About "Eat My Words"

About this blog

"Eat My Words" is a long time in the making. There is no question that my favorite activity is eating, but beyond that obvious fact, I especially like visiting new restaurants and trying new foods.

That's where the "Adventures in Dining" comes in. I won't be reviewing chain restaurants. The food may be fine, but there is no adventure to a Bob Evans, Applebee's, or Olive Garden! The only time I may blog about one of these establishments might be to comment on something unusual - whether it be good or bad - that may have occurred during my visit. Otherwise, I will be focusing on small, local restaurants that feature unique menu items.

I am not a food snob. I do not have any culinary training. I like what I like and will share my thoughts regarding my meal, a restaurant's ambiance, the attentiveness of the staff, and any other thoughts that may come to mind. Hopefully, readers will enjoy my reviews and try these restaurants for themselves.

Thanks for stopping by and please feel free to share your own feedback!

Gary Dougherty
November 24, 2010

UPDATE (October 13, 2012): I'm back!! For a variety of reasons (none of them good), I have not posted any reviews for about 18 months. Rest assured, I have continued to eat...just not write! I hope you enjoy my culinary adventures and I welcome any recommendations you might have for me. Bon appetit!

Sunday, March 24, 2013

McCasky's Grille (March 23, 2013)

McCasky's Grille

520 S. Front Street
Columbus, OH 43215


After the cast/crew of American Idiot came down with the flu resulting in the cancellation of the Saturday night performance, Lori and I decided to salvage the evening by getting some dinner.

I suggested McCasky's Grille which opened a few weeks ago in the space once and most notably occupied by Handke's Cuisine.

Prior to the retirement of Chef/Proprietor Hartmut Handke, Handke's was one of central Ohio's premier fine dining establishments.  McCasky's is considerably less formal.  Reserving the downstairs space, formerly part of a 19th century brewery, for private parties, the public dining area shares space with a large bar and several flat screen televisions just below street level.

The menu at McCasky's is heavy on appetizers and sandwiches with a few standard entrees such as fish and chips, roast pork, and scallops.

I ordered the Pasta NOLA ($12.00) which was a nice portion of penne pasta with chicken, peppers, onion, and mushrooms in an andouille cream sauce, but the NOLA element was a bit lacking. 

There was very little spice to the dish.  Served with two pieces of garlic bread (which were light on the garlic), it simply did not rise above an average pasta dish.

Lori selected the steak which was listed as black angus beef on the menu at "market price."  This allows the chef to change the single steak option on a weekly basis.  This evening it was a six ounce Filet of Beef ($16.00).

Lori reported that the steak would have benefited from better seasoning and flavor and that the vegetables (zucchini, broccoli, and carrots) were fresh and proved to be the highlight of the meal.  Unfortunately, the yukon gold mash was overpowered by butter.

Having just finished two average meals, we were hoping our luck might change with dessert.  Fortunately, it did.

Even though the menu advised that "Our desserts are large enough to be shared," our server (identified as "Sweetness" on our bill!) was successful, but not overly aggressive, in convincing us to order one for each of us.  Admittedly, it wasn't a difficult sell!

We shared the Aztec Brownie ($7.00) and Strawberry Shortcake ($7.00).  The chocolate brownie was spiced with cayenne pepper and matched with a scoop of vanilla bean ice cream and drizzled with hot fudge sauce.

Whereas the cayenne dried out the brownie a bit, the flavor was very good and the ice cream and hot fudge sauce accounted for the necessary moisture content.

The strawberry shortcake was another highlight of the evening.  The moist pound cake is homemade by the mother of one of the owners, Rich McClusky, and was so good that I could overlook the lack of fresh strawberries.  The cake and vanilla bean ice cream were smothered with a strawberry sauce.

Having been a fan of the world-class fare prepared and offered by Chef Handke at this location, I was a bit apprehensive about trying out the building's successor occupant.  Granted, there is nothing other than the building that is common between the two establishments. 

For Brewery District revelers, McCasky's Grille fits the bill as a casual eatery with few variations on typical pub fare.

