RSS Feed

Crimson Cup Coffee House | Columbus, OH

IMG_1231

Crimson Cup Coffee House (Facebook / @CrimsonCup / instagram: crimsoncupcoffee)
4541 N. High St. (map it!)
Columbus, OH 43214
(614) 262-6212
Open Mon-Sat, 6a-9p; Sun, 8a-8p
Accepts cash & debit/credit
Vegetarian/vegan/gluten free? Y/N/Y
Kid-friendly? Y

Visited: Many, many times

Anyone familiar with coffee in Columbus – or even if you’re not overtly familiar but just drink coffee – will have run into Crimson Cup and its coffees many times. Crimson Cup is a prolific roaster and wholesaler, with many shops around Columbus and far beyond – even much of Ohio State’s food service – brewing their coffees.

IMG_1230

Crimson Cup also has a small tip-of-the-iceberg retail storefront in the form of a Clintonville coffee shop. This shop is a proven mainstay of the neighborhood, and it does well at playing the everything-to-everyone game. First, it has a busy drive-through (they share a building with a credit union) to catch the on-the-go crowd. Then they’ve got the interior space and a small front patio with wifi, tables, couches, and comfy chairs for all those working, meeting, and reading (I’ve been regularly using the coffee shop as a morning writing spot). Finally, they’re delving into the “third wave” coffee shop experience with a full brew bar, experimental brews, and customer education.

IMG_1213

The menus differ between the drive-through and the inside counter (FYI to those of you driving through who don’t want pumpkin spice lattes and flavored ice teas). Clearly they’re playing to the likelihood of what drivers want to order, but if you’re headed into the drive-through, don’t forget you can request nitro-poured cold brew, cappuccinos, and the like. Inside, the brown paper menu provides an updated list of espresso drinks with helpful illustrations of coffee-to-milk ratios.

IMG_1210

If you’re up for trying out different coffee roasts and preparations, you can take a seat at the brew bar to try V60 pour-overs, Chemex coffee, or the variety of cold brews.

IMG_1218

The shop also sells beans, coffee brewing equipment, and small growlers of their cold brew.

IMG_4855

One of their signatures – and as far as I know, the only one you can currently find in town – is their cold brew coffee served on a nitro tap. This is similar to nitro tap beer, where the liquid is infused with nitrogen (rather than the traditional carbon dioxide in beer). Nitrogen bubbles are many times smaller than CO2, so it produces a wonderfully creamy texture. When a properly-made cold brew coffee is served this way, it’s very smooth, full of flavor, and almost devoid of bitterness. It’s a real treat.

IMG_4743

The coffee shop also gives you plenty of options beyond light, medium, dark roasts. The menus list and describe available roasts, plus their wide selection of loose leaf teas.

IMG_4747

While I usually French press coffee at home, I’ve enjoyed smaller and more potent drinks at coffee shops lately. I’m a fan of a good demitasse of espresso.

IMG_5321

But my real preference of late – and not just at Crimson Cup – is the cortado. The cortado is simply a shot of espresso cut with a little warm milk, usually in a 1:1 ratio.

IMG_5318

The cortado is efficient. It’s the richness of espresso combined with a little creaminess. Usually there’s enough milk that baristas produce some tiny latte art.

IMG_4892

Crimson Cup likes to have some fun with their coffees, too. This month they’ve dry-hopped their cold brew coffee; dry hopping is usually done with beer, and refers to adding hop leaves or cones after the boil. This imparts the flavors and aromas of the hops without boiling out more of the bitter acids. This brew may not be for everyone, but it’s worth trying. The hops aren’t overly strong; think of it more like very light porter.

Crimson Cup’s coffee shop covers all your needs: drive-through fuel up, study space, or coffee bar. It’s good to have them in the neighborhood.

Crimson Cup Coffee House on Urbanspoon

Breakfast With Nick at Whole Foods!

IMG_0891Come have breakfast with me this Saturday and Sunday, October 25 and 26! Whole Foods on Lane Avenue is hosting a special Breakfast With Nick weekend brunch menu. I helped them develop two delicious dishes – a savory kale & eggs on toast and a sweet s’mores French toast – to be featured with brunch at The Social.

There’s also a mimosa bar and coffee. Brunch will be served 10am to 2pm Saturday and Sunday. Come say hi to me from 11am to 2pm Sunday!

Actual Roastery | Columbus, OH

IMG_3552

Actual Roastery (Facebook)
400 W. Rich St. (map it!)
Columbus, OH 43215
(614) 407-5282
Open Mon-Fri, 7a-4p (special Saturday hours on 400 Market days)
Accepts cash & debit/credit
Vegetarian/vegan/gluten free? Y/N/Y

Visited: Most recently, Tuesday, October 14, 2014 at 10:15 a.m.

