Review: Flipside Burger Easton

Author: paulboyer  //  Category: Restaurant Review

Recently B. and I had a doctor’s appointment at a practice located at Easton. Since we were famished and knew we were going to go grocery shopping at Trader Joe’s later, we decided to get a late lunch from a restaurant we’d never tried before. The restaurant B. suggested was FlipSide Burger.

FlipSide Burger is a small Ohio chain (only five restaurants; four are in the Cleveland area) that’s trying to be a somewhat upscale casual eatery that offers interesting takes on traditional pub grub (burgers, salads, appetizers, sandwiches) and a fair selection of adult beverages.

The appearance of the restaurant was a somewhat Spartan sport bar, with flatscreen televisions scattered throughout the establishment displaying various games. The restaurant has an outdoor patio adjacent to the surface parking lot off the street; it’s reachable through a nifty floor-to-ceiling sliding patio door. All in all, a decent, if not particularly inviting, environ in which to enjoy our food.

With no further delay, let’s get down to business and talk about the food!
We started by ordering beverages. B. got her usual ice water; I decided to try FlipSide’s take on my favorite mixed drink (the Bloody Mary), their BLT Mary-Tini ($10). This is a Bloody Mary in a martini glass topped with a crispy bacon garnish; the vodka (a double pour, apparently; this puppy was good and strong) is a house-infused Applewood smoked bacon vodka. Its flavor was nicely bacony, boozy and “bloody”, but I’d probably get a good strong ale next time.


We chose a single appetizer to share between us, the Chef’s Made Chili ($6). This was a sizable tureen of chili; its liquid component was a bit thin but very flavorful, and it was dotted with rustic-cut chunks of carrot and celery as well as beans and the hero of the dish, deeply seasoned fork-tender braised beef. The chili was topped with an aged white cheddar cheese and minced chives. We agreed that this was a very good chili, neither too bland nor too spicy. The split bowl left us with a warm feeling in the belly yet ready for the main event – our burgers.


B. ordered FlipSide’s signature burger, the One Red Door Burger ($10.50). This sandwich has seven ounces of medium-rare Ohio grass-fed beef topped with crispy shallots and brie cheese on a toasted brioche bun, with lettuce, tomato, onion and a bacon-date aioli on the side. We agreed that this was a fine choice, and easily one of the better burgers we’ve eaten in Columbus.


I decided to take one for the team, so I selected the Sandwich of the Month, which was the Thanksgiving Turkey Burger. This sandwich consisted of seven ounces of well-done but still juicy all-natural ground turkey, stuffing, house-made mushroom gravy and crispy shallots on a toasted brioche bun with cranberry chutney served on the side. I’ve made something similar myself at home (Thanksgiving Burgers with Cranberry Mayo), and this just as good – instead of putting stuffing IN the burger itself, it topped the burger, and the mushroom gravy gave the stuffing the savory moistness it would’ve otherwise been missing. B. agreed that it was, indeed, a good sandwich.


As a side with our burgers, we ordered the Triple Cooked Fries with Truffle Oil and Grana Padana cheese ($6) to share between us. The fries were crisp, hot, and tasty, but lacked even the slightest hint of truffle aroma or flavor. If truffle oil had touched these pommes frites, it had been chased through at a full gallop. Still good, but without the truffling, we might as well have gotten the plain salt-and-herb fries ($4).


Our verdict? A pub that does a few things and does them well. Worth a second visit, absolutely.

If you’d like to go:

Flipside Easton
3945 Easton Station
Easton Town Center

Tel: 614-472-FLIP

Review: Bibibop

Author: swampkitty05  //  Category: Columbus, Restaurant Review

Since I’ve spent the better part of the past year in a hospital bed (both inpatient and here at home), and the last 4 years struggling with my health, I’ve become a bit out of the loop when it comes to the food scene here in Columbus. More than a bit, actually. Your average person on the street can probably give you better advice than I can when it comes to somewhere great to eat. Openings, closings, so many changes in so little time that I’ve lost track. But part of the joy is in the rediscovery. Old favorites. New haunts. With old and new friends.

But the one thing we can all agree on, I’m sure, is that hospital food SUCKS. Really sucks. Sucks to the point where you’d rather eat nothing at all than another dried out, bland piece of what is supposed to pass for a chicken breast. For the time I was inpatient, Paul was my proxy, both by getting me outside food to eat and by taking over some of the blogging duties. One of the new discoveries, and new favorites, is Bibibop.

Rice Bowl from Bibibop

Think Chipotle, but with an Asian spin. Pick a base (bowl, salad or wrap). Choose a protein (regular or spicy chicken, seasoned tofu, or seasoned steak), with sautéed potatoes, bean sprouts, and black beans, and steamed white or purple wild rice. Or all of the above. Pick toppings (cucumber, lettuce, carrot, daikon, corn, cheese and egg). Pick a (or more than one) sauce (teriyaki, yum yum, siracha, or Korean red sauce). Personally, I find a kids bowl ($3.95 base) to be more than enough for two meals. My personal fave? A kids bowl with half white rice, half purple rice, potato, a few sprouts, black beans, double steak ($1.75 extra), with all of the toppings, including double egg (for the added protein). I top it with 1, maybe 2 yum yum sauce. Mayonnaise based, so be careful not to make your healthy bowl unhealthy by loading it down with 4 or 5 like Paul does. Walk out the door with two filling protein-dense meals for well under $6. If you have a bigger appetite, get the regular sized portion for well under $10.

