Figlio Wood Fired Pizza–you won’t regret it!

Ready to eat!

Any time you move to a new city it is important to carve out some go-to restaurants. Well during my last semester here at Fisher in the SMF program, I discovered a new personal favorite—Figlio Wood Fired Pizza. This place is good enough that it earned a spot on the blog.

While the name makes it sound like a pizza joint, it is far more than that. In fact, I still haven’t even tried the pizza. What keeps drawing me back is the phenomenal pasta selection. Here is the menu (caution! It will make you hungry).

Another perk of this place is the price of entrees relative to the atmosphere. You will be hard pressed to find any selections of $15+ dollars, which is great for poor students. Better yet, the quaint but hip feel makes for a perfect location to impress a date or just hang with friends.

While I have only been to the Grandview location, I am sure the sister restaurants offer the same level of service. You can find a Figlios near you here. Buon appetito!


Eating Italiano in Columbus

For those that actually read my random musings here on this board, I wrote about some local restaurants in the Columbus area that had more American style specialties.   This time, I would like to cover some great places for Italian food within a 5 minute drive of OSU’s campus.

Carsonie’s Stromboli and Pizzeria Kitchen, 1725 W. Lane Ave

Carsonie’s is a niche pizzeria style restaurant.   They have a good product and they know it, therefore the casual yet intimate, small dining room and bar is perfect for the mood they try and represent.   They feature a fair amount of traditional Italian dishes, as well as salads, seafood and soups.   But, the reason you go to Carsonie’s is for the pizza and Stromboli.  I decided to try the traditional Stromboli while my friend created his own spicy pepper pizza.   The Stromboli was excellent, well worth the wait (which was about 20 minutes after ordering) due to the perfection on how it is baked.   Comes with dipping sauce and just enough of a portion to satisfy someone with a decent appetite for dinner.  My friend reported the pizza was tasty as well.   Prices are fair, I think with a beer and Stromboli look to drop around $15.  Good stuff.

Pizza or Stromboli? Or you could go twice and try both.

Z Cucina, 1368 Grandview Ave

I walked in the Z Cucina with a couple of my friends and immediately felt under dressed.   This is most definitely an upper-end Italian restaurant perfect to take your significant other for a special occasion.   The menu is completely seasonal so don’t expect it to be a redundant compliment similar to that of Olive Garden.  Like most gourmet Italian restaurants, the menu had 15-20 entree selections, again seasonal, and in our case the menu was geared towards “Fall” flavors (squash, pumpkin, ginger, etc).   I went with the Classic Lasagna and I must report it was average.  Perhaps it was the fact that the center of the large portion was a bit cold, but flavor wise, the use of homemade sauce and hand made Italian sausage surely saved the day after the cooler interior of my meal.   The price on a glass of wine and the meal will run you easily near the $25-30 mark for one, I think on most good nights this place has great food and is worth a shot for a special occasion or to simply celebrate round 1 of SMF finals done.

Looks fancy? Darn right it is! Great for special occasions!

“Chef” Restaurants in Columbus

In my attempt to adapt to the rapid moving life style of a Fisher SMF graduate student, I have personally failed already in my attempt to save more money.  How does one save money?  Cooking at home for most is the best start.   The average meal I have cooked at home thus far costs me roughly $3.50.   Eating out?  Roughly $12 (after tip) and can grow exponentially if you find yourself ordering alcohol.  If any good has come from my failed attempt to cook is that I have discovered two very good home-style restaurants that offer great options for breakfast, lunch and dinner.

Chef-O-Nette (2090 Tremont Center, Upper Arlington)

Styled from an era before this millennium, don't be fooled by the offerings of its menu.

Chef-O-Nette’s interior is similar to what one would expect a diner to look like from the 1950s.  I went for lunch with a few friends and discovered a must have item. Their milkshakes. Diners are traditionally known for greasy food and milkshakes, and Chef-O-Nette answers to the call.  Priced a bit steep in my opinion ($3.50 for approx 16oz), the taste makes up for any raised eyebrows on the cost.  I chose the vanilla which was far superior to any shake at Shake-N-Shake or Johnny Rockets.  I politely asked for a free refill but the waitress laughed and looked as if I was psychotic.   The lunch menu offerings are mostly a la cart, but fairly priced in my judgement. I chose a chesseburger and it was excellent.  Its a 1/3 lb patty cooked medium well by default and comes with all the trimmings for only $3.50. Adding fries will cost an additional $2.00 only.   The restaurant however has their “claim to fame” item, which is the “Hangover Sandwich”. Perfect for those late Saturday and Sunday mornings, the Hangover comes with a hamburger patty shacked with shaved ham as well.   In all, Chef-O-Nette is perfect for a breakfast or lunch, with a nostalgic diner feeling paired with excellent customer service.   It is no wonder Google Reviews gave it a 27/30.

