Thursday, July 16, 2009

the best burger in Columbus?...Northstar Cafe

Betty and I met up with some friends at one of our favorite restaurants in Columbus good old Northstar Cafe the one located near Clintonville. Ever since the Rose and Thistle shut down about 5 years ago -- the Northstar Burger has become what I believe to be the best burger in Columbus.

the Northstar burger...aka the best burger in Columbus? best burger might be pushing it because of 2 caveats:
  1. the Northstar burger is a veggie burger
  2. it costs an arm and a leg at $11.50
Those aside -- nothing's messing with the flavor. Their menu describes the ingredients that go in the veggie burger: " brown rice, black beans and beets topped with white cheddar, lettuce, tomato, pickle & onion + simple salad..." Who knew that such a simple burger with beets could pack such a delicious, fresh, hearty, yummy taste? Betty and I split the burger and decided to try their ever so hyped guacamole.

Northstar guacamole aka not the best guac in columbus

Now I've read some great reviews of the guac from Northstar -- it is the same guac they have at their sister shop called 3rd and Hollywood. Furthermore -- when I placed my order the lady who rung up my order said I would not be disappointed and that it was the best guacamole ever. I told her that was a bold claim and that I've had a fair share of amazing guacamoles and NONE of them have been served at restaurants. With that being said on to the guac. The plating looks nice but I think they forgot to give me a couple of scoops considering it costs $9.50 for their guac. Betty and I tried the guac and it tasted pretty good. A little light on the salt but very fresh and pretty tasty. Just pretty tasty but definitely not the best guac I've ever had and come on now...$9.50 for guac. You're prolly thinking I'm a crazy bear since I'm spending $11.50 for a veggie burger no complaints but then whining about the guac...oh well. Betty said that it's the best guac she's had out at a restaurant but not the best tasting guac ever and I concur. I love the Northstar burger. I seldomly get anything else from there. I grew up eating a number of veggie burger vendors and providers and this burger not only tastes yummy but perhaps makes me nostalgic of some great days as a kid -- but is it the best burger in Columbus? I think it is having tried a number of places including Thurman, Barleys, Club 185 and Old Bag of Nails to name a few -- but if you disagree or know a burger that you think competes with the Northstar Cafe burger -- tell me about it cause I'm game. As for the guac - save your $9.50 for a chocolate truffle cookie cause I can't rationalize the cost.

The truth about Troni's...Troni's Pizza

The truth about Troni's, it's a local italian pizza restaurant shop.
Located in Kettering pretty close to my mom and pops...
They got some tender thin NYC style pizza that sure was a big surprise...
I think I'm gonna eat it for the rest of my life... not quite Bobby Bear-own. A friend wanted to keep this place a secret so that I had to go with him to check out what he claimed was Dayton's Best pizza joint. But critical acclaim from a number of friends and family quickly alerted me to my friend's secret. We ordered 3 pies from Troni's: a cheese, a pepperoni and a supreme. The pizza is true thin crust NYC style pizza with a sweet tomato sauce. The cheese pizza was the best pie of the night --simple and plain yet oh so delicious. For a thin crust pizza it managed to hold the toppings on the supreme as well which was very tasty. The pepperoni was pretty good but the pep overpowererd the sauce, cheese and crust.

yummy cheese pizza

When all is eaten and consumed Troni's is a great pizza place. I believe it could be the best cheese pizza NYC style in Dayton but at the end of the day I still have to give the Best Pizza in Dayton title to Marion's. With that being said -- next time I'm in Dayton Betty and I are going to dine-in at Troni's and order up a nice plain cheese pizza pie.

surprisingly tasty seafood in c-town...Cap City Diner

Betty and I stopped in for a quick bite at the bear at Cap City after a long day at work. We were perhaps nostalgic of our recent seafood expedition in Boston and were craving shrimp and what not. The whatnot ended up being mussels and their meatloaf sandwich.

