Review: Vito’s at the Links

Author: swampkitty05  //  Category: Restaurant Review

Let me precede my review by explaining how it came about that I ended up at a restaurant that is part of a country club out in the middle of nowhere. If you remember the Abyssinia Cafe debacle of a few months ago, you’ll recall that the solution WTTE/IncentRev came up with to solve the problem was to offer me replacement certificates for one of the open offers. So it was either this, or Vonn Jazz Club. I had heard nothing good or bad about either, and price-wise this was a more reasonable option, so we went with this.

Fast forward to now, after months of the certificates languishing in my purse, we decided to head out to the sticks (or in this case, the far east end of New Albany) to use them. The location is really hard to find – it’s in the middle of a subdivision (the golf course, that is), so we drove past it a couple of times because it didn’t have any signage at all, either on the main drag going into the subdivision or in front of the building or road itself. We had to call for directions, as a matter of fact.

Vito's at the Links

Finally we get there, and were able to be seated on the patio. We waited about 15 minutes for our waiter to show up – in the meantime we did a bit of people watching, and were amused at how the people we saw so exemplified the “country club” stereotype. Polite golf claps and laughs that reminded me of Carter Pewterschmidt from Family Guy. Lots of stank thrown in our direction because we weren’t wearing the requisite khaki pants or shorts and a polo top. We started making jokes about the situation as it became obvious what direction this dinner was going – if it weren’t for the fact that we needed to use the gift certificates, we probably would have left.

15 minutes later, our server shows up, all frazzled because he was overwhelmed with the other table he had, and upset that his managers were hanging him out to dry while they languished in their offices. He quickly takes our drink orders (ice water for both, no lemon for me) and our appetizer orders and even though we’ve been sitting there for a while with our menus and already knew what we wanted, said he’d come back for our entree orders after he got drinks for the other table.

Another 30 or so minutes pass by, and the chef comes out with our apps. We ask about the server, and when he was going to take the entree order and bring us our drinks, and the chef ends up taking our order. Our water comes out a couple of minutes later, both with lemon, and the server is all kind of upset with us because we had incorrectly assumed that he was in the weeds with one other table – he had a couple of people at the bar too, and it was too much for just him to handle. He proceeds to go into a diatribe about how someone needs to tell his manager that he needs more help, that he’s been there since 8am without a break, etc. Nice enough guy but I didn’t think it was professional of him to bring up personnel issues with customers. There’s a time and a place for everything, and our food was getting cold…

About the apps – since we had $50 of certificates we needed to use up, we decided to get two “Par 3” appetizer combos, where you could select 3 apps from a list for $10.99.

For my combo, I went with crab cakes, pretzel nuggets, and cheese wedges. Sadly, I don’t think anything on my platter was made in-house. The pretzel nuggets were straight up Super Pretzel, and the cheese wedges were also cooked from frozen (and, as luck would have it, half of them didn’t have any cheese in them – it was just a fried outer breading). The pseudo-cheese sauce that came with the pretzel nuggets was definitely from a can. The crab cakes (a dish that I usually love), were largely uninspired, and tasted a bit off – kind of like they were freezer burned.

Par 3 at Vito's at the Links

P. fared no better with his choices, the Twisty Bread (think stromboli or calzone), the fried pickles, and the boneless wings. The Twisty Bread was alright if you dipped it into the marinara sauce, but is not something I would order again. The fried pickles were just that – fried pickles. Again, nothing standout about it. The boneless wings were dire – they were supposed to have a garlic herb sauce, but what we got were breaded chicken nuggets tossed in a powder that was still stuck to the breading. All in all, the apps were extremely disappointing. While I would expect this sort of grub in a bar, I would have thought that they would have set the bar a bit higher in a country club. As a matter of fact, we’ve been to bars that have had much better food.

Par 3 at Vito's at the Links

At this point, we were contemplating nominating the place for Kitchen Nightmares. But for better or worse, we were sticking it out. We started to see the amusement in the situation, and figured if nothing else, it would make for an interesting blog entry – we were almost afraid to contemplate what was to come – and let me tell you folks, the restaurant did not disappoint. The rest of our meal was a comedy of errors.

The side salads ($2.49 when added to an entree) were probably the best part of the entire meal. The greens were fresh, as were the toppings, and it was a perfectly nice salad. Again, nothing imaginative, but after the appetizers we got, my expectations weren’t that high anyway.

Side Salad at Vito's at the Links

They brought out a loaf of warmed bread – unfortunately for us, we’re fairly convinced it was a take and bake loaf. After we found this out, it went uneaten. I hate to waste food, but I also hate to waste calories (and carbs!) on something that isn’t even good.

Bread at Vito's at the Links

I really should have quit while I was ahead. At this point, almost 1 1/2 hours into our meal, we probably should have cut our losses and gone for something simple. Something that was impossible to screw up. But no…I had to go for something that had a lot of room for error – The Foursome ($15.99) It’s described as blackened or grilled salmon along with shrimp, scallops, and crab over angel hair in a Cajun cream sauce. Silly me, I expected a roux-based sauce that had layers of flavor, maybe finished with cream. What I got instead were 2 horribly overcooked shrimp, 2 eraser sized bay scallops, no crab, and overcooked fish with a sauce that tasted like it consisted of two things – cream and many, many, many tablespoons of blackened seasoning. It was so in your face that I could only make it through one bite before asking for a box.

