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Tag Archives: brunch

Revisit: The Flying Melon Cafe

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During our recent Outer Banks trip (you can read part 1 and part 2 of the culinary highlights), we spent a day on Ocracoke Island. Mrs. Bfast w/Nick and I refer to it as one of our happy places. It’s a small village on the southern end of a long island that’s mostly National Seashore, which means a casual vibe, small town feel, and unspoiled beaches. Last year, we discovered the newly-relocated Flying Melon Cafe on the day of its re-opening, and on our return trip this year, we were eager to bring the rest of the family along to experience their brunch.

On arriving, I noticed the above framed note on the wall. Very cool!

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Overall, we had another superb brunch. They were able to accommodate our large group, and food came out quickly. The brunch menu highlights southern flavors and seafood. Here, for instance, we see a shrimp po-boy with hand-cut fries.

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Or my grillade and grits. Grillade is a New Orleans preparation of seasoned and seared (usually) beef, often ladled with a rich gravy on a bed of cheesy grits.

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New Orleans-style French toast, aka battered and fried French toast. More like a donut, and therefore awesome.

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Even Flying Melon’s take on a NYC specialty is well done, with house-smoked salmon and bagels.

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Or what about these dense sweet potato pancakes?

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Flying Melon gets high marks for their plating, too. Take a look at the shrimp mash, with potatoes, shrimp, sausage, poached eggs, and hollandaise.

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Even their basic breakfast of eggs, bacon, sausage, potatoes, and toast was well done!

photo 3And finally, the fried green tomato BLT. Just beautiful.

I guess this ranks as a “Sorry, just had to share!” post, but no apologies here. We’ve enjoyed our visits to Flying Melon (as well as nearby Dajio Restaurant). It’s a colorful and welcoming breakfast that utilizes the best ingredients they have around. If you’re traveling the Banks and visit Ocracoke (which you should!), make Flying Melon a brunch stop!

 

The Hungry Soul Cafe | Columbus, OH

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The Hungry Soul Cafe
(Facebook)

30 S. Young St. (map it!)
Columbus, OH 43215
(614) 224-1944
Open Mon-Fri, 11a-2p, 5-8p; brunch on Sun, 9a-2p (alcohol served after 11)
Accepts cash & credit/debit
Vegetarian/vegan/gluten free? Y/N/N
Kid-friendly? Y

Visited: Sunday, May 4, 2014, at 12:30p

You hear a lot of shops, restaurants, parks, bike paths, neighborhoods referred to as “hidden gems.” These places are special. They’re hidden and known only to you and few others. And it’s important to have hidden gems peppered around a big city like Columbus. It gives us our special places to visit or hide out. It makes it worth our time exploring the city and discovering corners we’ve never visited. If you’re a regular at a hidden gem, you sometimes don’t want them to be discovered by others. A once quiet spot might now be overrun by latecomers who are only now discovering what you’ve known all along.

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If you’re one of those latecomers, however, you get to enjoy the thrill of discovering a new place. That’s what brings me to The Hungry Soul Cafe. To be clear: I’m not the first to discover the restaurant. It’s been open for a couple years (as Hungry Soul – it’s been a restaurant for much, much longer) and many folks have written about it. But this was our first discovery, and the restaurant’s side street (but still very exposed) location and the low-ceilinged, wood-appointed interior feel exactly like a hidden gem should.

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Hungry Soul is situated on South Young Street downtown, just a couple blocks south of East Broad, on the street level of a parking garage – yes, a parking garage. There’s a green awning over the doorway and big, red lettering across the fully windowed wall to mark the restaurant. Nearby surface lots offer parking, but the streets are full of parking meters (which are free on Sundays!).

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The space runs the length of the building, with a main floor that’s carpeted and includes the bar and long rows of tables. An upper level is built entirely of wood – floors, tables, benches – and really speaks to the age of the space. We sat up in this area, and I couldn’t stop staring at the woodwork. Not that it was particularly ornate; it was just so unexpected in a cafe at the bottom of a parking garage.

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This little booth, for instance, just cracked me up.

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Lucky for you we brunched with a big group, so you get a sampling of the full menu. Our boys, for instance, split the Hungry Soul, a plate of eggs, meat, toast, hash browns, and a Belgian waffle. Extra points for nicely browned potatoes, homemade sausage, and a big, thick waffle.

