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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

Market: Brunch Bites at the Grand Rapids Downtown Market

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

AJ’s Cafe | Columbus, OH

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AJ’s Cafe (Facebook / @AjaysCafe)
152 E. State St. (map it!)
Columbus, OH 43215
(614) 223-3999
Open Mon-Fri, 7:30a-3p; Sat, 11a-5p
Accepts cash & credit/debit
Vegetarian/vegan/gluten free? Y/N/N
Kid-friendly? Y

Visited: Thursday, May 29, 2014 at 10:00 a.m.

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We were very sad when Taj Mahal Indian Restaurant closed last fall; it was a favorite stop for Indian food, and a regular place to take out-of-town visitors. (It’s since been replaced by the also-good Mughal Darbar.) One of our favorite things about Taj was being greeted by Ajay Kumar. Ajay’s family owned the restaurant; his father started it over 25 years ago, and it was one of the first Indian restaurants in Columbus. Ajay shared an especially warm welcome and a friendly handshake, and we were especially sad to lose that when the restaurant closed.

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Fortunately for us (and the rest of Columbus, I guess), Ajay has worked his way back toward opening his own cafe – AJ’s Cafe downtown. While it’s not exclusively an Indian restaurant, he’s still up to a lot of good things, he’s still offering the welcoming smile, and some Indian flavors have naturally crept onto the menu.

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The cafe is in a good-sized space at the corners of State St. and North Fourth St. (formerly the C-Town Market). It’s a couple blocks east of the Ohio Statehouse, and is easily visible while jetting up Fourth (Fourth is one-way, but State is two-way). There’s plenty of metered parking lining the streets.

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As you might expect from a downtown cafe, the focus is on simpler grab-and-go items. Expect to see quickly-made hot sandwiches and wraps + pre-made cold sandwiches. This is in addition to assorted bagels, drinks and some locally baked snacks.

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Ajay serves Upper Cup Coffee from nearby Olde Towne East.

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He also makes a ginger spiced chai, a hot concoction of black tea, milk, and spices like ginger and cardamom.

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On our two visits to the cafe, we tried both breakfast and lunch dishes. Ajay was especially proud to show off a house-made potato salad, which is seasoned perfectly. I love me some potato salad, and this was up there with some of the best I’ve had.

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We combined some breakfast and lunch (there’s got to be a word for that) with the zen wrap and the lentil and spinach soup. The wrap mixes rice, spinach, lentils, sliced carrots and apples, and a tamarind-cilantro vinaigrette. It’s a nice refreshing combination – I think it needed a little more vinaigrette. The soup is rich but light-bodied and little lemony. Both dishes are vegan, too!

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The bacon and egg wrap is just what it sounds like: a wrap with scrambled eggs, cheese, and bacon. Simple but well executed.

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A good example of the Indian flavors making their way onto the menu is the raja wrap. It features tandoori chicken, rice, red onion, jalapenos, and a cilantro chutney familiar from the Taj Mahal days. Other good Indian examples are the CTM wrap, made with chicken tikka masala, and the spiced chickpea wrap. I’m hoping that Ajay can continue to distinguish his cafe with these flavor profiles.

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If Indian food isn’t your favorite (and why isn’t it?!), the cafe offers lunch classics like a corned beef reuben, a turkey meatball sub, a tilapia sandwich, and the Bourbon St. Philly with spicy chicken.

AJ’s Cafe obviously has competition downtown, but it’s close to some crowded buildings, and there’s enough interesting dishes to set it apart from nearby options. And you can’t beat the warm welcome from Ajay and his crew! If anything, we’re glad to have the chance to see him on a regular basis and experience his hospitality again.

