Monday, November 29, 2010

American Heritage Restaurant

After checking out the Seville Farmers Market and discussing the possibility of doing a demo during next summer (it's already getting kind of late in the season and my weekends are nearly booked up for the remainder of the season), I stopped by my aunt and uncle's house just a few blocks away to pick them up for a late breakfast. The last time we got together for an early morning breakfast it had been at the Enchanted Cafe in Barberton and while the food was fine, it seemed like everyone in Barberton had descended upon the small cafe at exactly the same time and the wait time was pretty bad. I hoped to avoid a similar situation today.

On both my way to and from the market this morning, I had noticed a small downtown Seville restaurant that appeared to be open, American Heritage Restaurant. When I mentioned it to my aunt and uncle, they informed me that they had eaten there once before, but it was owned by someone else and from what they told me, it wasn't a positive experience. Now under new ownership (and new name), they had yet to try this incarnation and agreed to give it a try. The restaurant was located at 31 West Main Street, Seville, OH 44273 and can be reached at 330-769-9900. There was no website at the time that this article was written.

After parking on the street in front of the restaurant, it wasn't long before we were front and center outside the main entrance:

Front Entrance to American Heritage Restaurant
Once inside, we discovered that while they were full, there was still a table available in the back of the large room. The room was decorated in vintage Americana as well as a wall near our table that had been painted with two locally known figures. A few minutes after being seated, our server took our drink order and left us with the menu to peruse:

American Heritage's Menu Page 1
American Heritage's Menu Page 2
While the first item on the menu looked eerily similar to a breakfast I had eaten at Wild Goats Cafe in Kent (the Shepherd's Breakfast), I decided to continue reading the menu. When I got to the Sunshine Sandwich, I thought it looked interesting enough to consider. Based on what I read off the menu, it didn't appear that the sandwich came with a side, so I also took a look at the a la carte items on the back of the menu, too. Unfortunately, they were out of the grits (which was the side I chose) and knowing that my sandwich was going to be laden with fattiness from bacon, eggs, and cheese, I thought about something lighter. When I asked if they had a fruit cup, sadly she shook her head and said no. When I saw that they had homemade sausage gravy, I somehow managed to convince myself that while not as light as fruit, it wouldn't be as bad as say, a side of breakfast meats.

Our meal came out of the kitchen after about ten minutes or so. First up, the Sunshine Sandwich:

Sunshine Sandwich
And another shot with the top of the biscuit removed:

Inside of the Sunshine Sandwich
The first thing that struck me was the portion size of the sandwich. The menu had actually used the word "jumbo" to describe the size of the biscuit; apparently, our definitions differed. The freshly baked, but not homemade, biscuit had been split and layered with a single egg, a slice of American cheese, and several strips of bacon. The good news was that the bacon had been cooked to order. The bad news was that while this sandwich tasted alright, at $3.69, this was only a marginal step up from a similar offering on McDonald's breakfast menu and at least $1 more.

The sausage gravy, which came in two sizes, fared a little better:

Cup of Sausage Gravy
I had ordered the cup of gravy knowing that I probably wouldn't even finish it. Strangely, the gravy came by itself without anything on which to spoon it over (such as biscuits). Fortunately, my aunt had ordered an extra biscuit with her meal that she ended up not wanting. I split the biscuit and slathered some of the gravy on top:

Biscuit and Sausage Gravy
The gravy itself was decent, although I personally wanted a bit more spice from the black pepper. The gravy was definitely creamy and the bits of sausage in it tasted like what one would think a breakfast sausage should taste like. As with my sandwich, the biscuits were generally okay, but there was a spot on one of the halves that was so hard that I needed a knife to get through it.