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Special bonus if you like to spike your brunch with a drink: $5.00 Bloody Marys and mimosas. The Bloody Mary was a real winner: a generous amount of vodka, seasoned salt on the rim, appropriately spicy, garnished with olives.

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Hungry Soul’s brunch menu mixes American breakfast classics with a little Hungarian vibe and a touch of soul food. (Oh, I think I just got the restaurant’s name: Hungry Soul = Hungary + Soul.) One such combination is the Palacsinta or Hungarian crepes: thin, sweet crepes filled with different combinations. We ordered the Mama’s Apples featuring southern flavors like apples, apple butter, and sausage.

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Oatmeal lovers will find both plain and fancy versions on Hungry Soul’s brunch menu. The plain – called The Intern – is topped with butter and cinnamon and a side of syrup. The three fancy options like apples and raisins or bacon. We choose Fancy #2, with peaches cooked in bourbon butter sauce.

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It wasn’t all sweet for us. I can rarely turn down a good biscuits and gravy, and Hungry Soul’s did not disappoint. The house-made sage sausage gravy is incredibly chunky, the biscuits soft and chewy.

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The menu includes six omelets ranging from meat-heavy to veggie-friendly.

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They’re all served with sides of toast, hash browns, and colorful fruit.

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Lastly, the Comfort on a Plate exemplifies the cafe’s soul-feeding mantra. It’s just like the Hungry Soul dish minus the waffle, but it’s still a plateful of down-home cooking.

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Hungry Soul has all the right elements to be a regular brunch spot: a solidly earns the “hidden gem” distinction, but for the sake of owners Anita and Georger Keller and all discerning Columbus brunchers, I hope it doesn’t stay hidden for long.

The Hungry Soul Cafe on Urbanspoon

Mother’s Day brunch suggestions

Confession: a couple years ago I completely dropped the ball when I didn’t make any plans for Mother’s Day brunch… while my parents were visiting us IN COLUMBUS. That’s right: Breakfast With Nick forgot to make brunch reservations for his own mother. And his wife. For Mother’s Day. In his own city. Thankfully, a trip to Starliner Diner saved the day.

Don’t be like me. If brunch is part of your plans to celebrate Mom (and Grandma!), think ahead. At this point, being the week of Mother’s Day, many of the fancier places will be full up already, but lucky for you there are some creative (and less expensive) alternatives. Understand, though, that most places will be busy on Mother’s Day. Make reservations if they take them; if not, just be prepared to wait or to show up a little earlier.

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Ethyl & Tank
– E&T is a recent discovery close to campus that really impressed us. Parking is a little awkward, but the restaurant space is huge, as are the portions. We enjoyed the over-the-top Tank Pancakes with pulled pork and cheddar, and the juicy Breakfast Burger. And you can’t beat the $5 build-your-own Bloody Mary bar! Special bonus: they’re a full service coffee shop and have a small arcade upstairs.

Cravings Carryout Cafe – this Italian Village carryout has become a favorite of our family. The space is more ideally suited to carryout, but they have a couple picnic tables next to the campfire outside. We haven’t had a bad item on the menu, but our favorites are the breakfast roll, the BLT, and the cinnamon rolls made with their brioche bread. (Check out Karina and I visiting the cafe for 10TV!)

The Angry Baker – this corner cafe in Olde Towne East serves up beautiful baked goods alongside knife-and-fork burritos, sandwiches, and quiche. If Mom prefers vegan or gluten free, Angry Baker has you covered, too, with their oatmeal pancakes and biscuits & mushroom gravy.

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Mughal Darbar – our favorite Indian restaurant is set up in an old house just north of campus. They offer a Sunday buffet that’s a regular stop. Perfect if you’ve got a big group and the family is up for more adventurous eating.

The Hungry Soul Cafe – we just hit up Hungry Soul’s brunch for the first time this past weekend and walked away full and happy (full post coming next week!). The long, wood-accented space serves as a quiet and comfortable atmosphere for a Sunday brunch of classics like waffles, omelets, and biscuits & gravy, or more creative dishes like Hungarian crepes with apples, apple butter, and sausage, or oatmeal with peaches in bourbon butter sauce. Tack on a delicious $5 Bloody Mary, and you’re set!

de-NOVO bistro & bar – de-NOVO is probably the most traditional brunch spot of this list, but I think their breakfast and brunch deserves more attention. We enjoyed rich biscuits and gravy, Bloody Marys, and omelets on our visit, and you can’t beat their funky decorations.