Chef’s House (5454 Roberts Road, Hillard)

The second “Chef” restaurant is another diner style restaurant just west of Columbus in Hillard.   Like our first choice, the menu is full of traditional diner items, with a classical, yet simplistic decor inside.  Rumor from the streets was Chef’s House has a major specialty on the menu that sets a favored breakfast item apart from anyone else.   Established in 1989, Chef House’s hash-n-eggs is a cardiac pumping treat.

Chef's House: Tasty Hash and Eggs to get the heart pumping

While most restaurants that offer hash and eggs usually serve some version out of a can, traditionally with tiny diced potatoes and grounded up corned beef (or even ground beef), Chef House’s hash is from scratch.   The actual corned beef part of this meal is ripped pieces of corned beef, pan cooked to perfection with sliced onions and peppers.   The potatoes are sliced pieces that are added as an optional side.   Eggs come with the meal and the portion is generous for about $8.99.   While I wouldn’t recommend eating this daily per the FDA, this is most definitely a treat and worth the drive down interstate 70.   The menu offers traditional mom and pop diner food such as sandwiches, soups and burgers. It would be serving the eggs and hash a great disservice to fail to even consider this meal when ordering.   Urban Spoon rated Chef’s House 8/10, but the hash is a perfect 10 in my book.

In all, the quest to find “Chef’s” in the Columbus area proved to be fruitful for those times I choose to not be one myself.


Eating in the suburbs…

I am a big, HUGE proponent of furthering Columbus’ reputation as a foodie town.  So when I saw this article in the Washington Post about Columbus and our burgeoning (and I can’t think of a better word for it) AGGRESSIVE food scene, I was very impressed and proud of our big town/ little city.

And while I must thank the author of this article, Jane Black, for playing her part in expanding our reputation, I invite her to leave the epicenter of the city’s food scene (Arena District, Short North, German Village) and venture out into the suburbs for a bite to eat.

People are raving about the Clever Crow and its two locations downtown, the newest one in North Market.  And as much as I hate to go to Polaris and recommend people to go to Polaris, it has its benefits.

One being the Mellow Mushroom.  They have an astronomical number of beers on tap and have fantastic pizza combinations, most of which can be made vegetarian or vegan.  Try the pesto pizza with tofu.  Yum.

Polaris also has Cuisine of India, a well-priced restaurant that has a fantastic korma and a reasonably priced buffet that serves a la carte quality portions of their standard menu.

Speaking of Indian food, I have to recommend Indian Oven in the Market Exchange District, an emerging neighborhood that most would recognize as Olde Town East.  It’s on Main Street and within walking district of my townhouse.  They have an excellent wine selection, amazing dishes that cross the borders of Northern and Southern Indian cuisine and a to die for goat rezala.  Yeah, I said goat.  If you love lamb, goat is like lamb on steroids.  I go every year for my birthday and the Indian Oven neophytes that I expose the restaurant to love it and rave about it and pass the word on.  Please give it a try.

Moving further east into Asia, we have Restaurant Silla up in the Northwest Shopping Center off Henderson Road.  Go during the weekends at lunch time and enjoy their unbeatable lunch specials that include 7 or 8 classic Korean dishes at 5.99 and even decent sushi.  I prefer the soondooboo, a spicy tofu stew with seafood and the beef boolgogi, a slightly sweet, smoky and tender beef barbecue.

Korean food has yet to garner the following that Japanese food has as upscale Asian cuisine, but most Korean restaurants attempt to use the same price point.  For this reason, I stick to this special menu and avoid places like Min-Ga on Bethel that charge insane prices for just decent Korean fare.

Speaking of other overpriced Asian restaurants, some of you may experience Lee Garden at the Chinese New Year Celebration that will be thrown on 2/4/11.  Lee Garden, while fine, demonstrates an inability to properly price their dishes proportionately to their quality.  Opt instead for Sunflower at the corner of Sawmill and Hard Road and indulge in their weekend dim sum, which is served in the traditional Hong Kong style: in carts that circulate the restaurant.  It’s nearly as good as the dim sum I’ve had in DC.  Try the turnip cake and the savory roast beef buns and the egg tarts for dessert.  You won’t be sorry.

