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Jerry’s Galaxy Cafe | Hilliard, OH

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Jerry’s Galaxy Cafe (Facebook)
4920 Scioto Darby Rd. (map it!)
Hilliard, OH 43026
(614) 319-4035
Open Tues-Thurs, 9a-9:30p; Fri & Sat, 9a-10p; Sun, 9a-4p
Accepts cash & debit/credit
Vegetarian/vegan/gluten free? Y/N/N
Kid-friendly? Y

Visited: Sunday, February 23, 2014 at 12:30p

Just like the Explorer’s Club, Jerry’s Galaxy Cafe is bit of Columbus restaurant history come to life. While that piece of history that pre-dates my time in Columbus, I can still be excited to see the addition of more good eats, especially on the west side of town. Jerry’s covers much of the same territory as Starliner Diner (Jerry started the diner years ago), and some of his same collaborators of old opened Explorer’s Club. So now Jerry’s going his own way by doing what he does best.

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The cafe opened in a fairly nondescript, beige-sided building. The only signage is the restaurant name scrawled in white chalk paint across one of the doors. We nearly drove by it on our first trip.

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But then the interior is surprisingly bright. Black and white checkered ceiling. Bright yellow walls. Colorful posters.

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One wall – all brick with a fireplace in the center – is lined with shelves full of knick-knacks like trains, porcelain cartoon characters, trucks, old cans. Our two boys were of course fascinated with these.

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The Bangin’ Breakfast menu isn’t huge, but it covers all the bases. The mainstays are Cuban/Mexican/southwestern-themed, while a list of omelets and buttermilk pancakes complete the line-up.

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We started with coffee, a basic diner brew served in smaller mugs. I usually like small mugs; they help the coffee cool more quickly.

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We mixed a little breakfast and lunch (someone should come up with a name for that). The appetizer was fried plantains – soft, starchy, and sweet – served with a creamy house salsa that was a little too heavy on the onion.

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Next was the always-loveable Cuban French toast, which means Cuban bread diced, battered, and fried. They’re like mini donuts dusted in powdered sugar.

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I knew before walking in that I’d be ordering the chiliquiles. They’re one of my favorite breakfast dishes – a savory and spicy mix of beans, vegetables, eggs, cheese, and tortillas – and they’re my benchmark for restaurants offering southwestern fare. Jerry’s version measured up pretty well, although I wanted more seasoning.

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Same with the chorizo burrito, a flour tortilla generously filled with eggs, cheese, beans, and chorizo. It’s a tasty burrito, as far as they go, but I wanted more spice!

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From the lunch menu we sampled the Galaxy steak sandwich at the suggestion of our server (who was a little forgetful but very sweet and friendly). Nicely done steak on a toasted bun, good seasoning, a sprinkling of herbs, still a little heavy on the onions.

Jerry and his crew may be working out some kinks still, but he’s sporting a creative menu, many types of dishes I love, and a cozy location that could easily become a hidden gem for Columbus breakfasters. I suggest making the trek to Hilliard to support his latest endeavor!

OTHER LINKS:
-> read more about my visit to Jerry’s on the Daily Crave blog

Jerry's Galaxy Cafe on Urbanspoon

Photos: Cravings Carryout Cafe relaunch

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One of our favorite discoveries from last year – Cookie Cravings Bakery – celebrated a re-brand and a revamp this past weekend. Newly christened Cravings Carryout Cafe, the cafe has new signage, branding, and a new menu. They dropped the “Cookie” from their name because they do so much more. The cookies are still there, but the focus is now on sandwiches, wraps, and  other sides, all highlighting the neighborhood carry out element.

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Owners Matt, Lindsey, and Joan Tewanger have made some small changes to the space. You’ll see new equipment, shelves, and menu boards.

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This includes a new retail shelve with T-shirts, granola, plus growlers and bags of Thunderkiss Coffee.

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The boards showcase the new menu, replete with rolls, burritos, sandwiches, and sides.

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There’s iced and hot coffee, plus juice and tea. I completely forgot to photograph the third board that highlights specials.

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We stopped in about half an hour after opening on Saturday, and already they were busy. Matt was working his magic in the back.

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Cravings added some more seating in the side yard, with has great promise for spring, summer, and autumn breakfasts, especially when there’s a welcoming fire in the fire pit.

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We knew we were going to visit over the weekend, but the promise of bronuts pretty much guaranteed we’d come searching. What’s a bronut? It’s a brioche donut. Cravings makes killer brioche, and they’ve mixed the dough with lemon and rosemary, fried it, and iced it. The donuts were perfectly soft, fluffy, and warm. Ours disappeared in a matter of seconds.

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And then it was on to the sandwiches. Oh, the sandwiches. They were beautiful and delicious, stacked high on golden brioche rolls.