Aj's Cafe on Urbanspoon

The Hungry Soul Cafe | Columbus, OH

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The Hungry Soul Cafe
(Facebook)

30 S. Young St. (map it!)
Columbus, OH 43215
(614) 224-1944
Open Mon-Fri, 11a-2p, 5-8p; brunch on Sun, 9a-2p (alcohol served after 11)
Accepts cash & credit/debit
Vegetarian/vegan/gluten free? Y/N/N
Kid-friendly? Y

Visited: Sunday, May 4, 2014, at 12:30p

You hear a lot of shops, restaurants, parks, bike paths, neighborhoods referred to as “hidden gems.” These places are special. They’re hidden and known only to you and few others. And it’s important to have hidden gems peppered around a big city like Columbus. It gives us our special places to visit or hide out. It makes it worth our time exploring the city and discovering corners we’ve never visited. If you’re a regular at a hidden gem, you sometimes don’t want them to be discovered by others. A once quiet spot might now be overrun by latecomers who are only now discovering what you’ve known all along.

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If you’re one of those latecomers, however, you get to enjoy the thrill of discovering a new place. That’s what brings me to The Hungry Soul Cafe. To be clear: I’m not the first to discover the restaurant. It’s been open for a couple years (as Hungry Soul – it’s been a restaurant for much, much longer) and many folks have written about it. But this was our first discovery, and the restaurant’s side street (but still very exposed) location and the low-ceilinged, wood-appointed interior feel exactly like a hidden gem should.

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Hungry Soul is situated on South Young Street downtown, just a couple blocks south of East Broad, on the street level of a parking garage – yes, a parking garage. There’s a green awning over the doorway and big, red lettering across the fully windowed wall to mark the restaurant. Nearby surface lots offer parking, but the streets are full of parking meters (which are free on Sundays!).

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The space runs the length of the building, with a main floor that’s carpeted and includes the bar and long rows of tables. An upper level is built entirely of wood – floors, tables, benches – and really speaks to the age of the space. We sat up in this area, and I couldn’t stop staring at the woodwork. Not that it was particularly ornate; it was just so unexpected in a cafe at the bottom of a parking garage.

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This little booth, for instance, just cracked me up.

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Lucky for you we brunched with a big group, so you get a sampling of the full menu. Our boys, for instance, split the Hungry Soul, a plate of eggs, meat, toast, hash browns, and a Belgian waffle. Extra points for nicely browned potatoes, homemade sausage, and a big, thick waffle.

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Special bonus if you like to spike your brunch with a drink: $5.00 Bloody Marys and mimosas. The Bloody Mary was a real winner: a generous amount of vodka, seasoned salt on the rim, appropriately spicy, garnished with olives.

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Hungry Soul’s brunch menu mixes American breakfast classics with a little Hungarian vibe and a touch of soul food. (Oh, I think I just got the restaurant’s name: Hungry Soul = Hungary + Soul.) One such combination is the Palacsinta or Hungarian crepes: thin, sweet crepes filled with different combinations. We ordered the Mama’s Apples featuring southern flavors like apples, apple butter, and sausage.

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Oatmeal lovers will find both plain and fancy versions on Hungry Soul’s brunch menu. The plain – called The Intern – is topped with butter and cinnamon and a side of syrup. The three fancy options like apples and raisins or bacon. We choose Fancy #2, with peaches cooked in bourbon butter sauce.

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It wasn’t all sweet for us. I can rarely turn down a good biscuits and gravy, and Hungry Soul’s did not disappoint. The house-made sage sausage gravy is incredibly chunky, the biscuits soft and chewy.

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The menu includes six omelets ranging from meat-heavy to veggie-friendly.

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They’re all served with sides of toast, hash browns, and colorful fruit.

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Lastly, the Comfort on a Plate exemplifies the cafe’s soul-feeding mantra. It’s just like the Hungry Soul dish minus the waffle, but it’s still a plateful of down-home cooking.

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Hungry Soul has all the right elements to be a regular brunch spot: a solidly earns the “hidden gem” distinction, but for the sake of owners Anita and Georger Keller and all discerning Columbus brunchers, I hope it doesn’t stay hidden for long.

The Hungry Soul Cafe on Urbanspoon

Propaganda Donuts | Grand Rapids, MI

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Propaganda Donuts (Facebook / @PropagandaDonut)

117A S. Division Ave. (map it!)
Grand Rapids, MI 40503
Open Mon, Wed-Sun, 8a-12p; open Fri & Sat, 8p-12a
Accepts cash & credit/debit
Vegetarian/vegan/gluten free? Y/N/Y

Visited: Sunday, March 30, 2014 at 9:30a

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“Danger. Intrigue. Donuts.” That’s the tagline for Propaganda Donuts, a hip new donut shop set up just south of downtown Grand Rapids on Division Avenue. It sets up an air of mystery and curiosity, which is followed through with a location more like a film noir set than a traditional donut shop. The space itself is an old storefront – one I’ve never visited before – with an in-set tiled entryway, a wooden door, and big windows.