Overall, I think the breakfast was decent. It didn't blow me away, but it also wasn't terrible either. The portion sizes for my aunt and uncle's breakfasts were much bigger (although admittedly, they were more expensive, too) than mine was, and my Sunshine Sandwich was little more than a glorified bacon, egg, and cheese biscuit from McDonald's. That being said, were I in town for the market on a Saturday morning, I might just stop in and check them out again. Then again, my uncle emphatically stated at the conclusion of our meal that the breakfasts at the Lighthouse Cafe (which I have covered before for lunch) far surpassed what we ate this morning.

American Heritage Restaurant on Urbanspoon

Friday, November 26, 2010

16 Kids Deli And The Italian Roast Beef Panini

Many years ago, while my college friend Cliona was attending law school at the University of Virginia, I decided to pack my bags and head out for a visit. While I had some places I wanted to visit on my personal agenda, as we were talking about things to do, Cliona kept mentioning this amazing food place that we absolutely had to stop at for a bite to eat. The problem was that her pronunciation of this destination restaurant had confused me. I kept hearing the phrase, "Eggs On Heaven." Figuring it was some type of breakfast joint serving angelic omelettes, I was eager to try it out.

The morning after I arrived, I climbed into her car with my curiosity piqued because of her eagerness and we started on our trip. When she pulled into a gas station, I thought it was to refuel her car. Instead, she proclaimed, "We're here!" I looked around quite puzzled until I realized that "Eggs On Heaven" was actually "Exxon Heaven." It seemed that there was a deli counter inside the gas station that was serving up some tasty sandwiches with unusual toppings. Havarti cheese and fresh avocado? Yep, they had it. We picked up some sandwiches to go and continued on our way.

Just as that small deli counter had been an unusual sight in a regular run-of-the-mill Exxon gas station, another friend, Ryan, told me about an oddly similar experience in Cuyahoga Falls. It seemed that the Marathon gas station at the corner of Broad Street and 2nd Avenue housed a small take-out delicatessen called 16 Kids Deli. Considering he lived within walking distance of this establishment, he ate there quite often and recommended that I stop in and give them a try for myself. I thought at first that he might have been joking with me, but when I pulled up their website, any feelings of doubt melted away.

The Marathon station was located at 2014 2nd Street, Cuyahoga Falls, OH 44221 and can be reached at 330-929-1616. While there were a few spots for non-gas buying customers, the day that I visited the gas station was in full swing and I decided to park next door at the public library and walk over. Here was a shot of the left side of the Marathon station, essentially the entrance to the deli:

Entranceway to 16 Kids Deli
Once inside, I couldn't help but notice the large wall menu listing all of the sandwiches and sides that the deli offered:

16 Kids Deli's Wall Menu
I also noticed a breakfast menu inserted into a plastic display holder perched on the counter:

16 Kids Deli's Breakfast Menu
Ryan had suggested I try the Italian Roast Beef Panini with a side of the jus. While I thought about getting a side of the homemade coleslaw, when I saw that a free order of French Fries was being offered to people who had the deli's phone number programmed into their cell phones, I went with that instead. Most of the side items were of the fried variety and when I saw how they were frying these from-frozen treats, I was genuinely intrigued. It seemed that 16 Kids had a fryer that sat on the counter. Frozen food was dropped into a slot in the top of the machine. When the food was done being cooked, a door was opened at the bottom of the unit and the food simply fell into a tray below. It was then packed up and served to the customer. I can honestly say I've never come across a machine like that before.

After packing a brown paper sack with my sandwich and fries, I walked the few feet to the gas station portion of the small building, selected a bottle of water and returned to the cashier to pay for my dinner. When I returned outside, I was fortunate to spot a picnic table on a small patch of grass between the gas station and the library.

Here was a shot of my wrapped panini and the cup of requested jus:

Wrapped Panini Au Jus
Almost all of the sandwiches were available in three sizes: half, whole, and New York. I decided on going with a whole Italian Roast Beef Panini:

Italian Roast Beef Panini
I have a funny feeling that the difference between the regular roast beef panini and the "Italian" one was the presence of sautéed peppers and onions. The bread, referred to as a ciabatta wrap on the website, had the exact same flavor and texture as a Taco Bell gordita shell. It felt like it had been fried in oil before being mercilessly squeezed inside the panini press. Calling it a ciabatta wrap was a somewhat misleading moniker as this flatbread had none of the qualities of a good ciabatta.

