18 December 2013

Paladar Latin Kitchen


Paladar Latin Kitchen and Rum Bar is a small national chain with one location near the city of Cleveland. The menu is Latin fusion with dishes from Mexico, Cuba, Central and South America. The bar prepares great drinks with an emphasis on rum, cachaca and tequila.

Paladar makes a ton of dishes for diners with dietary restrictions including a menu with symbols denoting vegetarian and vegan dishes. There is also a gluten-free menu.

Almost all of the side dishes, with the exception of the black beans and the refried bean dishes, are vegetarian. The pinto beans are vegan. Sides include rice dishes, vegetables and the ubiquitous fried plantain.

Guacamole is prepared to order and includes seasonal ingredients. The seasonal version was made with pepitas and queso blanco. 

The baked empanada appetizer was portioned to share. It was stuffed with portobello mushrooms and queso blanco.  It was dressed with a finely chopped pico de gallo and a garlic aioli that gives the dish a nice bite.

The sweet potato tacos give a great taste to a vegetarian classic. Hearts of palm add crunch, and the rest of the taco is filled with pinto beans, cabbage, scallions and tomatillo salsa. It is an exercise in flavor and texture.

Cocktails were well made but a little expensive. It's best to look for happy hour deals.



Paladar Latin Kitchen & Rum Bar on Urbanspoon

04 December 2013

La Parada


On a recent road trip, I managed to grab lunch at La Parada in Indianapolis. It is an authentic Mexican restaurant on the city's East Side in a strip mall filled entirely with Latin businesses. The decor is festive, and business can be brisk.

The beans and rice from La Parada are both vegetarian. There are a number of meatless dishes on the menu, although many are made with cheese.

Everything from La Parada is delicious washed down with a glass of house-made horchata. It is light, creamy and redolent of clove and cinnamon. It is vegan.

The salsa is heavy on tomatoes and very mildly spiced. Guacamole had cilantro, onions and jalepeño. Elotes, the classic grilled corn in mayo, chili powder and Cotija cheese, is a can't-miss side dish.

The cardiac A-bomb comes in the form of a veggie chimichanga in a spicy, creamy queso sauce. It is stuffed with veggies, beans and cheese, and the plate probably registers at about 1,700 with rice and beans.

There are a couple on TVs in the dining room that were tuned to daytime talk shows. Servers were excellent, although many speak English as a second language. It is worth double checking on dietary restrictions when ordering at La Parada.



La Parada on Urbanspoon

19 November 2013

Z Cucina di Spirito


Z Cucina in Grandview features traditional and old fashioned Italian fare with Mediterranean accents. It has a nice focus on local, seasonal ingredients, and the bar churns out great cocktails that keep it busy.

The kitchen of Chef Jamie George makes their own mozzarella, which adds so much to every dish it is used in. There is a great variety of vegetarian dishes on the menu. Other dishes can be also be modified for vegetarians. There is also gluten free pasta available.

The mozzarella is delicate and creamy, an unctuous vehicle to convey flavors in the classic Caprese salad. The simple ingredients are amplified by the great house-made cheese.

The eggplant Parmesan was also excellent. The slices of eggplant were tender, with a crispy breading. It was liberally topped with cheese, pesto and a bright Pomodoro sauce.

Hearty root vegetables dominated the fall seasonal offerings. Not every vegetable paired elegantly with Gorgonzola, which was in heavy use in dishes, and used with a bit of a heavy hand.

Desserts are excellent. There is a nice after dinner drinks list.



Z Cucina on Urbanspoon

09 November 2013

Veritas Tavern


Veritas Tavern is an exciting small plates spot located in practically the last place you would think - Delaware. The fast growing community North of Columbus is home to this exciting restaurant. It is well worth the drive if it is far from you to experience the work of chefs Avishar Barua and Silas Caeton, and it's even better if Delaware is in your back yard.

The menu features great seasonal ingredients. While there are a limited number of vegetarian items on the regular menu, the kitchen is able to accommodate vegetarians with additional dishes if given advance notice.

The dining room has ample bar space, and the bar has a nice selection of wine, beer and great cocktails. Mixed drinks are made with quality ingredients, and show great care. 

The decor is fun with cookbooks adorning the walls as well as menus from the restaurants of renowned chefs Grant Achatz and Thomas Keller. While the dining room is whimsical, it could benefit visually from a greater focus and organization.

The feta dip appeared straightforward with cucumber and flatbread on the plate. The flavor is clean with a subtle richness, and the dish is far more complex than the simple ingredients belie.

The potted blue cheese with chocolate biscuits and port wine in a squeeze dropper is a study in flavor. When combined, the sweetness of the wine tempers the strong cheese, and the chocolate adds layers of roasted notes. Each element can also be removed, changing the flavor profile considerably. 

The Brussels sprouts were roasted and served in a deeply savory sauce that made them irresistible. They were tender, falling apart. The sauce held the essence of tamari soy sauce. I'm not normally a Brussels sprouts fan, but these were good enough to order again.

