Other Meals: El Mezcal – Millington, TN

This past weekend, I hitched a ride with my parents down to Memphis, TN (and surrounding suburbs) to visit with some family members that I hadn’t seen in almost 20 years. This area used to be my teenage-days stomping grounds, from middle school until my senior year in high school, when we moved back to Columbus. I was excited to see my family, but also excited to see the area and how it has changed since I was a kid. As is always the case prior to a road trip, I did a little online research on some of the area eateries, and I had a few places in mind that I thought might be cool to check out, for breakfast and otherwise. Unfortunately, I didn’t get to hit up nearly as many places as I had hoped (darn you, family time!! j/k), but my next few blog posts will feature some of the spots we dined at while we were there.

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We arrived at our hotel after the long 10-hour drive just as dinner-time was approaching, and had to make a decision on where we would grab some grub. Conveniently, there was a restaurant that shares the same parking lot as our hotel, so we decided this would be the best solution to our hunger problems. El Mezcal is a local restaurant chain, with several locations in the Memphis area. There were no frills or gimmicks outside, so I liked it already. Simple, strait-forward “Mexican Restaurant” signage let us know exactly what to expect inside.

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The interior of El Mezcal is pretty comfortable, but not nearly as “ethnic” as many of your typical Mexican restaurants are. There was no distinguishing wall art, no sombreros, no Hispanic music. It was really quite “Applebee’s-ish” in appearance. It could have honestly been any casual family dining place in any suburb. There were a few branded t-shirts hanging over the bar, but that’s it. That being said, El Mezcal was extremely clean and comfy.

El Mezcal’s menu was really large. Five or six plastic-covered pages detailed their appetizers, specialties, combos, drinks, salads, and more. They serve a lot of your standard, “Americanized” Tex-Mex favorites, as well as some authentic dishes too. Our meal started with the usual complimentary chips and salsa, both of which were really fresh and yummy.

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I ordered the Special Dinner ($10.50), which came out on two huge plates. The meal consisted of a Chalupa, chili relleno, an enchilada, a taco, a burrito, Mexican rice and fried beans. Everything was pretty tasty, but my favorite component was the chili relleno, which could have been truly amazing with the addition of a spicy/smoky chili sauce or something similar. The beef, which was featured in all of the major components of the dish, was seasoned really well. Beans and rice were good, too.

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Here’s a shot of the Pollo Noricno ($11.50), which came out on a sizzling hot skillet. It was composed of a grilled chicken breast with plump, grilled shrimp, served with grilled onions and pineapple, and came with three flour tortillas. I tasted the shrimp and chicken together, and both were tender and delicious. I liked the grilled flavors and textures of this dish.

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My pops went with his Mexican restaurant stand-by, the Carnitas Dinner ($10.50). El Mezcal’s version was a huge pile of shredded and coarsely chopped pork, which was roasted with onions and seasonings, and was presented with three flour tortillas, as well as rice and beans. These carnitas were sooo good!! Perfectly cooked, perfectly seasoned, a HUGE portion. I would go back for this!

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Finally, here’s a shot of the Burrito Veloz ($7.50). I actually ate this burrito on our last night in Tennessee, after we returned to our hotel from a full day of family activity. The others opted to skip dinner, so I walked over to El Mezcal and ordered this bad boy to go and ate it back in the room. Because of this, presentation might be a little skewed, but the flavor was still solid. It was a big, 10-inch flour tortilla filled with shredded chicken (or I could have had beef), pico de gallo, jalapenos, lettuce and tomatoes. It was topped with a creamy, but slightly thin queso sauce, and sour cream. Pretty much what you would expect. Nothing out of the ordinary, but enjoyable and filling.

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Wisely, El Mezcal features a nice bar to stay competitive with the happy hour crowd, but also plays to business people who might be in town and staying at the hotel less than fifty yards away. I didn’t get a chance to visit the bar to check out their drafts, but it looked as though they did a good drink business based off of the folks sitting there while we visited.

The old adage of “Location, location, location!” holds true for this El Mezcal restaurant (I’ve never visited the other locations so I can comment on their whereabouts). It doesn’t hurt that they’re so close to a major hotel chain, but honestly it’s their food that will keep people coming back (it did me). Everything we had was pretty tasty, and the portions were big.