IMG_5461

There’s lots of good stuff happening in Franklinton, between the continued growth of 400 West Rich, the opening of Strongwater Food & Spirits, Rehab Tavern, Idea Foundry, and Land-Grant Brewing (coming this weekend!).

IMG_5458

The space has transformed over the months as Dinin’ Hall finished its run and Actual Roastery has fully taken over. With the big windows and the garage doors open during warmer weather, the space is bright and quiet. There’s wifi, too, so studiers looking for caffeine and a snack should take note.

IMG_5460

The big community table still remains, and now there are smaller cafe tables and a comfy couch, too.

IMG_3560

Many are familiar with Actual Brewing Company and their top-notch beers (and if you’re not – get right on it!). Their operations are based in an industrial park on James Road near the airport. That’s where they brew, maintain their yeast lab, and roast coffee. Jen Ryan and Jason Montgomery from the coffee-roasting side of things have appeared at markets around town, but the cafe – which opened this summer and is headed up by Jen – offers a nice retail front to things.

IMG_3556
The cafe offers both hot and cold coffee. Hot options include pour-overs, French press, or good old-fashioned brewed. There are also snacks from local vendors like Buttergirl Bakery. Coffee is available to-go or in mis-matched mugs to stay.

IMG_3563

Naturally, the cafe serves Actual roasts. You get a choice of beans for your brew.

IMG_3558

Snacks range from cookies to handmade pop tarts to oatmeal energy “bawls.”

IMG_3572

I’ve enjoyed my stops at the Roastery. It’s a fun and comfortable place (although it deserves to be busier), just over the river from downtown and nestled in a quiet section of east Franklinton.

IMG_5455

The coffees are solid, and the snacks are excellent. I’m particularly fond of Buttergirl’s pop-tarts, with a special place for their apple vanilla and the pumpkin. I appreciate the bright and colorful location – with nice pops of color on the walls and from fresh flowers.

There’s plenty of space at Actual Roastery, so it’s good for meetings, studying, writing, or just relaxing with a book. I recommend anyone traveling through the area – or looking for a new spot to work – stop in for a cup of coffee and a snack. It’d be great if the coffee shop became a Franklinton institution.

Read more: here’s my Q&A with Jen for Columbus Crave.

Travel: A Day in Cincinnati

IMG_7962

My brothers and I gather together whenever one of us turns thirty. For my birthday, we ended up in Cleveland doing a brewery tour. For another, we visited a bourbon distillery in Frankfort, Kentucky (I’m starting to see a theme here). So for our youngest brother’s birthday this year, we spent the day in Cincinnati, mostly in Over-the-Rhine. After breakfast at Taste of Belgium and second breakfast at Holtman’s Donuts, we headed out on the Ultimate Underground tour through American Legacy Tours.

IMG_4920

Our tour guide John led us around the heart of Over-the-Rhine. He was incredibly knowledgeable, having led the tour upwards of 1300 times. He also seemed to know EVERYONE in the neighborhood. He’d shout a hello whenever someone would ride by on a bike, or high-five passersby.

IMG_8028

Over-the-Rhine is fascinating from many perspectives. It’s one of the largest historic districts in the U.S., and is a great example of urban renewal. John discussed the history of the neighborhood and pointed out the stories behind particular buildings. He took us into a few buildings – all of which were locked up from public view – that used to be important restaurants, theatres, and homes. In the building pictured above, he walked us through the structure to the courtyard in the middle, and explained how the neighborhood is being renovated without displacing current residents.

IMG_4929

He took us further north to St. Francis Church, all the way to underground crypts where past parishioners are buried. As the church was renovated over the years, some of the oldest parishioners were reburied in the crypts, and their gravestones used to create the floor.

IMG_4931

One of the key pieces of the tour was one of many buildings that once functioned as a brewery. The upper levels are now apartments, but on the main floor John pointed out the old cork wood ceilings and floors, used as insulation for the brewery’s icehouses.

IMG_4936

And then the piece de resistance of the tour. First John took us down to the basement of the building. And then he took us through this hole jack-hammered in the ground. Apparently the building’s owner knew the old brewery had had underground storage (this is all pre-refridgeration, when underground spaces were necessary for storing and fermenting beer). Once proper refridgeration came along, these storage tunnels were unnecessary, so they were filled in with garbage: dirt, rock, metal, glass, you name it. The building’s current owner found old blueprints, which showed him where to find an access point. So he cracked open the floor and discovered…

IMG_4941

…this. Room after room and tunnel after tunnel. Over the years they’ve dug out some of the tunnels, but many of them still remain closed up.

