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Pedal to the Kettle

It’s mid-afternoon in Grandview. A grey food truck dozes outside a brewery, its generator putt-putting gently above the rear bumper. A grill sizzles and the air is punctuated by bright, intermittent singing. Inside the truck, Brian Thornton is doing what he does best: jammin’, creating great food, and being his own boss. Oh, and making [...]
Jeni Ruisch

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It’s mid-afternoon in Grandview. A grey food truck dozes outside a brewery, its generator putt-putting gently above the rear bumper. A grill sizzles and the air is punctuated by bright, intermittent singing. Inside the truck, Brian Thornton is doing what he does best: jammin’, creating great food, and being his own boss.

Oh, and making the best damn potato chips in the land.

A Hilliard native, Thornton attended the Cooking and Hospitality Institute of Chicago, before returning to his native city to serve some time in the restaurant trenches. After honing his craft in Columbus brick-and-mortars like Hyde Park and The Refectory, Thornton struck out on his own to create the Oh! Burgers food truck, where he sells a multitude of creatively-topped mini burgers. Years behind a line in a kitchen have their way of grizzling most people, and turning their bright, starry eyes into coal in their sockets. Not Thornton. He keeps his cool under heat and pressure, and he’s taking his positive attitude into the big leagues when he opens a potato chip factory this fall in the heart of downtown.

From the start, he made his own chips from scratch to accompany the burgers he was serving, but pretty soon, the crunchy side dish stole the spotlight.

“I was selling out,” he said. “I couldn’t keep up with demand, so I purchased a larger fryer and talked Food Fort into letting me run it in their kitchen. Laura Lee (owner of Korean street food truck Ajumama) really pushed me to start making kettle chips. That’s where my first specialty chips came from…they were Korean barbeque.”

Thornton’s strengths lie in his creative recipes and his tie-ins with other local businesses: spent grain chips from North High Brewing, taking grains from the brewing process and grinding them up in a coffee grinder to use for seasoning; tomato basil chips from Blue Olive food truck; and barbeque chips for Kenny’s Meat Wagon.

Thornton tries to stay crisp by doing specialty chips for himself, like garlic parmesan and cinnamon sweet potato chips. Once the plant fires up this fall, there are plans for “Black Bag” chips, seasonal flavors produced for a few month run, akin to seasonal beers from craft brewers.

The OH! Chips facility will be a full-scale manufacturing and distribution center for his crunchy creations, and will initially employ about four people, but that may change quickly.

As for distribution, the aim is small retail markets like Hills and Weiland’s, or co-ops like those in Clintonville and Bexley. The cost of shelf space at the chain supermarkets coupled with the local-centric attitude of the clientele at the small shops made it an easy decision, Thornton said.
“We want to stay out of the big grocery stores. The competition is fierce in potato chips. I’m not going into an easy market. I figure if I can get people to try them at restaurants first, and off the food truck, that’s how we’re going to build a solid brand.”

Thornton is poised at the beginning of a project that could eventually evolve into a big facility. Oaks from tiny acorns grow, and soon, Columbus will have its very own potato chip factory.

For more, visit www.facebook.com/OHChips, or follow @OH_Chips on Twitter.

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Food & Drink

Secret Swensons: Off-menu items you have to try

614now Staff

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It was a dark time in Central Ohio two years ago when there were no Swensons drive-ins. Now, we've got four locations to choose from (Dublin, Polaris, Hilliard, and New Albany), and a list of off-menu items to spice up your next visit.

Because the restaurant begins cooking your food the moment you order, a wide range of customizations are possible. Pair this "kitchen-at-your-command" concept with Swensons “never say no” attitude, and you've got a unique cornucopia of hidden-in-plain-site item customizations available.

"Over the course of our 86-year history, eager and loyal customers (known as Swenatics) have found hidden treasures in our menu possibilities," Swensons said in a release.

Below are a few customizations you won’t find listed on the menu but are crowd favorites.

Sandwiches

  • Grilled Cheese with Coney Sauce: For those who love a little bit of burger with their cheese.
  • Fish Sandwich “Galley Boy Style”: Galley-boy goodness isn’t only for burgers. Swenatics often order fish sandwiches or fried chicken “Galley Boy Style,” with two secret sauces (one tangy, one sweet) and cheese.
  • Egg Salad Sandwich with Cheese and Bacon: Although Swensons don’t serve “breakfast,” Swenatics have found a tasty breakfast hack by adding bacon and cheese to their egg salad sandwiches.