With 4 locations in Columbus (Grandview, Upper Arlington, Polaris and Easton), there’s no excuse not to try something new in the “make your own meal assembly line style” vein.

Review: Yocco’s, The Hot Dog King (Allentown, PA)

Author: paulboyer  //  Category: Restaurant Review, Travel

There are places that bring back memories, good or bad. Allentown has, and had, a number of restaurants (okay, grease pits) that were known to and loved by most Allentonians. Sadly, most of these are gone now (Vince’s Cheesesteaks, anybody? J’s Hoagies? Take-A-Taco? Bueller?… Bueller?…)

One that’s still around, and as iconic as ever, is Yocco’s, the Hot Dog King. Owned by the Iacocca family (yeah, THAT Iacocca family), the locals had trouble pronouncing their name correctly, so they named their shops after the locals’ unintentional mangling of “Iacocca”. Now there’s a bit of useless trivia…

Yocco's Menu

It looks like Yocco’s has a total of six location in the Lehigh Valley. The Original shop at 625 Liberty Street has short hours and doesn’t sell any food that requires the use of a deep-fryer, alas; still, you can get anything else on their menu, which includes various permutations on burgers, sausage sandwiches, a fairly authentic steak sandwich (remember, they’re just an hour north of Philly via the Northeast Extension), and of course their signature offering, the Yocco’s Hot Dog.

Yocco's Hot Dogs

Yocco’s dogs were, and are, my favorite take on what Ohioans and other Midwesterners refer to as the Coney Dog. A Yocco’s Hot Dog consists of a Hatfield brand hot dog, grilled well-done on a flat-top grill, in a soft steamed hotdog roll with spicy brown mustard, chopped white onions, and a shmear of Yocco’s Chili Sauce. The cheese dog is the same, with a slice of white American cheese inserted beneath the dog where it melts nicely. B says, and I concur, that the regular (non-cheese) dog is the better of the two; we’ve been out here in the land of cheddar-topped cheese coneys, so American cheese on a coney dog seems… weird.

Yocco's Bag

When I stopped at Yocco’s last time we were in Allentown, I got what many people refer to as Yocco’s Allentown Traditional Lunch. That gut bomb consists of three Yocco’s Hot Dogs (with or without cheese), an order of three golden crispy lightly-salted deep-fried pierogis, and a bottle of chocolate milk. Yum.

Yocco's Allentown Traditional Lunch

Speaking of yumminess, I’ve only ever gotten deep-fried pierogis as a side order with fast food in and around Allentown. Nowhere else seems to offer that. Given a choice between limp, bland French fries or crispy golden pierogis, I’ll take the pierogis every time.

Yocco's Pierogies

If you’re ever passing through Allentown, check ‘em out. They’re definitely worth the stop.

First Look: TOM + CHEE Soft Opening

Author: paulboyer  //  Category: Columbus, Eating Local, First Look, Restaurant News, Restaurant Review

Well, it certainly has been quite a while, hasn’t it?

Sorry for our extended absence, but Ms. Foodie’s had some health issues (again) and while attending to her needs I’m afraid website updates have gone by the wayside…

HOWEVER, today I chanced upon the soft opening of the new Tom + Chee restaurant — the second one in the Columbus area — on Hilliard-Rome Road at the location of the late unlamented Ruby Tuesday’s.

I must say, it’s a vast improvement over that corporate abomination. B and I have never gotten a decent meal at a Ruby Tuesday’s (or TGI Friday’s, or sundry other corporate chain-hell restaurants, for the most part; Olive Garden excepted, but that’s a story for another time).

As I said, I was running errands for B, who remains in the hospital recuperating. My errands brought me to the Meijer’s on Hilliard-Rome Road and the Bath & Body Works, and thus my fate was sealed — I had to pass by what I had thought was a soon-to-be-opened Tom + Chee restaurant. Imagine my surprise when I saw PEOPLE inside, buying food! Needless to say, I was lured in by the promise of fancy-schmancy grilled cheese sandwiches and their mutant offspring.

Exterior of TOM+CHEE (Hilliard, OH)

Upon entering the premises, I called B and informed her where I was and that they were in fact holding a soft opening at that time. She told me to get whatever I wanted, and to get her a particular sandwich (more on that in a moment), so I did as she instructed. I ordered two different sandwiches; one I was sure she’d partake of (the Tom + Chee plus bacon), and one I was sure she’d never touch in a million years (the Armagoetta). I also ordered the creamy tomato-basil soup. B’s special request was the Barbara Blue, a “grilled cheese donut sandwich”.

Menu at TOM+CHEE (Hilliard, OH)

Service was quick and accurate, surprising for a soft launch (usually the soft launches experience glitches and serve to troubleshoot problems with their ordering, cooking, and serving processes). Bravo, Tom + Chee. 🙂

Seating at the Hilliard-Rome location is ample both indoors and out; the patio out front offers some protection from sun and weather. Orders (at least during the soft opening) are brought out to patrons’ tables by the staff.

Seating at TOM+CHEE (Hilliard, OH)

Now, to the sandwiches themselves. B’s chosen poison was the Barbara Blue ($3.95). That sandwich consists of a glazed donut cut in half with the inside surfaces of the donut becoming the grilled outside of the sandwich (the “pieces of bread”, so to speak). Between those pieces of glazed evil yeasty sweet “bread” was a blueberry compote, a generous portion of ham, and slices of brie cheese. ‘Twas messy indeed, but quite tasty — almost a “dessert sandwich”, though it retained a satisfying savory note thanks to the ham and brie.

