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Pistacia Vera | Columbus, OH


Pistacia Vera (Facebook / @PistaciaVera)
541 S. Third Ave. (map it!)
Columbus, OH 43215
(614) 220-9070
Open daily 7a-7p (brunch served till 2p)
Accepts cash & credit/debit
Vegetarian/vegan/gluten free? Y/N/Y
Kid-friendly? Y

Date of Visit: Wednesday, November 14, 2012 at 10:00 a.m.


Long have I been waiting to write about Pistacia Vera. The darling of the foodie world, both locally and beyond, PV has been featured on tours and in blogs and magazines repeatedly. I mean, one look at their bright German Village cafe and their near-pornographic displays of croissants, pastries, macarons, and cookies and it’s easy to understand why.


I still remember when they started in Short North as Pistachio, in a brick-walled Pearl Street location that’s now home to Tasi Cafe. We wandered in during gallery hop and chatted with the owner. Soon after, though, the little patisserie had disappeared out of Short North and re-appeared as Pistacia Vera on one of the main streets in German Village. Clearly it was good move, for them, and to make way for the excellent Tasi.


With a rare morning free, the Mrs. and I visited Pistacia Vera for a weekday brunch. We found the cafe about half-full.


The big windows and open display cases provide ample opportunity for food photography. With so many eye-catching sights, you really can’t help yourself. The service aspect is simple: you place your order at the counter, are given a number, and then you pick from the dozen or so tables.


We started with the pain au chocolat: a croissant with ribbons of semi-sweet chocolate. Layers of flakes give way to a soft bite of chocolate. We both ordered coffee, too, which was one aspect we felt so-so about in the meal. Pistacia Vera rightfully serves Cafe Brioso coffee (who we generally love), but the roast tasted too dark, almost burnt, which put it in danger of overshadowing the more delicate flavors of the pastries and the brunch.


While we waited for our more substantial brunch, I hovered over the displays and photographed, well, everything.


Big, flaky croissants.


Ham and cheese croissants with prosciutto and gruyere.


Pain au raisin with a sheen so perfect they almost seemed fake.


Apple cake.


Then brunch arrived. And in fine form, too. As we were deep into Dine Originals Week, PV had a quiche special on the menu. The Mrs. had the mushroom quiche, a tall and wide slice loaded with crimini and shitake and cooked to just the right consistency: it held together well without being dried out. Mushrooms are an unsung hero of breakfast. Few other ingredients impart a strong earthy flavor like mushrooms do, so when they are used properly in a quiche or an omelet, especially when complemented by the right cheese and seasoning, they can really shine.


I knew well ahead of time that I was going to order the tomato provencal baked eggs. This style is often called shirred eggs, which means eggs cracked and baked in a dish. Pistacia Vera’s eggs are baked with tomatoes, cream, parmigiano-reggiano, and various herbs. It comes with a toasted croissant and their homemade (gluten free) preserves – that day they were serving spiced pear preserves. The preserves are sweet without being sugary, and they go very well with the croissant. Word to the wise, though: croissants in toasted form are messy. Just imagine all of those layers baked to a crisp, and then imagine how they flake apart when you bite into them. Have a napkin handy.


This gets the award for Most Photogenic Bite of Breakfast in 2012. And the dish itself is one of the stand-outs of the year. The eggs were runny, which lets them mix with the rich tomato reduction (a “fondue” the menu calls it), the generous herbs, and the sharp cheese. It’s one of the better seasoned dishes breakfast dishes I’ve had in recent memory.


After you eat your breakfast, you can spend even more time eyeballing the rows of Pistacia Vera’s signature sweets: macarons. They’re stacked in colorful piles that line an entire shelf, with both regular and seasonal flavors to temp you.

I can easily understand why Pistacia Vera is a favorite stop for brunch eaters in Columbus (or lunch eaters or dessert eaters or coffee drinkers or general foodies). The rotating selection of baked goods, with very strong regular features, plus a short but creative and flavor-packed brunch menu, makes it a great representative of Columbus’ strong food scene.