Upon pulling the two halves apart, I managed to take a side shot:

Side Shot of Italian Roast Beef Panini
I tried the sandwich by itself first. The roast beef was definitely juicy and hot. The provolone cheese was nicely melted and the peppers and onions were soft without being mushy. While there were definitely grill marks on the ciabatta wrap from the panini press, the outside of the wrap didn't have that nice crunchy texture that a properly pressed sandwich should have. That being said, this was a decent sandwich and the flavors were pretty good. I had asked for the optional horseradish mayonnaise sauce to be added while it was being prepared. When I tasted the sauce by itself, I got a bit of the heat from the horseradish, but just barely. On the sandwich, however, any hint of the spicy root were completely lost, rendering the sauce essentially down to simply a creamy condiment.

When I dipped the sandwich into the jus, almost all of the flavors in the sandwich were overwhelmed by the prominent beef and even more prominent salt flavors in the small cup of liquid. Serving a sandwich au jus is a great idea in theory, but here in practice today, it wasn't the best idea. While I didn't specifically ask while in the store if the roast beef and the accompanying jus were homemade, after discovering that the pulled pork sandwich was a pre-made item that they simply bought and heated for service, I was inclined to believe that most of the other sandwich ingredients were not made in-house either.

After taking a few bites from my sandwich, I put it aside and turned my attention to the free order of French Fries which had come with my order:

French Fries with Ketchup
These were definitely the style of French Fry that I preferred: thickly cut with some of the skin showing at the tips. However, the execution of these fries was a mixed bag. Some of them were nicely fried, crisp on the outside and creamy on the inside. Others were limp and greasy, either a sign that they weren't fully cooked or that the temperature of the oil wasn't hot enough and the potatoes had simply absorbed the oil instead of cooking in it. The small red container in the photograph above was ketchup. It helped to allay some of the problems, but couldn't alleviate them entirely.

Additionally, since the fries hadn't been salted upon leaving the fryer, by themselves they were a tad underseasoned. They weren't bland, per se, but they were also missing that little bit of salt that would have made them taste much better.

Finally, wrapped up separately from my sandwich was another lunch time staple, the dill pickle spear:

Pickle Spear
There wasn't anything particularly memorable about this pickle other than it had a nice snap to it. The flavor was nice, but pretty standard for this typical sandwich companion. Having now finished my dinner, I threw the remaining trash back into the paper bag, walked back over to the gas station and disposed of it in the garbage receptacle.

Reflecting on my meal that I purchased at 16 Kids Deli today, I would say that it was better than average, but not particularly notable. Would I stop here again if I were already in Cuyahoga Falls? Yes, I would. Would I drive here specifically to try out the cuisine? No, probably not. While the novelty of a delicatessen inside a gas station may be enough to draw in the curious local diner, there are several much better places in Cuyahoga Falls (like here, here and here) to get a good sandwich and French Fries.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Off The Wall Eatery & Gallery

You never know how many breakfast and lunch only joints are out there until you realize that you can never make it to them because the only time you are available to go is in the evening. Most of my hopefully anonymous visits to the restaurants I review are usually made in the evening hours. When I come across a place that doesn't offer anything in the evenings, it usually gets put at the bottom of the list and when I have the rare opportunity of a day off from my regular job or even more rare, a free weekend day, I tend to pull out that little-used part of my "To Eat" list in order to select a restaurant I know I wouldn't be able to get to normally.