The Foursome at Vito's at the Links

If mine was bad, P.’s was worse. Even though his was supposed to come with a side (he asked for spaghetti, assuming it too would be topped with the picatta sauce), what he got was this:

Chicken Picatta at Vito's at the Links

Your eyes aren’t deceiving you – that is exactly what it looks like. Just some chicken and sauce. Nothing else. He asked about his side, and was told they assumed he didn’t want one, just the salad. Uh, we really wanted spaghetti, could you bring some out? We were expecting plain spaghetti, and got this:

Spaghetti Side at Vito's at the Links

Because nothing tastes better as a side for Chicken Picatta than spaghetti with marinara, right? Speaking of the picatta – the chicken was dry as sawdust, and the sauce was overly salty because of way too many capers to the point of near inedibility. He tried to make the best of it, and asked for some cheese for his spaghetti figuring it was a better idea not to rock the boat at this point. Out comes the cheese, he sprinkles it on his spaghetti, takes a bite – except, as it turns out, it wasn’t cheese, it was garlic salt. His expression? Priceless.

Paul's Yuck Face

At this point, I think our server got fed up with us, and his manager comes out with a small container of “better quality shredded cheese”, for spaghetti that had already been adulterated. P. just asked for a box and some fresh, plain spaghetti. No apologies from the manager, just a sullen look and a glare when we suggested he have more staff and better quality control.

They did send on our way with a box of equally dire complimentary chocolate chip cookies (again, which tasted home-baked in the same way that Pillsbury break and bake are) – while I’m sure that they thought that was an adequate apology, truly, I’m seeing as it more as an added insult to our injury.

Vito's at the Links Chocolate Chip Cookies

We had hoped that this meal out would have been a nice celebration of the end of a quarter at school, the sad fact is that it ended up being more of a punishment. I find it amusing that New Albany Links requires their social members to spend at least $60 a month on food and drink here, and I’m beginning to wonder if it’s because it’s the only way they’d survive? If it’s not obvious already, I really don’t recommend Vito’s at the Links – there are much better options in the same price range that don’t require a trip out to the middle of nowhere and leaving your taste buds and expectations at the door.

If you’d like to go: Vito’s at the Links, 7100 New Albany Links Drive, New Albany, OH 43054, 614-939-5914

Vito's Italian Pub on Urbanspoon

Review: Skillet, Rustic. Urban. Food.

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

Skillet, Rustic. Urban. Food. (hereafter referred to as Skillet) opened up to much fanfare late last year in the Schumacher Place location formerly occupied by Banana Bean Cafe until they moved over to much larger digs on Greenlawn Ave. While the space was definitely too small for the volume of Banana Bean Cafe, it was reinvented brilliantly with Skillet, the new concept from father and son Kevin and Patrick Caskey, who were also key in Banana Bean Cafe’s success.

Skillet focuses on simple, seasonal and ingredient driven honest food. Patrick, in particular, has a passion for this type of cooking, and his passion shows in the menu. You’ll see a lot of things on Skillet’s menu that you don’t often see anywhere else. He’s not afraid to experiment with ingredients and flavors, and with the able assistance of his father, is able to usually knock the food out of the park.

Upon entering for the first time, it’s a little confusing on what you’re supposed to do – there’s no one there in the front of the house to greet you, so it takes a moment to realize that you pick up the menu and place your order at the front window, and then seat yourself. However, once you get past that minor hurdle, it’s easy to remember to do that on future visits.

Since there were three of us dining there for lunch, we decided to just order a bunch of dishes to share, so we could sample all of them. We’ve had their amazing porchetta as a take out item and were hoping it was on the menu that day, but no such luck – one of the other items I had hoped to sample, the Savory Sweet Potato Folded Egg Omelette, had sold out earlier in the day.

As a lover of all things pork, my favorite dish from among all I tried was the Spicy Pork Belly Quesadilla ($8), which is mostly your classic preparation of meat, cheese and flour tortillas, with a lot less cheese and a lot more porky goodness. Topped with a salsa verde sauce that added a little heat but didn’t overwhelm, this was just a perfectly balanced dish that worked surprisingly well. This is a dish that, like the porchetta, I could find myself craving regularly.

Pork Belly Quesadilla from Skillet

Their Truffled Griddled Cheese on Brioche ($8) has two different types of cheese on it – a cheddar cheese that’s paired with an herbed boursin cheese, then topped with a touch of truffle oil. Much different from previous incarnations of grilled cheese I’ve had, but in a good way. The truffle oil lent a bit of earthiness to it without overwhelming it or tasting artificial as truffle oil often does.

Truffled Grilled Cheese from Skillet

As part of the grilled cheese, one can choose a soup of their choice. Even though they were out of the pumpkin-black bean soup, the one they did have (Cream of Tomato) is the one that you most associate with grilled cheese. It, like most credible cream of tomato soups, made a terrific dipper for the grilled cheese. Even so, we had a little tomato soup left over, which you’ll see I found a perfect use for a little later.