We were off to a good start, food-wise, on our trip to the Mid-South. Stay tuned in the next several days for more Southern eats…including upcoming reviews of a Memphis breakfast institution and an old school donut shop!!

El Mezcal on Urbanspoon

Hudson 29 Kitchen + Drink – Columbus, OH

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One of Cameron Mitchell’s newer signature restaurants, Hudson 29 Kitchen + Drink in Upper Arlington, recently celebrated their 1-year anniversary by adding a Sunday Brunch line-up to their already stellar menu. Being that I just so happen to have a love for the early-day eats, the wife and I were invited by Cameron Mitchell Restaurants to come and sample some of their newest offerings at the posh, yet comfortable eatery.

Hudson 29 is located along W. Lane Ave, just west of the OSU campus area, and across the street from the bustling Shops on Lane Avenue plaza. According to their website, H29 is named for the storied Hudson River Valley, which is home to the Culinary Institute of America, and the route that winds through Napa Valley. Their menu is inspired by the flavors and influences of both.

With that in mind, we happily sent our boy off to church with his grandparents (we don’t get much alone time), and we headed for H29. We arrived just before noon on a recent Sunday, looking forward to a lovely morning of incredible brunching together.

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In similar fashion to many of CM’s restaurants, Hudson 29 is gorgeous inside, featuring warm, dark wood tones, rich leather, and colorful artwork in a modern, streamlined space. The luxurious fireplace in the waiting area made us feel like we were walking into the home of a friend instead of a dining establishment, and the hostesses were extremely welcoming.

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The elegant, main dining area houses a large bar in the center of the room and the kitchen beyond that, and is outlined by several comfortable booths. As is common in many of CM’s restaurants, portions of the remaining space are separated into smaller dining rooms, which creates an intimate and classy ambiance.

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There are also rooms designed specifically for larger parties. This particular room focuses around a single banquet table and is highlighted by some trendy lighting and upscale décor. Mrs. Grub Guy particularly loved the hand-drawn curtain and the rustic fixtures in this room.

After I explored the restaurant a bit, I returned to our table where the Mrs. and I were greeted by our server, Jeff, who turned out to be seriously outstanding. He was extremely friendly and knowledgeable, kindly making suggestions on drinks, appetizers, and entrees. He walked us through many of their most popular menu items before taking our order for cocktails and meal starters.

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We started with drinks – I ordered the Bloody Mary ($10.00), and the wife went with the refreshing Grapefruit Fresca ($10.00). Bloody Mary’s aren’t usually a drink I choose during brunch since I’m not really a cocktail kind of guy, but I decided to give H29’s a try. It turned out to be a really good choice! It was spiced perfectly, with a slightly enjoyable Tabasco burn in the back of the throat lingering after each sip.  Mrs. Grub Guy loved the Grapefruit Fresca – a blend of Belvedere Pink Grapefruit, Cointreau, and pink grapefruit juice. It was delivered in its own bottle, which our server explained is bottled in-house daily. It was citrusy with some mild carbonation and a hint of sweetness.

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For our appetizer, we decided to order both a lunch-ish and a breakfast-y item. First, we went with the Wine Country Board ($15.00), which played off of the Napa Vally theme nicely. It was a beautiful display of artisan cheeses (Gorgonzola Dolce and Vella Dry Jack)  and meats (Soppressata and Calabrese), accompanied by fresh grapes, fire-roasted Compari tomatoes, Marcona almonds, a sweet mango chutney, and some really nice toasted crostini, made locally by Dan the Baker. This was honestly our favorite thing we ate during our brunch visit, and that’s not to take anything at all away from any of the other food because it was all incredibly good. It was a meal unto itself…something you could just sit and nibble on for an hour or two. I can certainly imagine sitting at a romantic picnic with a bottle of wine and this delightful tray of food.

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We also ordered the Pineapple Upside Down Cake Donuts ($8.00), and enjoyed them immensely. These warm, delicate cakes were gloriously light and fluffy, and were accompanied by a rich, caramel dipping sauce. They would have been delicious simply fried and served, but H29 took the liberty of rolling them in a fine, granulated sugar, which elevated them to another level of awesomeness. When you visit here, get these!! You’ll thank me.

