16 November 2011

Food Cart wrap

Since it's getting cold outside, it's about time for me to clear the cache of the rest of the food trucks. Hopefully you can find them again when it warms up again.

After the food truck festival at Columbus Commons, I wrote about the Pickled Swine. The Pickled Swine is a deli truck. They didn't have many vegetarian items on their menu at the fest. However, after a recent visit, I discovered that the Pickled Swine has a veggie wrap and a couple of vegetarian sides on the menu.

On my first visit to the Pickled Swine, I was drawn to the house made popsicles. Flavors include sweet corn lemon and basil, cucumber lime and mint, black cherry and goat cheese, and dark chocolate mint and habanero.

The veggie sandwich is called the Oregonian. It is a cold salad wrap with lettuce and an assortment of veggies including spinach, peppers and mushrooms in a mustard dressing wrapped in a whole wheat tortilla.

The bowtie pasta salad is tossed with asiago cheese, pesto, roasted pine nuts, red and yellow peppers and pesto. It had a fresh flavor, and the color was so bright that it exploded.

My initial preconception that Pickled Swine was vegetarian unfriendly is unfounded. It's a fun truck that is worth checking out.

The Pickled Swine on Urbanspoon

Nick's Pizza is a cart that appears around Columbus and Westerville. The pizza is stone baked and is akin to New York style pie.

The meatless slice at Nick's is the four cheese. It has a soft crust with a crunchy exterior. The cheese was nicely browned, and the sauce is bright and sweet.

Overall, the pizza at Nick's is solid. I have a preference for the pizza at Mikey's Late Night Slice, but Nick's Pizza would be worth a stop if it's in your area.

09 November 2011


Grahamwich is the fast casual sandwich outpost by Graham Elliot Bowles.

Bowles is a high profile chef who ran the four star Peninsula hotel kitchen after stints at Tru and Charlie Trotter's. Many know him from his appearances on Top Chef: Masters and MasterChef, and the young chef harvested plenty of indie credibility in his role as the culinary ambassador at Lollapalooza.

Bowles brings his whimsical style to the Downtown deli. There are house made sodas and house pickled veggies, putting a handcrafted spin on items typically taken for granted.

The main attraction at Grahamwich is sandwiches, of course, but there are fun starters as well. The truffle popcorn migrates over from Bowles' namesake Graham Elliot. It is a rich explosion of black pepper, chives, butter and parmesan cheese buttressed by layers of delightful truffle oil flavor. A large order goes a long way; it could serve three people.

There is always one vegetarian sandwich on the menu. The Mediterranean veggie was made with roasted eggplant and squash, spinach, carrots, tomatoes and onions. The eggplant was spicy and perfectly textured. The focaccia bread added a nice textural contrast to the sandwich.

Grahamwich is reasonably priced for the quality, similar to a neighborhood deli. The decor is fun like its proprietor and his interactive website.

Grahamwich on Urbanspoon

06 November 2011

Dragonfly changes

The crew at Dragonfly announced at a Columbus Vegan Meetup gathering that they will close the University District vegan restaurant at the conclusion of a January 1 brunch. It will reopen as Till Dynamic Fare after it is remodeled. The new restaurant will not be exclusively vegan or vegetarian, but it will feature vegan and vegetarian items. Plans are also to open a pastry shop called Glaze in the old On the Fly space after the main restaurant is reopened.

Dragonfly has been an interesting part of Columbus' dining scene for a number of years. Both Dragonfly and its casual storefront On the Fly have been featured in this blog. It was often recognized as a top restaurant in the city by local and national publications alike. Although its vegan pedigree and commitment were sometimes questioned, the quality of the food was never in doubt.

See more information about what was revealed to Meetup members here.

03 November 2011

Explorers Club

The Explorers Club opened last weekend in the old Coyote Jane's spot on High Street in Merion Village. Explorers Club is a diner with an international flair, akin to the Starliner Diner in Hilliard.

