Columbus Pizza-politan Adventures: Well, It Got Better...

I swear my pizza tasted like a newt! A newt?! 
Well, it got better... (all credit to the Graham Chapman & Monty Python)
If you're like most pizza lovers, you've had your share of dreadful pie in your lifetime, and like many, your experiences were dictated by economics. Some recent reminiscing brought me back to my college days and one of my most memorable (in a bad way) go-to cheap delivery pizzas. These pizzas, which came laden with a thin, tinny tomato sauce, grayish sausage, and slivers of something resembling pepperoni, were so soggy and floppy that you had to roll the slices up or risk planting that motley collection of toppings all over your chest.

In the spirit of that reminiscing, I decided last month that I would go back to some of those bad pizza pie roots, but with a twist: my choices would be two chain places that had earned a reputation as some of the worst mass-consumed pie options around, but reversed their downturn in fortune by essentially exchanging each other's menu focus.

A Blogoversary with a Twist

If this blog could eat the four cupcakes from Kittie's Cakes in celebration of
its fourth year anniversary, I'd let it.  But since it can't, I'll strive to do it myself
Well, four years are in the book for this blog, and suffice it to say it continues to chug along quite nicely. Stats are kind of boring, so I'll keep this section short and to the point. The blog continues at roughly two posts per week, we reached 1,000 Instagram followers at the end of 2017, and the combined road- and air-trip miles for us ended up close to 10,000 total, including at good quarter of those spent on a nicely epic seven-state excursion to catch the Great American Eclipse of 2017.

I had thought doing something similar to last year in posting some pictures from last year's adventures that didn't make the blog. However, a current saga from a local personality in combination with a picture I came across from what seems like many moons ago gave me the notion that this shouldn't be a typical blogoversary post.

Let Your Fingers Do The Eating: Bonifacio's APAHM Kamayan

Subo (Su-bo; Tagalog) - Verb
1. sumubo', isubo' (-um:i-) to get into trouble. 
2. to feed or put food into the mouth

Subo - that was a word I was quite familiar with as a child, more so the second meaning than the first. Often times, it was a request from my parents, grandparents, or other adult relatives, who wanted me to feed younger members of the family whose focus was intent on playing, not eating. This was fraught with its own dangers: catching one of my younger siblings or cousins was not unlike grabbing a chicken in its pen at times, and spilled food and liquids on the floor were fairly common.

Another implied meaning of this word for me lay in the method of feeding. For all but the youngest, feeding involved using my fingers to grab just the right-sized morsel to fit inside the target's mouth. Often times, that target would be my own mouth, and this process felt natural and instinctive to me.

Brews and 'Ques: That's Unusually Dank, Roscoe

The downtown-located Coshocton Clerk of Courts Building
After our jaunt for antiques in downtown Coshocton at the Coshocton Antique Mall and some fine German brews at the very appealing Wooly Pig Farmhouse Brewery, we figured it was time to grab some food for lunch. And in less time than it takes to tell, we found something quite unusual down the road that did the trick.

Unusual Junction would fit right in along the famed Route 66, where the lore of the road trip and automobile mix with a sense of nostalgia and occasionally just a touch of cheesy goodness.  As it stands, this attraction resides along Ohio's US 36 as if it were dropped from the sky. Drivers can thank the McKenna family from Cleveland, whose patriarch Jerry purchased this farmland in the early 1970s.

Brews and 'Ques: A Wooly Good Day in Coshocton

Two faded advertisements fight for the notice of passers-by
on the side of this downtown Coshocton building
It turns out the modestly-sized town of Coshocton, where the Walhonding and Tuscawaras Rivers merge into the Muskingum, at its largest was never more than 15,000 people in population. Despite its size, this town has brought forth a few surprises from within its borders, including being the birthplace of the modern promotional company  (Novelty Advertising Company was the first) as well as the birthplace of Steve Earle's favorite stalk-ee in alt-country artist Lydia Loveless.

So on a recent weekend with the urge to roam a bit and some time had passed since our last Brews and 'Ques venture, we decided it was time to pay this part of Ohio a visit for the first time ever.