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Moving on from appetizers, Hudson 29’s brunch menu includes an interesting mix of culinary styles, ranging from upscale, tavern fare such as steaks, ribs, salads, and burgers, to trendy dishes like the pan-seared scallops, a variety of flatbreads, sushi rolls, and a black bean burger, to breakfast faves like French Toast, bagels & lox, Eggs Benedict and omelets. If you’d like to browse for yourself, check out the entire brunch menu HERE.

Up next for us was the Surf & Turf Sushi Roll ($14.00). I’m going to be honest with you guys – I’ve always been a little scared of sushi (I know, I know…) no matter how much my friends and family have tried to get me to eat it. It’s not something that I have ever really had any desire to eat, much less enjoy. However, this roll included several of my favorite foods – filet mignon and tempura shrimp, as well as cream cheese and scallions – so I determined that I was going to order this from the moment I saw it on the online menu. Ya’ll, all I can say is that this dish was AMAZING!! Every component of the dish was executed perfectly and the flavors were lifted by the addition of the balsamic-sesame drizzle. We both enjoyed this so much, that it’s definitely become a new favorite for us. We took the left-overs of this dish home and convinced our eight year old boy to give it a try – he loved it so much that he scarfed the remnants down before anyone else could get their chopsticks near the plate!

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Between plates, we tried some of H29’s House Blend Coffee ($3.00). It was accompanied by a small pitcher of warm cream. The java was hot and tasty, and satisfied our coffee craving just in time for our main course…

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When it came time for entrees, Mrs. Grub Guy opted for the spinach, caramelized onion and parmigiano reggiano Quiche ($12.00). It was a large slice of H29’s house-made breakfast classic, and was paired nicely with a cup of seasonal, fresh fruit and an arugula salad. The wife is a quiche lover, and said that this version was among the tastiest she’s eaten. She said the egg was smooth and creamy, and the flavors all complimented each other really nicely. Likewise, the crust was buttery, flaky, and tender. She also enjoyed the cool, refreshing salad and fruit that accompanied it. She said that she was delighted by this beautiful collection of Spring brunch foods all on one amazing plate.

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I ordered the Short Rib Hash ($14.00), which was an absolutely heavenly dish of a short rib and fingerling potato hash, two perfectly poached eggs, pico de gallo, tomatillo lime sauce and cotija. As you can see, the presentation of this dish was gorgeous! The hash had a rustic, earthy flavor, which was highlighted by the fresh pico and the tomatillo sauce. I loved that they included a half-dozen or so tortilla chips for scooping. I would absolutely order this dish again, and would recommend it to anyone looking for a near-perfect brunch entrée.

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Bravo to the kitchen staff, lead by Hudson 29’s Executive Chef, Jonathan Basch. Chef Jonathan has been in the Cameron Mitchell Restaurants family since 2007, working in various roles and restaurants. He and the rest of the kitchen staff do amazing work, and everything we ate during our visit was incredibly beautiful and delicious.

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In the same manner, the wait staff and Dining Room Manager, Joe, were very welcoming, attentive, gracious and knowledgeable. We greatly appreciated the way the servers treated not just us, but the other guests around us.

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  • Pro Tips: Parking at Hudson 29 is pretty convenient, in general. There are several spaces right out in front of the restaurant along the street, and a parking garage connected to the building. So if you’re running late for your dining reservations, don’t sweat it…parking shouldn’t be an issue.
  • The restaurant also features a comfortable patio that is open for all services. If dining al fresco is your thing, check it out when you visit!
  • Hudson 29 is opening a second location on April 27th in New Albany. Be sure to follow them on social media for updates!!

The wife and I were extremely impressed with Hudson 29 as a whole. Its atmosphere is casual, but still embodies that chic flare that many Cameron Mitchell Restaurants are known for. The food was incredibly satisfying and I’m positive that any brunch fan could easily find something to love on their impressive menu. Personally, for me, Hudson 29 is more than just a “special occasion” restaurant, it’s another great option for an excellent brunch to share with people I love and enjoy.

Hudson 29 Kitchen + Drink is located at 1600 W. Lane Ave, Columbus, OH 43221 (MAP). They’re open Monday – Thursday, 11:30am – 10:00pm, Friday, 11:30am – 11:00pm, Saturday, 11:00am – 11:00pm, and Sunday, 11:00am – 9:00pm. 

