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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

Out Back Kitchen | Avon, NC


[UPDATE: Out Back Kitchen is now closed.]

Out Back Kitchen (Facebook)
41934 NC Highway 12
Avon, NC 27915
(252) 305-2452
Open 8 am – 2 pm daily
Accepts cash & credit/debit
Vegetarian/vegan/gluten free? N/N/N
Kid-friendly? Y

Date of Visit: Tuesday, June 21, 2011 at 9:00 a.m.

IMPRESSIONS: The Outer Banks is our annual family vacation spot, and over the years I’ve scoured up and down Hatteras Island for good breakfast spots (see the List of Reviews for more). The nature of the islands means that businesses come and go, so every year brings new surprises. This year we discovered, within walking distance of our house, the Out Back Kitchen. Out Back (not to be confused with the steakhouse, of course) is situated in a small shopping plaza with the giant Food Lion grocery store. When we visited, their sign wasn’t even up yet – just a banner – but the day we left, we saw them installing one.

Out Back (so named because the owner is Australian) is a little more focused on being a bakery and a caterer than it is being a restaurant, so sometimes the breakfast food takes a back seat to the pastries, donuts, and cheesecake.

The upside is that you get to ogle (nay, even purchase) said pastries for your breakfast.

Scones, muffins, strudel, croissants, it’s all yours.

All yours. 

ATMOSPHERE: The cafe is small, hosting about seven tables, so expect to cozy up with your fellow patrons. The colors are very autumnal oranges and yellows; semi-indie music played through a Pandora channel.
FOOD: The breakfast menu itself is fairly simple – only four or five dishes total – and it features your basic morning meal items. Above is a simple dish of scrambled eggs, toast, sausage, and hash browns.
This is the Island Breakfast Burrito, loaded with eggs, cheese, and the like. Here you can see the problem with the hash browns: not enough brown.
The breakfast sandwiches are big on the menu, too. Here’s an egg and sausage on a croissant.
Here’s one with bacon and eggs. Again, notice the underdone hash browns.
A bite of a cinnamon roll. Lots of raisins. Good icing, but a little doughy and underdone.

We also tried a couple miscellaneous bakery goods, all of which were very nice. I think Out Back’s strength lies in their baked goods. We ordered a key lime pie to take home later, and it was exceptional.

SERVICE: Only two people were working the entire restaurant. The owner (I believe) bustled in the kitchen, while one server worked the counter and delivered food. They use the system of ordering at the counter, then having your food brought out. Overall, the server was very nice, but seemed hurried in keeping up with everything.

OVERALL
: There’s some hit or miss at Out Back Kitchen. The breakfast is decent, but we had to wait a while for our food, and some of the items (especially the hash browns) were underdone. The simple sandwiches and burritos were good, but there are more reliable and filling breakfasts on the island. That being said, Out Back is worth at least one visit, at the very least to try their baked goods. They have a lot going for them in that department.
Out Back Kitchen on Urbanspoon

Sweet Clove Sunshine Cafe | Columbus, OH

Sweet Clove Sunshine Cafe
6630 Sawmill Rd. (map it!)
Columbus, OH 43235
(614) 764-1717
Open Mon-Sat, 7-3; Sun, 8-3 (bfast served all day)
Vegetarian/vegan/gluten free? Y/N/N
Kid-friendly? Y

Date of Visit: Monday, May 30, 2011, at 11:00 a.m.

IMPRESSIONS: I’ve gotten a few notes from readers over the past few months about Honey Baked Ham opening a concept store up on Sawmill Road, and I’ll admit that I was intrigued. Columbus has long been known as a test market for food chains and the like: Wendy’s, Donato’s, White Castle, and Max & Erma’s started or are headquartered here; McDonald’s marketing firm is based here; cable television first debuted in town; the list goes on. So it was no surprise that Honey Baked would debut a new restaurant here in town, attached to one of their existing stores.

