Random Restaurant Tour (III)

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.

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Remodeling A Starbucks 

They’re remodeling a Starbucks near our house.  There’s a dumpster out front filled with a bunch of debris that’s been removed from the store, and a trailer that apparently houses tools and remodeling accoutrements, and the baristas and loyal Starbucks patrons are jockeying for position amidst the ongoing work and materials — because coffee consumption obviously can’t be sidetracked by mere remodeling efforts.

It got me to wondering, though:  how, exactly, do you “remodel” a Starbucks location?

I mean, really remodel.  Because every Starbucks I’ve ever been in — and for that matter, every coffee house I’ve ever been in — has pretty much the same kind of decor.  The layout might differ, but in terms of look and feel they’re incredibly generic, no matter whether you’re in New York City or Podunk Gap.  Along with the odor and sound of ground coffee, you can expect to find basic lighting, some overstuffed armchairs occupied by people checking their smartphones as they sip their cold brews, a few table and chair sets where somebody is tapping on a laptop while listening to music, and utterly forgettable wall art that typically consists of large black-and-white photographs of coffee beans or coffee bean bags or growing coffee plants or coffee warehouses.  Starbucks and coffee houses aren’t exactly triumphs of bold interior decorating.

So what are they going to do in this “remodeling”?  Move the comfortable chairs to different positions or change their colors?  Reconfigure the tables?  Replace the old bland coffee-themed art with new bland coffee-themed art?  I’m not sure that Starbucks patrons would welcome bright colors or radical furnishings or “accent pieces” that they might stumble into during that early morning, bleary-eyed run for the first cup of Joe.  But then again, they might not even notice the changes, because coffee house customers tend to be pretty self-absorbed when they’re retrieving their lattes.

 

Stonework At Schiller

They’re working on the stone pillars that bracket the various entrances to Schiller Park.  Every morning as I walk by the pillars are a bit more disassembled, and it’s interesting to see the methodical pace of the stonework as it progresses.

I like the pillars, so I’m hoping the work involves repair and replacement of the mortar gluing the stones together, rather than outright removal.  The pillars speak of age . . . and character.  And it’s good to see that the Columbus Parks and Recreation Department is paying attention to details like the condition of stone pillars.  Schiller Park is a jewel, and every jewel needs polishing now and then.

The Random Restaurant Tour (II)

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.

To Help Us All Remember

Today, the Ohio Statehouse lawn was graced with hundreds of tiny American flags arranged in neat rows.  The Flag Memorial featured 2,977 flags — one for each of the people murdered in the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001 — and were configured to group the flags to reflect the people who were killed at the World Trade Center, the Pentagon, and the downed plane in Pennsylvania.

2,977 flags is a lot of flags, and 2,977 lives was a lot of lives.  It is important for us always to remember that.

Amazon Primed

Amazon — that massive, gushing river of deliveries that has fundamentally and forever changed the modern retail business — has announced that it is looking to build a second corporate headquarters somewhere in North America.  Cities like Columbus are jockeying for position and hoping that they get picked to host the Amazonians.

amazonLanding Amazon and its “HQ2” has got to be tempting for just about any city.  You can look at what Amazon has done for Seattle, where its corporate headquarters is located, and see what having Amazon might mean.  Amazon employs 40,000 people on its Seattle campus, it uses an enormous chunk of the available Seattle commercial real estate, and it calculates that, since 2010, it has contributed $38 billion to the Seattle economy.  The proposed “HQ2” is being presented as a similarly enticing proposition for job-hungry municipalities.  It is supposed to create as many as 50,000 jobs paying an average of $100,000, and also produce $5 billion in capital investment in the first 15 years.

As Seattle’s experience demonstrates, these don’t appear to be pie in the sky numbers.  Instead, Amazon has a proven track record of doing what every city wants from a leading corporate citizen — it creates good jobs that are filled by people who pay their taxes and it injects money into the area, which in turn creates jobs at the companies that provide the services that Amazon and its employees need.  Sure, there might be some drawbacks — Seattle real estate has become pretty expensive — but most cities would gladly accept that problem in order to tap into the Amazon river of tax revenue.

Amazon has released a list of detailed criteria that will be applied in its search for the right location for HQ2.  It’s looking for a metropolitan area of at least 1 million people, close to an international airport, with good roads, schools, and mass transit.  Oh, and it also needs up to 8 million square feet of office space.  And the modern world being what it is, we can expect Amazon to look for competing cities to produce packages of tax incentives, tax deferrals, and available development funds designed to entice Amazon as it makes its choice.

Columbus, where several Amazon data and distribution centers have located in recent years, is expected to compete for the prize, and Richard has written about San Antonio’s hope that it wins the crown.   We can expect the big boys, like Chicago and Dallas, to put in significant bids, and struggling cities like Detroit would no doubt see the Amazon initiative as a chance to really turn things around.  And don’t forget that Canada is part of North America; Toronto is said to be interested, too.  In all, about 50 metropolitan areas meet the 1 million population cut-off and would be in a position to compete for the prize.  Bids are due by October 19.

Hey, Amazon!  Come to Columbus!  You’d like it here!

Negative Positives

Midwest America is viewed by many as pretty boring territory.  Flyover country.  Farmland.  Flat as a pancake, without soaring mountains, beautiful beaches, or other natural scenic wonders.

hurricane-irma-puerto-rico-01-rtr-jc-170906_4x3_992But boy!  Reading this morning about a killer storm like Hurricane Irma, which has left the Caribbean battered and Floridians panicked as it bears down on places like Naples and Tampa, from the quiet comfort of my kitchen here in Columbus, makes me reflect on what we don’t get here in the Midwest — like hurricanes.  Or tsunamis.  Or deadly earthquakes that stretch the Richter scale.  Or raging wildfires sweeping across dried-out hillsides, avalanches, and colossal mudslides.  Here in America’s heartland we get a bad thunderstorm now and then, a river might flood here and there, and tornadoes are always a risk, but when it comes to bad weather and natural disasters that’s about it.  We’re shielded from the worst by hundreds of miles of non-coastal buffer zone and natural topography.

It all depends on how you look at the risk-reward calculus, I suppose.  We might not get the stirring vistas — unless, like me, you think that well-tended rolling farms and barns have their own special appeal — but the angry weather and natural disasters that we don’t get here are definitely a positive when the killer storms come calling.

Our thoughts are with the folks down in Florida and the south, many of whom are transplanted Midwesterners, as they ride out the storm.  Here’s hoping that everyone was able to get out of harm’s way.