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Reviews of different breakfast places.

Double Comfort Restaurant | Columbus, OH

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Double Comfort Restaurant (Facebook / @double_comfort / instagram: doublecomfort)
505 N. High St. (map it!)
Columbus, OH 43215
(614) 745-2183
Open Tues-Thurs, 11:30a-2p, 5:30-9p; Fri, 11a-11p; Sat, 9a-11p; Sun, 9a-2p (brunch served Sat & Sun, 9a-2p)
Accepts cash & credit/debit
Vegetarian/vegan/gluten free? Y/N/N
Kid-friendly? Y

Visited: Sunday, September 21, 2014 at 11:00 a.m.

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It’s pretty well documented that Columbus is in the midst of a fried chicken renaissance. We’ve been fans of Mya’s Fried Chicken from the get-go, and have found any excuse to visit Hot Chicken Takeover. We’re always ready to welcome a new fried chicken love into the fold, so hearing good things about Double Comfort opening in the old Knead space, we tracked down their Southern brunch one sunny Sunday.

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The space has been totally revamped and lightened up.

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Some of the focus walls and the bar are covered with reclaimed barn wood, imparting a lighter, natural feel. Very fitting for a restaurant serving rustic Southern dishes.

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The two big things to note about Double Comfort are a.) the focus on fried chicken, and b.) their mission of supporting local charities. With your purchase, Double Comfort donates directly to the charity – meal for meal. It rotates seasonally; currently they’re supporting Mid-Ohio Foodbank.

The brunch menu is divided into biscuits, southern traditions, waffles, eggs (“Before they hatch”), and salads.

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Amongst a busy and rather full brunch crowd, we began the proceedings with a pair of cocktails. First, the obligatory Bloody Mary – a little spicy and very drinkable. And then there was a new discovery: the sweet tea sour. Building on a bourbon base (my favorite starting point for a cocktail), the creamy and frothy sour mixes a sweet tea syrup with lemon juice and whipped egg white. The result is surprisingly mellow and sweet with a light foam, not my usual choice of cocktail but a smooth sipper to go with salty fried chicken.

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They were out of the mac and cheese waffle, so we ordered the cheddar waffle. It’s a large waffle quartered and sprinkled with the cheese. It comes with a pickled veggie mix called chow chow, like a sweet relish made from tomatoes, onions, cauliflower, etc. We put it on the side for our boys.

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From the biscuits menu we chose the fried green tomato biscuit. It’s a dense but soft biscuit loaded with goat cheese, greens, and very nicely breaded fried green tomatoes.

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The biscuits and sausage gravy was my personal favorite of the meals, and it really spoke to the comfort food angle of the restaurant. It’s a generous plate of two biscuits, soft fried potatoes, and a really rich bacon and sausage gravy. It was the perfect level of chunky and spicy for me.

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If you want to eat on the lighter end of things – even at a Southern fried chicken restaurant – you’ve got a couple salad options, like the farm salad with greens, pumpkin seeds, veggies, goat cheese, and a couple slices of fried green tomatoes. It’s covered in a chow chow vinaigrette. They leaned a little too much on the celery, which imparts a strong flavor and stands out with its crisp texture, but the salad is generously portioned.

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Of course, we can’t go to Double Comfort without trying their Memphis-style fried chicken, right?! I’m a sucker for a good chicken and waffle, so my eye was drawn to that on the menu. The deep-pocketed waffles were very good, although a little soggy by the time they reached us, but the crispy and moist fried chicken made up for it. The skin is fried evenly, with a crunchy and peppery seasoning. A very worthy stop on any Columbus fried chicken tour. The chicken and waffles were served with their Three Sins syrup: maple syrup + bourbon + coffee + bacon. I can get definitely behind that, although the resulting syrup packs a punch. It’s dense, rich, and very smoky. I applied it conservatively to my waffles and chicken.