The grilled asparagus with late harvest peas, maitake mushrooms and ricotta made fantastic use of great ingredients. The mushrooms were seared, and the texture and flavor were as close to bacon as anything I have ever experienced as a vegetarian. The cheese added a creamy background to the dish, and the peas sweetened it up and gave the dish a nice texture.

The white and dark chocolate dessert played with the contrariety of temperature and texture. White chocolate was frozen in liquid nitrogen. The dark chocolate was an ice cream, served with an even-darker hot chocolate fudge. The white chocolate dissolved into a rich frozen smoke. The chocolate was even more rich, and the warm fudge added a great contrast. Drops of Pedro Ximenez sherry add complex oxidized notes to the dish.

Service was exceptional. The staff capably deals with dietary questions. The menu changes often enough that regular visitors would not have to worry about repeating dishes. Interestingly, reservations on the weekend are not taken, and diners are seated first-come, first-served.



Veritas Tavern on Urbanspoon

30 October 2013

Mashita Noodle Bowl


Mashita Noodle Bowl is a food cart that serves ramen and other Japanese noodle dishes. While the traditional broth is prepared with pork, there are vegetarian sauces on the menu, and they capably prepare vegetarian and vegan dishes to order.

The choice of noodles was traditional and spicy ramen, as well as Korean sweet potato noodles traditionally called japchae. There is a limited selection of seasonal veggie toppings which included squash, zucchini and mushrooms.

The vegetarian preparations are cold. There are enough options and sides to create customized orders. There is also soy sauce and Sriracha to tinker with the taste profile of the dish.

Mashita can be located with Twitter and Facebook.



Mashita Noodle Bar on Urbanspoon

15 October 2013

Houlihan's

Houlihan's in Upper Arlington is a relaunched version of the old TGI Friday's-esque chain. They replaced the old menu's cookie-cutter Americana with fresh food that more than makes the grade for the gourmet set.

The menu offers a fair amount of choices for vegetarian, vegan and gluten-free diners. The menu has symbols that represent vegetarian and gluten-free items, while many items can be prepared vegan upon request.

There are a few vegetarian apps, salads, soup, veggie sliders, flatbreads and sandwiches. All of the side dishes are vegetarian but the baked potato.

Veggie sliders can be ordered individually or in a three pack. It is a soft black bean and chickpea patty topped with aged cheddar and ranch-dressed greens. It's a great happy hour snack.

The bar offers an array of flights from craft beer to wines and even sugary martinis. The decor is cool, and the restaurant is kid-friendly.



Houlihan's Upper Arlington on Urbanspoon

25 September 2013

Tortilla Street Food


Tortilla Street Food is a new food truck that brings the Chipotle approach to Mexican street food. They whip up the usual tacos, burritos, quesadillas and bowls, and all of the ingredients are pictured on the side of the truck, allowing diners to customize their meal.

All of the ingredients from Tortilla with the exception of meats are vegetarian. Toppings include white rice, Mexican rice, black beans, refried beans, fajita veggies, cold veggies like peppers and onions, queso dip, cheeses, a variety of sauces and sour cream.

Overall, the fare at Tortilla is closest in character to California Mexican. It is a good stand in for Chipotle.

Dishes are prepared in the assembly line fashion of fast-casual eateries. The burrito is large enough to be a very hungry person's lunch.

Side dishes include chips and dips such as salsa and guacamole. Tortilla also offers churros with strawberry filling, dusted with cinnamon sugar with chocolate and caramel dipping sauces as dessert.



Tortilla on Urbanspoon

13 September 2013

Bibibop


Bibibop in Grandview Heights brings the fast-casual approach to Korean food. Much in the model of Chipotle, diners pick a format (bowl, salad or rolled sandwich) and have the staff behind the counter fill it up with their choice of fresh produce, sauces and toppings.

Charley Shin, the founder of Bibibop, is also involved with other restaurants like Charley's. There is little similarity between the sandwich chain and Bibibop.

The decor at Bibibop is fun. There is seating for about 50 inside the restaurant, and like other fast-casual eateries, service is efficient. 

The veggies behind the counter were of exceptional quality. Ingredients include white or purple rice, noodles, lettuce, carrots, cucumbers, corn and jalepeño, daikon and a delicious mildly spiced organic tofu. There are three different sauces, all of which are vegetarian. The bowl is a sort of Westernized take on classic bibimbop.

The edamame were fairly ordinary. The soybeans lacked salt. Other than this minor shortcoming, the overall experience was great. 



Bibibop on Urbanspoon

27 August 2013

Hills Market Downtown


The Hills Market Downtown is a little bit smaller than the original location outside 270. It brings the same focus on fresh, local produce to the heart of Columbus, with an excellent hot bar and deli fare to eat in the store or to-go.

There is a salad bar, a warm bar and a deli at The Hills Market that prepares pizza and sandwiches. The deli sign says that they will heat anything you buy at the Market.

Regular specials are on an ever-changing rotation at the Hills Market. They are a good follow on social media to help keep up with the latest thing they have had delivered.

