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Photos: Brewing Beer at North High Brewing

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Where does a craft beer enthusiast go for his birthday? He brews some beer with friends! A couple weeks ago I gathered with a group of friends at North High Brewing to make our own batch. North High is Columbus’ first brew-on-premises shop, which means you can brew, ferment, and bottle beer under the guidance of experienced brewers.

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I’ve been to North High a number of times already – their bar has some great history behind it, which you can learn about on Columbus Brew Adventures downtown tour – but this was the first I’ve brewed there. The brewhouse is a separate room from the bar, with eight brew kettles centered around a chandelier with 21 bulbs symbolizing the 21st Amendment (the repeal of Prohibition).

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The process took about three hours total. We began by copying down the recipe, then heading into the brewhouse to be begin boiling water. North High lets you brew in 15 gallon batches; their system uses steam to heat the kettles, which speeds up the process.

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Another streamlining step is the use of extracts in brewing. Extracts are concentrated syrups that save on boiling time. North High uses primarily extracts, but not exclusively. We added about three pounds each of caramel malts and peat smoked malts.

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These were measured out…

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…and then milled right there are the brewery.

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We loaded the grains into muslin bags.

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And then these were steeped in the hot liquor (aka the hot water), much like tea.

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Then the extracts go in. On the right are the thirty pounds of amber malt extract. On the left is the five pounds of Ohio honey. The honey helps round out the big, malty body of the wee heavy. It gives the yeast something feed on during fermentation, and it just plain tastes good.

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Honey and extract into the tank!

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Throughout the boil we added pelletized Fuggle hops in small, calculated amounts. Fuggle is a sweeter English hop – appropriate for a Scottish style like the wee heavy.

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While you’re brewing, there’s down-time to check out the bar and order some food or drink.

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North High usually has about 10 of their beers on tap, plus a good selection of other breweries. They also run special brews like this one: their wee heavy on firkin with vanilla bean, cocoa nib, and bourbon-soaked oak chips.

By that point, brewing was done. The beer just had to cool and get filtered into the fermentation container. We’ll be coming back soon to bottle it.

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But the fun didn’t stop there! As it was dinner time, we hit up Marino’s Seafood Fish & Chips in Grandview (look for a separate post on that soon). It was lots of fried goodness.

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And then we rounded out the evening by hitting up Zauber Brewing just down the road. All in all, a great birthday celebration – especially getting to hang out with friends and make something together.

North High Brewing on Urbanspoon

Surly Girl Saloon | Columbus, OH

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Surly Girl Saloon (Facebook / @SurlyGirlSaloon)
1126 N. High St. (map it!)
Columbus, OH 43201
(614) 294-4900
Open daily 11a-2a (brunch served Sat & Sun, 11a-4p)
Accepts cash & credit/debit
Vegetarian/vegan/gluten free? Y/Y/N
Kid-friendly? Y

Visited: Sunday, July 14, 2013 at 12:30pm

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In many ways it’s really easy to write about Surly Girl Saloon, because I’m generally pre-disposed to liking Columbus Food League restaurants. Maybe they’re not the most cutting edge eateries in Columbus, but I don’t think they’re trying to be. CFL spots “understand their DNA,” to borrow a phrase from Alton Brown; they’re built around a certain theme and they run with it unabashedly: hot dogs for Dirty Frank’s, tiki lounge for Grass Skirt, Ohio comfort food for Tip Top, you get the picture.

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Surly Girl’s DNA is that of a kick-ass cowgirl bar. The name says it all: the old-timey title of saloon, and the reference to the surly girl. True that form, menu items have different surly names, and women-led breweries are highlighted on the beer menu.

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Over-the-top decorations, including an assortment of gaudy chandeliers, hearken back to the saloon and the rowdy music hall.

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Saturday and Sunday brunch take the appropriate tone, with spicy comfort foods backed up by an array of beers and cocktails, like a sassy and slightly spicy Bloody Mary.

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Or a very cool and simple mimosa.

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For my tastes, CFL restaurants always have a solid beer selection. I can easily find 5-6 things I’ll like, which makes places like Surly Girl an easy choice if you want drinks and food, even as late as 2 a.m. (which is not generally the case for me, but it’s nice knowing the option is there). At this brunch, I snagged a Jackie O’s (out of Athens, OH) IPA. Admittedly, a big IPA like this one doesn’t always play well with others on the palate, but it hit the spot.

