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Behind the Best: Roosters

Every year for our May issue, (614) Magazine tallies up more than a million votes from our readers that result in businesses and people around central Ohio being crowned “The ColumBest” in their respective categories. From brunches and buffets, to bands and bloggers; we look to the readers to tell us who is deserving of [...]
Jeni Ruisch

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Every year for our May issue, (614) Magazine tallies up more than a million votes from our readers that result in businesses and people around central Ohio being crowned “The ColumBest” in their respective categories. From brunches and buffets, to bands and bloggers; we look to the readers to tell us who is deserving of the city’s culinary and commercial crowns. With well over a hundred categories, we don’t have the space necessary to give the lip service we want to each winner. The frontrunners in their categories get recognition and applause, and then, being the hardest grinding bosses in the biz, they get right back to work.

But we want to dive a little deeper into the story.

It’s time to take a closer look at the stories behind the best Columbus has to offer. Starting with a little joint where we like to shed all pretense and expectations.

Technically, Rooster’s started in Dayton in 1988, but its rapid expansion to central Ohio after that makes them a default local favorite.

Started by Bob and Corrine Frick, it was intended to be a family-friendly, neighborhood joint where people could head after a softball game, or gather for birthday brews. It was casual by design, and that remains a guiding principle of their business to this day, 30 years later. That and their famously fresh (and never frozen) wings.

The success of the formula resulted in a second location in Columbus on Hamilton Road, followed by the now-classic location in German Village. It was here that Dan Ponton joined the team as an owner, and today he is the president of the company.

Which is one of the aspects of Roosters that draws it apart from other restaurants: an extremely low turnover rate. In a high-pressure business like a restaurant, it’s normal to have employees come and go like the seasons, but Roosters boasts a loyal staff of seasoned vets. They have 40 20-year employees, 52 15-year employees; and 78 10-year employees. That first location in Dayton still has one of its original employees, a chef, with 28 years of service, and a manager with 22. Among the service industry, these are Tom Brady-like stats.

And the family feeling goes even deeper than that. Only hiring from within, every manager and corporate-level suit was once a host or dishwasher, who moved up in the ranks to sling drinks and wings for patrons. This fosters an appreciation for each worker in a way no corporate sensitivity training ever could. Ask a Roosters employee about their company, and they will gush in a way uncharacteristic for someone who works in their field. We heard stories of an employee sadly losing his mom, and the president of the company paying for funeral expenses. Store-sponsored fundraisers galore have been held for employees and long-time regulars. At the Pickerington location alone, they held four benefit events in one year for four of their employees going through personal and family crises. One of the benefits was for an employee’s husband, who started out as a long time regular at the restaurant. Managers worked the bar, donating their tips, and employees paid forward all their earning from the day to help a fellow Rooster in need. Roosters has a “give back” mentality that leads them to constantly give prizes for non-profits and charities to raffle and giveaways.

They regularly work to benefit Ronald McDonald House, Children’s Hospital, and The 2nd and 7 Foundation, and partner with the Columbus Blue Jackets and Crew SC to work toward larger community goals. The Roosters Foundation proudly supports the Buckeye Cruise for Cancer with The James Cancer Hospital, which benefits the Urban and Shelley Meyer Fund for Cancer Research, contributing over $650,000 to date. “Honesty, integrity, dependability and personality are the cornerstones to the foundation” of their business.

If that’s not Midwestern, I don’t know what is.

In addition to their famous wings and sauces, Roosters carries healthy and indulgent, all-American options, and an extensive list of local and global beers. With 38 locations, and number 39 opening this July, Roosters is more than just a place to get wings. (614) readers voted them first place standings in four categories: Best Wings, Best Place to Eat at the Bar, Best Wait Staff, and Best Sports Bar. Not to mention their second and third place wins in multiple other categories. Year after year, they sweep the winnings. There’s just something special about a place where you can take the kids after little league, go on a date night, or take relatives out for a family-size bite, where you’ll know everyone can get exactly what they want.

For more, visit roosters.com.