Friday, March 22, 2013

Northstar Cafe (March 21, 2013)

Northstar Cafe

4015 Townsfair Way
Columbus, OH 43219

I drove out to the Easton Town Center to meet with a former State Representative recently.  With many dining options available, I quickly accepted her recommendation of the Northstar Cafe.  I had not eaten there, but had always heard good things about the food.

Menus are available inside the doorway for review by incoming guests.  (By the way, the menu is very welcoming as many of the items can be prepared meat- and dairy-free.)  Once you have made your selection, you place your order at the counter and your meal is delivered to your table.

I chose the Thai Burrito ($11.00) with roasted chicken rather than the seared organic tofu.

The burrito was also filled with crunchy slaw and organic brown rice. It is served with tortilla chips and a Thai peanut dipping sauce.

The burrito was very good and filling.  The peanut sauce nicely completed the dish.

If you're planning to go for lunch, arrive before noon.  Whereas there is comfortable seating, the space fills up quickly.

There are also two other Northstar Cafe locations - in the Short North and Beechwold areas of Columbus.

Surly Girl Saloon (March 14, 2013)

Surly Girl Saloon

1125 N. High Street
Columbus, OH 43201

The second of the six-member Columbus Food League, the Surly Girl Saloon was my meeting place for a recent lunch with a former work colleague.  It provided the venue for good food, good company, and good conversation.

After catching up on what's been going on with each of us, I began to study the menu.  The Columbus Food League restaurants are known for their comfort food and the Surly Girl has a nice selection from which to choose.

I ended up ordering the Chorizo & Portobello Grilled Cheese with Tomato Soup ($9.00).

The sandwich was constructed with chorizo sausage, chili-marinated portobello mushrooms, and a six-cheese blend on wheat bread.  Sprinkled over the homemade tomato soup were some tasty scallions and a handful of Frito's completed the plate.

The Surly Girl is located in the hip Short North section of Columbus, just north of downtown.  The Short North is a destination neighborhood and the Surly Girl is a destination comfort food stop and watering hole.

Sage American Bistro (March 9, 2013)

Sage American Bistro

2653 N. High Street
Columbus, OH 43202
Lori decided I needed some cheering up, so she offered to take me out to dinner - a certain remedy to the doldrums.  She even let me pick the restaurant!  After spending some time poring over some area restaurants I had not yet visited, I settled upon Sage American Bistro.

Located on North High Street just south of Dodridge Street, Sage is in a narrow brick building that one could easily miss traversing the busy High Street.  Valet parking ($4) is available in the rear of the restaurant and is probably the best parking option.

We were quickly seated (after having made reservations as recommended) at a two-top just inside the front door of the restaurant.  Fortunately, most patrons entered and exited from the rear of the building so the evening chill was minimal.

Exposed brick walls framed the narrow room with white tableclothed tables arranged to take best advantage of the limited space while affording diners appropriate privacy.  There was a small bar at the back of the room.  Behind that was a kitchen from which, if you were to judge it on size alone, one might wonder how the staff could possibly prepare the fine food we were about to consume.

One of the reasons I chose Sage is its rather eclectic menu.  Among the offerings are Bone Marrow, Sweetbread, Pacu Fish Ribs, and Ohio Pork Cheeks. 

I began my meal with the Grilled Caesar Salad ($8.00) which was delicious.

The smoky flavor was outstanding and was complemented by the dressing and the salty white anchovies and topped with parmesan cheese.

Lori selected the Winter Salad ($8.00) which was a fine Mesclun mix topped with a parsnip puree, fennel, pickled figs, and quinoa.  The salad was dressed with a green apple vinaigrette.

Growing up, I had a dislike for figs because my only exposure to the fruit was in the form of Fig Newtons which I found abhorrent.  I tasted one of the figs from Lori's salad and found that I had been missing out for decades.

For my entree, I decided upon the Scallops and Rabbit Loin ($27.00).  Whereas my favorite scallops are those I had at Dempsey's Restaurant (http://eat-my-words-blog.blogspot.com/2012/11/dempseys-november-9-2012.html), these were seared very nicely and had a lot of flavor.

I had never had rabbit before.  As one might expect, it was a mild meat, without a distinctive flavor but seasoned well and quite tasty.

