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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

Beyond Breakfast: Mughal Darbar | Columbus, OH

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I’ve spoken before of our family’s love for a lot of cuisines, highlighting passions for Ethiopian and Mexican food, but I haven’t said much of our love for Indian cuisine, too.

Well, it’s time to rectify that.

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When our family falls in love with a place, we fall hard, and our loyalty sometimes prevents us from branching out as much as we should. Columbus has its fair share of top-notch Indian restaurants, but for many years our hearts were true to Taj Mahal just north of OSU’s campus. We were regulars at Taj. We were on a first-name basis with the owners. We even hosted some events with them at Wild Goose Creative. We love that they had history as one of the first Indian restaurants in Columbus, opening more than twenty-five years ago. But then they quietly closed earlier this year.

The general word (confirmed by the new owners) is that it was sold to distant family members. The building was fixed up, the menu revamped, a few of the prices lowered, and it re-opened as Mughal Darbar. The “Mughal” in the title refers to the Mughal Empire that once ruled much of India, and this translates into a little more Persian influence in the food. If you were a fan of Taj, pretty much everything you loved on the menu is still there, and there are some new favorites to boot.

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Entrees are served in metal dishes, and you spoon it over rice. This makes it perfect for sharing. Above are three of our favorites. At the top is coconut murgh, or coconut chicken, in a sweeter sauce with big chunks of tender chicken. To the right is saag paneer, a tangy combination of spinach (the saag) and paneer, a spongy white Indian cheese. On the bottom left is baingain bartha, a rich and slightly smoky eggplant dish.

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Mughal also has a full bar. I appropriately ordered Elevator Brewing’s India Pale Ale to pair with our meal.

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Indian food is typically served with naan, a thin crusty bread that’s baked on the side of a tandoori oven. There are a multitude of flavors, but we usually go for the garlic naan and the paneer onion kulcha, which includes cheese and onion.

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Much like Ethiopian cuisine, Indian food can be eaten by tearing pieces of naan and scooping bites of the meat, vegetables, and rice.

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Mughal includes a type of naan called peshwari naan, too, which usually has nuts and fruit in it. We were so-so on this one – it was a little dry – but our impressions are unfair because we absolutely loved this bread when we studied abroad in London.

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Our recent visits took place during Dewali, and Mughal offered a wider range of desserts than they normally do. We enjoyed some rice pudding.

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As well as these sweet, crispy honey fritters (I can’t remember their name).

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Mughal hosts a lunch buffet regularly, and it’s especially popular on Sundays.

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Their food holds up to the buffet treatment, and it’s a chance for you to sample a lot of different dishes, plus appetizers, salad, naan, and dessert.

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You can’t really see it from these pictures, but the owners at Mughal Darbar have done some much-needed updates to their space, with fresh paint and decorations, refurbished of wood floors, and better lighting. The restaurant is an old house on High Street, just north of campus, and they’ve done a wonderful job of making it feel even more homey.

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Our last trip to the buffet included meals with vegetables, beef, potatoes, chicken, and lamb.

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And you have to finish a run at the buffet with a couple (or four) of these spongy fried cake balls. They’re hot and soaked in honey, and therefore delicious.

We certainly miss Taj Mahal and the family that ran it, but Mughal Darbar has taken a beloved experience and improved on it. So it will continue as our go-to for Indian food in town.

If you want to visit:
Mughal Darbar
2321 N. High St. (map it!)
Columbus, OH 43214
(614) 429-0700
Open Tues-Sat, 11a-2p, 5-9:30; Sun, 11:30a-2p, 5-9p
Find them on Facebook

Mughal Darbar on Urbanspoon

The Little Donut Shop | Columbus, OH

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The Little Donut Shop
(Facebook)

1716 N. High St. (map it!)
Columbus, OH 43201
(614) 725-4940
Open daily 9a-4p
Accepts cash & credit/debit
Vegetarian/vegan/gluten free? Y/N/N
Kid-friendly? Y

Visited: Saturday, October 12, 2013 at 11:00 a.m.

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A new donut shop? What?! This is big news for any breakfast aficionado, as well as any red-blooded, pastry-loving American. So imagine my surprise when I read online about a new donut shop opening across the street from Ohio State’s campus. It snuck up on me! So on our first available Saturday we sought out the new shop with the quaint name: The Little Donut Shop. You can find The Shop on street level below The Big Bar (get it?), part of the Newport Music Hall building facade.

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Little Donut Shop’s space is clean, new, and nicely packaged. Their branding is solidly designed and consistent throughout.

