Tried and True: Matt the Miller's Tavern

Matt the Miller's Tavern has ended up to be a tried and true
group-oriented meetup place over our time here
There are many players on the market in the what you might call the "Upscale American Causal" category, with the Columbus metro sporting its fair share. As time has gone on, there seems to be one place that my spouse and I have ended up at that has met the following general broad criteria:
  • Initially was suggested by other members of the meetup group (we have suggested it as well as time has gone on)
  • Sports a nicer atmosphere than your typical pub and grub
  • Able to handle larger groups (with many from far-flung places outside of Columbus) at a moment's notice
  • Offers a menu of mostly familiar favorites with a subset of slightly more adventurous as well as gluten-friendly menu options
  • Covers a wide range of price points and more casual/formal cuisine depending on your mood and economic considerations
  • Proffers a bevy of adult beverage choices, including locally-brewed craft beer options
  • Is not one of the major nationwide chain places that we would prefer not to visit save for select circumstances
  • Have found our experiences uniformly solid and enjoyable
This detailed criteria list refers to the locally-based mini-chain Matt The Miller's Tavern.

Started in 2008, Matt The Miller's Tavern original location was established by Craig Barnum in the city of Dublin, with subsequent locally-based branches going up in Grandview and Polaris (a fourth location exists out of state in Carmel, Indiana.) Barnum himself has been a visible presence in the local restaurant scene for nearly two decades now, starting with his purchase of Oscar's in Dublin in 1995 and involvement with other familiar eateries like Tucci's (still owned by his CLB Restaurant Group) as well as the Brazenhead Irish Pub locations in Grandview and Dublin.

For us, our experiences have come at both their Dublin and Polaris locations. While there are architectural differences between the two roughly same-sized locations (neither will truly evoke the image of a traditional old-style tavern at first exterior glance for most) the Dublin location definitely gives you more of that cozy tavern feel once inside,  Both locations sport two fairly distinct main areas geared toward a more traditional restaurant seating area and an area centered around a central bar; I imagine much of this is to allow for a more kid-friendly atmosphere for families who don't want to deal with the hubbub that a bar can bring.

Matt The Miller's caters to all ages and types of diners by offering
distinct traditional dining as well as a bar-oriented areas
As previously alluded to above, Matt The Miller's menu items have been generally solid creations, with enough of a "unique twist" (to borrow from the CLB Restaurants website) on some items to make dining a small but pleasant notch above the usual. Almost all of our group outings have involved ordering some combination of their appetizers, sandwiches and flatbreads, and we have found most of them to be fairly tasty. Favorites of ours include the Matt's Sliders (served with bleu cheese and red onion marmalade on brioche buns) and Bavarian-Style Pretzels from the appetizer menu, the various flatbreads (especially the Pear and Gorgonzola and Black and Bleu,) the Peppercorn Burger, and the Fish and Chips (especially with the malt vinegar; just ask your server.)

While Matt The Miller's offers more elegant dinner options such as steak
and fish entrees, we have done perfectly well with their repertoire of
appetizers, sandwiches and flatbreads...and don't forget the local beer
True to the tavern name, Matt the Miller's offers a line of craft beer, cocktails, and a line of top-shelf scotches for the diner.  We've had pints from local Ohio brewers such as Columbus, Four String, Jackie O's and Seventh Son, among others. In addition, the eatery offers fairly special nights (such as Wine Down Wednesday, where wine is offered at state minimum pricing) as well as budget-friendly menu options (such as the $10.99 combo plates, which gives you a 1/2 sandwich or flatbread along with a soup or salad.)

Matt the Miller's Tavern (locations visited)
6725 Avery-Muirfield Dr.
Dublin, OH 43016
(614) 799-9100
- and -
1436 Gemini Place
Columbus, OH 43240
(614) 841-4430

Also located at
1400 Grandview Avenue
Columbus, OH 43212
(614) 754-1026
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A Farewell To Summer

Many people rejoiced with the arrival of the Autumnal Equinox at 4:21 AM on Wednesday. Indeed, with the fall comes cooler weather, the spectacular colors displayed by dying leaves, full fledged football and the World Series in Major League Baseball, and a whole host of other highly anticipated events.