The dining area is small but makes great use of the space. It should be bustling with Columbus State and CCAD students as well as Downtown workers.



The Hills Market Downtown on Urbanspoon

17 August 2013

Mai Chau

Mai Chau is a Vietnamese food truck. It has a fairly limited menu, but luckily for vegetarians and vegans, it offers a vegan pate bahn mi sandwich on a regular basis that makes it a destination worth tracking down.

The pate is vegan mushroom walnut. It is a meatless equivalent of cha lua, the classic Vietnamese pate, though it has a deeper savory essence that mimics truffles.

The bahn mi is served on a perfectly soft French bread that is hollowed out and filled with pate, cilantro, daikon, carrots and hot sauce. It is a substantial sandwich.

The staff is receptive to vegan and vegetarian requests. Mai Chau can be tracked via Twitter, Facebook or related food-truck social media. 



Mai Chau on Urbanspoon

07 August 2013

Scratch Brick Oven Pizza


Scratch Brick Oven Foodworks fits right in its setting near the campus of Eastern Tennessee University in Johnson City. The decor is whimsical, the staff is fun and the pizza is way too good to pass up.

There are different ways to order pizza at Scratch. Diners can select from the list of specialty pizzas, or they can choose to build their own pie. They can also have Scratch staff build a pizza for them. At the counter, tell the pizza maker what ingredients they don't like, or even leave the experience completely in the hands of the kitchen. There is vegan and gluten-free pizza.

The wood-fired pizza oven puts a nice char on the medium-thick hand-tossed crust. This oven was built by the owners, and it also comes in handy with the bread sticks, which are essentially olive-oil-dressed pizza crust with a fresh pesto dipping sauce. 

The kitchen created a veggie pizza with red and green peppers, banana peppers, kalamata olives, squash, zucchini, spinach and mushrooms. The sauce was evenly balanced, and it supported the deep roasted vegetable flavor of the toppings. 

There is seating for about 20 inside Scratch. The order was announced via microphone when it was ready in the best impression of Casey Kasem. Diners are free to browse the store collection of records, which can be played in the dining room.

Scratch is BYOB. They also serve pop, including Cheerwine, the coolest cherry soda ever.



Scratch Brick Oven Foodworks on Urbanspoon

06 August 2013

Vegetarian in Vegas


Las Vegas is a city where money can by just about any pleasure that a person can imagine. The food, in particular, is an extraordinary array of international flavors prepared by some of the world's most talented chefs. Vegetarian dining, though, can sometimes be a little tougher than average when considering the hedonistic reputation of Sin City.

Luckily, when you know where to look, vegetarian and vegan diners can find meatless breakfasts, lunches, dinners and snacks that can easily fuel whatever type of bender is underway (check out other Las Vegas reviews here). While most places will be able to cater to dietary restrictions, these places go above and beyond with their fare, or are just too good to otherwise pass by.

Breakfast - hands down, the one place that vegetarian diners must stop is 
Ronald's Donuts. The small doughnut shop tucked into Chinatown makes delicious fried breakfast pastries, two-thirds of which are vegan.  

Most of the non-cake doughnuts are vegan, including the heralded apple fritter. A dozen costs $7.50. Save money on the Strip resort breakfast and eat vegan doughnuts for a few mornings. 

Chinatown is a great area for vegetarians who are adventurous eaters. There is a wide range of Asian cuisines in the neighborhood, and some places are exclusively vegetarian.

In Chinatown, the other most famous item is the house-made tofu at Raku. It was on an episode of the Food Network's Best Thing I Ever Ate. Every visiting chef talks about it. It is part of why Raku is one of the most talked about restaurants in Las Vegas.

The tofu is set in a round basket, and it carries visible basket ridges on its faces. Diners should be careful because some of the dishes are prepared with bonito fish flakes.

Lotus of Siam is one of the nation's premiere Thai restaurants. Its flavors are deeply authentic, and they take care with vegetarian dining requests.

Chef/owner Saipin Chutima prepares traditional recipes that have been passed down in her family for 100 years. It is a worthwhile stop for lunch or dinner seven days a week.

Go Raw Cafe is Las Vegas' resident old-fashioned hippie vegan restaurant. It has two locations, and offers raw, vegan fare.

Luv-It Frozen Custard is not vegan-friendly, but it is a good old-fashioned way to cool yourself in the hot desert sun. The favorite sundae is the Western, topped with hot fudge, caramel, pecans and a cherry. It is located North of the Stratosphere near The Strip.

I also had a great experience at Ferraro's, an Italian restaurant on the city's East Side. It was a great environment and the staff took great care of a large party. It offers pretty traditional Italian vegetarian options, but it's fresh and carefully prepared. The Italian singers are an added bonus.

Those that want to make their meat-eating friends jealous can also get a grilled cheese from In-N-Out Burger. This is the West Coast retro burger operation with a rabid fan base. The menu is minimal, augmented by a secret menu that allows for full order customization.