Even though the restaurant was busy when we arrived, we still found a four-top quickly. The wait time for our food was a little long, but our server checked in with us pretty regularly. The food was spot-on for a Southern comfort brunch. Not that I know Southern food exceptionally well, but the meal certainly nailed the comfort side with big, hearty plates. Definitely worth a visit or two for brunch. I hope the restaurant continues to do well. Even if fried chicken isn’t exactly your thing, you should support Double Comfort for their community-focused mission.

Double Comfort on Urbanspoon

Go on tour with Breakfast With Nick!

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Want to actually have breakfast with Nick? Well, now is finally your chance!

I’m excited to share that I’m partnering with Columbus Food Adventures to launch a new Breakfast Tour next month! If you’ve been on a Food Adventures tour, you know they’re perfect for both out-of-town visitors and lifelong Columbus residents to discover everything from local neighborhoods to sweet desserts to ethnic eats. And if you haven’t been on a tour: what are you waiting for?!

My favorite thing about my writing is getting to share the stories of the hard-working cooks, chefs, bakers, servers, managers, and owners around Columbus. I think they’re what really makes our city a great place, and I’m excited to support them by helping guests discover what they do.

Visit the Breakfast Tour page for exact dates, info, and tickets. UPDATE: The first two scheduled dates are sold out, but we’ve added three more: October 25, November 1, and December 6. If you can’t make it on the breakfast tour, consider one of CFA’s other tours.

P.S. You may know that I occasionally serve as a guide for CFA’s sister company Columbus Brew Adventures, too. Check out their brewery and distillery tours. They’re also amazing opportunities to meet the people behind Columbus’ booming brewing scene.

Sassafras Bakery | Worthington, OH

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Sassafras Bakery (Facebook / @SassafrasBakery / Instagram @SassafrasBakery)
657 High St. (map it!)
Worthington, OH 43085
(614) 781-9705
Open Wed-Fri, 8a-5p; Sat, 8a-3p
Accepts cash & credit/debit
Vegetarian/vegan/gluten free? Y/N/N
Kid-friendly? Y

Visited: Many times, but most recently Thursday, August 28, 2014 at 9:00 a.m.

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I’ve gotta be up front with you: this is an easy one to write. In fact, it’s almost easy to take Sassafras Bakery for granted, because a.) Mrs. Bfast w/Nick works a block away from the bakery, and b.) we’ve been fans of everything AJ bakes for years. Sassafras is a prime example of a business that started very small – AJ baking out of her home and selling at farmers markets – and has grown into a brick-and-mortar space. The hard work of braving years of weather and crowds and crazy markets and changing seasons has translated into a trusted brand and dedicated following. And we certainly count ourselves amongst the followers.

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Sassafras is right in the heart of Old-with-an-E Worthington. It’s in good company with places like Worthington Inn, Candle Lab, House Wine, and one of my personal favorites, Igloo Letterpress (because Mrs. Bfast w/Nick works there, to be clear (but also, it’s an awesome place)). The cafe plays host to a few tables, plus a counter, display cases, and a little stand with gift items like jam, cards, and a certain breakfast book. It’s all warm and cozy.

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One of the best parts of seeing Sassafras at the Worthington Farmer’s Market was eyeing the gorgeous displays of baked goods. And now you can do the same with the cases at the cafe. You’ll be tempted by a line-up of everything from scones to cookies to muffins to brownies.

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The benefit of the brick-and-mortar space is more prepared foods like delicious quiches – or at least the chance to enjoy a slice in-house, plus hot or cold soups.

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You can usually find two or three varieties of quiche, of both meat and veggie varieties.

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On my last visit I tore through a fantastic roasted zucchini and sun-dried tomato quiche, with mozzarella and basil. The crust was delicate and flaky, and the quiche itself loaded with veggies.

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For the customer who can’t decide whether they want a donut or a muffin, there’s always the donut muffin. It’s the best of both worlds.