I do love the fall, but I think I'll always be a summer person at heart. Specific to Columbus, I've come to appreciate the numerous festivals, sometimes wild weather, and being bathed in sunlight and the accompanying warmth. The following photos are something of an ode this now departed season:

Lemonade stands were plentiful (and often visited) around
our new neighborhood of residence
Renee of Mighty Macs flashes a big smile at the Moonlight Market
on Gay Street (we flashed one too when we tasted her macarons)
Some of the stones dedicated to female figures found along
the path in Women's Park in Yellow Springs, Ohio
A large crowd queues to see the special sneak peek showing
of John Green's Paper Towns movie at the Palace Theatre
Fourth of July decor was in prominent display at the
family-oriented Spirit Parade, held annually in the
Colonial Hills neighborhood in Worthington
Rain dominated the first month of summer; this torrential
downpour slowed down cars for a several minutes along
northbound State Route 315
A member of Central Ohio Plein Air works on her painting
on the grounds of the Ohio Statehouse

A closeup of the Brewmaster's Gate in Columbus Brewery District
 as seen during our tour hosted by Columbus Brew Adventures
Street musicians get into the groove during
summer edition of Yellow Springs' Street Fair
First of two from Columbus' Greek Festival:  the mosaic
rendition of Saint Mark on the dome above
inside the Annunciation Greek Orthodox Cathedral
Dancers of all ages performed traditional Greek dances
as part of Columbus Greek Festival entertainment
Some neat vintage placards found on a 1931 Arrow Pierce automobile
at the annual Cruise The 'Ville event in Clintonville's Whetstone Park
The Long Street Cultural Wall, detailing important people and landmarks in
Columbus' African-American Community, reached its first birthday this year
Terminal Tower, Cleveland's sister landmark skyscraper to
Columbus' LeVeque Tower, stands tall on a windy day
The folks at The Coffee Mess, a vendor at this year's Old Hillardfest,
show you what your face looks like before you get their pourover brews
Elsie The Cow stands guard on this building brick wall
located just outside of downtown Chillicothe, Ohio
The female winner of the half-marathon speeds down the homestretch
at the annual Air Force Marathon in Dayton, Ohio
A simple and somber tribute to those who lost their life four decades
ago in the devastating F5 category Xenia tornado, the worst
of the 148 tornadoes from the April 3-4, 1974 Super Outbreak
A slightly stylized photo of Columbus' Topiary Park, nestled
firmly within the city's Discovery District
Workers tend to the greenery on top of a Downtown Columbus bike shelter
Storm clouds try to get their act together above a Columbus
Clippers baseball game at Huntington Park
The young ladies of Bailey's Drive-Inn Donuts prepare bags of their fried
goodies at the Thursday version of the New Albany Farmers Market

High-heeled encouragement on a sign just north of the
OSU Campus along the Olentangy Trail
The giraffes and camels go two-by-two on this Noah Ark-themed
vase in Zanesville's Giant Circle of Vases

Ice Cream Chronicles (Vol. 18): Cones and Cylinders - United Dairy Farmers

It took me awhile to go beyond UDF's generally inexpensive gasoline
and explore their surprisingly tasty ice cream offerings 
I confess I knew that United Dairy Farmers (known pretty much around these parts by their acronym UDF) sold ice cream fairly early on, mainly from ads touting their arrival of their seasonal peach flavor. However, I kind of discounted it in my mind, mainly due to other delicious dives into locally-based favorites like Jeni's, Graeter's and Johnson's Real Ice Cream; I figured the ice cream offerings from what was in my mind a convenience store couldn't possibly hold their own against those smaller production efforts. For me, UDF was a place where I could grab some relatively inexpensive gas for the area to fuel the cylinders in my car engine.

But there were a few holes in that line of thinking. One hole was just a simple lack of knowledge: UDF, which celebrated its 75th anniversary earlier this year in May, started off as a strictly dairy-oriented operation, with the convenience store/gasoline aspect being added on much later. Also, I had figured the ice cream sold at UDF was all of the prepackaged variety: it was indeed hearing of UDF's 75th anniversary when I heard of the notion that they sold scoops at their shops. Finally, my spouse gave me her word that UDF actually had some pretty good ice cream, with the cherry cordial and the seasonal flavor peach being especially tasty.

Well, geez, twist my arm, why don't you.

This UDF's dipping station brought back some childhood
memories of a certain drug store's ice cream offerings
To be honest, a full-service ice cream station looks a little weird inside a convenience store in my eyes. As I found out, patience is sometimes required when UDF staff members are dealing with a rush of people doing what they do at a convenience store in picking up a couple sundries or pumping a couple dozen dollars or so worth of gasoline in their car. But once they are ready to attend to you, my UDF clerks were just like any ice cream store employee, offering you tastes of the various ice cream and informing you about the latest flavors.

