If you needed a reminder that the simple things are often the best things, high-tail it to Baba’s Columbus immediately. Armed with a menu that isn’t lengthy or filled with fancy ingredients, this is a breakfast gem that you need in your life. If you follow this blog, you know that an egg sammie with a drippy egg is my kryptonite; Baba’s serves up one of my most cherished finds, the griddle muffin.
Comparisons to a McDonald’s McMuffin are inevitable but insulting to this griddle muffin. The Baba’s secret is in the base layer of all the sandwiches, the from-scratch English-style muffin with just enough chew and a healthy sprinkle of cornmeal on the toasted exterior. Normally I care more about what’s inside the sandwich than the bread, but these are the exception. Top the griddle sandwich with an egg, a slab of Havarti cheese, and your choice of veggies and meats. I’m crazy for the bacon (freshly butchered and smoked, naturally) but sausage, chorizo, and pork loin are also up for grabs. These handheld breakfast delights are available all day.
Eggs not your jam? Get some actual jam on your griddle sammie – Baba’s makes their own in-house. Try a gooey PB and J griddle muffin with jam and Krema peanut butter. Cheese lovers will melt for the Inside Out Grilled Cheese (chorizo plus sweet peppers and harissa chili spread, all in enshrined in cheese) or opt for a burger patty inside. Lastly, if you’re feeling adventurous there’s also a mystery plate containing a Chef’s choice special!
Also on the menu are gloriously puffy cinnamon rolls, breads, cookies, as well as fries, soup, and house-smoked BBQ. Wash all of this down with a piping cup of joe from local Thunderkiss Coffee. The seasonal drink at the time of this writing is a Cinnamon Toast Crunch latte, featuring maple syrup and a cinnamon punch. It’s the ideal way to pry open those peepers!
Culinary Clue: The tiny eatery sits in the eclectic area just off Hudson (near Rambling House Soda) if you need a location reference. The seating area is very limited, so consider ordering carryout – there are just a few tables scattered inside.
Have you devoured a griddle muffin from Baba’s? Message me your thoughts on social media (@cbusconnect: facebook|Twitter|Instagram).
I have experienced Athens as a college student previously, while visiting my best friend at Ohio University. I will forever cherish snack runs to the Burrito Buggy, much-needed breakfasts at Bagel Street Deli, and one fancy night out at Restaurant Salaam. However, I had just scratched the surface; this vibrant town is so much more than its college roots. When I received the opportunity to re-visit the food and drink scene in Athens by partnering with the Athens County Visitor’s Bureau, I was ready to hit the road.
Athens is just over an hour’s drive from downtown Columbus, the ideal distance for a quick weekend trip. You will want to get an early start for this journey, because there’s a lot to see and do in one day!
My husband and I kicked off our southeastern Ohio adventure at the Athens Farmers Market. It was by far one of my favorite stops of the day, and I will return for the wonderful vendors alone. The market runs year-round on Saturdays, so there’s plenty of chances to snag some goodies. I also enjoyed that the market and many of the local eateries have a commitment to the 30 Mile Meal Project, sourcing ingredients where possible from within 30 miles of Athens. I had a great conversation with the meadmakers at Dutch Creek Winery, scored a delicious caramel iced mocha at Dirty Girl Coffee, ate a chocolate chip scone at Crumbs Bakery, and scooped up coconut curry sausage at Pork and Pickles for breakfast sammies at home. There were so many more stalls that we wanted to try but we had to conserve stomach space.
Once we left the market, we headed to uptown Athens for a little shopping; I can never resist a college bookstore like Little Professor. Afterwards, we strolled around College Green and enjoyed the campus and perfect autumn weather. Nothing beats old bricks, leaves, and brisk fall air! Naturally, we were starving again after all that walking, so it was time to head to Casa Nueva for lunch. Casa Nueva is a funky Mexican joint with well-priced margaritas and a delicious array of house-made salsas. These nachos were wickedly cheesy, and this was just a small order!
The next leg of our itinerary was the Brewed on the Bikeway trail, a fun way to sample new beers while exercising and experiencing nature. Rent a bike from Athens Bicycle and then determine your route using the guide linked above to pick your poison. We made a visit first to Little Fish Brewing to take in their tasty sour offerings and the country setting, then headed to Jackie O’s Campbell Street taproom for a seasonally appropriate maple porter. Next time, a visit to Devil’s Kettle Brewing is on the agenda as well!
