Date of Visit: Tuesday, December 11, 2007 at 10 a.m.
IMPRESSIONS: Tasi is a new addition to Columbus’ Short North Arts District, and a much needed one. Aside from Michael’s Goody Boy Drive-In (see previous post), there’s a dearth of breakfast places in Short North. The restaurant opened in November, and is the latest project by Kent Rigsby, who owns one of the best restaurants in the neighborhood (named, go figure, Rigsby’s). Tasi is named after his wife. The restaurant has taken the space in a brick-lined back alley east of High Street formerly occupied by Pistachio bakery (which moved to German Village and took the name Pistachia Vera). The side-street location adds a thrill to the visit, like you’re finding a hidden treasure. And Tasi may just become that. They serve breakfast all day (woohoo!) and lunch, and already it’s been raising some eyebrows with its excellence.
ATMOSPHERE: Tasi reminded me of another Columbus gem, Northstar Cafe. The space features open cement floors, exposed ceilings, and a comfortable, homey feel. Seating is sparse, and includes a handful of small tables and two large wooden ones. Apparently Tasi thrives on a brisk take-out business as much as it relies on in-store customers. When you walk in, it’s a little intimidating to be faced with the long menu written across the boards above the counter. Seriously, I was a little confused, because there are sections for breakfast, sides, lunch items, entrees, and drinks. Where do I look? What do I do? But rest assured, the menu is available on a printed sheet as well. This makes things much easier. Again, like Northstar, you order at the counter, they give you a card (not with a number, but with a breed of dog: Labrador, Boxer, Weimaraner, etc.), and you find a table. Beth and I went on a slow December Tuesday, just before we hit the road for a day of Christmas shopping, and we found a table easily.
FOOD: Tasi is not the place for your simple meat-and-eggs breakfast. The menu features items such as the Greek Breakfast Sandwich, Sourdough Pancakes, Poached Eggs w/Black Bean Cake, and other specialties. The breakfast items are $1-2 more expensive than the standard diner, but the portions are perfectly filling and artfully prepared. Look at the first picture above. My wife Beth (who had been to Tasi once before) insisted we get one of these croissants. We chose the Classic Croissant, although they have almond, chocolate, and cinnamon varieties as well. The apple butter and the regular butter appear to be homemade, and they spread over this silky smooth croissant like, well… oh, heck, let’s go with it… like butter.
Beth and I did the cute couple thing and split our meals, so each of us could have a taste. I ordered the Biscuits and Sausage Gravy (as seen above). I must say… this meal completely redefined sausage, biscuits, and gravy for me. The meat was nice and lean (was it turkey sausage?), the biscuits were puffy but not crumbly, and the gravy flavorful and light. The portion size was perfect.
Beth ordered the Cinnamon Challah French Toast with Warm Bananas and Frangelica Syrup. Like the sausage and biscuits gravy, this redefined French toast. Your fork cuts through both the softened bananas and the slightly doughy bread like… well, again, butter. Wow.
Here’s another shot of the French toast, with Beth’s tall glass of fresh orange juice in the background. Not the best picture, but we just had to show off the entire meal. I had a cup of coffee; Tasi brews Illy coffee, which Beth said is a popular Italian roaster. Fortunately for us, both meals were amazing, so we had no problem trading up halfway through. The sweet (but not too sweet) French toast served as a lovely balance to the savory sausage and biscuits. And points to the Tasi folks for presentation, too. This was perhaps one of the best-looking breakfasts I’ve had the pleasure of devouring in seconds.
SERVICE: Because you order at the counter, you don’t get the usual give-and-take relationship you typically have with a server. However, the folks we encountered at Tasi were perfectly friendly and helpful. After you’re seated, they bring the food out to you, check how everything’s going, and they bus your table. Nice folks.
OVERALL: Tasi Cafe, I think, is able to master breakfast from a couple different angles. It’s not straight-up comfort food (i.e. this is not the place for a plain ole plate of scrambled eggs and bacon), but they take these items and give them a classy twist. In other words, they get some of the comfort food angle, and some of the high-class, freshly prepared with artisan bread angle. I’ve been heaping superlatives on their food, and while I don’t think Tasi is the absolute best I’ve ever had, it’s up there. If you prefer a huge plate of meat, eggs, and potatoes for $5 (which I do, most days), Tasi is not necessarily your place. Although it’s still worth a try. If I lived within walking distance, I’d probably be over there regularly, especially if their take-away business increases (their website promises a home delivery service is coming soon). Overall, Tasi is cozy (great way to start a cold December morning), with delicious, masterfully-prepared food. Like Northstar Cafe, I’m sure this place will be crawling with regulars everyday, if it isn’t already.