As I reviewed the generally familiar and novel flavors for sale, and as I waited for my dips (another term I had never heard before coming to the Midwest) to be scooped into cups (with a thunderstorm cell pounding the area, my clerk wanted to make sure my ice cream survived the transfer to the car) I began to realize that UDF reminded me a lot of one of my favorite unlikely childhood places to get an ice cream cone in the form of Thrifty's Drug Store. Long since bought out by Rite Aid, Thifty's Drug Store ice cream stands, which from what I could remember always seemed to be near the photo area, were always a must visit when we dropped by. Here, it wasn't car cylinders but cylinder-shaped scooping devices that provided a unique visual appeal to their dips, and my double or triple scoop was almost always included their Chocolate Malted Krunch, a uniquely beguiling concoction and nothing like I have encountered since.

Can't go wrong with UDF flavors like Peach and Cherry Cordial
None of the flavors we sampled from UDF rose up to that "mythic" Malted krunch ice cream, but they definitely were all rather pleasant. Both my spouse's fruit-based twosome of the seasonal Peach and the Cherry Cordial (just simply yum) and my nut-based pairing of Get Your Peanuts! (uncannily mimicking a Payday) and my usual Butter Pecan (a solid effort) were all quite enjoyable, and just a reminder that if I need some churned frozen sweetness in my life, I can grab a couple scoops of it almost anytime I fuel up the car.

United Dairy Farmers
Numerous locations throughout Ohio
Location visited: 5370 N High St (Clintonville/Sharon Heights)
Columbus, OH 43214
(614) 846-4800
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A Grand View of Local Brewing: Columbus Brew Adventures' Grandview Tour

Both newcomers and those well-versed in the Columbus craft beer
scene can learn a lot about the area's Grandview-based breweries,
courtesy of Jim Ellison and Columbus Brew Adventures' guided tours.
Earlier in the summer, my spouse and I had the opportunity to tour the Brewery District, an area we knew about but had not yet had the opportunity to explore in detail, via the folks at Columbus Brew Adventures. This brew-oriented touring company, founded in September 2013 by Columbus Food Adventures co-founder Bethia Woolf and local culinary maven Jim Ellison (aka the CMH Gourmand), provided us a rather informative and quite enjoyable tour of this historic neighborhood, giving us a history lesson of Columbus' original craft beer companies which once resided here mixed with a sprinkling of the here and now, sampling the wares of various neighborhood-based eateries and currently operating local breweries.

We would have considered ourselves quite fortunate and extremely grateful that this singular opportunity came our way, but as events would conspire, another opportunity came our way again as something of a bookend, with the phenomenon known as Ohio State Football playing a huge part. Coming off a somewhat unpredictable but wholly satisfying championship run last year, the team had seemingly all of Buckeye Nation rapt for their first home game against the University of Hawaii, and that meant another chance for my spouse and I to tour with Columbus Brew Adventures again, this time on their Grandview Brewery Tour.

There are several breweries in the area that are typically in the rotation (including Sideswipe and Actual Brewing), but on this tour we were routed on the traditional threesome of Smokehouse, Zauber, and Four String Brewing, with a closing session at the growler-based Ohio Taproom. Unlike the last tour, where we had a new employee giving her maiden tour, Jim himself provided our escort/knowledge guru for this weekend afternoon.
Smokehouse Brewing's platters were full of their tasty appetizers as well
the seemingly endless beer-related insights of founder Lenny Kolada

Smokehouse Brewing: Coming into this trip, my spouse and I were slightly worried that numerous previous visits to two of the three breweries on this tour, including Smokehouse, would end up going over a lot of familiar territory. In fact, I had previously written about the tasty new menu changes at the Smokehouse on this previous blogpost, brought upon by owner's Lenny Kolada's attempts to take this venerable barbecue-oriented menu into more diverse territory.

However, Kolada himself, known affectionally as the Brewdood and grandfather of the modern Columbus craft beer scene (being a co-founder of Columbus' first modern era brewpub, Barley's Brewing, in downtown Columbus) pretty much put that notion of trampling over lots of familiar territory to rest. Our tour guide Jim "warned" us that Lenny would be more than willing to ramble about just about brew-related, and that is exactly what we got. While munching on a sample platter of Smokehouse's tasty appetizers (mmm...Sauerkraut Balls), Kolada expounded enthusiastically on numerous topics, including the story of his inspiration to establish the original Barley's in downtown, the ABC's of the brewing process, and the numerous ways Smokehouse Brewing serves its beer.

