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Tag Archives: Olde Towne East

Beyond Breakfast: Hot Chicken Takeover

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Columbus is going chicken crazy right now, and there’s good reason for it. We’ve got lots of chicken. And it’s mostly fried. Our family has been fans of Mya’s Fried Chicken from the beginning, and being Clintonville residents it’s one of our favorite neighborhood dining spots. However, now we’ve also got reason to trek across town for fried chicken. Three words: Hot Chicken Takeover.

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Hot Chicken Takeover is a, well, takeover of the kitchen at the Near East Side Cooperative Market. The Market is on the corner of Oak and Ohio in Olde Towne East, down the street from spots like L’Appat Patisserie and Angry Baker. Joe DeLoss and his crew fry up anywhere from 250-350 meals each weekend day. They’re set up simply with an ordering window (labeled the “chicken window”), long picnic tables under a tent, and a station with sweet tea, water, ranch dressing, and silverware. It’s about as simple as can be, and in my experience, something that is well done and simple can be stellar.

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What is hot chicken? I had never heard of it before HCT opened up. Hot chicken is a popular Nashville serving of fried chicken, in which the breading is heavily dosed with spices like cayenne pepper. The chicken is served on a slice of white bread and topped with pickles. I enjoy a good bit of spice, so I relished the burn on my lips. What’s even better, though, is the meat. They’ve brined it and fried it perfectly, so it’s super juicy and a little salty. Joe said the hot chicken clocks in around 60,000 Scovilles, but if you’re a real hot-head, they served the “Holy Chicken,” which boosts the heat to over 100,000. I love some spice, but that’s probably too much for me.

The chicken brings plenty of heat, but there’s balance to it, too. Each meal is served with a creamy mac & cheese and a sweet cole slaw. You also get refills of a lovely sweet tea and access to rich home-made ranch. Every element works together, and each one nails the mark.

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HCT serves “Cold Chicken,” too. Not temperature cold, but similar cuts with less heat. This was helpful when ordering for our boys. They like some heat, but the hot chicken would have overwhelmed them. The cold chicken is just as juicy and it’s served with the same sides. The meals were big enough that got two – one hot and one cold – and split them between the four of us.

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I didn’t know what hot chicken was before, but I know now – and goodness, I’ve been missing out all these years. HCT will become another regular spot for us, for sure, and I’m really excited to see what happens with them in the future.

Important note: as of now the takeover runs Saturday and Sunday from 12-4pm. I’ve heard tell of long lines, but we strolled right up when stopping by mid-afternoon. They close when they sell out, so it’s a good idea to watch their Facebook page for availability. Joe does a good job of providing updates with the number of meals left for the day.

If you want to visit:
Hot Chicken Takeover
1117 Oak St. (on the side of the Near East Side Cooperative Market)
Columbus, OH 43205
(614) 800-4538
Open 12-4 Saturday and Sunday (they close when they sell out)
facebook.com/hotchickentakeover

L’Appat Patisserie & Cafe | Columbus, OH

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L’Appat Patisserie & Cafe (Facebook)
1159 Oak St. (map it!)
Columbus, OH 43205
(614) 252-6822
Open Mon-Fri, 7a-7p; Sat, 8a-5p
Accepts cash & credit/debit
Vegetarian/vegan/gluten free? Y/N/N
Kid-friendly? Y

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“Welcome! You’re in Didi’s house now. I’m about to make you very happy.” That was our greeting from Didier Alapani – Didi – when we stepped in the door of L’Appat Patisserie. Didi’s welcome into his little cafe, for first-time customers like us, set the tone for our entire meal.

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L’Appat Patisserie is a small corner cafe located in Olde Towne East, a couple blocks east of the more developed corner that Yellow Brick Pizza, The Tavern, and The Angry Baker call home.

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Out of this elegant little cafe, Didi and his family produce beautiful, flavorful, and welcoming food with African and French influences. My family and I visited for a mid-day breakfast on a Saturday. There were only a few other customers, most of them picking up pastries to go. I’d say the cafe was quiet, but the conversation flowed continuously as Didi welcomed and hugged regulars.

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We sat at a corner table while Didi and his family prepared a lovely breakfast for us and our boys.

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The thing to understand about the meal is that it takes time. I wouldn’t call the service slow by any means, but it’s not rushed. We observed this as we compared it to the typical American restaurant experience, which is focused on speed. Get in, get seated, get served, and out you go. Not so here. Here you want to experience the meal as a community. Talk about what you’re trying. Sample different things. Didi and his family seemed eager to show off their creations. After we placed our orders for breakfast, we were brought samples of tea and lemonade made in0house. The lemonade was flavored with watermelon and the tea with mango. Both were sweet and refreshing.

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To keep our boys’ ravenous appetites at bay (I seriously don’t know how we’ll afford to feed them when they’re teenagers), we ordered cookies. They were warm and fresh out of the oven, and like the drinks, they were flavored with fruit: mango and strawberry.