Several months ago, my friend and hair stylist extraordinaire, Sherri, told me about a new breakfast and lunch place, Off The Wall Eatery & Gallery. Apparently she and the other stylists over at Frizz Hair Experience have been fairly regular customers of Off The Wall and like to place large lunch orders to go. In fact, they even had several of the menus behind the receptionist's counter. Over the course of the next couple months, she asked if I had gotten a chance to try them out, and unfortunately, until today, I just couldn't make it there when they were open.

That changed today. After running some morning errands, I found myself over near the Steel Corners exit on Route 8 and decided to pop in for lunch. Off The Wall Eatery & Gallery was located in a strip mall building quite a bit back from Steels Corner Road. The address of the restaurant was 4161 Steels Pointe, Unit #900, Stow, OH 44224 and they can be reached at 330-923-9255. Parking was available in front of the strip mall. At the time of this writing, no website could be found that was directly associated with the restaurant.

Here was a shot of the front entrance to the restaurant:

Storefront for Off The Wall Eatery and Gallery
Upon walking through the front door, I was presented with a bright, well-lit space that had all manners of art hanging on the walls. Featuring local artists, it turned out that EVERYTHING was for sale. I didn't have a chance to walk around today and take in the visuals, but the variety of colors added a wonderful visual appeal to the stark monotone color on the wall. After seating myself as the sign inside the door instructed, I picked up one of the paper menus that were stacked vertically at each table.

Here were snapshots of the menu:

Off The Wall's Menu Page 1
Off The Wall's Menu Page 2
Off The Wall's Menu Page 3
Off The Wall's Menu Page 4
My server was cheerful and friendly and when I told her this was my first time visiting, she pointed out some of the items on the menu which she thought were some of the restaurant's stand outs. She also mentioned that today's homemade soup choices were white chicken chili (which they have on a daily basis) and the chipotle chicken and rice. I was even more impressed that she said "chipotle" correctly. While I was still undecided about the sandwich I would be ordering, I made the decision to go ahead and order a cup of the chipotle chicken and rice soup:

Chipotle Chicken and Rice Soup
If this was the cup, I can't imagine how big a bowl of the soup would have been. I thought she might have brought me the larger version instead of the cup, but when she brought my check, I was charged for the smaller cup size. The broth was fairly thin and the milky texture came from the starch of the rice and not any added dairy. I tasted the soup and was immediately aware of the chipotle; not so much because of a smokiness from the smoked chili, but because of the heat which tickled the back of my throat. The rice and chicken were tender and soft. In addition to the protein and starch, various soup vegetables were also present: carrots, onions, and celery ... the power trio for most soups. The only real complaint I had about the vegetables was that the carrots seemed to have been peeled somewhat haphazardly. While this didn't detract from the flavor of the soup, visually, they looked "dirty."

After finishing my soup, my server came back to take my sandwich order. When I saw that one of the sandwiches being offered was a Muffaletta, I couldn't pass it up. This sandwich, a popular New Orleans staple, is a study in balance. You must have the right bread, the right meats, and finally the topper that makes a great Muffaletta, the olive salad. While all of the sandwiches come with chips and a pickle, for an extra $1, I could go with one of the premium sides. My server suggested the homemade coleslaw and I agreed to go with her suggestion.

Here was a shot of my lunch basket today:

Muffaletta with Coleslaw
Here was a close-up of just the Muffaletta:

And a shot of the olive spread with the crown of the ciabatta roll lifted:

Muffaletta with the Crown Removed
Finally, a side shot of the neatly bisected sandwich:

Side Shot of Muffaletta
I took a bite and discovered that the sandwich had been served hot ... well, sort of. Traditionally, the sandwich is served cold. The problem with this version was that after splitting the ciabatta roll, the ham is place on the bottom half and the salami and mozzarella cheese was placed on the top half and then both halves were run through the sandwich toaster. After coming out of the oven, green leafy lettuce was added and the two halves were placed together. The problem came from the fact that the meats were warm on the side closest to the heating element, but as you got closer to the bun, they were actually cold. Serve it hot, serve it cold, but don't serve it with multiple temperatures happening in the same sandwich.