The lacing of a well-crafted Smokehouse Brewing ale is a pretty sight indeed
Of course, we did not come on the tour simply to eat and listen: samples of Smokehouse's current brews were delivered to us tour-goers in well-spaced out waves. Along with familiar favorites like their Scottish Ale (both regular and dry-hopped in a firkin) and their Centennial IPA, we were also pleased with a well-made Oktoberfest and perhaps our favorite of the group, their brand new Maeve Gruit.

This unique beer style, who is named after the Irish queen whose name means "she who intoxicates," featured a combination of hawthorn, elderberries and dandelion roots and was prime example of what Kolada described as "beer that wasn't beer" i.e. beer from an era when hops had not established its typical place in the brewing process due to lack of availability. It was also a prime example of how Smokehouse Brewing, similar to its food menu items, is striving to reach beyond their core brews to venture into more novel creations for its brewpub visitors into the future.

Zauber Brewing's founder Geoff Towne may not be as flamboyant as
his compatriot Kolada at Smokehouse, but his passion for
the art of brewing was equally as evident
Zauber Brewing: The second brewery of Columbus Brew Adventures' Grandview Tour was again quite familiar to us; in fact, it was the subject of one of the very first few blog posts (in conjunction with the very popular Columbus-based food truck Paddy Wagon) on this particular blog.

Brewery founder Geoff Towne, our host at Zauber on this day, acknowledged it has been a tough haul at times, but slowly but surely his dream to offer his German- and Belgian- styled beer at a beer-hall-styled venue came to fruition when Zauber made its move into its current West 5th Avenue location early in 2014. Even after the move, the growing pains were still evident: originally, there was only enough capacity to tap the brewery's newest offerings once a week on Thursday, with taps always running dry fairly soon after.

However, things are more than looking up these days, as evidenced by our original beer sampling. Described by Geoff as American-styled takes on German and Belgian brews by Geoff, our samplers of the brewery's Myopic Red, Vertigo Hefeweizen, Oktoberfest and the Berzerker Belgian IPA were refreshing, solid brews. These beers, along with their other offerings, are available now on a regular or seasonal basis.

In addition, the brewery's main space, again meant to be an American take on a German-styled beer hall, has emerged into a consistent destination for sports-oriented fans and board game aficionados alike (Towne said it was roughly only a 20-30 minute walk from the brewery to the C-deck at The Shoe at The Ohio State University.)  Also, their association with food trucks (typical of the fairly unique brewery/food truck relationship that has emerged in Columbus, noted Jim) has resulted in a more permanent relationship with the recently displaced Explorers Club, which will be opening up a kitchen space inside in the very near future. Caffeine heads can also rejoice with another addition: Lithopolis' Das Kaffeehaus, who similarly has adopted an American take on a German coffeehouse, will be opening up a branch of their operations in the near future as well.

With beer sampler glasses in hand, guests were escorted by Geoff into the
Zauber's production area, where he gave folks his take on brewing basics
as well as a close up sensory experience with brewing ingredients
Geoff invited us to take our last beer sampler with us as we ventured to the brewery's production area. Glistening metal tanks proved to be an attractive backdrop as Zauber's head brewer went over his m methods of brewing. A theme that started here, and would be continued at our next stop (Four String Brewing), was the philosophical differences in what was essentially the same general process, such as the how long you would keep reusing particular batches of yeast. Geoff also gave a nice bonus for us tour-goers in allowing us to smell and taste some of the hops and malts used in their production (though both he and Jim warned us emphatically to NOT eat the hops.)

The uniquely Ohio-oriented growler shop The Ohio Taproom
provided our final stop on this Columbus Brew Adventures tour

The Ohio Taproom: After stopping at our third brewery on the trip (Four String Brewing, who is covered in this separate post), we ended our tour at a place we had actually not had a chance to visit before in the growler-based Ohio Taproom.

As our tour host Jim hinted before our arrival, The Ohio Taproom essentially has two main credos: to serve Ohio-only beer, and to serve a beer from every Ohio craft brewer there is out there. Even with Columbus' more-or-less central location, the latter is a Herculean task at best, but the hand-painted map outside this former barbershop shows that the Taproom has made quite a bit of progress in that regard since its opening in mid-2013 with over 70 different breweries represented.