Cream of Tomato Soup from Skillet

Their Spiced Lamb Burger ($12) was a nicely sized patty cooked to order – in our case, we asked for it to be pink but not bloody, and it came out exactly that way. It was served on a soft Ciabatta roll with cumin mayo (whose flavor kind of faded into the background), a grilled slice of sheep’s milk feta, and a bit of fig-orange vinaigrette dressed arugula. While the burger as a whole was good, the individual ingredients got a bit lost in the mix. Still, a solid burger all around.

Lamb Burger from Skillet

My husband, in particular, loves their Crispy Fingerling Potatoes and Burnt Ends ($3) – for those not in the know, the burnt ends are actually pieces of brisket, which complement the browned and roasted potatoes. The potatoes have a solid rosemary flavor to them, which is either a great or a bad thing, depending how you feel about rosemary. I thought the potatoes, as a side to the lamb burger, brought out the best in it. Rosemary and lamb is one of my favorite flavor combinations in the world.

Fingerling Potatoes with Burnt Ends from Skillet

The Braised Beef Short Rib Sandwich ($11) piled super-tender short ribs with a spicy pepper mixture between two slices of buttery brioche. While it was a bit too spicy for it to be my thing (the apple-horseradish crema helped a bit, but not quite enough for my spice-sensitive palate), the two other people with me who love spicy foods thought it was great. Agreed – I’d order it again, but ask them to go light on the peppers, because minus the heat, the flavor was fantastic.

Short Rib Sandwich from Skillet

On the side, we had Anson Mills Stone Ground Grits with Sharp Cheddar ($3) – these are some of my favorite heirloom grits (I order them myself here at home). While I liked what the smoked tomato pan gravy brought to the party, I thought they were absolutely amazing with the remainder of my cream of tomato soup poured over top like a gravy.

Grits from Skillet

In short, everything we ordered here was extremely comforting, just all around good food that was reasonably priced. Drink service is either bottles of pop or water that you get yourself. I really like that they make quality food accessible, non-pretentious in a super-casual space. It’s a great fit for the neighborhood and we’re looking forward to visiting again.

If you’d like to go: Skillet, Rustic. Urban. Food., 410 E. Whittier Street, Columbus, OH 43206, 614-443-2266

Skillet Rustic Urban Food on Urbanspoon

Review: Matt the Miller’s Tavern

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

Our last few meals out haven’t been planned – we’ve pretty much found ourselves in a suburb running errands when hunger hit, and put ourselves at the mercy of Yelp or Urbanspoon to guide us to nearby sustenance. Fortunately for us, we’ve yet to be let down by a choice we were given.

Such is the case with Matt the Miller’s Tavern. It occupies the space on Perimeter Drive that previously housed The Burgundy Room Dublin. We were hoping another great restaurant would grab that space, and we’re glad to see that it made the transition fairly painlessly. Although we went mid-afternoon on a weekday, when it was fairly empty, I hear the place really gets packed on weekends.

The menu is fairly extensive – literally, there are choices there for everyone. We honestly had a difficult time narrowing our choices down to what we ultimately got. We’re hoping to go back again soon to try out more of the menu.

Rather than ordering an appetizer from the Starter portion of the menu, we decided to split one of their flatbreads – in our case we splurged and went with the Ahi Tuna flatbread ($14.95 – other flatbread choices are significantly cheaper), and did not regret it for a second. A crispy dough was topped with a creamy miso mousse, avocado slices, Asian slaw, perfectly seared sliced ahi tuna, toasted sesame seeds, wasabi aioli and a soy reduction. The combination of flavors was out of this world. Even the portions that didn’t have tuna on them had an enticing umami about them that left me wanting more – I could have eaten this for days. Needless to say, I can see myself ordering this as an entree all to myself on our next visit – it was THAT good.

Ahi Tuna Flatbread from Matt the Miller's Tavern (Dublin, OH)

P. decided to get himself a bowl of their soup of the day, a black bean and beef chili ($4.95), which had a nice complex spice profile with a pleasant smoky undercurrent to it.

Bowl of Black Bean and Beef Chili from Matt the Miller's Tavern (Dublin, OH)

I chose to get a side portion of Matt’s Salad ($3.00), a combination of super fresh salad greens tossed with white cheddar shreds, caramelized walnuts, dried apricots, and a mustard maple vinaigrette. On first thought, I thought the dried apricots were a bit out of place, but by the time I finished the salad, I appreciated the slight sweetness they brought to the party. Great salad, I absolutely loved the vinaigrette, which was creamy and vinegary without being too much of either.

Side Order of Matt's Salad from Matt the Miller's Tavern (Dublin, OH)

I was a bit less enamored with my entree choice, the Turkey and Avocado Sandwich ($9.25), in which all white meat turkey breast, smoked bacon, Swiss cheese, herb mayo, avocado, lettuce and tomato fill a buttery grilled brioche. It wasn’t that the sandwich was badly prepared – the preparation was just fine. We just happened to find it a bit bland compared to their other offerings. The best part of the entree was the sweet potato fries on the side – while by themselves they are nothing special (think McCain’s), with the addition of salt and dipped into a side of garlic aioli (bypass the normal ketchup and ask for this instead) they were downright addictive.