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We started first with the Breakfast Roll, featuring cheddar, bacon, a fried egg, and a rosemary aioli. We barely managed to sneak some bites while our boys devoured it. Our five-year-old (who is not picky, but knows his stuff) said it was one of his favorite sandwiches.

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We also snagged a plate of the sausage biscuits and gravy, made using Bluescreek Farms sausage. It was thick and chunky, served with a soft biscuit, and just what you would ask for in biscuits and gravy.

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Our favorite of meal was the BLT. Like the breakfast roll, it was served on a beautiful brioche roll.

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The sandwich was stacked high with thick-cut bacon, greens, a basil mayo, and these stunning tomatoes. We did not expect to find tomatoes like this in March. Usually  you get those sad, tasteless, translucent ones in the winter, but these were dark and red. Matt roasted them to perfection.

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With the firepit going in the side yard, they set out a cute little smores kit.

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So after brunch we enjoyed some smores roasted over the fire.

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All in all, it’s an exciting new stage for the restaurant! Congrats to Matt, Lindsey, Joan, and the crew!

If you want to visit & connect:
Cravings Carryout Cafe
227 E. Third Ave. (off Fourth St. in Italian Village)
Columbus, OH 43201
(614) 725-0090
Find them on Facebook and @CravingsCafe614
New hours are Tues-Fri, 11a-7p; Sat & Sun, 9a-3p

South of Lane | Upper Arlington, OH

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South of Lane (Facebook / @SouthofLane)
1987 Guilford Rd. (map it!)
Upper Arlington, OH 43221
(614) 586-2233
Open Mon-Sat, 6:30a-2:30p
Accepts cash & credit/debit
Vegetarian/vegan/gluten free? Y/N/Y
Kid-friendly? Y

Visited: Thursday, December 12, 2013 at 9:15 am

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This year we’ve seen some notable new breakfast places open up, ranging from over-the-top to fancy to simple and casual. One of the newer additions opening in May is this little spot in Upper Arlington: South of Lane. There are many things about this place that scream “Upper Arlington:” the location (obviously), the clientele, the cozy cafe atmosphere. But there are some delightful little surprises, too, a sneaky little irreverent charm evidenced by the full embracing of the initials “SoL.” (Ask around if you don’t know what that stands for.)

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South of Lane also fills a void in the Columbus breakfast map. The greater Upper Arlington area lacks some solid local breakfasts, aside from Chef-O-Nette, La Chatelaine, and nearby spots like Cambridge Tea House (which is technically Marble Cliff), or a First Watch or Bob Evans.

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SoL is not just a breakfast and lunch cafe. It’s a full-blown vintage store, too. You can expect shelves full of jams, plates, hats, jewelry, pillows, you name it.

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Amongst the crowded kitsch, you’ll find some fun little elements, too.

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I liked the branded mugs. That shows commitment, when a breakfast spot will get its own mugs made.

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In fact, it takes a little discernment to figure out where the vintage items for sale end and where the counter or the self-serve coffee ends.

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Continuing back into the space, the wooden top tables and loaded shelves transition seamlessly into the ordering counter and the open kitchen.

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The breakfast menu is simple and all good. Major categories include omelets, waffles, eggs, “grains and goodness” (which means yogurt, oatmeal, and granola), and sides. Coffee comes from Thunderkiss. We chatted with the owner Catherine as she strolled around greeting customers, and in conversation I got the sense that Jason’s no-nonsense attitude matched hers.

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We picked one of the features, the SOL omelet with a side of rye, with peppers, onions, and pepper jack cheese. I have a love/hate relationship with omelets, but this one turned out to be one of the better examples I’ve had in recent memory. The ingredients are layered properly, the omelet is folded tightly, the eggs aren’t overdone, and there’s a little spice to it.

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The PB3 waffle is a good example of the smirky attitude underlying the curio shelves and quiet atmosphere. You might not expect to see waffles loaded with bacon, peanut butter, Nutella, and bananas in a little cafe like this, but here it is. The PB3 tastes exactly as you would expect: crispy waffle, lots of soft and warm PB and Nutella, and a definite crunch from the well-cooked bacon. I mean, eying a list of ingredients like that, it’s hard not to be pleased by it. (You’ll also note the artful presentation throughout.)

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It’s also served with a little glass mug of maple syrup that reeks of “awwwww” adorableness.

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The side of hash browns stands up to any I’ve had. Ohio may generally be home fries territory, but I’ll always prefer the crispy texture of properly done hash browns.

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We had our two-year-old in tow that morning (the restaurant is kid-friendly, but maybe bring your own booster seat), and he enjoyed the two eggs, which are appropriately soft scrambled (which earns points from me) and come with a side of toast.

