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Reviews of different breakfast places.

Actual Roastery | Columbus, OH

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Actual Roastery (Facebook)
400 W. Rich St. (map it!)
Columbus, OH 43215
(614) 407-5282
Open Mon-Fri, 7a-4p (special Saturday hours on 400 Market days)
Accepts cash & debit/credit
Vegetarian/vegan/gluten free? Y/N/Y

Visited: Most recently, Tuesday, October 14, 2014 at 10:15 a.m.

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There’s lots of good stuff happening in Franklinton, between the continued growth of 400 West Rich, the opening of Strongwater Food & Spirits, Rehab Tavern, Idea Foundry, and Land-Grant Brewing (coming this weekend!).

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The space has transformed over the months as Dinin’ Hall finished its run and Actual Roastery has fully taken over. With the big windows and the garage doors open during warmer weather, the space is bright and quiet. There’s wifi, too, so studiers looking for caffeine and a snack should take note.

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The big community table still remains, and now there are smaller cafe tables and a comfy couch, too.

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Many are familiar with Actual Brewing Company and their top-notch beers (and if you’re not – get right on it!). Their operations are based in an industrial park on James Road near the airport. That’s where they brew, maintain their yeast lab, and roast coffee. Jen Ryan and Jason Montgomery from the coffee-roasting side of things have appeared at markets around town, but the cafe – which opened this summer and is headed up by Jen – offers a nice retail front to things.

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The cafe offers both hot and cold coffee. Hot options include pour-overs, French press, or good old-fashioned brewed. There are also snacks from local vendors like Buttergirl Bakery. Coffee is available to-go or in mis-matched mugs to stay.

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Naturally, the cafe serves Actual roasts. You get a choice of beans for your brew.

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Snacks range from cookies to handmade pop tarts to oatmeal energy “bawls.”

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I’ve enjoyed my stops at the Roastery. It’s a fun and comfortable place (although it deserves to be busier), just over the river from downtown and nestled in a quiet section of east Franklinton.

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The coffees are solid, and the snacks are excellent. I’m particularly fond of Buttergirl’s pop-tarts, with a special place for their apple vanilla and the pumpkin. I appreciate the bright and colorful location – with nice pops of color on the walls and from fresh flowers.

There’s plenty of space at Actual Roastery, so it’s good for meetings, studying, writing, or just relaxing with a book. I recommend anyone traveling through the area – or looking for a new spot to work – stop in for a cup of coffee and a snack. It’d be great if the coffee shop became a Franklinton institution.

Read more: here’s my Q&A with Jen for Columbus Crave.

Holtman’s Donuts (Over-the-Rhine) | Cincinnati, OH

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Holtman’s Donuts (Facebook / @HoltmansDonuts / instagram: holtmansdonuts)
1332C-2 Vine St. (map it!)
Cincinnati, OH 45202
(513) 381-0903
Open Sun & Mon, 7a-2p; Tues-Sat, 7a-9p
Accepts cash & credit/debit
Vegetarian/vegan/gluten free? Y/N/N
Kid-friendly? Y

Visited: Saturday, September 27, 2014 at 10:30 a.m.

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Following an excellent brunch down the street at Taste of Belgium, my brothers and I wandered Cincinnati’s Over-the-Rhine before going on one of the Queen City Underground tours. Of course, after a busy brunch, you need a donut, right? That was our thinking as we wandered into Holtman’s Donuts.

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Even though I knew nothing about Holtman’s previously, I could easily spy the old school nature of the shop. Which meant we were in the right place.

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As you’re waiting in line, you can watch through the big windows as the donuts are being made.

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The shop had trays of nearly every type of donut imaginable.

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They were honestly so busy I barely got a chance to look through everything.

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But it’s hard to go wrong when you have a selection like this.

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The giant apple fritters stood out.

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But of course I zeroed in on the bacon and maple glazed donuts.

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They also featured donut holes, longjohns… well, everything.

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But let’s get back to that maple bacon donut, shall we? This little yeast-raised beauty was soft, warm, and generously sprinkled with bacon.

Our stop at Holtman’s wasn’t long, but it was long enough to enjoy a donut and watch the line of people stroll through. The sign on Holtman’s says it’s been around since 1960, and while I’m guessing the Over-the-Rhine shop isn’t the original location, it’s obviously got a following and a much-loved place in the neighborhood.

