Back in Business: bonopizza

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

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

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

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

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

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

Restaurant Week Fall 2009: The Top Steakhouse

I can’t tell you enough how much I love The Top – basically because it hasn’t changed for 50+ years. Same menu, same retro ambiance, same great service, same wonderful food. I always know that I’ll go there and have an awesome experience. So I’m so very psyched that they’re part of Dine Originals Columbus and take part in Restaurant Week.

The door at The Top Steakhouse

The one benefit to Restaurant Week being held in September vs. being held in March is that almost all of the restaurants we’ve visited have their patios open. The Top was no exception – I love eating out there because inside, it’s so dark you can barely see your food. Outside, you get to see how beautiful the presentation is under the full spectrum of daylight.

The Patio at The Top Steakhouse

The Top’s menu for Restaurant Week is virtually unchanged from March’s menu – with the exception of one of the desserts, it IS the same. Not a problem, since we were so incredibly pleased with our meal in March. And in a twist of fate, we had the same server, too. We were thrilled that Emily remembered us, along with some of our preferences during that meal.

The Top Steakhouse Restaurant Week Menu

Every meal at The Top starts out with a relish tray. We love this, as unusual as this seems.

Relish Plate at The Top Steakhouse

We loved, loved, loved the bread basket that night – fluffy pillows of honeyed yeasty deliciousness that we couldn’t get enough of. This may be part of the reason I filled up so quickly, even though we only had 2 rolls each. They were served with a soft whipped butter that spread so easily and melted slightly into the still warm rolls.

Dinner Rolls from The Top Steakhouse

For his appetizer, Paul chose the escargot. Neither one of us had ever had escargot before, and we both absolutely loved them. The snails themselves are reminiscent in taste and texture of a really earthy mushroom, and they are swimming in a garlic-butter-cheese combination that totally rocks. Once you’ve plucked the escargot out, you dip the accompanying toast into the garlic butter to soak up the evilness that is the combination of all the flavors.

Escargot from The Top Steakhouse

I went with my eternal favorite at The Top, the French onion soup. I’ve been known to stop in for this soup alone. Imagine a slightly boozy, beefy broth, chock full of sweet caramelized onions and croutons, and topped with melted cheese. Theirs is easily the best version of this dish I’ve had.

French Onion Soup from The Top Steakhouse

For the salad course, Paul went with the House salad, which tops salad greens with all manners of veggies, blue cheese, and an Italian dressing. Simple, but delicious.

House Salad from The Top Steakhouse

My Caesar salad could easily be an entree unto itself. Mounded high on a dinner plate (yes, that is not a salad plate!), the crisp romaine lettuce is tossed in a mayonnaise-based creamy Caesar dressing, croutons, and Parmesan cheese. With the addition of a little salt and pepper, it was very satisfying. So satisfying that I got full about halfway through eating it. I realized then I should have passed on seconds on those rolls. ;)

Caesar Salad from The Top Steakhouse

We both went with the Surf & Turf for our entree – in both cases, the lobster was slightly overdone and the steak was very underdone (I like mine still mooing, essentially, and it was less done than that). Paul sent his back to the kitchen to be refired, which they did without question, and it came back out perfectly the second time around. Since I was taking my steak and potato home to eat later, I chose to have mine boxed as is, so that when I reheated it later, it would be done to medium rare.

Surf 'n Turf at The Top Steakhouse

Not part of Restaurant Week, but my husband absolutely had to have the Potatoes au gratin side – he’s had this before at Taste of the Independents and loved it.

Potatoes au Gratin from The Top Steakhouse

For his dessert, he chose the Funnel Cake with ice cream and fresh strawberries. Fair food kicked up a notch, this was like an ice cream sundae on steroids.

Funnel Cake from The Top Steakhouse

I went with a classic creme brulee, and found it amusing that Emily had remembered what I said last time around about the sugar not cracking properly if you do it in advance of dinner service. This time around, it was absolutely perfect.

Creme Brulee from The Top Steakhouse

I’ll never, ever turn down a meal at The Top – and to dine there with a discount? Bonus!

If you’d like to go: The Top Steakhouse, 2891 E. Main Street, Columbus (just east of Bexley), 614-231-8238

Top Steakhouse on Urbanspoon

Restaurant Week Fall 2009: Katzinger’s

I love the way in which Katzinger’s embraces Restaurant Week. We were thrilled to death with the 3 sandwich sampler they had during the spring edition, so it goes without saying that we were going to try out their offerings this time around. Since our focus this week was on keeping it on the cheap, Katzinger’s deal that feeds 2 people for $20.09 seemed like one we couldn’t miss.