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Sunflower Chinese Restaurant & Lounge – Sunflower is one of the only places in town serving dim sum, and fortunately for Columbus it’s a very good one. Get the full dim sum experience on weekends, when the dining room is full of carts being pushed from table to table. Select shareable dishes with dumplings, noodles, rice wrapped in lotus leaves, and so much more.

Olive Tree – out in Hilliard, Olive Tree serves a delightful Mediterranean breakfast on Sundays. Front and center on the menu is shakshouka, a rich Middle Eastern/North African meal featuring eggs poached in tomatoes, peppers, and spices. Other dishes include Mediterranean omelets, challah French toast, and frittatas.

Village Crepe – this downtown Pickerington spot serves up a varied menu of sweet and savory crepes. Sweet crepes are loaded with salty caramel or banana hazelnut, while savory ones are filled with cheeses or spinach and ricotta.

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Visit a food truck! Stop by one of Columbus’ many food trucks for a tasty meal. Find Mya’s Fried Chicken or Ray Ray’s Hog Pit in Clintonville, or enjoy a pint of Seventh Son‘s beer while getting brunch from Challah Food Truck parked out front.

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Don’t want to go out? Impress Mom with your mad brunch-making skills. Pre-order some Sammy’s Bagels (order by 3pm on Friday!), look over my post on 11 Ways To Cook An Egg, and practice some poaching.

Ethyl & Tank | Columbus, OH

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Ethyl & Tank (Facebook / @EthylTank)
19 E. 13th Ave. (map it!)
Columbus, OH 43201
Open 7a-2a (full brunch served weekends; smaller bfast menu 7-11a weekdays)
Accepts cash & credit/debit
Vegetarian/vegan/gluten free? Y/Y/Y
Kid-friendly? Y

Visited: Saturday, April 26, 2014 at 10:30 am

Have you heard about this newer place called Ethyl & Tank? It’s a coffee shop close to Ohio State’s campus. Oh, it’s also a bar with a solid 40 taps of beer. And they’re a restaurant serving burgers, tacos, and brisket. Plus, they’ve got an arcade.

Yes, Ethyl & Tank is a little bit of everything, established to serve the student population surrounding them, but accessible to everyone.

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About a block east of High Street – easily walkable but reachable by car only via side streets – is Ethyl & Tank’s long brown brick building, marked by a perpendicular neon sign. Enter through the corner doors and you’ve run into the coffee shop aspect, labeled “Ethyl” in neon. Ethyl sports a full coffee shop menu – cappucinos, machiatos, pour overs – and more.

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Keep moving and you’ll run into “Tank,” or the bar/restaurant. The large open space is very nicely appointed: leather bar stools, exposed ceilings, brick walls, wood floor. Combined with big windows and a patio out front, the space is bright and welcoming.

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Over the poured concrete bar are rows of TVs, so if you’re also looking for a sports bar: check.

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The second level – with more seating, tables, and a small arcade – opens onto the main space.

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The brunch menu covers a couple pages, and it’s focused on big dishes that pack a punch. Fried Egg Chicken Fried Steak? Biscuits and Chorizo Gravy? Creme Brulee Crepes? They’re not messing around. Notice the availability of some vegetarian, vegan, and gluten free items, too.

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We started brunch with a sample of a blend mocha from the coffee shop. It was nicely whipped without being overly sweet. When I first reached to pick it up, I was surprised at its lightness; I expected the thick, heavy sludge of a corporate coffee shop frozen-uccuino.

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And here’s something else to entice you: the $5.00 Bloody Mary bar. This may be some people’s favorite phrase in the English language. You can’t do a good brunch without a good Bloody Mary, so Ethyl & Tank give you a glass of vodka then turns you lose on the accoutrement.

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Everyone likes their Bloody Mary the way they like it. Some like it spicy, some like it mild. Some love garnishes, some love it salty, some like everything pickled involved. Ethyl & Tank gets your started with base mixes ranging from mild to mega spicy.

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Down the line, jars are laden with olives, pickles, peppers, fresh horseradish, chilies, jalapenos.

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At the end are bottles of hot sauce, steak sauce, and jars of salts and powders.

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The challenge with build-your-own Bloody Mary’s is that sometimes you don’t know where to start. In this case a list of suggested additions might be helpful, but with E&T’s pre-made mixes, you’re off to a good start. Here’s the end result of our Bloody Mary.

