31 January 2014

Philco Bar + Diner

Philco Bar and Diner is in the old Phillip's Coney Island location in the Short North. It is a playful yet upscale take on diner favorites with a couple of delicious options for vegetarians.

The restaurant, owned by the same folks who run Club 185Little Palace, El Camino Inn and The Rossi, is stylish and modern. The bar, stocked with fun craft beer selections, pairs its metal accents with a warm essence.

The Luna Burger from Philco is a new candidate for my favorite veggie burger in Columbus. The bun has a crispy exterior and a soft interior. The patty is topped with Napa cabbage slaw, Ohio yellow cheddar and griddled onions. When paired with a basket of thick-cut fries, it's a one-plate meal.

The pickled beet carpaccio contrasts the bright, thinly sliced  sweet root vegetable with the acidity of goat cheese, the spiciness of arugula and the crunch of pecans. It is a delightful salad.

The hush puppies are a must-try side dish. They are available sweet or savory. The savory hush puppies have hints of onions throughout the crumbly cornmeal interior.

Philco is a great place to try re-imagined diner favorites to satisfy breakfast, lunch, dinner or late-night cravings. Though there are not a ton of meatless options on the menu, the offerings are strong enough to make the place worth a visit.

Philco Bar + Diner on Urbanspoon

21 January 2014

Red Hook Grill

Red Hook Grill is located in Grandview Heights in the space that held the excellent but business-poor Bistro 86. It presents an American take on Caribbean fare with a variety of vegetarian and vegan dishes.

The space in Red Hook Grill is more skillfully utilized than it was previously. The small bar offers a number of happy hour specials. 

The majority of the meatless items that don't contain cheese are vegan - almost 70 percent of the items. Starters include tortilla chips with guacamole and salsa, a cheese plate, garlic hummus, vegan potato skins, pita pizza, salads and sides like fries, beans and cole slaw. 

The potato skins were atrocious. The broccoli was thawed straight out of the freezer, the vegan cheese didn't melt in any appreciable way and the "cream" was a pasty white gum that added nothing to the criminally underseasoned bar food.

The tofu kebab plate was piled high with Mediterranean delights. While the tofu might have benefited from some additional char, the dish was tasty, and it was a great value.

The black bean veggie burger looked really nice. It was beans, oats, carrots, onions, peppers and cilantro.

Though some of the items I sampled were badly prepared, service at Red Hook was very good. The secret may be finding the best items on the menu and sticking with them while saving a few bucks at happy hour.

Red Hook Grill on Urbanspoon

14 January 2014

Grandad's Pizza

Grandad's Pizza is a shop with two locations. The one in Grandview Heights is located on West 3rd Avenue next to a bar. The box boldly advertises that they deliver both beer and pizza if you're in a real time crunch and need both beer and thin crust pizza.

The pizza style is traditional in central Ohio. The cracker-thin crust is liberally dusted with cornmeal, giving the pie a sweet base to deliver toppings.

There are a standard variety of toppings. The sauce is light and sweet with a hint of garlic and basil.

The veggie pizza comes topped with tomatoes, green peppers, onions and mushrooms. The crispy crust adds a nice textural contrast to the weighty vegetables.

Overall, Grandad's is pretty middle of the road in terms of quality. It isn't great, but it carries a reasonable price. It's a decent pizza that isn't worth going out of the way to obtain.

Grandad's Pizza on Urbanspoon

09 January 2014

Melt Bar & Grilled - Cleveland Heights

I possess a minor aversion to waiting to eat. I am a sucker for instant gratification in matters of dining. I also really want to go to Melt in the Short North. In order to save myself a wait, I instead visited Melt in Cleveland Heights.*

Melt is a bar that serves grilled cheese sandwiches. These sandwiches entered the zeitgeist through Man vs. Food when host Adam Richman powered his way through the Melt Challenge, a culinary feat of strength involving five pounds of grilled cheese sandwich, cole slaw and fries.

But the place is more than just a big sandwich. The bar offered up a nice selection of Ohio craft beers. The menu has a good selection of vegetarian and vegan fare at resonable prices. 

The decor is fun, especially the mural of Ohio celebrities. Despite the "bar" part of the name, the restaurant is rather kid-friendly.

Vegetarian starters include salads, soup, pierogies, mozzarella wedges, tofu wings, spinach artichoke dip and garbage-sink cheese fries. The pierogies were adequate, but displayed more in common with stateside versions of the dumplings than authentic Polish ones.

The Godfather is essentially a fat slab of lasagna between two slices of bread. It had sweet tomato and  basil flavor delivered by rich, creamy ricotta and mozzarella cheese.

If a pasta sandwich isn't your cup of tea, there are plenty of other choices on the menu, including sandwiches made with vegan cheese. 

Melt isn't a must-do for foodies, but it is a fun place with good potential for repeat visits. I'll have to make a trip closer to home in the next month when the weekend wait gets a little shorter.

* - This is exaggerated for humorous effect.

Melt Bar & Grilled on Urbanspoon

02 January 2014

Lopez SouthWest Kitchen

Lopez is a Southwestern restaurant in Cleveland's suburbs with an interesting back story. It originally was envisioned as a huge international chain. While multinational domination was not achieved by the restaurants, there are still locations in Palm Beach, Beverly Hills, Mexico City and Cleveland Heights. Rick Bayless, a chef you might have heard of at some point with his heralded restaurants, television appearances, cookbooks and grocery store foodstuffs, was the first executive chef in the Cleveland Heights kitchen almost 30 years ago.

Dishes run the gamut from Tex Mex and regional Mexican to those that reflect the American South. The bar has a nice selection of tequilas, beer and wine, and makes adequate margaritas that are a touch expensive outside of happy hour.

There are many vegetarian dishes on the menu. Seasonal items, like the Mexican corn cake with mushrooms and arugula in a balsamic reduction, also come in meatless versions.

The guacamole is excellent. The delicious house-made chips were served in adorable little paper bags.

The tacos are massive. With a side dish, two mushroom tacos are a complete meal. The jalepeƱo cheese grits are excellent, as was the cornbread pudding.

The restaurant decor is fun. One picture puts Cleveland more than one thousand miles from Mexico, though the kitchen makes it feel much closer. Service was friendly and capable with only a few minor pacing hiccups in serving a large party. The attention to vegetarian concerns was excellent. 

Lopez SouthWest Kitchen & Tequila Saloon on Urbanspoon

Gia Lai

Gia Lai is a Vietnamese restaurant in the Legacy Village shopping center in Lyndhurst near Cleveland. The decor is modern, and the menu offers fresh takes on Vietnamese classics with a large number of vegetarian dishes. One whole page of the dinner menu consists of all vegetarian dishes.

The vegetarian pho should help Cleveland residents embrace the winter chill. The rich, clear mushroom broth has citrus accents, and it is a perfect backdrop for the mountains of soft and crispy tofu, rice noodles, veggies including pea pods, hot peppers, carrots, bean sprouts, leafy greens, baby corn, mushrooms, green onions, cauliflower and peppers, alongside Sriracha sauce, a sweet hoisin and fresh garnishes. The bowl is the size of a hot tub, and it could feed a small army.

The vegetable spring rolls were fresh, and they were served with a spicy peanut sauce that added a rich note to the noodles and sauteed veggies inside the cold roll. 

The menu also offers a number of Chinese dishes. The cuisine is modern with fusion accents more so that a by-the-book traditional Vietnamese restaurant. Those willing to overlook some of these characteristics should be pleased by the fresh, flavorful fare.  

Gia Lai Restaurant on Urbanspoon