Barbara Blue Grilled Cheese Sandwich from TOM+CHEE

Second to be consumed was the Tom + Chee ($4.95) (plus bacon for $2 extra). This was also a generously-sized (though not ridiculously huge, like Melt’s) sandwich comprised of two slices of grilled sourdough bread surrounding fresh large-diced tomatoes, garlic seasoning, cheddar cheese, and mozzarella cheese. The bacon as requested for the sandwich is added in the form of a copious quantity of small pieces of crispy pig belly that distribute the bacony goodness throughout the sandwich instead of being concentrated in a few strips that might accidentally be pulled out during a bite (thus denying the bacon to the rest of the sandwich). This was also quite good, especially paired with the Creamy Tomato Basil Soup, a slightly chunky concoction that’s perfect for dipping any one of these sandwiches.

Tomato, Cheese and Bacon Grilled Cheese from TOM+CHEE

Finally, we came to the Armagoetta ($7.95). What can you say about it that Adam Richman hasn’t already said on Man vs Food Nation? Well, for starters, it’s not insanely spicy — you can actually eat it and taste the ingredients rather than go running for the nearest pitcher of milk. It’s a slice of sourdough and a slice of rye surrounding a thick slice of goetta (a Cincinnati specialty not unlike scrapple, that uses the squeals & heels from your basic swine combined with pin oats; scrapple is similar but uses cornmeal as its grain base), a liberal slathering of sliced spicy cherry peppers, fried onions, sweet hot mustard, and pepperjack cheese. I enjoyed it greatly, since no single ingredient overpowered anything else in the sandwich and it was a well-balanced sandwich; I’d order it again in a Cincinnati minute.

Armagoetta Grilled Cheese Sandwich from TOM+CHEE

My verdict? If their soft launch is any indicator, they should do well in Columbus as a less-expensive and less pretentious alternative to a certain Short North grilled cheese emporium. Their offerings are original, tasty, well-conceived, and most importantly, REASONABLY SIZED AND PRICED.

Tom + Chee will be opening officially on Friday, July 18th. They’re located at 1844 Hilliard-Rome Road, Columbus, OH. Hours will be 10:45AM – 9PM Sun-Thu and 10:45AM – 10PM Fri/Sat.

Customer Service Fail: The Mad Greek (Whitehall, OH)

Author: swampkitty05  //  Category: Columbus, Rant, Restaurant Review

Save your money and avoid The Mad Greek like the plague. The calamari we ate on the way home was tasty, but the rest of our $150 (plus $30 tip) takeout order was a hot freezer burned mess. And no seasoning that I could discern. Horrible packaging meant a soup lid busted and soaked everything in the bag. We ordered 2 three dip samplers and they put them all in the same non-divided white styrofoam box that meant that they all mixed together into one gloopy mess. All of the vegetables were freezer burned. The lamb and kofta and the chicken in the mixed grill were overcooked to the point of inedibility. The souvlaki was undercooked and overcooked (it varied depending on which chunk you got). The fish also tasted like it came from a freezer and was so overcooked that even with a fork and knife, I couldn’t cut through it. Baked fish should flake easily. We called them (twice, even! the second time to talk to a manager) to see if they could rectify the problems with the order somehow (even if it meant that we had to drive across town again, since they are on the east side and we are on the west), but the only thing they offered to do is replace the one soup that broke the next time we came in (nevermind it ruined everything else that was in the bag with it, and that by this point, we had decided that there wasn’t going to be a next time). We paid in cash, so it’s not anything we can contest with our credit card company. We got screwed, big time, and hope that our loss acts as a warning that they just do not care about customer service, and if they screw up your order, you’re on your own because they refuse to fix their mistakes.

If you still want to give them a try after reading this (and trust me, you don’t): The Mad Greek, 4210 E. Broad Street, Whitehall, OH 43213, 614-338-0000

Mad Greek on Urbanspoon

South Jersey Edition: Luciano’s FreshMarket

Author: swampkitty05  //  Category: Eating Local, New Jersey, Restaurant News, Restaurant Review, Travel

Growing up in South Jersey, I pretty much took the whole eating local thing for granted. I mean, we had an embarrassment of riches to choose from: excellent milk from a the local dairy, garden fresh produce from my grandpop’s back yard or local roadside farm markets, fresh seafood from the Delaware Bay or the ocean. The Jersey Fresh motto encompasses everything that growing up in Cumberland County meant. The city I was born (Vineland) was named that by its founder because of how well grapes grew in our soil and climate. One of our claims to fame is that Thomas Welch himself started making grape juice a block or so away from our main drag. We have some of the best pasta ever (Conte’s is a favorite of mine), wineries, and more. The point is, growing up in South Jersey during the time I did meant Jersey tomatoes, blue crabs from the Bay, ethnic influence from Italy and Puerto Rico, and the cuisine of the area reflected that. That’s why on my last visit back, I was pleasantly surprised to find someone putting out awesome food in a small kitchen tucked away in the back corner of a newly opened public market.

Luciano's Fresh Market (at Landis Marketplace)

The chef in charge of the operation, Lurie Luciano, had similar experiences growing up – we’re fairly close in age, both have many of the same childhood food memories, both let ourselves go out into the world to explore and learn new things (in her case, to New Orleans, where she fine-tuned her culinary skills – in mine, to Columbus, where I started getting adventurous in my eating and taught myself how to cook). We both share similar food philosophies now, and both of us find ourselves drawn to the city where it all began.