Turkey and Avocado Sandwich from Matt the Miller's Tavern (Dublin, OH)

P. absolutely loved his burger, The Miller ($12.50), a 3/4 lb. behemoth topped with lettuce, tomato, onion rings, bacon, Swiss, cheddar, garlic aioli, and creamy slaw in between a homemade rosemary potato bun that definitely held up to the burger. The combination of flavors was tantalizing, but what stuck us the most that it was actually cooked correctly – we asked for medium rare and got just that, which is one of the first times that has happened – kudos!

The Miller Burger from Matt the Miller's Tavern (Dublin, OH)

For his side, he switched out the normal fries for an order of their scalloped potatoes, which were aptly prepared – nice browned edges, tender but not mushy potatoes, good balance of cream to cheese.

Scalloped Potatoes from Matt the Miller's Tavern (Dublin, OH)

Service was quite excellent – our server was attentive and thoughtful, thinking to tuck away a couple extra containers of garlic aioli into our take-home bag knowing how much we loved it. The whole cost of the meal was quite reasonable. Knowing they have a great patio, we can see ourselves returning often on nice days, even though Dublin is a bit out of our way. Great selection of beers on tap, and good happy hour deals. If you find yourself and Dublin, this is an excellent choice. We were quite pleased with all aspects of our experience and do not hesitate to give it a full recommendation.

If you’d like to go: Matt the Miller’s Tavern, 6725 Avery-Muirfield Drive (entrance to the parking lot is on Perimeter behind the Huntington Bank), Dublin, OH 43017, 614-799-9102.

Review: The Lost Shepherd Tavern

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

Update: The Lost Shepherd Tavern is now closed.

With a significant cut in our income, certain luxuries have had to take a back seat and we’ve had to tighten our belts, both literally and figuratively. What this means is that eating out has become a rarity. But we’re always on the lookout for recession specials – deals that are way too good to pass up, and almost too good to share (for fear there will be none left for us). But you readers know me better than that – I’m always willing to share the good information so that you too can partake of the bounty. And it doesn’t hurt that increased business will keep them around for a good long time.

We stumbled on this place yesterday while running errands in the Sawmill/Powell area – it popped for me as a nearby restaurant on Yelp, and a glance at the menu showed it was just the kind of food we were craving.

Tucked away in a newish strip mall along Powell Rd (Rte 750), The Lost Shepherd Tavern is a large space decorated primarily in warm wood tones and brick. Typical gastropub seating, with a mixture of high tables, low tables, and booths.

The menu is fairly large and varied – while primarily sandwiches and salads, there’s a section of the menu that has full fledged entrees, with none (including the twin tenderloins of beef topped with shrimp scampi) priced over $19. And that’s what struck me more than anything about the menu – everything was so reasonably priced, that even if they didn’t offer a myriad of specials, it would still be affordable.

Neither of us were hungry for a heavy appetizer, so we opted to share a side order of their sweet corn risotto ($3) for a starter. In our experience, we’ve found that when a restaurant offers risotto, the quality of the risotto has been a fair indicator of what kind of experience we’ll have with the rest of the food. Never fear, their risotto was prepared beautifully – creamy, just the right amount of bite and seasoning, and as good as the best we’ve had in town.

Sweet Corn Risotto from The Lost Shepherd Tavern (Powell, OH)

Now, I’m going to tell you about the best lunch special anywhere in town, hands down. For $8, you get a House of Shepherd salad, your choice of any cup of soup, and 1/2 of one of three sandwich choices. Even without the risotto starter, I would have left there stuffed to the gills. Quite literally, getting water as my beverage and tipping the standard 20%, I would have gotten out of there for a little over $10. That’s my kind of lunch!

I chose a cup of their New Powell Chowder for my soup, described on their menu as “fresh sea clams, new potatoes and spinach in a creamy Nor-easter style broth”. This was so unlike other clam chowders that I’ve had, where the clam was an afterthought scattered in what amounts to a creamy bechamel sauce – in their soup, the clam was front and center, and the primary flavor. And there were huge discernible pieces of clam! While very stick to your ribs, it didn’t sit as heavy as clam chowder usually does. It was aggressively seasoned to stand up to the force of the clam, but not so heavily seasoned to render it inedible.

Clam Chowder from The Lost Shepherd Tavern (Powell, OH)

Luckily, they brought out some bread and dipping oil to go with the soup, which helped me get through a very hearty cup of it (can’t imagine eating a whole bowl – you’d have to roll me out of there). Nothing special, but very fresh and just what the doctor ordered.

Bread and Dipping Oil from The Lost Shepherd Tavern (Powell, OH)

For my sandwich half, I went with the Insane B.L.T.C, which is hands down the best BLT variation I’ve ever had. Imagine crisp Applewood smoked bacon, fresh green lettuce, tomatoes that didn’t taste like winter tomatoes, mayonnaise and a bunch of melted white New York cheddar holding it all together between two slices of buttery grilled sourdough bread. This sandwich alone is worth a return trip to Powell. On the same plate, a nice mound of the House of Shepherd Salad – a nice mix of good lettuce, chopped veggies like carrots, cucumbers, red onion, tomatoes along with bacon and crumbled bleu cheese. I chose to top it with their balsamic dressing, a thick, sweet mixture (think Pastaria’s dressing for a good point of reference) that tied all the varied flavors together. If balsamic is not your thing, they have about a half dozen other choices of dressing you can opt to top your salad with. By the way, don’t let the picture fool you – the portion sizes are huge. My half sandwich was easily the size of whole BLT’s that I’ve had elsewhere. That plate is much bigger than it looks in the picture.