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By the time we assembled our Bloody Mary and sipped our coffee, brunch arrived. And arrive it did. We split three dishes between our family of four and still had leftovers.

First, which I pretty much had to order, was the chicken and waffles sandwich. It’s a crispy breaded chicken breast served between two waffles (were they Eggo? If so, it didn’t matter) with bacon, a thin coating of melted cheddar, and syrup. It came with a side of thin-cut fries – just how we like them. All in all, it’s a solid dish. The chicken was cooked through and through, but the seasoning was spot on and the syrup and soft waffles made up the difference. I know some people still don’t get the whole chicken and waffles thing, but trust me: you need to try the dish. It’s a little sweet, a little salty, a little spicy. This is what “they” mean when they talk about a balanced breakfast.

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And if chicken and waffles weren’t big enough, we went even bigger with the Tank Pancakes. Just. Look. At. This. Dish.

Tank Pancakes are three big but not ridiculously fluffy pancakes stacked and covered with pulled pork, cheddar, and a Jameson maple syrup. Yes, this dish might seem too over-the-top, but seriously: we loved it. Again, the sweet and spicy balanced each other out. There’s not too much cheese (which could have done the dish in), the pork is tender, and the pancakes are already soaked just right in the syrup. This leaves them soft without being mushy. You’re given a bottle of syrup, but you don’t need it. Another benefit to this dish: it’s perfect for sharing.

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We rounded out brunch with the Breakfast Burger and another side of fries.

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I’ve been craving burgers lately – it must be the turn toward spring – and this hit the spot. It’s built simply with a ground beef patty, lettuce, onion, tomato, cheddar, mayo. The real selling point is a fried egg (to qualify it as breakfast) but also a thin layer of chorizo between the beef and the egg. This little kick of spice adds a certain something that really makes it stand out.

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Of course, before leaving we had to visit the arcade. The games are all set to free play and with plenty of classics to re-visit (Pac Man, Rampage, TMNT, Terminator 2, Street Fighter). It was clear that some customers visit just to grab coffee and play games.

I’m sure you can guess already, but we were impressed with Ethyl & Tank. It was really unexpected, from the well-appointed space, to the breadth of the offerings, to the brunch menu. We were also impressed with the prices, which clearly must be kept in an affordable range for the nearby college students.

Ethyl & Tank is owned by same the folks who own The Crest in Clintonville. Our experience there for brunch was so-so, but The Crest is still going strong, and Ethyl & Tank seems to capitalize on similar strengths. And while The Crest maybe suffered from a little over-hype when they opened a year ago (not necessarily their fault), the opposite seems to be true for Ethyl & Tank. It’s sailed under the radar (at least for us) and so offers a surprising experience. We’ve already added it to the list of places to visit again and bring some out-of-town visitors along.

Ethyl & Tank on Urbanspoon

Photos: Brunch at The Torpedo Room

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One of the latest Columbus Food League arrivals, The Torpedo Room, launched a limited brunch menu this past Sunday in conjunction with a monthly event of brunch + a classic movie at the Gateway Film Center. I took my five-year-old to go check out the brunch (although I don’t think he’s quite ready for Goldfinger). The Torpedo Room is located on the main floor of the GFC; you’ll see the signs just to the left of the concession stand.

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As you might expect, the single-room restaurant uses a heavy nautical theme, with round portholes, heavy draped curtains, and a 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea feel.

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There’s a good amount of seating, and the restaurant includes a full bar. It’s a cozy and quiet spot.

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The current brunch menu (it may change) features seven items, lots of sides, plus drinks (including the bar). There’s a heavy southwestern theme, with burritos, enchiladas, and huevos rancheros taking the lead. Like every CFL restaurant, you can rely on solid vegetarian, vegan, and gluten free options.

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I took the opportunity to finally try a Rambling House ginger beer. Rambling House produces their own natural sodas out of a small space in southern Clintonville (where they host a LOT of live music), and their sodas are showing up on tap around town. The ginger beer is bright, fizzy, and a delightful balance between sweet and a nice gingery pucker. The last few gulps were especially strong with the ginger. You could make some great cocktails out of this.

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I chose the egg and cheese enchiladas, because you don’t see many breakfast enchiladas out there. The two enchiladas are filled with eggs and cheese, and topped heavily with a spicy verde salsa; I added the optional chorizo, because… well, chorizo. They’re served with a small plate of hash browns.