I’m thinking this will be a two-part at least blog, so I leave you with one more recommendation for now.  Try Coco’s Grill on 5th Avenue, off of Olentangy River Road.  It’s in the same plaza that has Jimmy John’s and the liquor store, next to Burger King, across from the Meridian apartments.  Sounds like it should be soul food, right?  Well, it’s not.

The family is Chinese and Korean and serve up extremely authentic and delicious dishes.  Try the salt and pepper pork and beef flat noodles.  Also try asking for the Chinese menu.  (Yes, a lot of restaurants will have a separate menu for their Asian clients that do not include dishes with crinkle cut carrots, celery or water chestnuts in brown sauce.)  There are some tasty treasures in there if you are willing to take the leap.

To be continued!

Gourmet Food on the Cheap

In another attempt to bring you ideas on how to save money, this one may not be considered as strong as my last post. I mean, we are still talking about gourmet food here — you’re going to drop at least $15 a person. But these plates will take you to some of the best restaurants in Columbus at heavily discounted prices. It was even featured on NPR WOSU, so you know it’s cool. And if you make your reservations fast, you’ll get to partake! They call it Restaurant Week and it begins today, Monday January 17th through the 22nd. Prices range $15-$35 a plate for a fixed multi-course menu. What’s more? Restaurant Week benefits the Mid-Ohio Foodbank. I’m going to try the Melting Pot with my boyfriend, just $30. Or you can check out Hyde Park or Cameron’s for the same price, and Mitchell’s Steakhouse or the Refectory for just $5 more.

To peruse other participating restaurants and their menus, as well as phone numbers to make reservations, go to:

Grocery, study space, and restaurant recommendations

Let me give you some tips on how to get the most out of living in the dormitory on campus in terms of where to go to buy groceries and to study.

Grocery Stores : If you’re living on or very near campus, I highly recommend you to go to Kroger for your groceries unless you always eat out. Actually, as far as I know, there are 3 Krogers around the campus, one in South campus area (near High/King), another in the North (near High/N Broadway), and the other near University Village (near Ackerman/Olentangy River Rd). If you live in a campus dormitory or very near campus, they are located conveniently near campus.  As I am living in the Neil dormitory in south campus I go to the Kroger at North High St and 7th Ave. Just make sure to get a Kroger “frequent buyer” card, and then you can take advantage of various discounts, which change every week. I am pretty sure that they have quite low prices for fresh grocery products. Another place I want to tell you is the Target on the Olentangy River Road in Lenox Town Center. It may seem to be a little far to go, but if you you like to walk or if you have a bike, it’s a reasonable distance and not bad at all. Target focuses more on non-food products such as clothing, electronics, and a wide range of household products, but they have some non-perishable food such as juices, cereals, and bread. Near Target, there is an office supply retailer called Staples – additionally, there is a Famous Footwear (shoes), and Barnes and Noble (books, stationery) so that you can actually get in a fair amount of shopping in a single trip.

Study Room : I am a big fan of the school’s main library, Thompson Library, because it is large/spacious and has many places to read and study in it. Wireless internet accessible with power outlets everywhere! In addition to the main library, there are several other libraries on campus. If you research on the school web site, it is not hard to find information on the other libraries. There is one in the architecture college, one in the science engineering building, one in the Younkin Success Center, one in the medical school, one in the law school, and so on. They each have different operating hours/days, so please be aware of what library is available when you study. Do not believe that you only have the Thompson library to study in on campus.

Restaurant : Well, even though you can get food in the school dining facilities, unless you have a “short mouth” – in Korea, ‘having a short mouth’ is used when you do not have a balanced diet and eat only what you want to eat – take a trip to North High Street! There you can see Korean food, Chinese food, Mexican food, American food (for sure), and many kinds of food I have not even tasted or identified. Just a big gourmet! 🙂

Overall, if you stay on/near campus, do not hesitate to explore and find what is near you!

Betty is that Surly Girl …

… in the Jury Room, but that Dirty Frank’s attitude is Tip Top.

If you’ve been in Columbus or watched a food show about Columbus or even watched a food show that wasn’t in Columbus (Adam Richman is often seen sporting a Dirty Frank’s tee on his program Man VS Food), you should know at least one of these names.  If not, get to one.  Now.

This family of restaurants is spearheaded and cooked up by local food entrepreneur, Elizabeth Lessner.  In an interview she did with the Columbus Underground site, Elizabeth talks about how she was not impressed by the food scene in Columbus when she moved here in the 90’s.  So she opened a few restaurants, the first being the Short North institution, Betty’s Fine Food and Spirits.