Follow Cameron Mitchell Restaurants on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

Hudson 29 on Urbanspoon

8 Questions for Nikki Stoughton

 

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Nikki Stoughton is fulfilling her dream of making people happy through breakfast! She’s recently started a food delivery venture called The Breakfast Club Delivery, and along with her partner, Chef Josh Truex, is delivering gourmet, made-to-order breakfasts to hungry folks all across the Columbus area. They’re currently in their soft-opening phase until next month, when they hit the road full-time. I had a chance to interview Nikki recently for the blog, and asked her just 8 Questions…..

Let’s start with the basics. For those who aren’t familiar with your brand, can you tell us about what the The Breakfast Club Delivery does?

We deliver fresh, delicious breakfast to your home. Chef Josh creates each breakfast individually, and then we load them into their holding places in the delivery vehicle. I drive them to your home, plate them fresh in the vehicle then deliver each individual plate to your home’s table. We set ourselves apart from everyone else by delivering exactly what you would expect from table service in a restaurant. Freshly prepared, individually plated from our kitchen to your table.

How did Chef Josh Truex get involved with The Breakfast Club Delivery?

Josh and I have known each other for a long time (we act in amateur murder mystery dinner theater together). When I developed the business model, I sent it to him and his immediate response was “I don’t care what capacity, I’m in!” and from there we spent another 9 months further developing the concept and planning the launch. His expertise and experience have been incredibly valuable and I’m thankful for him.

What might a typical breakfast delivery look like?

We consider ourselves a boutique caterer, which is the same high quality of a restaurant, only it’s delivered to the table in your home rather than the table at a restaurant. Likely you’ll see an order of Eggs Benedict with a side of our house-made, smoked chicken sausage or French Toast stuffed with banana and toffee and topped with salted caramel sauce. We also have custom created omelets and crepes for those who like to experiment.

Pick your fave: Pancakes, Waffles, or French Toast?

Honest answer, waffles are my fave of the three even though they aren’t offered yet. That being said, once we find a more permanent kitchen we will introduce waffles to the menu (because cheese & bacon waffles are my most fave, I’m a savory girl, for sure!)

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How does your Breakfast of the Month Club work?

This is a subscription service – for breakfast. Once you subscribe, you get breakfast for four people delivered monthly. As an example, if you choose every third Saturday you will receive four of the Chef Du Jour breakfasts every third Saturday for the duration of your subscription. If you want to change your order, you can too (especially helpful for all the different tastes you may be entertaining).

Two words – Doughnut Muffins!! Tell me more.

As I thought about the level of service I wanted to bring to The Breakfast Club, I thought it would be essential to provide a muffin or pastry to really complete the service. While brainstorming the perfect complement to our food, a donut muffin happen to be suggested and after a few attempts to perfect the recipe by Chef Josh, our donut muffin was born!

So, if you could go back to when you were first considering getting into the breakfast delivery business, what advice would the current you give yourself?

That’s a great question! I would tell that Nikki to stay the course, have confidence and courage, and above all else use the help being offered from your support team. It’s not an easy thing to do (starting your own business) but it is rewarding, and I was pleasantly surprised at the amount of support I’ve received not only from friends and family, but from other small business owners. It’s an amazing network to participate in.

And finally…How would someone go about ordering a delivery through The Breakfast Club??

Thank you for asking! The primary means of ordering is through our website, thebreakfastclubdelivery.com but we also take special orders and event orders via phone, which is (614) 601-1604.

 

DK Diner – Columbus, OH

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So, it seems as though the wife and I are currently on a trend of revisiting some of our favorite, classic Columbus breakfast spots that we’ve unintentionally neglected for quite a while. Earlier this month, we reacquainted ourselves with Katalina’s, where we fell in love all over again with their famously irresistible Pancake Balls (read the review HERE). Earlier this week, Mrs. Grub Guy had a taste for one of her favorite treats…donuts, so instead of running to one of our usual spots, we decided to head over for breakfast at a place that still makes some of the most delicious donuts I’ve ever eaten – DK Diner in Grandview.

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Through the years, DK Diner has transitioned from a simple breakfast and donut shop where the old-timers liked to hang out, into a hip little diner. It’s not only frequented by long-time visitors, but also families, business people, and thanks to the addition of some community-style tables, they can now accommodate small groups too. When we visited, there was a group of 6-8 young professionals at the table beside us discussing business strategies over breakfast. That’s exactly the kind of thing that places like DK Diner needs more of, in my opinion, and a sign that DK continues to be one of the neighborhood “places to go” .