We’ve heard good things about South of Lane, and we found them to be all true. I think SoL is a good indication of Columbus’ growing breakfast/brunch scene, which doesn’t just mean more restaurants, but more restaurants with real personality serving their neighborhoods and offering solid breakfasts in creative combinations.

South of Lane on Urbanspoon

Tuula’s European Cafe | Dublin, OH

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Tuula’s European Cafe
(Facebook / @TuulasEuroCafe)

3856 Hard Road (map it!)
Dublin, OH 43016
(614) 923-3083
Open Mon-Sat, 9a-6p; Sun, 10a-4p
Accepts cash & credit/debit
Vegetarian/vegan/gluten free? Y/Y/N
Kid-friendly? Y

Visited: Saturday, October 5, 2013 at 10:00 a.m.

There are a lot of restaurants out that that go by someone’s name. Sometimes the name points to their history, like Jack’s Sandwich Shop or Dan’s Drive-In named after the original owners. Sometimes the names don’t have much meaning, but they still linger, like Michael’s Goody Boy or Fitzy’s Diner. And sometimes it’s named for the person standing behind the counter, the person who made and serves you your food, like Colin’s Coffee, or Tuula’s European Cafe.

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Tuula’s space is a single room cafe with a strip mall storefront. It’s a little difficult to find, with its front toward Hard Road, a little west of Sawmill Road. It’s a high-traffic area, but there’s no clear driveway from the road into the parking lot of Tuula’s. We drove past it, then took our first right and had to cut through the back parking lot of a larger shopping center. Still, we found it!

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Our stop at the cafe took place on our way to a pumpkin patch for some autumnal goodness. The skies were threatening at first, so Tuula’s was a cozy respite while we waited out the rain. Tuula’s is meant to be just such a place: a casual and quiet spot for a small lunch or a quick snack plus coffee, or to relax, read, or get some work done.

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The cafe counter gives you the opportunity to drool over all of the fresh-baked goodies. There are cookies, cakes, and pies, or you can go savory with a quiche or a frittata.

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And behold: standing behind the counter is Tuula herself! She’s very sweet and welcoming. These are the types of places you want to go, where you can meet the owner. It changes the experience entirely.

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Tuula certainly knows how to present her handiwork. Towers and plates of the baked goods practically sell themselves.

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We were in a sweet snack mood, so we chose a pulla, with is made out of a yeast dough with various spices and fruits.

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The pulla is fluffy and very lightly sweet, with fruit mixed in plus a little glaze and some powdered sugar. It’s big, a little chewy, and good for sharing – it cuts easily with a fork.

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Same for the cinnamon roll, which is about as big and seems to be made of the same yeast dough. It’s nothing like the over-saturated garden variety cinnamon rolls. Just a little sweet and easy to pull apart.

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Top these pastries off with a wicked latte – especially on a cool fall morning – and you know you’re in the right place. Whether you find yourself regularly in the Sawmill Road area or not, I think Tuula’s is worth stopping in, especially if you need a quick snack, a cup of coffee, or quiet place just to hang. Knowing that the restaurant’s namesake will most likely be there only makes it better, and even more worth the visit!

Tuula's European Cafe on Urbanspoon

Sunrise Cafe | Yellow Springs, OH

Sunrise Cafe (Facebook)
359 Xenia Ave. (map it!)
Yellow Springs, OH 45387
(937) 767-7211
Open Mon, Wed-Fri, 7:30a-2p; Sat & Sun, 8a-2p (open 5-9 for dinner most days)
Accepts cash & credit/debit
Vegetarian/vegan/gluten free? Y/Y/Y
Kid-friendly? Y

Date of Visit: Monday, August 13, 2012 at 11:00 a.m.

IMPRESSIONS: Readers have long been encouraging me to visit the Sunrise Cafe in Yellow Springs. The small Ohio town, less than an hour from Columbus, makes for a fantastic day trip, what with the shops, trails, parks, restaurants, and the always-enjoyable Young’s Jersey Dairy. And you can’t have a good day trip without a good breakfast. Fortunately, my readers haven’t steered me wrong.

ATMOSPHERE: You can find Sunrise on Xenia Avenue, the main drag leading through the center of town. It’s a fairly tight space, from the entryway full of 90-degree turns, to the smattering a tables in the front of the restaurant, and the thin corridor down the back.

The booths themselves are snug but not uncomfortable. For our family – two adults and two kids – we fit pretty tight together. But the high backs of the wooden booths create a nice little sense of privacy.