IMG_4942

The tunnels were previously cooled further by running chilled water through copper pipes that hung along the ceiling. Many of Over-the-Rhine’s previous inhabitants were German, and so they produced a lot of lagers (‘lager’ is German for “to store,” essentially) which need much cooler temperatures than the consistent 58 degrees underground. Here’s a panoramic of the group gathered in one tunnel.

IMG_4946

There’s a creepy and delightful sense of history in these tunnels.

IMG_4953

We finished the tour with a stop at Christian Moerlein brewery, where we discussed the brewing process and the history of brewing in Over-the-Rhine.

IMG_8033

When the tour wrapped up, we hopped a bus down to Great American Ballpark to catch the Reds playing the Pirates. Our seats in the upper deck only cost $7.50 each, plus they were shaded and you couldn’t beat the view. Highlights included seeing a few home runs, watching three quick strikeouts from Aroldis Chapman, fastest pitcher in Major League Baseball, and then finishing off the game with a walk-off grand slam in the 10th inning (the Reds won 10-6).

IMG_4974

Post-game we strolled back up to Over-the-Rhine. Initially we were going to get hot dogs at Senate, but with a long wait there, we opted for A Tavola instead. It proved to be a very wise decision. We split two crispy, thin-crusted pizza – both were excellent. First, there was the fig & prosciutto, with fig jam, prosciutto, fontina cheese, and arugula tossed with balsamic vinegar.

IMG_4970

Then there was the sausage and sage, with – you guessed it – sausage, sage, and fontina. (I also enjoyed a pint of Mad Tree Brewing’s Lift, a deliciously sweet kolsch.)

IMG_4997

Our final stop of the day – and one I’ve been waiting to visit for quite some time – was Rhinegeist Brewery. I’ve sampled their beers in Columbus, but seeing their brewery is something else altogether. The entryway is a small door off Elm Street. You feel like you’re climbing a back stairway to nowhere, when suddenly the door opens into a giant warehouse space.

IMG_4990

At one end, under the tall ceilings, is the brewing facility itself.

IMG_4993

Near the brewery itself, in a large alcove, is the bar and rows of tables.

IMG_4986

They’ve got a pretty wide selection of beers.

IMG_4988

I haven’t had a bad beer from Rhinegeist, but I’m partial to their Panther Porter and Saber Tooth Tiger imperial IPA.

IMG_5001

The rest of Rhinegeist’s massive space is open for more tables and rows of corn hole and ping pong tables. I’m sure they’ll fill this in with brewing equipment soon enough, but for now they’re certainly not wasting it.

Rhinegeist was a very fitting end to a great day in Cincinnati. Even just staying in Over-the-Rhine gave us more than enough to do, and a large list of places to try when we next return.

Holtman’s Donuts (Over-the-Rhine) | Cincinnati, OH

IMG_8023

Holtman’s Donuts (Facebook / @HoltmansDonuts / instagram: holtmansdonuts)
1332C-2 Vine St. (map it!)
Cincinnati, OH 45202
(513) 381-0903
Open Sun & Mon, 7a-2p; Tues-Sat, 7a-9p
Accepts cash & credit/debit
Vegetarian/vegan/gluten free? Y/N/N
Kid-friendly? Y

Visited: Saturday, September 27, 2014 at 10:30 a.m.

IMG_8017

Following an excellent brunch down the street at Taste of Belgium, my brothers and I wandered Cincinnati’s Over-the-Rhine before going on one of the Queen City Underground tours. Of course, after a busy brunch, you need a donut, right? That was our thinking as we wandered into Holtman’s Donuts.

IMG_8021

Even though I knew nothing about Holtman’s previously, I could easily spy the old school nature of the shop. Which meant we were in the right place.

IMG_8006

As you’re waiting in line, you can watch through the big windows as the donuts are being made.

IMG_8007

The shop had trays of nearly every type of donut imaginable.

IMG_8015

They were honestly so busy I barely got a chance to look through everything.

IMG_8009

But it’s hard to go wrong when you have a selection like this.

IMG_8011

The giant apple fritters stood out.

IMG_8010

But of course I zeroed in on the bacon and maple glazed donuts.

IMG_8013

They also featured donut holes, longjohns… well, everything.

IMG_8019

But let’s get back to that maple bacon donut, shall we? This little yeast-raised beauty was soft, warm, and generously sprinkled with bacon.