For dinner, we went the traditional route and noshed on home cooking at Miller’s Chicken. Just take a peek at the crunchy coating on that drummie! For a night cap, we couldn’t resist West End Cider House. I fell in love with the tiny courtyard in the back of the building, and had so much fun trying to determine the best cider in the flight we shared. The verdict: lemon-ginger most captivated my taste buds. As I’m sure you can tell, this fall visit to Athens was genuinely one of the best road trips we’ve ever done.
Want to plan your own fall road trip to Athens? Head to http://athensohio.com/ to start mapping out your excursion!
Disclosure: This post is sponsored by the Athens County Visitors Bureau, who provided me with complimentary meals on the trip. However, all opinions expressed in the post are my own.
I’ve openly admitted time and time again that I have a love-hate relationship with most kinds of veggies. Some of the them, like the cucumber, can send a shiver down my spine. But others, when expertly prepared, can go from a childhood nightmare to an utterly craveable dish (Brussels sprouts anyone?). So without further ado, here are some local items that despite their vegetable origins can make stomach grumble instantly.
Darista has ruined any other hummus for me, in the best way possible. The internationally-inspired hummus flavors pack a punch with spices like za’atar and harissa, and pair perfectly with pita chips or carrots. I can never decide if I like the Piquillo Pepper or the Moroccan Carrot best; try them and help me decide! Find the luscious dips at Whole Foods, Fresh Thyme, Oats and Barley, the Worthington Farmers Market, and more.
No veggie list would be complete without mentioning this mouthwatering creation from North Star Cafe. A patty consisting of beets, brown rice, and black beans is topped with a melty slab of white cheddar and a little kale. It doesn’t taste like beef, but it doesn’t need to – this burger is wonderful in its own right. Wash it down with the joint’s divine house-made ginger ale.
Newcomer Cosecha knows how to treat veggies at their Italian Village restaurant. Case in point: this delectable tostada, topped with triple the squash power. The three squashes are roasted butternut squash, pickled and shaved butternut squash, and delicata squash, plus eggplant and tamarind on a crunchy shell. The vegetables here are pretty to admire, and even better once devoured. Catch this on the fall menu soon!
A filling salad that is also entirely tempting is a tough find. The Brooklyn ( the rightmost item in the picture, with ribboned kale, roasted sweet potatoes, chickpeas, shredded carrots, cilantro, tomatoes, and pumpkin seeds in an herb tahini dressing) is just that. I have dreams about how to concoct this dressing – it’s so creamy. I haven’t mastered it yet, so I’ll just have to keep buying this bowl. The Brooklyn is available from Blackbird Eats only at the Bexley Native Cold Pressed location.
Brussels are one of those green goodies that upon roasting or frying, suddenly become addictive. Hubbard Grille first changed my mind about Brussels, but Rockmill Tavern has created one of my favorite versions in a long time. Think crispy Brussels sprouts coated with a savory-sweet glaze of miso, mustard, and honey. Don’t plan on sharing an order of these nuggets as a side or you’ll leave disappointed.
Click here to view my full write-up on Rockmill Tavern
Are you a veggie hater who has discovered a tasty Columbus meal? Let me know in the comments!
1. PBB&J Burger
2. Hangover Burger
3. Cheese Curds
4. Chipotle Bar Bacon
5. Caramel Brownie Cheesecake
I no longer have to trek to Dublin for my peanut butter burger fix! The Half Pint, sister restaurant to The Pint Room, has opened its doors in the Arena District just across the street from the back entrance to the North Market. This modern sports bar boasts some of the best burgers in town and 60 beers on tap. If you work downtown and are seeking happy hour comfort, visit Monday through Friday from 3pm to 6pm for half off craft beers and $2.00 off wine and cocktails. The Half Pint is also a fun, casual option for pre-concert or game day grub.
But what I really want to talk about in this post is the burgers! I’ve been cherishing The Pint Room’s PBB&J Burger for years, and The Half Pint has this delicacy on the menu. Trust me on this combo. It sounds so strange, but just give it a try: melty peanut butter, candied bacon, jack cheese, strawberry jam, and strawberry slices, all atop a beef patty and sandwiched with a soft, buttery bun. Peanut butter should be in and on everything, if you ask me. The Hangover Burger is another good choice. Lots of restaurants feature a drippy egg on their burgers, but this one benefits from the added treat of crispy hash browns, plus smoked cheddar, bacon, and tomato. Even the Turkey Burger has a mouthwatering twist ( it’s crowned with pepperjack, pickled red onion, arugula, kale, and chipotle-cranberry mayo) and the CBJ Burger, a special feature, sports giant onion rings and BBQ sauce.
