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A Great Strange Dream

Mike Conley is espousing his goals for Kafe Kerouac, the off-campus-but-not-campus-like coffee/club house. Keep the doors open, pay the bills, make sure the employees are compensated reasonably…it’s a pretty standard spiel for a small business owner. Except Mike isn’t the owner. He’s a regular. Well, technically, he’s both. Other Owner Mike (Heslop), the guy who [...]
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Mike Conley is espousing his goals for Kafe Kerouac, the off-campus-but-not-campus-like coffee/club house. Keep the doors open, pay the bills, make sure the employees are compensated reasonably…it’s a pretty standard spiel for a small business owner. Except Mike isn’t the owner. He’s a regular. Well, technically, he’s both. Other Owner Mike (Heslop), the guy who fashioned this quirky little outpost a decade ago, sold him a share (one share) in the company a few years back, a circular customer/investor strategy that is perfectly emblematic of the coffee shop/bar/performance space/book store/concert venue/game room that has become the incubator for much of Columbus’s creative inspiration these last 10 years. Is there coffee? Yes. And it’s decent. But that’s hardly the point. Where else can you buy some local records, casually “check out” a book or two from the shop’s massive shelves, squeeze in a quick game of Dr. Mario on Super NES, all before you check out a poetry marathon or take in a music show with a few two-dollar cans of Stroh’s? Well, maybe a really cool uncle’s house, but even he would kick you out after more than a few hours. Heslop serves as the cool uncle to many in Kerouac’s legion. He chartered the Kerouac plan back in 2004, lamenting what he saw as the disappearance of coffee shop classics in Columbus like the venerable Insomnia. Beyond that, he knew it was a job that would keep him intellectually stimulated and entertained. “It’s a family atmosphere AND an educated atmosphere,” he said. “I love it because I get to hang out with all these different types of people all day long and talk English, or economics, or mathematics, or something else someone is getting their doctorate in. I always say we have the most over-educated barista staff in town.” Any potential pretension is diffused by the staff there, which often overlays with the regular customers. You don’t have to know someone to feel comfortable at Kerouac, but you probably wouldn’t be there if you weren’t looking for some of the same things Heslop was. “I consider us an alternative space for everyone else,” he said. “It’s not your average mainstream place. You’ve got to be a certain kind of person just to walk in the door.” And many that have walked through the door have hung around for years. If Kerouac were a high school, its yearbook would be filled with creative Columbus all-stars, from local baker Nina Hernandez to The Dick and Jane Project to comedian Zachariah Baird to musicians like Andrew Graham & The Swarming Branch or The Dewdroppers. All belong to Kerouac by some extension. “There are moments that happen to me on a weekly basis where I see a bunch of people just clicking, and I think, ‘Man, that’s cool.’ I get to do this,” Heslop said. “I don’t make a lot of money doing this, but I get to do something that someone appreciates. “There is no better thing in life than to create stuff, and by creating a little joint in one neighborhood, people can rally around it. And if you get old enough, in this transient part of the city, after a while people can’t remember when you weren’t there. You’re a staple, all of a sudden, a mainstay.” Or, at the very least, a shop that not only has kept the doors open (thus keeping the Mikes happy), but has added its own voice to the conversation in an era where indie coffee joints have gone the way of the dodo. “There’s something to be said for longevity,” Heslop smiles, ending our interview to tend to a new customer. “You don’t have to be the fastest guy in the group; you just can’t be the slowest.” •

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Food & Drink

Italian Lebanese hybrid restaurant coming to German Village

Regina Fox

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What do you get when you cross Italian food with Lebanese fare? Bistrolino.

The new hybrid restaurant will take over the spot formerly occupied by Harvest Pizzeria at 495 S 4th St. in German Village. A December open date is expected.

Columbus Business First reports Bistrolino is owned by Samer Chedid and Francesco Todisco, who worked together at Aladdin's Eatery. As immigrants, Chedid will bring is Lebanon roots to the concept, while Todisco will contribute his Italian influence.

Todisco told Columbus Business First the menu will be small, offering single-serving baking dishes including zucchini parmesan, braciola, and a Lebanese flatbread called man'oushe.

Keep an eye on Bistrolino's Facebook for updates.

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Food & Drink

Taft’s on Draft: Cinci Brewporium opens first Columbus location in Franklinton

Linda Lee Baird

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After hearing all the hype about Cincinnati’s up-and-coming Over the Rhine neighborhood a few years back, I went to see it for myself. The first stop was Taft’s Ale House, a gigantic brewery inside of a church originally built in 1850, fully renovated for guests’ reveling pleasure. After spending the next few hours sampling beverages and snacking on beer cheese pretzels, I was inclined to believe the neighborhood hype. Did I fully explore OTR that night? I don’t actually remember. But I’m certain that I had a great time at Taft’s. So when I found out that Taft’s was coming to Columbus, the news sounded even sweeter than their Maverick Chocolate Porter.

