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Brunch has finally come of age. Formerly a middle meal for the well-heeled, breakfast’s boozy big brother has given late-risers of every economic strata an acceptable excuse to sleep a little longer while still maintaining their social standing. It’s no wonder Columbus has embraced brunch as more than an afterthought. Weekend- only menus allow local [...]
J.R. McMillan

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Brunch has finally come of age. Formerly a middle meal for the well-heeled, breakfast’s boozy big brother has given late-risers of every economic strata an acceptable excuse to sleep a little longer while still maintaining their social standing.

It’s no wonder Columbus has embraced brunch as more than an afterthought. Weekend- only menus allow local chefs to experiment for forgiving crowds and discerning diners. And blurring the line between morning and midday makes it the perfect test kitchen for familiar favorites with a little added flare.

Weekdays remain another story. Mornings seem to get ever earlier, even without the seasonal precession and daylight savings time messing with our heads. Fortunately, there are still meals worthy of getting up a little early—something that will make you the envy of the office, or a missed lunch easier to stomach if your afternoon runs amok.

Here are five ways to grab work-week breakfast with both hands:

Maple Chicken Biscuit

By Brian Kaiser

MoJoe Lounge • 149 S High St.

Forget that puny puck most places shove in a bag and hand you at the drive-thru. This sandwich needs a box, and a big one. It’s a buttery biscuit about the size of a grapefruit, sliced and crisped up on the flat top just enough to hold together when they put a runny egg and a huge, buttermilk fried chicken breast inside. The drizzle of maple syrup conspires with the skin of the chicken to create the convergence of New England sweetness and salty Southern comfort food. Putting a fried egg on anything makes it undeniably Columbus.

Don’t worry about getting a dried-out brick of a biscuit later in the morning either. Like all of their baked goods, they’re made in-house, as needed. I grabbed mine after 9 a.m. and the biscuit was fresh out of the oven. It also comes with a knife and fork, for those who may struggle to pick it up—or with strong opinions on which comes first, the chicken or the egg.

Save a slice of cinnamon gooey butter cake for later, though the biscuit alone may well hold you over until happy hour.

Mazatlan Slow-Roasted Pork & Egg

By Brian Kaiser

Katalina’s • 1105 Pennsylvania Ave.

Though “gas station breakfast” sounds like a stand-up bit or a college radio band, that’s exactly what Katalina’s used to be—a century old filling station. Better known for their breakfast tacos, the secretly seasoned, slow-roasted pork topped with Amish provolone and fried egg served on toasted “old world loaf” deserves top billing. Though it could stand on its own, the added avocado, red peppers, and aioli add lightness and depth to what could otherwise be a heavy-handed sandwich.

If wholesome-yet-hearty isn’t your speed, there are always the pancake balls. Famous is an understatement, considering they’ve literally sold more than a million of them. Whether filled with Nutella’s hint of hazelnut, sweet and creamy dulce de leche, or harvest-inspired pumpkin-apple butter, the side of bourbon maple syrup and house bacon make it easy to see why their popularity quickly reached seven digits.

Love and local goodness are the first ingredients for everything on the menu at this historic, Harrison West hot spot.

French Toast Sandwich

By Brian Kaiser

The Angry Baker • 247 King Ave.

This cousin of the Monte Cristo features classic French toast, but with the texture of brioche. The perfect package for ham and Swiss is dusted with confectioner’s sugar and diagonally cut for dipping into a side of syrup. There is also a vegan variation with egg- and dairy-free batter, Daiya mozzarella, and seitan—sometimes called “wheat meat” because it’s derived from gluten.

With the original location now complemented by expansion into Victorian Village, there’s an Angry Baker on your way into downtown from either the east or west side of the city. If you need an afternoon pick-me-up, be sure to get a blueberry lemon scone to go. It’s like biting into summer. If savory is your style, the cheddar chive scone is sure to satisfy.

Americans were slow to embrace the decidedly British version of the Scottish staple. But once they did, scones certainly started to give biscuits and muffins a run for their money.

Bacon, Egg, and Cheddar

What the Waffle • 1117 Oak St.

Sometimes, we affectionately call an unpretentious eatery a hole-in-the-wall. This is probably the one time that name truly applies.

What the Waffle is just that, a tiny glass window of the Columbus Food Hub on the corner of Oak and Ohio. Their limited menu underscores the genius of simplicity. Place your order, and minutes later someone will return with a made from scratch, made to order, Belgian waffle-turned-sandwich.

