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Monthly Archives: March 2008

Warehouse Cafe | Columbus, OH

Warehouse Cafe
243 N. Fifth St. (map it!)
Columbus, OH 43215
(614) 224-3134

Open daily 7:30-5
Sat & Sun 8-2
Accepts cash and credit cards
Vegetarian/vegan/gluten-free? N/N/N

Date of Visit: Tuesday, March 4, 2008 at 9:30 a.m.

IMPRESSIONS: The Warehouse Cafe is tucked away in northern downtown Columbus, on a side street that’s easy to miss. It first came to my attention when a group of regulars from Columbus Underground started meeting there every Saturday morning. They make the regular trip to support more downtown businesses being open on the weekends.

Always on the lookout for more breakfast joints around Columbus, I suggested Warehouse Cafe when Chip asked me to breakfast again. We headed downtown on a chilly March morning. We found parking right in front of the restaurant, then easily found a table in the empty (but bustling) cafe itself.

ATMOSPHERE: Even though the Warehouse Cafe was empty when we visited, it hummed with activity. I think it does a brisk carry-out business with the working crowd downtown. Indeed, while Chip and I munched on breakfast, a steady stream of folks came in for sandwiches, salads, munchies, and drinks then headed out the door.

The restaurant itself is right up my alley: it’s pretty small, pretty cozy, with some nice historic touches. The name implies that the building itself may have once been part of a warehouse, and the decor fits that: exposed brick walls, wooden slat ceiling, and a series of old leather cabling along the ceiling (I tried to get pictures but they turned out too dark). The “kitchen” takes up about a third of the space. You can peruse the menus on the table, or order by the chalkboards with breakfast, sandwiches, desserts, and drinks hanging on the walls, then you place your order at the counter (it took us a few minutes to figure that out). Once you order, the kitchen clatters to life.

The decor is interesting, too. Black and white pictures of old warehouses and working folks are mixed with potted plants in the windows. A TV hangs high in one corner and blares CNN.

FOOD: Chip and I were so pleasantly surprised by the cheap prices (big selling point here!) that we basically each ordered two breakfasts. We each selected a breakfast platter (eggs, meat, potatoes, toast) and added carbs: Chip took pancakes, I chose French toast.

Given that Chip and I were the only two people actually sitting, the breakfast took a little longer to prepare than we expected, but when it arrived, it made the wait all worth it. The French toast isn’t fancy, but it’s dusted with powdered sugar and cooked just right – not crunchy but not mushy.

Here’s our too meals together. The syrup (to the far left) seemed like your standard syrup – not all-natural maple syrup – but it was served warm, which is always good in my book.

The breakfast itself was just what I’ve been looking for. It’s standard diner fare, but with a little bit of oomph. It just tasted freshly prepared. The potatoes were newly sliced and appropriately salted and peppered. The eggs were spot-on, the bacon had the right crunch-factor, and the toast was toasted just right. All in all, I feel like I’ve been searching for this breakfast for a while. This isn’t fancy food, but it’s top-of-the-line diner fare.

About the coffee… when you order, you’re given a to-go cup and shown to help yourself at the little coffee stand. There’s caf and decaf, plus the whole gamut of sweeteners and creams. Nice setup, but the coffee… kinda rough. I ordered a large (trying to force productivity that day), and I regretted it. The coffee tastes a little burned and a little like it’s been sitting around for a while. I couldn’t see what type of coffee they used, but I doubt it’s freshly ground. So it’s got an acidic burn to it. And it’s probably the most caffeinated coffee I’ve tasted – Chip and I were jittering in our seats when our breakfast arrived.

SERVICE: I read somewhere that the folks at Warehouse Cafe are all from Albania – their accent certainly sounded like it. They’re super sweet, although you don’t see much of them. But you do get a sense that you’re eating breakfast in their kitchen. They greet you when you come in, you look over the menu, then order at the counter. The first time Chip and I went, we didn’t know about the counter-ordering, and not ever table had a menu, so we were puzzled at first. Fortunately, the place is so small, and the counter is pretty obvious, so we figured it out. Once you order, you don’t hear much from the folks until they bring your food out. On our first visit, the food took a while, about 15 minutes, which felt long given that we were the only folks there! But we really didn’t mind – we weren’t in rush.

OVERALL: As I said with the food, I feel like I’ve found something in Warehouse Cafe that I’ve been searching for. It’s just a perfect storm of tasty, very inexpensive food, a comfortable and unique atmosphere, friendly service, a nice, sorta hidden location with some historic touches. I think I would put Warehouse Cafe as a top stop for diner food in Columbus. If only the coffee were better!

As I mentioned earlier, a group of folks from the Columbus Underground community meet regularly at 10 a.m. every Saturday morning. I haven’t yet been to join them, but if you live in Columbus, I encourage you to go. Be sure to support the Warehouse Cafe – we need more breakfast venues in Columbus’ growing downtown.

Warehouse Cafe on Urbanspoon

Hang Over Easy | Columbus, OH

Hang Over Easy (Facebook / @hangovereasy)
1646 Neil Ave.
(map it!)
Columbus, OH 43201

(614) 586-0070

Breakfast served all day: Mon-Fri 7-3; Sat-Sun 9-3
Accepts cash & credit cards

Date of Visit: Friday, February 29, 2008 at 9:30 a.m.