The bar retained much the same layout as Coyote Jane's with a more subtle decor. The dining room is decorated with exotic figurines and portraits of icons like Thelonious Monk, Harvey Milk and Woody Guthrie. It makes great use of the space.

The menu at the Explorers Club has a ton of options for vegetarians. It is open seven days a week.

I'm not much of a breakfast person, but the Cuban bread French toast with fruit makes me want to become a breakfast person. Bite-sized pieces of battered bread are dusted with powdered sugar and an avalanche of fruit that included strawberries, blueberries, bananas, cantaloupe, honeydew and pineapple.

The yogurt and fruit is delicious and filling. It contains many of the same fruits as the Cuban toast.

The grilled cheese sandwich is prepared on a sandwich roll with five different cheeses. There is a sharp blue cheese in the sandwich that gives the sandwich a deeply savory character. Some people dislike blue cheese, and the menu would better serve these diners by identifying the five cheeses on the sandwich. The fries were perfect on one visit, and tasty but slightly greasy on a second visit.

The grilled tofu is marinated in lemon and pepper. The tofu is intense, picking up smoky notes from the grill as well as classic lemon black pepper. The sides of rice, black beans and veggies that include squash, corn, onions, peppers and carrots pair nicely with the main dish.

The chile relleno has a thin breading that is slightly crunchy. The creamy cheese filling and the chipotle sauce it is served in have layers of flavor.

The plantains were perfect. The yogurt dip cools the steaming fruit nicely. The dip is good enough to eat on its own, although ordering scores of plantains would easily put a big smile on anyone's face while using up the cool cilantro dip.

The pecan fruit dough dessert special was a savory dough drowned in sweet berries and pecans. The dessert could have used more pecans as it was called a pecan dough. It was nonetheless satisfying.

House margaritas in a pint glass are a great deal at $5. The cucumber margarita is the margarita of the month. It is spicy, citrusy and undeniably vegetal in the most pleasant way.

Service at Explorers Club was exceptional. The staff capably addresses vegan and vegetarian dining concerns.

Explorers Club on Urbanspoon

01 November 2011

Cafe Spiaggia

Cafe Spiaggia is the less formal of superstar chef Tony Mantuano's two Michigan Avenue restaurants. The casual cafe doesn't pack the firepower of its four-star sibling Spiaggia, yet still creates beautifully crafted Italian masterpieces that absolutely explode with authenticity.

Mantuano is decorated with James Beard awards. He is recognized for as a contestant for season 2 of Top Chef: Masters on Bravo, and he has written a shelf full of cookbooks. President Barrack Obama ate his victory dinner across the hall at Spiaggia. Democrats and Republicans agree that the man can cook.

There are always a couple of menu options at Cafe Spiaggia for vegetarians. Some items need to be altered for vegetarian diners. Since it's an Italian restaurant, many of the dishes contain cheese.

The combo starter is served with romano and black pepper potato chips, olives and a selection of roasted nuts. The chips a thin with a great crunch. The olives picked up flavors of the fennel and orange zest in which they were marinated. This appetizer is a great one to share.

I dined early enough in the season to get a Caprese salad. The tomatoes and basil were from a small regional farm while the olive oil was a Spiaggia brand house oil. It was flawless in its simplicity.

The beet salad had fried ham on the menu, but it can be prepared without it. Sweet red beets and apples were laid on a bed of crumbled quartirolo cheese and olive oil. The sweetness was perfectly contrasted by the bright acidity in the cheese.

The bucatini (a thick spaghetti with a hole in the middle) is topped with crispy kale chips, and dressed with citrus, walnuts and romano. It has a great range of flavor and texture that is delightful.

The house made gelatos are rich and intense. The gianduja was a great combination of chocolate and hazelnut.

The cavernous wine reserves of Spiaggia are also available in its Cafe. The cocktail made with house made limoncello looked interesting. The bar has a limited selection of drafts from Goose Island and select other breweries.

Service at Cafe Spiaggia was gracious. Vegetarian requests were properly addressed.

Cafe Spiaggia on Urbanspoon