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Will asked for the breakfast burrito, a good-sized one filled with eggs, cheese, beans, sausage, and salsa, plus a side of potatoes.

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It was as filling and tasty as you would expect from a breakfast burrito.

Overall, it’s a solid brunch that’s just getting started. Expect the menu to change and hopefully regular hours to be established.

If you want to visit:
The Torpedo Room
1550 N. High St. (inside the Gateway Film Center)
Columbus, OH 43201
(614) 247-4433

Currently brunch is just served with this event. Upcoming movie brunches (cost is $15 for both your meal and the movie ticket) include:
April 6th: Breathless
May 4th: Annie Hall

UPDATED: Regular brunch hours are Sat & Sun, 11a-2p; Cinema Classic brunches start at 12p, movie is at 2.

The Torpedo Room on Urbanspoon

Event: Brunch & A Classic at Gateway Film Center

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I know dinner and a movie is a thing, but what about brunch and a movie? Well, the Gateway Film Center is trying to rectify that. Starting this Sunday, March 2nd, the GFC is hosting a monthly brunch + movie series, starting with Goldfinger. The event will pair a classic movie with a special brunch at the new Torpedo Room, one of the latest openings from the Columbus Food League group of restaurants.

Brunch kicks off at noon; the movie starts at 2pm. $15 gets you brunch and the movie ticket (or $7.50 if you just want to see the movie). You can pair your meal with all sorts of Ohio beers and specialty cocktails. The event will be hosted by Johnny DiLoretto (director of ops at the theater) and John DeSando, known for their Cinema Classics program on WCBE. Expect to see participation from other local businesses like pur-suit as well. Once you’re impressed by Sean Connery’s gray three-piece suit in Goldfinger, talk to Nate DeMars about buying your own.

I always enjoy pairings like this. I love the theater, with its combination of first run movies, independent films, and classics. (We recently took our 5-year-old there for his first movie-in-the-theater ever, The Lego Movie.) Plus, their beer and cocktail list is solid. And I’m a big fan of Liz Lessner-led Columbus Food League restaurants. The match-up of Gateway + Torpedo Room is brilliant. I got a sneak peak at the brunch menu, and it’s looking pretty awesome. It’ll include things like bourbon-glazed French toast with toasted almonds and maple syrup, egg & cheese breakfast enchiladas, huevos rancheros, and bottomless silver dollar pancakes. True to CFL form, expect to see lots of vegetarian, vegan, and gluten free options, too!

If you can’t make it this month, you can catch Breathless on April 6th and Annie Hall on May 4th. Look for more offerings to join the list in coming months.

Sunflower Chinese Restaurant & Lounge | Dublin, OH

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Sunflower Chinese Restaurant & Lounge (Facebook)
7370 Sawmill Rd. (map it!)
Dublin, OH 43235
(614) 764-7888
Open Mon-Thurs, 11:30a-11p; Fri, 11:30a-12a; Sat, 11a-12a; Sun, 11a-11p
(smaller dim sum menu served daily; full dim sum served Sat & Sun, 11a-3p)
Accepts cash & credit/debit
Vegetarian/vegan/gluten free? Y/N/N

Visited: Saturday, February 1, 2014 at 11:00 a.m.

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Oh, it’s been too long since we’ve been to dim sum at Sunflower Chinese Restaurant & Lounge. Sadly, there aren’t many places for dim sum around Columbus now (the nearby Lee Garden closed a couple years ago). While there are a plethora of Chinese restaurants around town (some the Americanized, some very authentic), there aren’t many that serve authentic dim sum.

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Quick background, in case you’re not familiar with dim sum. Dim sum is essentially Chinese brunch. It’s a late morning/early afternoon meal that’s typically eaten as a group. The meal consists of tea and mostly small plates meant to be shared.

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In the true dim sum experience, the small plates are served tableside from carts. Different servers wheel their carts from table to table, allowing you to select plates that interest you. A typical dish is already divided into pieces for easy sharing.

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The carts come quickly at first, so your table will fill up in no time. I remember the first time we had true dim sum, at a place called Jing Fong in New York City. The carts came at us so fast that we barely had time to react. The experience is a little more subdued at Sunflower, and the servers are all very polite, so don’t feel bad if you decline a plate. And don’t hesitate to ask what’s what.

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We started with a lot of dumplings, some steamed and some fried.

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The dumplings are loaded with things like shrimp, pork, and veggies.

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They’re steamed in metal or wood containers that stack on the carts, and the servers deposit them with tongs.

