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Monthly Archives: August 2009

The Barnstormer | Columbus, OH


UPDATE: The Barnstormer and its successor Barnstormers Grill have closed. The restaurant is now Jack & Benny’s Barnstormer Diner. [2/26/14]

The Barnstormer
2160 W. Case Rd. #13 (in the OSU Don Scott Airport)
Columbus, OH 43235
(614) 292-5699
Open Monday-Saturday, 7 a.m. – 3 p.m. (breakfast served all day)
Accepts cash and credit cards

Date of Visit: Wednesday, August 5, 2009 at 7:00 a.m.

IMPRESSIONS: A breakfast joint in an airport? That’s right! It’s The Barnstormer (or Barnstormers – all the signs are different), a small diner in Ohio State’s Don Scott Airport that’s about as hole-in-the-wall as you can get. I heard about this a few years ago, but am just venturing out now. I drove in to meet a friend for breakfast at 7:00 a.m.; I arrived at 6:45 to find the doors open, only to be told to wait while they set up the kitchen. Oh well. I was early.


The Barnstormer is located in Hangar #1 of the airport. Follow the signs off W. Case Road – see the tiny one in the grass in the picture above. It took me a moment to find the diner – it’s not terribly obvious from the road or the parking lot – but you should be able to narrow it down. Look for the sandwich board (see below).


ATMOSPHERE
: The interior continues the obvious airplane theme, with a dash of Ohio State Buckeyes thrown in. Kind of a no-duh given this is the OSU Airport. The restaurant is only one and a half rooms. I counted a whopping total of 12 tables, plus a couple more seats at the counter. Decor is simple: OSU memorabilia with some photos and descriptions of airport history. I’m sure it’s a great place if you’re into aviation. A side door looks into the hangar itself; one of the servers ducked out there to grab some supplies during our meal. With low ceilings and dim lighting, it’s a pretty quiet hole-in-the-wall breakfast getaway.


FOOD
: Barnstormer features all the breakfast basics, served all day. You’ve got your egg combos, omelets, pancakes, all of your standard sides, plus juice and coffee. Prices are on the cheap side, too. (FYI: they also serve lunch).


I picked the 2 Eggs, with home fries, bacon, and coffee. All of the food tasted just fine – enough seasoning to keep it from being bland. The eggs were a little overcooked to be over-easy, but they tasted good. Potatoes were browned appropriately, and bacon… well, it’s bacon, so I can’t say anything bad about it. But honestly, I was disappointed with the portions. Maybe it’s my totally American expectation to go out to eat and get a heaping mound of food for $3, but I’ve been to many other breakfast joints that offer so much more food for the same price or cheaper than Barnstormer.

SERVICE: I got shooed out of the restaurant for arriving early, even though the signs were out, the door was open, and the lights were on, but I won’t complain about that. They were setting up some equipment that was accidentally dismantled for some renovations. The whole operation is run by two middle-aged folks, including the host and owner, Jennine Graham. She was a straight-shooter, but very friendly. A few minutes after we arrived, a group of three older gentlemen entered, slid in to their regular table, got their coffee, and began poking fun of Jennine. She gave it right back. At one point she asked one of them, “Do you want toast?” “Sure,” the guy replied. “Turn around and do it yourself,” she shot back, then laughed. These three guys were clearly regulars at the airport. I caught one snippet of their conversation that went, “the ceiling’s 1006, it’s nip and tuck, but it’s legal.” Pilots – translate, please?

OVERALL: At the risk of calling Barnstormer a gimmick, it does seem a little gimmicky to have a diner in the airport. It’s a little difficult to reach, and while airports are always fun places to visit, I have to wonder how the business stays alive in such a secluded spot. That being said, don’t let it deter you from visiting. Jennine told me the place has been around for years, so there’s clearly enough support for it. Give it a try yourself!


OTHER LINKS
:

Barnstormer on Urbanspoon

Restaurant Week breakfast hits


It’s coming soon! Dine Originals Columbus’ Restaurant Week will land from September 7-13. There are a number of tasty meals available for $20.09 and $30.09 from many of Columbus’ best and most original restaurants. Of course I’m keeping my eye on breakfast, of which there are really only two offerings: I’m excited for Cafe Corner‘s Breakfast Tacos or possibly Worthington Inn‘s brunch.