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Despite the warm weather at the time, fall was beginning to creep on the menu. And it took fine form with the apple cider muffin, perfectly moist and tasting like a fresh glass of cider, with a little sweet icing to cap it off. Excellent pairing with a mug of Cafe Brioso coffee.

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One bite of anything at Sassafras and you’ll be hooked.

What I’m showing you here barely scratches the surface. Just fill your Facebook or Instagram feed with Sassafras Bakery and you’ll get to enjoy a steady stream of mouth-watering kitchen sink granola bars, scones, soups, iced cookies, fudge brownies, ratatouille tarts, gooey cinnamon rolls. And the pies. Oh, the pies. AJ makes a bourbon pumpkin tart that is easily my favorite pumpkin thing ever.IMG_4379

The cafe also runs specials like the milk and cookies happy hour. Great way to end any day.

Because AJ sources high quality ingredients, expect lots of seasonal rotation. Your best bet is to keep an eye on the cafe’s online presence to see what’s featured, but let’s face it: you can walk into any time and find something to love.

Sassafras Bakery on Urbanspoon

Block’s Bagels | Columbus, OH

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Block’s Bagels (Facebook / @BlocksBagels)
3415 E. Broad St. (map it!)
Columbus, OH 43213
(614) 235-2551
Open Mon-Fri, 6a-5:30p; Sat & Sun, 6:30a-4p
Accepts cash & credit/debit
Vegetarian/vegan/gluten free? Y/N/N
Kid-friendly? Y

Visited: Saturday, August 23, 2014 at 10:30 a.m.

They say there’s no school like the old school, right? Well, if that’s true, then there’s no bagels like Block’s Bagels. Block’s calls themselves the original bagels to Columbus. The Block family moved here from New York City in the late 1960’s. When friends came to visit from New York, they noticed the lack of real bagels in Columbus. Inspired by the comments, Harold Block opened a small bakery and deli in Bexley. Over the years business grew, and now Block’s is chugging along just like they did in the old days.

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Almost thirty years ago now, they moved to their current location a little east on Broad Street. (Their large production facility further east on McNaughten Center includes a second cafe.)

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Judging by the location, not much has changed over thirty years. Not to say it looks outdated. Well, okay, maybe it does a little. It’s just that, nothing much has changed in how they make their bagels and how they serve their customers, so why change it?

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The cafe is fairly large (enough to accommodate bigger groups, hint) and the counters are divided into two sides: deli and bakery.

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The deli side lets you order breakfast, salads, and sandwiches, as well as bulk meats and salads. Plenty of certified kosher items.

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The breakfast menu ranges from simple bagels and cream cheese, to small plates of eggs and meat (lox, salami, bologna, corned beef), but there’s an Egg Beater omelet and challah French toast.

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The bakery side features baskets upon baskets of fresh bagels. Although Block’s produces much of their wholesale goods at the McNaughten facility, you’ll still see them boiling and baking bagels at this cafe.

Block’s serves New York style water bagels. A New York water bagel is made from simple ingredients: flour, water, salt, yeast. It’s boiled first, and then baked. The boiling puffs up the bagel and gives it a chewier texture, while the baking gives it a better crust.

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Block’s makes nearly 30 styles of bagels and bagel sticks. Sesame, poppy seed, caraway. Sourdough, rye, whole wheat. Blueberry, cinnamon raisin, chocolate chip. Plain. Or Everything. Get the Everything bagel. It’s the only type you’ll ever need. In my opinion, a deli is only as good as its everything bagel.

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The dine-in service is pretty simple. Order at the counter and the server there will assemble your order one piece at a time. This means you might wait a little longer for bigger groups. We ordered four different things; the server moved quickly to prep a bagel with cream cheese and the lox platter. Then she disappeared in the back to make my eggs and corned beef. She brought that out, then disappeared in the back to make the French toast. It’s nice knowing everything’s made fresh, but it means there’s a short wait.

