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Community Plates

Lunch is hardly the most inspiring meal of the day. It lacks the depth of dinner, the boldness of breakfast, and is often little more than a midday dividing line marked with another boring burger eaten on the go. I’ll admit, that’s my routine too, eating lunch in my lap while waiting at a stoplight. [...]
J.R. McMillan

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Lunch is hardly the most inspiring meal of the day. It lacks the depth of dinner, the boldness of breakfast, and is often little more than a midday dividing line marked with another boring burger eaten on the go.

I’ll admit, that’s my routine too, eating lunch in my lap while waiting at a stoplight. But today I picked up a stack of pizzas, a few dozen baked potatoes, three gallons of clam chowder, some crab legs, and a pile of bagels, scones, and coffee cakes. So much, I barely fit it all in my car. Yet, I didn’t eat any of it—and lunch has never been more inspiring.

That’s because I started “running” for Community Plates, a volunteer corps of drivers who close the gap between restaurants that throw leftover food away and shelters and food pantries that desperately need it.

“Once you do your first run, you’re kind of hooked,” confessed Susan Keiser-Smith, the organizer for Community Plates in Columbus. “The person who started it here was my neighbor, so I originally volunteered as a runner. She was a student also working full-time and eventually asked, ‘Would you like to take this over?’ So, I did.”

Community Plates offers a streamlined solution to a complex problem: plenty of restaurants have extra food and ingredients at the end of the day, but no practical way to deliver them consistently to organizations that can put them to good use. Improvised and ad hoc solutions tend to fail or fall short over time—like a well-intentioned machine, just not a well-oiled one. Every microwave oven on the planet has a button for popcorn, yet we still lack the technology to redirect food destined for the dumpster to folks who are hungry.

Founder Jeff Schacher had drifted into software development after a stint as an aspiring actor and part-time waiter in New York. His software company now helps restaurants manage labor and inventory throughout the country. Executive Director Kevin Mullins was a pastor whose passion for fighting America’s growing hunger crisis was inspired by his children. They and their classmates had organized to pool their lunch leftovers together to send home with fellow students who may not have had enough to eat for dinner.

And that was the impetus for the idea. Connect people with a few clicks and allow them to organize themselves. Community Plates was created to be push-button simple, just like microwave popcorn.

Signing up is just as simple. In less than five minutes, I’d logged onto their website, created my volunteer profile and was on my way to my first run. From your smartphone, you can easily see where and when food needs to be picked up, where it needs to go and how close both locations are to your regular route or destination. Imagine Uber meets Meals on Wheels.

“We now have more than 300 runners signed up in Columbus, and between 50 to 70 runs a week,” said Keiser-Smith. “When I started, I thought it would mostly be students. But there are a lot of retirees as well.”

“When I got to the Whole Foods at Easton for the first time, there was a receiving manager who directed me to the loading dock and all of their bread was clearly labeled,” noted Richard Hood, a recent volunteer who also happens to be an Uber driver and independent broker for outsource manufacturing.

The familiar convergence of simplicity and efficiency found in Community Plates was not lost on him.

“My first run was to Faith Mission downtown. A lady in chef’s coat came out and her face lit up,” he explained. “I’m out there driving anyway, so why not put some of those miles toward helping people?”

“One of the design features of Community Plates is that you can take a single run. The commitment is literally only to do it once,” Hood noted. “Then you can then adopt a run, which means you’re committing to do that same run however often they need it.”

“If you adopt a run, and say you’re going on vacation or can’t get it for some reason, you can drop the run and someone else will pick it up that one time,” Keiser-Smith explained further. She said most runs are eventually adopted, but new donors are always creating new ones. Current Columbus donors include notable local and national names, like Cameron Mitchell restaurants, Hot Chicken Takeover, Pistacia Vera, City Barbeque, Red Lobster, Starbucks, Little Caesar’s, and Bob Evans.

“Most of the shelters and food pantries are downtown, so that tends to be where most of our runs are delivered,” Keiser-Smith said. “But there are also food pantries in Dublin, Worthington, and Westerville. Some people think there isn’t as much need in the suburbs, but there is—much more than you think.”

To get involved, run on over to communityplates.org/columbus-oh

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Food & Drink

Clintonville Brunch Crawl: We dare you to squeeze all 3 stops into 1 day

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Clintonville is lovely this time of year, especially when you make three separate stops for brunch. 

Whether the weather is gracing the charming little burgh with a healthy dose of vitamin D or giving it a couple spins around the Lazy Susan that is Ohio’s climate, a trifecta of morning food destinations is sure to keep your mood afloat.

BLunch  • 2973 N High St.

blunchcolumbus.com

Yes, we know that Columbus now is home to a Drunch AND a BLunch.

Snicker all ya want—if you do, you’d be missing out on one of the culinary scene’s welcome newcomers—a half-day cafe that carries the comforts of a First Watch, but with the sophisticated execution of Tasi or Katalina’s.

The White Family has decades of hospitality under their belt—the family owned Galena’s Mudflats until recently, and dad Jeff has been running the OSU Faculty Club for the past 20 years.