The scallops and rabbit were accompanied by a wilted arugula salad with apples, walnut gremolata, more pickled figs (!), and a balsamic reduction.

Lori chose the Ohio Strip Steak ($33.00), a 12 ounce grilled serving cooked to perfection.  Positioned atop crispy steak fries and a parsnip puree, the steak was topped with cider-braised greens and andouille jus.

Thank goodness, the serving was more than Lori could finish, so I was able to taste several bites of the steak.  Delicious!

Never ones to dismiss dessert without at least looking at the menu, we found a generous selection of sweet offerings.  Lori chose the Creme Brulee ($8.00).  Whereas I love creme brulee, I rarely order it, only because I seldom find any that matches what Chef Hartmut Handke created at his now closed Handke's Cuisine in the Brewery District. 

I was too preoccupied with my own dessert to taste Lori's, but she enjoyed it very much.

As I was reviewing the dessert menu, I found an item named Foie Gras ($12.00), but rather than the fattened goose liver delicacy (which I would never imagine being on a dessert menu, it was described as a carrot-ginger cake, with apple butter, and salty cashew caramel.

I couldn't imagine there was a typo on the menu so I asked our server to explain the dessert.  He indicated that it was probably his least favorite dessert (hey, I appreciate the honesty!) and that it included pureed foie gras in the cake batter as well as a small slice placed on top of the cake.  Carrot cake is one of my favorite desserts, so I just had to give this a try.

When it arrived, I was first drawn to the silver dollar sized slice of foie gras sitting on top.  I carefully removed it, took a tiny bite and was rewarded with the glorious taste of the delicacy.  I offered a piece to Lori and, whereas she tried it, she did not like it at all.  It may be an acquired taste for some, but her wrinkled up nose suggested that it was all mine!

The cake itself was good, but I was unable to distinguish any foie gras flavor at all.  That was disappointing because the price of the dessert clearly took into account the presence of the decadent ingredient.  I finished the cake and then set about eating more tiny portions of the foie gras, savoring the taste, until it was sadly gone.

It was a marvelous evening with a delicious meal, outstanding company, and a romantic atmosphere. 

Named after the young daughter of Chef/Owner Bill Glover, Sage American Bistro has found a spot on my list of favorite restaurants in central Ohio.

Blue Agave (March 3, 2013)

Blue Agave

496 Polaris Parkway
Westerville, OH 43082
I never knew Blue Agave existed until Lori took me there for lunch.  Situated in a strip center on Polaris Parkway at Cleveland Avenue, the restaurant suffers a bit from lack of exposure.

Upon entering the restaurant, I felt as if I was about to eat in a high school cafeteria.  Booths surrounded the large dining room with several tables set up in the large open space.  The lack of creative architecture or decorating made the space fairly unappealing.

As with many Mexican restaurants, the menu was extensive - consisting of many standards and just a couple items that caught my attention.  When I saw Iguana, I was immediately intrigued.  Although I admit I was hoping to see how the lizard was to be prepared, it actually was just steak and chicken breast wrapped in a spinach tortilla topped with a cheese dip.

When it came time to order, I opted for the rather tame combination of a chile relleno and chalupa ($9.99).  With a choice of accompaniments, I selected the refried beans and rice.

The portion was a generous one for lunch.  The chili relleno was a large poblano pepper stuffed with mozzarella cheese, battered, deep fried and covered with a fairly non-descript red tomato sauce.  Whereas the relleno was satisfactory, I prefer that it be stuffed with monterey jack or Queso Chihuahua.

The chalupa, also known as a tostada, consisted of a tortilla topped with beef, lettuce, guacamole, and a tomato slice.  Again, not a very imaginative dish, but how do you spice up a chalupa?  It is what it is.

Lori selected the Blue Agave Salad ($9.99) which looked delicious.

Another healthy portion, the salad includes flap meat, chicken, tomatoes, sliced pineapple, and fresh avocado on a bed of mixed greens.  Flap meat is a thin steak that comes from the bottom sirloin butt cut of beef.

Named for the plant that is the base ingredient of tequila, Blue Agave is indistinguishable from the scores of Mexican restaurants that populate central Ohio.  The food is satisfactory, the service was satisfactory, and the atmosphere was less than satisfactory.