The actual presentation is funny, too: thin styrofoam platters. Plastic forks, knives, spoons and napkins are self-service.

So here’s the first thing: a plain bagel with cream cheese for the boys. Great bagel. Generous smear of cream cheese. Excellent pickle.

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The corned beef, eggs, and everything bagel wasn’t exactly up to par, but for some reason I found it more amusing than off-putting. The corned beef and eggs were over-cooked and the beef itself was a little fatty. But the cream cheese and everything bagel were great, of course, and the pickle. But I probably should have ordered this as a breakfast sandwich instead.

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The challah French toast (made using Block’s challah bread – the bakery has a whole shelf of breads), is excellent. Thick slices of fresh challah, eggy and custardy like French toast should be. Dusted with powdered sugar and (a little too generous) coating of cinnamon.

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And the piece de resistance, the dish by which we judge all delis: the lox platter with salmon, cream cheese, onions, tomato, lettuce, and an everything bagel (we had to ask for the capers – we like that salty kick). Block’s is as good as you could hope for.

Next time you’re out exploring, stop by Block’s for a quick breakfast. Everything is worth a try (maybe get a sandwich and not the corned beef and eggs), and the bagels are stellar. If there’s no school like the old school, then you need to stick with the old school.

(Pssst… Block’s is the original New York bagel in Columbus, but they’re evenly matched by Sammy’s. Columbus is all the richer for both of them.)

Block's Bagels on Urbanspoon

Slyman’s Restaurant | Cleveland, OH

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Slyman’s Restaurant (Facebook / @SlymansClevBest)
3106 St. Clair Ave. (map it!)
Cleveland, OH 44114
(216) 621-3760
Open Mon-Fri, 6a-2:30p; Sat, 9a-1p
Accepts cash & credit/debit
Vegetarian/vegan/gluten free? N/N/N
Kid-friendly? Y

Visited: Saturday, August 16, 2014 at 10:30am

Following a stellar weekend trip to Cleveland last year, we’ve been itching for the opportunity to return. Through last year’s trip, we experienced a memorable round of bars, restaurants, breakfast spots, and markets, but like any good city visit we left with an even larger list of places still to try. At the top of that list: Slyman’s. So on a return trip this past weekend, we sought out this Cleveland favorite, and it took only a few minutes to see why so many people recommend it.

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Busy breakfast places are easily recognized by their noise. The moment you step into the neighborhood you can identify the hub of activity, from busy customers waiting inside and out, servers dashing to and fro, and the kitchen clattering. What’s surprising about Slyman’s is the silence outside. We pulled up and parked on the street out front, and from there you wouldn’t know what a busy place it was inside.

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Once we stepped in the doors, though, it was clear that Clevelanders breakfast here. We found a table quickly, but the restaurant was busy busy busy. Nearly every table was full, and while we certainly didn’t feel out of place, we were clearly tourists.

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There’s a familiar look to delis. Usually they have a big, long counter and an equally long menu hanging over it. I’ve seen it everywhere: Katz’s in New York, Katzinger’s in Columbus. It’s the signature deli look. Also, there’s a big tub of pickles.

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And then there’s the shaved meats. The delicious, delicious shaved meats. Slyman’s boasts the best corned beef in town. Obviously this takes center stage in their reubens, but they give it a chance to shine at breakfast, too.

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Not only does Slyman’s brag about the best corned beef, they brag about the BIGGEST corned beef sandwiches, too. And let’s face it: the portions are generous.

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Slyman’s breakfast menu is straightforward – no real surprises – but obviously the corned beef is prominently featured on eggs, in omelets, in sandwiches, or as a hash.

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Both of our boys were very hungry that morning (even more so than usual), so they absolutely devoured their breakfasts. First off: a plate of scrambled eggs and home fries. The eggs were well done with being dried out and the potatoes had a nice, crispy brown to them.

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They also demolished a hotcake and sausage. Beautifully done pancake, perfectly cooked.

