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Crimson Cup Coffee House | Columbus, OH

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Crimson Cup Coffee House (Facebook / @CrimsonCup / instagram: crimsoncupcoffee)
4541 N. High St. (map it!)
Columbus, OH 43214
(614) 262-6212
Open Mon-Sat, 6a-9p; Sun, 8a-8p
Accepts cash & debit/credit
Vegetarian/vegan/gluten free? Y/N/Y
Kid-friendly? Y

Visited: Many, many times

Anyone familiar with coffee in Columbus – or even if you’re not overtly familiar but just drink coffee – will have run into Crimson Cup and its coffees many times. Crimson Cup is a prolific roaster and wholesaler, with many shops around Columbus and far beyond – even much of Ohio State’s food service – brewing their coffees.

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Crimson Cup also has a small tip-of-the-iceberg retail storefront in the form of a Clintonville coffee shop. This shop is a proven mainstay of the neighborhood, and it does well at playing the everything-to-everyone game. First, it has a busy drive-through (they share a building with a credit union) to catch the on-the-go crowd. Then they’ve got the interior space and a small front patio with wifi, tables, couches, and comfy chairs for all those working, meeting, and reading (I’ve been regularly using the coffee shop as a morning writing spot). Finally, they’re delving into the “third wave” coffee shop experience with a full brew bar, experimental brews, and customer education.

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The menus differ between the drive-through and the inside counter (FYI to those of you driving through who don’t want pumpkin spice lattes and flavored ice teas). Clearly they’re playing to the likelihood of what drivers want to order, but if you’re headed into the drive-through, don’t forget you can request nitro-poured cold brew, cappuccinos, and the like. Inside, the brown paper menu provides an updated list of espresso drinks with helpful illustrations of coffee-to-milk ratios.

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If you’re up for trying out different coffee roasts and preparations, you can take a seat at the brew bar to try V60 pour-overs, Chemex coffee, or the variety of cold brews.

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The shop also sells beans, coffee brewing equipment, and small growlers of their cold brew.

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One of their signatures – and as far as I know, the only one you can currently find in town – is their cold brew coffee served on a nitro tap. This is similar to nitro tap beer, where the liquid is infused with nitrogen (rather than the traditional carbon dioxide in beer). Nitrogen bubbles are many times smaller than CO2, so it produces a wonderfully creamy texture. When a properly-made cold brew coffee is served this way, it’s very smooth, full of flavor, and almost devoid of bitterness. It’s a real treat.

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The coffee shop also gives you plenty of options beyond light, medium, dark roasts. The menus list and describe available roasts, plus their wide selection of loose leaf teas.

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While I usually French press coffee at home, I’ve enjoyed smaller and more potent drinks at coffee shops lately. I’m a fan of a good demitasse of espresso.

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But my real preference of late – and not just at Crimson Cup – is the cortado. The cortado is simply a shot of espresso cut with a little warm milk, usually in a 1:1 ratio.

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The cortado is efficient. It’s the richness of espresso combined with a little creaminess. Usually there’s enough milk that baristas produce some tiny latte art.

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Crimson Cup likes to have some fun with their coffees, too. This month they’ve dry-hopped their cold brew coffee; dry hopping is usually done with beer, and refers to adding hop leaves or cones after the boil. This imparts the flavors and aromas of the hops without boiling out more of the bitter acids. This brew may not be for everyone, but it’s worth trying. The hops aren’t overly strong; think of it more like very light porter.

Crimson Cup’s coffee shop covers all your needs: drive-through fuel up, study space, or coffee bar. It’s good to have them in the neighborhood.

Crimson Cup Coffee House on Urbanspoon

Breakfast With Nick at Whole Foods!

IMG_0891Come have breakfast with me this Saturday and Sunday, October 25 and 26! Whole Foods on Lane Avenue is hosting a special Breakfast With Nick weekend brunch menu. I helped them develop two delicious dishes – a savory kale & eggs on toast and a sweet s’mores French toast – to be featured with brunch at The Social.

There’s also a mimosa bar and coffee. Brunch will be served 10am to 2pm Saturday and Sunday. Come say hi to me from 11am to 2pm Sunday!