FOOD: Readers have given Sunrise’s coffee rave reviews, and I have to agree. It’s a special organic roast (fitting with the general mission of the restaurant), although I was a little surprised that it wasn’t from a local roaster. Still, it’s delicious, comes automatically with cold cream, and is served in tiny mugs. There’s something I really like about small coffee mugs. They cool  off faster, and if you’re a cream-and-sugar type like me, it’s easier to maintain that balance with refills. I know, I know, I’m completely over-thinking this…

I was in a bit-of-everything mood, so I ordered the Morning Fill-Up, a platter of eggs, meat, potatoes, toast, and two pancakes. All of it was very, very good: eggs and toast were spot-on, potatoes have peppers and onions mixed in. A reader suggested asking for the bison patties, which I did. They were dense and lean, but flavorful.

Mrs. Breakfast With Nick tried a couple half-orders. First were the huevos rancheros, a colorful and well-mixed rendition of the Mexican classic. Many versions of this don’t properly blend the ingredients, meaning the salsa is overpowering or the tortilla is dry. But this comes together nicely. And the egg was cooked just right.

These are the pancakes with my order. Sunrise’s cakes are thin and crispy. Most places go for thick and fluffy, but there was something I really liked about these. You get the pancake experience without stuffing yourself on carbs. The mugs of melted butter and real maple syrup help, too.

The Mrs. also tried a half order of the Sunrise Gravy and Biscuits. Like the huevos, they were very flavorful and came together nicely. The buttermilk wheat biscuit was dense, and different than we expected, but I liked it with the white, chunky gravy.

Our son ordered silver dollar pancakes from the kid’s menu. They’re just like the regular pancakes, but smaller, and again less filling.

A view of our table. Obviously, the baby bottle isn’t on the menu.

SERVICE: Our server was helpful, but he did seem a little rushed the whole time. The restaurant was full, with a line out front, and we could only see two servers total. They’re clearly a little pressed to keep up with everyone.

OVERALL: Sunrise exemplifies the overall feel of Yellow Springs: a little hippy, a little touristy, and dedicated to small town life. Using plenty of local and organic ingredients, the restaurant forges a delicious breakfast with a very good variety. Vegan and vegetarian breakfasters: Sunrise has you in mind, too, from sandwiches to omelets to sides. Gluten free breads are also available on request. All in all, this is an excellent spot to start a day of exploring Yellow Springs.

OTHER LINKS:

-> Yellow Springs’ Chamber of Commerce site: www.yellowspringsohio.org

Sunrise Cafe on Urbanspoon

Phoenix Street Cafe | South Haven, MI

Phoenix Street Cafe 
523 Phoenix Rd. (map it!)
South Haven, MI 49090
(269) 637-3600
Open 7 days a week, 7a-9p
Accepts cash & credit/debit
Vegetarian/vegan/gluten free? Y/N/N
Kid-friendly? Y

Date of Visit: Saturday, May 19, 2012 at 9:15 a.m.

IMPRESSIONS: I always say that my favorite way to get to know a city is by experiencing its breakfast. Example: we’re in South Haven, Michigan for some friends’ wedding. Even though I grew up an hour north in Grand Rapids, this is only the second time I’ve been to South Haven. So it’s time to grab some breakfast. We met with a group of friends on a busy Saturday morning, and South Haven’s little beach town vibe was in full swing. Phoenix Street Cafe (oddly enough, located on Phoenix Road, according to Google Maps) is located on the main drag, a fairly small storefront amongst a variety of shops, restaurants, bars, and the like. Phoenix Street/Road leads directly to the harbor and to the South Haven beach.

ATMOSPHERE: The vibe that morning was quintessential West Michigan Saturday going-to-breakfast: people breakfasting with purpose. As you might expect, there was a line at the door and the place was packed.

Phoenix Street has chosen a lot of warm, bright colors for their cafe. The space itself feels fairly new; I’m guessing this restaurant is only a couple years old, or was recently renovated. There’s a lot of seating – although only a small waiting area – and it was all full when we visited.

A fun little detail that I liked: syrup served in an olive oil container.

Ah the small-town cafe, with their paper placemats full of local advertising. It’s always fun to read these while you wait. They give you some sense of the local businesses.

FOOD: The nice thing about eating with a big party is that you get to see and photograph more dishes. This is the sampler breakfast, with eggs, meats, potatoes, and toast.

And the mini breakfast. It seems like Phoenix Street can handle the basics well. Eggs done right, pretty good meat, potatoes seasoned nicely, wide variety of bread choices.

Here was a first for me: quinoa oatmeal! I haven’t seen that on a menu yet, although it makes perfect sense. This is the version with raisins and bananas.

And a version with raisins and cranberries. Our friends who ordered it said they liked it. Quinoa (pronounced KEEN-wah) is a very protein-rich grain.

My wife ordered the California benedict, which is essentially a benedict with avocado and some crumbled bacon. Beautifully plated and well-made, although not the most mind-blowing benedict. I think the hollandaise could have used a little more seasoning.