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Like the rest of Surly Girl’s menu, the brunch menu focuses on pretty simple and likeable comfort food, all with a southwest-y kick. Case in point: the West of the Pecos nachos, an easy-to-demolish pile of nacho chips, cheese, eggs, veggies, sour cream, and salsa. Many of the CFL restaurants use a white cheese sauce that’s completely addictive.

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The southwest shells & cheese comes off the regular menu. Like the nachos, its base ingredients are pretty simple but very, very easy to like.

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I opted for the black bean huevos surlitos, the house version of huevos rancheros. It’s an open tortilla filled with black beans, veggies, eggs, avocado, ranchero sauce, plus I added the pulled pork. Overall, I liked it – the tortilla does get a little too crispy when it’s toasted, and I think the pulled pork is necessary – it really makes the dish. It comes with a side of well-seasoned potatoes and orange slices.

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And then we topped it off with The High Noon, a version of Surly Girl’s BLT&A sandwich (a BLT + avocado) with an egg. It’s a really tasty breakfast sandwich, also coming with a side of potatoes.

Surly Girl – like all of the CFL restaurants, I think – is a solid bet for brunch. They always have a reliable line-up of drinks, the menu has a little variety while staying true to their identity as a southwestern cowgirl bar, and the food itself is easy eating, especially if you’re catching up after a late night. Also, not many places will serve brunch until 4 p.m.!

Surly Girl Saloon on Urbanspoon

Mission Coffee Co. | Columbus, OH

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Mission Coffee Co.
(Facebook / @MissionColumbus)

11 Price Ave. (map it!)
Columbus, OH 43215
No phone
Open Mon-Sat, 7a-7p
Accepts cash & credit/debit

Visited: Saturday, July 27, 2013 at 12:30 p.m.

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When my wife and I first moved to Columbus over ten years ago, we lived in Short North. Back then (oh no, I’m already using phrases like that) there was one coffee shop in the neighborhood: The Coffee Table. We were fortunate to live across the street from it, and oh, it was glorious in the grungiest of ways. Our favorite barista, David, pulled a mean shot of espresso. Over the years, the neighborhood has transformed, the Coffee Table is gone, and a newer generation of shops has taken its place, shops like Cup O Joe, Impero, Travonna. Amongst this new generation are two shops that strike me as fairly similar: One Line Coffee and Mission Coffee. While wallowing in the nostalgia of the Coffee Table days, it’d be easy to pass off both of them as some of those trendier coffee places more on par with a cold art gallery than a cozy coffee shop.

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If that’s your initial impression, fine. I can kind of see why. Gone is the era of 1990′s coffee shops with ratty, mis-matched couches. Now is the era of sleeker gathering spaces that focus as much on the coffee-imbibing experience as much as the wireless, I’m-here-to-work mentality.

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Mission fits the bill in that it’s established in an old garage space on a side street in Short North. The big part of the front wall is clearly an old garage door converted into a permanent structure. There are wooden tables with heavy, industrial chairs. Bags of available coffee are lined up like gallery entries.

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One could level the accusation that shops like this breed a sort of coffee elitism. If your definition of a coffee shop is essentially a Starbucks drive-through, then I can see why. But what I’ve come to appreciate about places like Mission and One Line is their approachability. If you’re just willing to ask, you’ll find employees who are friendly and eager to explain the various preparations. They want you to love coffee as much as they do. Mission even has a display showcasing the different equipment: French presses, Chemex, V60s, and the like.

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Unlike some other coffee shops I’ve been to (not in Columbus), Mission has an actual menu on display, so you can scan the list of specialty and standard coffee preparations, as well as snacks.

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Ordering your drink sets the baristas in motion, and I’ve found that they don’t mind chatting about their craft.

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We stood there and talked while the barista made my V60 pour-over. The brew bar is situated so you can watch your coffee being made.

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If you’ve got the time and the interest, try one of these preparations. They serve straightforward brewed coffee, too – nothing wrong with that – but specialty shops like Mission offer specialties that help you really get to know different roasts. I myself enjoy their pour-overs: these are simple preparations that really unlock the innate flavors in the coffee.

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Their space offers room for gathering, studying, and working, too, so you can take advantage of it as a place to hole up for while.