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They’ve also added a really nice, spacious patio out front that can be heated for the colder months. Often times, when the place is packed, this space will be used as a waiting area where folks can enjoy some coffee or a donut until a table is available.

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After finding our way to a table inside, I strolled over to the donut cases to have a peek. DK Diner still cranks tons of these bad boys out daily. They do their own version of the doussant – you know, the donut-croissant hybrid – drizzled with caramel or chocolate. These things were HUGE!

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They also sell some of the most fabulous cream-filled long johns in town, as well as some enormous apple fritters and cinnamon rolls.

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I just love the old school, non-uniformed style of DK’s donuts.

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We started our visit with coffee. DK Diner serves Crimson Cup Coffee in several varieties. One of the things I love about this shop, is their self-serve beverage station. At the coffee bar, they have a small cooler set up for creamer, half & half, etc that you grab by the carton, and put back when you’re done. It feels kinda like home.

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Their breakfast menu is still as strong as ever, with tried and true diner classics like omelets, egg combos, and carbs from the griddle. They also offer a grilled donut sandwich – a fried egg, American cheese, and bacon between two grilled DK glazed donuts. I haven’t had it here, but I have had a donut breakfast sandwich, and trust me, it is just as awesome as it sounds. For a full-sized view of DK’s menu, click HERE to check it out.

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When it came time to order, the wife almost went with the donut sandwich, but changed her mind to The Mess ($7.95) at the last minute. It was a big plate of grilled corned beef hash, topped with two over-easy eggs, and toast. The hash was littered with tasty bites of green pepper and onion, and was grilled nicely. Eggs and toast were good.

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I knew before we got here that I would be ordering at least a 1/2 order Biscuits & Gravy ($3.50). The half order comes with 1 biscuit and a small cup of gravy, as opposed to the full order which offers two biscuits and a larger bowl of the good stuff. I absolutely love DK’s biscuits and gravy. The biscuits aren’t the flakey, crumbly kind…they’re more light and doughy. The sausage gravy is rich and full of flavor, and it came with more than enough gravy to cover my biscuits. The crumbled sausage to gravy ratio was pretty generous, and I could have easily opted for a bigger plate of this as my full breakfast and been satisfied.

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The reason I ordered just the 1/2 plate of biscuits & gravy was because I also ordered this plate of breakfast goodness – The Big Man ($7.95).  It was a big, 3-egg scramble which consisted of diced sausage, peppers, onions, tomatoes and mushrooms. It was served with a side of potatoes and toast. I upgraded my potatoes to include cheese, peppers and onions for $1 more, however with all of the veggies loaded into my eggs, I decided that ultimately it wasn’t necessary, but it was delicious nonetheless. The scramble was really tasty and very filling. The potatoes were good, but even with the cheese, they lacked seasoning. I didn’t eat the toast since I had the biscuit, too. Overall, a very good plate.

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After we ate, we were so full that we opted to get two donuts to go so we could eat them later. I ordered the chocolate-iced long john ($1.95), and Mrs. Grub Guy went with a Sour Cream donut ($0.95). Later that evening, we enjoyed them very much, and they were still just as soft and fresh as when we left the diner. Their donuts are priced individually so that folks can just pick and chose what they want, however they do sell them by the dozen, too. For more on their selection and pricing, click HERE to check out their Donut List.

It was good to see that DK Diner is still going strong, putting out unbelievably good diner grub at a heck of a good price!  The restaurant was packed most of  the time we were there, and as I mentioned earlier, the couple of new tables with seating for larger parties really helped out with overcrowding.

DK Diner is the place to go for awesome donuts, no doubt about it. For anyone who wants friendly service and a good diner breakfast in a clean, comfy space…yep, this place. We enjoyed our visit, and we decided that we definitely won’t wait as long to come back again.

DK Diner is located at 1715 W. 3rd Ave, Columbus, OH 43212 (MAP). They’re open Monday – Friday, 6:00am – 9:00pm, Saturday 7:00am – 9:00pm, and Sunday 7:00am – 3:00pm. For more info, check out their website or visit them on Facebook or Twitter.
DK Diner on Urbanspoon

Gift Card Giveaway: Dempsey’s Food & Spirits!!