IMPRESSIONS: Q: In addition to Jack & Benny’s, where do Ohio State students eat breakfast? A: Hang Over Easy.The small store-front of Hang Over Easy is located close to the heart of The Ohio State University, right next to the Medical Center. I’ve been driving past it or years, and actually used to grumble that it stole the name for my future breakfast joint: Nick’s Diner. Recently, however, the owner of Hang Over Easy (uncannily named Nick) renamed the restaurant to the current catchy/snarky nomenclature, revamped the menu, and added a bar to appeal to the college crowd. A reader of the blog (yay, I have a reader!) brought it back to my attention, and always in the mood for a new breakfast joint, Karl and I ventured out.

ATMOSPHERE: Hang Over Easy wasn’t busy when we entered, but by the time we left, it was hoppin’. The crowd was mostly – but not exclusively – college students. The restaurant definitely has a classic diner quality going on, with the colorful paint-job, the counter and stools, the chrome-piped chairs, the low ceilings, and the jukebox music.There are obviously elements that are meant to appeal to the college crowd. See above: old six-pack beer cartons used as the salt/pepper/ketchup/hot sauce holders. That tells you something about the place right there! Not necessarily bad, but clearly the owner has a college crowd in mind, and wants to remind them, while they’re eating breakfast, that Hang Over Easy is a bar, too.

FOOD: Hang Over Easy’s breakfast menu is sizable. They use a large, white cardstock menu, on one side of which is the breakfast. The other side offers a huge list of salads, burgers, and sandwiches.All in all, there’s something for everyone in the menu. The main feature is the list of 16 breakfast “staples,” which includes such creatively-named items as the Red Eye, Ramblin’ Man, Amsterdam, Fat Joe’s, Cockadoodledoo, The Angry Egg, and – and this had to be on the menu, given the restaurant’s name – the Ultimate Hangover Cure. (This consists of 3 eggs, 4 pancakes or 3 slices of French toast, 2 meats, potatoes, and toast.) (On a side note… not that I’m an expert at hangovers, but would eating about five pounds of fried food really make you feel better?) The list of staples also includes such, well, staples like French toast, pancakes, biscuits and gravy, yogurt parfaits, and more. In addition, Hang Over Easy serves breakfast sandwiches, a variety of omelets, and skillets. You can “jack up” any item on the menu by adding onions or cheese, subbing a bagel for toast, or adding cream cheese. I’ll also point out that you can add chocolate chips to any pancake, waffle, or French toast. Suffice it say… you can customize your breakfast to your tastes, whims, or needs.

Karl and I both chose the Ramblin’ Man. This is 2 eggs any style, potatoes, toast, and 2 slices of French toast or 2 pancakes. I went with the pancakes; Karl opted for French toast. The reader who recommended this place told me I should try the homemade sausage patty, which I did, and found to be very tasty. I like it when sausage is homemade, so points to Hang Over Easy for making their own – it’s flavorful and well-cooked. If I want perfectly-circular Jimmy Dean sausage patties, I’ll go to Giant Eagle.

The eggs were fine, the toast was buttered and a little floppy, and the potatoes were interesting. As you can see in the picture above, the hash browns were orange. This is because Nick, the owner, concocted his own seasoning. The server said it included paprika and seasoned salt (or “special salt,” as my family knows it). I like that he’s chosen to season things himself, rather than just frying it and coating it with salt, although honestly the flavors didn’t quite connect with me.

The carbs were quite good. Karl said he enjoyed his French toast – nicely dusted with powdered sugar, and I simply devoured my pancakes. Couldn’t tell if the syrup was the real deal or the high-fructose variety. I’m guessing the latter.

The coffee was a “passable brown,” in Karl’s words. Not the “Aristotelian ideal” of Goody Boy’s, but it serves a purpose. We were enamored, however, with the mugs. Nice, thick white mugs, with big walls so you don’t burn your hands, and large handles so you can fit all your fingers through. Minor details, but they do mean something, don’t they?

SERVICE: Our server was excellent – probably the best serving experience I’ve had so far while writing this blog. She was incredibly friendly and outgoing, laughed at all of our jokes, and answered all our questions. She let me take home a menu (she said they’ve been “temporary” for about six months), and told us about the history of the diner. She’s worked there for over four years, so she had seen the transition from Nick’s Diner to Hang Over Easy. She said Nick changed the name because he hopes to franchise the restaurant in other college and university towns. To his credit, I think he has something going, if the crowds of Ohio State students are anything to go by.

OVERALL: Hang Over Easy is definitely intended for the college crowd: the decor, the names of the menu items, the music, the TV’s, the bar. But don’t let that keep you away. I certainly don’t think I would visit later in the day, but its breakfast is more than adequate. Plus, if you’re an early riser, you’ll probably beat a lot of the students to breakfast, so you can easily find a seat. So I suggest taking a look, at least once!

Special note: thanks for reader John for suggesting the place!