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Short North is still a great place for coffee. Sure, the character has changed a bit. Maybe things are a little more polished than they used to be; it’s a microcosm of the neighborhood’s shift overall. But I’m okay with it, if it brings solid coffee options, places to hang out and work, and a chance to learn more about the coffee process overall.

Mission Coffee Co. on Urbanspoon

The Pearl | Columbus, OH

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The Pearl
(Facebook / @CMRColumbus)

641 N. High St. (map it!)
Columbus, OH 43215
(614) 227-0151
Open daily at 4p (open for brunch Sat & Sun starting at 10a)
Accepts cash & credit/debit
Vegetarian/vegan/gluten free? Y/N/N
Kid-friendly? Y (for brunch)

Visited: Sunday, May 26, 2013 at 10:00 a.m.

With the opening of a Cameron Mitchell restaurant, there’s always a lot of buzz in the food community, which puts a lot of pressure on the eatery, especially when the newest addition to the bunch is located in the center of Short North. Cameron Mitchell and his Columbus-based restaurant group maintain a small empire of restaurants across the country. He tends to offer restaurant concepts that are usually well-defined and well-patronized. These include local spots like Columbus Fish Market, Cap City Fine Diner, M at Miranova, Marcella’s, Martini, Molly Woo’s, and more. So it’s no surprise that The Pearl opened up to much ado this past February, with everyone weighing in on the menu, decor, service, and the broader trend of the gastropub.

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Part of the hubbub stemmed from the fact that The Pearl is the first new concept from Cameron Mitchell in about five years. It’s located in the space once occupied by the Burgundy Room, near the southern end of Short North. The space has been completely renovated and flipped around, with the bar moved to the opposite side of the restaurant. The decor combines a lot of natural wood accents (like a pub) with some highlights of green subway tile and leather seating.

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The bar area features a row of cab tables plus bar seating. Chalkboard menus list the latest beers on draft.

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Further back into the space, two dining rooms provide more table seating.

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Because of me and my focus, you know that Mrs. Bfast w/Nick and I visited The Pearl specifically seeking out their brunch. We were invited by the Cameron Mitchell group to check it out, so we gladly found some babysitting and actually sat and enjoyed a meal together, complete with grown-up conversation and without little hands picking the food off our plate. I had no idea a meal could be so relaxing! We started the relaxation with a Bloody Mary. The Pearl offers two types – mild and spicy. This is the mild version, but we sampled the spicy as well, and actually preferred that. I like a Bloody Mary with a little bite at the back of the throat. The drink is garnished with pickles (brined in-house) and pepperoni (also cured in-house), and it’s served with the trendy companion of a 7 oz bottle of Miller High Life. Our server said some folks drink the two separately, using the beer as a palate cleanser, while some add the beer to the Bloody Mary for a little bit of effervescence. We kept them separate.

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Our server Jesse was more than willing to talk us through the menu. From the get-go it was clear that he knew and loved the brunch, going above and beyond to suggest dishes and pairings. Some dishes in the top section of the brunch menu – Snacks – may require a little explanation. Tavern Fries and Good Old Fashioned Deviled Eggs are straightforward enough, but do you know what a Rollmop is? Or Devils on Horseback? Because I certainly didn’t. On Jessie’s suggestion we tried the rollmop first. A rollmop is a Scandinavian dish featuring a rolled pickled herring. The Pearl’s version is loosely rolled and covered in a sweet cream. The herring was tender and delicious, and while the cream was a little overwhelmingly sweet for my taste, it still complemented the salty pickle of the fish. We ordered the rollmop with the Pot-O-Pickles (in the background), a bowl of pickles prepared in-house: sweet, dill, mustard, curry, and hot. Nice combination with the sweet pickled herring.

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We enjoyed the rollmop and the pickles, but loved the Devils on Horseback even more. And what’s not to love? Dates wrapped in bacon. They’re soft and easy to cut, with the sticky sweetness of dates offset by a not-too-salty house-cured bacon. If our brunch dishes hadn’t continued arriving at such a quick pace, we would have ordered another plate of these.

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The Pearl is clearly all about presentation. While we were finishing the rollmops and devils on horseback, a skillet of jalepeno spoon bread arrived, all decked out on a branded wooden board (which flips over for serving deviled eggs) and served with an adorable dollop of sweet butter and honey. The spoon bread was moist without being mushy, although the jalapeno spice doesn’t stand out too much from the toasted corn bread.

