Restaurant Week Columbus 2012: Spagio

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.

I’m still working on the post updating you all on my health issues (takes forever to type with fingers that have been used as pin cushions), but i didn’t want another moment to go by without putting out the reminder that this week (March 7th to March 13th). I’ve had some unfortunate health setbacks that mean I’ll have to miss this round, but I heartily recommend trying out someplace new or an old favorite – there are deals out there for every price point. I may send Paul out to review a few places in my stead.

Dine Originals Columbus has been kind enough to offer once again a $30 Dine Originals gift certificate (not valid during Dine Originals Week) to a Columbus Foodie reader. To enter, either check out the menus and let me know which one appeals to you most, or write a comment about one of the menus that you’ve already had and what you thought of it. One entry per person, please.

The winner will be drawn on Monday morning, so make sure to find some way to include your email address into your entry so I can give your email address to Dine Originals who will send the certificate directly to you. Good luck!

The numbers generated by this widget come from RANDOM.ORG’s true random number generator.

Congrats to Jenny, winner of the gift certificates. :) Thanks to the rest of you for you well wishes and inspired choices. I loved reading your comments. Paul’s writeup on the three places he went to coming soon.

Lots of Exciting Things in Store for November!

First off, an apology for not posting lately. It’s not for lack of drafts. When Bloglines announced they were discontinuing service,  what should have been easy (importing my subscriptions), turned into a nightmare. Since I subscribe to over 7,000 feeds, the file was too big to be imported, and I’ve had to resubscribe to them by hand in Google Reader. So I got really distracted by work in the back end, but have let a bit of time elapse since my last point).

But that will have to wait until Monday, Because I’ve caught the travel bug, folks. 24 hours from now I’ll be in San Francisco, chowing down on street foods at a welcome reception for those of us who are attending the 2nd Annual Foodbuzz Festival. I bought the ticket on a whim, even though I don’t know any of the people attending on a personal level. I always love meeting new people, so if you see me there, please say hi.  don’t bite, I promise. So I’ll be blogging regularly while I’m in San Francisco, about the things and bites I’ll experience over the weekend. I’m trying to tuck a couple extra experiences into the limited free time I have – like going to Japantown for a bowl of ramen that uses real homemade noodles and a broth that has been concentrated for 36 hours. I can’t wait! Also in the plans is a trip to the Ferry Market and it’s farmers market. I’m still feeling a little overwhelmed by BART and the Muni, so hopefully one or the other will take me where I want to go. I’m planning on documenting my experiences as I go along.

As soon as I return, Monday is the beginning of Dine Originals Week – a great opportunity to get a good deal,  (all meals are prix fixe at $10, $20, or $30 with several courses)  visit a restaurant that you love, or take this opportunity to try a new one. I’ve gone and written about it a few times  a while back, and for the most part, had an amazing experience. Visit their website (linked above) for more information.

One of the Dine Originals board members was kind enough to donate $30 in Dine Original Dollars, good at any of their member restaurants) to one of my readers. All you need to enter is to look at the menus, and decide which restaurant has a menu that makes your mouth water the most, and comment about it below. The contest runs until the 15th at noon, and will randomly pick a winner.Although I’m not going to go whole hog like I did with my posts on last year’s Dine Originals. Most likely going for lunches, to places I’ve never been to/reviewed before.  But next week, my restaurant experiences will be front and center.

Over the Thanksgiving holiday I’ll be going back to my hometowns (Vineland/Millville, MJ) to attend my 20 year high school reunion. I cannot believe that time has flown so much.

But while I’m there, I’m also going to be spending time with friends I haven’t seen years, my father who I likewise haven’t seen in years, and isn’t that what makes going home for the holidays worth it? Sad that I’m going to miss out on eating Thanksgiving dinner, but super psyched about exploring the area.

I swear, though – I need to spread out a bit. Vineland is the land of chains, and those that are not chains are places that have lots of fried food, pasta, pizza, subs, cheesesteaks, seafood (which unfortunately get ruined when they’re battered and fries.

So, inevitably there will be a few local pics, but I’ll end up somewhere else. Like Philadelphia, where I can get a cheesesteak at Jim’s Steaks, a romp through the Reading Terminal Market, somewhere at/near the shore – will see. The good news about Millville in winter is that Jim’s Lunch is open so I can get my burger fix.

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

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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