To her, returning to South Jersey meant being the first person on board to occupy the new public market (more on that in a separate post – let’s just say for the moment that Luciano’s FreshMarket is the shining star of the place, by far). It means crafting a new menu each week based on what’s seasonal, what’s fresh, what inspires her. She, for the most part, keeps the preparation simple. When you’re working with the best quality of everything, it doesn’t take much to let the ingredients shine. She’s extremely skilled at coaxing out the inherent flavors of the dish, preferring to not drown it out in sauces, heavy seasonings that overwhelm the senses, or the like (which I find is done way too often in Cajun and Creole influenced cuisine). She releases a new menu weekly – here’s the menu from the week I visited in March:

Weekly Menu

Still, even with the printed menu, be sure to check the menu board, where you can sometimes find additional specials. Prices are quite reasonable for the quantity and quality of the food.

Menu Board

We went over the course of two days. I was so impressed the first day that I grabbed my dad and took him with me on the second. Even though he lives in Jersey, he wasn’t aware of its existence. I was lucky to stumble across it at all – I wish it were more visible from the street so that more people would try it out. Once you taste her food, you can’t help but be a convert.

The salmon cakes were solid – reminds me of something I would whip up myself when in the need for comfort food. The sweet potato fries were out of this world, especially when dipped in her remoulade. Together they made my mouth a very happy place. The slaw didn’t stand out to me, but then again I’m not much of a slaw person, so it’s a matter of personal preference.

Salmon Cakes with Sweet Potato Fries & Slaw

The gumbo was full of flavor, built on obvious care in making the roux. I was expecting it to be spicy hot, but it wasn’t – the flavor was quite nuanced with obvious infusion of the trinity. With shreds of chicken throughout, and on top of rice, it was a hearty meal unto itself. Considering it was still quite cold and late winter, it was the kind of stick-to-your-ribs warmth needed to give you the push to face the mad dash to the car in the cold. With the weather tending toward cold again with fall setting in, it’s a perfect choice whenever you see it on the menu.


Anyone who knows me knows how much I love Catfish Po-Boys – hers is a little different than those I have had locally here in Ohio, being topped with a nice crunchy slaw rather than lettuce and tomatoes. The catfish was fried to perfection – flaky and tender and not even a little bit greasy. The remoulade, slathered thickly on the uber-fresh bread, tied the whole sandwich together. The portion was quite generous, with the catfish literally spilling out of the confines of the roll. One of the best examples of the sandwich that I’ve ever had. I still crave this regularly, even 6 months later.

Fried Catfish Po Boy

My dad got the Fried Shrimp Po-Boy, which is a similar take on the sandwich but with shrimp rather than catfish. My dad gave me a taste, and it too was cooked to perfection. Shrimp is very easy to overcook, especially when fried, but her expert hand at cooking seafood means that she nailed this one as well.

Fried Shrimp Po Boy

I was too stuffed to eat the Crab Cake Po-Boy while I was still there, and ate it later in my hotel room. Even cold, it was pretty darn good. I tend to prefer my crab cakes sautéed rather than breaded and deep fried, but even with that in mind I still enjoyed this one immensely.

Crab Cake Po Boy

Along with some more sweet potato fries, we got a crawfish pie – it was a nice small bite, with a bit of heat – an afterthought, really. Thought at the time it would make a great mid-afternoon snack.

Crawfish Pie and Sweet Potato Fries

I also enjoyed the Ahi Tuna Melt, which was seared earlier, and then sliced and topped with cheese that was then melted on top – technically, this ends up cooking the tuna through – but not the kind of through that dries it out and makes it difficult to eat. The texture was still spot on, as was the flavor. Since it used a bun rather than the rolls that are used with the Po-Boy’s, the balance of bread to fish was just right.

Ahi Tuna Melt

I really wish my visit to Jersey had been longer, or that I had discovered it earlier in my trip. If I still lived in Jersey, I’d have likely turned into a regular. I’m on her mailing list, where she sends out the weekly menus, and torture myself regularly reading about delicious stuff that I’d have to drive 10 hours each way to get. But alas, it’s not to be.

There was an article earlier this week in my hometown newspaper, about how she’s not renewing her lease with the market when it expires at the end of the year. Given the circumstances (more about that in the post about the Marketplace – way too complex an issue to get into right this second), I would probably do the same thing, but I’m still sad to see her go. I have no doubt she’ll land squarely on her feet and will be off and running once she finds the right location, but you still have a couple of months left to give this place a try while it’s the same concept in the same location. Trust me when I say it’s worth the trip even if that’s your sole purpose for going there. It’s a bit of bright light in a corner of Vineland that people unfortunately write off because of preconceived notions. Once you try it, if you like it, let Lurie know. You can’t miss her – she’s the redhead at the counter with infectious smile and passion for all things local. Personally, I’d love to see her do a food truck of some sort in the interim – I think it would be a great match with the nature of the food she puts out. And be sure to keep an eye on her website – she posts regular menu updates and gives other pertinent info about hours and special events. I hear the lobster pot pies this week are to die for.

If you’d like to go: Luciano’s FreshMarket/New Orleans Seafood Kitchen (inside the Landis MarketPlace), 631 E. Landis Ave., Vineland, NJ 08360. 609-970-7653. Also on Twitter.

