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Monthly Archives: December 2011

Hamburger Inn | Delaware, OH

Hamburger Inn (Facebook)
16 N. Sandusky St. (map it!)
Delaware, OH 43015
(740) 369-3850
Open Mon-Wed, 6a-9p; then open 24 hours from Thurs 6a through Sunday 9p
Accepts cash & credit/debit
Vegetarian/vegan/gluten free? N/N/N
Kid-friendly? Y

IMPRESSIONS: On a recent trip up to Delaware, Ohio, I finally made it to the Hamburger Inn. I’ve gotten many recommendations for it, particularly whenever I ask where to eat breakfast in Delaware. The Hamburger Inn – which is not an inn, to be clear – can be found on the very cool stretch of Sandusky Street in downtown Delaware. Along the strip there are all sorts of shops, galleries, restaurants, coffee shops, offices, and more, including the great Beehive Books, which may or may not carry a certain author’s breakfast book.

You’ll recognize the Hamburger Inn by the two signs out front: the brighter, newer one on the maroon awning, and the older, off-center letters, presumably the original signage on the building. The restaurant falls under one of those “don’t deny your DNA” spots. This comes from Alton Brown’s description of good restaurants: don’t deny what you do. Be honest with your food and your style, and customers will appreciate it properly. It’s all about expectations. The Hamburger Inn may not be the most imaginative restaurant, but it’s an honest-to-goodness old diner, and they do that well.

ATMOSPHERE: The Hamburger Inn is a single-room diner, with two big wooden U-shaped counters that jut out into the room. One side of the restaurant includes the kitchen, with the grill and prep areas. There’s no real counter seat to watch the grill, but you still get the camaraderie of sitting close to or facing your fellow diners. The atmosphere is that of a typical diner: white noise from some TVs, bustle in the kitchen, customers chatting.

FOOD: Being in an old-school diner (since 1932!), I chose the standard diner breakfast. It’s a good way to judge a restaurant. The result: good scrambled eggs, toast soaked in butter, a basic sausage patty, and some soft, sliced potatoes. All good, although the potatoes need some seasoning, and they need to be left on the grill longer. Not quite enough crispy brown edges for my taste. I also had coffee, which qualifies as that special blend of diner coffee: caffeinated, hot, slightly bitter, only partially improved by cream and sugar.

SERVICE: The servers are as nice as you can expect. Hamburger Inn, like all good diners, cultivates its regulars, so while we ate we noticed a number of people walk in, sit down, and be served their “usual.” You don’t get that way without a group of cooks and servers who are kind and welcoming.

OVERALL: As I said earlier, the Hamburger Inn is like most diners in that the food isn’t off-the-charts good, but the building and decor are fun to see, the service is friendly, and the portions are filling. Every good neighborhood or town needs its old diner, and this is clearly Delaware, Ohio’s. This makes it a necessary stop in any exploration.

OTHER LINKS:

Hamburger Inn on Urbanspoon

Cafe Brioso | Columbus, OH

Cafe Brioso (Facebook / @CafeBrioso)
14 E. Gay St. (map it!)
Columbus, OH 43215
(614) 228-8366
Open Mon-Fri, 7a-4p; Sat, 9a-4p
Accepts cash & credit/debit
Vegetarian/vegan/gluten free? Y/N/N
Kid-friendly? Y

Date of Visit: Friday, November 18, 2011 at 10:00 a.m.

IMPRESSIONS: Ah, Brioso. It’s both easy and difficult for me to write about them. It’s easy because seasoned food and coffee fans of Columbus will already know about Brioso and their amazing roasts, their passion for coffee brewing, and their enthusiasm for sharing and teaching coffee culture. But it’s difficult because there’s not much to write beyond saying that they do coffee, and they do it really well. So maybe I should aim this review toward people who haven’t visited Brioso.

In short: you should go. Brioso is one of downtown Columbus’ premiere coffee stops. It’s conveniently located on the corner of High and Gay Streets. Parking is easily found on Gay Street, in both long- and short-term meters.