Scrambler Marie’s | Columbus, OH


Scrambler Marie’s

6152 Cleveland Ave.
Columbus, OH 43231
(614) 901-9604
Open 6:30 a.m. – 3 p.m. daily
Accepts cash and credit cards

Date of Visit: Friday, July 17, 2009 at 7:30 a.m.

IMPRESSIONS: I’ve been going to Scrambler Marie’s (or just Scrambler’s, as it was once known) for years. There was a group of guys who used to meet every Friday morning at 6:30 a.m. for breakfast and conversation. We became such regulars that we had a set table, a set server, and they knew most of our orders. Yeah, we were those guys.


ATMOSPHERE
: The two Scrambler’s I’ve visited indicate that the early opening, the quiet atmosphere, and reliable food and service make this a great place for regular meetings or visits. The restaurant is split into several different sections and levels, so it offers booths and tables with a decent amount of privacy. Case in point: the group of guys I used to visit with. The folks at Scrambler’s got to know us so well that they pushed together a couple tables in a side room for us. That way we could talk and laugh without bothering anyone else.


The decor reminds me of First Watch: a mix of cool beige and turquoise with warm oranges.

FOOD: Scrambler’s offers a sizable breakfast menu: pancakes, waffles, French toast, sandwiches, omelets, wraps, skillets, benedicts, even a light menu and selections for seniors. Plus the All-American Breakfasts, which offer your eggs/meat/potatoes combos. Not to mention the “Bread Pantry” and the sides. Each area is named after a member of Marie’s family: Peter’s Breakfast Wraps, Heidi Marie’s Omelets, and so on. One of the skillets is called Uncle Moose’s Manhandler, a skillet full of potatoes, bacon, ham, sausage, onions, cheese, and covered with two basted eggs. We once asked, and, yes, there is an Uncle Moose. And his skillet handles you more than you handle it. We also had a friend who ate these so regularly he earned the nickname “Uncle Moose.”


My favorite is usually The Classic or The American. Three eggs, choice of meat (bacon!), choice of side (hash browns!), plus pancakes on the side. The All-American Breakfasts are offered at special prices ($1-2 cheaper) Monday through Friday, 6:30-11 a.m. Bonus! Coffee is always decent, although you have to ask for Splenda – my sweetener of choice. I don’t like the taste of Equal and Sweet N Low is too bitter. Although I feel like I should switch to plain old sugar. Anyway…

Overall, I consider the food here pretty average. Not bad, but just a wide variety done in pretty standard ways.

SERVICE: Service is always good here. They also always set out water with lemon for you, and they leave the pot of coffee on the table. (You can also buy pounds of their coffee at the door.) The food moves quickly, and they’re always friendly. Plenty of the middle-aged sassy-type servers.

OVERALL: I always enjoy Scrambler’s for breakfast. I don’t find it to be anything exceptional, but they open early, are always friendly, and the food is reliable and filling. I would give Scrambler’s stand-by status, meaning that it’s always a good stand-by when you need someplace to go for breakfast, but there are better options out there.

OTHER LINKS:

Jack & Benny's on Urbanspoon

This Week News Columbus Dining Survey

The Columbus edition of This Week News just published the results of their Columbus Dining Survey. You can read the full results here, although I suggest looking at Jim Ellison’s or Mary Martineau’s votes (in the sidebar).

But I have to challenge you to do better, Columbus. Best Breakfast is Bob Evan’s, with First Watch as the runner-up? I have nothing against either establishment, but… where is Banana Bean Cafe or Cafe Corner? DK Diner or Warehouse Cafe? Or even though it’s closed, you could still have voted for Nancy’s Home Cooking!

Columbus is great at many things, and breakfast is one of them. Nothing against Bob Evan’s, and certainly not against First Watch. But you need to think outside the chain, Columbus, and vote for your local treasures!