Extreme BLTC and Salad from The Lost Shepherd Tavern (Powell, OH)

P. opted to get a bowl of their superlative Choice Cut Chili ($4), a huge tureen filled with ground and tender cubed beef, black beans in a smoky but fairly complex (especially since they grind their spices fresh for each batch) thick chili base. Rounding out the bowl is are tortilla chips and a generous topping of white cheddar cheese. We both loved that our soups were served hot, which is a rarity in restaurants these days. A bowl of this hearty chili is an entree unto itself.

Bowl of Chili from The Lost Shepherd Tavern (Powell, OH)

But we’re talking about my husband, who has a bottomless pit for a stomach. He also ordered their Cali-Chicken Cobb Salad ($9), which is a nice bed of mixed lettuce topped with grilled chicken, bacon, tomatoes, red onion, avocado, bleu cheese ad your choice of dressing. He also opted for the balsamic dressing and felt it was a good choice. In a city where it’s difficult to find a good Cobb salad, we were surprised to find that this was one of the most credible interpretations we’ve been able to find in this metro area. Good, fresh, clean, distinct flavors and balance make this salad a winner.

Cali-Cobb Salad from The Lost Shepherd Tavern (Powell, OH)

They have a great beer selection (P. was quite pleased with the draft selection of the month, a glass of Kentucky Bourbon Barrel Ale that was smooth and not particularly hoppy, with notes of oak and vanilla that paired well with his salad.

Keep an eye out for specials – they regularly have half price happy hour specials on beer, and one of their other impressive specials on Wednesday is a small order (depends on your definition of small – their small is still plenty big for me) of fish and chips plus a a pint of Smithwicks or Miller Lite for $5. See a listing of all their other specials here, and be sure to take a moment to print out one of their coupons that will get you $10 off a $25+ check.

I was pleasantly surprised by The Lost Shepherd – great service, generous portions, food made with care, and excellent value mean that we’ll return again.

If you’d like to go: The Lost Shepherd Tavern, 345 W. Olentangy St, Powell. 614-792-LOST (5678).

The Lost Shepherd on Urbanspoon

Back in Business: bonopizza

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

I have great news for those of you who chipped in via the BonoPizza “pay it forward” program to help Bill & Peggy secure a new place – after a few false starts, they have finally reopened – in a cozy spot in the back of the Corner Market (corner of Northwest and Chambers). So if you sent money to them, be sure to stop by and grab your certificate.

The new location is deja vu for Bill, who had his first pizza place in the same location many years ago.

The pizza is as good as ever, and nothing beats grabbing a seat (there are only 12) and eating the pizza hot from the oven. They have two new ones that have become quick favorites for the both of us.

The first one is the Carbonara pizza, which is topped with Smithfield peppered ham/bacon that is caramelized for 3 hours with a ton of onions, and then topped with Asiago, fresh mozzarella and Parmesan cheese. It truly does taste just like a good carbonara.

Carbonara Pizza from bonotogo

My personal favorite is the Hippo pizza, topped with tomato sauce, garlic, anchovies, Emmenthal and Brie cheese, pistou and nicoise olives. It has this salty, sorta crunchy, hella creamy thing that rocks my world.

Hippo Pizza from bonotogo

They were giving people little shot glasses of creme brulee, a thick, rich custard with just the right amount of crunch on the caramelized topping. Apparently, these are a regular menu item. And I hear that he’s bringing back the crepes as well.

Creme Brulee from bonopizza

They’re open 6 days a week (closed Sunday), from 5-10pm. Run, don’t walk – there’s usually not a huge crowd, and I’m sure Bill and Peggy would love to see some more familiar faces.

If you’d like to go: Bonopizza, 1717 Northwest Blvd, 614-906-8646

Review: Big Fat Greek Kuzina

Author: swampkitty05  //  Category: Columbus, Restaurant Review

This review is actually the result of two visits over the period of a year. The Big Fat Greek Kuzina is a restaurant that we had been visiting on and off for a few years, one that at one time, we absolutely loved and visited regularly. I’d go way out of the way to get their dipping sauce and pita, Greek salad, and souvlaki as takeout. So when we visited last year and had a less than stellar experience, we chalked it up to possibly a bad day and decided to give it one more visit before writing a bad review.

The restaurant is nestled into a little strip mall near the border of Hilliard and Upper Arlington, at the corner of Fishinger Road and Riverside Drive. You kind of have to keep your eye out for it, since the sign is on the building rather than the road.

So some of these dishes are from last year, some are from this year – some we ordered one time only, others we had both times we went. In the case of the dishes we had twice, we’ll compare last year’s to this visit and let you know if (and how) things have changed.

Both times we visited we sat outside and dined al fresco. During dinner hours there’s just a loudness and busyness to the atmosphere inside that is just a bit too frenetic for our tastes. And both times, service suffered a little as a result, with our server sometimes forgetting we were out there as we were left waiting for refills on our drinks more than once.