Besides burgers, there are a number of other dishes worth mentioning. To start, select the Cheese Curds, dished up with a light, crunchy beer batter and sriracha ranch, or the Bar Bacon trio. The latter is a bacon flight containing 3 types of thick-cut bacon, each coated in a different glaze or seasoning. During my visit, the platter had buffalo, BBQ, and the especially savory chipotle-rubbed variety. Save room for a small dessert, you will heartily demolish the Caramel Brownie Cheesecake to close out the meal. Lastly, I must mention that the large beer list has a constantly rotating variety of taps, so there is a cider, IPA, or pumpkin beer for everyone in your party.
Culinary Clue: The Half Pint is serving up Sunday brunch as well! Starting at 10, select from brunch favorites such as French toast, crab cake benedicts, omelets, and Bloody Marys so you can fuel up for the day.
Disclosure: I was given a complimentary meal in exchange for writing my honest review of The Half Pint. The above writing represents my own views.
Skillet isn’t a new hot spot. It isn’t even in a trendy part of town. But this teeny cafe on the outskirts of German Village hasn’t been getting the buzz it deserves lately. In my humble opinion, Skillet is dishing up one of the best brunches in town. Plus, the menu changes daily, so even the staples like scones and gravies get a new twist every time you visit. Even better, the rotating offerings allow for Skillet to utilize local ingredients from purveyors like Honey Run Farms, Blue Jacket Dairy, and Hirsch Fruit Farm. I also love that Skillet serves brunch every day it’s open (Wednesday-Sunday). It’s always so disappointing on a Friday when you’re off work and craving brunchy goodness, only to find that most restaurants limit that joyous menu to weekends only.
The aforementioned scones, along with morning buns, cinnamon rolls and coffee cake varieties are generally offered in some form. At the time of this writing, the current scone selections included chocolate pecan, blueberry, Amish cheddar thyme, or raspberry white chocolate. Cheese blintzes (comparable to crepes if you’ve never had them) are a typical option as well, stuffed with ricotta and creme anglaise and topped with fruits ranging from blueberries to raspberries to tumeric-cherry preserves.
Seeking savory over sweet? Skillet has you covered there too. The biscuits and gravy will always aim to please; my husband loves the mushroom version, or try the house-made chorizo gravy when you spot it. Or let your stomach steer you towards the scallops and grits, a scrumptious play on a Southern stand-by. Even the often blasé chicken and waffles has pep here: Crispy panko chicken is tossed in a spicy red curry with a savory popcorn rice and coconut milk cornmeal waffle. Add some bacon, brined ham, or lamb and fig or fennel sausage on the side and you’re set. There’s a small lunch-focused section to the menu in addition to brunch as well. For fall, the joint is cooking up jalapeno bacon corn chowder, fancy grilled cheese, simple salads, and a pumpkin concoction with roasted apples and cider.
And I can’t forget the house bottled cold brew coffee, sweetened with a touch of bourbon barrel maple syrup. This glorious creation deserves a paragraph of its own. I normally have admittedly embarrassing coffee tastes, and will cram as many syrups and glugs of cream as possible into every cup. I drink Skillet’s cold brew black, over ice – it’s that smooth and flavorful. The little bottles are available for purchase to take home as well; I had to ask because I wanted more to enjoy later!
Culinary Clue: Sometimes the menu sells out and the restaurant is not large. So drag yourself out of bed early to make sure you get the best possible selection!
Have you been to Skillet lately? Let me know on Instagram or in the comments below what your favorite dish to order is.
When I opt for a sweet brunch over a savory one, French toast is one of my go-to selections. But who has time to make French toast through the week? Not this girl. So discovering overnight French toast in casserole form has been a breakfast lifesaver. This recipe is almost like a bread pudding (with syrup as the topping) and the addition of a favorite fall flavor: apple pie. Top this creation with some local Middle West Spirits bourbon barrel-aged maple syrup for an extra tasty treat.
Apple Pie French Toast
Yield: 6 servings
1 loaf of thickly sliced cinnamon bread (I use Great Harvest cinnamon chip, but one of the thick-cut Pepperidge Farm varieties will work well too)
1/2 c. brown sugar
2 c. milk (i used 2%)
1/2 c. heavy cream
1 tsp. vanilla
1 tsp. cinnamon
1/4 tsp salt
1 20 oz. can of apple pie filling
Optional: 2/3 c. salted caramel or butterscotch chips (I found the caramel ones at Kroger)
Syrup, for topping
Spray a 9 x 13 casserole dish with cooking spray and preheat oven to 400 degrees. Next, tear or cut bread slices into 1 inch chunks and set aside. In a large bowl, whisk together the sugar, eggs, milk, cream, vanilla, cinnamon, and salt. Then fold in the apple pie filling to the egg mixture. Spread bread cubes into casserole dish in an even layer and pour egg mixture over top, making sure to distribute apple chunks evenly throughout dish. If desired, top the casserole with the butterscotch or caramel chips for a caramel apple twist. Bake for 40-45 minutes, or until the top of the casserole is golden and center is set. Cover casserole with foil during baking if the top begins to brown too much.