Photos: Jordan Pond House popovers


This is another in a long string of attempts to recreate the delicious popovers from the Jordan Pond House Restaurant in Acadia National Park. My wife and I had afternoon tea there while on our honeymoon years ago; the restaurant has been around since the late 1800′s, and they’re famous for their popovers. You can enjoy them with butter or jam, or they’re delicious with some homemade ice cream.


We bought the Jordan Pond House cookbook. It’s a tiny little book with recipes and stories, and over the years we’ve tried making the popovers. Usually they taste delicious, but we can never get them to puff up into the softball-sized shells they should be. I even bought a popover tin, but I think our lack of a convection oven might be holding us back. Experienced bakers, any thoughts?

Bojangles | Williamston, NC


Bojangles

401 East Boulevard
Williamston, NC 27892
(252) 792-7444
Open Mon-Fri, 5:30 a.m. – 10 p.m.; Sat-Sun, 5:30 a.m. – 12 a.m.
Accepts cash and credit cards

Date of Visit: Saturday, June 27, 2009 at 10:00 a.m.

IMPRESSIONS: On our way home from vacation in North Carolina, we kept passing a restaurant chain that we have never seen in our Midwestern travels: Bojangles. The passing signs promising “chicken and biscuits” seemed more and more enticing as our early-morning breakfast got further and further away, so we made the decision to stop. And, oh, I’m so glad we did.


Before I start, let me ask why the South gets all the best chain restaurants, and ones that seem to serve really good food? Chick-Fil-A, Biscuit World, and now Bojangles? I’m jealous! We just get the standard McTacoKingy’s by us. Instead, the southern and eastern American states gets such gems as Bojangles, with big signs bragging about freshly-made chicken and biscuits and mottos like “Breakfast should never end.” Come on!


ATMOSPHERE
: Bojangles has the feel of your typical fast-food joint, but it’s food and service go way beyond that. The colors are bright, the kitchen is bustling with activity. You walk in, are corralled through the lines to the counter, you order up front and they repeat it into one of those long-necked microphones that you always want to grab and start singing into (at least I do). Then they load up your tray of delicious food, and you head out to the dining room.


FOOD
: Oh my goodness – amazing! These pictures really don’t do the food justice, although truthfully, the food is pretty simple. The above picture is of my Steak Biscuit, which is simply a small chicken-fried steak on a pair of buttery biscuits. So simple, but so delightfully tasty. The steak is soft, not tough. The breading is perfectly crunchy, peppery and well-seasoned. And the biscuits are oh-so buttery soft. Take this with a half gallon of sweet tea, and baby, you’ve got a stew on! I mean, breakfast.


And here’s the 2-Piece Dinner, with tender pieces of chicken, another buttery biscuit, and some delicious mashed potatoes and gravy. Again, all awesome, all flavorful, all freshly made.

SERVICE: We met some of the sweetest people at Bojangles. The woman at the counter was super patient and super friendly, despite the long lines. She smiled and laughed and helped answer any questions we had. The woman busing the dining room as super sweet as well; she made faces and joked around with our son Will, and was completely tolerant of him making a mess of the floor.

OVERALL: I’ve pretty much already said it, but I wish there were Bojangles in Ohio. I would love it! I’m already looking forward to stopping at one of these on the road to next year’s vacation. There are plenty of fast food chains of the chicken/biscuit variety, but Bojangles has topped them all with the fresh and well-seasoned food, and the great service. Take a look at their map, and see if you can plot your next vacation course to intersect with one of their locations.

OTHER LINKS:

Bojangles' Famous Chicken 'n' Biscuits on Urbanspoon

Rise & Dine rebrand!

Rise & Dine restaurants, which recently moved its headquarters to Columbus, has rebranded itself as Sunny Street Cafe. Not sure what I think of the name. I liked Rise & Dine, especially because of the breakfast implications, but the rebrand is apparently intended to emphasize that they serve lunch, too. My earlier review is here!