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Part of The Pearl’s name and branding includes the oyster bar, so we knew – well before we visited – that we were going to have oysters. Mrs. Bfast w/Nick in particular loves oysters on the half shell. The menu lists three of them for $8, although our server pointed out that you can order any amount. We opted for two east coast and two west coast oysters, from Spinney Creek and Dabob, respectively. It’s funny that you can definitely taste the difference. The east coast in particular tasted more “familiar” to us, perhaps because we vacation more regularly on the Atlantic. The oysters are served with excellent house-made cocktail sauce and horseradish (made with a champagne vinaigrette).

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Now for the actual entrees. For me, brunch is synonymous with an eggs benedict, so chose the Tavern Benny, which turns out to be more like sausage gravy and biscuits than poached eggs with hollandaise. To be clear, there are poached eggs involved here: they’re just topping biscuits, house-made sausage, and smothered in gravy.

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It’s quite a dish: the gravy is very rich and not overly salted, which lets the eggs and the sausage patty stand out more.

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The Mrs. ordered the short rib poutine, because uh, it’s short rib poutine. For those who don’t know it, poutine is a Canadian dish that’s simply fries, cheese curds, and brown gravy. Now, add some short rib and a couple poached eggs, and baby, you’ve got a brunch on. I preferred this over the tavern benny, mostly because of the short ribs and the gravy. Although the cheese curds certainly don’t hurt.

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We finished the meal with a thin slice of brown sugar pie. It’s inspired by the Crack Pie at Momofuku Milk bar in NYC (although they can’t technically use the name), but there must be crack in this dish, too. It’s made with a crust of pressed oatmeal cookies, then filled with what is essentially a butter and brown sugar mixture and topped with a dollop of sweet cream. And it’s one of those dishes that I would eat endlessly if you kept putting slices in front of me.

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Your bill is brought out tucked in an old book, and you’re encouraged to write a note about your meal. Our server said that they use older books, including having used a first edition Great Gatsby – yikes!

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Opposite the bar-side of the restaurant is the oyster bar, with the menu above you…

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…and cases of fresh oysters on ice below.

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Next to that is the oyster preparation table.

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In addition to curing their own meats and pickles, The Pearl barrel-ages or infuses many of their own spirits. You can see the work-in-progress on the shelves along the back walls.

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I can’t speak to the lunch or dinner offerings, or whether the gastropub trend is played out already, but in terms of brunch, The Pearl well worth the visit, especially if you’re willing to let your server walk you through the menu. The menu incorporates the gastropub and oyster bar elements that define the restaurant, so it features a wide variety of dishes that you can’t get anywhere else in town.

(Disclosure: this meal was provided in part by the folks at Cameron Mitchell Restaurants. Opinions are my own.)

Special bonus! Cameron Mitchell Restaurants has provided a $50 giftcard to The Pearl for my readers. Enter the random drawing for it by commenting on this post by 11:59pm on Thursday, May 30. To enter, look over The Pearl’s brunch menu and leave a comment with the dish you’d most like to try.

The Pearl on Urbanspoon

Beyond Breakfast: Da Levee | Columbus, OH

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For a white kid who grew up in the Midwest, it’s surprising how much spicy cajun and creole cuisine feels like comfort food to me. We never made it growing up, I’ve never been to New Orleans, but as long as I can remember I’ve loved this style of food. I love the heavy load of spices. I love how it’s filling. And I’ve had some great examples, from Creole Kitchen in Columbus to the amazing Bourbon N Toulouse in Lexington, KY. But just as worthy is Columbus’ Da Levee.

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Da Levee has a small storefront in Short North, just north of Buttles Avenue, and in the winter months the warm food and atmosphere make me want to hole up there for hours. It’s probably good that we don’t live closer to Da Levee, because if we did I’d find myself justifying multiple visits per day.

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The specials rotate regularly, so it’s best to keep an eye on their Facebook page. The owner Justin Boehme is good about posting an image of the day’s menu, so it’s easy to find out what they’re slinging. The menu shifts between varieties of etouffee, chowder, red beans & rice, maque choux, gumbo, jambalaya, po boys, and burritos. I’ve never had a bad meal at Da Levee, but my personal favorite is the chili cheese etouffee with crawfish. Here’s a sampling of some of the other dishes we’ve enjoyed:

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Spinach and mushroom etouffee. A good etouffee is probably my favorite dish in the repertoire of creole/cajun food.