The grilled cheese is essentially a cheeseburger without the burger. Accompanied by greasy animal fries, thin fries topped with melted cheese, grilled onions and Thousand Island dressing. If it is washed down by a milkshake, a vegetarian diner can be provided with a vegetarian (in the loosest sense of the word) artery-stopping unhealthy calorie bomb from 10 in the morning until after midnight.

30 July 2013

Bouchon Bakery


Bouchon Bakery in the Venetian is a great way to experience the food of a world renowned chef, even if you gambled away most of your dining budget in the casinos. The pâtisserie of Thomas Keller is in different locations throughout the resort. Keller is the famous name behind The French Laundry and Per Se, two of the country's top restaurants.

Keller is a culinary technician, and his expertise is evident in everything from Bouchon Bakery. The cases are full of croissants, cookies, and sweet and savory pastries of varying shapes and sizes. 

The offerings are essentially breakfast or dessert. It costs about $6 for a large coffee and one breakfast pastry.

The cheese Danish was rich, sweet and impossibly light. The raspberry filled beignets were a mess in the most delicious sense of the word. The bright, sweet filling gives the doughnut exterior a contrasting textural element that is perfect in a yin-yang sort of way.

The macaroons were well made. Flavors like pink lemonade were perfect in the blazing Vegas heat.



Bouchon Bakery on Urbanspoon

24 July 2013

Twist by Pierre Gagnaire


Twist by Pierre Gagnaire is the heralded chef's sole North American restaurant. Pierre Gagnaire's technique is firmly rooted in the French tradition, but he adds a modern flair with international influences to his cuisine that makes him more forward-looking than some of his fellow countrymen.

Twist is located in the swanky Mandarin Oriental in City Center on The Strip. The dining room has a great view of The Strip, which makes it a great spot for romantic dining.

The wine list is chock full of interesting lots to pair with the fare coming out of the food-science laboratory kitchen. There are great wines from the Old and New World, and the cocktails and beer are selected with the same care as everything else at Twist.

Service at Twist is as exemplary as the food. The kitchen controls the dining experience, and does a phenomenal job preparing artful food for vegetarian and vegan diners.

The menu changes with the season. Gagnaire typically works in the kitchen for a week or two when the new menu is introduced.

The bread plate and plate of amuse bouche show the careful attention to detail from the kitchen. There were three different risen breads, as well as flavored flatbtreads. They were served with amazing butter and an addictive popcorn foam that adds a sweet, salty backdrop to the baked goods. 

The amuse bouche came in four parts. Many were savory plays on desserts, spicy cookies and cheese marshmallows that were perfectly suited to a one-bite format.

The salad course was made with green and white asparagus, shallot vinaigrette, tomato coulis, avocado and diced mushroom agar. The dressing was augmented by vegetable-gelatin-suspended spices. The plating was almost too pretty to eat.

The next course had cabbage as its centerpiece, and played nicely with sweetness and acidity. Passion fruit adds a nice bite to the crisp, green veggies.

 The carrot fondant was served atop a raspberry and beet reduction. Sliced turnips gave the dish a nice crunch.

The next course was beets in a reduced maple syrup on roasted red pepper and pimento jam. It was topped with graffiti radishes that added a great visual pop.

The sauteed baby potatoes sat in an arugula coulis with enoki and Paris mushrooms. It was a pleasing combination of savory, salty flavors that were completely balanced.

The saffron risotto with baby zucchini, broccoli and corn was as good of a risotto as I have ever tasted. The creamy rice was a perfect vehicle to deliver the lightly roasted vegetable flavor that defines the season.

The dessert tasting consists of six components. They range in order from light and fresh to rich and sweet. They were followed by petit fours.

There are too many great chefs in Las Vegas to count. Vegans and vegetarians looking for fine dining options should take note of Twist when exploring fine dining options. The modern take on meatless cuisine at the restaurant surpasses anything else you are likely to find in Sin City.



Twist on Urbanspoon

17 July 2013

Peppermill Lounge


The Peppermill Lounge is an old Vegas diner full of 70s style with kitsch piled up to the rafters. It's a great place to stop if you have gambled away all your money at the casino. It is also a great spot for movie fans because cinematic favorites like Casino and The Cotton Club were filmed at the Peppermill Lounge, as was the Rotten Tomatoes bedrock Showgirls.

The menu focuses on plus-sized diner fare at reasonable prices. Food can be enjoyed in the dining room or in the Fireside Lounge, a neon-lit bar area with fireplaces.

The experience at the Peppermill Lounge would not be complete without being enjoyed without a cocktail. The Scorpion is the signature drink of Peppermill. It is a 64-ounce drink consists of cherry brandy, rum, orange juice, grenadine and vanilla ice cream blended into creamy, frothy perfection. It is meant to be shared or consumed by one thirsty individual. 

There is a limited vegetarian menu at Peppermill. There are omeletes and breakfast sweets, a Caprese sandwich, appetizers and pasta dishes. 