Our stop at Holtman’s wasn’t long, but it was long enough to enjoy a donut and watch the line of people stroll through. The sign on Holtman’s says it’s been around since 1960, and while I’m guessing the Over-the-Rhine shop isn’t the original location, it’s obviously got a following and a much-loved place in the neighborhood.

Holtman's Donut Shop on Urbanspoon

Taste of Belgium (Over-the-Rhine) | Cincinnati, OH

IMG_8001

Taste of Belgium (Facebook / @TasteofBelgium / instagram: tasteofbelgium)
1133 Vine St. (map it!)
Cincinnati, OH 45202
(513) 381-4607
Open Mon, 7a-3p; Tues-Thurs, 7a-3p, 5-10p; Sat, 7a-11p; Sun, 9a-3p
Accepts cash & credit/debit
Vegetarian/vegan/gluten free? Y/N/N
Kid-friendly? Y

Visited: Saturday, September 27, 2014 at 9:30 a.m.

IMG_7984

We’ve known and loved Taste of Belgium’s stall at North Market for years. I mean, it was our first taste of real Belgian waffles, and it’s a regular snack whenever we’re strolling the market. In following the Columbus location, we’ve eagerly followed their development in Cincinnati, too. The company began as small market stalls at North Market and Findlay Market, but has since expanded to two brick-and-mortar locations in Cincinnati. (There was briefly a second Columbus location in the Wexner Center, although that has since been replaced by Heirloom Cafe.)

IMG_7995

The mainstay of Taste of Belgium’s growth is their location in the Over-the-Rhine neighborhood. The restaurant seems to serve as an anchor for the neighborhood in its re-development, a prime example of the new businesses moving in while retaining the look and feel of the historic district. The bistro is a bright corner space that makes the most of its building. There are all the right elements: tin ceiling, old tile floors, exposed brick walls. The space is separated into two halves: one half is most of the seating and the bar, the second half includes more tables and a counter, as well as most of the production kitchen, although during the weekend it’s a large private table you can reserve.

IMG_7967

Taste of Belgium rebranded and revamped their menu recently. We’ve benefited from the additions at the North Market location, but the bistro menu covers more ground with sandwiches, sweet and savory crepes, and waffles, plus brunch classics and a featured Brunch Like A Belgian section.

IMG_7965

They’re a full service coffee shop, too. Brunch at Taste of Belgium was the beginning of a busy day exploring the city, so I ordered a shot of espresso to start.

IMG_7971

One of the features on the new menu is the chicken and waffle. It pairs their signature Liege-style waffles (denser dough, beet sugar caramelized throughout it) with a generously breaded and spiced chicken breast, plus a side salad. The dish has become one of their standouts. You really can’t beat one of their sweet, dense waffles paired with crispy and spicy chicken.

IMG_7982

We were in Cincinnati, so we had to have goetta, right? Right! I’ve had goetta before, but it’s never really had a chance to shine for me, so I immediately zeroed in on the goetta hash. Our very helpful server suggested adding an additional egg and some of their house bechamel, and I think he was spot-on. This is up there with one of my favorite dishes of 2014. Crispy Belgian frites, well-seasoned goetta, sauteed veggies, over medium eggs, and a ladle of the sauce. Each bite was rich and savory. My kind of breakfast.

IMG_7977

The brunch burger was also a winner. They halve a waffle length-wise, then fill it with a cooked-to-order patty, fried egg, havarti, and bacon. Comes with a generous side of frites, maple syrup, and a spicy mayo.

IMG_7992

Taste of Belgium is defined by their waffles. If you’ve never had them, you need to seek them out. Most restaurants call their waffles Belgian, but what we’re actually served is a lighter and crispier American style.

IMG_7994

Real Liege-style waffles are meal unto themselves. They’re hand-held, sweet and a little sticky, and it’s easy to eat a few in one sitting. They don’t refer to them as batter, but as dough. Notice how dense it is: the dough is a solid block rather than a soupy batter ladled into the irons.

IMG_7991

It’s not surprising to see someone busy at FOUR waffle irons in the restaurant. They’re just trying to keep up with the demand. I remember reading, too, that these are specialty waffle irons that the owner Jean-Francois Flechet brought it from Belgium.

IMG_7987

It’s not a bad idea to grab a bag or two of waffles on your way out the door, especially if you’re spending the day walking the neighborhood.

There’s a reason why Taste of Belgium pops up at the top of any Cincinnati brunch list. All the elements are there: great historic neighborhood, cool location (which will only be improved by when the streetcar launches), and a creative and easy to love menu. This makes me appreciate the North Market location even more, and look forward to returning to this one.