A friend ordered the crispy chicken sandwich from the lunch menu, Florentine style, with provolone, roasted red peppers, and artichokes, and gave it a thumbs-up.

I’m a sucker for a good chicken and waffle, especially when the menu says they’ll cover it in sausage gravy and give you a side of their homemade smoked Jack Daniels syrup. Again, beautiful plating, and all told the dish came together well: crispy chicken, the very smoky syrup, good waffle and gravy, although I do think the gravy needed a better punch of spices. That seemed to be a common problem with the food: good ingredients and plating, maybe a little more creative seasoning needed.

SERVICE: Our server was nice, although the food took quite a while to come out. Granted, we were a bigger group and the cafe was busy, but it felt inappropriately long. There’s also a little confusion at the door, where newly-arrived customers are unsure where to sign in or check in with a server. I’ve seen this problem at a number of cafes.

OVERALL: I think Phoenix Street is a solid visit if you’re in South Haven, even if there are a few misses. There’s a diverse selection of dishes, and although none of them were completely mind-blowing, there are some interesting things that don’t see everywhere: chicken and waffles with gravy, quinoa oatmeal, also some oatmeal cakes and a lox omelet. Be prepared for a big crowd and slower service on the weekends, especially if you have a big day of shopping and beach-reading planned!

OTHER LINKS:

Phoenix Street Cafe on Urbanspoon

Grand Day Cafe | Columbus, OH

Grand Day Cafe (Facebook / @GrandDayCafe)
1284 W. Fifth Ave. (map it!)
Columbus, OH 43212
(614) 481-3363
Open daily 6:30a-3p
Accepts cash & credit/debit
Vegetarian/vegan/gluten free? Y/N/N
Kid-friendly? Y

Date of Visit: Monday, May 28, 2012 at 10:00 a.m.

IMPRESSIONS: I’ve had a number of readers and friends tell me to visit Grand Day. I hadn’t been in the location since it used to be a Rise and Dine (one of my earlier reviews, awwww…). Rise & Dine rebranded into Sunny Street Cafe, and this location was closed. I thought I heard somewhere that a manager of R&D had purchased the location and turned it into their cafe. Whatever happened, they maintained that quintessential feeling of the casual cafe. This type of restaurant – think First Watch, Sunny Street, even Scrambler Marie’s – is a steady go-to for breakfast, even if they aren’t terribly imaginative.

ATMOSPHERE: Like most casual cafes, Grand Day is decorated with soft wood accents, flowers, and lots of beige or pastel colors. I like to joke that First Watch looks a little like a Florida retirement community. And indeed, there is always that sense of the casual, comfortable, mid-morning breakfast about these places. When you enter Grand Day, there’s a small seating area for waiting customers. You usually need to sign in. There are two big seating banks to the right and left.

Straight ahead is a small counter and the entrance to the kitchen.

FOOD: Casual cafes usually do well with the kids. Case in point: our four-year-old’s pancakes with bacon. Nothing exceptional, but he seemed to like them.

My wife makes fun of me for taking pictures of my orange juice. I’ll stop.

My wife ordered the Eggs Blackstone. In case you didn’t know, a blackstone is essentially an eggs benedict but with grilled tomatoes and bacon (as opposed to a florentine, which has spinach). This version came with a slice of avocado and a side of hash browns. The overall dish was decent, but the pale little tomatoes were a little sad. Seriously, folks, let’s not serve tomatoes out of season.

Even since I first peeked at their menu online, I knew I wanted to order the Kentucky Hot Brown. I’ve had a real hot brown in Kentucky, so I wasn’t expecting this version to be perfectly authentic. I figured Grand Day’s version would be adapted to breakfast, which it was: Texas toast, sliced turkey, poached egg, bacon, coated in hollandaise. Side of hash browns, which were brown on the sides but a little underdone in the middle. Generally, I liked the dish – it’s hard not to like bacon, turkey, toast, and hollandaise – but it could have used a little more seasoning. Maybe more flavorful turkey, or a spicier hollandaise.

SERVICE: Our service was so-so. I think we visited on a particularly busy day, when they were trying to crowd in a lot of customers, and the servers were moving so fast that they missed little details here and there. We were initially seated at a table that was nearly in the middle of the waiting area. It began to feel like we were sitting in the waiting area or in the line to pay at the register. When a booth along the wall opened up, we asked to be moved there. We got our meals fairly quickly, but we experienced many of those moments went we couldn’t find our server and had to ask someone else to get little things: a drink, napkins, and a side dish.

OVERALL: As you can tell with some of the food and the service, we had an okay experience at Grand Day. I’ll grant that it was a holiday and the restaurant may have been working a little beyond capacity, but with food that’s again decent but nothing to write home about, I’ll keep it on the list of breakfast places in town, but not one that I’d go running back to.

