When you’re planning on a day of visiting live music ensues — and perhaps sampling an adult beverage or two along the way — it’s important to establish a good base. This morning we wandered over to Hobnobbers, a place UJ discovered on-line, wound our way past the pool table and the front room bar, and found ourselves in the back room where the locals hang out and you order from daily specials at a window. I went in for the shrimp and cheesy grits and was rewarded with a plastic plate groaning with probably three dozen succulent shrimp, cheesy, perfectly cooked grits, and white toast with grape jelly. A bottle of water, too, to prepare for a day of 90-degree temperatures and humidity.
It was a lot of food, but now I’m ready.
We’re in New Orleans for a family gathering, and last night we hit the Acme Oyster House — a Big Easy institution. Astonishingly, our group of seven was seated immediately, and we promptly ordered some pitchers of Abita beer, two dozen raw oysters, and the house specialty: char-grilled oysters.
It’s not easy to describe how good the char-grilled oysters were, and how spectacularly they kick-started our weekend. They’re topped with Parmesan cheese and are melts and crusty, all at the same time. They were so good we ate four dozen of them, and probably could have polished off 100 more.
For dinner, Richard and I split the seafood platter, which was a mound of crunchy fish, crab, shrimp, French fries, and hush puppies. It was the perfect food to consume before heading out for a little live music crawl. Thus fortified, and with the lip-smacking goodness of the char-grilled oysters still freshly in mind, our hardy band ventured forth into the New Orleans night.
On Friday the HJ lunch group hoofed it down to the far southern reaches of downtown Columbus, past the Columbus Commons, past the High Street construction sites, and past the Great Southern Hotel, searching for another stop on the continuing random restaurant tour of the downtown area of Ohio’s capital city.
Our destination was Dempsey’s Food and Spirits. Located at the corner of High and Mound Streets, catty-corner to the old Franklin County courthouse complex, Dempsey’s is housed in one of the oldest surviving buildings in downtown Columbus. It’s been operating for about six years, but of course none of us had tried it. More’s the pity! Once you get past all of the Notre Dame paraphernalia — it is an Irish pub, after all — Dempsey’s is a fine lunch option, and looks like it would be a good place to stop for a cold one after work, too.
I asked our waiter Molly (another crucial indicator of a legit Irish pub setting) whether Dempsey’s had a specialty, and she recommended the meat loaf melt sandwich. She strongly encouraged getting it with pickles, but being gherkin-adverse I opted for the pickle-free version. The Bus-Riding Conservative, being pickle-friendly, went all in for the sandwich in its original format. We agreed that, with or without pickles, the meat loaf melt is spectacular — melty and gooey, with excellent and subtly flavored beef and sausage meat loaf, served on crunchy, buttery Texas toast that will leave you licking your fingers and hoping for more. I noticed that the BRC was being unusually quiet during our lunch and glanced over to see that he was hoovering down the sandwich, pickles and all, with remorseless efficiency and had cleaned his plate while I was only about halfway done. JV reported that his Big R reuben was quite good. The Unkempt Guy. however, sniffed that his fried bologna sandwich was only of average quality, apparently lacking the Flintstone-like dimensions that he’s used to up in Delaware County. Since I don’t like bologna, this did not trouble me.
We’ll be adding Dempsey’s, and the succulent meat loaf melt, to our lunch hour rotation. And the hike down south and back will just help to burn off a few of the carbs we’ll be consuming on our next visit.
But when I’m by myself in a restaurant, please . . . just leave me alone to read my book and eat my dinner in peace.
Sure, it might just be the milk of human kindness– or it might be a desire for a tip. But every time I eat alone these days, the wait staff annoyingly gloms on to me, asking what I’m reading and making irritating chitchat when I ‘m just trying to read and eat my dinner. It makes the dinner intensely irksome. I don’t want to hear what waiter X has to say — I just want to read my book.
Here’s a tip for the wait staff. Sometimes, at least, the solitary diner with a book isn’t lonely and craving your company. They just want to read. Leave us alone, already!
Yesterday the Unkempt Guy, the Bus-Riding Conservative and I ventured a few blocks north and east of the firm. We were heading into what is now called the Warehouse District. As the name suggests, it’s an area of old brick storage buildings — some rehabbed and occupied, some not — and surface parking lots, tucked into the corner of downtown between the old fire station museum and CCAD. For a part of downtown, it’s definitely off the beaten path.
It’s the kind of area you would never see unless you had a specific reason to visit — and yesterday we did. Our destination was the Warehouse Cafe, a small breakfast and lunch place located on Fifth Street in the corner of one of the rehabbed warehouse buildings. Its space is very cool, with the charm of old wooden warehouse floors and big windows. Be sure to check out the great, multi-story staircase just inside the front door that heads straight up into the guts of the building. To our amazement, the Warehouse Cafe has been quietly serving good food there for 15 years.
You order at the counter from the offerings on a pre-printed menu and a chalkboard, pay up front, and then have a seat until someone on the friendly wait staff brings your order to your table. I had the Warehouse burger and some piping hot crinkle-cut fries, the UG polished off a reuben, and the BRC enjoyed an Albanian panini. We all liked our very reasonably priced food and also appreciated the vibe of the Warehouse District, which seems to be home to lots of small firms and start-up businesses with compelling names.
Don’t be surprised if the Warehouse District becomes the next big focus of downtown Columbus development, but be sure to check out the Warehouse Cafe when you are scoping out the real estate.