Pistacia Vera on Urbanspoon

Beyond Breakfast: Bierberg Bakery | Columbus, OH

[Update December 2013: Bierberg Bakery will NOT be open this year.]

One of the best things about the Christmas season is the cookies, right? If you’re like me, you’ve got specific memories of Christmas cookies and cookie decorating from your childhood and your adult years. On one of our last free mornings before Christmas, my boys and I were out running errands and decided to stop by tiny Bierberg Bakery in German Village. It didn’t take much convincing to get them in there. Our 16-month-old just learned the word “cookie,” after all, so it was time to put that to use.


Bierberg is only open two months of the year, in November and December, and they sell a large variety of German cookies that are sold by the pound. When you take their sign down out front, the bakery appears to be just another small house on a side street in German Village.


The retail part of the bakery is a single, very small room, with tins of cookies lining the shelves. Seriously, visiting Bierberg is like hanging out in a large closet with two older German ladies.


We ordered an assorted pound of cookies, trusting to them to pic out good ones.


They weigh it, box it, and wrap up it for you.


It’s a simple delight to eye tin after tin of Christmas cookies: everything from vanilla to chocolate dipped to gingerbread…


…some soft and chewy, some crispy and crunchy.


I honestly couldn’t tell you the name of all the cookies we tried.


But these gingerbread wafers were some of my favorite.


We even said hello to the folks in the back, still making cookies. Bierberg isn’t open too much longer for the season, so I suggest calling them to find out when they’re open and making a visit!

If you want to visit:
Bierberg Bakery
729 S. Fifth St. (map it!)
Columbus, OH 43206
(614) 443-9959

Bierberg Bakery on Urbanspoon

German Village Coffee Shop | Columbus, OH

German Village Coffee Shop (Facebook / @gvcoffeeshop)
193 Thurman Ave.
(map it!)
Columbus, OH 43206
(614) 443-8900

Open Tues-Sat, 6:30 a.m. – 3 p.m.; Sun, 8 a.m. – 3 p.m.
Accepts cash and credit/debit

Date of Visit: Friday, June 27, 2008 at 10:00 a.m.

IMPRESSIONS: German Village Coffee Shop has been on my list of local to-visits for a while, and just recently my wife and I stumbled upon it during a Saturday afternoon drive through German Village. Ever have that? One of those moments when you’ve heard of a place – say, a restaurant – many times over, and always intend to go, but you never actually do it until you see the place yourself. Such was the case for me with the GV Coffee Shop.

The Shop is in a strip of restaurants on Thurman Ave. in southern German Village, just south of Schiller Park. In the same row stands the Easy Street Cafe and the Columbus-landmark Thurman Cafe, which serves up the best and biggest burger in town. The GV Coffee Shop’s small exterior makes it easy to pass by, and thus more of a treasure when you do discover it.

ATMOSPHERE: This breakfast joint is classic small diner. Cuh-lassic. Open the door, step inside, and you’re standing on top of half the patrons. To your right sits the grill, with a long counter and swivelly stools observing it. To the left is a row of booths. Mere feet above your head is the ceiling. And that’s it.

My breakfast partner Chip and I counted 5 thin booths, 2 bigger tables, and about a dozen stools at the counter. From the ceiling hangs one – ONE – florescent light. Aside from a small series of lights at each table (see below), there’s nothing else to light the place. Like many classic diners (think Goody Boy in Short North or Nancy’s in Clintonville), your meal is a group affair, whether you like it or not. You can overhear (and be overheard) every conversation in the room, over the sound the grill. This is great if you’re a regular. And a steady stream of them poured through the door; we watched two couples at the counter share pictures of their kids.

The fake wood-paneled walls sport old black-and-white pictures of the cafe, and each table has the little wooden set-up pictured above. I suppose it’s a nice space-saver, this little condiment shelf. I love the stack of napkins way up top.