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Hey Guys!

Our friends at Dempsey’s Food & Spirits in downtown Cbus have donated a $20 gift card for this month’s giveaway!!

To enter for your chance to win, all you have to do is take a look at Dempsey’s menu HERE, and tell me what you would order if you won. That’s it!! Leave a comment on this post with your answer, and you’re entered!

As always, feel free to tell your friends and family so that they can enter too! And the best way to keep track of these kinds of things? Follow TBGG today to get an email every time I post!!

Winner will be announced here on Sunday, April 12th.

Good Luck!!

 

***** UPDATE -THE WINNER OF THE CONTEST IS CHERYL, WHO LEFT THIS COMMENT:

Cheryl

For breakfast if get the jailhouse rock but for lunch is go for the cape codder sandwich. Yum!!!

CHERYL, PLEASE SEND YOUR CONTACT INFO TO THEBREAKFASTGRUBGUY@GMAIL.COM FOR YOUR PRIZE!! THANKS TO ALL WHO PARTICIPATED!! *****

 

Katalina’s – Columbus, OH

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Well, it’s only taken me 2-1/2 years of writing TBGG to finally get around to reviewing one of Columbus’ favorite restaurants. Long time fans of Katalina’s may remember roughly five years ago, when owner Kathleen Day transformed the tiny coffee shop on the corner of Third and Pennsylvania Avenues in the Harrison West neighborhood of town, into the much-loved, always-crowded, hip cafe that it is today. The building has been around for many decades – as a gas station/garage in its previous life – on the tree-lined, residential street; another one of those unassuming places that might be easily missed if you don’t know what you’re looking for. The space itself is very small, and its dining area gets packed to capacity quite often, which frequently results in breakfast and brunch-goers waiting in lines that stretch out the front door, for a plate of Katalina’s unmatched greatness. Katalina’s has been a favorite spot of ours for several years, but it’d been a while since we visited, so on a free weekday morning, the wife and I decided to go on a breakfast date and gorge ourselves on pancake balls.

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To compensate somewhat for the lack of seating inside, Katalina’s features a terrific wraparound patio/deck/porch/whatever you want to call it, attached to the front of the shop. With 6-8 sturdy picnic tables to accommodate many guests, most often folks prefer to sit outside under the big umbrellas during the warmer months. There was still a chill in the air at 9:00 in the morning on the day we visited, so Mrs. Grub Guy decided she’d rather sit inside.

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As I was saying, dining inside may not be a good move for the claustrophobic patron or unless you don’t mind being elbow to elbow with other foodies and breakfast lovers. I really enjoy this kind of atmosphere, myself. Stepping through the door puts you right in front of the counter where you place your order, take a number, and then find a seat at one of the 5-6 small tables or two small counters, if available. Katalina’s is a vibrant place with quirky, antiquish decor and a mild boutique feel, with lots of little splashes of color everywhere adding to the attraction.

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One of the central themes of the cafe is the “made local” mantra. I’m a huge supporter of dining and shopping at local establishments, and I love it that their self-serve coffee stand is fully stocked with Thunderkiss Coffee and Snowville Creamery milk.

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Arguably, Katalina’s is best known for their breakfast, but they also feature some killer sandwiches, salads, tacos and other afternoon dishes. The brightly labeled, overhead menu is littered with selections for folks seeking morning and lunchtime goodness, and especially fans of fare with a Latin flair. Many of their dishes can be made Vegan or Gluten-free, too.  To scope out a detailed menu, click HERE.

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We saddled up to a small two-seater table in the corner, and in no time our breakfast was delivered by our super-friendly hostess. I took the opportunity to photograph our table full of delicious entrees before they were devoured.

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You simply cannot eat at Katalina’s without ordering their Original Pancake Balls ($11.25). This unique twist on the breakfast classic is undoubtedly the most popular dish on the menu, and for very good reason – they are ridiculously amazaing!! They’re made with local flour, and filled with your choice of dulce de leche, Nutella, or a slightly tart pumpkin-apple butter. On this visit, we opted to share an order of the latter, although we’ve also had the Nutella variety in the past. Seriously, guys…if you have never had these, you have no idea what you are missing!! These tasty balls (heh) come with a cup of real Ohio maple syrup and are light and fluffy, but firm enough to hold together nicely after being filled. They also come with an order of Katalina’s Original Sweet N’ Spicy Bacon. There is seriously no word in the English language to describe how much I Love. This. Bacon!! Sweet and sticky, thick-cut bacon with a slight post-chew zing – I would honestly order just a big plate of this on its own any day of the week.

