The Random Restaurant Tour (VII)

Yesterday the Wrestling Fan and I decided to stroll a few blocks down Gay Street to the newest restaurant in the ‘hood.  It’s called Pat and Gracie’s and it’s located in the spot formerly occupied by Lomonico’s, at the intersection of Gay and Grant.

I liked Lomonico’s, but Pat and Gracie’s brings a totally different vibe to the spot.  It’s got a wrap-around bar and many more tables than Lomonico’s did.  I’ve been to the place twice, and each time it’s been far more crowded that Lomonico’s ever was.  Crowds can have their downside — like having to wait for a table, which isn’t ideal when you’re just out for lunch — but they also bring a definite sense of bustling energy.  Pat and Gracie’s has that feel.  Yesterday we didn’t have trouble getting a table, because the Wrestling Fan wanted to go early to “beat the rush.”  (Given his advancing age, he’s obviously wise, but I’m guessing he’s also an “early bird special” guy come dinner time, too.)

I got the spicy chicken sandwich, pictured above, and the Wrestling Fan got a salad with chicken that was served in an enormous metal mixing bowl.  I can’t speak for the salad, which the WF polished off with relish — in fact, I tried not to even look at it given the presence of so many vegetables in one place — but the spicy chicken sandwich definitely hit the spot.  The chicken is marinated in buttermilk and fried, topped with ground jalapeno sauce and cheddar cheese (I had them hold the tomato that typically is part of the ensemble), and served on a toasted bun.  The sandwich is moist and crunchy at the same time and has a great kick to it.  My only suggestion to the proprietors would be to cut back somewhat on the fries served with the sandwich, or they’re going to have to start widening the chairs for the regulars.

 

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Infrastructure Insecurity

Every morning on my way to work I cross over the combined roar of the I-70/I-71 traffic on the Third Street bridge.  I use the same bridge to get home at night.  The bridge is a key part of my commute because it is one of the few avenues for pedestrian traffic from German Village and the south side into downtown Columbus.

img_5527.jpgOn Monday, I noticed that part of the bridge was blocked off by yellow construction tape and some skinny orange cones.  When I went over to investigate this development, I saw that chunks of the bridge appeared to have fallen off.  A glance suggested that, with one ill-timed stumble, a luckless walker could go pitching through the gap and tumbling down the hillside to the traffic stream below.

Yikes!

Since that close examination, I’ve given the orange cone area the widest berth the sidewalk will allow.  And, because you can’t help but think on a walk, I find myself wondering about what the problem with one part of the bridge means for the structural integrity of the bridge as a whole.  What if the bridge started to crumble just as I am walking across?

Double Yikes!

That thought has helped me to pick up the pace on my morning walks.  But I’ll be very relieved when this personal, visible, and unsettling reminder of our national infrastructure problem gets fixed.

The Family Weather Differential

It’s cold in Columbus this morning.  It’s not really cold by absolute standards — at 32 degrees, it’s just at freezing, and a mere chilly precursor of the truly icy days that inevitably are coming this winter — but it’s an arctic blast by relative measurements, since only a few days ago the temperature was pleasantly in the 60s.

ios_weather_icons_1xWhen I checked my weather app to see exactly what the temperature was, I noticed that it’s a heck of a lot warmer in San Antonio, where Richard and Julianne and their dog Pretty make their home.  Down there in south central Texas it’s a fine 66 degrees right now, and I can imagine walking out into the San Antonio surroundings, clad in t-shirt and shorts, and thinking that 66 degrees is a nice cool start to the day — good for a stroll on the Riverwalk or, in Richard’s case, a jog.  Up in Detroit, Russell’s waking up to 36 degrees and a forecast of snow flurries.  And if you add in siblings and uncles and aunts, we’ve got Heidi out in Huntington Beach, California where it’s 54 degrees and the forecast is for partly cloudy skies and a high of 67, and Aunt Corinne and Uncle Mack down in Savannah, Georgia, where its 50 degrees and the week ahead on the weather app features temperatures around 70 and lots of those bright, unclouded sun icons that you always like to see.

So, right now, Columbus is the coldest place in the family, a solid 34 degrees more frigid than San Antonio.  That’s why the weather app offers both the bitter and the sweet.  It’s not great to be here at the coldest location, but one advantage of having a trusty weather app and a a family that is spread out from coast to coast and from north to south is we can live vicariously through whoever is getting the best weather right now.  Later today, I think I’ll take an imaginary walk on Huntington Beach.