The nachos nachos nachos appetizer is big enough to feed two people almost by itself. A haystack of tortilla chips is piled high with melted cheddar and jack cheese, refried beans, pickled jalepeños, tomatoes, onions and black olives. It is served with a thin tomato salsa that is forgettable. The nachos, however, are a homerun for $14. It is more bang for the buck when compared to the sometimes steep casino prices, and it is steps from many resorts on the north end of the Strip.

A visit to the Peppermill Lounge is fun not matter your reason for visiting. It is open 24 hours for breakfast, lunch, dinner, drinking and gambling.



Peppermill Cafe & Lounge on Urbanspoon

10 July 2013

Jaleo


Jose Andres is the foremost name in Spanish cuisine in the United States, and Jaleo is his flagship restaurant. The ambassador to Spanish fare introduced small plates-based tapas dining to the United States. He has restaurants in Maryland, D.C., Miami, Beverly Hills and Las Vegas. Jaleo restaurant in Las Vegas is in the stylish Cosmopolitan.

Jaleo has an open kitchen with bar seating for 10 the ultra luxe é by Jose Andres diners. The paella is prepared over an open fire in a hula hoop sized pan, and it's served with much celebration. Service was excellent, providing great options for vegetarians. It capably handles special dining requests, and the cuisine offers a fair number of meatless options.

Dishes are crafted from carefully selected ingredients. Classic dishes were full of fresh flavor.

The cheeses were also excellent. The Pasamontes Farmhouse Manchego crumbled finely, and it paired well with the apples in muscatel. The Rey Silo Blanco picked up a hint of paprika, and it added complexity to the fantastic almonds and fig jam.

The gazpacho is as good an example of the cold soup as you will ever try. It is a bracing, clean, fresh and satisfying take on the vegetables that define the summer.

The battered Malaga style eggplant was soft and slightly vegetal with a hint of sweetness. It was a little greasy, but the eggplant was good enough to overcome the minor deficiencies.

The wine list is well paired to the menu. While it isn't as top heavy as some of its competition in Vegas, there are a number of regional Spanish wines that are reasonably priced to mix and match along with an armada of tapas.



Jaleo By José Andrés on Urbanspoon

03 July 2013

Burger Bar


Las Vegas is full of burger joints operated by celebrity chefs. If you have seen them on TV, you can probably find a burger carrying their name somewhere in the city. Burger Bar is run by Hubert Keller, whose name is well known from Fleur de Lys in San Francisco and Las Vegas, as well as from his TV appearances on his show Secrets of a Chef on PBS and Bravo's uber-popular Top Chef: Masters. 

Chef Keller's culinary style puts great emphasis on vegetarian and vegan dining concerns, putting his veggie burger at the front of Vegas celebrity chef line. Fleur de Lys was one of the first fine dining restaurants to offer a vegetarian menu, and its legacy shines in the veggie burger.

Burger Bar is a casual restaurant. The pub atmosphere is supported by a great list of draft beer. The cocktails are also solid.

Fried food is the most natural pairing with burgers (veggie or otherwise). Burger Bar offers a delicious array of fried sides, from fat fries to skinny fries, as well as sweet potato fries, buttermilk zucchini fries, onion rings, fried pepper jack balls, cheese sticks and mac & cheese croquettes. The fries were very good, but the onion rings, pepper jack balls and zucchini fries were outstanding. 

The veggie burger at Burger Bar is made with caramelized onions, button mushrooms, lentils, green peas, brown and white rice, pumpkin puree, potato, bread crumbs and mozzarella cheese. The pumpkin gives the patty a rich, deep essence that plays well with spicy ingredients. The wide array of available toppings and buns allows for virtually endless customization. 

The vegan sandwich is roasted eggplant with Roma tomatoes, zucchini and peppers sandwiched between two portobello caps. It is served with a side of skinny fries.

Desserts run the gamut from beer shakes and boozy milkshakes to non-alcoholic sundaes, and cakey dessert burgers. It's tough to save room for dessert with a veggie burger and piles of sides, so plan accordingly.



Burger Bar on Urbanspoon

06 June 2013

Mikey's Late Night Slice - Commons Cafe



Mikey's Late Night Slice is easily Columbus' most colorful pizza chain. Consisting of operations based in ramshackle buildings, food carts and bar kitchens, the pizza shops headed by a team including the namesake Mikey Sorboro feature a variety of New York style pizza slices prepared in such a way to blot out the damage of excessive drinking. Mikey's received national attention after a high profile event where service was refused to a gay bashing customer. It's more fun than fussy.

Each location has slightly different options based on its configuration. The latest spot in the Columbus Commons offers breakfast and sandwiches starting at early morning hours, a nice wrinkle for Downtown workers. The Commons Cafe also has 7-inch vegan pizzas with two toppings for $6.

The main attraction, though, is the pizza by the slice. I'm a fan of the Cheezus Crust, a grilled cheese sandwich made from two slices of pizza of your choice encasing slices of American cheese. There are a variety of sauces available as dips for the pizza, including the slut sauce (which is called Unmentionable Sauce in the PG environment of the Commons).