ATMOSPHERE: We ventured out on a hot Memorial Day, and found ourselves in essentially a modern country setting. Big, square yellow tables, bright yellow walls with black and white pictures of the Honey Baked Ham founders and their early stores. In one corner is a fireplace; out front is a small patio.

FOOD: We started with some coffee, which was pretty good. The server said it was a standard bulk food service roast, but they grind the beans fresh. Points for automatically bringing a small mug of cream.

Shortly after you sit down, they bring your table what they call “A gift of friendship,” which is a small, warm crumb cake with maple butter. It’s a very welcoming start to the meal.

The Sweet Clove menu is designed to feature the Honey Baked Ham product, so it shows up in a lot of the dishes. Case in point: their Signature Benedict. Features your standard English muffin, poached eggs, hollandaise, plus slices of their ham. Served with a side of potatoes. Overall, very nicely done. It’s a very filling dish. The key point in a benedict (for me) is the hollandaise, which was light and tasted fresh, not canned.

This is the Original French Toast. Four big slices. Cooked just right, so it’s a bit custardy and cut-able with a fork. Big bonus that it’s served with a side of real Vermont maple syrup.

And then there are variations on the signature dishes. This is the Bacon and Ham Benedict. One had their classic ham, one had a couple slices of bacon. Again, filling, and again, a very good benedict. Side of potatoes was very nice, too.

Small kids menu, too. Scrambled eggs and toast for my son.

I had a reader suggest I try the Blueberry Ginger French toast, so this was on my mind the moment we decided to visit. Just like the regular French toast, it’s cut thick and very soft. I couldn’t taste the ginger that much, but I assume it was in the batter. Blueberries were nice, as was the real maple syrup.

The folks at Sweet Clove understand some of the performance of food, too. One of the big selling points of the French toast is that your server comes around with a GIANT BOWL OF WHIPPED CREAM to dollop onto your dish.

The benefit of this (for the restaurant, at least) is that you see servers dole out the whipped cream to other tables, so instantly your appetite is whetted.

SERVICE: Our server was quiet but very nice. She had a good sense of humor, everything came out quickly, and she kept an eye on us. Overall, the table setup is appealing, too: orange square plates, salt and pepper grinders, bamboo centerpieces, fun little honey bowl (for sale in the shop, of course).

OVERALL: Because Sweet Clove Sunshine Cafe (say that five times fast) is a concept store for Honey Baked Ham, it’s attached to the store itself. So you can wander through their gift shop or order ham to take home.

So what can I say about the Cafe? Yes, it is the beginning of a new chain restaurant, but so far they seem to have a lot of things right. The overall experience is comfortable, the food is well prepared and very filling. The prices are higher than your diner breakfast – $10-12 per entree – but the portions are appropriate for it. Sawmill Road isn’t exactly in my neighborhood, but the Cafe was full when we visited, and I’m still craving another bite of that French toast.

I’d be very curious to know what others think of it!

Sweet Clove Sunshine Cafe on Urbanspoon

Northstar Cafe (Easton) | Columbus, OH

Northstar Cafe
4015 Townsfair Way (map it!)
Columbus, OH 43219
(614) 532-5444
Open 9am-10pm daily
Accepts cash & credit/debit
Vegetarian/vegan/gluten free? Y/Y/N
Kid-friendly? Y

Date of Visit: Friday, April 8, 2011 at 9:00 a.m.

IMPRESSIONS: The three Northstar Cafes have become institutions in Columbus. Any online search of “breakfast in Columbus” brings up at least one Northstar location, and the steady crowds can attest to their continued popularity. I’ve been to the other two locations multiple times (and reviewed first Beechwold, then Short North). While my reviews have gotten less gushy as time goes on (I can’t believe myself when I re-read the Beechwold one), I still think Northstar serves up a solid breakfast that I’ll always like.

The Easton location is their newest one, and can be found in the southeast section of the shopping center. There’s a good-sized parking lot right next to it, as well as lots of metered parking around the Easton streets. Each Northstar Cafe is designed and laid out differently, and each one fits very well with its locale. This one is a great fit for Easton overall.