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Food & Drink

Eat Like a Kid: 6 childhood favorite foods, all grown up

Madi Task

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Sometimes I think back on the food I ate as a kid and wonder how the heck I was able to go back outside and continue playing with surely fewer nutrients than the human body needs to work with. Pop a quick Little Debbie Fudge Round or inhale a bowl of Kraft mac ‘n’ cheese and go. I don’t know how I did it, but I know that today I definitely value food existing as an experience all on its own. With this list, I give you memory-making foods that will either flash you back to a simpler time, or feel like a true upgrade from the fast-meal nature you used to adore but sadly outgrew. Stay gold!

Boozy Milkshakes| HADLEY’S BAR + KITCHEN | 260 S FOURTH ST.

The shortcut to turning any kid treat into an adult favorite is simple: add booze. And at Hadley’s, they are all too familiar with this formula. The menu here features sophisticated flavors like Oreo Bonanza with Smirno Vanilla, Key Lime Pie with Absolut Lime, and a Bacon Bourbon Maple with Bulleit Bourbon. Of course, we all have a vegan friend who avoids dairy, and Hadley’s made sure they were covered with a vegan Coco Coffee Shake with Watershed Vodka. Usually, I’d say grab a few straws and share with your friends, but these are best enjoyed separately.

The Octodog | DIRTY FRANK’S | 248 S FOURTH ST.

Some of those disgusting combinations you crafted as a child have potential in the eyes of the chefs over at Dirty Frank’s. Forget cut-up hot dogs mixed into mac ‘n’ cheese, you completely neglected to consider the presentation of the dish. (Classic kid move.) Order The Octodog, an octopus-shaped hot dog sitting happily on top of a pile of mac ‘n’ cheese from Dirty Frank’s. This could also be seen as the adult-equivalent to dinosaur-shaped chicken nuggets. Since when was the last time you ate something shaped like an animal? Probably before junior high. Feel young again by stuffing your face with creamy mac ‘n’ cheese and an octopus hot dog cooked to adult standards, but visually appealing to the five-year-old at heart.

Ramen Noodles | FUKURYU | 1600 W LANE AVE.

Photo: Kyle Tracey

Here we transition into adulthood and arguably the first meal you ever learned how to cook: ramen noodles. Your standards have surely upgraded since the last time you made a $0.98 meal from home, so prove it at Fukuryu, where you can eat actual, authentic Japanese ramen. This quick-and-easy, Costco-style dinner has been given a bad rep for far too long, because one trip to Fukuryu will show you how ramen is supposed to taste. Piled with chicken, pork belly, soft shell crab, or tofu, and a mountain of toppings you pick like sweet corn, chili pork, naruto, leeks, chili oil, toasted garlic oil, and more, their flavors are more expansive than your under-developed child taste buds could probably take. Now, they’re right up your alley. Get slurpin’.

Edible Cookie Dough | COOKIE DOUGH CREAMERY | 7227 N HIGH ST.

Butter, flour, sugar, and a secret ingredient...don’t worry, it’s not eggs. No one’s getting hit with a spoon for eating raw cookie dough around here, they’re just getting tips at Cookie Dough Creamery. Fill a cup with one of six cookie dough flavors and pile it high with ice cream and toppings the way you always over-did as a kid. They have five main flavors of cookie dough: chocolate chip, sugar cookie, Oreo, peanut butter, and brownie batter. Plus, every few months they offer one to three seasonal flavors to try. (This summer it’s lemon!) As far as making your own cookie dough at home goes, quit the risk and trust whisk at Cookie Dough Creamery. I can tell you from experience it’s just like Mom’s, minus the lecture for eating it.

Gourmet Peanut Butter & Jelly Sandwiches | KREMA NUT COMPANY | 1000 GOODALE BLVD.

Photo: Julian Foglietti

The picky eater in all of us died at age 12 when we quickly became aware of how good food combinations foreign to us actually taste. In other words, we aren’t as stuck to only strawberry or grape jelly as we used to be. We’re not as hard on our friends who were scared to try peanut butter and fluff as a kid. Today, we go gourmet. Krema’s has a wide variety of PB&Js, all with an unconventional twist. Strawberry preserves are used instead of strawberry jelly, and fresh slices of strawberries sit in the sandwich with it. Other combos include The Kicker, or peanut butter and spicy raspberry preserves for the kid who made sure everyone knew it was his rock, not the neighborhood rock. Plus other game-changers like PB Apple Cheesecake, and almond or cashew butter instead of peanut butter are up for grabs at this one-of-a-kind nut company serving classic American favorites with a twist.