Actual Roastery | Columbus, OH

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Actual Roastery (Facebook)
400 W. Rich St. (map it!)
Columbus, OH 43215
(614) 407-5282
Open Mon-Fri, 7a-4p (special Saturday hours on 400 Market days)
Accepts cash & debit/credit
Vegetarian/vegan/gluten free? Y/N/Y

Visited: Most recently, Tuesday, October 14, 2014 at 10:15 a.m.

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There’s lots of good stuff happening in Franklinton, between the continued growth of 400 West Rich, the opening of Strongwater Food & Spirits, Rehab Tavern, Idea Foundry, and Land-Grant Brewing (coming this weekend!).

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The space has transformed over the months as Dinin’ Hall finished its run and Actual Roastery has fully taken over. With the big windows and the garage doors open during warmer weather, the space is bright and quiet. There’s wifi, too, so studiers looking for caffeine and a snack should take note.

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The big community table still remains, and now there are smaller cafe tables and a comfy couch, too.

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Many are familiar with Actual Brewing Company and their top-notch beers (and if you’re not – get right on it!). Their operations are based in an industrial park on James Road near the airport. That’s where they brew, maintain their yeast lab, and roast coffee. Jen Ryan and Jason Montgomery from the coffee-roasting side of things have appeared at markets around town, but the cafe – which opened this summer and is headed up by Jen – offers a nice retail front to things.

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The cafe offers both hot and cold coffee. Hot options include pour-overs, French press, or good old-fashioned brewed. There are also snacks from local vendors like Buttergirl Bakery. Coffee is available to-go or in mis-matched mugs to stay.

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Naturally, the cafe serves Actual roasts. You get a choice of beans for your brew.

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Snacks range from cookies to handmade pop tarts to oatmeal energy “bawls.”

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I’ve enjoyed my stops at the Roastery. It’s a fun and comfortable place (although it deserves to be busier), just over the river from downtown and nestled in a quiet section of east Franklinton.

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The coffees are solid, and the snacks are excellent. I’m particularly fond of Buttergirl’s pop-tarts, with a special place for their apple vanilla and the pumpkin. I appreciate the bright and colorful location – with nice pops of color on the walls and from fresh flowers.

There’s plenty of space at Actual Roastery, so it’s good for meetings, studying, writing, or just relaxing with a book. I recommend anyone traveling through the area – or looking for a new spot to work – stop in for a cup of coffee and a snack. It’d be great if the coffee shop became a Franklinton institution.

Read more: here’s my Q&A with Jen for Columbus Crave.

Double Comfort Restaurant | Columbus, OH

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Double Comfort Restaurant (Facebook / @double_comfort / instagram: doublecomfort)
505 N. High St. (map it!)
Columbus, OH 43215
(614) 745-2183
Open Tues-Thurs, 11:30a-2p, 5:30-9p; Fri, 11a-11p; Sat, 9a-11p; Sun, 9a-2p (brunch served Sat & Sun, 9a-2p)
Accepts cash & credit/debit
Vegetarian/vegan/gluten free? Y/N/N
Kid-friendly? Y

Visited: Sunday, September 21, 2014 at 11:00 a.m.

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It’s pretty well documented that Columbus is in the midst of a fried chicken renaissance. We’ve been fans of Mya’s Fried Chicken from the get-go, and have found any excuse to visit Hot Chicken Takeover. We’re always ready to welcome a new fried chicken love into the fold, so hearing good things about Double Comfort opening in the old Knead space, we tracked down their Southern brunch one sunny Sunday.

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The space has been totally revamped and lightened up.

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Some of the focus walls and the bar are covered with reclaimed barn wood, imparting a lighter, natural feel. Very fitting for a restaurant serving rustic Southern dishes.

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The two big things to note about Double Comfort are a.) the focus on fried chicken, and b.) their mission of supporting local charities. With your purchase, Double Comfort donates directly to the charity – meal for meal. It rotates seasonally; currently they’re supporting Mid-Ohio Foodbank.

The brunch menu is divided into biscuits, southern traditions, waffles, eggs (“Before they hatch”), and salads.