peel and eat shrimp with old bay seasoning and cocktail sauce and mayo based crab louie sauce

steamed mussels in a Chardonnay broth with garlic, shallots and tomatoes

meatloaf melt with muenster cheese and lettuce, tomato, onion + fries

Who knew that a place so non-chalantly tucked back a bit on Olentangy River Road could have such tasty seafood. The shrimp was delicious. It's hard to mess up shrimp though isn't it? The seasoning was perfect and the 2 sauces were nice to have to balance each other out. The mussels were phenomenal. I'm still generating a taste for mussels but these had so much flavor between the Chardonnay broth, garlic and shallots. The weakest link was the meatloaf sandwich which was pretty wimpy and soggy. It tasted alright but there was no character to the meatloaf. We don't really go to Cap City much but after trying the mussels and shrimp and hanging out at the bar and discovering bands play certain nights at the bar-- I could see us being repeat customers.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

license to grill at the Chateau...

Betty and I had a busy 4th of July weekend grilling out. I tried my sister's marinade once again on some chicken tenders and thighs this time but changed it up a bit adding some other spices and even beer to the recipe.

chicken tenders and thighs on the grill...okay so not quite Los Potosinos...but still

The chicken tenders were good but even after a day of marination did not seem to be ultra-flavored as previously made. The chicken thighs on the other hand were simply delicious though not as healthy. I think the fat tissue on the thighs hold the marinade better.

We also stopped off at Whole Foods and picked up some 85/15 ground beef burgers.

covered burgers on challah buns with American cheese, lettuce, tomatoes and pickles

This was my first time grilling beef burgers and I struggled cooking them. I left them on the grill for 12 minutes but they were still bloody so I cooked them longer. In the end I got them to a medium cooking color and we served them with challah buns. The burgers were phenomenal. Why have i been spending my money on restaurant burgers when these are the jam?

plated above was the grilled chicken thighs with chipotle mac and cheese and tater salad all bear made

The chipotle mac and cheese was a freestyle from 2 different recipes and included 2 different types of cheddar and a pepper jack cheese, 3 adobo chilis and paste, and 2 chorizo sausage links. This was my first time making mac and cheese and it turned out pretty good but still not as good as my sister makes. The tater salad was the freestyle salad inspired by Columbus Yogurt that consisted of both sweet and dill pickles, pickle juice, red wine vinegar, curry and cumin. We used the grill 3 times over the weekend which brings my total grilling adventures to 7 or so. There is still a lot to learn about grilling and heating strategies on the grill but for now it's safe to say that I have a license to grill. Now the only question is...what to grill next?

Betty gets back to basics and bakes a quiche....

Betty re-engaged with the kitchen and baked a bacon spinach quiche for breakfast. This was the first time a quiche had ever been baked in our kitchen even though we cook with eggs like its our job. I assisted with some usual freestyle CK breakfast potatoes with a rosemary seasoning. The meal turned out it was eggs-traordinary.

quiche to the left. potatoes to the right.

aerial close up of yummy bacon spinach quiche

plated quiche with onions + tomatoes topping the taters

Spinach & Bacon Quiche courtesy of Paula Deen
  • 6 large eggs, beaten
  • 1 1/2 cups heavy cream
  • salt & pepper
  • 2 cups fresh baby spinich, packed
  • 1 pound bacon, cooked and crumbled
  • 1 1/2 cups shredded Swiss Cheese
  • 1 (9-inch) refrigerated pie crust, fitted to a 9 inch glass pie plate
  1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.
  2. Combine the eggs, cream, salt, and pepper in a food processor or blender. (Betty just used a bowl.)
  3. Layer the spinach, bacon, and cheese in the bottom of the pie crust, then pour the egg mixture on top.
  4. Bake for 35-45 minutes until the egg mixture is set.
  5. Cut into 8 wedges
The official link to Paula's recipe is here:

The quiche was so magnifique and easy to make that we will definitely be trying more of these out in the CK kitchen. Bear apetit!