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The interior includes a small ramp up into the space (which eventually leads to the staircase up to the bar). There are cab tables and counters spread along the walls. It’s fairly open and easy to access for the grab-and-go customers.

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The menu sports a good variety to begin with, and I’m sure they cycle in some specials once in a while. The pricing is pretty standard, at $1 per donut, $5 for the half dozen, and $8 for the full dozen. I didn’t think to ask how many donuts come in the Late Night Bucket. What’s a little odd is that the current hours – 9am to 4pm – aren’t exactly of the “late night” variety, so I’m not sure when is the ideal time for such a bucket.

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Little Donut Shop’s donuts are a little smaller, maybe about three inches across. The intention seems to be that customers can put away two or three of these, in lieu of a single giant bismark or a thick cake donut.

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They make up for the smaller size, though, with an over-the-top line-up of toppings, glazes, and flavorings. They seem to draw inspiration from some of the wackier donut shops out there, like VooDoo Doughnut in Portland, Oregon. Which is good, in some ways, because Columbus doesn’t have anything quite like that (although Heather at Destination Donuts gets pretty creative). They use one type of cake donut as the base and then go all out with the toppings. See above: the Oreo and the M&M donuts, covered in a white glaze and generously smothered.

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Or, of course, the maple bacon.

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There’s the raspberry lemonade.

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The chocolate and the strawberry shortcake (I think?).

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Or the powdered and the Dirty Worm.

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We grabbed a good variety: maple bacon, M&M, chocolate, samoa, Milky Way, and sprinkle. The verdict? Good, but not mind-blowing. Certainly very sweet and fun to eat: a big hit with our kiddos. The base donut is pretty simple, and the toppings are very creative, but they came off as overly sweet. Case in point: the Milky Way is a donut that’s glazed and drizzled with caramel and mini chocolate chips and more chocolate. It’s just a lot of sugar packed into one small bite. I guess my ideal for this size of donut is something like Duck Donuts in North Carolina and Virginia, which uses a simple yeast donut as their base, and then dips them in sweet but balanced toppings.

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Little Donut Shop is certainly differentiating itself with a lot of creative flavors. They’ve done a wonderful job with that space and the branding, and hopefully the nearby student population will take notice. Their challenge will be carving out a niche when nearby tried-and-true spots like Buckeye Donuts have already been winning over donut fans for decades.

The Little Donut Shop on Urbanspoon

Tree Spirit Coffee | Columbus, OH

IMG_4485[Update September 2013: the cart is temporarily closed while they search for a permanent home.]

Tree Spirit Coffee (Facebook)
Currently at Woodruff Ave. & Tuller St. (map it!)
Columbus, OH 43201
(801) 949-7664
Follow on Facebook for specials, times, and current location

Visited: Wednesday, May 22, 2013 at 10:00 a.m.

While I’m always on the lookout for good food and coffee near Ohio State’s campus, I started seeing Facebook posts in the spring about a new trailer that had up shop along High Street just south of Lane. I never made it during the spring semester, but while driving some back streets on the way to *ahem* Buckeye Donuts, I spotted Tree Spirit at Woodruff and Tuller. It’s a little difficult to find – and not as clearly seen as the High Street location, but it’s worth a stop.

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On a warm spring day, I wanted some iced coffee. Kelsey (sp?), who was running the trailer, suggested the vanilla cinnamon iced coffee. She was spot-on. It was rich and sweet, with a little bite from the cinnamon. She added cream at my request; they stock Snowville Creamery goods.

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Tree Spirit has a nice selection of iced coffees, teas, bagels, yogurt, plus some hot sandwiches.

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They run daily specials as well. Keep an eye on their Facebook page to see what they’re serving there and where they are. Kelsey (again, sp?) told me that the owner is currently looking for a brick-and-mortar space along High Street, and that they plan to be moved in by the end of the summer. Judging by my iced coffee, Tree Spirit will be a welcome addition in the area!

Beyond Breakfast: Penn State Berkey Creamery

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What goes best with a little BBQ while you’re on the road in spring break? Ice cream! And if you happen to be on the road anywhere near central Pennsylvania, your best bet for ice cream has to be Penn State University’s Berkey Creamery.

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I know I know I know… I’m a blogger from Ohio, I teach at THE Ohio State University, Penn State is supposed to be a sworn enemy, blah blah blah. Columbus does ice cream well – we do it very well – but ice cream has been proven to transcend cultural, geographic, national, and yes, sometimes religious boundaries. So while we have lots of ice cream to be proud of in central Ohio, we’ve got to acknowledge the excellence of Penn State’s ice cream program. After all, our very own Jeni of Jeni’s Splendid Ice Creams attended Berkey Creamery.