Pizza by the slice includes cheese with fresh basil and mushroom with roasted garlic. Slices are $3 each, and whole pizza specials run between $12 and $18.

There are three different meatless sandwiches for lunch. The veggie delight is made on a soft, toasted hoagie bun that is piled with tomatoes, mushrooms, banana peppers and provolone cheese. The adult grilled cheese two cheeses pressed Cuban style. 

Side dishes include tater tots, fried mac and cheese balls and fried ravioli. 

The Commons Cafe has been open for a short time. They were working through some patches of slow service during a few busier times when Mikey's first opened Downtown. Service speed has picked up, although it seems that the expanded menu doesn't hum along with quite the same precision as the PizzAssault Truck and the location next to Bodega. If it finally does start firing on all cylinders, it will be another great lunch option for vegetarian and vegan pizza-files.



Mikey's Late Night Slice on Urbanspoon

29 May 2013

Arch City Tavern





Arch City Tavern is the latest addition to the burgeoning gastropub scene in central Ohio. It makes great use of the space, which is decorated with Columbus' signature arches as well as a black and white pencil illustration of the Short North from days gone by. 

The food and drinks from Arch City show a great deal of careful craftsmanship. There isn't really a clunker on the menu by partners Komi Memushaj and Xhevair Brakaj.

The kitchen produces a few vegetarian starters, pizzas and a portabella sandwich. The bar serves a great selection of taps including options from Great Lakes, Bell's, Dogfish Head, Columbus Brewing, Four String and 21st Amendment, as well as artful cocktails that explode with flavor. The Kerr Street Mule, a modified Moscow Mule, is made with Watershed vodka, Roake ginger syrup (a simple syrup made by a bartender in downtown Columbus), fresh lime and nutmeg. 

The fries are treated with truffle oil and parmesan, served with two different aioli, one a rich, spicy chili dip and the other a slightly bitter fresh watercress aioli with a minty finish. The potatoes look great wrapped up like Belgian frites.

The Bibb salad consists of Bibb lettuce, beets, sliced almonds, artichokes and apples. It is dressed with a Green Goddess dressing. The crunchy and crispy ingredients give the salad a perfect texture. 

The portabella sandwich is topped with roasted red peppers, goat cheese, griddled onions and arugula. The mushroom was soft and meaty with one side cooked well enough to give it a delightful crunch. The bun stands up well to the wet ingredients.

With so many gastropubs opening up in the area in the past year, places have to do a lot to stand out. Arch City Tavern definitely rises above the fray.




Arch City Tavern on Urbanspoon

23 May 2013

Rancho Alegre

Rancho Alegre is a small Tex Mex chain near Columbus. What it lacks in authenticity it makes up for with ample portions and larger margaritas. It's a step up in quality from its run-of-the-mill competitors (El Vaquero and Las Margaritas come readily to mind).

The main attraction at Rancho Alegre is the whole section of vegetarian combination platters as well as vegetarian fajitas and other entrees. Both the rice and beans are vegetarian items.

The guacamole appetizer is average but fairly priced. Other meatless appetizers include avocado salad, queso dip and stuffed jalepeños.

Many items, including enchiladas and tostadas, are served in a mild red sauce covered with cheese, lettuce and tomato. The tostada and the chile rellenos were well made. 

Margaritas definitely contain plenty of tequila. They are made with a sour mix/lime juice base with triple sec and served in a variety of sizes including pitchers.

Service is brisk and personable. The manager was extremely friendly, stopping by each table to check on customer satisfaction. Staff eventually was able to answer vegetarian dining concerns, although some staff speak better English than others.

Rancho Alegre is a restaurant that won't blow you away yet is still fun enough to keep you interested. Prices are reasonable, and the restaurant makes better use of the space than the Las Margaritas did before it.



Rancho Alegre on Urbanspoon

18 May 2013

The best veggie burgers in Central Ohio



Columbus is one of the best cities in Ohio for vegetarian and vegan diners. The large college age population combined with an ethnically diverse culture supports an environment rich with meatless dining options built from fresh local produce. Few cities in Ohio, or even the U.S., cater to vegetarian diners as well as Columbus.

The fresh produce in the region also provides fantastic raw ingredients, and these ingredients are key to creating great veggie burgers, a staple of vegetarian restaurant-goers.  Columbus has a variety of different veggie burgers served by a myriad of different restaurants. Here is a rundown of some of some of what the best veggie burgers to be found in and around the city.


Best haute burger

Sure, a patty served on a bun with potatoes as a side is hardly anybody's idea of four-star dining. But the veggie burger with avocado and corn elote from Third & Hollywood elevates a house made vegetable patty into a fine art.

There is definitely brown rice, black beans, onions and a pinch of garlic in the patty, and the avocado adds umami to the veggie burger. It picks up smoky notes from the grill top, and the seasoned corn gives it a nice Southwestern flavor. It is served on a soft, organic bun.