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Red beans and rice with sausage.

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Spinach and mushroom etouffee again. All entrees are served over rice, with a side of toasted bread that’s heavily buttered and seasoned. Perfect for scooping up bites.

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White chilikin’, aka white chicken chili.

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Two bonuses about ordering: you can pick small plates ($5), large plates ($7), or half-and-half plates ($8). This lets you adjust to your appetite, and it allows you to easy sample and share with a table full of friends. The second bonus is that many of these dishes are vegetarian and can be made vegan, so it’s an easy go-to with group of varying tastes and needs. Okay, I lied. There are three bonuses, the third of which is that this type of food blends flavors and spices so well. Most dishes are some version of a slow-cooked stew, so the meat, veggies, beans, and heavy dose of spices have time to combine. In single-digit temperatures like today’s, a plate of spicy hot meat and vegetables piled on rice sounds like a bit of home to me.

Aaaaaaaand… now that I’ve finished this post, I’m hungry and want to go there for lunch today.

Plan your own visit:
Da Levee
765-C N. High St. (map it!)
Columbus, OH 43215
dalevee.com
Also on Facebook and Twitter @DaLeveeCajun

You can sometimes catch Justin at the Da Levee Express food cart, or during late night hours out the backdoor of the restaurant at Backdoor Burritos, serving Fridays and Saturdays until 3 a.m.

Da Levee on Urbanspoon

Eleni Christina Bakery | Columbus, OH

Eleni Christina Bakery (Facebook)
641 N. High St., Suite 107 (map it!) (entrance is on Russell St.)
Columbus, OH 43215
(614) 461-0021
Open Thurs-Sat, 9a-3p
Cash only

Date of Visit: Friday, August 9, 2012 at 10:00 a.m.

IMPRESSIONS: If you’ve eaten at Rigsby’s Kitchen or Tasi Cafe in past decade or so, you’ve probably eaten baked goods from Eleni Christina Bakery. The bakery is part of the same family of restaurants owned by the Rigsby’s (it’s named after their daughter), and has been supplying them (and other restaurants) with bread, croissants, rolls, and more.

ATMOSPHERE: Once upon a time, the bakery had a small retail counter. I remember years ago, when we lived in Short North and Victorian Village, walking over to get biscotti. As the bakery’s production amped up, the retail operation got in the way, so they closed it up. But within the past month-and-a-half, with a little rearranging and setup, the retail corner lives again.

There’s nothing fancy about the bakery, especially compared to places like Pistacia Vera or Mozart’s or Angry Baker. But the goods are, well, just as good. The intention overall is to create more of a grab-and-go experience.

FOOD: Much of the available items are smaller size and good for a delicious snack, like cinnamon rolls, biscotti, croissants…

…or beautiful loaves of bread to take home.

One of their signatures, and a stand-out on our most recent stop there, was their bacon cheddar challah bread. Their challah is top-notch; it’s used to make some of my favorite French toast in Columbus over at Tasi Cafe.

One of the folks at the counter called this a blasphemous piece of bread, given that challah is a traditional Jewish bread, and they’ve gone and filled it with bacon. It’s a delicious salty and savory snack. Surprisingly light overall.

In addition to some lunch sandwiches and all the baked goods (cookies, croissants, tarts, and beyond), Eleni Christina offers coffee of two sorts: get a prepared mug to go of Crimson Cup, or buy brewed and whole bean coffee from Thunderkiss.

SERVICE: The bakery has a great history to it, being tied with the Rigsby’s and their pioneering efforts to establish Short North as a world-class neighborhood for shopping and dining. The kitchen exemplifies the fun and hard work they’ve put into it, so it’s especially rewarding to see the bakery open up to more customers. The crew is more than willing to talk about what they do and share their love of baking (even though they’ve been working since the early hours of the morning). We spent some time chatting with Joe about what they were currently making, and he pointed out a few other details about the space. It’s been freshly painted, re-arranged, and there’s new local artwork on the walls. They even found a home for these giant Hulk hands, which have been sitting around the bakery for years and years.