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I ordered the Shagbark Huevos Rancheros ($11.25), Katalina’s version of this Tex-Mex favorite. It was a huge portion of layered delish, using Shagbark tortilla chips as the base. Piled on top of the chips was a black & adzuki bean puree, homemade ranchero sauce, Snowville Creamery crema, sliced avocado, two fried eggs, and I added their house-made chorizo into the mix as well. I topped it all of with a few dashes of Katalina’s own Habanero hot sauce which proved to be a good call, as it had great flavor in addition to being appropriately fiery.

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The wife went a bit more traditional, with the “Hens in a Basket” ($10.25) breakfast. It was a delightful platter which consisted of two eggs fried inside of two slices of toasted sourdough, two slices of that amazing Sweet N’ Spicy bacon, and a zesty Brussel sprouts hash. The toast was buttered and grilled nicely so that the eggs were still runny. She really loved the hash, made with coarsely chopped Brussel sprouts, red onion, roasted corn cut from the cob, and another component which may have been a shredded cabbage or sauerkraut, she couldn’t quite tell. She said it was a total winner breakfast!

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Most of Katalina’s sauces and other condiments are available for purchase inside the restaurant. Syrup, jelly, ketchup, hot sauce and more are displayed above one of the counters so that after you eat this goodness here, you can take some home to enjoy more of it later.

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And it’s not just condiments…they also sell tees with their famous tagline “Peace, Love and Pancake Balls”, and other “ballsy” shirts in all sizes and colors.

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And one of my favorite parts of dining at Katalina’s (besides the awesome grub, of course) is the wall art, love notes, and scribbles offered up by their patrons. Cans of paint makers and highlighters sit at several tables, and I think it’s pretty cool that they not only allow you to color on the walls, they also encourage it! I had to get in on the action.

It was another terrific meal at this gem of a joint. The absolute only thing that I didn’t love about our meal was that it seems Katalina’s has done away with their plates and has gone the way of disposable dishes. I’m not a big fan of eating out of cardboard containers at a sit-down place and I feel like it detracts a little from the stylish ambiance of the cafe, unless you are really into the fair food or boardwalk/street food feel. I think Katalina’s food is totally worth the slightly higher price points, but for what you pay, you should be able to eat on a plate. Just my opinion.

Overall conclusion: Katalina’s does not disappoint…ever. Their food and service are stellar, and the cafe is full of a vibrant, addictive energy.

Tips: – Their digs are tight, but get there before 9:00am on a weekday morning and you should be good for a place to sit. If you visit on a weekend, at any hour, be prepared to wait.

– Parking is extremely limited to only 3 spaces in the front lot. If it happens to be full (it will be), there is a back lot available that I believe you have to pay to park in (another good reason to get there before 9).

– Katalina’s now runs a pop-up eatery inside of Oddfellow’s Liquor Bar (1038 N. High St.). They serve many of their brunch favorites (including Pancake Balls!) starting at 10am on Saturdays and Sundays, and also offers a “Munch” menu Thursday – Sunday from 3pm – 11pm.

If you’ve been hearing forever about this place and haven’t found your way there yet, do yourself a favor and find them. The Pancake Balls will be your friend forever.

Katalina’s is located at 1105 Pennsylvania Ave, Columbus, OH 43201 (MAP). They’re open Monday – Sunday, 8:00am – 4:00pm. For more info, you can visit their website, or find them on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

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8 Questions for Alexis Joseph

Welcome to the newest feature on TBGG called 8 Questions!! In each 8 Questions post, you will meet some of Columbus’ most interesting and active foodies, chefs, restaurant owners, and others who are passionate about breakfast, Columbus, and/or local foods in general. We’ll get to know a little about them in just 8 questions (imagine that!!). 8 Questions isn’t designed to be a full-length interview covering every aspect of life, but simply a few “official” questions with a few silly ones thrown in.

For the first post, I had the pleasure of interviewing Alexis Joseph – a Registered Dietitian, local blogger, and Director of Nutrition and Communications at Alchemy Juice Bar + Cafe (breakfast review coming soon!!). Check it out….