ATMOSPHERE: This was my first time in the Easton location, and I have to say… it’s one of the most photogenic breakfast spots I’ve seen. Very well focused lighting, lots of natural wood accents, big counter space, bright light from abundant windows.

This location is also the biggest. The whole main floor probably has more seating than the Short North location, and then there’s a balcony circling half the restaurant.

We visited right when they opened at 9 am (which is comparatively late for a breakfast spot), and while the balcony remained empty, the main floor filled up quickly.

FOOD: The menu at Easton is pretty much the same as the other two locations (plus one tasty addition). First off, we had drinks. There are a few choices of coffee, including decaf and light-medium-or-dark roasts. I opt for their Johnny Mellow. We also nabbed a fresh-squeezed orange juice. Always a hit.

I don’t eat at Northstar Cafe as often as I used to, but whenever I have breakfast there, I have to get the Big Burrito, plus bacon (goes without saying). I’m just a big fan of the combination of bacon, sweet potatoes, black beans, veggies, and cheese.

I call this Still Life With Coffee And Burrito.

This item I haven’t seen at any of the other locations: Prosciutto and Poached Eggs. The base is a rosemary focaccia bread, topped with prosciutto (a very popular meat these days) and nicely poached eggs. Comes with a side of greens. Overall, a very nice dish: seasoned just right, between a dash of parmesan, the salty prosciutto, and herbed bread. Well worth a try.

SERVICE: Like all of their cafes, the Easton location employs the order-at-the-counter system. Order there, you’re given a number, and your food’s brought out to you. Gratuity is included in the food price. Generally, the employees there are very nice. Some are more smiley than others, but no surliness.

OVERALL: Again, I don’t get to the Northstar Cafes as often as I used to. Part of it is the cost: you’ll be paying a few bucks more than your average diner breakfast. But it’s also because I have so many more places to explore. Still, the Easton cafe is beautiful, and they serve all the breakfast favorites. Like the other cafes, they have a nice patio as well, plus this one has a wood fireplace! So there’s some consistency between the cafes, but enough interesting variations between them, too. But however you feel about the other Northstar locations, you’ll probably feel the same about this one.

Northstar Café (Easton) on Urbanspoon

Katalina’s Cafe Corner | Columbus, OH

Katalina’s Cafe Corner (Facebook / @cafecorner)
1105 Pennsylvania Ave.
Columbus, OH 43201
(614) 294-2233
Open daily 8a-9p (bfast served all day!)
Vegetarian/vegan/gluten free? Y/N/N
Kid-friendly? Y-ish

Date of Visit: Sunday, February 13, 2011 at 1:00 p.m.

IMPRESSIONS: Here’s the story. My wife and I used to live just down the street from Cafe Corner. I remember my first visit when it was essentially a wide open coffee shop. They had decent coffee. They had public computers. It was good, but nothing that really drew me back. Then, slowly, the owners expanded and revamped. We heard more and more about the sandwiches. They built a patio. They made the most of that tiny corner spot on Third and Pennsylvania Avenues. We visited during Restaurant Week 2009 and I reviewed it. And loved it. The Cafe has since transitioned into the hands of Kathleen Day, who has continued to make it a culinary hotspot.

ATMOSPHERE: The cafe itself is pretty small, as the building is a former gas station (see picture of it at the end of this post). There are maybe 7 tables total, plus a few seats at a counter looking out the front window. So beware if you’re coming with a big group. Of course, the game changes in spring and summer, when their big, beautiful patio triples the amount of seating.

The decor mixes elements of country kitchen with trendy cafe. One thing I always love to see in breakfast places are hand-written signs. The aesthetics appeal to me, and it shows that their menu is changeable based on specials, seasonal ingredients, or just plain old rotating offerings.

Self-serve coffee setup featuring Stauf’s roasts.

Visually, the whole cafe is fun to look at: big, bright windows. Colorful menu boards. Homemade iced tea served in mason jars.