South Jersey Edition: Pegasus Restaurant

Author: swampkitty05  //  Category: New Jersey, Restaurant Review, Travel

If there’s one thing I remember about growing up in New Jersey, it was that every adventure was punctuated by a visit to a diner. In South Jersey, especially, diners were as ubiquitous as trees. Every town, no matter how small, had at least one (if not more). The ones that I remember from my childhood no longer exist (Presidential Diner, I’m looking at you – and miss you and your Belgian Waffles with Strawberries terribly), but due to their ubiquitous nature, there’s always another diner around the next corner.

Pegasus has existed for a few decades now, but since it was in the next town over (and much of my time living in South Jersey was as a non-driver), I had never been there. It was a mini family reunion, of sorts – I went with my father and his significant other, and also had the opportunity to visit with my Uncle Will and Aunt Susie. It seems as if all of the above are regulars there, as is the norm in most diners – service was quick, friendly, and very accommodating to special requests (extra crispy potatoes, and no olives in my omelette in my case).

About that omelette – it doesn’t look like much, but it has to be one of the best I’ve had in quite a while – a nice balance of flavors, and purely vegetarian. I’ve tried like crazy to replicate it here at home since I’ve been back, to no avail. I guess you need a flat-top grill seasoned with the flavors of many years to get it just right.

Mediterranean Omelette and Home Fries

One of the things I’ve missed since moving to Ohio is having the option of ordering pork roll (or scrapple) as my side of meat with my breakfast. Yes, I know I can get Taylor Pork Roll at a few of the specialty stores around here, but really – it’s just not the same cooked at home.

Pork Roll

The fruit cup, in retrospect, I could have taken or left. I love fresh fruit with breakfast, but this combination has definitely seen better days.

Fresh Fruit Cup

Would I go back? Definitely. Prices were reasonable, service was great, and food was definitely above average.

If you’d like to go: Pegasus Restaurant, 455 Delsea Dr., Malaga, NJ. 856-694-0500. Also on Facebook.

Pegasus Restaurant on Urbanspoon

Updated manual worth the wait

Chicago Sun-Times February 16, 1992 | Les Hausner Since it first arrived in bookstores in 1973, Reader’s Digest’s popular Complete Do-It-Yourself Manual has sold 10.5 million copies. this web site how to install a dishwasher

This is the manual I normally check first when seeking help on a project around the house.

After 23 revisions, the book has been completely rewritten and illustrated and retitled New Complete Do-It-Yourself Manual. The cover price is $30 – actually a bargain for any homeowner interested in keeping the house or making improvements without having to call in a professional.

Of course, no manual ever deserves the word “complete” in its title, but this book comes close to achieving that end.

There are some new chapters, including emergency repairs, which offers immediate stopgap solutions for power outages, clogged drains and leaky roofs. “Your House” is a new chapter dealing with the house structure, hiring a contractor, building codes and financing repairs.

The book’s updating reflects our changing lifestyles. For example, the chapter on plumbing gives well-illustrated instructions for installing whirlpool baths. The electricity section tells us how to install home security systems, telephone wiring and smoke detectors.

The chapter on woodworking should be helpful to anyone trying to solve the mysteries of cutting joints, grooves and miters.

There is much that is new in New Complete Do-It-Yourself Manual, and the book is an excellent primer for one wanting to learn how to paint or wallpaper, repair and install floors, and make plumbing and electrical repairs and installations.

No doubt a revision of this manual already is in the planning stage. I have a suggestion for at least one addition: How to install a dishwasher. This should have accompanied the instructions on installing a garbage disposal.

About seven years ago, I installed a dishwasher in less than two hours and with the aid of simple tools after a craftsman quoted me a price of $210 for labor alone. I wonder what it would cost today? go to web site how to install a dishwasher

I am not certain what Charles H. Self had in mind when he compiled Making Pet Houses, Carriers & Other Projects (Sterling Publishing, $9.95 paperback).

I presumed such a book would present a wide assortment of original plans for pet structures and would be accompanied by clear illustrations. That is what the do-it-yourself book trade is about.

Instead, I discovered that half the 128-page book is devoted to woodworking and refinishing techniques.

Many of the photos are of tools with the brand names prominently displayed. A snapshot of a bottle of (I won’t name the brand) hide glue does nothing to help anyone complete a proejct. The same goes for a photo of a set of chisels, which does not explain the particular use of any of them.

Plans for building two dog houses were obtained from the American Plywood Association, which also supplied color photos of their finished projects. We have to guess how the other products will look after completion.

Save your money. You can write to the American Plywood Association, Box 11700, Tacoma, Wash. 98411, for a free catalog of plywood products, including pet products.

There is a charge, probably $2, for an individual pattern. If you want a videotape explaining how to do it, the charge is $15.95.

Les Hausner

Restaurant Week Columbus 2012: Spagio

Author: swampkitty05  //  Category: Columbus, Food Porn, Restaurant Review, Restaurant Week

I haven’t been able to attend Restaurant Week (614 or Dine Originals) in more than a year either because I was in the hospital or just plum couldn’t afford it. My loss, too – I’ve heard stories of many fabulous meals at many fabulous restaurants on a variety of newer food blogs that have started up since my last time covering Restaurant Week. And they’ve picked up the slack quite nicely, as their entries had me yearning for meals that I missed. But I’m back, baby, and I’m really hungry.