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I’m a fan of corned beef hash but I tend to shy away from it. Too many canned versions that are mealy and taste like metal. But when I see big tubs of corned beef freshly brined, and I see the slicer working away, I know it’s a safe place for some real hash. So that’s how I ended up with a monster plate of corned beef hash. This is honestly some of the best corned beef hash I’ve ever had. The beef is finely chopped and mixed thoroughly with the potatoes, which are the right balance of soft with crispy edges. The whole thing is grilled with a fine crust, then topped with eggs of your choice. In retrospect I should have ordered the eggs over medium instead of scrambled, but it ultimately didn’t matter.

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As if that wasn’t enough, the egg and corned beef breakfast sandwich arrived stacked high on rye. The beef is nice and lean, ideal for a sandwich. Our server allowed  us to order the egg scrambled or over hard, so there’s no runny yolk. Between the hash and the sandwich, Slyman’s is a shrine to corned beef at breakfast.

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Slyman’s exudes an old school vibe. It’s clearly a restaurant that has earned its accolades and its regulars over the years. It’s not fancy, and while the servers don’t take time to chat, they’re still welcoming. So even as an outsider, it’s easy to feel included, and sitting there with a big plate of corned beef hash on a bustling Saturday morning, it’s easy to see why Slyman’s tops a lot of people’s lists for Cleveland breakfasts.

Slyman's on Urbanspoon

The Social | Columbus, OH

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The Social (Facebook / @WholeFoodsUA / Instagram @wfmupperarlington)
1555 W. Lane Ave. (map it!) (inside the Upper Arlington Whole Foods)
Columbus, OH 43221
(614) 481-3400
Open 7a-10p (bfast served all day)
Accepts cash & credit/debit
Vegetarian/vegan/gluten free? Y/Y/N
Kid-friendly? Y

Visited: Thursday, July 24, 2014 at 9:00 a.m.

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Whole Foods is known for not just being a shopping place but for creating a full experience. This includes a lot of in-store events and a lot of opportunities for in-store dining. Most Whole Foods have an active prepared foods department that does more than just assemble meals for customers. The WF in Dublin, for instance, includes the 161 Diner, a small counter serving brunch, burgers, and beers.

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The fairly new Whole Foods in Upper Arlington, a smaller-scale store that replaced the Wild Oats on Lane Avenue, includes a small restaurant called The Social. The Social is connected to the store but still feels separate. It has its own entrance, which creates more of a feeling of a stand-alone restaurant than, say, the 161 Diner. In Dublin you need to trek through the store to get to the diner, and then sitting at the counter feels a little like sitting in the middle of the store.

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The Social could be any restaurant space. Not to say it’s generic – it just has a life of its own, separate from the store. The space is bright and welcoming, with a long bar at the back and plenty of cafe tables. Chalkboard menus list drinks from coffee to beer (mental note: good beer selection). Full- and half-sized growlers line nearly every shelf. Ordering takes place at the counter.

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Here’s the farm breakfast, a steal at $5 for two eggs, choice of meat (including vegan sausage), toast, and potatoes. All of it was done just right: soft and well-seasoned potatoes, eggs to order, very flavorful sausage. And served with house-made jam. Again, for $5!

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Also, the challah French toast. Two thick slices served with syrup, berry compote, and whipped cream.

A comfortable space and inexpensive prices easily put The Social on the radar for me. It’s a very accessible place with a big enough breakfast menu to serve anyone. And you know I’m eyeing that beer selection for a later visit…

Mike’s Place | Kent, OH

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Mike’s Place (Facebook group)
1700 S. Water St. (map it!)
Kent, OH 44240
(330) 673-6501
Open Mon-Thurs, 6a-11p; Fri & Sat, 6a-12a; Sun, 7a-10p
Accepts cash, credit/debit, B-17 Bombers, droids, blimp rides, and authentic Fender twin reverb amps
Vegetarian/vegan/gluten free? Y/N/N
Kid-friendly? Y

Visited: Sunday, July 20, 2014 at 10:30 a.m.