FOOD: The breakfast menu covers your standards, but delightfully goes beyond that with things like Hens in a Basket, Breakfast Tacos, and Truffled Egg Sandwiches. This is, indeed, a foodie’s breakfast.

If anyone in your party is not-so-adventurous, they’ll be satisfied with the Classic Breakfast, all done right. Toast, crispy bacon, eggs scrambled and not overdone, plus good, crispy hash browns.

You can (and should) get sandwiches for breakfast, too. Here’s my wife’s Fig & Prosciutto, with provolone, white truffle oil, and a balsamic reduction. It’s such a creative interplay between salty prosciutto and sweet figs. Really a big hit.

Swedish pancake balls! Essentially fried dough balls dusted with powdered sugar. You can get them filled with Nutella or strawberry preserves. I asked the guy at the counter if he suggested one over the other. I barely got the question out before he answered, “Nutella.” And he wasn’t wrong. These are soft, warm, doughy balls of sweet goodness. Plus you can dip them in maple syrup. Also, this comes with a side of CC’s sweet and spicy bacon (which I didn’t get a picture of – gah!). I’ve long been hesitant to list anything as my favorite bacon on my best-of list – I still have lots of exploring to do – but this takes the top spot. The bacon is thick cut, and the topping is a sticky sweet mess with a bite at the back of the throat. I was delightfully surprised by it.

The Prosciutto Mozzarella sandwich, with a tomato-basil pesto and balsamic reduction. So good…

I was drawn to Cafe Corner this day by a weekend special of Eggs Benedicto, aka the Mexican Eggs Benedict (it has been offered again since). There’s the standard poached eggs, but they’re served with prosciutto on a toasted croissant, and a chipotle hollandaise. Um. Yes. Please. Eggs benedict is one of my favorite breakfasts, and I’ve neglected to properly research them in Columbus. But if CC’s is anything to go by… it’s gonna be a fun adventure. I loved almost everything about these. Eggs were perfect, croissant is a very nice touch, hollandaise was light and yet flavorful. I really liked the prosciutto, but it pushes things toward the salty side (obviously), and its nature makes it a little hard to cut with a knife. Eggs benedict is not a sandwich, so you have to use silverware, and I like being able to cut nice portions of egg, meat, and bread. The prosciutto made that a little difficult to do. That said, it all tastes lovely. You must try it.

Side of hash browns. Nice and crispy. Not tons of seasoning, but they’re done right without being greasy.

SERVICE: The cafe service is run at the counter. Place your order there, take a number, and find a table. Coffee and drinks are self-serve. The folks at the counter are very nice – not terribly talkative – but very helpful. (Cafe Corner also does a healthy take-out business. The old owners, after all, started the breakfast delivery service Late Night Eggs out of this space; it has since been relocated to the campus area and renamed Eggfast. Edit: Eggfast is now closed.)

Kathleen shared this picture from the Cafe’s history with me. Here it is in yesteryear as a corner gas station. Makes you really appreciate how much the neighborhood has changed over the decades.

OVERALL: I look forward to more return visits to Cafe Corner. Having moved away from the neighborhood is no excuse not to be back more often, especially with that patio enticing us in the spring and summer months. And that menu is sufficiently big and creative that we’ve still got lots of exploring to do.

Katalina's Cafe Corner on Urbanspoon

Taste of Belgium (Wexner Center) | Columbus, OH

UPDATE: The Taste of Belgium location in the Wexner Center has CLOSED. The North Market location is open.]

Taste of Belgium (Facebook / @TOBWex)
1871 N. High St. (inside the Wexner Center for the Arts)
Columbus, OH 43210
(614) 292-2233
Open Mon-Fri, 8 am – 4 pm
Accepts cash & credit/debit
Vegetarian/vegan/gluten free? Y/N/N
Kid-friendly? Y

Date of Visit: Monday, January 31, 2011 at 12:30 p.m.