I’ve been missing Spagio’s goulash for ages. They took it off the menu a few years ago, and other than a seasonal reappearance a while back (of which I had none, because I didn’t make it there in time), we’ve been reliving that particular meal time and time again in the interim. So, having said that, the goulash (which appears on this week’s Restaurant Week menu) was what drew us in this time around. About Restaurant Week: 614 Magazine’s version of the concept encompasses a wide variety of chains *and* independents, at many different price points ($15-35 per person) for 3-4 courses. Spagio’s menu is somewhere in the middle with 3 courses for $25. And well worth it, too – given the amount and quality of the food.

We got there when they opened to a very empty restaurant. One of the waiters joked that even though they’ve been busy all week, today was particularly dead because it seemed as though Columbusites have forgotten how to drive in snow. I actually enjoyed getting there and not having the place be as packed as it usually was on my last few visits. Our waiter brought us out a nice basket of crusty rolls, which were fantastic with a bit of butter – you can opt for olive oil if butter isn’t your thing.

Crusty Rolls @ Spagio

For my appetizer, I chose the Prince Edward Island Mussels, which were steamed in a cast iron cocotte with a heady broth of smoked bacon, white wine and cream. The combination of flavors was outstanding – the juices released by the mussels made for a great “pot liquor” (so to speak) and they were cooked perfectly. Easily one of the best preparations I’ve ever had of the dish. The number of mussels given were quite substantial, and it took me a while to finish them.

Prince Edward Island Mussels @ Spagio

P. (not a mussel fan) went with the Minestrone Soup – nothing about it stood out, really – it was solid interpretation of a classic recipe.

Minestrone Soup @ Spagio

About the goulash – while the flavor of the dish was just as we remembered, there were a couple of things about the preparation that were a little less than perfect: namely, a small puddle of oil near the bottom of the dish, and a few tough beef cubes (while others in the same pot were melt in your mouth tender). Still, it’s a dish we would order again because despite its inconsistencies, it’s still a stellar dish. P., especially, used the rest of the crusty rolls to mop up the flavorful gravy.

Hungarian Goulash @ Spagio

For dessert, P. chose the multi-layered Chocolate Pot au Crème, a nice take on the recipe which topped a rich chocolate pudding with a layer of Crème Anglaise and whipped cream. It was rich enough that we were able to happily share it. Because of the way it is prepared, this is one dessert you’ll want to eat in-house.

Chocolate Pot au Creme @ Spagio

I chose the Cherry and Cheese Strudel, which was a strudel made in the same way that my German great-grandmother used to prepare hers – a flaky, layer upon layer strudel crust, filled with a cherry and cheese combination that didn’t really stand out in its flavors – but isn’t strudel all about the pastry anyway?

Cherry and Cheese Strudel @ Spagio

We were quite pleased with the attentive and well-paced service, and went home with enough food for me to get another meal out of it (guess who’s having leftover goulash and strudel for a midnight snack tonight?). A great value, as we both left thoroughly stuffed and happy with the overall experience. Definitely worth checking out before Restaurant Week ends this Saturday night. Just be sure to make reservations if you’d like to check it out, given that Fridays and Saturdays are usually very busy for restaurants in Grandview.

If you’d like to go: Spagio, 1295 Grandview Ave., Columbus 43212, 614-486-1114. More information on other restaurants participating in Restaurant Week Columbus (along with their menus) can be found on their site.

Review: T.A.T. Ristorante di Famiglia

Author: paulboyer  //  Category: Columbus, Dining Deals, Restaurant Review

Have you ever gone to a restaurant, and then, for some reason, never got around to going back again for quite a while? Then, when you finally do return to that restaurant, you wonder why you hadn’t returned for so long?

Last week, we returned after a ten year hiatus to T. A. T. Ristorante de Famiglia. In all honesty, I think the reason we’d avoided returning to T.A.T. was because our last meal there (ten years ago) had been unremarkable at best for both of us — I’d ordered the Baked Ziti With Eggplant, which had been not at all what I’d been expecting, and B. had ordered pork chops (from an Italian restaurant; go figure) that underwhelmed her.

A brief aside, first, about the history of T.A.T.:

The Corrova family, specifically Pete and Philomena, opened their first restaurant in Columbus in 1929 on Goodale Street in what used to be known as Flytown during the Depression era. Due to city planners’ ambitious “improvements” to downtown Columbus, they were forced to move their restaurant… and move they did, to the far east side of Columbus. Eventually in 1980, the family combined all their businesses into a single operation at the corner of South James Road and East Livingston Avenue, where they have remained ever since. On our visit, at least, we noted that the restaurant attracted a much older clientele, probably because they’ve been going there for decades.

The last time we’d dined at T.A.T., we had both ordered entrees that didn’t showcase what T.A.T. does best… this time, however, we decided to dive headlong into T.A.T.’s specialty, which is homey, homely, but satisfying Southern Italian and Sicilian fare.

We arrived in the early evening around 5:30pm, before the dinner rush. Since it was a Sunday, we couldn’t get the Early Bird Special(s), but that was fine; we’d come with a game plan, and stuck with it.

We were seated promptly and our beverage orders were taken. Beverages were brought out promptly. We placed our orders — both of us chose the Sicilian Delight, described in T.A.T.’s menu as a “ten course meal!”. I don’t know if, strictly speaking, it’s a ten-course meal, but it was certainly huge, and exposed us to much of the best of what T.A.T. has to offer.

We were given a choice of a half-pour (3 ounce glass) of either a burgundy, a rose, or some variety of red wine. B. and I both selected the rose, which was brought out presently. It was a nice enough house wine, dry with a hint of sweetness, and very light.