There are two whole strips of bacon—not just one broken into two or three pieces like most places. Their fried egg is more of a rough scramble, which is actually ideal. Finely shredded cheddar melts into the square cavities of the fresh from the iron waffle, and the whole thing is wrapped in butcher paper and ready for the road.

Their sweet potato muffins are also worth getting to go, not that you’ll be hungry any time soon.

Breakfast Sandwich

Acre • Multiple locations

By Brian Kaiser

Though the name is unassuming, so is just about everything about Acre, the farm-to-table concept that manages to tick off all of the boxes. There’s nothing ordinary about it, either. The cheddar frittata on focaccia (or ciabatta) with a smear of tomato-jalapeño or bacon jam would probably be just fine. But the pucker of pickled onions offset by fresh baby spinach and avocado sour cream bring each flavor into balance.

Any echoes of the original KFC that used to occupy the Clintonville space are nearly indistinguishable, as are those of the former carryout near Grandview, where Bono Pizza used to make pies in the parking lot. In their place are thoughtfully reimagined restaurants ready for primetime. From the matching plaid shirts, jeans, and bandanas of the staff to the cohesive consistency of the exterior aesthetic and interior appointments, Acre is a brand bound to break out of Columbus.

Try a sweet corn cookie, the apparent offspring of a sugar cookie’s unlikely tryst with some cornbread, then tell me this place isn’t about to take off.

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Food & Drink

Strip Mall Surprise: A treasure trove of bourbons, pub food at McClellan’s

Aaron Wetli

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Welcome back to Strip Mall Surprise, where we highlight locally owned restaurants and bars that just happen to be located in a, wait for it, Strip Mall. Today’s installment is a little different as it focuses on a Irish pub with great food and one of the largest bourbon, scotch, and whiskey selections in Central, Ohio: McClellan's Pub.

Opened six years ago by Amy Schirtzinger and nestled off of Sawmill Road, McClellan’s is easy to miss if you aren’t looking for it. Upon arrival, patrons are greeted by a friendly and knowledgeable staff and offered seats at a large bar or medium sized dining area, where they can peruse a high-end pub food menu and get lost in the bottle selection.

Bourbon is uber popular right now and in Ohio, November is a big month for new releases. If you can’t locate that small batch release from a giant distillery or the single barrel offering from a smaller operation, odds are with their 500 bottle selection, McClellan’s Pub can pour a shot of what you are looking for.

And what a selection it is: Whistle Pig, Weller, Woodford Reserve, McKenna, Eagle Rare, Buffalo Trace, Elmer T and Pappy Van Winkle (among others) for as far as the eye can see. When I asked Schritzinger how many of the notoriously hard-to-locate Pappys she had, her response was simple, "All of them."

So what made service industry veteran Schirtzinger decide to open a bourbon-centric Irish pub?

"I’m Irish and proud and love whiskey and pubs," she said. "Plus, I enjoy looking at all of the pretty bottles."

One of those pretty bottles that will soon (think Christmas time) be behind the bar is the W.L. Weller Full Proof. McClellan’s won’t be the only location in Central, Ohio to get this particular pour, but it may be the first, so make sure the bourbon nerd in your life is aware of this fact.

As for the food I mentioned earlier, my go-to selections are the spicy and rich Sriracha Bourbon wings (70 cents each on Wednesday) or the crispy and robust Fish and Chips ($6 on Tuesday). You can also can’t go wrong with Guinness BBQ Pork Sandwich, Prime Rib Sliders (love the horseradish and caramelized onions) or the Irish Nachos; a concoction of sliced potatoes topped with pulled pork, beer cheese, sour cream and jalapenos all smothered in the Guinness BBQ sauce.

What are you waiting for? Get out there, drink some brown, and support local.

McClellan’s Pub is located at 6694 Sawmill Rd. Visit mcclellanspub.com for more info.

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Food & Drink

Downtown deli merger means more meats on the menu

614now Staff

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Who says all good things must come to an end? While Danny’s Deli will be closing its brick-and-mortar location at 37 W Broad St., all of your favorites from the Columbus institution are now available at Lexi’s on Third at 100 E Broad St.

Customers can be sure they’re still getting the true Danny’s staples because the owner of Lexi’s on Third, Dan Georges, is the not only the namesake—he’s the same man behind the original Danny’s Deli on Broad and Front Street.