Saturday, March 2, 2013

Windy City BBQ Ribs (February 27, 2013)

Windy City BBQ Ribs

32 Grace Drive
Powell, OH 43065

Tucked away in a strip center just down the road from the Powell post office, Windy City BBQ Ribs is not a conspicuous dining establishment by any definition.

The food, however, is worth a visit.

The first time I went to Windy City, several months ago, they had run out of ribs and were giving out $25 gift certificates to those who came in requesting them.  Whereas this is definitely a strong customer service gesture, it is unexpected and entirely too much to give away.  I was concerned that such generosity may doom the restaurant to a short life in an obscure location, at least for non-Powell residents.

That day, instead of accepting the gift certificate, I ordered the Cajun Hot Link meal ($14.95) and my daughter selected the Carolina Pulled Pork ($14.95).  Both entrees were very good and we vowed to return.

When I call Windy City BBQ Ribs a restaurant, that is being very generous.  The small storefront has room for only three tables.  Clearly, they do their best business with carry-out and catering orders.  Also catching the attention of an patron is the writing on the walls!  Customers use sharpie pens to write their own "reviews" of the food and other comments and artwork that are germane to the food...or not.  Seems as if nearly anything goes on the graffiti walls.

Several weeks ago, I purchased a Groupon for $29.  Upon redemption, it was good for four meals, eight sides, and a dessert.  This represented a savings of at least 50%.

Using the Groupon, my two daughters and I ordered the Carolina Pulled Pork meals and had two sides each of macaroni and cheese, potato salad, macaroni salad, and baked beans.  One of the pulled pork meals was prepared with a hot, jalapeno sauce while the other three were prepared with a mild sauce.

The meals included nearly a pound of meat, roughly cut, with a slice of white bread.  With the leftovers and the fourth meal, I had enough food for lunch the next two days!

The dessert was four sugar cookies and the order included a small takeout box of peanuts!

The menu boasts that all meats, fruits, and vegetables are organic and everything is cooked fresh daily.

With a City Barbeque just a mile or so away, each of these establishments appears to be able to peacefully co-exist.

I recommend that you give Windy City BBQ Ribs a try.  Call ahead to ensure that your desired meat is available, particularly if you are ordering for dinner or a particularly large quantity.

The Lazy Chameleon (December 29, 2012)

The Lazy Chameleon

4028 Presidential Parkway
Powell, OH 43065


Situated in a strip center just of of Sawmill Parkway in Powell, the Lazy Chameleon touts itself as the "best seafood and margaritas in Columbus!"

Whereas I did not try the seafood nor the margaritas, I suspect that the claim of having the best in town might be a bit of hyperbole.  The Lazy Chameleon is a bar that includes some seafood offerings, the majority of which are on the appetizer menu.

Frankly, I was a little leery about the quality of the seafood and ordered the Cajun Pasta Alfredo ($12.99) and Lori selected the Chopped Salad with Steak ($9.99).

For starters, we ordered the Mucho Nachos ($6.99) which consisted of ground beef, cheddar cheese sauce, salsa, jalapenos, and a scoop of sour cream deposited on a bed of room temperature nacho chips.  Not very imaginative, but what one might expect as a pub appetizer.

After collecting our menus, the server returned to our table to ask if it was OK that my entree was served with rice.  I thought that a rather off question since I ordered a pasta dish, but she caught me a bit off guard and I didn't question her as I should have.

Well, once the entree was served, it became clear that a mistake had been made.  Instead of the Cajun Pasta Alfredo, I was presented with the Southwest Chicken ($10.49).  Rather than extending our visit by returning the chicken for what I had actually ordered, I accepted it.

The plate consisted of two grilled chicken breasts topped with shredded cheese, bacon, and salsa on a bed of rice (as promised!).  At my request, about 10 onion rings accompanied the chicken.  Unfortunately, the quality of the food was on par with a strip center bar.

Lori assured me that her salad was good.

It is unlikely that I will return to the Lazy Chameleon unless it is for the live music.  However, I will be sure to keep my culinary expectations low.