The patty is the same as the Northstar Cafe veggie burger, but the toppings and sides are elevated at Third & Hollywood. At $15, this is an expensive veggie burger, but it is fresh and satisfying - can you really put a price on that?

Honorable mentions: Worthington Inn, Northstar Cafe, J. Alexander's


Best pub burger

A veggie burger is usually enjoyed in a casual environment. The sporty/casual Barley's Brewing Company, which serves veggie burgers at its High Street location as well as the Smokehouse in Dublin, also makes great beer that is a perfect complement to the house-made patty.

The soft patty is fashioned from chopped portabella mushrooms, black beans, rice, garlic and a variety of vegetables. The burger is even better when accompanied by one of Barley's brews, and it becomes nearly perfect when served with a side of pierogi. 

Honorable mentions: Matt the Miller's, Hal & Al's Smokehouse BBQ Luna Burger


Best mobile burger

The food truck and cart craze exploded nationally, and that trend is evident in Columbus. Almost any cuisine can be sampled from mobile kitchens that set up all around the 614 area code. While there are many veggie burgers at these mobile food operations, the High Street Herbivore from Street Thyme is the best of the bunch.
   
Steven Zeppetella, the proprietor of Street Thyme, formerly was a sous chef at the Elevator Brewing Company. His culinary pedigree shows in the double burger, which is made from chickpeas, lentils and corn and topped with a curried yogurt sauce.

The burger goes well with the delicious milkshakes from Street Thyme, as well as the house made tater tots. In order to chase Street Thyme down, check out their location on Twitter and Facebook.

Honorable mentions: OH! Burgers sliders


Best burger you can make at home

Sure getting a veggie burger from a restaurant is nice. But when you want to exercise your culinary muscles while saving a little time, nothing beats firing up the grill, tossing on veggie burgers and choosing your own toppings in the comfort of your own home. If you take this approach to eating veggie burgers, it's hard to beat the delicious patties from Luna Burger

The vegan patties come in multiple flavors. My favorite is the Farmhouse Chili, made from black beans, spelt, kale, cumin, garlic and pepper. It is delicately spicy with a deep flavor that can support a variety of Southwestern, Tex-Mex or Mexican ingredients as well as typical Yankee condiments.

Many restaurants around Columbus sell Luna Burgers too if you don't feel like cooking. 

Honorable mentions: Original Luna Burger, Peanut Cilantro Luna Burger


Best veggie burger alchemy

Whole World Natural Cafe and Bakery is the dean of Columbus vegetarian restaurants. When the other meatless restaurants in the area were merely a dream of their creators, the Whole World Cafe had already been around the block and back again. It has been feeding vegetarians in Clintonville for almost 35 years now. 

While the broccoli burger sounds innocuous, the ingredients seem more incompatible upon closer examination. The patty is made from broccoli, peanut butter, brown rice, garlic, onions and bread crumbs, mashed into a uniform consistency and grilled. If broccoli and peanut butter sound like a horrible match, imagine that the burger is made from truffles and fairy dust and let the ingredients do the rest of the work. The rich peanut butter holds the patty's impossibly harmonious elements together.

The restaurant in Clintonville is fun. Whole World sometimes sells broccoli burgers at Com Fest and a few other summer festivals.

Best fast food burger

While the variety of restaurants in the area offering veggie burgers as well as the armada of food trucks selling them, after a busy work day, sometimes it's best to eat quickly and go home. Columbus-based Graffiti Burger makes a veggie burger that is almost too good to call fast food.

The black bean veggie burger is studded with beets, giving it a medium rare beef color that could fool some carnivores. Toppings are fully customizable, allowing you to just about build your perfect burger.

Honorable mentions: Smashburger

14 May 2013

Young's Jersey Dairy




Young's Jersey Dairy is a family fun destination just outside of Yellow Springs. The main business enterprise is dairy produced from a herd of Jersey cows, but guests can also visit a farm with cows, goats and other animals, a gift shop, mini golf/batting cages called Udders & Putters, a dairy-themed hotel and more. There are numerous events and festivals held on the grounds.

The decor at the ice cream parlor is kitschy fun. It's a great environment to enjoy the diner fare and frozen desserts.

The flavors of ice cream are the standard issue choices available at most other shops. Ice cream is rich and sweet. There are cups, cones, shakes and sundaes available in a variety of sizes.

Cheeses from Young's are made with vegetable rennet. The curds are great in any flavor from garlic dill to habanero. 



Young's Jersey Dairy INC on Urbanspoon

08 May 2013

Ha Ha Pizza



Ha Ha Pizza in Yellow Springs is the sort of place that really has to be experienced to be believed. It is a natural fit on the now low-key Antioch College campus. But once you see the pizza box and a building with a pot-smoking Italian pizzaiolo caricature and a psychedelic jackalope, you know that you've found the place that you heard about so many times before.  

The restaurant is a little rough around the edges, like some of the hippie employees and some of the more colorful clientele. The pizza, though, will make you forget about your aversion to patchouli. 