Hang Over Easy on Urbanspoon

DK Diner | Columbus, OH

DK Diner (Facebook / @DKDiner)
1715 West Third Ave. (map it!)
Columbus, OH 43212
(614) 488-5160
Accepts cash and credit cards
Breakfast served M-F 6:30-10:30 a.m., lunch from 10:30-2
Breakfast served exclusively Sat (7:30-1) and Sun (8:30-1)

Date of Visit: Tuesday, February 26 (my birthday!), 2008 at 9:00 a.m.

IMPRESSIONS: Years ago, some friends of ours mentioned a tiny, cheap diner off the beaten path in Grandview. They raved about it’s cozy atmosphere, the inexpensive food, and the local flavor. I made a mental note of it, as it seemed right up my alley. But then I forgot about it. Until a couple months ago, when brother- and sister-in-law Chip and Marcia told me about a small diner on Third Ave. My appetite – mental and physical – was whetted. And, thus, when Chip said “Let’s go to breakfast” on my birthday, I voted for this place.

I didn’t even know the name until we got there. I only knew of it as “that tiny place in Grandview with cheap food.” So I was quickly educated in the ways of the DK.

DK stands for “Donut Kitchen,” l learned. Our server told us that the place has been around for years, and that the current owners have been running it for the past six. She said that it was originally a donut and coffee shop that also served breakfast and lunch. They added the “Diner” to the name, because visitors didn’t realize they served more than just snacks.

DK Diner is easy to drive by. It’s situated on the corner of West Third Avenue (a significant residential thoroughfare in Grandview (see, Beth! I used the word! It’s first time I’ve used it in months!)) and Elmwood Avenue. It has a small parking lot out front that’s capable of serving a full crowd.

ATMOSPHERE: Chip and I hit up the place on a Tuesday morning. We found a booth easily. The DK Diner is bigger on the inside that it looks on the outside – always a pleasant surprise. The Diner sports 5 tables, 3 booths, and 4 tall stools at the counter. Sometimes you just have to be in the mood, or be a dedicated regular, for a crowded diner, where you’re sitting on top of the locals and trading stories with them while you dine. Sometimes you’re just not in that mood, which I kinda wasn’t that morning. So the wide spaces and big booths made me happy.

The decor combines standard diner posters and pictures with Ohio State paraphernalia and Grandview High School sports gear. Pro-Ohio State/anti-University of Michigan posters dot the walls. A TV above the counter plays the news. In the back you can see a guy slicing the lunch meat himself. In one corner is some sort of on-going school fundraiser. I think there were candy bars or somesuch for sale.

The Diner lets you get your own drinks, which makes you feel like you’re at home. Want some coffee? Grab one of the mis-matched mugs from the shelf and pour yourself some. Do you take cream with it? Open up the mini-fridge and grab the carton. It’s all there: fountain drinks, water, and tea. Help yourself!

FOOD: DK Dinner serves straight-up diner food. Nothing fancy, nothing over-the-top, but good, reliable comfort food. Chip and I both sampled (ha! sampled!) the DK All the Way. This magnificent conglomeration consists of 2 eggs cooked to order, Canadian Bacon, potatoes, and 2 biscuits, all smothered (I don’t use that word jokingly) in sausage gravy.

Exhibit A: The DK All the Way.

Here’s Chip digging into his DKATW. We both found it to be delicious and filling. I like the Canadian bacon in there, and the gravy was nice and peppery and full of meat. I prefer a sausage gravy that’s full of flavor and texture. I figure, if you’re gonna go for the calories, go all the way! (Oh, I’m just getting the name now…) The dish was piping hot, too! I dug right into the potatoes and practically burned my mouth.

SERVICE: Our server was very friendly and helpful. We definitely felt like we were taken care of, and she gladly answered my questions while we were paying. She seemed to enjoy what she was doing, and having a constant flow of regulars.

A note about the regulars… Chip and I have found a new aspiration for our retirement: to become these guys. Our server told us that this group of guys has been coming to DK Diner for longer than she can remember. They hang out with their coffee, read newspapers, and generally gab about whatever. When one of their crew entered the restaurant, they greeted him like Norm from Cheers. How can you not want that kind of community? “Sometimes you wanna go…”

I couldn’t get any direct shots of them, because Chip and I were sitting too close, and I didn’t want it to be too obvious I was playing paparazzi. But these guys laughed and talked all throughout our meal. They were there when we arrived, and I’m sure they stayed long after we left.

OVERALL: The next morning I took Beth here for breakfast… so what does that tell you? I had bated her with one of DK Diner’s cremed-filled longjohns. Remember that the DK stands for “Donut Kitchen?” Well, yes, the DK Diner cranks out some pretty tasty donuts. We tried a couple, and agreed that they are some of the best in Columbus. So even if you’re not in the mood for breakfast, you could stop by for coffee and a delicious pastry!

Overall, the DK Diner is a very nice place. I probably won’t go back there very frequently, simply because they’re not in my neighborhood, but they offer a good hearty breakfast, excellent donuts, and – if the old guys in the corner are anything to go by – great conversation. This diner exemplifies the importance and delight of neighborhood joints.

D K Diner on Urbanspoon

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