Cotton Candy Cocktail | FORNO | 721 N HIGH ST.

The days of begging your parents for overpriced u at baseball games are over, but the days of making our everyday cocktails more Instagrammable are coming quickly. As a result, Forno is now serving a new cotton candy cocktail served in two glasses: one for the drink, and the other to hold a cloud of pink cotton candy, set aside for you to dissolve when your iPhone ash is ready. Sip one and you’ll start acting like those sugar-high cartoon characters who were actually acting drunk to get a laugh from the parent viewers helicoptering over their kid’s TV shows. Grow up and spike your cotton candy this summer!

Cover photo by Brian Kaiser.

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Food & Drink

Survival Guide: Columbus Summer Beerfest

614now

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Every year, beer enthusiasts flock to Express LIVE! to sip, sample, and savor brews from 90+ of the best breweries this country has to offer. That's right, lushes, Columbus Summer Beerfest is back this weekend with food, entertainment, and, of course, lots of great craft beer.

Some of you may be first-timers, others have had their pretzel + string cheese + beef jerky necklaces on lock for years. No matter, there are always ways to improve the way you experience this celebration of beer.

Welcome to the 614NOW Summer Beerfest Surivival Guide. As always, drink responsibly.

It is not a race, seriously

Sometimes, kegs do kick, but it's not going to happen within the first hour of doors opening. Relax, there is more than enough beer to go around. I'm talking to you, Kevin, who feels the need to elbow throw the queue and sprint inside the venue every year.

There's truly no need to pregame

The Beerfest-issued plastic mugs may be small, but those samples add up fast. You're gonna wish you hadn't shotgunned that mango White Claw before you left your apartment, we promise.

Hydrate

You're not going to miss anything if you take a five minute hydration hiatus. It'll most likely be hot and the only thing that will quench your thirst from all those salty pretzels is a cup of cold agua. Do yourself a favorite and spend some time near the water stations throughout the night.

Don't wait to use the restroom

The lines are going to be long—real long—all night long. Rather than waiting until the absolute last minute to visit the restroom, grab a sample and head that way before your bladder deems necessary. That way, when the agony sets in, you'll already be next up for a stall.

No really, it's not a race

Slow. Down. This is your chance to try tons of new exciting brews and decide which ones you'd like to add to your normal drinking roster. Brewers from all over the U.S. worked tirelessly to perfect their beers—don't disrespect them by chugging.

Feed your face

Don't let the excitement of the festival distract you from your growling stomach. There will be plenty of food trucks present to tide over even the most specific craving, though everyone knows the best options are always deep friend and covered in cheese.

Walk, bike, rideshare

Most people exiting the Express LIVE! gate at the end of the night are in no shape to drive and neither should you. Not only would you have to deal with parking if you drove yourself, but walking, biking, or ridesharing to and from the festival is the only way to ensure safety.

Tickets to the Columbus Summer Beerfest are still available. Visit columbusbeerfest.com for more information.

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Food & Drink

Olde Towne East’s first brewery to open doors tomorrow

614now

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Late is always better than never, especially in the case of a new local brewery. After setbacks, Gemut Biergarten will officially open tomorrow at 734 Oak St. Prost!

"We'll be pouring biers, serving food, and dishing ambiance for all you patient, and not so patient, folk tomorrow!" wrote Gemut Biergarten on Facebook.

https://www.facebook.com/gemutbiergarten/posts/2392331027723422

The brewery was supposed to open to the public on August 16, but ran into a "little bump with the state."

Guests can expect European and German-style lagers and pilsners brewed by former Four String Brewing Co. employees Kyle Hofmeister, Rob Camstra, and Nick Guyton. Gemut Biergarten is owned by Camstra, Guyton, Hofmeister, and his wife Chelsea Rennie.

In addition to brews, the venture will serve wine, cocktails, and traditional German and European fare.

Click here for the food and beer menus.

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