ATMOSPHERE: Brioso does all of their roasting on premises, so at the front of the store facing High Street you’ll often find roaster Jeff Davis hard at work, making anywhere from 15-20 different roasts. It makes the whole cafe, and the street outside, smell lovely. It’s particularly inviting in the colder months.

FOOD: In addition to their coffee, they serve a wide range of fresh-baked goods, from scones to cookies to muffins. Their scones rotate from sweet to savory flavors, often incorporating seasonal fruits. One of their top sellers are the blueberry muffins. It’s hard to go wrong when you pair that with a coffee drink.

You can order coffee however you like it: lattes with beautiful art, cappuccinos, cubanos (one of my wife’s favorites), or pour-overs featuring any of their roasts. They usually have a featured pour-over each day, so even if you’re a daily fixture there, you can work your way through the full menu of beans.

They serve much more than just coffee and muffins. Stop in for lunch especially, where they rotate soups, salads, and sandwiches.

SERVICE: The staff at Brioso keeps busy – they have to with the active downtown crowd – but they’ve always been friendly to me, and willing to chat about coffee. Their baristas are also some of the best trained in town, so you know that they’re pulling shots of espresso, pouring latte art, or foaming up your cappuccino the right way. Brioso often hosts regional latte art competitions, so they’re also doing a lot to raise Columbus’ coffee profile.

OVERALL: Whether you have time to stop or are in the to-go mood, the Brioso breakfast serves you well. If you work downtown, or are just bumming around seeing the sights, the cafe is a must-see for a drink and a snack. But if you want to take your love of coffee a stop further, they can lead the way. J.J., one of the managers, has a business card that reads, “Coffee Evangelist,” and that about says it all.

OTHER LINKS:

-> my (614) Magazine write-up about coffee shops, including Brioso

Cafe Brioso on Urbanspoon

Silver Bridge Coffee Company

Like it or not, I’ve become one of those people who needs to have my coffee in the morning. I’ve just grown to like the taste of a warm cup of coffee at the start of the day, not to mention the caffeine fix. I justify drinking it by also focusing on the fact that coffee is, after all, one of the best beverages for breakfast. All of these reasons keep me on the lookout for new coffee to try. Recently, we picked up a couple bags from Silver Bridge Coffee Company, and I thought I’d share.

I’m not the greatest judge of coffee. I’m happy to sip on cheap diner coffee (“angry water,” my father-in-law calls it), but I can recognize a superior bean when it’s before me. Columbus is a strong coffee town, slowly gaining recognition for our amazing roasters and baristas. Silver Bridge is a fine addition to the scene.

Silver Bridge is actually based in Gallipolis, Ohio, southeast of Columbus, almost to the West Virginia border. But the company has a strong presence here in Central Ohio. You’ll find them sampling at farmer’s markets and grocery stores, and their beans are sold at Kroger, Celebrate Local, Hills Market, and Whole Foods.

We purchased three different roasts: the Silver Bridge Blend, the Buckeye Breakfast Buzz, and the Jamaican Me Crazy. The Buckeye Breakfast has a nice little bite to it. The Silver Bridge is a balanced blend of light and dark. Both of those are very easy to like. They offer a great morning cup of coffee. The Jamaican Me Crazy is much more pungent, fueled by chocolatey and nutty flavors. It’s more of a stand-out, occasionally too rich to drink a lot of in the morning, but enjoyable nonetheless.

Silver Bridge roasts and quickly distributes their coffee. Ours was roasted the date before we purchased it. It should be noted, too, that Silver Bridge’s coffee is organic and fair trade certified.

We’ve recently taken to French-pressing our coffee in the morning (although I still use a blade grinder, shhhhhh). My wife and I realized we weren’t (or shouldn’t be) drinking an entire pot of coffee together every day. This allows us to make coffee in more manageable batches, and it’s closer to the ideal brewing process. Also, it makes me feel better than everyone else. (Just kidding.)