OVERALL: Eleni Christina’s re-opening as a retail establishment is a welcome addition to Short North. The bakery is rooted in the history of the neighborhood, and they produce high quality and amazingly delicious baked goods. Getting to stop in (Thursday through Saturday only, mind you) lets you take in the craft of baking and meet some of the people who are passionate about it.

OTHER LINKS:

-> see more pictures of the bakery and other stops on the Columbus Food Adventures Short North tour

Eleni-Christina Bakery on Urbanspoon

One Line Coffee | Columbus, OH

One Line Coffee (Facebook / @OneLineCoffee)
745 N. High St. (map it!)
Columbus, OH 43215
(614) 289-2939

Accepts cash & credit/debit
Open Mon-Thurs, 7a-7p; Fri, 7a-1op; Sat, 8a-10p; Sun 8a-7p

Date of Visit: Monday, July 23, 2012 at 10:30am

IMPRESSIONS: When my wife and I first moved to Columbus, we lived in Short North across the street from The Coffee Table, a ramshackle little corner coffee shop that served good espresso. We used to judge the weather based on how many of their white plastic tables they set out each morning. Alas, Coffee Table is now gone, but Short North is still well caffeinated what with Cup O’ Joe, Impero, and Travonna opening their doors up and down the district (while a Starbucks did not survive – ha ha!). And now a new roaster has set up shop, right in that central part of the neighborhood, around the corner from where Coffee Table once stood: One Line Coffee.

ATMOSPHERE: One Line has roots all around Ohio – Granville, Newark, Heath – but this is their first permanent spot in Columbus itself. In my mind, they’ve found a good location. Large exposed brick walls are complemented by a nice wood floor and rustic chalkboard signage that can be rewritten to feature the day’s roasts. The room feels nice and bright, with big windows facing right onto High Street. The main counter is in the middle of the space, with thinner counters running along some of the walls.

One of the most enjoyable parts of our visit to One Line was interacting with the owner Dave and his employees. They are enthusiastic about coffee, and about informing their customers and including them in that excitement. The best coffee shops around town are able to educate you while still serving you as a customer and not intimidating you. All of One Line’s signage (and there’s a lot of it) goes toward explaining what you’ll get with each roast and each preparation.

FOOD: We ordered a couple drinks. My wife opted for an espresso out of one of their daily roasts (a Burundian coffee). The shot was expertly prepared, and had such a pleasant, surprising flavor. It was sharp, nutty, and fruity. Really a delight.

I ordered  Kenyan coffee prepared in what’s called Kyoto-style. It’s a cold preparation that involves slowly dripping ice water over a matter of several hours through the grounds.

The glassware keeps the water in contact with the grounds for an extended period.

The water drips at a slow rate. Dave said he was aiming for one drip every one-and-a-half seconds. It’s a fascinating setup to watch. Like a big chemistry set.

The result is a concentrated coffee liqueur that’s served over ice in a tumbler glass. Dave said the drink is meant to be sipped like a glass of scotch or bourbon served on the rocks. The cold brew certainly did retain a lot of flavor while losing a lot of the bitterness. Very strong notes of citrus fruit.

Their hot coffee is served with a pour-over cone (I think these were Hario V60s). This apparatus allows the barista to prepare a single cup of hot coffee in a way that ideally brings out the coffee’s intended flavors. A few other shops in town use this method at their brew bars, too.

SERVICE: Dave and his crew are very welcoming. They weren’t busy when we visited mid-morning Monday, so they took extra time to chat with us and show us around the shop. So far, they’ve created a pretty low-pressure way to explore and enjoy coffee.

It’s also nice that One Line (like many other shops around town) is serving their own roasts. Which means they can serve coffee that fits their preferences; they’re controlling nearly every step of the process.

They sell coffee beans and roasting equipment at the store, too. We picked up a bag of the Kenyan peaberry.

OVERALL: It’s great to see another high-quality coffee shop in town. Columbus’ coffee scene is very strong indeed, as evidenced by the huge turnout at the North Market Coffee Roast (where One Line first made an appearance). Already I’m a fan of One Line’s space, roasts, and hospitality. I look forward to returning, and hope others go explore it, too.

OTHER LINKS:
One Line Coffee on Urbanspoon

Photos: Columbus Food Adventures Short North tour

This afternoon I was invited to take part in the Columbus Food Adventures Short North walking tour. Owner and operator (and hungrywoolf/tacotruck/alteats/streeteats food blogger) Bethia Woolf led a small group of us around and through some of Short North’s culinary and historical bright spots.