OTHER LINKS:

Grand Day Cafe on Urbanspoon

The Angry Baker | Columbus, OH

The Angry Baker (Facebook / @TheAngryBaker)
891 Oak St. (map it!)
Columbus, OH 43205
(614) 947-0976
Open Sun & Mon, 8a-5p; Tues-Sat, 8a-7p
Accepts cash & credit/debit
Vegetarian/vegan/gluten free? Y/Y/N
Kid-friendly? Y

Date of Visit: Friday, April 6, 2012 at 10:30 a.m.

IMPRESSIONS: If you haven’t been to Olde Towne East lately, or if you think it’s nothing but a neighborhood of run-down old houses, you need to re-evaluate. Case in point: The Angry Baker and the booming corner of Oak and 18th Streets. Alongside AB, Yellow Brick Pizza is serving up pizza and beer, and The Tavern recently opened next door to the bakery.

ATMOSPHERE: The bakery itself has a bright, colorful little cafe in one corner, with a polished wooden floor and big brick walls.  There are a handful of tables for enjoying coffee and a pastry, or a breakfast or lunch sandwich. There’s even a long counter with stools, overlooking the kitchen itself.

FOOD: Angry Baker offers both the retail bakery experience, as well as the quaint cafe vibe. Their display cases are chock full of baked goods, and three separate chalkboards communicate the bakery items, breakfast, and lunch offerings. I love chalkboard menus. Denounce them as hipster if you like, but an erasable menu means that you can refresh your menu easily to accommodate seasonal changes and ingredient availability.

As Olde Towne East continues to develop, I’m sure Angry Baker has already become one of those neighborhood stops where residents walk over for coffee and a pastry as they begin their day. Just read through this list of goods and try not to get hungry. There’s everything from kolaches and cookies to bear claws, muffins, and scones.

Or you could spend your time at the bakery cases, staring…

…and staring…

…and staring.

And then finding more things to stare at.

For breakfast that morning, we chose one of the breakfast sandwiches, specifically the French toast sandwich. The breakfast menu focuses mainly on the sandwiches, but they also offer baked eggs, vegan pancakes, and biscuits with a mushroom gravy. Points to AB for expanding the vegan breakfast offerings in Columbus. But back to that sandwich… this isn’t the type of sandwich that you eat with two hands. This is a knife-and-fork one. It’s essentially their version of the monte cristo: local ham and cheese between two slices of French toast made with their brioche, then drowned in real maple syrup. As expected, it cuts easily with the side of a fork, and is a delightful mix of the salty and the sweet. If you’re a French toast fan, you need to sample this one.

SERVICE: With the small, intimate space, it’s hard not to get to know the crew there. You can chat with them about their baked goods, and they’ll answer any questions you have. The prepared foods are made on a small flattop right in front of the counter. This is owner Vicki Hink cooking up my French toast!

OVERALL: Angry Baker is well worth multiple visits, to sample the rotating offerings of baked goods and the seasonal changes to the cafe menu. Like I said, it’s great for a coffee-and-a-snack stop or a quiet sit-down breakfast.

OTHER LINKS:

The Angry Baker on Urbanspoon

Capitol Cafe by Milo’s | Columbus, OH

Capitol Cafe by Milo’s (Facebook / @MilosCatering)
1 Capitol Square (inside the Ohio Statehouse) (map it!)
Columbus, OH 43215
(614) 728-9231
Open Mon-Fri, 7a-3p
Accepts cash & credit/debit
Vegetarian/vegan/gluten free? Y/N/N
Kid-friendly? Y

Date of Visit: Thursday, December 29, 2011 at 10:30 am

IMPRESSIONS: A few years ago, my wife worked for an event planning company, and one her first big projects was creating new Civil War-era Christmas decorations for the Ohio Statehouse. I helped occasionally with the project, and through that work we both got to know the Statehouse’s layout and history. It’s a grand old stone building, plunked down in what is now the center of Columbus’s busy-and-getting-busier downtown.

During that time, we got to know the Statehouse Cafe, a lackluster basement eatery that served the very basic cafeteria food. Because of their limited hours and slightly hard-to-reach location, the cafe never showed up on our food radar.

Until the summer of 2011, when the Statehouse announced it had been taking bids for a new cafe operator, and that the good folks from Milo’s Deli in Franklinton would be taking over. I’m sad to say I’ve never been to Milo’s (shame on me, I know), but I’m very familiar with Tommy’s Diner, which is owned by the same family, and we love everything about that diner. So the odds were good that we would like the cafe more when it was reborn as Capitol Cafe by Milo’s.

