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Monthly Archives: October 2012

Beyond Breakfast: Momofuku Ssäm Bar | New York, NY

It’s funny that, having written the book about breakfast in Columbus, I have some sense of what it takes to get your head around a city and its culinary landscape – at least, one part of it. So when I think of trying to choose places to eat in New York City, I’m completely overwhelmed. Resources like Yelp or UrbanSpoon only go so far in helping you, when every neighborhood might have untold hidden gems tucked down every side street and around every corner, and it’s hard to decipher what’s close to what, or what’s popular versus what’s really worth trying. Thankfully, this is when we get a little help from our experienced and knowledgeable friends. (Thanks, John and Shelley!)

Thus, on our first night in NYC, our sights were set on Momofuku Ssäm Bar. Momofuku is a series of restaurants in New York, Toronto, and Sydney, with six varieties in New York alone. The Ssäm Bar is a slim, dimly-lit corner space in the East Village. We managed to walk right in and find two seats at the bar, where we were greeted by the most helpful and welcoming server. He was very patient with us while we poured over the menu, even when the restaurant filled to capacity almost right away after we arrived.

The space is very comfortable and warm. Low lighting. Low ceiling. Lots of wood accents. Bar seats and then a mix of tables. Brightly lit kitchen space at one end, where you watch the busy crew through the windows.

We first ordered the steamed buns, which came as a pair on the plate. Perfectly soft buns, tend pork belly, with a little sweet hoisin and fresh cucumber. I had to slow myself down and savor every bite.

We followed the steamed buns with the BBQ bun, a single steamed bun with lightly fried pork belly, slaw, and a smokey mayonnaise. Great combination: tangy and creamy, nice contrast between the soft steamed bun and the crunch of the pork and slaw.

But the real capstone of the course was the whole boneless porgy. The porgy, topped with shredded kelp, mushrooms, and herbs, was presented in a giant bowl, and the server poured the hot broth from a tea kettle tableside. We could eat everything but the head and tail (we kept daring each other to eat the eyes). But the actual meat and skin of the fish… oh boy. It flaked apart at the lightest touch, and as we ate, the flesh mixed with the mushrooms and herbs in the broth, resulting in this savory, chunky soup. The dish transformed as we ate it, and with each bite we marveled at the rich, comforting flavors. Finishing with the porgy left us with that “wow” impression, where we kept bringing it up to each other throughout the weekend. That tells you what we thought overall: we’d gladly return, especially to try the bo ssäm or rotisserie duck ssäm, which are slow prepped and served family style.

If you want to visit/connect:
Momofuku Ssäm Bar (Facebook / @momofuku)
207 2nd Ave. (map it!)
New York, NY 10003

Momofuku Ssäm Bar on Urbanspoon

Danny’s Deli | Columbus, OH

Danny’s Deli (Facebook / @dannysdeli1)
37 W. Broad St. (entrance is on Front St.) (map it!)
Columbus, OH 43215
(614) 469-7040
Open Mon-Fri, 7a-3p
Accepts cash & credit/debit
Vegetarian/vegan/gluten free? Y/N/N
Kid-friendly? Y

Date of Visit: Wednesday, October 4, 2012 at 7:00 a.m.

Danny’s Deli is one of the many delis and other little grab-and-go breakfast/lunch spots around downtown Columbus. Many of them have been on my list for a long time, especially the delis, and especially any of them boasting of their corned beef. The reuben is one of my favorite sandwiches, and I think I need to better integrate the corned beef love into my breakfast life.

Thus it was that I sat with my son Will at 7 a.m., chowing down on pancakes, corned beef, and eggs in Danny’s little basement space off Front Street.

The restaurant is decked out in bright reds, blacks, and whites, from the signage to the tiled floor to tables and chairs. There’s something very enjoyable about the “hidden-ness” of the space. You have to head down a short flight of stairs, through some double-doors, and then you’ve found this humming little breakfast spot. Even the address can throw you off a bit: Danny’s address is technically W. Broad Street, but the entrance can be found on Front. Fortunately, they’ve emphasized the red in their awning: if you’re looking for it, you’ll find it.

Despite the small size, there’s a lot of seating. Two rows of tables and chairs extend far back into the space, which curves to the right and features a few more seats.

Given that you’re downtown, you can expect to meet with some of the working crowd. I’m guessing that Danny’s, like most of the restaurants downtown, does most of their business over weekday lunches. But on our visit we saw a pretty good mix of clientele.