The other problem I had was with the olive salad. The menu listed it as olive tapenade (which seems redundant to me), but the olive spread that was on this sandwich seemed to be too coarse to be tapenade, but far too fine to match the much preferable olive salad that tops the original Muffaletta. In addition, there just wasn't enough of the tapenade on the sandwich to give a full bite any discernible olive flavor. I realize that I'm doing a bit of nitpicking; all that being said, it was a decent enough sandwich. But as a Muffaletta? It definitely needed some work to get to that level.

After my sandwich, I turned my attention to the very colorful coleslaw:

The lovely lilac coloring came from the prodigious use of red cabbage. This was definitely not food service slaw that had come pre-made. The cabbage had been dressed lightly in a slightly tangy, slightly sweet dressing. I was honestly on the fence about the dressing. I would have liked a more pronounced tang to the flavor, but I could also tell that the slaw had been dressed to the point where the cabbage didn't overpower the dressing and the dressing didn't overpower the cabbage. In addition to the cabbage and the dressing, carrots and celery seeds were used to complete the dish. When you go, I'd recommend you give the coleslaw a try.

The total for my lunch today was just under $10 with tax. I left quite full and in fact, wasn't even able to finish my Muffaletta. Sadly, when asked about how much of the food was homemade, it seemed to be about a 50/50 split. For instance, the ciabatta roll on which my sandwich came was a product that they purchased. The pizza dough for their thin crust pizzas was also purchased. Some of the dressings were homemade, some were not. Given that the ciabatta roll used for my sandwich was decent, but not outstanding, I am wary to suggest getting the pizza without trying it out myself first.

Off The Wall was definitely a step out of the ordinary. Service was prompt and efficient and the food, for the most part, was okay, but could've been better. Since it is exceedingly rare that I find myself with the right hours of the day free to attend a place like this, I would return again if someone suggested it, but probably wouldn't find myself seeking it out on my own.

Off the Wall on Urbanspoon

Monday, November 22, 2010

Korean Soul At Seoul Garden

The first time I ever ate at Seoul Garden in Cuyahoga Falls, Ohio, I was less than impressed. The menu was confusing, the language barrier between myself and the staff was an issue, and I just plain wasn't used to the flavors and textures of Korean food. Since that first meal seven years ago, I have spent much time and energy educating myself and my palate about the delicious diversity that Korean food has to offer. Since that first meal, I have eaten at several different northeast Ohio restaurants specializing in this type of cuisine and I felt that it was high time that I returned to this first spot with a much more finely tuned palate.

On a random Saturday afternoon, I decided to stop in for lunch at around 12:30 PM. Seoul Garden shared the building with the Elks Lodge in Cuyahoga Falls and was quite close to the Ernest Angley's Cathedral of Tomorrow (which is a popular landmark for those in the Akron / Cuyahoga Falls area). Technically, the address was 2559 State Road, Cuyahoga Falls, OH 44223 and they can be reached at 330-929-9971. As of this writing, the restaurant did not have its own website. Parking was to the left of the building and the small lot in front of the restaurant.

Here was a shot of the front of the building, visible from State Road:

Storefront of Seoul Garden Restaurant
Once inside, my eyes adjusted to the darker environment and I sat myself at one of the empty tables. Two prominent facts sprung forth from my memory of my last visit. First, I was the only non-Korean person in the restaurant. Second, there seemed to be so few restaurant patrons. Today's visit was eerily similar. After I sat myself, an older gentleman running the front of the house stopped over to take my drink order and drop off a menu.