Our samples included the pale ale from Pigskin Brewing in Gahanna, a more hop-forward rendition of the style than most, as well as Athens' Devil's Kettle and their very intriguing Spider Silk blonde ale. Jim also hinted that some fairly obscure beer makes their way here through the Taproom's efforts; sure enough, that factoid was hammered home when one of our samplers contained the Abbey Pilsner of the Moeller Brew Barn from out of the tiny western-Ohio township of Maria Stein. The spouse and I are not typically pilsner fans, but the smooth mouthfeel and pleasant malt and hop zing of this brew made it our growler takeaway for the tour (Columbus Brew Adventures conveniently provides space for your growlers in their vans...hint, hint.)  

Blake proved to be a loquacious host at the Taproom for us tour-goers
as he showed off their state-of-the-art growler filling system as
well as their inventory of Ohio-based food and drink products
Our buying a growler of the Moeller Brew Barn pilsner meant we got to see The Ohio Taproom's state-of-the-art growler fill system in action. Unlike many others that offer growler fills, the Taproom's system purges your growler with carbon dioxide prior to filling it with beer, theoretically keeping your beer fresh with proper storage for up to 90 days. At the time of our visit, the Taproom was in the final stages of obtaining permission to serve pints of beer to visitors (as it turned out, their efforts have proven successful based on this Facebook post; their first pints will be served on Friday, September 18.)

The Ohio Taproom also has a select variety of non-beer Ohio-based products for sale, including the hot sauces and salsas of CaJohns Fiery Foods, Cincinnati-based Wild Joe's Beef Jerky, and Grandview's own terrific creator of pies Honeykiss Bakery.

In terms of the tour itself, we found that both people of all types can enjoy these tours. Some members of our group were intrigued with the chemistry and biological processes that go behind the art of brewing of beer. Another tour member, a beer enthusiast who commuted to work from southern Ohio to Grandview but was otherwise unfamiliar with the area, was really pleased to get a more clear picture of the some of the area's beer and food options.

And for us relative veterans of the Columbus beer scene, we actually learned a lot more than we figured we would on this roughly four hour excursion into what seemed like familiar territory. Much of that was due to our fine hosts, but we equally have Jim to thank making the tour as satisfying as it turned out. Should Jim be your host for a Columbus Brew Adventure tour, his knowledge of the craft beer scene as a whole and experience with Columbus' culinary arena is something that any tour goer should tap and enjoy equally as much as any of the brews you might imbibe that day.

Columbus Brew Adventures
Tour and ticket information can be found on their website at
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Smokehouse Brewing
1130 Dublin Road
Columbus, OH 43215
(614) 485-0BBQ (0227)
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Zauber Brewing
909 West Fifth Ave,
Columbus, OH 43212
(614) 456-7074
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The Ohio Taproom
1291 W. Third Ave.
Columbus, OH, 43212
(614) 487-9224
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Home Bass for Beer: Four String Brewing

Four String Brewing, launched in late 2011, got its name in part from owner
Dan Cochran's background as a bass player with the Columbus music scene
On our recently taken Columbus Brew Adventures Grandview Brewery tour, as detailed in this blog post), we had in fact had visited all three breweries prior. However, unlike Zauber and Smokehouse, where we had logged numerous visits over the years, we had logged only one visit just a mere couple weeks prior to the tour to Four String Brewery, and we figured it would be only appropriate to give them a separate blog post.

Prior to this visit, our lone experience with Four String beers had been out on tap at various restaurants and via six-packs bought at local beer-selling establishments. Our taste of beers like their Brass Knuckle American Pale Ale and Big Star IPA were generally favorable - definitely not knock-your-socks off brews, but solidly in the "keep-a-six-pack-in-the-fridge for-after-work" category. However, we had not actually visited their taproom to try to get a better idea of their offerings after all this time, mainly due to their somewhat hidden location on 6th Avenue behind the Shoppes on 5th strip mall.

We finally got the motivation to get over there through a unique food-related event: the Ajumama Food Truck, well-known in the Columbus area for chef Laura Lee's take on Korean favorites, was hosting a special pop-up featuring Chef Sean's take on Filipino favorites. With our radar constantly on the lookout for that cuisine, we decided to make it a night, and sampling Four String's offerings would be the proverbial bonus sundae cherry to top it all off.