The tour started at the North Market. It’s a great starting point, an easy landmark, and perfect precursor to the small businesses and local eateries in store for you. Our first visit in the market was the Greener Grocer.

Colleen fed us ground cherries – a small, sweet berry covered in a paper husk similar to the tomatillo. I was surprised at how the flavor traveled so well. It was sweet, but so many other things at the same time.

We then strolled around the corner to Bluescreek Farms, where owner Cheryl Smith told us about their family-run operation and tasted thin-sliced smoked ham. Amazing. Nothing like store-bought ham. Closer in taste to smoked turkey breast.

On our way out of North Market we waved to the Jeni’s booth, peeked at Kitchen Little (not open until next week), then headed up High Street to Knead. I haven’t been to Knead since their soft opening, and was very glad to be back.

There we tasted one of the best grilled cheese sandwiches I’ve ever had. Made with local tomatoes (we’ll miss this come fall), a jalapeno cheese from Oakvale Farms, so it was sweet and spicy. And the house-made bread had a perfect crispy crust.

And then owner Rick Lopez dropped by some recently-smoked bacon. My goodness. We all need more bacon like this in our lives.

On the way out, I noted Krista’s homemade twinkies.

Stopping on the 670 cap to talk some Short North history.

For a sweet bite, we hit up Le Chocoholique. Recently opened in the former Starbucks space, they serve up a huge variety of chocolates.

Admiring the case…

Then up the road and down a side street to Eleni Christina Artisan Breads.

One of the bakers there, Joe, spent a while bragging on all the bread they make there. The bakery is not generally open to the public; they’re a member of the Rigsby group of restaurants, providing the bread for Tasi Cafe, Rigsby’s, plus a load of other great eateries around Columbus. They begin their days at 2 a.m., cranking out a wide variety of breads…


…which are all beautiful.

They were busy at the work. The other two guys in the bakery didn’t stop moving.

After a stroll past Goodale Park and a walk down Buttles Avenue (side note: the first time my wife and I ever rolled into Columbus, we drove past Buttles Ave. and laughed, “Who would ever live there?” Turns out we did.), we headed back on Pearl Alley to Tasi Cafe.

I love the big wooden tables in Tasi. Rugged, rustic charm to go with uncomplicated comfort food.

And then we got to see some of that Eleni Christina bread at work!

Plus a small but rich bowl of macaroni and cheese. Flavorful cheese, without being heavy. Nicely complemented by the pieces of ham.

Then we stopped in to Rigsby’s Kitchen, sadly the first time I’ve been there after eight years in Columbus. We had a simply delicious salad of tomatoes, olives, watermelon, red onions, and more. I’m usually not a fan of these types of salads – especially those that incorporate the watermelon – but this was complex and refreshing.

Bowl of tomatoes on the counter. Seriously, we are going to miss these after the season.

We topped off the tour – as any tour of Columbus should – with a stop at Jeni’s Ice Creams.

I opted for a trio of the Sweet Corn & Black Raspberry, Pistachio & Honey, and the Mango Lassi. Always, always good. Never had a bad ice cream at Jeni’s. Seeing her booth at North Market brought back memories of first discovering the Market in 2002, just as Jeni was opening up, and how they used to make ALL their ice cream there. Now they’ll soon have seven locations plus a production kitchen, and have been on the Food Network multiple times. (sigh) We’re so proud.

All in all, a great tour. We were stuffed full of food, invigorated from the walk, and pleased with the good conversation and well-chosen stops. Thanks, Bethia!

If you want to go on a tour yourself:
columbusfoodadventures.com
twitter.com/cbusadventures

Photos: Knead Urban Diner soft opening!


Exciting news for breakfast in Columbus! This week sees the opening of Knead Urban Diner in Short North. Knead takes the place of Zen Sushi on High Street, in the Hampton Inn and across from the Convention Center.


This morning began a soft opening of offering discounted meals so owners Rick and Krista Lopez, and their crew, can start the restaurant running and work out the kinks. I met up with Bethia and Drew of Hungrywoolf, Taco Trucks Columbus, et al. this morning to try the breakfast.


We were greeted with two small cases of pastries at the door.



Views of the dining room…


A handful of chairs at the counter, a couple booths, and plenty of tables.


