Restaurants & Bars 9

Columbus Report

waldito | May 25, 2012 03:59 AM

SF 'hound, just returned from 4 days in Colombus. All in all, it's an enjoyable city and we certainly didn't starve! Somehow I missed the midwest re-org of the forums, so while there I was reduced to looking at yelp. Sigh.

In order of most exciting to least:

Jeni's Ice Cream: nailed it. I think this stands with the best of 'em (and I eat plenty of the usual top-notch suspects here at home in San Francisco). The goat cheese and red cherries had just enough going on. The mango lassi was note-perfect. Every sorbet (I had every option available here over the course of 4 days, what with the hot temperatures, by my coastal standards) was simple and fantastic, with the roasted pear-riesling and cherry-lambic as standouts. The only flavor whch struck a wrong note for me was the Bangkok peanut -- the Thai component seemed to be just red pepper flakes and the peanut element was a fine (but not fine enough) ground texture which just made a gritty base.

Their ice cream base seems spot on, not too fatty and cloying. And the flavor palettes are well thought out. I'd put them on par with Mr and Mrs Miscellaneous here at home. Win!

North Market:
Omega Baking, lovely cinnamon rolls. All breads, croissants, etc looked gorgeous, but the cinnamon roll was all I had a chance to eat.
Holy Smoke BBQ, solid. Great brisket, even though it had sat in the tray for a while, still moist and delectable. Nice smoky 4-bean side, and likewise very flavorful collard greens. Mac and cheese was well-crafted but did suffer from time on the steam tray. Which is to say it was mushy.
Polish Kitchen, not bad. Although I've been to Poland, that was some time ago, so I can only judge on general yumminess, not authenticity. Pierogi were great, Goulash (hey, that's Hungarian!) was also delightful -- spicy and soupy over fluffy mashed potatoes. There was a chicken 'meatball,' forget the name exactly, but it had a wealth of vowels. Also a wealth of cheddar, which was fine but certainly not Polish. But all tasty and particulary friendly (and in Columbus, that's saying a lot!), so who cares!
Bubbles Tea, not exotic, but well done, and my wife visited a few times. I had a few sips every time, and it was fine. Just a sweet and fruity tea basically, no Thai palette.
A Touch of Earth: perfectly fine coffee. But see my notes below on 'significant misses'.
Curds N Whey: a very decent cheese, sausage, prosciutto, etc, selection. And castelvetrano olives! Alas, he only had rather large sealed 16oz tubs, which was too much for me. I asked if he sold smaller portions, and he informed me that he used to, but there wasn't as much turnover as he hoped, so they spoiled quickly, as castelvetranos will do. A darn knowledgeable answer! I did have a local-ish chevre which was pleasant and a bit grassy.

Chef Butcher's Creole Kitchen: quite good. A very legit crew (krewe?) of big friendly guys in the kitchen. I had a catfish po boy, which was good but not awesome and a side of red beans n rice, which really hit the spot. Beans had a great flavor and that just-right texture. The guy in front of me got gumbo which is what I would order given another chance.

Lindey's: Gorgeous patio. Attentive service. Marginal wine list. Straightforward salads. But my medium-rare steak was cooked wierdly. It was actually medium rare, but was cooked much more on one side than the other, so the strip of rare in the middle was offset way to one side. One side had almost no grill marks. That just shouldn't happen at the grill station, so rates a mention in the 'significant misses' category.

Clever Crow: although there is an outpost in the North Market, we sampled this at its home at the Circus bar. A very California-y pizza (for bay area folk, think Pauline's, or better yet, Vicolo). Some oddball hippy-dippy options (black bean hummus on pizza?) which we avoided. A heavy hand with the sauce and a bit thin on the cheese. Good, not great. More super-friendly service! A Scottish ale at the bar whose name I neglected to note (not McEwan's or any of the other usual suspects) which was fairly flat and warm: competely legit.

Marcella's: perfectly passable Italian. Nothing stellar or surprising, except that they make a white sangria, which is a bit on the sweet and extra-fruity side -- just how I like it! Pasta was a bit past al dente, the house meatballs were unexceptional. Arancini were probably the standout here, just simple and small-sized but done right and not oily. Prosciuto con melone is hard to screw up unless you get the proportions wrong, which they did.

Old Mohawk: the reviews lead me a bit astray; it's decent diner food and nothing more. It has two $$ signs on yelp, yet nothing on the menu is over $10.99! Ah, Columbus prices! I had a bratwurst sando and side of vegetarian chili. No surprises except for the pickle wedge which was more of a sweet sandwich pickle rather than the dill I was expecting. Crunchy and good.

Happy Greek: okay. Falafel were the standout, flavorful, crisp yet still moist inside. Spanikopita was soggy. Pita were not warm or endearing. But the patio, while not fancy, was nice, my spicy chicken was spicy, and (shocker) service was friendly.

Jueurgen's Bäckerei: Not what I was hoping for at all. If you don't have brötchen or möhnkuchen, you're not a Bäckerei. I got a cherry danish, but it was meh and I was sad.

Summing up. HIts: Friendly, earnest people everywhere. We didn't get less than sunny cheerful service anywhere, which is hardly the case here at home. It's a midwest/great lakes thing, I suppose! And Jeni's Ice cream: it's world-class.

Misses: this is sort of a list of things I forgot could go wrong, but evidently they do! Steak at Lindey's: maybe the guy at the grill station fell asleep. But a medium-rare steak cross-hatched with grill marks because you turned it 3 times -- in a place that serves 4 steak cuts at big-city prices -- that should be a core competency. Coffee at Touch of Earth, North Market: if you're going to do pour-over coffee, there are 3 or 4 important steps. They got 3 right, but they ground the coffee and let it sit for 3 minutes before wetting it! That's a coffee fail. And I got a chuckle out of the menu at Barcelona, which also has a lovely patio, which as its first item lists paella made with Basmati rice. Ouch. And finally, it seems like the town just discovered sushi, as it is everywhere. Even at a place called Lemongrass (subtitled Korean Fushion). There's so much wrong there, I don't know where to start.

All in all, as a prejudiced San Franciscan, I wasn't expecting much, but I was really pleasantly surprised.

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