Rose Wine at TAT Ristorante

Our server also brought out a bread basket with whipped butter. It was typical Italian bread, crusty on the outside and chewy on the inside. No complaints there.

Italian Bread at TAT Ristorante

Our first course was the soup; I’d chosen the minestrone while B. chose the Italian Wedding Soup. B. reported that her soup met all the requirements for a proper Italian wedding soup, and was a fairly good and straightforward interpretation of the dish.

Italian Wedding Soup at TAT Ristorante

My minestrone was thick with mixed vegetables and a robust tomato broth, and was very satisfying (and vegan-friendly, heh).

Minestrone Soup at TAT Ristorante

The second course was an individual-sized italian salad. I ordered mine with the house Italian; B. ordered hers with Country French dressing. The salad itself consisted predominantly of bite-sized pieces of iceberg lettuce with some romaine scattered throughout and some chunks of winter tomatoes (read: pale and flavorless; not their fault, tomatoes are out of season). The salad was crunchy enough thanks to the iceberg lettuce. The house Italian (made in-house and in fact bottled and sold through T.A.T.’s takeout operation) was exceptionally good, elevating what would have been an afterthought into a solid little appetizer salad. B.’s Country French selection was definitely a Marzetti product, and as such was quite good though not my cuppa tea. Note that when I asked the server what dressings they had available for their salads, she began to rattle off a list of at least 33 varieties — several made on-premises, the rest typical Marzetti bottled fare.

Salad at TAT Ristorante

The third course, if it can be referred to as such, was what the menu referred to as “Sicilian bread”, which was a well-seasoned, toasted garlic-and-butter bread made from a loaf of Italian bread split lengthwise then slathered with butter and garlic (probably garlic powder; I didn’t detect any fresh minced garlic) and baked under the salamander until crunchy and brown. It was quite good.

Sicilian Bread at TAT Ristorante

The fourth through ninth “courses” were served together on one large (and I do mean LARGE) plate. These were the homemade spaghetti, the veal parmigiana, the meatball, the meat-filled ravioli, the Italian sausage, and a ricotta-stuffed manicotti.

Sampler at TAT Ristorante

The spaghetti and its accompanying red sauce are both freshly made at the restaurant, and it shows. I’m partial to the onion- and oregano-heavy red sauce, which is thick and tart yet slightly sweet. B. found the sauce less to her liking, but still acceptable. The spaghetti, as mentioned made in-house, are fairly thick strands of boiled semolina pasta. We both noted that the spaghetti was more cooked than we prefer; had we read the menu more closely, we’d have seen that T.A.T. cooks their pasta fully by default and that we would have to specifically request for it to be cooked until al dente. I attribute the restaurant defaulting to fully cooked pasta to its sizable contingent of older diners amongst the clientele; they probably find al dente pasta a bit difficult to chew and/or digest.

The veal parmigiana is a by-the-book presentation of a pre-formed, breaded veal patty baked and covered in red sauce then crowned with melted and browned provolone and parmesan cheeses. It was good but nothing I haven’t made at home just as well.

T.A.T.’s meatballs are a thing of beauty. They are of decent size (between 1-1/2 and 2 inches in diameter) and nicely seasoned. I believe these meatballs are actually better than my old standby for homemade meatballs, Carfagna’s Kitchen.

T.A.T.’s meat-filled ravioli is, in fact, a pierogi-sized pouch of homemade semolina pasta surrounding a simple filling of browned lean ground beef, salt, pepper, and a bit of wilted spinach. Each ravioli is pressed shut using either a handheld ravioli press or, from the looks of it, a fork. It is very large. It is also very good, making Carfagna’s beef-filled mezzaluna pasta pale in comparison. Note that a full dinner order of ravioli consists of four (yes, four) in the house red sauce along with soup or salad and bread service. These ravioli are VERY large, VERY dense, and VERY filling.

T.A.T.’s italian sausage as presented on the Sicilian Delight meal consists of a half-link of their in-house mixture of ground pork. Italian seasoning and a touch of red pepper flakes then pumped into a sausage casing and (for this meal) pan-fried or baked thoroughly. I found the heat from the red pepper flakes to be a welcome addition to an otherwise inoffensive sausage (there appeared to be a total absence of fennel in the sausage mixture, which is NOT a problem for me or B.). B. found the sausage to be too spicy for her tastes.

The manicotti was exactly as advertised — a boiled manicotti tube filled with a mixture of ricotta, egg, and herbs. Nice, but not something that would alone compel me to return to T.A.T.

In addition to the above mentioned platter, we got to choose a side dish as well. B. and I both went with the pickled beets – I thought they were just fine, but B. didn’t enjoy them because she thought they tasted like canned beets.

Pickled Beets at TAT Ristorante

Ever accommodating, the server brought out some cole slaw for her to enjoy instead. While not the best specimen of the dish she’s had, it was a nice palate cleanser to cut through all the red sauce on the platter.

Cole Slaw at TAT Ristorante

The final course of the evening was dessert. Spumoni ice cream was not available on Thursday, so we chose among the available selections, which were one of two types of iced sheet cake (yellow cake with buttercream frosting or a carrot cake with cream cheese frosting) or a small bowl of ice cream. B. and I both chose the yellow sheet cake with buttercream frosting. The cake was good though unremarkable.