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Amongst a busy and rather full brunch crowd, we began the proceedings with a pair of cocktails. First, the obligatory Bloody Mary – a little spicy and very drinkable. And then there was a new discovery: the sweet tea sour. Building on a bourbon base (my favorite starting point for a cocktail), the creamy and frothy sour mixes a sweet tea syrup with lemon juice and whipped egg white. The result is surprisingly mellow and sweet with a light foam, not my usual choice of cocktail but a smooth sipper to go with salty fried chicken.

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They were out of the mac and cheese waffle, so we ordered the cheddar waffle. It’s a large waffle quartered and sprinkled with the cheese. It comes with a pickled veggie mix called chow chow, like a sweet relish made from tomatoes, onions, cauliflower, etc. We put it on the side for our boys.

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From the biscuits menu we chose the fried green tomato biscuit. It’s a dense but soft biscuit loaded with goat cheese, greens, and very nicely breaded fried green tomatoes.

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The biscuits and sausage gravy was my personal favorite of the meals, and it really spoke to the comfort food angle of the restaurant. It’s a generous plate of two biscuits, soft fried potatoes, and a really rich bacon and sausage gravy. It was the perfect level of chunky and spicy for me.

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If you want to eat on the lighter end of things – even at a Southern fried chicken restaurant – you’ve got a couple salad options, like the farm salad with greens, pumpkin seeds, veggies, goat cheese, and a couple slices of fried green tomatoes. It’s covered in a chow chow vinaigrette. They leaned a little too much on the celery, which imparts a strong flavor and stands out with its crisp texture, but the salad is generously portioned.

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Of course, we can’t go to Double Comfort without trying their Memphis-style fried chicken, right?! I’m a sucker for a good chicken and waffle, so my eye was drawn to that on the menu. The deep-pocketed waffles were very good, although a little soggy by the time they reached us, but the crispy and moist fried chicken made up for it. The skin is fried evenly, with a crunchy and peppery seasoning. A very worthy stop on any Columbus fried chicken tour. The chicken and waffles were served with their Three Sins syrup: maple syrup + bourbon + coffee + bacon. I can get definitely behind that, although the resulting syrup packs a punch. It’s dense, rich, and very smoky. I applied it conservatively to my waffles and chicken.

Even though the restaurant was busy when we arrived, we still found a four-top quickly. The wait time for our food was a little long, but our server checked in with us pretty regularly. The food was spot-on for a Southern comfort brunch. Not that I know Southern food exceptionally well, but the meal certainly nailed the comfort side with big, hearty plates. Definitely worth a visit or two for brunch. I hope the restaurant continues to do well. Even if fried chicken isn’t exactly your thing, you should support Double Comfort for their community-focused mission.

Double Comfort on Urbanspoon

Sassafras Bakery | Worthington, OH

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Sassafras Bakery (Facebook / @SassafrasBakery / Instagram @SassafrasBakery)
657 High St. (map it!)
Worthington, OH 43085
(614) 781-9705
Open Wed-Fri, 8a-5p; Sat, 8a-3p
Accepts cash & credit/debit
Vegetarian/vegan/gluten free? Y/N/N
Kid-friendly? Y

Visited: Many times, but most recently Thursday, August 28, 2014 at 9:00 a.m.

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I’ve gotta be up front with you: this is an easy one to write. In fact, it’s almost easy to take Sassafras Bakery for granted, because a.) Mrs. Bfast w/Nick works a block away from the bakery, and b.) we’ve been fans of everything AJ bakes for years. Sassafras is a prime example of a business that started very small – AJ baking out of her home and selling at farmers markets – and has grown into a brick-and-mortar space. The hard work of braving years of weather and crowds and crazy markets and changing seasons has translated into a trusted brand and dedicated following. And we certainly count ourselves amongst the followers.

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Sassafras is right in the heart of Old-with-an-E Worthington. It’s in good company with places like Worthington Inn, Candle Lab, House Wine, and one of my personal favorites, Igloo Letterpress (because Mrs. Bfast w/Nick works there, to be clear (but also, it’s an awesome place)). The cafe plays host to a few tables, plus a counter, display cases, and a little stand with gift items like jam, cards, and a certain breakfast book. It’s all warm and cozy.