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The sandwich board out front gives you another clue that these donuts will be anything but traditional.

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The interior is one long room, the left wall all exposed brick. There’s a small counter, while the rest of the customer space is dedicated to a few seats for waiting and a desk.

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Even the counter itself is stacked with stuff like detective novels, an old wooden filing cabinet, a bottle of moonshine, binoculars.

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A small display case shows off the offerings for the day. It takes a moment or two to triangulate which sign goes with which donut.

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When we visited, 5-6 people were waiting for one of their daily specials – a French cruller – to be made. But we hopped right up to the counter, ordered, and were on our way.

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The old desk in the waiting area keeps up the detective theme, with books, a typewriter, newspapers (some real, some fictional), and photos.

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Propaganda is nailing the style, and it’s not without substance. We grabbed one of each of their daily offerings. These ranged from the standards of plain, powdered, and cinnamon sugar to more unique eats like honey roasted beets, vanilla bean buttermilk with chocolate and raspberry, and a bourbon caramel with mango, pineapple, passion fruit, and sprinkled with coconut. There wasn’t a bad donut in the bunch, although our preference was for the three more creative specials. Even the combinations that might seem too funky for some (honey roasted beets, for instance) worked quite well. And clearly they’re catching on, given the waiting crowd and the fact neighborhood folks were stopping in for coffee and a donut while walking their dogs (that’s always a good sign to me).

Downtown Grand Rapids is experiencing a bit of renaissance, with new restaurants, the new market opening, brewpubs, and more. So it’s fitting that it would get an interesting donut place, too, and I deduce (see what I did there?) Propaganda is filling the niche. With some fun flavor combinations, responsible sourcing of ingredients, and supreme dedication to their branding, they could be on track to becoming a destination like places like Voodoo Doughnuts in Portland.

Propaganda Doughnuts on Urbanspoon

Madcap Coffee | Grand Rapids, MI

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Madcap Coffee
(Facebook / @MadCapCoffee)

85 Monroe Center NW (map it!)
Grand Rapids, MI 49503
(616) 242-9194
Open Mon-Fri, 7a-7p; Sat, 8a-7p; Sun, 10a-3p
Accepts cash & credit/debit

Visited: Saturday, December 27, 2013 at 3:00pm

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What does it say when other people tell ME about cool places to go in MY hometown? Well, it probably says that I haven’t lived there in over a decade, and the place keeps getting cooler and cooler with each passing year. Exhibit A: Madcap Coffee. Opened downtown almost six years ago. I didn’t hear of it until about a year ago. And now we’re finally making it.

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Madcap is a great example of “third wave” coffee (1st = Folger’s, 2nd = Starbucks). “Third wave” shops are the small-batch roasters who treat coffee on par with craft beer, wine, etc. In other words, they’re sourcing, roasting, and brewing coffee beans with care.

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Madcap has a beautiful corner space in downtown Grand Rapids on Monroe Center, a pedestrian-friendly diagonal stretch full of shops and restaurants. The space is brightly-lit, with tall windows, wooden floors, some art spread around the walls, and a large back brick wall.

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Madcap’s branding is also pretty solid.

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They’ve got all the accoutrement for sale: beans, mugs, shirts, etc.

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The counter is arranged like a large U: point of sale is in the middle; specialty drives arrive on the left, and on the right is a row of pour-overs. The menu at places like Madcap tends to be limited, not the expansive half-caf, double-whip, extra-shot menus of most corporate coffee shops. Instead, they focus on doing a few things very well: pour-over coffee, espresso, lattes, etc. I ordered a pour-over of a Guatemalan roast; I often prefer judging a new coffee shop on the quality of a simple pour-over, and Madcap’s was excellent.