One of the big draws, at least for us, is the dipping sauce and pita that they offer as bread service. The green sauce is a heady mix of basil, garlic, olive oil and a few other things, and was and still is absolutely delicious.

bfgc_dip

The saganaki doesn’t disappoint either – we slathered its browned, salty, melty goodness onto pita bread and chowed down. Consistently good both times we had it.

bfgc_saganaki

The dolmades, however, were a disappointment each time. The lemon sauce they were served with is flavored with an herb that just doesn’t work, and the sauce ruined the dish for us. Your mileage may vary.

bfgc_dolmades

Although the quality of the salad has declined in the past year (it was much fresher, more chock full of veggies the first time), we still do enjoy their Greek salad, because the creamy Greek dressing is a thing of beauty. There are very few places I’ll order Greek salad, because I’m very picky – this is one of the exceptions to that rule.

bfgc_greeksalad

Although the serving size of their moussaka was substantial, but the flavor profile was off – there was the addition of dill or something else that doesn’t belong in moussaka, and it was too distracting for us to enjoy their version of it.

bfgc_moussaka

The Keftedes (along with the accompanying gravy) were quite good, but the potatoes were ruined by more of the overwhelming lemon sauce, this time dosed with a bunch of dill.

bfgc_keftedes

The Stuffed Mushrooms appetizer was a hot mess. The “stuffing”, which was supposed to include seafood, was 99.9% bread crumbs. If there was any crab in here, it was chased through, because even the essence of crab lacked presence.

Stuffed Mushrooms from The Big Fat Greek Kuzina

The Grecian Chicken was a bit underwhelming – the sauce was basically marinara with some feta sprinkled on it, and the chicken was served with more of those potatoes with lemon sauce. It wasn’t quite what we were expecting, and didn’t live up to our expectations.

Grecian Chicken from The Big Fat Greek Kuzina

In closing, the dishes at Big Fat Greek Kuzina can be hit or miss – with careful choices you can get a good meal, but there are too many misses for me to recommend it. We’ll stop here in the future for takeout of the “safe” choices, but that’s about the extent of it. I’m huge on consistency, and there’s a lack of that here.

If you’d like to go: Big Fat Greek Kuzina, 2816 Fishinger Road, Upper Arlington, OH, 614-457-4733

Restaurant Week Fall 2009: Banana Bean Revisited

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

Given that Banana Bean Cafe had rolled out a whole new menu just weeks before with many different new options that we had never tried before, we thought that Restaurant Week, given the incredible value, was the perfect time to try them. When else would we get the option to try 2 brunch entrees + an app we weren’t familiar with for $20.09? We made the decision to go back again on Saturday morning after doing our farmers market run.

Unfortunately, our second experience didn’t go QUITE as smoothly as the first.

Even though it’s not a new menu item, we had never tried the Sarotogo Chips, which by the description, sounded a lot like Banana Bean’s version of the Maytag Blue Cheese on potato chip app over at Cap City. So that’s pretty much the expectation we had. Banana Bean’s version just didn’t do it for us. The chips were soggy, not crispy at all – kind of like a strange cross between home fries and chips, and they were topped with a thin, cold alfredo sauce and cold blue cheese. While we ate them, we didn’t really enjoy them. If we ever ordered this again, it probably wouldn’t be early after they open.

Saratogo Chips from Banana Bean Cafe

Our waitress had punched our order in wrong on the computer, so instead of getting what I ordered, I was served the Enchilada omelette. I sent it back immediately, so I can’t tell you how it tastes, but just figured since it made it to our table I may as well take a pic of it before it went back to the kitchen. It looks good enough that I may order this in the future.

Enchilada Omelette from Banana Bean Cafe

Paul ordered Grandaddie’s Chicken and Waffles, which would have been really good had there been more of the apricot syrup – the waffles are dense enough that they needed the extra moisture. The underlying flavor was solid, though – especially the chicken, which would be fantastic on a salad of some sort. With that one minor modification, this dish would have gone from “meh” to good.

Grandaddie's Chicken and Waffles from Banana Bean Cafe

I went with the North Shore Seafood Omelette. While there is a decent amount of seafood in this dish, the flavor fell a little flat for me – the sauce it’s served with doesn’t really pop, or bring out the natural sweetness of the scallops or shrimp. With some minor modifications to the seasoning/sauce, though – this one could be a contender.

North Shore Seafood Omelette from Banana Bean Cafe

We’ve been having fairly good experiences at Banana Bean Cafe since they’ve moved to Greenlawn, but I think they’re going through a tweaking process with the new menu. Hopefully a little bit of constructive criticism will help them refine what is a solid menu into a fantastic one.

If you’d like to go: Banana Bean Cafe, 340 Greenlawn Ave., Columbus, OH 43223, 614-443-2262

Banana Bean Cafe on Urbanspoon

SE Ohio Edition: Miller’s Chicken

Author: swampkitty05  //  Category: Food Porn, Restaurant Review, Travel

In advance of going back to Athens tomorrow, I wanted to talk some more about my trip to Athens last month. Let us not kid ourselves. It was ALL about the food. It always is for me. I think you can tell so much more about an area by the food you eat than by any other factor. And Athens is quite the foodie town.