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

at last the taco trucks...Los Potosinos

Finally got a chance to try one of the taco trucks that foodies and bloggers have been giving critical acclaim's name Los Potosinos. A local blog is pretty much all you need to get started with the Columbus Taco Truck taste wagon. After scouring the site Los Potosinos came up as one of's favorites because of their pollo al carbon. I went with some fellow colleagues from across the forest to check this place out. It was about a 25 minute trek out there but it was pretty easy to find. I ordered a spicy pork soft taco and the pollo al carbon. Technically i ordered 3 tacos but they goofed my order. No worries.

spicy pork taco with cilantro and radish, cucumber and lime to garnish

signature pollo al carbon with bottled hot sauce on the refried beans accompanied with a lettuce, tomato and avocado salad

The taco was tasty. Fresh and unlike any taco you'd find at a chain restaurant. The simplicity of the taco with the lime, cilantro, radish and cucumber was refreshing but you still got to appreciate the meatiness of the taco because it wasn't littered with lettuce allowing the seasoned pork to be featured.

The pollo al carbon was the real treat here. I've never had anything like it. The chicken was tender with a great grilled taste with a mix of spices that I could not distinguish. It reminded me of a Mexican spiced version of Tandoori chicken. Delicious.

A funny anecdote about trying to get hot sauce: I asked for hot sauce and the lady directed me to the bottle on the table. I asked for something stronger and she provided a bottled hot sauce. I asked if she had anything hotter to which she came up with the following:

hot sauce?

In this case sliced habanero peppers topped with fresh squeezed lime juice and a dash of salt. I was slightly apprehensive initially because though I love hot and spicy foods the habanero pepper is one i typically avoid raw. I made sure to have a full mouth of food as I snuck in a sliver of the pepper and the meal was perfect. This was my first time eating a habanero pepper in its entirety and since then I've already started incorporating them into my cooking.

pollo al carbon aka what's under the grill hood at Los Potosinos

The trek out to Los Potosinos was fun and exciting to do with a group of bears. I was a little turned off by the prices of the food not being readily listed on their menu and sure I missed my 2 tacos that I believe I was charged for -- but all in all the food was good, unique and a good time was had by all. The only question is where will our next taco truck adventure take us? Any suggestions?

if you like empanadas...and getting lost in the sun...El Arepazo is the one...

As luck...or fate would have it Betty and I finally made it down to Pearl Market to check out Nellie's we got up to make our order -- the ladies running the stand told us they just sold out. Go figure. I was slightly irked because I've heard a lot about these samosas and I wanted to put their flavor to the test...but not today. The trials and tribulations of samosa searching in Columbus will have to be put on hold. As we trekked around the market we noticed a Venezuelan restaurant with a patio El Arepazo. We ventured into the spot and were excited to see empanadas on the menu reasonably priced at $4.75 Betty and I went back and forth as we waited in-line trying to figure out if we should order 1 or 2. We decided to go with one with the understanding we'd probably grab some more food later on our walk back to comfest. We ordered the combination empanada and a side of their spicy cilantro sauce. After we ordered -- we were advised to go outside to wait for our food as traffic back-up in the lines was causing a bottleneck for the wait staff. No problem -- we located an open covered picnic table to park our bear rumps until our order came up. It seemed to take about 10 minutes which was no biggie and we received our order in a paper bag. When I pawed into the bag i was shocked to see the magnitude of the empanada. This thing was hugonda. A huge deep-fried-crispy-corn-flour hot pocket was my initial reaction. We split the empanada in half and the cross section view of this empanada was a thing of beauty and mystery...and out of focus-ness...

surveilance aerial footage of empanada

out of focus cross section

The empanada was phenomenal. The cilantro sauce was tasty. I can't see many places who can top this taste with the right price. We were stuffed splitting just one. Now the empanada was tasty -- it was fried to perfection and the corn shell crust was mighty fine -- but after my carb-cheese buzz subsided slightly I did comment that there could be some more seasoning added to the ingredients in the empanada. Betty and I need to do some more tasting research at El Arepazo considering they have crab cakes and fish burritos. This massive empanada put a world of flavor in my tummy for not a lot of money. What's messing with this?

chicken tacos...tostadas...nachos...yums in my tums...whateva you want to call them...