FOOD: Oh, and now to the food. Chip and I frankly enjoyed it. The German Village Coffee Shop offers some of the standard diner fare, with a few stand-outs and a few weak spots. First, we both ordered coffee – we always do. This coffee is good diner coffee, if a little weak. But one of the big things about the GV Coffee Shop menu is that it’s cheap! You can get a handful of eggs for $2.25, 3 slices of French toast for $2.50, your coffee is .75, and the most expensive thing on the menu, an omelet, is $5.25. That’s amazing.

I ordered the standard breakfast combo: eggs, bacon, potatoes, and toast. That all came for about $3.50, and everything was pretty much as good as you could hope. Nicely done eggs, hashed browns were brown enough, bacon nice and crispy, and the toast was good, though a bit dry. None of the food was mind-blowing – let’s face it, diner food rarely is – but at $3.50 for the whole bunch, it was hard not to like.

I decided to stretch the budget and blow $2 on a couple slices of French toast. This is where things got a little interesting. Do you see that dull glow on the top of the toast in the picture? Yeah, that’s butter. Lots of it. It was probably the single most excessively buttered breakfast item I’ve ever laid eyes on. Seriously, I pressed down on it gently with my finger, and the butter pooled around it. Oh, my heart! Needless to say, this meant it tasted awesome, but that I could only eat three bites before I had to stop. I kindly decided to share the butter-with-a-little-toast with Chip.

Quick picture here of Chip’s omelet – apparently GV Coffee Shop is known for these. Chip picked one of their standards that came with meat and veggies, and he said he enjoyed it very much.

SERVICE: Service was pretty good. Diner servers typically know all the regulars, and sometimes you can feel out of place as a newcomer. It didn’t help that our server was a little snotty at first; when we ambled toward an open table, I asked him if we could sit there, and he curtly replied “Well, let me clean it off first!” Not a good start, but it got better from there. Certainly won’t keep me from returning.

OVERALL: Speaking of returning… yes, I could go eat at the German Village Coffee Shop again. It’s probably the cheapest breakfast I’ve had in Columbus, and I welcome the ratio of cheap prices to filling portions. So I recommend taking a peak at the shop, as well as that whole strip of restaurants on Thurman Ave., and, if you haven’t been, all of German Village!


German Village Coffee Shop on Urbanspoon

Banana Bean Cafe (German Village) | Columbus, OH

UPDATE: This location is now home to Skillet. Banana Bean moved to a new location on Greenlawn Avenue but has since CLOSED.

Banana Bean Cafe (@bananabeancafe)
410 E. Whittier St.
Columbus, OH 43206
(614) 443-2262
Open Monday 11-2:30, Tuesday-Friday 11-2:30, 5:30-8, Saturday & Sunday 9-3
Accepts cash and credit cards

Date of Visit: Saturday, February 2, 2008 at 10 a.m.

IMPRESSIONS: Beth and I have been hearing about Banana Bean Cafe for about a year now, including lots of raving on Columbus Underground, so when a Saturday morning opened up for us, I made a reservation and we drove down to German Village to see for ourselves. The Cafe is a tiny restaurant on East Whittier Street, in the southeast corner of German Village. I can imagine this place as a great place to start a day of wandering and shopping in the Village. We found parking on the street right next to the restaurant, even on a fairly busy Saturday morning.

ATMOSPHERE: When you open the front door to the cafe, you are quite literally standing in the middle of the restaurant. Take one step too far, and you’ll bump into a table. I counted a total of nine tables, plus a bar with three seats. When we waltzed in on Saturday morning, every table had a piece of paper noting that the table was reserved. EVERY table.

