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Tag Archives: Westerville

Beyond Breakfast: Yeah Baby Tacos!

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UPDATE: Yeah Baby Tacos temporarily closed.

Those of you who follow the blog regularly know that The Best Breakfast & Sandwiches in Westerville is one of my regular hang-outs. I got to know Tom and Jan years ago when we had a fun visit to the strip mall diner on our way to cut down our Christmas tree. Since then it’s been my mission to tell people about the place – and other locally-owned, mom-and-pop restaurants like it – to help readers find the unique spots and to support people who are working at their dream. In recent months there’s been an interesting development inside The Best that has added a new level of craving for me and my family. Nothing says American diner like spicy authentic Mexican tacos, right? Enter Yeah Baby Tacos.

I recently got to write about YBT on the Columbus Crave blog; before you continue, I suggest giving it a read here.

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YBT is dream project of Brittany Brewer, one of the servers at The Best. You can read more of her story in the Crave post above. I just wanted to add some more pictures and really try to convince you, dear readers, to go out and give her tacos a try. We’ve been back for a few visits and have been impressed every time.

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What distinguishes Brittany’s work from other bland Tex-Mex places is that the fact that she’s making everything on her own, to order, and that it’s all very well seasoned. Expect a little bit of heat and a whole lot of flavor. For instance, the chips and guacamole. She fries up tortillas to order, covers them in queso fresco and chili powder, and makes the guacamole fresh. Her guac is big and chunky, with lots of tomatoes, onions, and cilantro.

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We usually find ourselves ordering a basket or two of the chips and guac.

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One of her best sides is the elote, a popular Mexican street food that’s simply corn on the cob covered in queso fresco and chili powder. These are delicious. I’ll never look at corn on the cob the same way again.

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We’ve ordered probably every combination of tacos, and we haven’t been disappointed with a single one. The basic ordering system goes like this:

1. Pick corn or flour tortillas
2. Pick your meat
3. Pick your toppings (Brittany has a mix that have included things like queso fresco, pickled vegetables, fresh tomatoes, and creamy sauces)
4. Pick your sides (elote, beans, etc.)

Overall, ordering is simple because she structures it as an $8 combo with two tacos, a side, and drink.

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The meats have ranged from a zesty shredded chicken to barbacoa to a form of al pastor pork. All very good.

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The best thing about these is that there’s no shortage of spices. Brittany makes a variety of sauces and salsas. We love her standard red salsa, which has a nice bite and is a little smoky. It reminds us of a salsa we use to have at a former small chain of Mexican restaurants called Rio Bravo.

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Other salsas have included hot peppers like the ghost pepper and habanero. Everything combined results in some super tasty tacos, nothing that’s overloaded with bland rice and beans or overdone with cheese. We have begun craving these on a regular basis.

I suggest a visit to support Brittany and her endeavor. She’s getting the press she deserves: YBT was also recently featured in the Columbus Dispatch along with other pop-up restaurants around town.

When you want to visit (not if):

Yeah Baby Tacos
inside The Best Breakfast & Sandwiches
5916 Westerville Rd. (map it!)
Westerville, OH 43081
(614) 776-5788
Open Tues & Wed, Fri & Sat, 5-10p
Like their page on Facebook or follow YeahBabyTacos on Twitter.

Schneider’s Bakery | Westerville, OH

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Schneider’s Bakery
(Facebook)

6 S. State St. (map it!)
Westerville, OH 43081
(614) 882-6611
Open Mon, 6a-12p; Tues-Thurs, 1:30a-6p; Fri, 1a-6p; Sat, 1a-3p
Accepts cash only!
Vegetarian/vegan/gluten free? Y/N/N
Kid-friendly? Y

Visited: Thursday, July 18, 2013 at 6:15 am

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I hope donut shops last forever. I hope they never go out of style, never change, never stop serving the same favorite donuts day in and day out. I know that’s a lot to ask of a small business, but it’s the simplicity and consistency of small donut shops, places like Schneider’s Bakery, that keep our culinary heritage alive. Yes, they’re mostly all the same, but each one has its quirks, its history, and its sense of being “owned” by the community. Donut shops are the true City Hall.