We started with a cinnamon roll. My son Will devoured it.


And then the biscuits and gravy, with two eggs, a homemade biscuit, prosciutto gravy, and their version of hash browns.


Magnetic map on the wall, showing the 88 counties of Ohio. The magnets will show where Knead’s local ingredients are sourced from.



If you want to visit:
Knead Urban Diner (
website | Facebook)
505 N. High St.

Columbus, OH 43215

(614) 228-6323

Northstar Cafe (Short North) | Columbus, OH


Northstar Cafe
951 N. High St.

Columbus, OH 43201
(614) 298-9999
Open 9 am to 10 pm everyday
Accepts cash and credit cards

Date of Visit: Sunday, August 16, 2009 at 11:00 a.m.

IMPRESSIONS: Once upon a time I reviewed Northstar’s Beechwold location and gushed and gushed and gushed about how perfect the breakfast was. I don’t necessarily retract my praise for the restaurant – it’s still a solid breakfast, a Columbus institution, and a fine example of a restaurant with a well thought out food philosophy – but I like to think that time has tempered my taste (and hopefully my writing style, goodness).


For starters, I used to live within walking distance of this location – the original one, by the by – in Columbus’ Short North. So my wife and I frequented often, especially during the beautiful spring and summer months when we could sit on the patio with our Yellow Lab. Northstar was an easy favorite with easy favorite dishes: the Northstar burger, the salads, the flatbreads, the pancakes, and especially for me, the Big Burrito.


ATMOSPHERE
: The interior of Northstar is both large and spacious, and small and close. Depends where you sit. The main dining room is wide open, with huge glass windows looking out at High Street and the patio. Branching off this is a smaller, cozier hallway that leads to the restrooms. The ceiling is lower here, so those tables are quieter and better for the mid-morning coffee-drinking studying crowd.


Seating is a mix of table sizes, a counter along the High Street window, some taller seats and tables around the pillars, and a small lounge area with stacks a magazines. Decor is a stylish modern that fuses the existing building elements with some dashes of new. Mostly light wood accents and modern lighting, accented by the curving slate wall around the kitchen and counter.

FOOD: Northstar has a limited breakfast menu – six or seven main items plus several a la carte – and they hit a few home runs.


Potatoes: big chunks, well seasoned, nice and brown.


The Cloud 9 Pancakes. Made with ricotta, which makes them fluffy and yet dense in just the right proportions. Sliced bananas on top, and real maple syrup. Honestly, some of the best pancakes I’ve ever had.


And the Big Burrito. I always get this when I’m having breakfast at Northstar. It costs $8 ($10 if you add the bacon, like I always do), but you can easily split it between two people. Sweet potatoes, onions, red peppers, cheddar cheese, fried eggs, black beans. And add the bacon. So good: it gets my vote for the one breakfast item that I would eat every day for the rest of my life, if forced. I guess that’s a pretty big vote.

SERVICE: Northstar’s service setup seems to work well. It’s designed to bring you up front to order your food, then move you out into the dining room. You take a number, get your mug for coffee or cup for soda, then find a table, and the food is brought out to you (except specialty drinks like the fresh orange juice or the smoothies). Etiquette (and signs) tell you that you can’t reserve a table until you’ve ordered, which is fair. Besides, even in its busiest moments, the line typically flows quickly enough that you don’t have to wait long. Just be prepared if you come with a big party during prime lunch or dinner time (or brunch time on the weekends).In terms of actual service, I’ve always encountered friendly people at Northstar, although there have been times when I’ve felt hurried out the door during a busy rush.Nothing that anyone has actually said, but just a general feeling. Also, Northstar tells you not to tip the staff – presumably because they’re paying their staff a good enough wage.

OVERALL: Like I said, I don’t visit Northstar all that often anymore, but every time I return – especially for breakfast – I’m reminded why it’s a favorite. I think they could stand to open a little earlier for the breakfast/coffee crowd, but they did expand their hours already. And the prices are a little higher – this is definitely not the place for your $5 eggs/bacon/potatoes/toast/coffee breakfast. But if you agree with their food philosophy of local, organic, sustainable food sources, it’s probably worth the price. And, really, the food tastes excellent.

One last note… I find it funny that Northstar is across the street from a ratty-looking White Castle.

OTHER LINKS:

Northstar Cafe (Short North) on Urbanspoon

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