To find out more about Silver Bridge, and where you can pick up their coffee:
Online: www.silverbridgecoffee.com
Facebook: www.facebook.com/silverbridgecoffee
Twitter: twitter.com/SilverBridgeCof

Explorers Club | Columbus, OH

Explorers Club (Facebook)
1586 S. High St. (map it!)
Columbus, OH 43207
(614) 725-0155
Accepts cash & credit/debit
Open Mon-Fri for lunch, Mon-Sat for dinner, brunch served 9am – 2pm on Sat & Sun
Vegetarian/vegan/gluten free? Y/N/N
Kid-friendly? Y

Date of Visit: Saturday, November 5, 2011 at 9:00 a.m.

IMPRESSIONS: The arrival of Explorers Club is up there with one of the more anticipated arrivals in the Columbus culinary scene this year. Its opening marks the return of the partnership of restaurateurs Ricky Barnes and Tracy Studer to Columbus’ dining establishments. They bring with them a strong history, one that includes restaurants considered by many to have sparked our current boom of creative eateries over the last decade. Sadly, this is a history I’ve completely missed, except in story; I moved to Columbus about a year after Ricky’s last venture closed, and so I haven’t experienced his work firsthand until now. To get a full account of the story, I direct you to CMH Gourmand’s excellent recollections, as well as his account of Explorers Club’s opening.

I made my first visit to EC a couple weeks after they opened, having breakfast on the day of my book’s release. I chose to go then a.) because I was excited to try it, and b.) to symbolize the joy of still discovering new places, even after having finished the book. They even made a special sign for the occasion.

ATMOSPHERE: We were really impressed with the building and interior of Explorers Club. The decor is fitting for the theme of exploration. The main dining area is one long room with big front windows. Running down the center of the space is a series of tables, while rows of booths line the walls.

It was a little smoky (from the kitchen, to be clear) that morning, which actually lent itself to some interesting pictures with shafts of light coming through the windows.

The walls are covered with woodcut prints of different explorers throughout history, from actual exploration to pioneers in sports, politics, and culture. It’s a really, very nice touch.

The front windows facing South High Street let in a lot of natural light.

The entryway is on the side of the building, off Morrill Avenue. On your way in, you’ll pass by the bar, with more seating and a board listing the day’s specials.

Immediately you can see that Explorers Club’s menu offers some unique breakfast options.

A look at the brunch menu.

FOOD: Explorers Club serves food that, given its name, encourages you to expand your palate. They focus on food that’s more flavorful than your average diner fare. I love a good chilaquiles, so I immediately gravitated toward these. I was very pleased with them. Good punch of spices in the eggs, veggies, and even in the black beans (which some places under-season). Served on a bed of chips. A nice breakfast that leaves your mouth tingling.

The veggie burrito. Comes with scrambled eggs, refried beans, Monterey Jack cheese, veggies, and coated in a house-made sauce. A very good burrito, although it’s hard to tell how it’s drastically different than the standard burrito with scrambled eggs, refried beans, veggies, and muenster cheese.

The Cuban French toast. Essentially cubed and fried bread, loaded with fruit and dusted with powdered sugar. Hard to go wrong with it.

The House Burrito. Similar to the other burritos, but with ham. The burritos are all a good size; they will fill you up like a good breakfast should.

SERVICE: Overall, our service was good, although there were a couple oddities. I’ve heard a lot about the relleno omelet on the menu, but our server couldn’t really tell us what it was, except that it was an omelet with cheese. He couldn’t even tell us what type of cheese was in it. I’d expect a omelet named after chile relleno would have peppers or meat, or at least something more than cheese. It also confused us why this item is the priciest on the menu. Despite this, our server was very attentive. We had a to wait for a few items, plus the coffee, but otherwise we were taken care of.

OVERALL: Explorers Club may still be finding its feet a little bit, but that’s to be expected from any restaurant that’s only been open for two weeks (EDIT: when we visited; EC has been open now since late October). Still, it’s a more-than-welcome addition to the Columbus breakfast scene (and dining scene in general), it offers some flavorful breakfast items that aren’t widely available, and it’s great to see a strong breakfast joint down South High Street in Merion Village. It’s worth exploring on your own (see what I did there?).

OTHER LINKS:

-> great coverage of the Ricky and Tracy’s story in (614) Magazine

Explorers Club on Urbanspoon

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