On our first visit, the combo of Ajumama's takes on Filipino favorites
and flights of Four String brews really hit the culinary sweet spot
As it turned out, the Filipino menu that Ajumama offered that night proved with mostly untraditional (exception: the Puto steamed rice cakes were pretty traditional and spot on very good) but really fun takes on staple items such as the Bacon Cheeseburger Lumpia, grilled Adobo Ribs, and the Chicken Afritada Sandwich (perhaps my favorite of the mains, with a taste profile reminding me of my parents' versions of Menudo and Mechado.) '

Meanwhile, the appropriately music-themed Four String taproom provided a dimly lit but otherwise nicely intimate setting to enjoy our eats. We also got a much higher appreciation of their beer offerings in the process, especially with Skeleton Red Rye IPA (the spouse and I are both fans of rye beers in general; this ended up as our second pint for the day) their new Devilock Hazelnut Stout, part of their ongoing Solo Series of limited-quantity releases (this nicely chocolaty, nutty stout was our actual favorite on this visit, but the hot & humid weather made the rye IPA the more appealing choice for a second brew.)

Columbus Brew Adventures helped provide some history to Four String's
emergence in the local craft beer scene, including their "Frankenbrewing"
beer production and their decision to go with canning their brews. 
During that first visit, it was quite noticeable that Four String Brewery's equipment certainly did not look like the traditional-styled brewery vessels we were used to seeing on other brewery and taproom visits. Indeed, on our return visit to Four String during Columbus Brew Adventures' Grandview Brewery tour, our host Jim Ellison as well as our brewery hostess provided us a fascinating history behind owner Dan Cochran's efforts to successfully transform Four String into one of the more prominent players in Columbus' current craft brew scene.

We learned all the equipment still remaining in the 6th Avenue taproom was designed for other purposes; Cochran bought the equipment for pennies on the dollar and with outside assistance adapted those device to brew beer instead. This "Frankenbrewing " method of brewing beer came with its challenges: one particularly revealing visual was their brick-lined boiler (as pictured above.) The heat generated from the brewing process was so intense, it was melting the container's legs off  - the rather clever installation of a rope around the rim provided just enough of an heat escape to tone the heat down without affecting the brewing process.

Other interesting fun facts we learned were the decision to can versus bottle their beers (Cochran found that mobile canning would be the most inexpensive way to get his product to the market, especially with a host of volunteers who would help package the cans in return for pizza and beer) as well as the fate of the 6th Avenue taproom. While Four String is nearing completion on a new larger production facility on the west side of the Columbus metro, the 6th Avenue taproom would still remain open and become the home for the brewery's more limited and experimental brews.

Of course, we tour-goers were treated to samples of their beer, and in a way it was like deja vu all over again from our first visit, as Chef Lee from the Ajumama food truck brought over some tasty spicy pork mini-sandwiches. These little toothpicked bites were welcome as we sampled beers that we had had on our first visit (including the rye IPA and hazelnut stout we so enjoyed) and are sure to have again on some future trip to Four String.

Four String Brewing
985 W. 6th Avenue (Grandview Heights)
Columbus, OH 43212
(614) 725-1282
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That Summer Feeling: Katalina's

No restaurant reflects my most favorite season like Harrison West's Katalina's
It might be partly genetics, and might be partly geography (I've grown up mainly in sunny warm locales most of my life), but overall summer may be my favorite season of the year. However, in my old stomping grounds of the Bay Area, the seasons of the year are much less defined than here in the Midwest. Typically, a Bay Area summer boosts the temperatures, especially inland, and lawns turn brown from the lack of rain (sadly, the latter has been too much of the trend the last few years no matter the season.) The most pleasing effect the summer brought for me was to remove the hassle of toting cooler-weather gear around. With that said, many inexperienced souls traveling within the borders of San Francisco proper often feel the unexpectedly biting chill of brisk onshore winds and ocean fog, fueling summer sweatshirt sales from the city's numerous souvenir shops like nobody's business.

In contrast, summer brings a much more diverse mix of elements to Midwest residents. Besides the weather-related events like pop-up thundershowers and more severe weather phenomena, nature and the surrounding Central Ohio agricultural areas give me much more sensory feedback. I have learned to tune into what my spouse has long grown familiar and come to associate with the season: the constant whir of unified cicada chirps, and the various fragrant smells of earth and plant life, from naturally occurring colorful blooms of all sorts and the various fruits and vegetables, both wild and cultivated for agriculture.