Fall Come, Fall Gone

I was treated to this beautiful autumn scene of fallen, and falling, leaves on my way to work this morning. Unfortunately, it was about 26 freaking degrees and a bone-chilling arctic gale was blowing, too.

This illustrates the hard reality of our modern “seasons.” There is no fall anymore, not the kind that we remember — when the sky was clear and bright and dry, the temperatures were in the 50s, leaves crunched underfoot, and sweaters were the apparel of choice. There’s no spring, either. Just hot summer and cold winter, with about a week separating them on each end.

Too bad . . . I liked autumn.

“Off Year”

This year it’s what they call an “off year” election in Ohio. That means we’re not voting for President, or Governor, or Senator, or Members of Congress, or any statewide offices.

I hate that phrase, because it suggests that certain elections are more important than others. I don’t think that’s the case. This year, for example, Columbus residents voted for City Council, the school board, other city offices, and some state court judges. If you believe, as I do, that politics is local, those are some pretty important positions, and I’m glad I had the chance to vote for my choices. And the “off year” elections often are the ones where supporters of this or that try to sneak ballot initiatives past listless voters. That’s not going to happen on my watch!

Some people say “off year” elections are too expensive, but I disagree with that, too. Expecting citizens to go to the polls at least once a year in November to exercise the most important right of all isn’t asking much, and it’s worth a few bucks. If people can’t get off their butts and vote, shame on them.

The Random Restaurant Tour (VI)

Dr. Science knows all of the best food places in Columbus.  On Monday, his innate ability to identify strong options at every point on the taste bud spectrum led us to Cravings Cafe, which just recently moved downtown.

Cravings Cafe is located on Front Street between Gay and Long Streets, in a space that used to be occupied by the legendary Saigon Palace.  The physical space has been renovated inside and out, and now features an airy, exposed brick ambiance that it looks nothing like the old SP — which is a good thing in my book — and the food is nothing like that served by the former occupant of the space, either.  Cravings offers breakfast and lunch menus, with the lunch options being heavily weighted toward sandwiches.  There are daily specials, too, which suggests to me that the people running the place are both creative and serious about their craft.

In fact, Dr. Science and I both had the special on Monday, which was a grilled cheese sandwich.  This wasn’t the kind of grilled cheese that Mom used to make with Wonder bread and Kraft American cheese squares, though.  The Cravings version had at least four different kinds of cheese and a delectable bacon jam, and was served on hot, crunchy bread.  Dr. Science dipped his in hot sauce, while I speedily polished mine off au naturel.  Either way, it was excellent, and Cravings’ other, everyday menu sandwiches look pretty good, too.

Cravings Cafe is only a few blocks from my office, in an area of downtown that hasn’t really been known for food.  I’ll gladly welcome a top-notch sandwich place to the ‘hood anytime.

Looking For The Sign

They’re rehabbing the Dispatch building in downtown Columbus.  The building is fenced off, the windows have been removed, mobile platforms are moving around the structure, and you hear the familiar booms and bangs as workers pull out debris from the interior of the building and hurl it into dumpsters on the ground below.  From the amount of work being done, it looks like the building is being effectively gutted.

Located in the center of the city, just across Third Street from the Ohio Statehouse, and recently added the Columbus Register of Historic Properties, the Dispatch building is an unremarkable five-story structure — except for the sign on the roof.  The sign is a huge, elaborate metal and neon structure, half again as tall as the building itself, that has towered above the downtown core and beamed the name of the Dispatch and its claim to be Ohio’s greatest home newspaper for as long as I’ve lived in Columbus.  The sign is a true Columbus institution and a throwback to earlier days in a city that has really reinvented itself in recent decades.

Of course, things change.  The Dispatch editors and reporters have been moved to a new building about a block away, and the old Dispatch building is going to be made available to new tenants once the rehab work is done.  The city’s Downtown Commission has approved the rehab work, but the filings and applications don’t address what’s going to happen to the sign.  The Downtown Commission application cryptically notes, with respect to the sign, that “resolution as to what will happen to it has not occurred” — which makes it sound like the sign’s future is iffy.

I hope the sign survives.  Downtown Columbus just wouldn’t be the same without it.