Refrigerate the cooled, baked casserole. The next morning, cut into squares and microwave individually for a decadent breakfast. Add a syrup drizzle for a meal that even your most autumn-obsessed friend will enjoy!
Moonshine, ice cream, and juicy peaches – these are just some of the offerings brought to us by way of Utica, Ohio. So many of my favorite local products hail from the small town that it was long overdue for me to head to the source. Situated just an under an hour northeast of Columbus proper, Utica has plenty to tempt the food-lover. Plus road trips are the wonderful, so let’s get to it: the best treats to enjoy while you’re visiting Utica!
Mill St. is churning out bourbon, moonshine, and grappa for the masses, and looking to expand soon. Grappa is something you don’t see often, but definitely imbibe in the tasty grape-based spirit. If you’ve been to the big-name bourbon distilleries, this experience is much more personalized. You can ask plenty of questions and learn more about the moonshine-making process, plus taste up to 4 mini samples of Mill St. products. Take home some merch or Mansfield-made apple pie mix to add some a fruity zip to your liquor.
Nothing can make me happier than ice cream (I’ll just go ahead and get that out of the way). So the selection at Velvet Ice Cream makes my heart skip a beat: elephant ear, raspberry fudge cordial, pumpkin pie, cookie dough extreme, and Dutch apple pie, to name a few. And the best variety of all? Buckeye, with chocolate swirls and real mini buckeyes in every scoop! My friends and I were fortunate enough to do a fall flavor tasting of all of the above – so much dairy goodness. The Velvet and Ye Old Mill complex boasts a duck pond for the kiddos, factory tours to watch ice cream being made, a restaurant, a museum, and more.
Branstool’s peaches are beloved in Columbus farmers markets, but have you considered picking your own at the orchard? With 26 peach varieties, all kinds of apples (Honeycrisp included), and pumpkins all available for picking depending on the season, your autumn itinerary is set. The onsite market sells other fruits and veggies, in addition to Ohio-made items like maple syrup, pancake mixes, jams, and more. Also be on the look out for Jack, the resident farm dog; he often pops up in Branstool’s Instagram posts.
Fill up on the loaded taters at Nick’s or the home cooking at Watt’s Restaurant before you head out of town to complete your Utica adventure!
One of my absolute favorite things about blogging so far has been connecting with the interesting folks behind the Columbus dining scene. With this new series, I will be getting inside your favorite maker’s minds so we can soak up a little of their greatness. Plus, let’s face it – we are all a little nosy! So without further ado, the launch of the Columbus Culinary Chronicles begins with Jana Lee’s Bake Shop.
You’ve likely seen the pristine cut-out cookies from Jana Douglass on Instagram, presented in themed sets ranging from cheeky sayings, Disney characters, baby showers, and everything in between. Jana has managed to build a following of over 45k in just a few short years, and has some exciting things in her future. Learn more about Jana Lee’s recently launched bridal line (so much monogrammed cuteness!) and how to order your own treats by clicking on her contact info below, then scroll through to get the scoop on the cookie queen.
What motivated you to start a cookie-making business and how did you transition into full-time baking?
I was about to graduate from The Ohio State University in December of 2014 without a job lined up. I was feeling uninspired and I picked up cookie decorating as a creative outlet. Let me tell you… they were awful! But I fell in love with the creative process and kept at it. I started posting pictures on my personal Instagram and within 9 months I had created a separate cookie Instagram and had enough business to do it full time.
You bake so many shapes of cookies; how many cookie cutters do you own? How do you keep them all organized?
Wow! I would guess I have about 700 cookie cutters. You would think that would be plenty but every week we get new requests with cutters we do not own! We keep them organized by category on a peg board. Even with all the different shapes and options I would say we still reach for the same basic 20 shapes week after week.
What is your favorite themed set you’ve ever made?
How am I supposed to choose?! The amazing part of this business is the creativity around it. My favorite sets always end up happening when clients provide the theme and they trust my creative process.
Can you tell us about your worst kitchen disaster?