The Even Better CCBW Cheat Sheet: Volume 2 (05/16 - 05/19/2018)

Well, Columbus's Craft Beer Week seems to be off to a fine start, with plenty of fun events and one stalwart person already completing the latest edition of the Columbus Ale Trail. We personally found ourselves at a few events, including The Daily Growler's Infusapalooza and a rare tapping of some Cantillon Beers at the Winking Lizard Tavern and Lizardville, located right next to each other on Polaris Blvd. in Westerville.

The Ultimate CCBW Cheat Sheet: Volume 1 (05/11 through 05/15/2018)

As late as 2014, Columbus didn't have a Craft Beer Week to call its own
Amazing little factoid I'd like to share to you: by sheer chance in 2014, my wife and I stumbled into the first ever craft beer week for Greenville, South Carolina.  This fairly modest city of just over 60,000 people at the time hosted 20+ beer events that year, and we had a good time wandering around and trying out the craft wares of the area.

By contrast, Columbus, a city of more than 14 times Greenville's population and several times more breweries, had yet to have such a week to call its own.

Well, things have changed for certain: Columbus Craft Beer Week (CCBW) launched in 2015 and hasn't looked back since. Buoyed by an ever growing numbers (well over forty are projected to be operational by the end of his year), a highly successful corresponding Columbus Ale Trail promotion (more than 2,300 people earned the truly cool paddle and flight glass combo from 2017's version), and enthusiastic public support, I would say that CCBW has been a smashing success.

Never Too Many Cooks in The Kitchen Columbus

When it comes to restaurants, I've typically tried to visit at least twice before I even consider writing a blog post about it.  The general exceptions to this rule has been on our various travels, when the likelihood of visiting a particular restaurant is on the lower end of the scale.

But Columbus's The Kitchen is a different beast altogether.  You could visit this place twenty different times and get twenty different experiences.  But there's a certain appeal, camaraderie, and lively atmosphere that is completely evident after one visit, and is a common theme no matter what the event.

Ice Cream Chronicles (Year 5): Double Your Pleasure

Si Señor is but one of the numerous Columbus-based institutions
undergoing expansion within the metro.
In the 1960's novelty song "I'm Henry VIII, I Am", the British beat band Herman's Hermits used repetition to great effect, taking a song that proclaimed "Second verse, same as the first" to the top of the charts.

This phrase might describe one of the main themes dominating the Columbus restaurant scene over the past year or so, as the most highly anticipated arrivals have come with existing eateries. The momentum seems especially high with places like Hot Chicken Takeover, Si Señor, Los Guachos, Harvest Pizzeria, Sweet Carrot, Momo Ghar, Little Eater, Westie's Gastropub and Katalina's either opening or planning new locations within a relatively short time frame.

The local ice cream scene happily has not been immune from this expansion, especially when it comes to the Mexican-based purveyors. Diamonds Ice Cream, which I wrote about in this blog post, has expanded to both Hilliard and Linworth (the latter as a partnership with newcomer restaurant Tomatillos.)  Meanwhile, those living on Columbus's Westside or near Cleveland Avenue where Columbus and Westerville meet up can make the journey to sample the sweet life.

Columbus Pizzapolitan Adventures (May 2018)

It's alive! The Greater Columbus Pizza Map is alive and kicking,
with three updates since its launch in February of this year
When I finished out my Greater Columbus Pizza Map earlier this year (for the story of that quest, check out this blog post and this one for the cheesy details), a discussion with my fellow blogger CMH Gourmand shortly afterward stuck with me. As he noted, one cannot dine on exclusively off the best gourmet pizzas of the metro unless one is ridiculously well off, and you if you look hard enough, you can find some measure of pizza satisfaction across all of the pie spectrums.

Indeed, feeding a field trip sized bus full of hungry elementary children with 20 large pizzas from a place like Natalie's Coal Fired or Harvest Pizzeria ain't economically feasible for most.  With that said, you would prefer not to feed your kids the dreck of the pizza world either.

In summary, I'm taking a little different tack (and inspiration) from the map and the subsequent discussion. Obviously, a pie from Harvest is almost certainly going to be significantly better than a pie from Little Caesars, but in some ways that's an unfair comparison as they sport different price points, different styles of pizza, and in many ways, striving for different audiences.

So which pizza pies are just plain good, which ones don't cut the mustard, and which ones punch above their weight? I figure delving into a couple of pizza places per month would be a good way to entertain this quest.