I think one of the best things we ate that weekend was completely by accident. We had been stalking the Burrito Buggy unsuccessfully, and in the process of trying to find them at the county fairgrounds, got turned around on a back road and ended up at Miller’s. Miller’s Chicken is an Athens institution which honestly didn’t look like much on the outside (or the inside either, really – unless aged formica is your thing). We really didn’t hold out much hope, but decided to order a bucket of 10 thighs for the road anyway, along with some salads.

Miller's Chicken in Athens, OH

OMFG. If we hadn’t already been on our way back to Columbus when we dug into the bucket 10-15 minutes later, we would have turned the car around and gone right back and got more of everything. This, quite honestly, is THE best fried chicken I’ve ever had. Completely moist meat, with almost a dual layer of fried skin – not the way you normally think of fried chicken, but instead a cracklin’-like layer of skin, followed by another layer of fried skin underneath. It was crisp, but not by being artificially breaded. KFC, eat your hearts out. Paul said it was pure torture on that ride home – between hearing the “crunch crunch” of my teeth savoring the skin, the sound of me smacking my lips in happiness, and the way the fantastic smell filled up the car, he darn near pulled over a dozen or more times not content to let me feed him some now and then as he was driving.

Bucket of Fried Chicken from Miller's Chicken (Athens, OH)

The salads were nearly as good. If I had known how good, I would have opted for more than just a small potato salad and individual sized macaroni & cole slaw.

Potato Salad from Miller's Chicken (Athens, OH)

I’m notoriously particular about macaroni salad, but theirs was quite solid. Not cloyingly sweet like most.

Macaroni Salad from Miller's Chicken (Athens, OH)

Ditto with the cole slaw. I like my cole slaw to have a finer chopped texture rather than long shreds, and this did not disappoint.

Cole Slaw from Miller's Chicken (Athens, OH)

No matter where else we go, this *will* be a stop on our next visit. It’s even good cold.

If you’d like to go: Miller’s Chicken, 235 W. State St, Athens, OH 45701, 740-593-6544

Miller's Chicken on Urbanspoon

Restaurant Week Fall 2009: The Worthington Inn

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

For me, The Worthington Inn is one of those places I’ve walked by for years, always talking about how I need to eat there soon, etc. – but preconceived notions always kept me from stopping in – misconceptions that it was frou frou and fussy, or that everyone who eats there is all dressed up, or that service would be stuffy. Let me just say now for the record that I was completely wrong.

The Outside of The Worthington Inn

We decided to head there for lunch during Restaurant Week, where they were offering your choice of 2 lunch entrees for $20.09. 2 people eating for 20 bucks at the Worthington Inn? Yes, please!

We would have loved to sit on the patio, which faces High Street but seems a lot more remote. However, all of the tables were reserved. One of these days, we definitely will.

The Patio at The Worthington Inn

Instead, we ate on the porch, which was still quite nice – the day we went was absolutely beautiful weather, perfectly clear and in the 70’s with a nice breeze. The wide porch reminds me of the “lemonade porches” you see in the Deep South. Dare I say it was quite charming?

The Porch at the Worthington Inn

Bread service was a loaf of fresh baked bread with the unusual choice of an aioli instead of butter. Although it seemed a little strange at first, the combination was quite good.

Bread Basket from The Worthington Inn

Not as part of Restaurant Week, but a la carte, I ordered a cup of their Summer Corn Chowder ($4), a hearty cup of contrasting flavors and textures – the sweetness of local corn, the smoky flavor of the bacon, the potatoes that studded the soup, and the luxurious richness of the creamy broth, all finished off with a cheddar crisp that slowly melted back into the soup as I was eating it. Divine.

Summer Corn Chowder from The Worthington Inn

For his entree, Paul chose the Spaghetti Cassandra (normally $13), a substantial portion of al dente spaghetti tossed with large chunks of chicken, sun dried tomatoes, spinach, feta cheese, garlic, chili flake and olive oil. The flavor was quite subtle, maybe a touch TOO subtle. While filling, it didn’t really pack a punch.

Spaghetti Cassandra at The Worthington Inn

My Petit Filet Worthington (normally $15), while small, was cooked to a perfect medium rare. The blue cheese and demi-glace made a good steak even better. The au gratin potatoes weren’t the best I’ve had, but they were well prepared, and were a nice accompaniment to the steak. The spinach? Sauteed to perfection. I don’t know why, but I just love the combination of spinach and steak.

Petit Filet Worthington from The Worthington Inn

Our service was great, and we had heard great things about the Brunch at the Worthington Inn (it’s supposedly the food service workers destination of choice for the best brunch in town), so our server advised us to make reservations if we wanted to go. We did that before we left, and got one of the two last reservations available. The Restaurant Week deal on the brunch was 2 Brunch Buffets + beverages for $30.09, which is a substantial discount from it’s normal price of $21.95 per person.

I was totally blown away by the brunch. Oh my goodness, the quality and quantity of food they offered was beyond compare – I haven’t seen anything quite like it in my time here in Columbus. To say we’ll return for brunch again is an understatement. Here are just a few of the highlights:

An omelette station that made omelettes to order. I had a fantastic vegetarian omelette with all manner of fresh veggies. Although there was a bit of a bottleneck at the station at times, I was eventually able to (on my second round) order an omelette and get it in a couple of minutes without much of a wait.