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One of the best parts of seeing Sassafras at the Worthington Farmer’s Market was eyeing the gorgeous displays of baked goods. And now you can do the same with the cases at the cafe. You’ll be tempted by a line-up of everything from scones to cookies to muffins to brownies.

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The benefit of the brick-and-mortar space is more prepared foods like delicious quiches – or at least the chance to enjoy a slice in-house, plus hot or cold soups.

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You can usually find two or three varieties of quiche, of both meat and veggie varieties.

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On my last visit I tore through a fantastic roasted zucchini and sun-dried tomato quiche, with mozzarella and basil. The crust was delicate and flaky, and the quiche itself loaded with veggies.

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For the customer who can’t decide whether they want a donut or a muffin, there’s always the donut muffin. It’s the best of both worlds.

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Despite the warm weather at the time, fall was beginning to creep on the menu. And it took fine form with the apple cider muffin, perfectly moist and tasting like a fresh glass of cider, with a little sweet icing to cap it off. Excellent pairing with a mug of Cafe Brioso coffee.

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One bite of anything at Sassafras and you’ll be hooked.

What I’m showing you here barely scratches the surface. Just fill your Facebook or Instagram feed with Sassafras Bakery and you’ll get to enjoy a steady stream of mouth-watering kitchen sink granola bars, scones, soups, iced cookies, fudge brownies, ratatouille tarts, gooey cinnamon rolls. And the pies. Oh, the pies. AJ makes a bourbon pumpkin tart that is easily my favorite pumpkin thing ever.IMG_4379

The cafe also runs specials like the milk and cookies happy hour. Great way to end any day.

Because AJ sources high quality ingredients, expect lots of seasonal rotation. Your best bet is to keep an eye on the cafe’s online presence to see what’s featured, but let’s face it: you can walk into any time and find something to love.

Sassafras Bakery on Urbanspoon

Block’s Bagels | Columbus, OH

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Block’s Bagels (Facebook / @BlocksBagels)
3415 E. Broad St. (map it!)
Columbus, OH 43213
(614) 235-2551
Open Mon-Fri, 6a-5:30p; Sat & Sun, 6:30a-4p
Accepts cash & credit/debit
Vegetarian/vegan/gluten free? Y/N/N
Kid-friendly? Y

Visited: Saturday, August 23, 2014 at 10:30 a.m.

They say there’s no school like the old school, right? Well, if that’s true, then there’s no bagels like Block’s Bagels. Block’s calls themselves the original bagels to Columbus. The Block family moved here from New York City in the late 1960’s. When friends came to visit from New York, they noticed the lack of real bagels in Columbus. Inspired by the comments, Harold Block opened a small bakery and deli in Bexley. Over the years business grew, and now Block’s is chugging along just like they did in the old days.

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Almost thirty years ago now, they moved to their current location a little east on Broad Street. (Their large production facility further east on McNaughten Center includes a second cafe.)

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Judging by the location, not much has changed over thirty years. Not to say it looks outdated. Well, okay, maybe it does a little. It’s just that, nothing much has changed in how they make their bagels and how they serve their customers, so why change it?

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The cafe is fairly large (enough to accommodate bigger groups, hint) and the counters are divided into two sides: deli and bakery.

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The deli side lets you order breakfast, salads, and sandwiches, as well as bulk meats and salads. Plenty of certified kosher items.

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The breakfast menu ranges from simple bagels and cream cheese, to small plates of eggs and meat (lox, salami, bologna, corned beef), but there’s an Egg Beater omelet and challah French toast.

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The bakery side features baskets upon baskets of fresh bagels. Although Block’s produces much of their wholesale goods at the McNaughten facility, you’ll still see them boiling and baking bagels at this cafe.

Block’s serves New York style water bagels. A New York water bagel is made from simple ingredients: flour, water, salt, yeast. It’s boiled first, and then baked. The boiling puffs up the bagel and gives it a chewier texture, while the baking gives it a better crust.