When Dan was offered an opportunity to build his own dream kitchen in 2011, he sold Danny’s Deli to his uncle and opened Lexi’s on Third, named after his daughter, Alexiana. When his uncle retired earlier this year, Dan closed the Columbus location of Danny’s Deli and brought all of the most-loved items to Lexi’s on Third.

“I am honored to continue the family legacy of a quality dining experience. Thank you for your loyalty and patronage,” said Dan Georges in a statement.

The Danny’s Deli originals now offered at Lexi’s on Third include breakfast specials, omelettes, sandwiches and wraps, salads, burgers, melts, and more. To see the whole menu, visit lexisonthird.com.

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Food & Drink

VASO Arctic Adventure: Win an igloo dining experience

Regina Fox

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You know that first warm-ish day in March or April when a sliver of sun breaks through the grey winter sky, warming the dry, pasty faces of overzealous people packing every patio known to man? The General Manager of the AC Hotel by Marriott Columbus Dublin Orcun Turkay wanted to give those people an outdoor dining experience they didn’t have to wait until spring to enjoy.

Scroll down to win $200 towards an arctic adventure of your own!

On a windy, rainy day in mid-winter, my trusty (614) confidants and I crowded into the elevator at the AC Hotel Columbus Dublin and selected the top floor. It was the first time visiting for many of us and we were excited to finally experience it. When the elevator finally stopped, the doors glided open to reveal an inviting hostess. She welcomed us to VASO. 

The rooftop bar and tapas restaurant is absolutely gorgeous. All its features are round—orb lights, half circle bench seating, circular rugs, curved bar—and the natural lighting made the happy faces of happy hour-goers at the bar look even happier. The panoramic view of the Scioto River and downtown Dublin is one of the best in Central Ohio. But, for the next few months, the view will be slightly obscured for folks dining in. 

The hostess led us out onto the patio where three geometric-looking igloos sat, poised for hospitality. Made of plastic and PVC pipes anchored by sandbags, these see-through huts are simple and wildly attractive. They’re unique, cozy, and, most importantly, warm. I couldn’t wait to get inside out of the cold and actually have an enjoyable patio experience in the dead of Ohio winter.

The hostess unzipped the doorway and we filed in across the oriental rug. The inside was surprisingly spacious, even with six chairs, a few side tables, and one communal table in the middle. I took a seat in one of the faux fur-covered chairs (which I later found out cost $1,200 each), covered my legs with a soft blanket, and switched on the heater. I was perfectly comfortable without the extra accommodations, but I was in an upscale igloo and, dammit, I was going to act like it.

We were all quick to draw our phones to begin snapping photos. We could see rush hour traffic inching down Riverside Drive, but being in the igloo felt like we were our own little Instagrammable world. 

After putting in orders of hot chocolate and the Ohio spiked cider from the exclusive VASO Igloo shareable menu and the popcorn and Halibut Ceviche (which landed itself on the [web]pages of Esquire Magazine), Turkay humbly explained how his establishment became one of the first in the Midwest to introduce igloo dining as a light rain pinged the top of the plastic igloo.

He told us about how strongly central Ohioans have embraced the new eating and drinking adventure. Turkay knew he’d have to hire more people this winter to staff the igloos, but what he didn’t count on was the manpower it would require to simply manage the influx of calls.

“They answer the phone, take a reservation, hang up, answer the phone, take a reservation, hang up,” Turkay said of the three hostesses he brings in at 10 a.m. every day just to man the phones. I laughed in disbelief, choking a bit on my popcorn ceviche (delicious, by the way). I washed away the kernels with a swig of boozy hot chocolate (also delicious). 

Suffice it to say, the VASO igloos are a raging success, so much so that you won’t be getting in on a weekend this winter. The tiny ecosystems are booked up through March, which is when they’ll be retired for the season. Turkay promises to have them back up in November.

After everything from cheese-filled churros to seafood paella (which were ordered by hailing our server with a remote that buzzed her wrist piece), the sun set and was replaced by LED light beams illuminating our cozy clubhouse; it was our time to go. I took one last look around and felt thankful to be on the inside looking out, even just for the evening. •

VASO is located at 6540 Riverside Dr, Dublin. The igloos can be reserved for a minimum of $100 per hour Sundays-Wednesdays and $200 per hour Thursdays-Saturdays. Visit vasodublin.com for more information. 

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