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If you grew up in Westerville or went to Otterbein University like a number of my friends have, then Schneider’s is a no-brainer. It’s your neighborhood donut place, and you probably have years of memories associated with it. I’m still getting to know Schneider’s, but even after a handful of visits I can appreciate its place in the hearts and stomachs of its regulars. And judging by the constant opening and closing of the door every time I’ve visited, there are a lot of regulars.

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For those who don’t know Schneider’s, it’s a small corner bakery in Uptown Westerville, which is actually the “downtown” focused along State Street. It’s a nice collection of coffee shops, retail, banks, restaurants, galleries, all with that quaint small-town feel. Regulars visit Schneider’s for boxes of donuts or simple snacks, like this one: a carton of milk and a Davy Crockett, a maple glazed cinnamon fry.

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The exterior and interior are a far cry from fancy. It’s lit in plain fluorescent lights and decorated in creams and browns, and probably has been for decades. Every available space is taken by display cases filled with the familiar yellow trays that many bakeries use. Every time I’ve visited (which is pretty early in the morning), there’s a wide selection available, and honestly, I haven’t had anything bad.

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My preference has been for the Davy Crocketts, the apple fritters, and the Nut Toppers, which are simple honey buns (a glazed cinnamon fry) covered in icing and nuts.

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Schneider’s isn’t the type of place to do really funky things like maple bacon or hibiscus glazes, but they really don’t need to. They’ve got the basics covered very well.

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Very well.

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Very, very well.

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They specialize in the simple comfort of all things glazed, rolled, powdered, and cream-filled. Even in the heat of summer, each bite tastes like a little bit of autumn.

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Rows upon glorious rows.

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Of course, if you want to act like a grown-up, you can always buy loaves of bread or rolls for dinner.

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But you really came for boxes like these: chocolate-glazed yeast donuts, Dave Crocketts, Nut Toppers, longjohns with their thin strip of icing across the top.

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Boxes and boxes of them.

A couple important notes about Schneider’s:

1. They are cash only. The nearest ATM is a bank across the street, and it’s difficult to access. Come with some green.

2. For the dedicated night owls: Schneider’s actually opens at 1 or 1:30 a.m. (depending on the day). As a father to two boys, I have not been able to visit when the donuts are truly warm and fresh. One of ladies behind the counter said it’s typical to find, especially when Otterbein is in session, a constant line of students out the door between 1-3 a.m.

3. At $6.75, an assorted dozen is pretty cheap. Not that donuts usually break the bank, but at most places you can expect to pay anywhere from $8-12 for an assorted dozen – something that includes bigger specialties like apple fritters or longjohns.

Schneider's Bakery on Urbanspoon

Gena’s Restaurant | Westerville, OH

Gena’s Restaurant
5947 S. Sunbury Rd. (map it!)
Westerville, OH 43081
(614) 895-0089
Open Mon-Fri 7 am – 2 pm; Sat & Sun 8 am – 2 pm
Accepts cash and credit cards
Date of Visit: Saturday, January 9, 2010 at 9:30 a.m.

IMPRESSIONS: On the same day I visited Beechwold Diner with CMH Gourmand, we also did a little breakfast recon up to Westerville. Jim had heard tell of a three-pancake challenge, and we decided to scope it out. We found Gena’s in Westerville, just off Sunbury Road outside the 270 loop. When I mapped out the address in Google Maps, it originally told us to go a half mile north of the actual location. (it looks like they fixed it now). To find Gena’s, you need to locate the Kroger Marketplace, and then head around the south side of the building. Gena’s sits in a tiny strip mall attached to Kroger.