Betty and I hit up the kitchen for some lunch for my sister and future brother-in-law. We decided to mix it up and do crispy chicken tacos. I broke my shells and turned them into tostadas. Betty represented with her homemade guac. I heated up some refried beans and trader joes chimichurri rice on the side. Threw in some mixed green salad with tomatoes, onions & sour cream and we were set. You know the drill. You know the subject of this post. Yums in my tums.

broken chicken tacos with home-made guac, refried beans, and trader joes chimichurri rice

P.S. notice the missing El Yucateco...very very sad...

Banana Bean Cafe vs. 4.0...

My sister and future brother-in-law were in town and they wanted to take Betty and me out for our birthdays. Betty and I decided to hit up Banana Bean Cafe which has very quietly become one of our local favorites. We opted for the Greenlawn Avenue location. We were seated promptly and chatted up a storm. In true CK fashion I started to get anxious when the wait staff took over 5 minutes to hook us up with a menu and take any sort of drink orders. One observation I've had about the Greenlawn location is that there always seem to be more wait staff than customers -- but even then -- service seems to be slow. When we finally got our menus I was further irked because they had an abbreviated menu with sandwiches but no dinner options. This was a bummer since we were really hoping to try out their dinner menu as opposed to their sandwich menu...oh well. As our slow service continued I looked around the restaurant which was pretty much deserted and got a little more irritated. No big deal because I suppose this blog is dedicated to my bear-itations about dining out in Columbus right? Eventually we got our drinks and food orders in and i could relax. I decided to try their black bean soup and their crab cake burger.

extremely delicious black bean soup

pretty good crab cake salad i mean burger...

The black bean soup was mighty tasty. I was surprised. I thought I was going to be underwhelmed. I really wanted to find some aspect of the soup to complain about and could fine none. Using black beans so often in my own cooking but never in a soup per se -- I was pretty oblivious that they could be so tasty in a soup. The soup was creamy and smooth almost like they blended black beans with broth to get the base going. Topping the soup off with cilantro, cheese, tomatoes & sour cream -- how could this taste anything but delicious. I'm getting this soup next time and it prolly wouldn't hurt to bust out the blender and freestyle some offering up at home as well.

The crab cake burger was pretty good. The crab cake was tasty and all but in the end I felt like i was eating a salad and left the bun behind.

All in all I continue to have a strong curiosity about Banana Bean Cafe. The first time we ate there version 1.0 was the best time -- perhaps because of our unsure expectations and surprise about their unique palette of flavors for sea food. Since then we find ourselves chasing that 1st time taste experience. We really want to have that experience again but I am not sure if it will be possible. At the end of the day I still like dining at Banana Bean Cafe and writing this makes me want to try something else off their menu.


plaintains with ya ya sauce...yeah their good but I'm kinda over them.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

I heartburn comfest...La Fogata Grill

Late Friday night eats after Comfest found Betty and I devouring chicken nachos and cheese fries in the pitch dark at La Fogata Grill located in Betty's old hood in the Short North. This place has a very nice patio but at night their tables could use some candles:

chicken nachos and jalapeno covered cheese fries...

I almost fogata about this meal the next morning but after Betty reminded me -- and I consulted the camera evidence -- the flavor memories came back to me. This food was very tasty -- junky yes --but very tasty. I'm glad this place wasn't around when Betty lived at the Greystone or else we would've been in BIG trouble. The margaritas here are very tasty as well and apparently make you fogata about your meal. La Fogata is a great spot to grab Margaritas and some Mexican with a dash of heartburn if you're up in the Short North.