There is a pretty solid salad bar at Ha Ha available by the trip or all-you-can-eat. It's always nice to eat something healthy before you stuff your face full of pizza.

The pizza is a medium thick hand tossed crust that achieves a delicate crisp that can perfectly support an army of toppings. The whole wheat crust adds an extra level of flavor to an already excellent base.

The sauce is sweet and clean, adding a fresh acidity to the pie along with a hint of garlic and basil. The pizza had an excellent level of toast that brought all the ingredients together.

There are a ton of other veggie-friendly options at Ha Ha, including falafel as an appetizer and in a calzone, as well as a few tofu dishes. The star attraction, of course, remains, the pizza.



Ha Ha Pizza on Urbanspoon

101 Beer Kitchen




101 Beer Kitchen is one of the latest concepts launched carrying the gastropub banner. The focus is on craft beer and comfort food made from local ingredients. 

The cavernous space hidden in a modern Dublin strip mall used to be a Hoggy's. The space is open and well appointed.

Diners can take a growler home of one of the 20 drafts. The brews are tasty, but might benefit from adding one or two more local handles. There is also an army of bottles. The sample prices encourage trying a variety of brews.

The menu has vegetarian starters, salads, sandwiches and entrees. The pizzas looked excellent. Most of the appetizers are a pretty natural pair with a cold brew. Pretzels and fried cheese, obviously, greatly augment the hedonistic properties of fermented beverages.

The fried cheese curds were lightly breaded with a hint of cornmeal. They were addictive. The soft pretzels, served with a beer cheese dip, had a pronounced caraway note. While they were well made, they pale in comparison to the pretzels from Matt the Miller's, which has two locations close to 101 Beer Kitchen.

The vegan burger patty was made with black beans, sweet potato and onions, topped with a vegan jalepeño cream, spinach and tomato and served on a whole grain bun.The beet chips were light and added a sweet, crispy contrast to the burger. 

The salted caramel pot de creme is a perfectly balanced yin and yang of sweet and salty. The salt crystals also added a delightful crunch to the dish.

Happy hour specials combined with appetizers make 101 Beer Kitchen an attractive draw. Service was even paced and friendly. The growler filled with water at each table is a cool way to keep water glasses full while reminding you of beer.



101 Beer Kitchen on Urbanspoon

30 April 2013

Dr. Mom's Tasty Bites



Dr. Mom's Tasty Bites is a new food truck. It is operated by Ousra El Gamal and her husband. They are a Turkish/Egyptian couple who both have Ph.D.s. Their daughters also have terminal degrees, indicated that Dr. Mom's Tasty Bites could probably beat your squad on team bar trivia night.

But rather than dominating trivia matchups, Dr. Mom uses her nutrition background to create delicious, healthy Mediterranean fare with a focus on low fat and vegetarian diners.

There are two veggie panini sandwiches, a veggie burger and a bean salad as entrees on the menu. Sides include hummus, baba ghanoush, potato salad and potato chips.

The baba ghanoush works a tremendously deep smoke into the tender eggplant slivers along with garlic and parsley. This eggplant dip would stand up to almost any in the Columbus area.

The veggie panini had squash, zucchini, red peppers, mushrooms and onions. It was dressed with pesto that soaked nicely into the bread. 


Prices are inexpensive. Dr. Mom's Tasty Bites is at Dinin' Hall a few times coming up, and it can be seen at the Campus Pitt Stop too. Check out Facebook for location updates.



Dr Mom's Tasty Bites on Urbanspoon

24 April 2013

Savelli's


The Arlington/Grandview/Campus corridor has become quite the place for pizza over the last few years. Old standbys like Adriatico's, Tommy's and Hound Dog's have welcomed newcomers like BonoDewey's and Meister's to the neighborhood. Add Savelli's New York Style Pizza to the list of great places to grab a slice.


The place is tucked next to an apartment complex office and the neighborhood pub 14 Twenty Bar and Grill. The quality of the pizza belies the modest exterior and the off-the-beaten-path location.

The star attraction is the floppy New York thin crust pizza, available as a full pizza or by the slice. Prices are inexpensive: a slice of cheese is $2.25, and a whole eight-slice large pie starts at $14.

The pizza is an old family recipe, although the shop has been open in its location for about a year. The crust is soft and buttery, and the sauce is bright and refreshing. The dried herbs dusting the cheese add a punch of flavor. The toppings are high quality. While the pizza is somewhat underwhelming in terms of overall appearance, the flavor more than overcomes these limitations. 


The veggie pizza is topped with thinly sliced green peppers, excellent canned mushrooms and white onions. It is superior to the Margarita pizza, which lacked delicacy because of overcooked basil that should have been added when the pizza came out of the oven. It overpowered everything else on an otherwise well-made pie.  

One or two slices is a reasonable portion, although two people can put quite a dent into one 16-inch pie. 


The side salad is fairly average, a rudimentary iceberg, tomato and onion number with croutons and cheese.

There is a small, dark dining room in the restaurant with a take-out counter. Savelli's also delivers.



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