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.
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.
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.
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.
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 flare. Many of their dishes can be made Vegan or Gluten-free, too. To scope out a detailed menu, click HERE.
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.
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 amazing!! 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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.