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There are also plates with stir fries of rice noodles and veggies. Our boys loved these.

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This dumpling (I don’t know what it was called) had a delicate and flaky exterior.

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I also love these rice noodles, filled with shrimp and doused with a sweet soy sauce.

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These dumplings were similar, filled with shrimp.

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These fluffy steamed pork buns were a hit, too, with a big, pillowy breading surrounding sweet and rich pork.

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One dish includes chicken, rice, veggies, and a quail egg steamed in a lotus leaf.

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Here’s the interior of the lotus leaf, complete with quail egg.

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There’s a cart with drinks and desserts, too, so you can supplement your tea with cold bubble tea and finish off the meal by indulging your sweet tooth.

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At the beginning of your meal, you’re given a card listing the general categories of the dishes. As you select plates from the cart, the server will mark the appropriate line with a stamp or initials. Then at the end of your meal, you take the card up to the cashier and they add everything up.

The dim sum experience at Sunflower is delightful, especially if you go with a large group and enjoy the company while sampling dishes. We were pretty conservative with our choices (because this was a first experience for our boys), but there are more adventurous plates, too, like fried chicken feet.

Is Sunflower the best Chinese restaurant in the city? Probably not. Is it one of the only restaurants serving dim sum? Yes. And a very fine meal it is.

Sunflower Chinese Restaurant & Lounge on Urbanspoon

Surly Girl Saloon | Columbus, OH

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Surly Girl Saloon (Facebook / @SurlyGirlSaloon)
1126 N. High St. (map it!)
Columbus, OH 43201
(614) 294-4900
Open daily 11a-2a (brunch served Sat & Sun, 11a-4p)
Accepts cash & credit/debit
Vegetarian/vegan/gluten free? Y/Y/N
Kid-friendly? Y

Visited: Sunday, July 14, 2013 at 12:30pm

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In many ways it’s really easy to write about Surly Girl Saloon, because I’m generally pre-disposed to liking Columbus Food League restaurants. Maybe they’re not the most cutting edge eateries in Columbus, but I don’t think they’re trying to be. CFL spots “understand their DNA,” to borrow a phrase from Alton Brown; they’re built around a certain theme and they run with it unabashedly: hot dogs for Dirty Frank’s, tiki lounge for Grass Skirt, Ohio comfort food for Tip Top, you get the picture.

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Surly Girl’s DNA is that of a kick-ass cowgirl bar. The name says it all: the old-timey title of saloon, and the reference to the surly girl. True that form, menu items have different surly names, and women-led breweries are highlighted on the beer menu.

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Over-the-top decorations, including an assortment of gaudy chandeliers, hearken back to the saloon and the rowdy music hall.

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Saturday and Sunday brunch take the appropriate tone, with spicy comfort foods backed up by an array of beers and cocktails, like a sassy and slightly spicy Bloody Mary.

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Or a very cool and simple mimosa.

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For my tastes, CFL restaurants always have a solid beer selection. I can easily find 5-6 things I’ll like, which makes places like Surly Girl an easy choice if you want drinks and food, even as late as 2 a.m. (which is not generally the case for me, but it’s nice knowing the option is there). At this brunch, I snagged a Jackie O’s (out of Athens, OH) IPA. Admittedly, a big IPA like this one doesn’t always play well with others on the palate, but it hit the spot.

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Like the rest of Surly Girl’s menu, the brunch menu focuses on pretty simple and likeable comfort food, all with a southwest-y kick. Case in point: the West of the Pecos nachos, an easy-to-demolish pile of nacho chips, cheese, eggs, veggies, sour cream, and salsa. Many of the CFL restaurants use a white cheese sauce that’s completely addictive.

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The southwest shells & cheese comes off the regular menu. Like the nachos, its base ingredients are pretty simple but very, very easy to like.

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I opted for the black bean huevos surlitos, the house version of huevos rancheros. It’s an open tortilla filled with black beans, veggies, eggs, avocado, ranchero sauce, plus I added the pulled pork. Overall, I liked it – the tortilla does get a little too crispy when it’s toasted, and I think the pulled pork is necessary – it really makes the dish. It comes with a side of well-seasoned potatoes and orange slices.

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And then we topped it off with The High Noon, a version of Surly Girl’s BLT&A sandwich (a BLT + avocado) with an egg. It’s a really tasty breakfast sandwich, also coming with a side of potatoes.