ATMOSPHERE: The restaurant consists of one entire room, half full when we arrived. It smells and looks like something out of yesteryear. Jim and I discussed this phenomenon. Businesses that have been around since the 1960’s/70’s have this certain smell and look to them. There’s a barbershop in my hometown just like this. Wood paneling. Brown signs with movable white lettering (see below). Plates, cups, and silverware that seem original. Weak coffee that conjures memories of so many similar breakfasts in so many similar diners. The smell is indescribable but instantly recognizable. It’s the smell of forty years of business. Restaurateurs try to create retro diners or “authentic” Irish pubs all the time, but they can never actually do it. You need decades of people coming and going to create that kind of atmosphere.

FOOD: One of Gena’s claims to fame is the Greatest American Pecan Roll. The name is trademarked. And it’s not just the GREAT. They chose the superlative. It’s the GREATEST.

Jim and I each ordered one. They’re made in house, gigantic and warm, sliced horizontally so you can butter it. Laced with cinnamon on the inside and topped with pecans. There’s a delicious buttery hint to it, and it’s not too sweet. Is it great? Certainly. Is it the greatest? Debatable. To be honest, it could be sweeter. Maybe they don’t want to ruin it with a sugary glaze, but I think they could go in that direction.

As part of our recon, Jim and I each ordered one of their pancakes, and were treated with a delicious and humongous flapjack. They mean business. Not the greatest pancake I’ve ever tasted, but still very good. Even at that size, they manage to get it golden brown on the outside and warm and fluffy inside.

Frame of reference for you. The pancake felt like it weighed well over a pound. We discovered that there is, indeed, a three-pancake challenge. Our server said all three pancakes stacked together look like a birthday cake. If you eat three of these pancakes in one sitting – there’s no time limit – you get your picture and name on the wall. Over the 5+ years they’ve been doing the challenge, only thirteen people have finished it.

Jim and I discussed tactics… do you use lots of butter? Do you drown each piece in syrup? I’m sure Adam Richman would have some tips. Sometime soon we may organize a group outing here to take the challenge together, similar to the Dagwood Challenge from a couple years ago. Stay tuned!

Here’s the wall of fame. Note, only thirteen champions. All male, I believe. Of varying ages. Just recently they had to add the second frame to accommodate the achievers.

SERVICE: Our server was the sort of kind, matronly woman you would expect at this type of establishment. She was very excited to talk to us about the challenge, the history of the restaurant, and more.

OVERALL: Gena’s is another good example of the hole-in-the-wall neighborhood diner. Every neighborhood has one; every neighborhood needs one. There’s not much variety between them – Gena’s standouts really are the pecan roll and the pancake challenge – and their food is good, but rarely exceptional. But they’re cozy, they’re close to home, they’re welcoming, and they’ll feed you well.

OTHER LINKS:

Gena's on Urbanspoon

The Best Breakfast and Sandwiches | Westerville, OH


[Update: The Best is under new ownership; the menu has changed slightly.]

The Best Breakfast and Sandwiches (Facebook / @TheBestBfast)
5916 Westerville Rd.
Westerville, OH 43081
(614) 776-5788
Open Mon-Fri 6 am – 3 pm; Sat & Sun 7 am – 3 pm
Accepts cash and credit cards

Date of Visit: Friday, November 27, 2009 at 10:00 a.m.

IMPRESSIONS: You know, it’s gutsy for any place to name itself The Best Breakfast and Sandwiches. It’s gutsy to name yourself The Best of anything. Inevitably people will take you to task if you don’t have the best [fill in the blank]. People will call you out on it. “You say you’re the best, but…” It’s like a film reviewer writing about The Fantastic Mr. Fox. They’re going to say something about how fantastic – or not – the movie is.

So it’s bold for a restaurant to just call itself The Best Breakfast and Sandwiches. There’s no “Restaurant” or “Cafe” in the title, like The Best Breakfast Cafe. Just The Best Breakfast and Sandwiches. They’re basically putting their menu in the title. What do they serve? Well, the best breakfast and sandwiches.