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 Photo Courtesy of Hummusapien.com

You’re one of Columbus’ most recognized faces of healthy living. Can you tell us about your work as a Registered Dietitian?

You’re too kind! I absolutely love what I do. Food and nutrition are my passion! Every day is different. Some days I’m running around meeting with different clients for nutrition counseling, some days I’m scheduling social media and on the floor at Alchemy ensuring operations are running smoothly, some days I’m hovered over my computer planning Alchemy’s menu and answering a million emails from distributors. On my day off, I typically spend most of the day working on my blog. That involves everything from grocery shopping, recipe testing, photographing recipes, creating content, answering emails, scheduling social media, etc. I’m super busy all the time, but luckily I’m doing what I love. I wouldn’t trade it for anything!

It’s obvious that you’re very passionate about health and wellness. What inspired you to open Alchemy Juice Bar + Cafe?

I met Abed Alshahal in a nutrition class at Ohio State and we quickly became great friends and study buddies. He and his two brothers own A & R Creative group, a progressive restaurant group that’s super passionate about creating unique restaurant concepts that double as platforms for social change. We always tossed around the idea of a healthy café, and one day it became a reality! I never thought it would actually happen, but I couldn’t be more thrilled that it did!

I was able to pull lots of recipes from my blog, which helped facilitate menu development. We wanted the food at Alchemy to be delicious, nourishing, and approachable. We also wanted to make nutrition accessible, and having a registered dietitian on site made that a reality! Alchemy combines two of the fastest growing industries in America—health care and food. We believe Alchemy is a model that could really impact preventative health. Feeding healthy food to the masses and watching them enjoy it has been an incredibly rewarding experience.

What’s your favorite go-to healthy breakfast?

My go-to breakfast is a hugh jass green smoothie! It’s super easy to prepare in the morning and I love knowing that I started my day with three servings of antioxidant-packing fruits and veggies. I typically blend up one cup of unsweetened vanilla almond milk, one tablespoon of cacao powder, one cup of frozen strawberries or blueberries, one or two pitted dates for sweetness, and a huge handful of spinach in a blender. I would be nothing without my Nutribullet! Sometimes I throw in brown rice protein powder, hemp seeds, or chia seeds.

When it’s cold out, I make big batches of steel-cut oatmeal and eat it with almond butter and fresh berries.

Three things that are in your refrigerator right now?

Baby kale, almond butter, and almond milk (plus a million other things).

Can you tell us about your blog, Hummusapien.com?

I started the blog about 3 1⁄2 years ago. It really personifies my passion for food and all things healthy. I share simple nutritious recipes as well as tips for clean eating, all with a dose of good humor of course! I think of Alchemy as my way to inspire others to reach their maximum healthy potential. Starting Hummusapien was hands down the best decision I’ve ever made. It grew from a hobby to a part-time job, so it takes up a good deal of my time. Good thing I love it! You can find at least half of Alchemy’s menu on the blog.

What’s the one healthy food that you just can’t bring yourself to eat?

I don’t really like kefir. That’s pretty much the only one I can think of! I’m also not into mock meat products like seitan or anything with vital wheat gluten.

It must feel incredible to know that you’re inspiring people to better themselves with what you do. What advice would you give to someone who’s thinking of taking that first step toward a healthier lifestyle?

I would say start small and be positive! Healthy eating can be overwhelming at first, but even if you cut back from drinking ten cans of pop a week to five cans of pop a week, that’ll make a huge difference in your long-term health. Nutrition is so personalized and it’s important to remember that everyone has different needs. A good starting point is simply to add a fruits or veggie to each meal, no exceptions! Maybe breakfast is oatmeal with sliced banana. Even if lunch is a sandwich, use whole grain bread and have carrot sticks on the side with hummus. Bake a sweet potato or roast up some broccoli with dinner. I also always recommend that people start thinking of snacks as real food (like nuts, hummus, veggies, fruit) rather than processed foods like pretzels, chips, and cookies.

And finally…Would you rather have to eat a double cheeseburger or drink a 32 oz soda every day for the rest of your life?

That is perhaps the hardest question I’ve ever been asked! Even though I don’t eat meat, I would have to go with the burger because it at least has protein. I just couldn’t imagine drinking that much sugar every day!