Here were photographs of the menu:

Seoul Garden Menu Page 1
Seoul Garden Menu Page 2
Seoul Garden Menu Page 3
Seoul Garden Menu Page 4
As I began to look over the menu, I began to realize why I had experienced such a difficult time ordering the last time I was in. Unlike other Korean restaurants at which I've eaten that have pictures either on the menu or on the wall, Seoul Garden's menu had zero illustrations. You had to completely rely on either the name of the dish itself or the English description provided. I often find that menu descriptions get lost in translation and try not to depend too much on them. The other problem I noticed today was a common one: different restaurants spell the same dish differently. For instant, the famous Korean stirred rice dish, Bibimbap, was spelled "Bi Bim Bob" on the printed menu and "Bi Bim Bab" on one of the few pictured dishes dimly illuminated on the wall.

Fortunately, this time around I recognized more than I didn't, but I can see why I had been so easily confused the first time I came to the restaurant as a Korean food neophyte. Seeing that there was a fried dumpling appetizer, I thought I would start out my meal by giving that a try. Shortly after ordering it, this arrived at my table:

Deep Fried Dumplings
Accompanying my fried dumplings was a soy sauce, rice vinegar, and chili dipping sauce with added scallions:

Soy, Vinegar, and Chili Dipping Sauce
The first point I would like to make about the fried dumplings was their perfect fry job. I touched a dumpling with my finger and it came away clean and grease free. I tried the first dumpling sans dipping sauce and could taste the savoriness from the meat, the gentle heat from ginger and the pungency of garlic. This was a tasty dumpling. When my server stopped by to check on me, I asked him if the meat was pork. He informed me that they were, in fact, beef. Of course, I should've known that they were beef! I've had mandoo (aka mandu) at other Korean restaurants, but the dumplings were steamed and not deep fried.

After trying the dumpling naked, I then tried them dipped in the sauce. The sauce added just the right amount of seasoning, acidity, and spicy kick from the chili. The dumplings on their own were good. With the sauce, they were awesome. While I initially debated whether to eat all six dumplings in order to save room for the rest of my lunch, the minute I tasted them, I knew I would have zero willpower to resist the entire plate.

With most Korean meals I've been served, before the main course comes out, banchan are brought to the table. Every restaurant seems to serve different banchan, although kimchee seems to be a common denominator amongst them all. Soon after my appetizer plate was cleared, my banchan arrived at the table.

Here were the first four:

First Set of Banchan
Clockwise from the top left you have pickled cucumbers, a chili spiced vegetable, bean sprouts and a salted, dried fish (sadly, the actual names of these particular banchan are unknown to me). The pickled cucumbers were the best among the lot and would appeal to most American palates. The chili spiced vegetable was interesting, a bit spicy and crunchy, but didn't have a very distinct vegetal flavor. The bean sprouts (which I think were soybean sprouts), had an earthiness to them and a unique flavor that other bean sprouts don't possess. The dried, salted fish were a flavor that may be popular with Koreans, but many Americans would have a problem with the assertiveness of the fishy flavor and crunchy texture.

Here was a shot of the other four dishes of banchan:

Second Set of Banchan
Again, clockwise from the top left you have a vinegared seaweed salad, what I thought was a pressed tofu dish, a sliced cooked potato in a slightly sweet dressing, and finally, that most famous of Korean dishes, kimchee. These were all quite nice, with Seoul Garden's kimchee having a more acidic tinge to it than I am normally used to. I liked this.

Within a few moments of my banchan arriving, the main event, the Dol Sot Bi Bim Bob (that was how it was spelled on their menu) arrived hot and sizzling:

Dolsot Bibimbap
Dolsot refers to the fact that the contents are served in a rocket hot stone bowl. The heat from the bowl helps to form a nice crusty layer on the rice sitting on the bottom of the bowl. Since bibimbap literally means "stirred rice," after adding a generous portion of chili sauce I used the spoon provided with my chopsticks to stir the contents of the bowl together, breaking the yolk and using the heat from the bowl to cook the sunnyside up egg. I was pleased that the egg came out with the yolk still runny. I didn't even have to make it a point to try and get the egg cooked that way; that was how it came out of the kitchen.