Holtman's Donut Shop on Urbanspoon

Taste of Belgium (Over-the-Rhine) | Cincinnati, OH

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Taste of Belgium (Facebook / @TasteofBelgium / instagram: tasteofbelgium)
1133 Vine St. (map it!)
Cincinnati, OH 45202
(513) 381-4607
Open Mon, 7a-3p; Tues-Thurs, 7a-3p, 5-10p; Sat, 7a-11p; Sun, 9a-3p
Accepts cash & credit/debit
Vegetarian/vegan/gluten free? Y/N/N
Kid-friendly? Y

Visited: Saturday, September 27, 2014 at 9:30 a.m.

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We’ve known and loved Taste of Belgium’s stall at North Market for years. I mean, it was our first taste of real Belgian waffles, and it’s a regular snack whenever we’re strolling the market. In following the Columbus location, we’ve eagerly followed their development in Cincinnati, too. The company began as small market stalls at North Market and Findlay Market, but has since expanded to two brick-and-mortar locations in Cincinnati. (There was briefly a second Columbus location in the Wexner Center, although that has since been replaced by Heirloom Cafe.)

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The mainstay of Taste of Belgium’s growth is their location in the Over-the-Rhine neighborhood. The restaurant seems to serve as an anchor for the neighborhood in its re-development, a prime example of the new businesses moving in while retaining the look and feel of the historic district. The bistro is a bright corner space that makes the most of its building. There are all the right elements: tin ceiling, old tile floors, exposed brick walls. The space is separated into two halves: one half is most of the seating and the bar, the second half includes more tables and a counter, as well as most of the production kitchen, although during the weekend it’s a large private table you can reserve.

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Taste of Belgium rebranded and revamped their menu recently. We’ve benefited from the additions at the North Market location, but the bistro menu covers more ground with sandwiches, sweet and savory crepes, and waffles, plus brunch classics and a featured Brunch Like A Belgian section.

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They’re a full service coffee shop, too. Brunch at Taste of Belgium was the beginning of a busy day exploring the city, so I ordered a shot of espresso to start.

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One of the features on the new menu is the chicken and waffle. It pairs their signature Liege-style waffles (denser dough, beet sugar caramelized throughout it) with a generously breaded and spiced chicken breast, plus a side salad. The dish has become one of their standouts. You really can’t beat one of their sweet, dense waffles paired with crispy and spicy chicken.

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We were in Cincinnati, so we had to have goetta, right? Right! I’ve had goetta before, but it’s never really had a chance to shine for me, so I immediately zeroed in on the goetta hash. Our very helpful server suggested adding an additional egg and some of their house bechamel, and I think he was spot-on. This is up there with one of my favorite dishes of 2014. Crispy Belgian frites, well-seasoned goetta, sauteed veggies, over medium eggs, and a ladle of the sauce. Each bite was rich and savory. My kind of breakfast.

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The brunch burger was also a winner. They halve a waffle length-wise, then fill it with a cooked-to-order patty, fried egg, havarti, and bacon. Comes with a generous side of frites, maple syrup, and a spicy mayo.

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Taste of Belgium is defined by their waffles. If you’ve never had them, you need to seek them out. Most restaurants call their waffles Belgian, but what we’re actually served is a lighter and crispier American style.

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Real Liege-style waffles are meal unto themselves. They’re hand-held, sweet and a little sticky, and it’s easy to eat a few in one sitting. They don’t refer to them as batter, but as dough. Notice how dense it is: the dough is a solid block rather than a soupy batter ladled into the irons.

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It’s not surprising to see someone busy at FOUR waffle irons in the restaurant. They’re just trying to keep up with the demand. I remember reading, too, that these are specialty waffle irons that the owner Jean-Francois Flechet brought it from Belgium.

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It’s not a bad idea to grab a bag or two of waffles on your way out the door, especially if you’re spending the day walking the neighborhood.

There’s a reason why Taste of Belgium pops up at the top of any Cincinnati brunch list. All the elements are there: great historic neighborhood, cool location (which will only be improved by when the streetcar launches), and a creative and easy to love menu. This makes me appreciate the North Market location even more, and look forward to returning to this one.

Taste of Belgium on Urbanspoon

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

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