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Monthly Archives: March 2010

Link: Michigan as bacon and eggs

My wife shared this listing from Etsy of a piece of art that combines two of my favorite things: my home state of Michigan and breakfast. Perhaps I could start a separate blog about breakfast and art. Hmmm…

Article: IHOPs someday coming to Columbus

There’s been some discussion on ColumbusUnderground for the past three years about IHOPs returning to Columbus, after they closed down and moved out in the early 80’s. Their former buildings with their steeply-sloped roofs are easy to spot. (Hint: can you find the one north of OSU’s campus?) Maybe now we’re a couple steps closer to it actually happening? The Lantern just ran a story interviewing the franchise owner for Columbus rights for IHOPs, some OSU students, Nick Pedro of Hang Over Easy, and yours truly! Not that I’m terribly excited for more corporate breakfast spots in Columbus (stay away, Denny’s!), but I’m just curious to follow the development of breakfast in my city!

Article: Best Breakfasts in America posted an article about the Best Breakfasts in the U.S. It’s great to see all the local establishments get highlighted. I’ve been to two of them – Aretha Frankenstein’s in Chattanooga, TN and Katz’s Deli in NYC (no bfast review there, though) – but this could be a handy map to trace some breakfasts across the country, from California and Arizona, to Iowa and Minneapolis, to Connecticut and New Hampshire. Ohio scores one solid hit with Tommy’s in Cleveland. The big disappointment with the list? The fact that Bob Evans, Holiday Inn Express, and Waffle House are on the list! There are so many other places that deserve to be up there. Come on! (spoken in Gob Bluth voice)

Jing Fong | New York, NY

Jing Fong

20 Elizabeth St. (map it!)
New York, NY 11013
(212) 964-5256
Open Sun-Thurs, 9:30-3:30 & 4-10:30 pm; Sat, 9:30-3:30 & 4-11:30 pm
Accepts cash and credit cards

Date of Visit: Saturday, January 30, 2010 at 2:00 p.m.

IMPRESSIONS: My first foray into a multicultural breakfast! On the advice of some trusted food friends, I sought out some authentic dim sum while in New York City. Further advice from other friends led us to Jing Fong, one of the city’s more well-known stops for dim sum.

I had to do a little bit of reading about dim sum: the literal translation means “to touch your heart.” It originated in the Canton province of China, and is typically served starting early-to-mid-morning and lasting until early afternoon. When dim sum came to the Western world via Chinese immigrants in the 1800s, the tradition of dim sum is thought to have actually sparked the creation of brunch: a large, late morning meal that combines the sweet and savory dishes of breakfast and lunch.

Thus, my justification for reviewing dim sum for a breakfast blog: it’s a Chinese brunch.

ATMOSPHERE: Our meal at Jing Fong proved to be one of the most exhilarating and bizarre experiences of our trip to New York City.

We didn’t know what we were in for when we entered the tiny front door on Elizabeth Street, stepped into the small lobby, and then took the looooooong escalator up…

…into an enormous and almost-capacity dining room that seating around 700.

The place was absolutely packed with people. A vast majority of the clientele was Asian, although it was fairly mixed overall. The bright dining room was buzzing with hundreds of conversations and the sounds of servers and their carts trundling around. (More on the service below.)

FOOD: Dim sum consists of a wide variety of foods, all served in small portions, so we ended up eating 10-12 different dishes. I’ll be honest: we couldn’t identify everything that we ate (although we did decline the fried chicken feet), but we loved almost everything we had.

Some of my favorites were the steamed dumplings with vegetables and shrimp that came out in stacks of these wooden bowls. These were served first.

This one with shrimp and veggies and capped with a single pea was probably our top favorite of the meal.

These seemed to be thick rice noodles filled with beef wrapped like burritos, then covered with something like soy sauce. Very delicious, but also very floppy and therefore incredibly difficult to eat with chopsticks.

These dumplings were fried – very delicious!

Amazing fried calamari. We also had a fried pork dish that was our least favorite, mainly because it still had the bones in it.

The one dessert dish we tried: a small fried dough ball with something like almond paste in the middle. Barely sweetened, and offset by the toasty sesame seeds on the outside.

Our bill. When we selected an item from one of the carts, the woman pushing the cart would mark this bill on our table. We think that each category is a different price point, and the marks they made were their signature, which meant they maybe received some sort of commission on each dish. Which, of course, explains the somewhat aggressive service approach. Oh, and the total for our bill? $44 for four us, i.e. $11 a person. Amazing!

SERVICE: Service was good, although overwhelming, especially for the first time visitor. We were surrounded by carts before we even sat down, and most of the women only spoke a few words of English, so we couldn’t get an explanation of what was happening at first. My advice: just go with the flow.

At one point we tried asking one of the woman what was in a particular dish. She motioned that she couldn’t explain, and called a manager over. He rushed over, she asked him the question, and he held up a finger as if to say, “Hold on one second.” And then he disappeared, never to return. Oh well. It didn’t diminish the experience.