Surly Girl – like all of the CFL restaurants, I think – is a solid bet for brunch. They always have a reliable line-up of drinks, the menu has a little variety while staying true to their identity as a southwestern cowgirl bar, and the food itself is easy eating, especially if you’re catching up after a late night. Also, not many places will serve brunch until 4 p.m.!

Surly Girl Saloon on Urbanspoon

The Crest Gastropub | Columbus, OH

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The Crest Gastropub (Facebook / @TheCbusCrest)
2855 Indianola Ave. (map it!)
Columbus, OH 43202
(614) 261-7128
Open daily 11a-1a (brunch served Sat & Sun)
Accepts cash & credit/debit
Vegetarian/vegan/gluten free? Y/Y/Y
Kid-friendly? Y (for brunch, at least)

Visited: Sunday, July 28, 2013 at 12:30 p.m.

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Ah, finally here we are: having brunch at The Crest. I’ve been sitting on this post for a while because the Crest is one of the more talked-about new restaurants in recent months. This is my first time here for any meal, although Mrs. Bfast w/Nick has visited for drinks and snacks, and many trusted friends have been here multiple times at different times of the day.

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So why did I wait so long to write this up? A few reasons:

1. There’s been a lot of discussion about the Crest, more so than any other restaurant that’s opened recently. Some of the debate revolves around the old versus the new Crest, which in my mind are completely different things. The old Crest was a neighborhood dive bar that lived for decades. I personally never went there; I just had no desire to. If I wanted the dive experience in Clintonville, I would go to O’Reilly’s instead (and still can). The new Crest is totally revamped: cleaned out, built up, replanted.

2. The Crest is in my neighborhood, and it’s been central to a small south Clintonville renaissance that’s included Savor Growl and the just-announced Coop Cafe. Maybe some of these newer places are slicker and lack the layers of nostalgia, but they’re bright and approachable. Personally, I love seeing these dingy spots renovated. It’s good for our neighborhood.

3. The Crest labels itself as a “gastropub,” and that word stirs up mixed reactions. Again, I’m fine with it (I’m easy-going). Yes, maybe the trend is just making its way to Columbus, having been first applied to gourmet pubs in London in the early 90’s. But if it helps communicate what your restaurant is about (beer + slightly upscale pub food), then go for it.

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This is a lot of qualification for a blog review. I guess that’s because I’m generally not a negative person, but a majority of our experience at The Crest’s brunch was subpar. Not completely awful, just leaving me with no desire to return for brunch.

First, what’s good about it: The Crest’s space is gorgeously re-done. Lots of wood accents, spherical lighting, copper plating. A rooftop garden is growing much of their produce. Even the smaller landscaping around the patio and along Indianola are being utilized to grow vegetables and herbs. The space is bright and beautiful, and as a bar they seem to succeed: interesting (if a little pricy) cocktail list, expansive selection of beer on draft and bottled.

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The Crest has what you would expect of a gastropub menu: dishes that start as basic pub food like burgers, fries, grilled cheese, then modify them with seasonal ingredients and creative preparations. See above: wild boar sausage, grilled cheese with aged cheddar, pomegranate molasses on lamb lollipops.

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While the food seems to be taking center stage, I’ve seen The Crest receive the most compliments – and this was true at brunch – for their drinks. A number of people have said it’s a better bar than restaurant, and from my experience, I’d say that’s true. Case in point here: a pint of Seventh Son’s strong ale at happy hour prices. Yes, please. Also available was the Crestilada, a modification of the Bloody Mary that included beer instead of vodka. The substitution worked around Clintonville’s archaic laws forbidding liquor sales before a certain time on Sunday.

So very good drinks, but they highlight some of the problems with service: no one seems to be talking to each other. The host who sat us told us about the Crestilada, but our server had never heard of it. Our server initially told us all draft beer was half off on Sundays until 8pm. Oh, wait, no it isn’t. Oh, wait, yes it is. Oh, sorry, no it isn’t but we’ll give you the happy price anyway. Our server took our order but others brought our food; which I know other restaurants do, but then our server was no where to be found to answer questions. It was like the service was so decentralized that no one knew 100% what was going on.

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Frustration with the service doesn’t put you in a good mood when your food arrives. We ordered a mix of things, starting with the parfait, a well-done and deconstructed version of the on-the-go breakfast. It’s made with a layer of yogurt covered in fruit fresh and granola with honey. It feels odd at first eating a horizontal parfait, but it does let you mix-and-match your bites.