Those two were training grounds for son Jeff, once a young, eager dishwasher and now head chef for the White’s new “daylight eatery and bar.” Mom Jane, despite her own admission that in the family’s tavern-running days breakfast didn’t get served until halfway through afternoon, now relishes an intimate spot where people can maintain their own balance between booze and breakfast.

A full-bar at brunch is a rarity in the peculiar little burg, and positioned near Lineage, Old Skool, and Condado, BLunch could be the perfect starting point for a casual Clintonville crawl.

Then again, you may not have another stop after Chef Jeff gets done with ya. He and the White family have concepted a bennies-and-batter focused menu, where you’ll be sure to come back after a healthy amount of indecision. Me? I’ve been dreaming about the Bananas Foster pancakes (topped with ice cream) and the huevos rancheros over masa cake for weeks. – Travis Hoewischer

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Dough Mama • 3335 N High St.

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Dough Mama is the top of my list for my favorite breakfast joint. I love so much about this place.

The atmosphere is super chill, laid back, and inviting. The food is so so good. I would call it comfort food with an extra sprinkle of love and thought.

From pie to salad, it’s all good.

They use a variety of local and seasonal ingredients and support some of my favorite local delicacies with Dan the Baker bread and Thunderkiss coffee … YUM! They also have a variety of vegan and gluten-free options.

I am smitten with the Gluten-Free Lemon Poppy muffin. This place is my go to for a yummy drippy egg, roasted potatoes, salad, a sweet treat and a perfect cup of coffee.

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My husband loves Grammie’s Sammie and a piece of Maple Bourbon Pecan Pie. I somehow manage to splurge here and feel really really good about it.

Their menu has some great staples but they also always have specials that look and are amazing.

Right now they serve both lunch and breakfast during the day and I’ve heard it through the grapevine that they will soon be open in the evening and serving dinner. I cannot wait to see what delicious dishes they create for that menu. – Jana Rock

Baba’s • 2515 Summit St.

babascolumbus.com

Baba’s is my go-to breakfast spot in Columbus. You can grab a breakfast sandwich on their homemade griddle muffins (aka little pillows of heaven), order a rack of ribs, or in the spirit of Alabama Worley, have a slice of perfect pie and a cup of Thunderkiss coffee.

Their delicious baked goods are made in house, they smoke all of their own meats and their produce and coffee are all sourced locally, though their espresso will send you to the moon.

The service is fast, their team is super-friendly and there are never any pretentious vibes in the super chill atmosphere they have created on the corner of Hudson and Summit.

They’ve made a beautiful impact in their short existence in the SoHud neighborhood, fostering local artistic connections and bringing beautiful new mural art that rotates different artist from the community throughout the year. Don’t forget to grab one of their perfect cinnamon rolls for later. — Vanessa Jean Speckman

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Food & Drink

Harvest Pizzeria sowing last seeds in German Village

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Eight years ago, Harvest Pizzeria cropped up in a small space in German Village. Today, the local pizza chain announced the closure of its flagship location.

Harvest Pizzeria German Village will open its doors for the final time on Saturday, April 27th.

“Despite the success of Harvest in German Village and our strong ties to the neighborhood, the owner of the property will not honor our renewal of the lease,” wrote founder Chris Crader in an email. “…the landlord’s demands for a new lease at a higher rate would not allow our little pizzeria to remain viable.

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Crader added that he is proud of the strides Harvest German Village has made over the years, and thankful for the community that’s supported it. He hopes they can return to the neighborhood when the right spot presents itself.

As far as the employees go, Crader wrote that with the success of the other locations, the German Village workers will be able to join a team at another restaurant.

“Harvest sincerely thanks all of its loyal supporters and we hope to see you at our other locations soon,” wrote Crader.

This news follows the announcement of the Grandview Harvest closing back in February. Read more here.

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Food & Drink

Crawfish boils claw their way into Columbus Saturday

Mike Thomas

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What’s the deal with crawfish boils? Sure, they’re delicious, but as a true land-lubbing midwesterner, my knowledge of this particular culinary phenomenon is fairly lacking.

That said, I definitely can’t tell you why there are multiple crawfish boils going down this Saturday. Best not to overthink it—just enjoy the experience!

Pecan Penny’s |113 East Main Street
Saturday at 4 PM – 7 PM

Sponsored by Brewdog, downtown BBQ joint Pecan Penny’s is kicking off patio season with an all-you-can-eat Crawfish boil, complete with giveaways and a DJ.

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Rehab Tavern | 456 W Town St
2 PM – 6 PM

Rehab’s own 4/20 crawfish boil kicks off at 2:00. Your $15.75 entrance fee will net you a pint of beer in addition to all-you-can-eat crawfish and fixins’!

Can’t make either of these, or want to try the boil experience before committing to a large-scale event? Check out Kai’s Crab Boil or Boiling Seafood Crawfish—both on Bethel Road —for first-rate seafood experiences you won’t soon forget.

Why are there two crawfish boils on the same day? Why are there two crawfish restaurants on the same road? We may never know, and honestly, who cares? Crawfish is the bomb! Just put on your bib and get crackin’!

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