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Mrs. Bfast w/Nick and I ordered coffee. Again, instead of cheap diner mugs or styrofoam to-go cups, the service was focused on sipping and enjoying. We were each brought individual pots of coffee and matching white mugs, plus a couple creamers, no sugar.

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In case the word ‘patisserie’ didn’t give it away, L’Appat serves a lot of pastries. Like any bakery, a big part of their business revolves around the tarts, cookies, quiches, and cakes lining the shelves. We sampled one – okay, we started with one – of their mini quiches, a rich tomato and bleu cheese. It was packed with flavor while being flaky and holding together nicely.

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Half the fun is drooling over the displays and wondering what else you could order.

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Didi clearly draws his influences from all over the world. Expect to see flavors from Asia, Africa, and the Caribbean mixing with classic European dishes.

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All throughout the meal, Didi checked in with us. How was this? Did we like that? Have you tried these? He and his family kept busy in the back, but the cafe is small enough that they can interact with you easily.

The main breakfast menu is small. Its current iteration includes three items: a breakfast sandwich, beignets, and a spinach potato dish. So we ordered the entire menu. We let our boys split the egg and cheese panini, a dense sandwich with scrambled egg and cheese, grilled to picture-perfection.

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Next our family split the beignets. The plate is piled generously with them, a smaller and denser version than ones I’ve had before. They’re served with sides of whipped cream cheese and a blueberry coulis, and between the four of us we polished them off quickly. They were sweet but not greasy, crispy on the outside, and simply amazing when dipped in the cream cheese and fruit. I can’t claim to have had that many beignets in my life, but these are easily some of the best.

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And then the Mrs. and I split the spinach potato platter. Oh, colorful breakfasts – how I don’t see enough of thee. This dish, along with the beignets, will show up as one of the highlights of Breakfast 2013. The main feature of the dish is the pile of potatoes, onions, corn, zucchini, asparagus, peppers, spinach, and loads of spices and herbs. Our server asked us our preferred heat level and we went for medium. I’m so glad we did; there just aren’t enough breakfasts that really leave my mouth tingling with spice. Everything was cooked and balanced perfectly. I just wanted to keep eating it.

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Aside from the potato mixture, there are two sausage links, buttered toast, and a beautiful circle of soft scrambled eggs. We scooped bites of the potatoes, cut some eggs, and layered them on the toast. Just wonderful. The Mrs. and I rightfully fended off the boys from this dish. It was all ours.

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At the end of such a flavorful meal, our server convinced us to try one last special pastry, the pandan chausson. Pandan, she explained, is used in a lot of southeast Asian cooking. Chausson means “slipper,” and refers to the above-shaped flaky pastry.

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Pandan’s flavor is difficult to describe, but it’s lightly sweet and a little coconut-y. Its soft texture is an ideal filling for a layered and crispy pastry like the chausson. It was a fitting end to a rich meal, a little sweet dessert to mellow out the heavier spicing of the potato spinach platter.

Didi promised he would make us happy, and he did. It’s hard not to fall in love with the experience of eating at L’Appat. The intimate setting just emphasizes the community of the meal, the pacing encourages you to savor the food and the company, and Didi’s smiling face makes you feel like you’ve just discovered a new home.

And clearly breakfast in only one small piece of the picture at L’Appat! They offer a full range of tarts, cakes, and cookies, and Didi hosts different international nights. Currently there’s Caribbean night every Tuesday, and Pan-African night on Thursdays. (Keep an eye on Facebook to see what’s coming next.)

L'Appat Patisserie and Cafe on Urbanspoon

The Angry Baker | Columbus, OH

The Angry Baker (Facebook / @TheAngryBaker)
891 Oak St. (map it!)
Columbus, OH 43205
(614) 947-0976
Open Sun & Mon, 8a-5p; Tues-Sat, 8a-7p
Accepts cash & credit/debit
Vegetarian/vegan/gluten free? Y/Y/N
Kid-friendly? Y

Date of Visit: Friday, April 6, 2012 at 10:30 a.m.

IMPRESSIONS: If you haven’t been to Olde Towne East lately, or if you think it’s nothing but a neighborhood of run-down old houses, you need to re-evaluate. Case in point: The Angry Baker and the booming corner of Oak and 18th Streets. Alongside AB, Yellow Brick Pizza is serving up pizza and beer, and The Tavern recently opened next door to the bakery.

ATMOSPHERE: The bakery itself has a bright, colorful little cafe in one corner, with a polished wooden floor and big brick walls.  There are a handful of tables for enjoying coffee and a pastry, or a breakfast or lunch sandwich. There’s even a long counter with stools, overlooking the kitchen itself.