For both of us, the season also has come to mean it's the prime time to experience Harrison West's Katalina's, mainly due to its prominent outdoor patio space. While outdoor patios in the Columbus area are not unique to this eatery, the summer and warmer weather in general is especially kind to this eatery. The sight of sun-drenched diners of all ages, including an occasional four-legged pup or two, engaging and eating underneath the outdoor, umbrella-covered patio tables is uniquely appealing in its own right. Even when I am simply transiting through the neighborhood, the sight of a visibly bustling Katalina's brings a smile to my face.

Katalina's presents something of the "coolest kitchen in town" flair
in its interior, sporting vintage furnishings, shelves of often-locally
based products, and diner-inspired jottings and doodles
Lack of summer sun and heat should not be a deterrent to exploring the unique eatery that is Katalina's during anytime of the year, however. Indeed, owner Kathleen Day has taken what had been a sandwich shop back into 2009 (and, farther back in the day, a gasoline station) and has slowly but surely imprinted her unique design flair within this compact interior space. The mixing and matching of antique furnishings with playful elements such as a chalkboard wall and new patio tables emblazoned with the colorful doodles and words of numerous previous diners, paired up with wooden benches and vintage chairs, makes for a visually appealing motif.

The interior in general feels something like the coolest kitchen around. Antique furniture provides the shelving for Katalina's inventory of mainly local products, while a refrigerator case provides an efficient way to pick up pre-filled cups of fruit drinks such as their "famous" Watermelon Mint Lemonade and Blood Orange Juice (a favorite of my spouse's) along with Cold Brew Coffee from local roaster Thunderkiss (a separate area next to this case hosts the hot-brewed java.). While ordering your food, you can take a peek at the bustle of people in the actual kitchen space often working feverishly to keep up with orders.

Katalina's longtime staple Pancake Balls have been joined on the
menu by newcomers like the Housemade Chorizo Tacos (center)
and Hens In A Basket (bottom)
Katalina's signature dish, and justly so, is their Pancake Balls. Unlike the heavy, doughy abelskivers cousins we've had previous at the Danish-themed tourist town of Solvang in Central California, this eatery's versions are heaven-light and airy by comparison. Covered with powdered sugar, and paired with Ohio-produced maple syrup and a couple slices of bacon, choosing this dish is often less difficult than figuring out which decadent filling (Nutella, Dulce de Leche or Pumpkin Apple Butter) you want inside these spheroids of deliciousness.

Throughout the years, Day has added menu items that that reflect both Southern and Latino influences, including but not exclusive to their Pueblo BLT to their Southern Brown Betty Biscuit Balls. We have not had the chance to try those dishes yet, but the items we have tried have never been simply ordinary. From the previously mentioned Pancake Balls to the Mexican French Toast (enjoyed immensely by a niece of ours), their Huevos Rancheros (lauded by Travel + Leisure Magazine as some of the best in the country and featuring, like many of Katalina's dishes, Shagbark Seed and Mill chips) to newer creations like their Housemade Chorizo Tacos, new and improved Katalina's Migas (an egg-lovers dream featuring five eggs scrambled with Snowville Creamery creme fraiche) and Hens In A Basket (a fairly simple concept accentuated by a tasty brussels sprout hash) Katalina's menu always seems to give always a dilemma on our return visit: go with known deliciousness, or something new that promises to be equally so?

It's a tasty job but someone's gotta do it...right?

1105 Pennsylvania Ave (Harrison West)
Columbus, OH 43201
(614) 294-2233
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Katalina's Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Brewsome Twosome: Weasel Boy (Zanesville, OH) and Restoration Brew Worx (Delaware, OH)

The state of Ohio, along with much of the Midwest portion of this country, has been a hotbed of craft beer growth over the past year. A recent Nielsen report, as noted in this Columbus Underground article, notes that the Columbus area landed in the top 10 cities in both dollars spent on craft beer and growth compared to the previous year; Cincinnati and Cleveland also made appearances on this list.

My spouse and I have enjoyed exploring this growth immensely, from the "old guard" institutions to the newcomers and everything in between. Two of our most recent journeys exploring the area's craft beer scene are documented here with Zanesville's Weasel Boy and Delaware's Restoration Brew Worx.

