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 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.

The Random Restaurant Tour (V)

I’m not sure exactly why, but the Arena District has never been a regular stop on the workday lunch caravan.  We’ll walk past the Arena District to the North Market, or head east to the Flatiron, but we never seem to stop in that little cluster of buildings adjacent to Nationwide Arena, even though we know there are food places back there.

Last week the Jersey Girl and I decided to cross into No Man’s Land.  Our destination was the Three-Legged Mare, an Irish pub.  It’s been there eight years, located just a few steps away from the Arena, but neither of us had been there – which is kind of embarrassing when you think about it.

I don’t think it will be another eight years until we go back again.  The TLM has all of the classic Irish pub woodwork, wall inscriptions, and other trappings — including a sign, below, that made me laugh as we walked out — so it’s a visually interesting setting that has both indoor and outside seating.

We ate at a high top in the bar area and got good service from the bartender.  He recommended the corned beef sandwich, shown above, so I owe him a debt of gratitude.  It was excellent, with a mound of lean, succulent, juicy corned beef served on a pretzel roll, with just the right amount of fries.  The Jersey Girl raved about the beer cheese soup and couldn’t finish her Irish Burger, so she boxed up half of it.  The bartender highly recommended that we try some of their traditional pub fare next time, so I guess we’ll just have to go back for the bangers and mash.  

Now that we’ve decided to break the barrier and dine in the Arena District, we can do just about anything.

The Random Restaurant Tour (IV)

Last week the Jersey Girl and I continued the random restaurant tour by leaving the friendly confines of downtown Columbus and heading north to the Italian Village area.  Our destination was a converted brick barn called Cosecha Cocina.

Italian Village is one of the areas of Columbus where the redevelopment wave is rolling along at tsunami-level strength.  Every time I visit, there is a cool new restaurant, brew pub, or breakfast joint in the neighborhood.  That’s because you can find two key components of redevelopment there:  inexpensive buildings that can be refurbished into cool spaces for your use, and a population of people in the immediate vicinity ready to frequent your establishment.  In the case of Italian Village, businesses can draw upon both the downtown crowd, who need only drive, walk or bike a few blocks up Third, and the flood of people moving into new condos and apartment buildings in Italian Village.

Cosecha Cocina is a happy addition to the Italian Village ‘hood.  It definitely satisfies the cool building requirement, with its cavernous internal space and outdoor eating area, and its menu of traditional and modern Mexican fare will keep that flood of people coming back.  During our visit the Jersey Girl and I split some brussels sprouts — served piping hot with melted cheese — and I tried the pork meatball torta with esquites, a traditional Mexican street corn dish, on the side.

The fact that brussels sprouts and meatballs are on the menu at all tells you that Cosecha Cocina isn’t your Daddy’s kind of tacos and enchiladas Mexican restaurant.  Another clue is the quality and delicate flavoring of the food itself.  The pork meatball torta, which features chipotle tomato sauce, cilantro, black beans, avocado, and cheese and is served on airy, crunchy bread, was succulent and a reminder that Mexican food doesn’t have to be overpowering on the spice scale.  The brussels sprouts were terrific, and the esquites corn salad was a perfect, light accompaniment to the meal.  The Jersey Girl, who tried the chicken tinga tacos, raved about her food, too.

The zone of lunch places for the lucky workers in downtown Columbus continues to expand, limited only by their willingness to get out and try someplace new.  With options like Cosecha Cocina only a bridge and a few blocks away, the incentive to experiment with a new lunch spot keeps growing.

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.