IMPRESSIONS: I’ve been a fan of Taste of Belgium’s waffles for some time now, having first discovered them when they opened a stall at the North Market. If you’ve never tried one of their signatures, you’re missing an opportunity to re-define how you think about waffles. Here they serve the authentic Belgian version, which are very unlike your thin, flat toaster-made waffle. A true Belgian waffle (Liege-style, at least) is made using a thick batter infused with beet sugar. The waffle is smaller, thicker, marbled with caramelized sugars, and a wonderful hand-held snack.

The Wexner location is Taste of Belgium’s second in Columbus. The Wexner announced months ago that they were seeking a replacement for the generic Cam’s on Campus. In my opinion, ToB is the perfect fit for the Wexner: still a casual cafe and coffee shop, but with an international flair.

ATMOSPHERE: You can find the cafe by heading down the big staircase in the Wexner’s main entryway. It’s hard to miss once you get to the lower floor (where you’ll also find the entrances to the bookstore, video theatre, galleries, etc.). Line yourself up to order at the counter.

You may have to step forward to grab a menu while you wait in line. This isn’t too bad to deal with if you’re know about it, but I think it would be handy if they put more of their menu on the wall. You can help out, though: once you’re done with your menu, be a pal and pass it back to the next person.

There’s a fair amount of seating around the cafe. Once you’ve ordered, take your number and find a table. Be advised that, during peak hours, tables can fill up. You are on the campus of the largest university in America, after all.

The cafe seating is nice and bright, even though you’re partially below ground.

FOOD: Because this location of ToB is more of a traditional cafe, their menu is expanded beyond the waffles, crepes, and coffee offered in the North Market. The market is aimed more so at the walk-and-eat crowd. Here you’ll find the full coffee shop lineup of drinks: espresso, lattes, cappuccinos, all made using coffee from Coffee Emporium in Cincinnati. Other drinks include hot and cold cider, tea, or blended drinks using coffee or fruit. Food-wise, you’ve got sweet and savory crepes; soup, salad, and sandwiches; fruit, yogurt, and muesli; frittatas; and oatmeal. Really a nice mix.

Taste of Belgium’s signature piece is the waffle, so the cafe offers a couple different spins on it. I ordered the Waffles Rancheros.

The Rancheros takes one of their waffles, and adds a small souffle-like pile of scrambled eggs, topped with a spicy salsa. Comes with a side salad with a dash of vinaigrette.

Nice cross section of it. The Rancheros are a little hard to cut with a fork and knife – the eggs are fluffy but the waffle’s a little crisp. Still, the combination of sweet waffle, savory eggs, and spicy salsa comes together well. Add the salad to that, and baby, you’ve got a lunch on.

If you’re in a sweeter mood (awww…), you can order the waffle with toppings. You have a choice of fruit – that day it was blueberries or bananas – plus optional whipped cream (note: whipped cream is not really an optional thing). The fruit and sweet cream are a nice complement to the dense, sugary waffle.

SERVICE: Despite the sometimes long lines (especially in between classes), the food service is pretty quick. If you’re eating in the cafe, just take your number to your table and they’ll find you. The folks behind the counter are nice – not terribly talkative – but nice nonetheless.

OVERALL: I’m very glad to have Taste of Belgium on campus. I think the fit is perfect for the Wexner Center, and it offers an alternative to the fast food along High Street or all the campus-run cafeterias. I hope that the campus community appreciates what we have here, and that Taste of Belgium becomes a mainstay of OSU dining.

OTHER LINKS
:
-> full Taste of Belgium website

Taste of Belgium at the Wex on Urbanspoon

Blue Sky Cafe | Bethlehem, PA

Blue Sky Cafe (Facebook)
22 W. Fourth St. (map it!)
Bethlehem, PA 18015
(610) 867-9390
Open Tues-Thurs, 7 am – 3 pm; Fri & Sat, 7 am – 5 pm; Sun, 7 am – 2 pm
Accepts cash & credit/debit
Vegetarian/vegan/gluten free? Y/N/N
Kid friendly? Y

Date of Visit: Saturday, November 6, 2010 at 10:15 a.m.

