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Ice Cream Chronicles - New Interactive Map

As you may have noticed, a new interactive Google Map containing all the location and links to all my Ice Cream Chronicles posts is now acce...

Goetta Gets You Stuff: Return Travels to Cincy (Pt. 1)

Who knew that going down for Goetta would lead to nice surprise
Several months ago, we made a jaunt for the heck of it a couple hours to the south for a quick little weekend in the Cincinnati area. Suffice it to say, we had a pretty lovely time of it, with our first samplings of an area staple Goetta at Goettafest, visits to The Findlay Market and the American Sign Museum, and some Queen City brewery hopping.

We weren't exactly planning on returning this year (as they say, plenty of places to go, so little time), but it turned out (unknowingly) at the time that a friendly little hashtag on one of my social media got the attention of the folks of the Cincinnati Convention and Visitors Bureau, enough so that they picked us for a lovely little travel package back to come back to the Queen City. Suffice it to say, we were very happy to be picked as winners, and we decided the holiday season would be a great time to come back for a quick pre-Christmas vacation.

Nothing Can Take Me Away From Wor Sue Gai: Rice Bowl

While Almond Boneless Chicken (aka Wor Sue Gai) is a huge
Michigan cult favorite according to this Eater.com article,
its origins apparently go back to right here in Columbus, Ohio
As I have written before when it came to my saga when it came to Downtown Columbus-based Ho Toy Restaurant, American-style Chinese food is something I don't generally seek much these days. However, it did and does fill an important role at my family gatherings, so it will no doubt continue to hold random craving status for the rest of my dining life.

Of course, a little bit of history and circumstance can overcome the random craving frequency, as it did with a dish I've generally seen as Wor Sue Gai on menus here. Frankly, I didn't know what that exactly was and had no desire to ask, until I stumbled upon the Eater.com article linked in the photo caption above. As explained in the article, this dish, which has acquired a cult popularity in Southeast portions of Michigan, has its roots in Columbus, Ohio, with old school places like Ding Ho and Wing's (via Bexley's Far East Restaurant.)

When I saw that the dish was essentially "fried chicken and gravy", that struck me as an ultimate kind of comfort food, maybe even something like Jollibee's Chickenjoy.  Add in a cold day filled with constant snow flurries and the possible indication that a restaurant that I had always wanted to visit might be on its way out, and I figured it was time to proverbially kill the two birds with one stone.

Silly Notions Negated Splendidly: Service Bar

The basic Hamburger Combo from In-N-Out was a go to in my later fast food days
Back in a seemingly more distant younger day, I justified my fast food leanings with a reason that sounded good at the time, if you were trying to pack on 5-10 pounds of weight per year (which, sadly, proved to be prophetic.)  I surmised that those fancy, visually stunning, incredible tasting, generally more reasonably portioned dishes from restaurants my family could never ever afford were a ripoff. I mean, when you could get a truly filling value meal of sandwich, side and soda pop for around $5, why would I want to spend dozens of dollars more on something that would require a trip to the local fast food place later to sate my hunger?

Ahh, you silly, misguided younger person. To paraphrase a quote from Red, the convict played by Morgan Freeman in one of my favorite movies ever in The Shawshank Redemption, "I want to try to talk some sense to him, tell him the way things are." But thankfully in my case, I didn't need a meeting before a parole board to learn my lesson that there is a happy medium; I just needed a couple meals at Service Bar.

Worth a Time Out: Van Ness's Time Out Sports Bar (Fremont, OH)

The happy unexpected is always something my spouse and I appreciate on our travels, especially when it comes to food. The Firefly Grill In Effingham, IL (which I wrote about here) definitely qualifies, as does Sandusky’s Small City Taphouse and its combo of sushi and craft beer.

As a matter of course, I have gotten familiar with the usual haunts my wife’s side of the family frequents on a regular basis. It’s easy to expect the typical with any eatery out in the rural parts of Ohio, but when it comes to Fremont, the seat of Sandusky County, a nice surprise awaits if you drop by Van Ness’s Time Out Sports Bar.

Black Friday Libations Tour: Ohio's Last Craft Beer Frontier

You can go miles in 419 area code country between signs of civilization
but even out in the country they'll give you a holiday greeting
This year's family Black Friday Libations Tour would prove different from previous years' versions. During our last three excursions, we explored areas that were all fairly established from a craft beer perspective.  This was not the case this year; in fact, if you were immersed in the developing Columbus area craft beer scene from roughly 2012 to 2014, you’d have a good approximation of where the area we explored, Toledo and the surrounding areas reside at the moment craft beer-wise.

In fact, one can easily argue that this historical home for the 419 area code easily qualifies as the last large region in Ohio that is really ripe for a craft beer boom. And it's not like this area hasn't had a prominent brewing presence: Toledo's prime location next to Lake Erie and the Maumee River allowed pre-Prohibition breweries like the original Buckeye Brewing, Finlay, Maumee, and Huebner-Toledo to thrive.

Having some time to absorb the whole experience, I went with a more nuanced look on this blogpost at the four breweries we visited to try to paint a picture of where the 419 craft beer scene stands now, and where it could go.  Not that we didn't find any great beer during our travels (one of the best beers my wife and I have had this year was drank on this tour), but the scene's best days are most decidedly geared toward the future.