Omelette Station on the Sunday Brunch Buffet at The Worthington Inn

All different kinds of danish, which I didn’t try because my strategy at buffets is to not fill up on carbs, and to concentrate on getting a lot of protein in. They sure looked good, though.

Danish on the Sunday Brunch Buffet at The Worthington Inn

Smoked salmon with all the fixings. I’m not usually a big fan of smoked salmon, but theirs was quite yummy.

Smoked Salmon on the Sunday Brunch Buffet at The Worthington Inn

Lots and lots of crispy bacon. This bacon piggy was in hog heaven!

Bacon on the Sunday Brunch Buffet at The Worthington Inn

A really delicious, moist, stuffed pork loin with a fantastic gravy. I know apple figured into it somewhere (either the stuffing or gravy), but it lent a sweetness that was just pure porky perfection.

Pork on the Sunday Brunch Buffet at The Worthington Inn

Other items that you can see on my plate: a respectable eggs benedict, shrimp with cocktail sauce, an okay salad, an underwhelming and dry chicken marsala, equally underwhelming potatoes, and the best darn prime rib I’ve had in ages.

Brunch Plate from The Worthington Inn

More about that prime rib. It was absolutely perfect. Everything about it. The perfect level of doneness, the nice crispy flavorful outer edges, the thickness of the cut, the wonderful creamy horseradish sauce and the jus it was served with. I went back for seconds, and got 2 pieces instead of one. Yes, I love prime rib that much. The only thing that would have made it better would have been some Yorkshire pudding on the side ::drool:: Also on the second round, I got made to order Belgian waffle topped with raspberry sauce and miniature semisweet chocolate chips, that aforementioned veggie omelette, loads of bacon, and some cheese. I quite literally cleaned my plate, and had I had room in my belly for more, would have gone back for thirds.

Brunch Plate from The Worthington Inn

Paul showed a bit more restraint than I did, playing it safe with the eggs benedict, some salmon in a red pepper sauce, potatoes, that wonderful pork and some bacon.

Brunch Plate from The Worthington Inn

I think you can tell from his second plate how much he loved the pork. 🙂 And after trying a bit of my prime rib, he had to get some of his very own.

Brunch Plate from The Worthington Inn

So many choices for dessert. Although only one thing really caught my eye on the way in.

Desserts on the Sunday Brunch Buffet at the Worthington Inn

We both had a piece of this neapolitan cheesecake. I’m not sure if it’s house made or not, but it was definitely good. Paul wants me to try to make my own version of this here at home.

Neapolitan Cheesecake from The Worthington Inn

Needless to say, we truly enjoyed both experiences at The Worthington Inn, and hope to return again soon. I’m glad our misconceptions of the place were proven wrong.

If you’d like to go: The Worthington Inn, 649 High St., Worthington, OH 614-885-2600

Worthington Inn on Urbanspoon

Restaurant Week Fall 2009: Cafe Corner

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

Oh wow, I got a bit distracted there, didn’t I? Back to Restaurant Week, and a review of the last couple of restaurants I went to.

Cafe Corner is one that we pretty much discovered during last Restaurant Week, and it’s a place that we’ve been frequenting regularly ever since. However, we haven’t really availed ourselves to their whole menu – most of the time when we visit, we’re doing takeout, so go for cold sandwiches that travel well. Since we were eating in this time around, we had a lot more choices.

And eating in is even easier now, since they built a patio – plenty of seating (where before there was a wait for a table inside), so at least when it’s nice out, finding somewhere to sit is a breeze. And extended hours make it a more practical option, where in the past we had to fight their limited hours. Great improvements on both fronts.

Patio at Cafe Corner

Their deal this week wasn’t amazing (2 sandwiches + 2 desserts + 2 cans of pop or bottled water for $20.09). It’s not much different than if you had bought these items a la carte, and in some cases, the Restaurant Week special was more expensive. To make it a good deal, we both went with pricey sandwiches.

Paul’s choice was this huge Country Egg Sandwich (normally $9.95), which is definitely big enough to share – each half of the sandwich is like a sandwich unto itself. It puts fried eggs, roasted garlic, walnut pesto, cheddar and prosciutto on a nice hearty old world bread, which is then grilled. This, my friends, is the breakfast of champions.

Country Egg Sandwich from Cafe Corner

I went with what I pretty much always go with when I eat at Cafe Corner, the Turkey Goat Cheese Wrap (normally $8.95). This is my favorite thing to eat here – it’s just a really good sandwich – think a nice turkey, goat cheese, mixed greens, and raspberry vinaigrette salad condensed into wrap form. Extremely refreshing in hot weather, that’s for sure.

Turkey Goat Cheese Wrap from Cafe Corner

Drinks and desserts weren’t much to write home about – they paled in comparison to the delicious snickerdoodle cookies I had the first time around. They were almost an afterthought after those big sandwiches.

Drinks & Dessert at Cafe Corner

We really enjoy Cafe Corner as a regular stop, and definitely wanted to give them some Restaurant Week love. Their sandwich prices aren’t cheap, but they’ve got some pretty creative combinations going on. Stop in and give them a try.

If you’d like to go: Cafe Corner, corner of 3rd & Pennsylvania, Columbus (Harrison West), 614-294-2233

Cafe Corner on Urbanspoon