IMPRESSIONS: I’ve been excited to share this post for a long time. We got to visit some amazing places in 2010 – across the country from New York City to Portland – but for some reason our little visit to the Blue Sky Cafe sticks in my head more than any other. I’m sure I’m idealizing the experience in my memory, but boy, was this a great little discovery.

Early November found us traveling with my wife’s family across New Jersey and Pennsylvania to visit family. Eastbound and entering Pennsylvania, we did some online searching and found a promising lead with the Blue Sky Cafe in Bethlehem. We snaked off the highway exit, winding down to the small valley that is Bethlehem. Here I recalled some high school history classes and saw the remainders of Bethlehem Steel firsthand. Now the center of Bethlehem holds the remnants of that once-great industry, part of which is converted into a casino. Blue Sky can be found in southern slope of the valley, in a small, cute little downtown street. The door is small, the restaurant space old.

ATMOSPHERE: I love love love the feel of cafes like this. It’s small but not crammed. Great feel of a reclaimed old building, with brick walls, checkered floors, bright lighting.

Very busy hum of conversation, as a steady crowd comes and goes. Work from local artists and photographers on the walls.

A skylight above the kitchen allows a lot of natural light in the back. I counted 11 tables, plus 4 booths and 8 seats at the counter.

The kitchen is right there in the open, so you can watch the 8+ workers clattering around as they make you breakfast.

Lots of kooky details in the kitchen, including the bottle of bourbon for your bourbon banana french toast.

And the creative knife holder.


FOOD: Blue Sky’s menu, too, is fun and creative. All of the dishes are at those standard “cafe” prices: maybe $1-2 more than diner food, but the increased price is made up with higher quality fair. The menu is packed with your standard egg combos, plus omelets, frittatas, stirs (made over home fries), sandwiches, sweets, and a whole load of specials. Pictured above is the Mega Breakfast Sandwich, stacked with scrambled eggs, avocados, tomatoes, onions, and pesto. Came with a side of home fries. Overall, very good, although overpowered by the onions. I think the sandwich would be tops without them, personally.

And then, behold, is the Bourbon Banana French Toast. This is kinda why Blue Sky proved itself to be such a surprising and delightful find. Seriously, I think it’s the best French toast I’ve had. The bread was nice and custardy, the bananas cooked without being mushy, and the covering is more of a reduction with the maple syrup and the bourbon. It’s thicker and almost crispy, like that thin sugary glaze on a glazed donut. Altogether, a great dish. I just wanted to keep eating it forever.

Because we’re close to Philly, there’s gotta be scrapple! My second time trying it. Not bad, soft and spicy, but I’m just not a scrapple man.

Some Pumpkin Pancakes. Fluffy and subtle, a little floury and gummy. Quite good.

Their specialty frittata of the day, with caramelized onions, pears, feta, shallots, and sausage. Really magnificent.

The Jon Solomon’s Veggie Stir. Lots of veggies served with scrambled eggs over home fries, side of toast.

Another Mega Sandwich.

More pumpkin pancakes. We had a big group.

And the Antonio Veggie Stir. Adds sausage to the veggies and feta.Notice the color in all the breakfast dishes!

SERVICE: Our server really made our experience great, too. For the life of me, I can’t remember her name, although she told us she had recently moved from St. Louis, I believe. But she was warm and smiley, she handled our large group smoothly, and you could tell she took pride in the restaurant.

The table setup, too, made the experience complete: Cholula hot sauce at the table, mini salt and pepper grinders. The coffee came in mismatched mugs, and our server automatically brought milk for it.

OVERALL: Part of me wishes I could find a way back out to Bethlehem again, just to go here. It was such a delightful find and we enjoyed some wonderful food and service. Blue Sky would be my regular joint if I lived in Bethlehem.

NOTE: From the time between when I wrote the post and the time I finished it, Blue Sky changed their website. You can still find bits of the old version, which looks cooler and fits their vibe better. The new one is simpler and clunkier. Not sure what happened, but I hope they redesign to something more like the old one.