Diamond Shoals Restaurant | Buxton, NC

Diamond Shoals Restaurant (Facebook)
46843 Highway 12 (map it!)
Buxton, NC 27920
(252) 995-5217
Open 6:30-2:30, 5-9 (breakfast served 6:30-11 a.m.; buffet on Sat & Sun)
Accepts cash and credit cards

Date of Visit: Friday, June 24, 2009 at 8:30 a.m.

IMPRESSIONS: Diamond Shoals is a handy little stop along Highway 12, the stretch of road that traverses North Carolina’s Outer Banks. They serve breakfast, lunch, and dinner to hungry fishermen, beach combers, and vacationers, and feature a seafood market to boot.

You’ll notice the vague ocean-y decor out front: a small lighthouse-like cupola and thick ropes around the parking lot. Typical for a lot of restaurants on the Outer Banks. But check out the herbs in front! I hope they use these in the food.

ATMOSPHERE: Diamond Shoals is a mix of things: a restaurant (both casual and somewhat formal), a seafood store, and a gift shop. Because of our large group, we were seated in the dining room overflow, also known as the gift shop. We were surrounded by lots of ocean-themed chotchky (sp?). A bit disappointing, especially given the nice dining room, but the food and service made up for it.


The actual dining room is quite nice. They do the ocean theme tastefully: coral light sconces, beautiful carved wooden walls (see below), and gigantic fish tanks with eels.

FOOD: The food was a spot-on diner breakfast: a good mix of dishes and all the right portions.

I chose the Fisherman’s Favorite, a breakfast of 2 eggs, bacon, grits, and a biscuit. The eggs and bacon were good, the biscuits were great, and the grits needed some salt. But nothing to complain about. The coffee is good brown, too.

The Senora Omelet: essentially a western omelet with salsa and sour cream. Very good.

The Sausage Gravy Biscuit was a highlight: good chunky gravy, well seasoned but not too salty.

They’re not kidding when they say “jumbo” in the Diamond Shoals Jumbo Hotcake. Any meal in which you only need one of the featured items to fill the plate, is fine by me.

And the Corned Beef Hash. I never really like the look of this dish, but it wasn’t bad at all!

SERVICE: Service at Diamond Shoals was top notch – some of the best we found on the island, aside from being seated in the gift shop. But it’s the details that count: they were the first place to split checks. They were also the first to serve Heinz ketchup and not some no-name, off-brand, dyed-red tomato paste catsup concoction. The food came out fast, and our server – who was super sweet and had about twenty rings on each hand – kept our drinks refilled.

OVERALL: If you’re heading out for a busy day on Hatteras Island, or leaving early to visit neighboring Ocracoke, Diamond Shoals is your best bet for a breakfast kick-off. It’s located right in the middle of Buxton, close to the famous Cape Hatteras Lighthouse, plenty of shops and beaches. If you need something a little more substantial than just apple uglies, this is your stop!

OTHER LINKS:

Diamond Shoals Restaurant on Urbanspoon


Avon on Dwellable

Photos: BaconCamp and bacon cupcakes


(Photo from Hungrywoolf.)

This weekend saw a two-day celebration of one of breakfast’s central foods: bacon! Wild Goose Creative hosted the first annual BaconCamp on Saturday. It was a splendid afternoon of creative bacon consumption, bacon crafts, bacon poetry, and general bacon community. A panel of celebrity judges tasted 16 bacon foods, from award-winning bacon pierogies to deep-fried bacon to bacon ice cream to a bacon birthday cake. You can see some amazing photos of the whole day on Jen Killius’ flickr page here.


Then, on Sunday, Wild Goose was joined by Lara Ranallo and some of the crew from Surly Girl Saloon, a Columbus gem that serves funky food and drinks in the Short North.


Lara shared some bacony specialties with us: bacon hummus, bacon-wrapped jalapeno poppers, bacon avocado pizza, plus some bacon-infused bourbon and vodka.


But my favorite piece was one of the signatures of Surly Girl: their bacon French toast cupcakes. The cupcake tastes just like French toast – the right amount of eggs and fluff to it – and the frosting is like maple syrup. With the piece of bacon right on top, it’s exactly like having French toast and bacon.

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