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Tag Archives: brunch

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

Market: Brunch Bites at the Grand Rapids Downtown Market

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It’s been fun to watch my hometown of Grand Rapids grow throughout the years. Every visit home to see family, we find there are more interesting shops, districts, restaurants, breweries, and attractions cropping up. Grand Rapids has been particularly successful in revitalizing its downtown. The already strong Art Museum, Public Museum, Van Andel Arena, DeVos Hall, and surrounding streets have been bolstered by Art Prize, the Silver Line bus route, and over the past year the Downtown Market. We visited the outdoor farmer’s market last year, but at the time the indoor market hadn’t yet opened. It’s been open for some time now, and Mrs. Bfast w/Nick and I visited on a Sunday after learning about their Brunch Bites event.

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The Downtown Market has a large amount of planning going for it. I remember reading that they visited other urban markets, including Columbus’ North Market, to interview vendors, examine layouts, and get a sense of the challenges facing them. The strength of any of these markets – from North Market to Cleveland’s West Side Market to Cincinnati’s Findlay Market – is the ability to collaborate. So I think it’s vital they do events like this, that keep customers exploring the whole market and uniting vendors under a common theme.

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The Brunch Bites – which seems to run nearly every Sunday – is a perfect example of this unifying event. A temporary bar stands in one corner, where customers can order a customized Bloody Mary. Then they’re welcome to stroll the market to purchase the regular offerings or the specialized menu items created for the day.

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One of the more eye-catching stops is Field & Fire Bakery, with their beautiful trays of croissants, brioche, and breads.

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We sampled a croissant while we strolled, and it was lovely. The owner of Field & Fire came to the market after baking for years at the famous Zingerman’s Deli in Ann Arbor. (Yes, Buckeye fans, good things can come out of Ann Arbor.)

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We also swung by the Sweetie-licious bakery, where they were making crepes.

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At Sweetie-licious we nabbed a baklava crepe. Why have we never thought of this before?! It’s a crepe loaded with walnuts, pistachios, and honey. It was sweet, steaming hot, and delicious. The only downside: the warmth lets the honey sink to the bottom of the crepe. Bonus: the final bite is soaked in warm honey.

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The other market vendors include the usual favorites, like the Fish Lads (with their beautiful logo). There’s also a florist, olive oil shop, grocer, spice shop, juice bar, cheesemonger, coffee corner, and many prepared foods. You can see the current list here.

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The market still has lots of space to grow, but it’s getting there. And you can’t beat the modern construction with lots of natural light, and a solid integration into the neighborhood landscape. There building has an upstairs, too, that’s open to the lower floor. On the upper level are community and classroom spaces.

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There’s also an active greenhouse (with beautiful views of the city) that’s used for classes and events.

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BONUS! If you’re stopping by the market, you can also scout out Madcap Coffee downtown.

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Madcap is a solid “third wave” coffee roaster and shop. The Mrs and I enjoyed a cappuccino and a cafe miel (pictured above and below).

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Similar to a honey latte, the cafe miel features espresso and foamed milk with cinnamon and honey. It’s very rich and tasty. (“Miel” is French for honey.)

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

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