Taft’s Brewpourium Columbus spans nearly 6,000 square feet in the Gravity development, including over 2,000 square feet of patio space. Like the development itself, Taft’s is building an artistic theme into its new offering. “Our actual design is going to be kind of focused on ‘80s/‘90s pop art,” said David Kassling, Managing Partner for Taft’s Brewing Company. “Being that Franklinton definitely has its art roots, we think that’s a great way to ingrain ourself in the community.”

Kassling said that the word brewpourium literally means the place where the brew is poured. That they’ve chosen to make “brewpourium” part of their name tells you everything you need to know about what Taft’s wants to be known for: its carefully crafted suds. The brewpourium will have at least 10 taps serving Taft’s original varieties, including its signature Gavel Banger IPA, which was voted best beer in Cincinnati last March by the city’s residents.

Taft’s will offer a full food menu as well. Kassling is particularly proud to introduce New Haven-style pizza to Columbus. “We’re recreating a style that doesn’t exist anywhere else in Ohio,” he said. (The style is also known as apizza, which is pronounced "a piece," as in, I’d like a piece of that crisp coal-red cheesy goodness right now, please.) Kassling describes it as a cross between New York and Neapolitan style. Taft’s version features our and tomatoes imported from Italy.

Rounding out the menu is another ‘90s-inspired treat, this time in dessert form. Remember Dunkaroos, those cookies that came in a package with icing designed for dipping, perhaps consumed while you watched episodes of Saved By the Bell? Taft’s will serve up Taftaroos, its unique take on the snack.

Kassling plans to use the brewpourium’s large space to offer patrons activities beyond food and drink. The stage will be open for games of darts when not in use for performances. On the floor, guests will find shufflepuck and Killer Queen, an arcade game utilizing 8-bit graphics in line with the old-school theme. Video game fans will also find gaming stations inlaid in the bar, with several retro options to choose from.

With three Cincinnati locations in operation, Kassling is not new to the business. Even so, expanding to Columbus marks a milestone, and one he wasn’t always seeking to meet. “We didn’t necessarily look at this as we needed to expand to a new city or we needed to expand to Columbus,” he said.

But when the opportunity to join the Gravity Project presented itself, Kassling said it proved too good to pass up. “We’re really excited, not only because of the nature of the building being so modern and unique, not just to Columbus, but to anywhere. But also the shape of our space is funky, and that led to different ideas in what we wanted to do with our build out.”

Kassling acknowledged that in coming to Columbus, Taft’s is joining a few of our communities: the community of Franklinton, to be sure, but also the well-established community of independent breweries operating across the city. An installation built into Taft’s countertop will pay homage to this fact, incorporating crushed cans and packaging from breweries like Seventh Son, Land-Grant, and North High. “It’s gonna be totally an art piece,” he said.

Rather than focusing on the potentially competitive aspect of the brewing scene, Kassling emphasized the camaraderie and common goals within the industry. “At the end of the day, craft beer is a great way to bring people together,” he said. “And at the end of the day, we’re all preaching community and good times.”

While Taft’s new location may not be in a church, Kassling’s words are the type of preaching that I can get behind.

Taft’s Brewpourium Columbus is located at 440 W Broad St. in the Gravity project. For more details about Taft’s, visit taftsalehouse.com.

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New “relaxed” wine house now open in Dublin

614now Staff

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Next time you're in Dublin, make sure to stop and smell the rosé at the city's newest wine bar. Coast Wine House recently opened at 75 S High St., offering a contemporary wine bar + bottle shop inspired by a blend of the spirit of coastal California and traditional wine country cafés, markets, and bodegas, according to the website.

Coast assures they don't take themselves too seriously "in contrast to the conventional wine world," describes the website.

"The mood is decidedly relaxed. The wine is pleasantly chilled," Coast says.

The wine bar is run by Dustin Snow, who his wife, Molly, believes brings a "warm and relaxed" feel to Coast.

"A visit to our house is by no means fancy, but Dustin makes it special, because he genuinely wants to make you feel at home," she wrote on Instagram. "And since Coast is an extension of our home you will have this same warm and relaxed experience."

https://www.instagram.com/p/B2r1Q5OgbAT/

Coast is open Wednesday and Thursday from 12pm- 9pm, Friday and Saturday from 12pm- 10pm, and closed Sunday through Tuesday. To learn more visit coastwinehouse.com.

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