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At the Berkey Creamery, it’s not just all ice cream. There’s sherbet, there’s cheese, and there are sticky buns from the local diner.

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In recent years the Creamery moved to a new space in the new Food Science Building. From what I barely remember of the old space (I only peaked in once), this is spot is bigger and more open. One corner of it is run like a good old fashioned convenience store, but a majority of the space is dedicated to the ice cream.

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Like any established ice cream shop, the Berkey Creamery has its share of famous flavors, like Peachy Paterno, Coconut Chip, and Mint Nittany. One of the more well known – and my personal favorite – is the Death By Chocolate.

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Death By Chocolate isn’t a really complex flavor, it’s just really, really great chocolate ice cream. It’s rich, it’s not over-the-top sweet, and it’s served in a generous heaping cup.

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We also “sampled” the cookies & cream and the peanut butter swirl.

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I’ve always had a soft spot for cookies and cream. It’s one of my go-tos at any ice cream parlor. The chunkier, the better.

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This would be a great way to go.

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Aside from eating ice cream on premises, we also visited with the purpose of loading up a cooler with half gallons. The creamery features an entire wall of freezers loaded top to bottom with ice cream, and they’ll pack it on dry ice for you.

For ice cream lovers or for casual travelers, the Berkery Creamery is a must-stop in central Pennsylvania. And don’t be intimidated by the campus location: it’s easy to access and a nearby parking garage has half hour spots dedicated to Creamery visitors.

If you want to visit:
Berkey Creamery
119 Food Science Building (map it!)
University Park, PA 16802
creamery.psu.edu
See also on Facebook and @PSUCreamery

Berkey Creamery on Urbanspoon

Boston Stoker Coffee | Columbus, OH

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Boston Stoker (Facebook / @BostonStokerOSU)
1660 Neil Ave. (map it!)
Columbus, OH 43210
(937) 890-6401
Open Mon-Fri, 6:30a-7p; Sat & Sun, 8a-2p
Accepts cash & credit/debit

Date of Visit: Thursday, February 28, 2013 at 12:30pm

Coffee on Ohio State’s campus – or any college campus, for that matter – can be a dubious affair. Students in need of caffeination are surrounded by shops hawking extra large lattes and towering cappuccinos. And let’s face it, as a student you’re usually focused more bang-for-your-buck caffeine stimulation rather than the true coffee experience. And that demand is met by places like Brenen’s Cafe, Starbucks, Panera, or any of the OSU food service run coffee shops.

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So if you’re someone like me, and you want coffee, but something beyond a sugary iced chai or a grande cup of acidic dark roast, you’re usually out of luck. Until about a year ago, when a Dayton-based chain called Boston Stoker opened a store on Neil Avenue near the center of campus. Like the Brenen’s Cafe that previously occupied the space, Boston Stoker fills the front half of the building, while the back half is dedicated to a bank branch. So in some ways the coffee shop feels like a glorified bank lobby, but it’s got enough personality to be a real coffee shop: couches for chatting, outlets for laptops, plenty of tables for studiers.

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The Boston Stoker company roasts their beans in Dayton, where they have nine other stores. In Columbus, menus are printed daily with the coffees available for espresso, French press, or pour overs.

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They also serve tea, plus munchables like bagels and muffins.

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The real feature of their coffee service is the brew bar, where cups of coffee are prepared individually using the pour over method.

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Pour overs provide a little song-and-dance routine for the customer, as it’s slightly more involved than just shooting coffee out of a press pot. This process includes pouring hot water over the coffee grounds in a funneled filter.

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This maximizes the appropriate contact time between water and grounds, and it allows you to do it one cup at a time.

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The result allows you to best feature the roast’s flavor profile. Seriously, you don’t need cream or sugar with it.

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I tried a cup of the Ethiopian Yirgacheffe on the recommendation of the barista, and I loved it. Clean, rich, a little fruity.

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This is why I’m so happy to have Boston Stoker on campus: no one else nearby is making coffee like this! Sure, maybe not all college students are looking for the ideal coffee experience, but there’s got to be a crowd for this. Especially given that the closest places preparing coffee well are further south in Short North or up in Clintonville. I know I’m going to create some slight detours to Boston Stoker on the walk between my office and my classrooms.

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