OVERALL: This proved to be one of the craziest, tastiest, and most memorable experiences of our trip. As we strolled back out onto the street afterward, we couldn’t believe what had just happened, and so quickly! The rush of sensations: sounds of busy servers and customers, the smells of all the food, the bright lights and massive size of the dining room… all of these were almost overwhelming, but we plunged in and ended up having a good time. Learn from our experience, and be sure to try it yourself – either at Jing Fong or somewhere else – if you’re in New York.

Dim sum on Wikipedia

Jing Fong on Urbanspoon

New logo!

Check it out! The new logo for Breakfast with Nick! The design is undergoing a redesign – just trying to make it a little more professional – so you’ll start seeing more of the logo in places. My lovely wife designed the logo, with some help from Robin Oatts of Genre Creative. Stay tuned for more details as we revamp the site a bit and make it more user-friendly!

And while I’m shamelessly self-promoting… take a look at my Twitter feed and my Facebook fan page!

Happy breakfasting!

Tommy’s Diner | Columbus, OH

Tommy’s Diner
(Facebook / @TommysDiner)
914 W. Broad St.
Columbus, OH 43222
(614) 224-2422
(614) 224-2901
Open Mon-Fri, 5:30 am – 3 pm; Sat, 5:30 am – 2:30 pm; Sun, 7 am – 2 pm
Accepts cash and credit cards

Date of Visit: Tuesday, February 9, 2010 at 7:30 a.m.

: I have the feeling, as I’m stepping into Tommy’s for the first time, that I’m entering a bit of history that’s not really my own. Admittedly, I don’t venture into Columbus’ Franklinton neighborhood often enough, so I can’t claim it as my neighborhood, and thus I can’t claim a Franklinton institution like Tommy’s. At the same time, while I’m experiencing this “other part of town,” I’m feeling instantly welcomed like an old regular stopping by for the umpteenth time. Gotta love the American diner.

Tommy’s Diner is the most diner-ish diner I’ve ever visited. It’s the epitome of the classic American diner, albeit one that’s become famous in its own right and isn’t afraid to tell you about it. Most true diners are not so self-conscious, but that doesn’t take away from the experience in the least. Tommy’s has been around for over twenty years on West Broad Street, a major thoroughfare that cuts through downtown Columbus and the neighborhoods to the east and west. When you visit, you can actually meet Tommy, as well as his son Michael. Both of them will gladly share the history of their restaurant.

: Tommy’s wasn’t very busy when we arrived – perhaps because of the heavy snow – but customers steadily rolled in nonetheless. I took the opportunity to stroll around a bit and take some pictures. All of the elements of the diner are in place: black and white checkered floor, glossy red vinyl booths and stools…

…a big curving counter, plenty of local kitsch on the walls…

…Coca Cola paraphernalia, and neon lights all over.

A WWII bomber on top of an old street sign. Tommy said he took it from Worthington.

FOOD: In line with the classic diner setup of the place, Tommy’s menu offers all the old favorites, with a few house specialties thrown in.

The breakfast menu – served any time – includes all of the good ole eggs, meat, and potatoes combos. Some featured items include steaks or pork chops and eggs (not enough places do those well), breakfast sandwiches, and omelets. There are also a handful of Greek variations, given Tommy’s background.

Very good diner coffee, in custom mugs.

I chose the Big Breakfast: 3 pancakes or 2 French toast, 2 eggs, choice of meat, potatoes, and toast.

All of this stood up to the best diner breakfasts I’ve had. Good scrambled eggs, nice browned potatoes, very good bacon, and well buttered toast. And you can’t argue with the portion size.

But I liked the French toast the best: nice thick slices of bread, with powdered sugar and a generous scoop of melting butter. I mean – what’s not to like?

My breakfasting partner, Micah, ordered the ham and cheese omelet, which he said was good. The cheese looked like American cheese, which I’m never a fan of, the omelet still seemed tasty.

SERVICE: Our server was a lot of fun – very friendly and very attentive.. She made fun of me when I seemed to be slowing down on my French toast. The best diners know how to make you feel like you’re part of the “in crowd” on your first visit. I’ve been to a few that treat you like an outsider who’s intruding on a very close circle. Tommy’s was in no way like that – we felt like part of the family instantly.

But the real treat is meeting Tommy himself, plus his son Michael. I found Tommy behind the register, and introduced myself. He talked a bit about his restaurant, and showed me the wall featuring pictures of himself with various local and national famous faces.

I snapped this picture of Tommy (on the left, in white) chatting with two regulars at the counter. Whenever he wasn’t busy at the register, he hung out with his customers.

: What can I say? Tommy’s gets a lot of love from the Franklinton neighborhood, and with good reason. Every neighborhood of Columbus, I’m finding, has at least one great diner that they can brag on, and Tommy’s serves that purpose for Franklinton. But whether you’re from that neighborhood or not, it’s worth a visit – it’ll feel a bit like home for you.

Tommy's Diner on Urbanspoon


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