Will started out with an orange juice, which was a standard bottled type, while I opted for coffee. I loved the tall circular plastic mugs. Super lightweight. The coffee was good diner coffee: hot, a little weak, and caffeinated.

Will’s a pancake man, so he chose the little stack of fluffy buttermilks. Side note: I rarely talk prices on the blog, in order to keep away from the whole $$$ or star rating thing, but I have to note Danny’s cheap prices. Will’s pancakes were only $3.75, while my plate was $5.75. It’s a stellar deal.

I was in corned beef mode, so I knew my order well before we arrived. I picked the Downtown Special: a generous pile of sliced corn beef, scrambled eggs, potatoes, and toast. It hit. the. spot. I just loved piling a single bite of eggs, corned beef, and potatoes on my fork. It’s all done well: eggs aren’t over-cooked, potatoes are crispy enough, toast was good.

If Danny’s is any indication, then exploring downtown’s breakfast scene is going to be fun. Our server was super sweet – she lightly poked fun of Will and how he was goofing off (it’s good she has such a sense of humor at 7 a.m.). But she was very accommodating and helpful, and she even introduced us to the owner, Joe. He, too, was very nice and welcoming. The deli’s breakfast options are pretty straightforward and are only served until 10:30am, but they’re inexpensive, they include corned beef, and the prices are very easy to like.

Danny's Deli and on Urbanspoon

Photos: a Jack & Benny’s revisit

One of the challenges of food blogging, especially when talking about restaurants, is to keep discovering and writing about something new, while simultaneously wanting to revisit old favorites. I know, I know… poor me. But the real joy of a good breakfast place is becoming a regular there, getting to know the owners and even some returning customers.

Case in point: Jack & Benny’s. I reviewed J&B’s way back in 2007, when the blog was just starting. So the description is inexperienced and the photos are less-than-great. I still stand by my assessment, but I think I could represent the restaurant better. So, of course, when my boys and I had a free Saturday morning on a OSU football gameday, we swung by for some grub and to snap a couple more photos.

Two important things to know about Jack & Benny’s. 1.) They’re a classic diner. Big wooden floor. Old counter and stools (you can tell they’re old because they’re a little smaller – my legs are crammed when I sit there). The owner Geno works the grill. Cheap coffee and generous breakfasts. 2.) J&B’s is an Ohio State institution. Even if they’re not technically on campus, they’re close enough that the decor is like a museum of OSU football history. The main wall is lined with photos of past coaches and players, famous diners, and the owners posed with other notables. Then there’s the case of bobblehead dolls: everyone’s represented, from Woody Hayes to Archie Griffin to Jim Tressel to the brand new Urban Meyer.

Jack & Benny’s is also home of the busters. I will admit, without shame, that I rarely order anything other than the Gutbuster. It’s everything I love about breakfast: eggs, hash browns, sausage, cheese, ham, gravy, and toast. All in one indistinguishable pile.

Look at that: layers of breakfast goodness. And while the portions are big, I’ve never experienced the actual gut-busting that the name promises. (But does that say something about the dish or about me? Hmmm…) Nevertheless, Jack & Benny’s is one of my neighborhood diners, and it’s worth a visit or two or three. Goodness knows I’m always looking for the excuse to go back.

Pirate Coffee | Columbus, OH

Columbus loves its coffee, and it loves its coffee to go. That’s why over the past few months, we’ve had three separate mobile coffee operations start bringing fresh roasted caffeine goodness to the masses. There’s the Solar Cafe and their trikes. There’s Hemisphere Coffee set up in Clintonville. And there’s Pirate Coffee.

Pirate Coffee is the brainchild of Heather Wirth, who’s known to many as the creator of the Columbus Artmobile. The idea for the cart was born out of the decided lack of available coffee at the Columbus Arts Festival this past June. I know some of the backstory because Mrs. Bfast With Nick was there when the idea came about. In fact, she supplied the name for it!

The goal of Pirate Coffee is simple: providing good brews of local coffee at the various events and festivals around Columbus. I finally got a chance to try it at the annual Igloo Letterpress Bazaar.

They make a solid cup of coffee. It’s all ground and French-pressed on the spot.

Heather ended up choosing Backroom Coffee Roasters as her supplier. Score one for good local roasts!

Their setup will vary depending on the event, but if you run into Heather and the Pirate crew, get some coffee from her! If you want to find out where Pirate Coffee will be set up next, follow along on their Facebook page!

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