Betty’s was one of the very first restaurants that I went to after moving to Columbus myself.  Known for their long hours and locally-styled comfort food, Betty’s is a great place to start or end your night and is great as a pit stop along the way too, especially popular during the Short North Gallery Hops.  From there, Elizabeth moved on to her next concept, Surly Girl Saloon.

Located on the northern end of Short North, Surly Girl Saloon’s style was best described to me as a Southwest Punk Cowgirl’s bedroom but with drinks and great food.  The ambiance is low-lit, the jukebox is full of your favorite punk artists like the Clash and the food is saucy and fiery, just like a Southwest Punk Cowgirl is.  Surly Girl is well-known for its adventurous cocktails (a trademark of every Lessner restaurant) such as the Surly Temple (red pop and vodka), and its off the wall combination of flavors such as Red Hots cupcakes or my favorite, the Frito Pie (chili meat spooned over Fritos and the usual chili accouterments.)  But that wasn’t enough.  And so we move on to Tip Top.

Here, Elizabeth lends her touch to downtown Columbus.  Downtown, downtown.  Not Short North, not Victorian Village, but downtown.  My neck of the concrete jungle where places aren’t open during the weekends because offices are closed.  But Elizabeth changed that.  Elizabeth gave us Tip Top Kitchen, a concept that delivers upscale dishes without upscale prices and where a vegetarian can die happy from stuffing themselves full of veggie muffuletta sandwiches with a side of eggplant fries.  (Carnivores are also welcome and leave just as happy.)  Still hungry?  Let’s grab a snack.

Dirty Frank’s it is!  Another downtown location that makes an urbanite like me very, very happy.  At Dirty Frank’s you can be a vegetarian and still eat like us omnivores by indulging in a vegan dog that is quite tasty.  Those that are carb conscious can also switch out the bun for a large leaf of romaine lettuce.  (It’s way way better than it sounds, promise.)  Dirty Frank’s offers a wide array of flavor combinations and if you add them on Facebook, they post a new flavor combo nearly every day that they are going to try out.

Ever thirsty for more, Elizabeth’s latest project has been to take over ownership and operations of the Jury Room, a Columbus staple for the last 150 years and more, known for its greasy pub food and great drinks.

Whenever you’re near one of these, I highly recommend you stop in and chow down.  I promise you won’t regret it.

New To The Area

Why it’s important to do your homework before moving to another city, and why Columbus won’t disappoint.

The Peach Pit from 90210. No, we did not have one in my hometown

At least I was, 10 years ago when I came to Columbus for my undergraduate degree at THE Ohio State University.  But when do you actually start saying you’re from a city, not just living there, not just going to school there?  Is it when you can tell someone new to the city where the best pizza or sushi in the city is?  Or is it when you found your own little secret place that even someone who has lived their entire life here has never heard of?  These were the kinds of things I needed to know, wanted to know before I moved out here.

I had my reservations about coming to Columbus.  I was a little bit of a snob, (hey, my high school was the basis for 90210.  Can you blame me?) a burgeoning foodie, and a shopaholic.  Growing up in DC/MD, I had access to all the best shops, concerts, cultural centers and an ethnically diverse population that demanded not only an incredible variety of restaurants but that these restaurants be top of the line.  Moving to the Midwest was not as glamorous as moving to NYC or Malibu like a lot of my friends were.  But I wanted an adventure and I wanted my wanderlust to take me somewhere I had to work without a safety net like classmates or family.

Before I took the plunge and said yes to OSU, I did my research.  I wanted to know all about the shops, concert venues, restaurants, the gay scene, campus life, public transportation, etc.  I wanted to have jump off points as places for me to start exploring this city and make it my own.  I was not disappointed.

That’s the great thing about Columbus.  We have such a diverse population that if you’re a hipster or a punk or a prep or an alt or a gay or a jock or a college kid or a foodie or an art snob or anything else under the sun, you can not only find a niche here, you can carve out a whole new scene and watch it flourish.

Did you notice I said we?  Yeah, it slips sometimes.  Now and then I say, “Oh yeah, I’m from Columbus,” instead of saying “I live in Columbus” or “I go to school in Columbus.”  I have definitely made this city my home for the past ten years and at least the next two years as I return to OSU to pursue my MLHR degree.

Over the year I’ll be taking you to places around the city that are definitively Columbus and to some places you may not have even heard of, so you can make this city your home and whatever else you want it to be.