After stirring the contents of the bowl, this was what I ended up with as I put down the spoon and picked up my chopsticks:

Dolsot Bibimbap with Stirred Contents
To say that this was good was an understatement; this was great. Even after eating all of my appetizer and sampling from the various bowls of banchan, before I knew what had happened, I reached the bottom of the bowl. The creaminess from the egg worked beautifully with the crunchiness from the cooked rice. The salty and savory meat worked well with the plainness of the white rice. The snap and freshness from the vegetables really sang in my mouth. I don't know that this was the BEST version of bibimbap that I've ever had, but it was certainly among top five.

Oddly, in a twist that I've never come across before in a Korean restaurant, my lunch entrée was served with a bowl of totally clear soup:

Soup with Sprouts and Scallions
Containing scallions, cabbage, and more of the bean sprouts, the broth was absolutely clear, a Korean consommé, if you will. While I didn't detect any scents from the ocean when I smelled it, I guessed that it was probably a beef consommé and a very light one, in terms of color and flavor, at that. While the soup came out at the same time as my entrée, I kept the soup until the end and used it more as a palate cleanser and aid in digestion.

With tax and tip, I ended up spending about $20 today for lunch at Seoul Garden. While this may seem expensive, it was completely in line with other Korean restaurants in northeast Ohio. There were some pretty pricey menu items on the rear of the menu, but many of those were dishes that were meant to be split amongst multiple people. While the flavors at Seoul Garden were quite good and even more important, quite authentic, I would have reservations recommending it to readers who aren't comfortable with either the language or the descriptions provided on the menu. My advice? Take someone along who IS comfortable and you will be rewarded with some really excellent food. I know that it will not be another seven years before I return again for another meal.

Seoul Garden Korean on Urbanspoon

Friday, November 19, 2010

Finishing The Weekend At The Best Breakfast And Sandwiches

If you would have asked me when I started Exploring Food My Way what about the experience of blogging would surprise me the most, I probably would have responded that showing up in a Google search would have blown my mind. As I've spent time building up the content on this site, I've also been fortunate to be able to discover how interconnected people are in the food industry, whether you are cooking it, eating it, or writing about it. What has really surprised me after all this time is how supportive others have been to me. It's not just about promoting yourself 100% of the time. When you help to promote others, they often return the favor.

I've also mentioned in other entries my love for Rick Sebak's work on PBS, naming his video Sandwiches That You Will Like as the basis for several trips out of state to seek out and try them for myself. When I learned recently that he was producing a show on nothing but breakfasts called Breakfast Special, I made sure I tuned in to watch it. Besides being a sucker for these kinds of shows, what excited me even more was that one of his stops was going to be in Columbus, Ohio. As some of my gentle readers may already know, I spent about five years living in Columbus before returning to northeast Ohio.

As I was watching the segment on Columbus breakfast joints, it was apparent that Rick had enlisted the help of local resident Nick Dekker, blogger on Breakfast with Nick, to help him scout out several key locations for video shoots. Since I was multi-tasking at the time, while watching the show on PBS, I pulled up Nick's website and began reading his content. Thinking that he had a cool point of view, not only did I add his blog to the list I currently read on a regular basis, but I sent him a note on Twitter telling him how much I had enjoyed watching his segment.

What started out as a simple "Hey, you're segment was great!" eventually turned into a virtual conversation of sorts. When I realized that I had absolutely nothing planned for the Sunday following the Ohio Linuxfest and that I would be in need of breakfast food before returning home, I invited Nick to not only provide suggestions, but also encouraged him to meet up with me for a bite to eat if he was free. He accepted my invitation and at 1 PM on Sunday afternoon, I pulled into the parking lot at one of his favorite breakfast places in all of Columbus, the aptly named The Best Breakfast and Sandwiches.