ATMOSPHERE: The Cafe’s change of ownership has resulted in a restaurant than actually has some personality. Sure, there are some aspects of the cafeteria style remaining, but the decor and food quality have taken it far beyond sloppy joe’s on a tray. The entire restaurant has been redecorated, which really maximizes the charm eating in the basement of 150-year-old building: vaulted brick ceilings, portraits of past governors, three small dining rooms. The new cafe owners added a bar in the main room; this meek and mild-looking bar has actually drawn some national attention in a debate over serving alcohol in a government building.

I liked this atmosphere. It’s nice and quiet, and eating in such an historic setting is fun. I kept looking around while we ate, taking it all the details.

FOOD: We ordered a mix of dishes, some standards and some specials. For my three-year-old, we got the plate of 2 Eggs, Homefries, and Toast. This turned out to be a huge plate of food, especially considering that it cost about $4.25. It was more than enough for anyone, and we took home leftovers. Bonus points: it’s all well cooked. Homefries had plenty of brown crispy edges, the eggs weren’t dried out, and the toast was good and buttery.

My wife and I split a couple specials. The first was the Cobb Omelet. This is obviously a cobb salad in omelet form, stuffed with tomatoes, bacon, turkey, and blue cheese, plus a dollop of fresh guacamole. Comes with big sides of toast and homefries. I’m not a huge omelet person, and I generally don’t like blue cheese, but I still enjoyed this omelet. They don’t skimp on the ingredients, and the guacamole itself was great (my wife makes amazing guacamole, so our standards are always high).

The real star of the morning, however, was the Italian Eggs Benedict. Eggs benedict is perhaps one of my favorite breakfasts, and Columbus needs more options for them. This benedict is a special that doesn’t always show up on the menu, but if you can order it, do it. This version is built on a fried polenta cake, then layered with prosciutto, poached eggs, and a rich hollandaise. It comes with a side of crispy red peppers and spinach. It packs a flavorful punch; the only downside for me was that the polenta cake is a tad salty. But this dish now has a place near the top of my favorite-benedicts-in-Columbus list. Serious, my wife and I geeked out about it.

SERVICE:  The kitchen and ordering counter is the first room you encounter when you enter the restaurant. It may seem a little abrupt, and this is where the restaurant feels the most like the old cafeteria. But the process is smooth. You get a brief interaction with the kitchen crew, as you’re standing and ordering, and you can see into much of the prep area. The layout is easy to follow. Once you place your order – either take-out or dine-in – you can have a seat in the dining room and they’ll bring it out to you.

OVERALL: The location and hours work against the Cafe a bit: it’s only open weekdays – obviously aiming for the downtown lunch crowd – and it’s tucked far down in the basement of this gigantic old building. There isn’t any signage outside that would alert a passer-by to its presence. Parking isn’t easy, but it’s readily available: there are meters along Third and Broad, plus an entire garage underneath the Statehouse. But I encourage you battle against these things, because I think the Cafe is more than worth a visit. I’m still craving that Italian Benedict, and the atmosphere is hard to beat. And if you’ve never toured the Statehouse, now’s your time. It’s a beautiful building with a rich history. On the same floor as the Cafe is an interactive museum and the Statehouse Gift Shop (which may or may not carry a certain author’s breakfast book).

As a bonus, we visited when the Statehouse’s Christmas decorations were still up. These are the decorations that my wife created and installed years ago for her event planning job. After enjoying a tasty breakfast, we took some time to revisit them, and I encourage you to do the same when the holidays roll around again.

OTHER LINKS:

Capitol Cafe by Milo's on Urbanspoon

Mozart’s Bakery & Piano Cafe | Columbus, OH

[UPDATE: Mozart's moved north to 4784 N. High St. and combined it with the Vienna Ice Cafe concept. This location is closed.]

Mozart’s Bakery & Piano Cafe (Facebook / @MozartsCafe)
2885 N. High St. (map it!)
Columbus, OH 43202
(614) 268-3687
Open Tues-Thurs, 7:30a-9p; Fri & Sat, 7:30a-11p; Sun, 8a-5:30p (bfast served daily till 5p)
Accepts cash & credit/debit
Vegetarian/vegan/gluten free? Y/N/N
Kid-friendly? Y

Date of Visit: Sunday, December 18, 2011 at 12:30 pm

IMPRESSIONS: As residents of Columbus’ Clintonville neighborhood, we’ve long known about Mozart’s Cafe and their dedication to the area. You will regularly find them donating cookies to community events, helping with fundraisers, and plugging other Clintonville businesses. Clintonville is sometimes seen as a culinary wasteland (especially when we chase off great food trucks!), with only a few bright points making the journey worth it. But if you’ve spent any time searching the neighborhood, you know that there’s lots worth finding. Mozart’s has served as a mainstay for years now, demonstrating that there are reasons to visit and eat in Clintonville.