ATMOSPHERE: The Best Breakfast and Sandwiches is located in a strip mall off busy Westerville Road, in a section set further back from the road. It takes a little searching to find it, but the sign is big enough. We hit the place up on our way to cut our Christmas tree the Friday after Thanksgiving. When we walked in, the restaurant was packed except for one fortunate, empty, little table.

Best Breakfast is laid out like any diner. Big, long counter overlooking the kitchen on one side. Rows of tables or booths on the other.

The place was really humming with activity that morning. Tables full of customers in conversation, three or four folks bustling about in the kitchen, and a handful of servers running up and down the restaurant.

FOOD: I gotta say it… Best Breakfast’s food is honestly some of the best diner food I’ve come across. It’s straight-up fantastic: homemade, not greasy, and in generous portions.

A customer next to us recommended the Sausage Gravy and Biscuits. She said to try it because the gravy was thick and full of sausage.

She was absolutely right. This was a peppery and chunky sausage gravy, very flavorful and generously poured over two biscuits that flaked apart. Sometimes I think restaurants serve dry biscuits, thinking you won’t notice if they soften them with gravy, but these biscuits were clearly fresh and soft, just like they should be. The gravy itself was a little darker than most. We figured this resulted from the roux they made, which our server later confirmed. Each batch is made fresh that day.

I added the eggs, potatoes, and bacon. The potatoes were chunky and fairly well seasoned. Not my favorite, but still very good: browned enough yet still soft. Good, crispy bacon – just about how I like it. And the scrambled eggs were prepared exactly the way I like them. Too often scrambled eggs are served dry, but these were a little wet, like the cook pulled them off the flattop just before they were done. I could seriously go back just for a big plate of the scrambled eggs.

Based on the same customer’s recommendation, my wife tried the Corn Beef Hash with two eggs on top. Again, we were told how Best Breakfast makes their own corned beef, with nice meaty chunks of beef mixed with their potatoes. The whole meal was delicious – another strong dish, just like the sausage gravy and biscuits.

Their homemade rye bread. I don’t know whether it tasted better because I knew it was homemade (like all their bread – awesome!), but it just tasted great. Spot on.

I snagged this picture later in the meal: baked potatoes fresh out of the oven, soon to be chopped up. This, to me, summarizes the honesty of Best Breakfast’s food. In general, there’s something nice about diners’ openness: you can sit at the counter and see the whole kitchen. You can watch the cook prepare your entire meal, so you see where it’s cooked and where it comes from. You can talk with them while they cook your food. And I think Best Breakfast does an especially good job of capturing that honesty of the good old fashioned diner. You see the bacon being grilled. You see the potatoes being baked and chopped. They bake all of their bread in house. And this all results in one of the best comfort food breakfasts I’ve had in a long time.

SERVICE: The honesty in their food is matched by the friendliness of the service. Sometimes neighborhood diners make you feel like an outsider. It’s a bit of an in-crowd, a group of regulars who has their routine and is comfortable there, and doesn’t want that disturbed by newcomers. Not so with Best Breakfast. Our server Suzanne was attentive, friendly, and clearly wanted us to feel welcomed. She even introduced us to the owner, Tom, who chatted with us briefly. My wife snapped a picture later of Tom working behind the counter on the potatoes.

The rest of the customers were just as friendly. When we first sat down, the couple next to us started making recommendations on what to try. They playfully bantered back and forth with Suzanne. Another couple who sat there later actually got up and helped Suzanne clean and move tables! Talk about regulars who are comfortable and familiar with the place! But the best part about the experience is how proud they are of their restaurant. Both Tom and Suzanne wanted to talk about what they do and how they do it. Those are the best places – where they involve you not just as a consumer of their product, but a participant in the process that created it.

OVERALL: Best Breakfast is a great experience in every aspect, one of the few places that stakes a serious claim to the “Best” in their name. This is my new model for the small neighborhood diner: excellent service, delicious and homemade comfort food, cozy setting. My wife and I are already eying the calendar to see when we can return.

OTHER LINKS:
-> video clip featuring The Best from Breakfast Special

The Best Breakfast and Sandwiches on Urbanspoon

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