As with most of the strip mall stores in the area, Best Breakfast was located away from the street, almost hidden from view. As far as the Post Office was concerned, Best Breakfast was located at 5916 Westerville Road, Westerville, OH 43081 and can be reached at 614-776-5788. Parking was in the lot surrounding the strip mall.

Here was a shot of the front of the portion of the strip mall containing Best Breakfast:

Storefront of Best Breakfast and Sandwiches
Since it was a relatively cool and pleasant day, I waited for Nick and his young son to arrive. Nick had posted pictures of himself on his own blog, so it wasn't hard for me to pick him out as he got out of his automobile. After shaking hands and introducing me to his son, we walked into the restaurant where he was immediately recognized by the staff. Clearly fame preceded him. Or maybe he just likes to eat here a lot. The first thing that I noticed actually wasn't anything visual, but olfactory. The smell of vanilla and cinnamon were floating in layers through the air and I have to admit that it was completely intoxicating.

After a few minutes, our server was able to get a table set up for us and we sat down after Nick got his son situated in the high chair. In between bits of conversation, I managed to take pictures of the menu:

Best Breakfast's Menu Page 1
Best Breakfast's Menu Page 2
Best Breakfast's Menu Page 3
Best Breakfast's Menu Page 4
Best Breakfast's Menu Page 5
Best Breakfast's Menu Page 6
I asked Nick if there was a house specialty and he pretty much stated that everything was made from scratch. In his experience, the appeal of Best Breakfast wasn't that there was a standout item that everyone ordered, but that the level of quality was high across the board. After seeing that homemade sausage gravy and biscuits were offered, I knew exactly what I wanted to order. The fact that I could get them with additional sides made it even more tempting. In the end, I decided to add eggs, bacon, and some of their griddled potatoes to my order.

What came out were two HUGE plates of food. First, my sides:

Eggs, Bacon, and Griddled Potatoes
The bacon was nicely crisped, just as I had asked for it. The eggs came out of the kitchen at the requested sunnyside-up, but there was just a touch of undercooked whites near the bright, goldenrod yolks. However, the eggs were unseasoned. This sparked a more in-depth discussion between Nick and me: It's clearly a pattern that more often than not, eggs need seasoning, but restaurants rarely serve them that way. He had noticed the pattern, too, but remarked that while he didn't mind adding seasoning to eggs, if the potatoes came out of the kitchen underseasoned, that was where he drew the line. I agreed. Fortunately, the potatoes (I don't know that I would call them hash since the chunks were so large) came out perfectly cooked and seasoned. The exterior of the potatoes was crispy and the interior soft and fluffy.

Along with my platter of meats and potatoes, I received a second platter with my biscuits smothered in sausage gravy:

Biscuits with Sausage Gravy
The gravy was definitely homemade; I could taste the freshness with the very first bite. The sweetness from the milk matched well with the minute amount of spice from the black pepper and nice chunks of sausage. As opposed to some versions I've had of this dish in the past, the biscuit was as good as the sausage gravy. Sometimes I get the feeling that restaurants think they can hide a substandard biscuit under a smothering of good gravy. This clearly wasn't the case today at Best Breakfast. The biscuit was tender and cut easily under the pressure of my fork. If any criticism was to be levied, I wished that the gravy had a bit more peppery edge to it; then again, anyone who has been reading this blog for any amount of time knows that I'm a huge fan of spicy food.

While Nick graciously offered to put my bill on the open tab that the owners have started for him, I declined his gesture on the grounds that I wanted to be able to write my review with a clear conscience. I have to say that overall, my experience at The Best Breakfast and Sandwiches was very positive, from the moment I walked through the front door until the second we left, fully sated. While there were only two minor issues I had with the food I was served today, I would have absolutely no problem returning for another meal here, especially if I still lived in Columbus. I definitely recommend this small, out-of-the-way restaurant to anyone looking for a great breakfast. Their menu may not be progressive, but what was listed, was executed well.

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