Katzinger's Restaurant Week Menu

Unfortunately, just like spring, we didn’t have much luck with the free pickles – this is usually my favorite part of eating at Katzinger’s, but this time around, the dills were way beyond salty, and the garlic pickles were barely pickled at all.

Pickles from Katzinger's

The deal this time around was 2 Sandwiches + 2 Salads + 2 Desserts from the choices on the menu for $20.09 (or $10.04 for one of each).

For what it’s worth, my sandwich was very good. Nice big pieces of turkey paired well with sweet caramelized onions, the tang of blue cheese, crisp slices of Granny Smith apples, all tied together with a balsamic dressing and then grilled. My salad, however good, was quite a bit underdressed, so Paul ended up eating since I have trouble eating salads that are on the dry side.

Oven Roasted Turkey Sandwich and Mesclun Mix from Katzinger's

I absolutely loved my dessert, a dense, almost ganache-like flourless chocolate bar with toasted pine nuts and fleur de sel sea salt. I love the combination of sweet and salty, and this was one of most successful executions of this that I’ve encountered.

Flourless Chocolate Bar with Toasted Pine Nuts and Fleur de Sel Sea Salt from Katzinger's

Paul chose the Pulled Pork Sandwich with caramelized onions and white Vermont cheddar on an onion roll. This was a great sandwich, and the roll added texture that it definitely needed. Paul also opted for the mesclun mix, and his was dressed adequately. His dessert was a pumpkin pie bar with caramel pecan topping, which tasted just like Thanksgiving.

Pulled Pork Sandwich, Mesclun Mix and Pumpkin Pie Bar from Katzinger's.

Before we left, we got the one sandwich that we hadn’t tried a la carte. The Roasted Eggplant sandwich, which pairs roasted eggplant slices with fresh mozzarella and house made tomato jam which is then grilled on fire bread. Quite savory and spicier than expected, this is the perfect choice for vegetarians, because it doesn’t compromise flavor for a second.

Roasted Eggplant/Fresh Mozzarella Sandwich from Katzinger's

We weren’t disappointed with our choices at Katzinger’s – it’s somewhere we don’t eat at nearly enough. I’m hoping we’ll return soon – with all the celebrations for their 25th anniversary coming up in October, hopefully it will be sooner rather than later.

If you’d like to go: Katzinger’s Delicatessen, 475 S. Third Street, Columbus, OH 43215, 614-228-DELI

Katzinger's Delicatessen on Urbanspoon

Restaurant Week Fall 2009: Pistacia Vera

We had just enough room (and time) after our visit to Banana Bean Cafe, that we decided to stop at Pistacia Vera in German Village to try out their Restaurant Week offerings. We’re absolutely in love with their space there, even though it’s been a year or two now that they’ve been in that location.

Outside of Pistacia Vera

I’ve always been impressed by the beauty and simplicity of the store. Everything looks so darn appetizing that I guess it’s a good thing that the Restaurant Week menu is a set one. :)

Display Case at Pistacia Vera

And what a menu it is – a sampling of almost all the great stuff on their menu for $20.09, designed to be a dessert and hot beverages for two (or one very hungry, very sugar tolerant person).

Restaurant Week Menu at Pistacia Vera

And here’s a picture of the selection. You get to choose what macarons and pate de fruit you want – since their menu will be changing for fall in a couple of weeks, we picked summer flavors like Strawberry Rose and Raspberry. For the pate, we chose Cherry Kirsch and Strawberry Lychee. Everything here is so decadent and rich, I had a hard time finishing my portion of the dessert.

Restaurant Week Selection at Pistacia Vera

So, if you’re on the way home from one of your other Restaurant Week visits, don’t hesitate to stop in, even if you’re not hungry at the moment. Because if you’re not in the mood to eat in their charming boutique? You can have the lovely ladies pack it in a package to take home with you instead. :)

If you’d like to go: Pistacia Vera, 541 S. Third Street, Columbus, OH 43215, 614-220-9070

Pistacia Vera on Urbanspoon

Restaurant Week Fall 2009: Banana Bean Cafe

We’ve been semi-regulars of Banana Bean Cafe since their fabulous showing during spring’s Restaurant Week, so we were more than a little surprised when by late Tuesday afternoon, there was no Restaurant Week menu up yet for Banana Bean. After a phone call where I was given bad information and a swift correction of that bad information via Twitter, I did find out that they are, in fact, offering a special for Restaurant Week, even though it’s not listed on the Dine Originals Columbus site – their deal this week is 2 Brunch Items + 1 Starter for $20.99 – considering the fact that the brunch items go for $9-$15 each (with the majority being $12 or $15), and the starters ranging from $5-$11, it’s one heck of a deal, especially if you’re getting 2 $15 brunch plates and an $11 starter ($41 value for $20.09).

