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Deep Dish Dilemma

It’s a lovely casserole, but it’s not a pizza,” quipped an equally opinionated eater as we disputed the defining design of a true Chicago pie. The Gold Coast isn’t alone in its claim of a signature style. Foldable New York slices are well known, with regional variations from New Jersey to New Haven. California has [...]
J.R. McMillan

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It’s a lovely casserole, but it’s not a pizza,” quipped an equally opinionated eater as we disputed the defining design of a true Chicago pie.

The Gold Coast isn’t alone in its claim of a signature style. Foldable New York slices are well known, with regional variations from New Jersey to New Haven. California has its quirky toppings and St. Louis a unique blend of provolone, Swiss, and white cheddar. Detroit deep-dish gets its square shape and crunchy corners from blue steel parts pans pinched from auto assembly lines. Milwaukee might be the closest to our own familiar fare, with square slices and curled nickel pepperoni on a flaky thin crust.

Perhaps the reason no one claims “Columbus Pizza” as its own distinct style is because we’re not pizza purists averse to new ideas or unexpected twists on a classic dish. Critics didn’t go crazy when Leone’s topped their pie with wild mushrooms, rosemary, and truffle oil. Nor did anyone cry foul when Clever Crow scattered corn on one either. We’re a working-class town with working-class tastes and no patience for petty pizza punditry. We don’t forego thumping our chests because we’re mediocre—we’re just magnanimous.

That’s probably why Giordano’s decided to open their first location outside greater Chicago near Polaris. The midpoint between Delaware and Downtown is effectively our backyard with the right mix of local and national retail brands to make their first foray in America’s test market a solid start toward inevitable expansion.

Pizzeria Uno made a nationwide push years ago with some success, but still lacked the street cred of Giordano’s. Uno seemed to abandon craft to become a commodity, a strategy that initially worked for Shakey’s, America’s first franchised pizza “parlor.” And yet, good luck finding a Shakey’s today, aside from the handful left in California or the Philippines.

To understand the curious appeal of Chicago’s claim to pizza fame, you have to understand what it is—and what it isn’t. “Deep Dish” and “Chicago Style” are not synonymous. They’re certainly farther removed than their hand-tossed and hand-stretched cousins. Commonly called “Sicilian”, deep dish is all about the crust, and not just the edge. Its thick, airy, and chewy throughout with a base of sauce covered in cheese and toppings. Chicago-style crust is high on the sides, but only thick enough in the middle to contain layers of filling with the order often reversed — cheese on the bottom, toppings, then sauce. That’s why a deep-dish pizza takes a little longer than a more traditional one, but a Chicago-style pizza takes closer to an hour.

Though the exposed brick and industrial accents are the unspoken standard for culinary concept restaurants, Giordano’s stays true to its roots with solid service and pizza that’s worth the wait. But, they haven’t cornered the market here in Central Ohio either. Loyal fans of Chicago’s legendary Lou Malnati’s, Pequod’s caramelized crust, and the ever-eccentric Burt’s Place would still be quick to throw down over who has the best pizza in their town.

Columbus similarly boasts a trio of worthy rivals to Giordano’s recent entry into the city’s established Chicago-style pizza scene.

Wholly Joe’s Chicago Eatery

1182 E Powell Rd., Lewis Center

Don’t let the strip mall sign with only “hot dogs” underneath fool you. On the opposite end of Polaris Parkway hides a hat trick of Windy City staples. Yes, the hot dogs are authentic: Red Hot Chicago brand dogs with mustard, relish, chopped onions, sliced tomato, cucumber, kosher spear, and sport peppers on a poppy seed bun. (You can also grab a Polish sausage the same way, or like they’re served on Maxwell Street, with mustard and grilled onions.) The Italian beef is best ordered, “hot and wet”, with spicy giardinera and the whole roll dipped in the drippings.

Hidden in the kitchen is an old-school carousel pizza oven. It took two years just to find all of the parts to restore the 1951 oven to original operating condition. The rotating decks cook the center to perfection and bottom just right, without burning the outer crust. Pizza is only available evenings and weekends, but it may be as close as you get to an all-around taste of Chicago that doesn’t involve a short flight or a long drive.

Meister’s Bar

1168 Chambers Rd.

Columbus bar fare is often far better than most restaurants. Even our dive bars defy expectations. Between King and Kinnear is the home of one of the best pizzas in the city. (Really, I’m pretty sure the place used to be a house.) Craft beer is on tap, but if you’re looking for two-buck PBRs or dollar cans, the daily beer specials are budget-friendly. Yes, it’s a sports bar of sorts, but it’s worth the sometimes-tight seating just for the pizza.

The golden crust is a little thicker in the middle than some Chicago-style pies, but the high sides and sauce sequence place it well within spec. If you’re a local, you can likely order when they open at 4pm and have it out of the oven in less time than it takes to get to Polaris at rush hour. The proximity to OSU also means they’re open late. Just don’t be the putz who shows up ten minutes before closing for a carry-over order that takes an easy 45 minutes before it hits the box.

Yellow Brick Pizza

892 Oak St.

How do you get instant street cred for your Chicago-style pizza? You bring in a master to teach your staff how it’s done. When Lou Tristano decided to close his Grove City restaurant last year, Yellow Brick stepped in to ensure his pizza proficiency didn’t disappear as well. Though Olde Towne East is far from the suburb Tristano’s called home, the pizza is pretty damned close, right down to the braided edge on the crust that makes it easy to spot in your friends’ Instagram feeds.

Sure, there was a little hushed fuss about Yellow Brick serving the already famous pie, but pay that no mind. No one poached a pizza here, and Yellow Brick’s menu was already as unexpected and outside-the-box as a pizza place could get. (Hell, Hounddog’s is still serving Smokin’ Joe’s crust more than a decade later.) Lou’s legacy lives on in his pizza, and working with him to preserve it earns high marks for Yellow Brick and a city that collaborates as enthusiastically as it competes and eats. Columbus is a big pie, there’s plenty for everyone.

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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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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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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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