Taste of Belgium on Urbanspoon

Double Comfort Restaurant | Columbus, OH

IMG_7959

Double Comfort Restaurant (Facebook / @double_comfort / instagram: doublecomfort)
505 N. High St. (map it!)
Columbus, OH 43215
(614) 745-2183
Open Tues-Thurs, 11:30a-2p, 5:30-9p; Fri, 11a-11p; Sat, 9a-11p; Sun, 9a-2p (brunch served Sat & Sun, 9a-2p)
Accepts cash & credit/debit
Vegetarian/vegan/gluten free? Y/N/N
Kid-friendly? Y

Visited: Sunday, September 21, 2014 at 11:00 a.m.

IMG_7953

It’s pretty well documented that Columbus is in the midst of a fried chicken renaissance. We’ve been fans of Mya’s Fried Chicken from the get-go, and have found any excuse to visit Hot Chicken Takeover. We’re always ready to welcome a new fried chicken love into the fold, so hearing good things about Double Comfort opening in the old Knead space, we tracked down their Southern brunch one sunny Sunday.

IMG_7958

The space has been totally revamped and lightened up.

IMG_7956

Some of the focus walls and the bar are covered with reclaimed barn wood, imparting a lighter, natural feel. Very fitting for a restaurant serving rustic Southern dishes.

IMG_7927

The two big things to note about Double Comfort are a.) the focus on fried chicken, and b.) their mission of supporting local charities. With your purchase, Double Comfort donates directly to the charity – meal for meal. It rotates seasonally; currently they’re supporting Mid-Ohio Foodbank.

The brunch menu is divided into biscuits, southern traditions, waffles, eggs (“Before they hatch”), and salads.

IMG_7935

Amongst a busy and rather full brunch crowd, we began the proceedings with a pair of cocktails. First, the obligatory Bloody Mary – a little spicy and very drinkable. And then there was a new discovery: the sweet tea sour. Building on a bourbon base (my favorite starting point for a cocktail), the creamy and frothy sour mixes a sweet tea syrup with lemon juice and whipped egg white. The result is surprisingly mellow and sweet with a light foam, not my usual choice of cocktail but a smooth sipper to go with salty fried chicken.

IMG_7949

They were out of the mac and cheese waffle, so we ordered the cheddar waffle. It’s a large waffle quartered and sprinkled with the cheese. It comes with a pickled veggie mix called chow chow, like a sweet relish made from tomatoes, onions, cauliflower, etc. We put it on the side for our boys.

IMG_7947

From the biscuits menu we chose the fried green tomato biscuit. It’s a dense but soft biscuit loaded with goat cheese, greens, and very nicely breaded fried green tomatoes.

IMG_7945

The biscuits and sausage gravy was my personal favorite of the meals, and it really spoke to the comfort food angle of the restaurant. It’s a generous plate of two biscuits, soft fried potatoes, and a really rich bacon and sausage gravy. It was the perfect level of chunky and spicy for me.

IMG_7940

If you want to eat on the lighter end of things – even at a Southern fried chicken restaurant – you’ve got a couple salad options, like the farm salad with greens, pumpkin seeds, veggies, goat cheese, and a couple slices of fried green tomatoes. It’s covered in a chow chow vinaigrette. They leaned a little too much on the celery, which imparts a strong flavor and stands out with its crisp texture, but the salad is generously portioned.

IMG_7938

Of course, we can’t go to Double Comfort without trying their Memphis-style fried chicken, right?! I’m a sucker for a good chicken and waffle, so my eye was drawn to that on the menu. The deep-pocketed waffles were very good, although a little soggy by the time they reached us, but the crispy and moist fried chicken made up for it. The skin is fried evenly, with a crunchy and peppery seasoning. A very worthy stop on any Columbus fried chicken tour. The chicken and waffles were served with their Three Sins syrup: maple syrup + bourbon + coffee + bacon. I can get definitely behind that, although the resulting syrup packs a punch. It’s dense, rich, and very smoky. I applied it conservatively to my waffles and chicken.

Even though the restaurant was busy when we arrived, we still found a four-top quickly. The wait time for our food was a little long, but our server checked in with us pretty regularly. The food was spot-on for a Southern comfort brunch. Not that I know Southern food exceptionally well, but the meal certainly nailed the comfort side with big, hearty plates. Definitely worth a visit or two for brunch. I hope the restaurant continues to do well. Even if fried chicken isn’t exactly your thing, you should support Double Comfort for their community-focused mission.

Double Comfort on Urbanspoon

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 290 other followers