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Block’s makes nearly 30 styles of bagels and bagel sticks. Sesame, poppy seed, caraway. Sourdough, rye, whole wheat. Blueberry, cinnamon raisin, chocolate chip. Plain. Or Everything. Get the Everything bagel. It’s the only type you’ll ever need. In my opinion, a deli is only as good as its everything bagel.

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The dine-in service is pretty simple. Order at the counter and the server there will assemble your order one piece at a time. This means you might wait a little longer for bigger groups. We ordered four different things; the server moved quickly to prep a bagel with cream cheese and the lox platter. Then she disappeared in the back to make my eggs and corned beef. She brought that out, then disappeared in the back to make the French toast. It’s nice knowing everything’s made fresh, but it means there’s a short wait.

The actual presentation is funny, too: thin styrofoam platters. Plastic forks, knives, spoons and napkins are self-service.

So here’s the first thing: a plain bagel with cream cheese for the boys. Great bagel. Generous smear of cream cheese. Excellent pickle.

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The corned beef, eggs, and everything bagel wasn’t exactly up to par, but for some reason I found it more amusing than off-putting. The corned beef and eggs were over-cooked and the beef itself was a little fatty. But the cream cheese and everything bagel were great, of course, and the pickle. But I probably should have ordered this as a breakfast sandwich instead.

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The challah French toast (made using Block’s challah bread – the bakery has a whole shelf of breads), is excellent. Thick slices of fresh challah, eggy and custardy like French toast should be. Dusted with powdered sugar and (a little too generous) coating of cinnamon.

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And the piece de resistance, the dish by which we judge all delis: the lox platter with salmon, cream cheese, onions, tomato, lettuce, and an everything bagel (we had to ask for the capers – we like that salty kick). Block’s is as good as you could hope for.

Next time you’re out exploring, stop by Block’s for a quick breakfast. Everything is worth a try (maybe get a sandwich and not the corned beef and eggs), and the bagels are stellar. If there’s no school like the old school, then you need to stick with the old school.

(Pssst… Block’s is the original New York bagel in Columbus, but they’re evenly matched by Sammy’s. Columbus is all the richer for both of them.)

Block's Bagels on Urbanspoon

The Social | Columbus, OH

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The Social (Facebook / @WholeFoodsUA / Instagram @wfmupperarlington)
1555 W. Lane Ave. (map it!) (inside the Upper Arlington Whole Foods)
Columbus, OH 43221
(614) 481-3400
Open 7a-10p (bfast served all day)
Accepts cash & credit/debit
Vegetarian/vegan/gluten free? Y/Y/N
Kid-friendly? Y

Visited: Thursday, July 24, 2014 at 9:00 a.m.

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Whole Foods is known for not just being a shopping place but for creating a full experience. This includes a lot of in-store events and a lot of opportunities for in-store dining. Most Whole Foods have an active prepared foods department that does more than just assemble meals for customers. The WF in Dublin, for instance, includes the 161 Diner, a small counter serving brunch, burgers, and beers.

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The fairly new Whole Foods in Upper Arlington, a smaller-scale store that replaced the Wild Oats on Lane Avenue, includes a small restaurant called The Social. The Social is connected to the store but still feels separate. It has its own entrance, which creates more of a feeling of a stand-alone restaurant than, say, the 161 Diner. In Dublin you need to trek through the store to get to the diner, and then sitting at the counter feels a little like sitting in the middle of the store.

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The Social could be any restaurant space. Not to say it’s generic – it just has a life of its own, separate from the store. The space is bright and welcoming, with a long bar at the back and plenty of cafe tables. Chalkboard menus list drinks from coffee to beer (mental note: good beer selection). Full- and half-sized growlers line nearly every shelf. Ordering takes place at the counter.

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Here’s the farm breakfast, a steal at $5 for two eggs, choice of meat (including vegan sausage), toast, and potatoes. All of it was done just right: soft and well-seasoned potatoes, eggs to order, very flavorful sausage. And served with house-made jam. Again, for $5!

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Also, the challah French toast. Two thick slices served with syrup, berry compote, and whipped cream.

A comfortable space and inexpensive prices easily put The Social on the radar for me. It’s a very accessible place with a big enough breakfast menu to serve anyone. And you know I’m eyeing that beer selection for a later visit…

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