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I continued with the sweet trend and ordered the orange blossom French toast, made with orange blossom water (I’m not sure how), ricotta, maple syrup, and a berry compote. The ricotta was barely to be found, and quite honestly the berry compote was so overwhelming you couldn’t taste anything else. Not the bread, not the syrup (which if it was there, I couldn’t see it), barely the toast. The compote was simply too tart and strong that the rest of the dish didn’t matter.

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The Mrs. went for the Crest burger and fries, one of the signature items on the menu. As far as burgers go, it’s nicely done although not mind-blowing. We were still negotiating the French toast and the odd service to really appreciate the burger. It’s served on a cutting board like many of their meals (I’m told), which generally I’m fine with. But aren’t wooden cutting boards difficult to clean between uses?

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The burger came with a cup of potatoes, done up with sauteed veggies.

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Honestly, it’s the little details that can make or break a meal. What kind of broke it for us were those little things. Like the server not knowing what’s going on, the French toast being completely unbalanced, or even details like the cap of the hot sauce bottle (labeled with masking tape) looking crusty and unwashed.

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That was our experience at brunch. Comparing what we paid for meals and drinks to what we actually received, I have little interest in returning. Maybe just for drinks or for lunch, but not for brunch. I think the Crest has so much going for it, and I think that the doomsayers are wrong. Despite issues with service or lackluster food, the spot has been consistently busy ever since it opened. It’s now an accepted thing to find Indianola lined with cars. I truly hope that things even out at The Crest, because I like having good food in my neighborhood, and I love seeing a new business thrive.

The Crest Gastropub on Urbanspoon

The Flying Fig | Cleveland, OH

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The Flying Fig
(Facebook / @FlyingFigOhio)
2523 Market Ave. (map it!)
Cleveland, OH 44113
(216) 241-4243
Open Tues-Sat, 11:30a-2:30p, 4p-1a; Sat & Sun, 11a-3p, 5-11p (brunch served Sat & Sun, 11a-3p)
Accepts cash & credit/debit
Vegetarian/vegan/gluten free? Y/Y/Y
Kid-friendly? Y

Visited: Sunday, August 18, 2013 at 11:00 a.m.

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I could never be accused of taking brunch lightly. On our final morning in Cleveland, brought there by Positively Cleveland for their #HappyinCLE bloggers tour, the group first brunched at the excellent BonBon Pastry & Cafe in Ohio City. As the weekend officially wound down, I met up with Mrs. Bfast w/Nick – who was in town for a convention – and we took in a very hobbit-like second brunch at Flying Fig, a block away from BonBon.

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Flying Fig benefits from a patio out front, which was particularly nice give the perfect weather that weekend. The Mrs. and I started our brunch with a simple Bloody Mary. Flying Fig’s wasn’t too spicy (which we prefer), but it was clean and well-balanced.

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The meal started with bread that came with preserves (apricot, we figured) and butter.

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We ordered some coffee, too, which arrived with cold cream and sugar – something I always like to see.

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My first brunch had been sweet, and now I wanted something savory, so I chose the breakfast sandwich. It features a crispy breaded thigh on a cheddar/chive biscuit with eggs, aioli, arugula, and apple butter. Overall, a spot-on breakfast sandwich, with a nice balance of the sweet and salty. The chicken was done just right, juicy and well-seasoned, although the side of potatoes was a little uneven and definitely needed salt.

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The Mrs. chose the corn and andouille sausage hotcakes, made with andouille from Czuchraj’s in the West Side Market across the street, and topped with a poached egg and a bourbon maple hollandaise.

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The components maybe didn’t work individually as well, but put together they formed an interesting dish: perfectly poached egg, flavorful hollandaise, hotcakes with a nice little bite from the andouille.

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Overall, it’s a colorful breakfast , something that’s rare in a beige-leaning meal. The hotcakes are served with the potatoes and a side of fruit.

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Attached to the main restaurant is the nicely done Market at the Fig, a small store selling a variety of cheeses, wine, beer, crackers, jam, plus small sandwiches and snacks. I picked up a bag of Rising Star Coffee.

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Flying Fig’s location is hard to beat, amongst brick buildings and patios, close to places like Great Lakes Brewing Company and the West Side Market. Their little patio and brunch menu offer a good spot to start a morning of shopping at the market or exploring the neighborhood.

Flying Fig on Urbanspoon

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