Here’s a shot of a couple tables. This comprises about half the restaurant. They were playing the music of Pink Martini, and great band from Portland, Oregon. Points!
Here’s a shot out the window next to our table. Beth said I wouldn’t use this picture, so just to prove her wrong, I did. We were seated right next to the front window, and right above a register. So all of my impressions of Banana Bean Cafe are formed by a warm, cozy feeling. Seriously, the hot air from the register, on a brisk February morning, nearly put me to sleep.

The restaurant is simply decorated with flags and pictures from Key West and the Caribbean. Banana Bean features “the patina of Key West,” which means it blends the cuisine of Cuba, Jamaica, the Caribbean, and the Florida Keys. I don’t know about your town, but there’s nothing else like this in Columbus. So, bonus for uniqueness.

Hanging above the bar is a flat screen TV. At first, Beth and I thought it was a live camera trained on the back patio. But then we noticed people setting up tables wearing shorts and T-shirts. We figured something was amiss. We asked our server, and she said it was a live feed from the Hog’s Breath Saloon in Key West, Florida. So cruel, in this cold Ohio February.

You can view the webcam yourself by checking out the Hog’s Breath’s website.FOOD: Remember that vent underneath our table? The one that pumped warm air around us on a cold, cold February day, as we watched a live feed of folks in shorts living in Key West? Now here’s the culinary equivalent of that cozy feeling: the Bananas Foster French Toast.This has become one of Banana Bean’s signature pieces, and quite rightfully so. It’s a heaping mound of custardy sweet slices of French toast, topped with sliced bananas, strawberries, and blueberries. The menu says it’s topped with a Captain Morgan spiced rum sauce, although to us it seemed more like a lightly-spiced syrup. Still, it wasn’t drenched on like high-fructose corn syrup. All in all, this wasn’t the most nuanced French toast I’ve had the pleasure of stuffing in my face, but this certainly was a huge pile of tasty comfortable-ness. I could go back again and again for this dish. Really: you should try it.We also tried another Banana Bean signature: the Eggs del Mar. Another amazing tasty treat: two poached eggs on top of lump crab cakes (!) on a bed of fresh spinach, tomatoes, with a light hollandaise sauce. The seasonings and herbs make this an incredibly tasty dish. It’s the right-sized portion, bursting with flavors.

Here’s another shot of our two breakfasts. Note the big, wide coffee cups. Banana Bean serves Cuban coffee, which is delicious. Fits the breakfast perfectly.

Banana Bean Cafe’s menu is a little pricier, although not bad for what you get. The French toast was about $9, and the Eggs del Mar $12. I think the prices were definitely fair, because the food was so rich and flavorful.

Another challenge to their menu: it’s HUGE! There are so many items on it, and to complicate things, the morning we went they had FOUR specials, all of which sounded great. Overall, it’s great to have a big selection, but it’s overwhelming to the customer. If there were more menu items, I would honestly worry that they were spreading themselves thin with too many specialties. That being said, just reading the menu aloud made my mouth water. I want to do a staged reading of it someday. Check it out: Huey, Louis, Andouille; Roasted Corn & Blueberry Pancakes; Cedar Key Shrimp & Grits; Floribbean Jerk Chicken; Calle Ocho; Oyster Po Boy; Slash & Burn Grouper; Ancho & Coffee Rubbed Flatiron Steak. The list goes on and deliciously on.

SERVICE: Our server was great, and the food came out amazingly fast. Seriously, if it came out any faster, I’d be worried about whether it was nuked or not. Then again, when you’ve got nine tables, two visible servers, and probably another two or three people working the kitchen, it must be easy to keep up.

OVERALL: I can’t wait to go back to Banana Bean Cafe. It was a cozy, flavorful experience. The only things keeping me away are the slightly-higher prices and the absolute need for reservations. Knowing the quality of the food and the overall experience, I’m sure there’s a steady stream of folks heading there for dinner. So you can’t go here for a cheap, spur-of-the-moment meal. There are other places in Columbus for that.

That being said, I’m still planning our next visit here. After all, there are about 40 more menu items we need to try!



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