FOOD: Angry Baker offers both the retail bakery experience, as well as the quaint cafe vibe. Their display cases are chock full of baked goods, and three separate chalkboards communicate the bakery items, breakfast, and lunch offerings. I love chalkboard menus. Denounce them as hipster if you like, but an erasable menu means that you can refresh your menu easily to accommodate seasonal changes and ingredient availability.

As Olde Towne East continues to develop, I’m sure Angry Baker has already become one of those neighborhood stops where residents walk over for coffee and a pastry as they begin their day. Just read through this list of goods and try not to get hungry. There’s everything from kolaches and cookies to bear claws, muffins, and scones.

Or you could spend your time at the bakery cases, staring…

…and staring…

…and staring.

And then finding more things to stare at.

For breakfast that morning, we chose one of the breakfast sandwiches, specifically the French toast sandwich. The breakfast menu focuses mainly on the sandwiches, but they also offer baked eggs, vegan pancakes, and biscuits with a mushroom gravy. Points to AB for expanding the vegan breakfast offerings in Columbus. But back to that sandwich… this isn’t the type of sandwich that you eat with two hands. This is a knife-and-fork one. It’s essentially their version of the monte cristo: local ham and cheese between two slices of French toast made with their brioche, then drowned in real maple syrup. As expected, it cuts easily with the side of a fork, and is a delightful mix of the salty and the sweet. If you’re a French toast fan, you need to sample this one.

SERVICE: With the small, intimate space, it’s hard not to get to know the crew there. You can chat with them about their baked goods, and they’ll answer any questions you have. The prepared foods are made on a small flattop right in front of the counter. This is owner Vicki Hink cooking up my French toast!

OVERALL: Angry Baker is well worth multiple visits, to sample the rotating offerings of baked goods and the seasonal changes to the cafe menu. Like I said, it’s great for a coffee-and-a-snack stop or a quiet sit-down breakfast.

OTHER LINKS:

The Angry Baker on Urbanspoon

Smothered Gravy | Columbus, OH


[UPDATE: Smothered Gravy seems to be closed.]

Smothered Gravy
1444 E. Main St. (map it!)
Columbus, OH 43205
(614) 252-3203
Open Mon-Fri, 8am – 6pm; Sat, 1-9pm (bfast served Mon-Fri until 10:30)
Accepts cash & credit/debit
Carry out only
Vegetarian/vegan/gluten free? N/N/N
Kid-friendly? Y

Date of Visit: Thursday, March 31, 2011 at 9:00 a.m.

IMPRESSIONS: Smothered Gravy’s opening has been much-anticipated since the first announcement about it last September. I mean, look at the name! Smothered Gravy? Uh, yeah, who wouldn’t want soul food smothered in sauce? After much discussion and a false start, they finally opened on Saturday, March 19. The story of owner Eugena Dade is a pretty amazing one, given her heritage and all that she’s overcome to get here. In lieu of writing more about it here, I’ll just direct you to my article on her for (614) Magazine.

ATMOSPHERE: The couple times I’ve visited Smothered Gravy, the atmosphere has always been very laid-back. There’s no formal seating, save for a single table and a couple miscellaneous chairs. You can certainly dine-in, should you choose, but the seating is more intended for waiting carry-out customers.

The decor is soft and simple. A few window decorations, some basic signage. The most interesting part is the black and white photos of old restaurants from Columbus’ East Side (including one of Eugena’s aunt’s old restaurant, which was located just down the street).

Simple self-serve coffee.

Their full menu is posted on the wall behind the counter…

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..and on a side wall.

FOOD: Breakfast covers a lot of the soul food basics: salmon cakes, brown sugar ham, catfish nuggets, shrimp and grits. (Pssst… they even have Resch’s donuts.) Being a sucker for good chicken and waffles, I had to order them up. Your options on this dish are fried or smothered. I’ve had plenty of fried chicken with my waffles, so I opted for the smothered version. This means they’re simmered in a pan of gravy. The waffles were good – nothing too out of the ordinary. I liked the flavor of the chicken – the gravy is a tasty (if under-salted) onion gravy. But I think I missed the crispiness of the fried chicken. That seems like a better complement to the waffles. Overall, though, a decent version.

I liked the fried tilapia better. Cooked just right so it was flaky. Very light breading, simple seasoning (again, could be saltier and stronger). Served with a basic side of toast, plus a cup of the grits. This version was rich and buttery, and surprisingly sweet. Eugena said she adds some sugar to it. I’m more used to savory grits, but this was nice. I ate it all!

SERVICE: If you visit Smothered Gravy, take the chance to talk with Eugena and her crew. They welcome you with huge smiles. Cooking is clearly in Eugena’s blood, and she welcomes you almost as a family member into her restaurant.

OVERALL: I think Smothered Gravy still has some room to grow, but it’s off to a good beginning. It’s hard not to root for Eugena, knowing her story, and her efforts to enliven the community around her deserve to be supported.

OTHER LINKS:
-> my write-up on Smothered Gravy for (614) Magazine

Smothered Gravy on Urbanspoon

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