Crispy Extras

  • Broken Onion Rings: Think of an onion ring that handles like a fry. Swensons takes their onion rings and breaks them apart before cooking, which creates the perfect bite-sized piece. No more worry of half of the onion falling out on the first bite!
  • Ordering “Cajun-style:” Amp up the flavor by ordering something “Cajun-style.” The smoky, garlicky, and peppery Cajun spice can be added to any crispy extra or sandwich.

Sweets

  • Swensons has 18 different milkshake flavors available, and you can mix as many as you want. Really. Some favorites include a PB&J shake (Peanut Butter and Grape), Mocha & Mint, Blueberry & Lemon, and Peanut Butter & Hot Fudge.
  • Swensons is always down for a dessert mashup. Try asking for a Hot Fudge Milkshake with a brownie or Xango (our cheesecake rolled in flaky pastry) mixed in.

Never been to Swensons? Check out the following tips to optimize your first visit:

  • Park facing the restaurant. Since all dining takes place within your vehicle, service revolves around your headlights. Turn them on and a Curb Server will come sprinting over to help you. Leave them off and they’ll leave you to enjoy your meal.
  • No need to leave your car—Swensons is a drive-in through and through. Once your order’s ready, their Curb Servers run it out to you on a nifty tray that either hooks to your window or the inside of your door, weather permitting.
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Food & Drink

Discount Date Destinations: Saturday Samplings at The Refectory

Lindsay Pinchot

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Welcome to Discount Date Destinations, where we’ll bring you the best places in the city with date-night-worthy atmospheres and food and drink specials that won’t break the bank. In today’s installment, we head to The Refectory.

For many, The Refectory evokes images of elegant anniversary dinners and impressive date nights, and rightly so. The Refectory has long been established as one of Columbus’ best and most beautiful restaurants, serving contemporary American and classic French cuisine. It probably isn’t one of the first places you think of when you hear “discount,” but maybe it should be.

Every Saturday afternoon from 12pm- 3pm, The Refectory hosts Saturday Samplings, a weekly wine tasting event. For only $15-$20 per person, depending on the flight that week, you taste a selection of different wines and help yourself to light hors d’oeuvre while relaxing in the Refectory’s charming bar area.

When you’re done tasting, additional glasses of the wines are only $5 each, so you can stay and sip your favorites. Last weekend, my husband and I attended the first in a themed, two-part Saturday Sampling series: For the Love of Wine. We had a great experience.

The ambiance was wonderful, especially for a wintry Saturday. Upon arrival, we were given a warm welcome and tasting cards listing information about each of the wines we’d be sampling. At the top of the tasting cards was a question, “When did you first fall in love with wine?” which led to some entertaining conversation, both between the two of us and with the staff. The sommelier poured each wine as we were ready for it, giving us a little background on it and explaining what we could expect from the taste. Between glasses we snacked on an array of breads, cheeses, oils, and hearty dips.

The best part? None of the selections were too pricey and all were available for purchase from The Refectory’s wine shop. Our favorite taste of the day was only $12.99 a bottle.

Saturday Samplings is a fun, relaxed way to experience The Refectory where all wine drinkers, from newbies to decades-long aficionados, will feel welcome. For the Love of Wine (Part 2) is this Saturday, so grab your valentine and head to The Refectory for a cozy afternoon. When you’re done, buy your favorite bottle to take home and split snuggled up on the couch.

https://www.facebook.com/refectoryrestaurant/posts/10158294760883826:0

The Refectory is located at 1092 Bethel Rd. For more information, visit refectory.com.

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Food & Drink

You’ll Just Love High Street’s newest coffee shop

614now Staff

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It's a brew-tiful day because we have a brand new coffee shop in town! Just Love Coffee Café's first Ohio location is now open at 330 S High St.

Just Love Coffee Cafe began when founder and current CEO Rob Webb and his wife, Emily, made the decision to adopt from Ethiopia, according to the company website. The experience inspired them to open a for-profit venture with part of the proceeds dedicated to charities.

"Just Love Coffee Cafe grew out of a need to do positive things in the world,” said Webb on the website.

https://www.facebook.com/justlovecoffee/photos/a.155652930090/10157487354660091/?type=3&theater

Just Love Coffee will host the grand opening on February 29 with a portion of every sale benefitting the Ronald McDonald House Charities of Central Ohio.

Visit justlovecoffeecafe.com for more information.

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