Weasel Boy resides in an attractively attired brick-walled facility
in South Zanesville, roughly one hour east of the Columbus metro
Weasel Boy Brewing: Founded by Jay and Lori Wince in 2006, Weasel Boy is something of a tweener in Central Ohio's craft beer scene, coming in well after breweries like Columbus, Barley's and Elevator were founded, but before the fairly substantial and continuing second wave of craft breweries splashed on the local scene in the current decade. Situated comfortably in the brick-walled Carl L. Mitzel building in South Zanesville along the banks of the Muskingum River (views of the river are available from inside the space), the brewpub lies roughly one hour's drive on I-70 east from the Columbus metro area.

A casual atmosphere, riverside views, and an event space that hosts
regular music and art displays marks the brewery's interior
The interior of Weasel Boy is quite spacious, with the main brewpub area (along with requisite beer barrels and tanks along with seating) as well as an event space and business offices. Works from local artists are regularly rotated on display, and the venue has event spaces to host large parties and similar.

My first real experience with Weasel Boy Brewing's beer was at the Columbus Winter Beerfest, where I had one of the more interesting brews of the night in the form of their smoked Rauch Weasel Porter. On this trip to the brewpub, we decided to go with pints of their offerings rather than a full-fledged flight and found the more interesting brews to be their seasonals. While the Dancing Ferret IPA and Brown Stoat Stout were merely okay in our book, we both agreed that the Mango Wheat (recently replaced on the tap menu by their Oktoberfest) was quite enjoyable, with a solid mango presence but just enough wheat presence to balance things out. A perfect lawnmower beer indeed. Also interesting was the Paw Paw Pale Ale - if you are a big fan of that unique flavor, this beer, strongly tilted with toward the fruit in its profile, will please you in spades.

Weasel Boy's food menu is limited, but in this case the specialization works. Their whole-wheat, beer infused pizza crusts with a side of pizza sauce were a great snack-while-you-drink; based on the reaction of the couple sitting next to us at the bar, their full-fledged pizza, which is offered as a build-your-own version as well as a few preset combos, is also a winning dish. Diners also have the option of salads and pop drinks from the brewery's menu.

Weasel Boy Brewing Company
126 Muskingum Ave, Suite E (Google Maps)
Zanesville, OH 43701
(740) 455-3767
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Restoration Brew Worx, situated in quaint downtown Delaware,
is among the newest of newcomers to the local craft beer scene
Restoration Brew Worx: During this summer, we discovered that downtown Delaware, roughly one half-hour north of the Columbus area (depending on traffic on the sometimes cloggy US 23), has a lot to recommend it for an easy day trip, from antique shops, interesting eateries (including a very memorable dinner at Veritas Tavern) and craft beer-oriented establishments. Staas Brewing. at a mere two years old, counts as the veteran member of the local breweries now with the very arrival of newcomer Restoration Brew Worx, which opened its doors this May.

Restoration Brew Worx sports indoor and outdoor seating in a
space that invites you to relax and hang out for awhile
Similar to a brewery we have become quite familiar with in Clintonville's Lineage Brewing, Restoration was founded by a foursome of acquaintances, as noted in this Drink Up Columbus article. In my mind, the comparisons don't end there - their respective settings are reasonably compact but overall feel uncrowded relaxing, sporting both outdoor and indoor seating and a general "hang out and stay awhile" kind of vibe.

Restoration has an evolving menu of bar favorites and select entrees
with a revolving selection of solid beer choices
Based on this first sampling, Restoration is brewing some very tasty, highly drinkable brews. All the selections on the flight we ordered were quite delicious, including their Rush Porter, unTamed Blonde Ale and Big Bag of Judgment Belgian IPA. Interestingly, the fourth taster of the bunch had a unique little side note on the big board inside, stating that Restoration's brewer "hates Hefeweizen". While Hefeweizen is not necessarily either of our favorite styles as well, the very warm and humid conditions on our visit made the great balance of banana, clove and wheat on the Effe-weizen Hefeweizen the winner for a second order of a full pint.

Restoration's menu sports a select inventory of appetizers, sandwiches and entrees, and for us the ginger Fried Chicken Wings and Soft Pretzel with two different dipping sauces were solid fare. In recently announced news, the brewery has announced they will be featuring the frozen goodness of Indulgence Ice Cream, which has been featured in local area restaurants such as La Tavola and Ella.

Restoration Brew Worx
25 North Sandusky St (Google Maps)
Delaware, OH  43015
(740) 990-7120
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