I was wrapping up a great day in the kitchen and was going to make it home at a normal hour which was pretty rare at the time. I had just finished up 6 dozen purple cookies (which is a difficult color to make) and quickly checked on them before heading out the door. The icing was still wet, not good! I instantly knew I did something wrong… I over whipped the icing!
I had to toss the cookies and start from scratch. My early evening home turned into me leaving the kitchen at 2 in the morning!
You’ve had the opportunity to work with high-profile clients like Draper James. How did this come about and what actions did you take to make it happen?
Honestly, I just ask! I am fairly brand loyal and decided to start reaching out to companies I love and for the most part have had great luck. What’s the worst that can happen?! They say no and you move on.
Which Columbus establishment do you frequent more than any other?
I enjoy my morning walk for coffee to Cafe Brioso downtown. I am addicted to their coffee! It is also a hidden gem for lunch, the turkey pesto sandwich with a lemonade is Ah-Mazing! We enjoy brewing their beans at home as well.
What is your favorite Columbus-based product?
Lately I have been addicted to Darista Dips! You can always find a container or two of their sweet potato coconut curry hummus in my fridge. The best snack!
What is your favorite adult beverage?
Hendrick’s martini, dry and dirty! You can usually find me sitting at the bar at Hyde Park with one in hand.
Can you share your favorite recipe to cook at home?
To be honest ever since starting a business my home cooking has been a little pathetic. Somedays the only time I spend in the kitchen at home is making bulletproof coffee in the morning. However with fall right around the corner I have been craving soups and chilis. This curried potato soup from Minimalist Baker (talk about a girl crush!) is a staple!
Do you have a favorite charity that you would like to promote?
Columbus is great city full of wonderful charities and nonprofits. We personally love working with Ronald McDonald House; kids and cookies are the perfect fit! I encourage everyone to do a little research and get involved in something meaningful to them!
I see that you recently launched a bridal line. Can you tell us more about that and what else is coming up for Jana Lee’s Bake Shop?
Jana Lee’s Bridal Line launched in June! We are thrilled to be included in so many bridal events across the city.
There is a lot happening behind the scenes here, mostly things we can’t share with you just yet! Stay tuned!!
Make sure you follow Jana and see what’s next – fall=lots of Halloween themed deliciousness.
This summer, my husband and I returned to Asheville for a much-needed long weekend. We were able to re-visit some old haunts and uncover some new favorite locales in the Blue Ridge Mountain town. A photo diary of my culinary explorations seemed to be the easiest way to approach this post; there were too many tasty spots to reduce the experience to words. Take a peek at some of the cuisine we loved best during our Asheville jaunt:
Have you been to Asheville? What were your favorite spots to dine and drink?
Craft beer and craft spirits are currently monopolizing the market, but don’t discount craft soda! Lately, I can’t get enough of Columbus’ own Rambling House Soda. A tiny spot sandwiched in the south Clintonville/University District region, Rambling House is a music venue with a tasty “pop.” The interior has an antique saloon feel, and has the unhurried aura of a bygone era. The bar hosts live music every night they are open, varying from bluegrass to local bands. Sundays lend themselves to the “Old Time Jam,” an open session where anyone with musical chops can bring an instrument and play with the group.
Most importantly though, Rambling House produces a few soda staples that are always on tap, and rotates a few special flavors in and out. Typically, the ginger beer (delightfully zippy), Columbus Cola (so much better than that other cola), sarsaparilla, and lemon lime soda are always on tap. However, past varieties when I’ve visited have included: orange-cardamom, cream soda, chocolate-mint, or coconut lime. I also loved the strawberry soda that Rambling House brought to Jeni’s Strawberry Jam at the North Market this summer – hands down, the best bubbly beverage at the event. The drink menu offers soda-cocktail suggestions, or get creative and make your own. There are also a number of Ohio beers available on draft if brews are more your fancy. Don’t forget too: the bar fills any clean growler with their soda, so take home your favorite pop and make a crave-able concoction at home. My current combo is house cream soda and bourbon! But most of all, Rambling House stays true to its namesake Irish “rambling” roots – it is a refuge of foot-tapping tunes, well-crafted sodas, and communal spirit.
Culinary Clue: Don’t miss out on Rambling House’s bottled Moscow Mules. The libations are made with Rambling House ginger beer and Watershed Distillery vodka, ideal for end-of-summer sipping. I picked up a bottle at The Daily Growler but Kroger stores also carry the mixes. You can also find Rambling House soda on draft at some of your favorite local joints, such as Brothers Drake Meadery, Natalie’s Coal Fired Pizza, and Homestead Brewery.
Have you sampled the soda from Rambling House yet? Let me know in the comments below.