The frites came out cold because of the busy kitchen and a lack of communication with the service staff.

The roasted cauliflower was prepared with glazed baby carrots, turmeric butter, golden raisin walnut sage pesto and a currant gastric. The cauliflower had layers of smoky flavor, and the pesto was a delightful combination of herbal accents contrasted by bright dried fruit.

The staff capably addressed vegetarian dining concerns. Overall, Hopleaf is a great place to sample a wide variety of great beers, and the kitchen adds another reason to check Andersonville's most happening watering hole.

Hopleaf on Urbanspoon