Since our last visit, Banana Bean Cafe got a bit of a paint job – the exterior is now brightly painted, in colors reminiscent of South Florida.

Banana Bean Cafe Sign

And they’ve really fleshed out the back patio, it’s got loads of character now. Love the outdoor grill.

Banana Bean Cafe's Patio

And I love the tables they built, the decorations, and the paint job that matches that on the front of the building.

Another View of Banana Bean Cafe's Patio

As an aside, one thing I don’t love is the fact that the Ohio smoking ban doesn’t extend to the back patio of the place – when we started our meal, there was no one else out there, but by the time we left, there were 3 cigarettes and a cigar going at a table near ours, and we had to get out of there because the stench was really starting to get to us. I’m usually fairly tolerant of smoking, but not so much when there’s so much of it going on that it affects the taste of my food.

Banana Bean Cafe has great drink deals – they offer $2 margaritas all day long, and I always get one or two when I eat there. Although not the best margarita I’ve ever had, it’s pretty solid, and pretty strong.

Margarita from Banana Bean Cafe

And if you get there during happy hour (4-6PM), one of the perks is a free basket of freshly fried chips and a nice spicy salsa.

Chips and Salsa from Banana Bean Cafe

Even though it’s not part of the Restaurant Week menu, Paul opted to get a cup of their Cuban Black Bean soup ($3) a la carte – he enjoyed it so much during the last Restaurant Week, that he wanted it again today. This is a hearty, stick to your ribs, full of flavor soup, which if one had gotten as a bowl, would be a meal unto itself.

Cuban Black Bean Soup from Banana Bean Cafe

For our starter, even though there are tons of new appetizers on the menu, we got one of our old favorites – the YaYa’s Eggplant Fries (normally $7). You can’t really tell these are made out of eggplant, as they’re just savory and crunchy on the outside, while moist and non-descript on the inside. They normally come with a spicy but sweet chile dipping sauce, but we love tempering the heat of the chile sauce with a small cup of the creamy Ya-Ya sauce.

YaYa's Eggplant Fries from Banan Bean Cafe

For my brunch item, I went for one of the new menu items, the BB Ranchero (normally $12), which consists of two fried eggs, grilled tortillas, house potatoes, black beans, sweet fried plantains, avocado mash, Mexican crema, and red hacienda sauce. While the serving size was substantial (but mostly potatoes, unfortunately), and the flavor fairly solid, this one didn’t quite resonate with me – I’m not sure if it’s that it seemed to be missing something (meat? heat? not sure), or because the potatoes seemed to overwhelm the dish and drown out the other flavors, or if because the tough tortillas made eating it unwieldy, but I probably wouldn’t order it again.

BB Ranchero from Banana Bean Cafe

Paul’s choice, the Lobster Hash (normally $15), another new brunch item, absolutely was the bomb-diggity. An almost insurmountable mountain of griddled lobster, red bliss potatoes, two poached eggs, and a green chile hollandaise, this dish was flavorful, spicy, and downright decadent. We did notice, after the fact, that it was completely missing the simple salad it was also supposed to come with. Not that he would have had room for it in his belly, mind you. As it was, he had to take a good portion of the hash home with him.

Lobster Hash from Banana Bean Cafe

There are tons of new dishes on the new menu, which has only been in effect for a few weeks. With the spectacular bargain that Restaurant Week offers, run, don’t walk, to give one of the 7 new (in addition to the 8 existing) brunch items a try at a great discount. We’ll probably be going back ourselves before the week is up – I have my eyes on the North Shore Seafood Omelette (an open faced griddled omelette with scallops, gulf shrimp, and blistered vegetables sauteed in a garlic butter tomato sauce), while Paul is all geared up to try the Grandaddie’s Chicken and Waffles (buttermilk fried boneless chicken breast with an almond scented Belgian waffle and apricot honey syrup).

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

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