I seriously don’t even know how to begin to describe Mike’s Place. Okay, it’s a restaurant. It’s also a tourist destination. A college hangout. A collection of kitsch. A mish-mash of pieces. Or a crazy essay.

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Those who know Mike’s Place know it well. It’s not the type of place that you  easily pass by. For one thing, there are the decorations, like the giant X-Wing out front. We first heard about Mike’s from Laura Lee at Ajumama. All she had to say was, “X-Wing out front” and we were sold.

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Then there’s the building itself, which is assembled – International Space Station style – from many different components being welded together. Part of the building looks like a castle, part of it is like a traditional restaurant. But then there are a couple busses turned into dining rooms. There’s a boat converted to a seating area. A small shack, a faux corner store. The result is a maze of rooms, hallways, and nooks and crannies. I wonder if they’ve ever lost a customer in there?

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And then there are the signs. Mike has a lot to say. Everywhere you look, there are things to read. Handwritten signs, permanent signs. Short ones, long form ones. Some informative, some completely unnecessary.

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Near the entryway is a post full of signs that (for the most part) point you in the direction of bathrooms, themed seating areas, and the Bob Evans down the street (for whiners, it says).

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Pictures can hardly capture the feel of the place; the lighting and close quarters make taking proper photos too difficult (at least with an iPhone). Just imagine a colorful maze of rooms. If you’re a first-time visitor, your only hope is to follow your server to your table, and then hope you can find your way out.

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Many of the seating areas are separated into different rooms, like in a modified bus or a shack.

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And many of them are named. We were seated in a boat referred to as “Ship Happens,” with a sign saying “The Filthy Oar.”

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Remember I mentioned the crazy signage? The trend continues with the menu. It’s ridiculously huge – one of the biggest I’ve ever seen. If you can’t find at least one item to appeal to you, then you’re in the wrong place. Mike will probably tell you to go to Bob Evans.

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Oh, and a massive regular menu isn’t enough. There’s a hand-written photocopied monthly menu, too, listing monthly specials, special events, advertisements, and goofy quotes.

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The menu (which is on the website) provides enough entertaining reading to keep you occupied through any wait. You can tell that Mike is a talker with a big sense of humor. Case in point: the accepted forms of payment. There’s also a Rules of Dining at Mike’s Place, plus lots of colorful commentary spread throughout the menu.

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Somehow we managed to choose something from the menu. We started brunch with a smooth and spicy Bloody Mary.

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The kid’s menu is pretty sizable, too; a note on it jokes that they check IDs and will feed over-age kids to their pet dragon. Here’s a cheeseburger with curly fries.

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And a grilled cheese with curly fries. Why do curly fries always taste better than regular fries?

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We had a recommendation for the omelets, so we tried the Pat O’Brian Omelette. It’s a giant beast of an omelet, loaded with gyro meat, hash browns, and sauteed onions and peppers. It’s enough for three people.

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We also tried the Buckaroo Bonzai Bomber, a stir-fry or hash of eggs and meat on a bed of broccoli, onions, peppers, mushrooms, and potatoes. The eggs were a little over-done, but we really liked the stir-fried veggies. More places need to serve this, or we need to make it more at home.

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And finally we had the Reuben-Reuben, a tall stack of the usual suspects in a reuben sandwich. Very nicely done. Served with curly fries.

It’s clear that you go to Mike’s Place for the experience. The food is certainly good, but it’s not truly the focus. You really go there for the eclectic seating or the crazy decorations or rambling menu. Honestly, Mike’s is an example of what TGI Fridays is trying to be, with the colorful kitsch scattered around the walls.

I can see why it’s a classic stop for Kent State students and alumni, and for travelers in northeast Ohio. Given that there’s so much more to see and try, we’ll be making it a regular stop in the area.

Mike's Place on Urbanspoon

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