ATMOSPHERE: It’s been a couple years since we last visited the Cafe. Our previous experience there was at the afternoon tea (which is lovely, and one of the few good ones in town). And perhaps that visit left the lasting impression of Mozart’s as a very prim and proper place, the go-to for dainty meals of sandwiches, tea, and light pastries. Not at all the place for a big, hearty breakfast with the family. With its shelf of pastries, classical name, tight quarters, and live piano music, Mozart’s could certainly seem like just that place. It is that, but we were pleasantly surprised to find that there’s also more to it.

Entering the restaurant puts you in a waiting area with all of the pastries, the coffee service, and the tea. It’s a bit of eye candy to get you hungry. We were greeted by one of the employees standing behind the counter, which is a little far away from the door, so we didn’t hear her at first. But it didn’t take long for us to be ushered to a table in the dining room. As you can see from the pictures above, they have a sizeable selection of coffee and teas.

The atmosphere is partially what left us with the specific impression of the afternoon tea. It’s a small cafe packed with tables and a live piano player tucked in the corner. At our arrival, almost all of the tables were full; when you have two small kids with you, it’s easy to think you’ll be hard-pressed to find a comfortable spot. Not so. They found us a table right away, and ours certainly weren’t the only kids there. Mozart’s also has a back room with more seating, and in the warmer months they have two patios to accommodate even more customers.

FOOD: Our three-year-old spied another kid enjoying an Italian soda one table over, and he quickly requested that. He happily sipped on that through the entire meal.

Again, our expectations (based on the atmosphere and our past experience with afternoon tea) led us to believe that the breakfast would be higher priced and lightly-filling. The price is certainly more than a cheap diner breakfast, but the portions were anything but skimpy. First, we ordered the Mozart’s Breakfast Sandwich for our son. This is a hearty sandwich with two eggs, bacon, Black Forest ham (a repeated ingredient on the menu), and cheddar on wheat toast. He certainly loved it, and we gladly helped him finish it.

My wife tried their quiche of the day, which came in a wide slice packed with mushrooms and served with fruit and toast. Very good mix of ingredients, held together well. Overall well seasoned and flavorful.

Our server brought butter and jelly for her toast. The jelly turned out to be more like a dense pastry filling. A little different than a chunky jam, but it certainly tasted delicious spread over the toast.

I’ve had my eye on the Tyrolean Breakfast for some time. Tryol is (I had to look this up) a region in western Austria – appropriate given the cafe’s namesake, although I’m not sure what is specifically Tyrolean about this breakfast. Still, this dish exemplified our pleasantly surprised reaction to the overall experience. When I say “I ordered the Tyrolean breakfast,” you might think of a small plate of food with a couple pieces of toast, scraps of bacon, a handful of potatoes, and some tiny eggs. On the contrary, this was a gigantic plate of food. Very appropriate for the price, and easily shared. It comes with thick slices of toast, bacon, two eggs, a pile of well-seasoned potatoes, and layers of the Black Forest ham. Everything is cooked very well, and again, it’s all incredibly filling.

Mozart’s gets bonus points that their breakfast menu features strong vegetarian dishes, and not just of the “we’ll-leave-the-meat-out” variety, but ones built specifically with the vegetarian in mind. Look for the Vienna Waltz omelet, for instance, with roasted red peppers, seasonal veggies, artichokes, and Gouda. Or the Spinach Croissant, with spinach, feta, and Emmental cheese.

Of course, no visit to Mozart’s is complete without a pastry or two, although we were full up after our breakfast. We sampled some cookies but that was it. But the Cafe has a bit of everything: cookies, croissants, struedel, petti fours, you name it.

SERVICE: We had a good experience overall with the service, although a couple of the employees spoke too softly. When you have multiple employees, many tables in close quarters, and a piano player, you need to make sure your customers can hear everything. Still, this only happened with a couple folks. Otherwise, everyone was very helpful: we felt comfortable asking anyone for a napkin or silverware or whatever, whether it was our server or not. One person came around offering samples of tea cookies, and the owner himself went from table to table, checking on customers. You are certainly well cared for at Mozart’s.

OVERALL: Whatever your impressions are of Mozart’s, their breakfast is certainly worth trying. There’s a good variety to the menu, with plenty of strong choices from sandwiches, croissants, omelets, muesli, waffles, and other specials (not even including the HUGE line of baked goods), and they welcome their customers well. Also, where else do you get live piano with your breakfast (at least on weekends)? On a final note: Mozart’s has recently given you one more reason to explore Clintonville. They recently closed their stall at North Market, while opening the Vienna Ice Cafe just a few doors up High Street from the cafe. (Hint: you could start your day with breakfast at Mozart’s, visit the antique shops of Clintonville, and end with some ice cream!)

Mozart's Bakery & Piano Cafe on Urbanspoon

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