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Mrs. Bfast w/Nick ordered a latte, and it was rich and creamy and balanced.

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Madcap seems to have a good thing going. I’m glad to have finally visited, and I look forward to hitting them up again when we’re back in town.

Madcap Coffee on Urbanspoon

SuperChef’s Breakfast & More | Columbus, OH

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SuperChef’s Breakfast & More (Facebook / @SuperChefsOhio)
199 E. Broad St. (map it!)
Columbus, OH 43215
(614) 221-9663
Open 7a-2p
Accepts cash & credit/debit
Vegetarian/vegan/gluten free? Y/N/N
Kid-friendly? Y

Visited: Sunday, September 29, 2013 at 12:30pm

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We recently hit up the new-ish SuperChef’s for a Sunday brunch. I wrote about the busy little downtown eatery for the Daily Crave blog here; take a look for a little bit of their history, plus a highlight of their dishes. We arrived for lunch just after noon on Sunday, and the place was positively humming with activity. We had to wait about 10 minutes for a four-top to open up; at that time on a Sunday, you can expect a surge from the after-church crowd. Meanwhile, we watched servers dashing to and fro with big, beautiful plates of food.

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SuperChef’s is one long room with a front facing East Broad Street. Three rows of tables extend back into the space, and outside are two tables with umbrellas. A couple big windows in the back let you watch the SuperChefs themselves in action.

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It’s a real flurry of activity. The chefs and servers are decked out in bright hats and shirts with logos.

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Let me just say this: SuperChef’s really goes for the “super” in their title, meaning that they go over-the-top with their meals, like a colorful and delightful comic book. The restaurant name, I learned, is a title given to the owner Darnell Ferguson. He was a chef at the 2008 Olympics, and so was dubbed “SuperChef.” So I think the food is best approached with a sense of humor and fun. After a pre-visit glance at their website, I knew we’d be ordering the red velvet pancakes. These are honestly just straight-up slices of red velvet cake. But if they want to layer it with cream cheese, put syrup on it, and call them pancakes, I’m okay with that. Our family devoured these pretty quickly: they’re sweet but not overwhelmingly so, and very soft.

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We went savory, too, with the SuperChef’s eggs benedict. The title “benedict” can only be loosely applied. There’s nothing of the English muffin/poached egg/hollandaise sort. Instead, it’s a deep bowl of spicy red pepper grits, covered with rich house-made sausage, cheese, and two fried eggs. Because it’s served in such a steep bowl, the grease from the cheese, sausage, and grits gathers around the edges. But, well, fat is flavor, so it certainly tastes good. I love a good runny yolk, and the grits and sausage are both very well seasoned.

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We delved a little into the lunch menu as well, with an eye toward the sweet and sour burger, a sizeable burger – cooked just right – with chunky pulled pork in sweet and sour sauce. I didn’t really taste the hot crab spread that the menu includes, I think mainly because the sweet and sour sauce dominates everything.

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That note aside, it’s still a great burger. The beef and the pork are very tender and juicy. I love the toasted bun, and the side of fries are thick cut and seasoned just right.

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We finished the meal with dessert… er, more breakfast. While we waited for our table, we watched order after order of waffles come out of the kitchen. So we tried the Elvis Waffle. Just listen to the ingredient list: waffles with candied bacon in the batter, sliced bananas, peanut butter, chocolate syrup, and whipped cream.

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This is the sort of treat you have just once in a while for breakfast, but oh, what a treat. The kitchen team cuts the waffles into quarters and stacks them on the plate; they come out like a little tower of sweet breakfasty delights. As over-the-top this dish might be, it’s still expertly constructed. The waffles are crispy, and the toppings are applied in the appropriate amounts.

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We really enjoyed our experience at SuperChef’s. The dishes are delightfully crazy, but they were fun to eat and very well put together. The price point is a little higher (expect anywhere from $8-12 for a meal), but the portions are big and easy to split. There’s also a ton of other stuff on the menu: omelets, more crazy pancakes and French toast, and quesadillas. We are certainly excited to return, and I hope Chef Darnell and his crew stay as busy as they were that Sunday.

SuperChef's Breakfast & More on Urbanspoon

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