Yellow Cake at TAT Ristorante

All in all, the dinner represented a fantastic value at $20.99 per person; you get a good sampling of T.A.T.’s available fare without breaking the bank, and you in all likelihood will take some home with you to finish later that night or the following day. B. and I both agreed that we would be returning to T.A.T. to try their other old-school Southern Italian/Sicilian fare.

If you’d like to go: TAT Ristorante di Famiglia, 1210 S. James Rd., Columbus, OH 43227. 614-236-1392

Review: Piada Italian Street Food

Author: swampkitty05  //  Category: First Look, Food Porn, Restaurant Review

Depending on who you speak to, it can be argued that the name “Piada Italian Street Food” is a little misleading; after all, with such a bustling and quickly growing street food scene here in Columbus, there’s an almost unwritten expectation that our street food be, you know – actually served on the street, out of a cart, taco truck, or even in an obviously ethnic store front tucked away in an otherwise long forgotten strip mall in what used to be the burbs but are now huge ethnic strongholds.

Arguments aside, after seeing some pre-opening pictures of the food, we were really looking forward to the opening of the fast causal Piada, the latest concept by BDI founder Chris Doody, who has a proven track record of restaurant successes in Columbus and other locations around the US.

It opened up just this past week in a strip mall on Lane Avenue in Upper Arlington, next to Buckeye Corner.

Piada Italian Street Food Exterior

On entering, we thought the look and feel of the place and menu was very similar to Chipotle, and that comparison is not coincidental – they studied Chipotle’s business model for a couple of years before taking the plunge with Piada, and decided to try to bring the spirit of the traditional Italian street food piada (or piadina, as it’s more commonly known there) to a concept that can be easily reproduced for future expansion/franchise possibilities.

Ordering is simple – you choose your format (piada, pasta bowl, or chopped salad), what grill item you’d like, whether or not you want grilled vegetables and or pasta in it, a sauce, cheese if you’d like, and a whole host of fresh vegetables and/or dressing. The price is based on what grill item you choose, and there’s no nickel and dime add-on charges for your choices.

Piada Italian Street Food Menu

Most of the meat choices are already on the line (Italian meats, sausage, etc), others are cooked to order (the salmon, for instance).

Meat Choices

There aren’t a ton of cheese choices (mozzarella, shaved Parmesan, or feta were the ones I saw), but they are the ones that made the most sense to be there. It would be nice if they expanded the cheese choices a bit in the future to include things like gorganzola, asiago, fontina, etc. There are five different sauce choices, including red or green pesto, parmesan, pomodoro, and diavalo.

Cheese Choices

Where they really shine, however, were the veggie options. So many options – onions, tomatoes, arugula, olives, shaved fennel, avocado, etc – and all of it super fresh and full (those that do run low are quickly refilled). You can choose to top the veggies with an additional dressing if you like.

Fresh Veg Choices

I decided that I’d go with a Piada, since it was the signature item of the place. I chose the sausage piada ($6.35) with pasta, grilled zucchini, grilled red peppers, pomodoro sauce, mozzarella and Parmesan cheese, mixed greens, red onion, tomato, avocado, arugula and balsamic vinaigrette. It was absolutely delicious, but very messy to eat because the piada shell has a tendency to crack a bit (but that could also be that they filled it up so much with goodies – I occasionally have the same problem when getting burritos at Chipotle too). Super-duper filling, I was only able to finish half and took the other half home. The flavors melded together beautifully, and this will probably be my regular order here from now on.

Sausage Pasta Piada

Paul opted for a pasta bowl with salmon ($7.65) – he topped it with grilled zucchini and red peppers, both diavolo and creamy parmesan sauces, mozzarella, shaved parmesan, and black olives, and for the most part he was pleased with it. Our experience was not without opening week hiccups, though – because the salmon was woefully undercooked. However, when he brought it to their attention, they remade the dish for him, and told us to have soup, on them. Restaurant owners, pay attention: *that* is how you do customer service right – you apologize, you remake it, and realize that you only have one chance to make a positive first impression. We already were liking them up to that point because of the friendliness and helpfulness of their staff, and the way they treated us when something went wrong will bring us back.

Salmon Pasta Bowl

We probably wouldn’t have even tried the soup if it hadn’t been comped to us – it just didn’t occur to us to order it. But oh my, are we so glad we did try it. We got the lobster bisque (normally $4.25), and it was the best version of the dish we’ve had yet – creamy, smooth and rich, with multiple levels of flavor and bits of real lobster scattered throughout. Served nice and hot like soup is supposed to be served but rarely is. We had the opportunity to try the tomato basil bisque ($3.45) today, and it, too, is one of the best versions we’ve had. Do yourself a favor and try the soup if you stop by.

Lobster Bisque

We shared an order of the cannoli chips ($2.95), with cinnamon and powdered sugared bits of cannoli shell that are served with a smallish dollop of ricotta cream. Wish there had been just a bit more, because even eating a conservative amount of the cream, we ran out of it long before we ran out of chips. Not sure if I’d order this again, but if you’re in mood of just a little something sweet and don’t want to commit to a heavy, large dessert, this fits the bill.

Cannoli Chips

There are lots of things we like about Piada – the food is fresh and tasty and a good value, the place is super clean and organized, the design of the takeout containers and layout of the restaurant are thoughtful, and the customer service and willingness of employees to make the customer happy is amazing. Not everyone will get it, but I have no doubt that enough people will in order to make it another Doody success story.

If you’d like to go: Piada Italian Street Food, 1315 W. Lane Ave., Upper Arlington, OH, 614-754-7802

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