OTHER LINKS:

Blue Sky Cafe on Urbanspoon

Helser’s on Alberta | Portland, OR

Helser’s on Alberta
1538 NE Alberta St. (map it!)
Portland, OR 97211
(503) 281-1477
Open daily 7 am – 3 pm (bfast served all day; specials served Mon-Fri, 7-9)
Accepts cash and credit/debit
Vegetarian/vegan/gluten free? Y/N/N

Date of Visit: Tuesday, October 26, 2010 at 9:00 a.m.


IMPRESSIONS
: Helser’s was our third formal stop on our Portland breakfast tour. While visiting friends in PDX, I had Hesler’s on my agenda after it appeared in Breakfast Special along with the Tin Shed, just down the street. The extra bonus with this visit was getting to meet Paul Gerald, author of the book Breakfast in Bridgetown and the corresponding blog. Like myself, Paul appeared in Breakfast Special as the local breakfast blogger food guide. We got to compare Portland and Columbus breakfasts and chat about all things breakfast bloggery.


Helser’s wasn’t my favorite breakfast in Portland, but comparing Portland breakfast places is like comparing Pixar films. Some are definitely better than others, but the quality is higher than most things out there.


Like the Tin Shed, Helser’s is situated along the busy and trendy Alberta Street. They’ve got a sweet corner location with big, bright windows all around. I really love the painted column in front of the door. Don’t know why; I just do.


Inside, the checkered floor, the big chalkboard with specials, the large bar with a full service coffee setup, the bright illumination – all of these things add up to a classic cafe setup. When I think cafe, I think of this.


FOOD
: Again, because of Breakfast Special, we already had our eyes on some of Helser’s featured dishes. All of their food is great comfort food, but there’s lots of fun twists or unusual dishes on the menu. I don’t often see Pigs in the Blanket or Russet Potato Pancakes on breakfast menus, and I would love to return to Helser’s to sample more. Pictured above is my wife’s dish, the German Pancake, or Dutch Baby. This isn’t your traditional pancake, but more like an open pastry baked with lemon juice and powdered sugar, then served with lemon slices and syrup. You’ll have to wait a little longer for it to be prepared, but this was our favorite dish of the meal. It’s a huge pancake, sweet and flaky, but with touches of tangy lemon.


I immediately zeroed in on the Scotch Eggs and Potato Pancakes. I love a good scotch egg. Not many places in Columbus serve them. If you’ve never had one, a scotch egg (no, it has nothing to do with the distilled spirits) is a hard boiled egg, wrapped in sausage, then breaded and fried. Helser’s version is excellent: egg cooked just right, crispy breading, good seasoning. I was so-so on the potato pancakes, at least texture-wise. They taste very good, and they’re browned perfectly. I even liked the horseradish sauce (and I generally don’t like horseradish), but the internal texture of the pancakes didn’t quite work. I think the potatoes were cooked unevenly, so occasionally I had bites that were too hard.


Another good find from their menu: toasted crumpets. I can’t say I’ve ever had one. Nice soft texture, barely sweet. A good side to any of their meals.


Paul ordered the Pear and Harvati Pie, and I snapped a picture. It takes the two ingredients and bakes them into custardy tart. Again, very creative and unusual things on the menu.


And the standard side of Brioche French toast for our son. He certainly didn’t say no to it.

SERVICE: Our server was great. Fast, helpful, interactive. I was a bit predisposed to liking the service, after Breakfast Special featured one of their servers, Leah, talking about her work. We got to meet Leah and chat with her about having PBS film there.


OVERALL
: Again, Helser’s wasn’t my favorite Portland breakfast, but there’s plenty to like here. The service and location are top-notch, and the menu offers a lot of hard-to-find breakfast eats. Some of them just worked better than others. And I certainly wouldn’t say no to a return visit, especially to enjoy the bright atmosphere and try more of the menu.

OTHER LINKS:
-> a taste of Helser’s from WQED Pittsburgh

Helser's on Alberta on Urbanspoon

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