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Full steam ahead: Crab boils wash up on ‘burb shores

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A bucket arrives table side. No plates, forks, or knives on the table—only butcher’s paper spread from edge to edge. A clear oven bag is pulled from the bucket, untied, and upended.

An avalanche of sweet and savory morsels spills out onto the table paper.

A rainbow of pink, white, and red steamed sea creatures settles in a pile with corn, potatoes, sausage, and striped mussels. Fragrant, buttery garlic sauce envelops everything, pooling on the paper and in the clam shells.

Bibs on, we dive in.

The huge rosy prawns are easily peeled, and provided industrial tools to help us crack open the armor of the more formidable crustaceans. Wrestling briefly with a fan of crab legs produces a fist-sized lump of meat. I drag it through the puddle of spiced garlic butter in from of me and sank my teeth into the sweet white flesh.

Damn it feels good to be a barbarian.

At Kai’s Crab Boil, you’re encouraged to dive in and get your hands dirty. Co-owner Tiffany Cho sings the praises of getting up-close and personal with your seafood.

“It adds that fun factor. You’re always told don’t play with your food, you have to use your knife and fork. But here you get to eat with your hands.”

Central Ohio now has two more communal eat-off-the-table style of crab boil restaurants than it did a year ago±which back then was zero—both on Bethel Road. Though Columbus may be home to multitudinous seafood lovers, there’s little chance of us becoming known as a seafood city when we have exactly no maritime real estate. But a mix of modern technology, a bit of gumption, well-timed ordering practices, and a seafood vacuum to fill means that Cbusers now have the opportunity to try a smorgasbord relatively new to the Midwest.

Kai’s isn’t the only place you get your fingers buttered. Nearby, Boiling Seafood has an eat-off-the-table option, as well. They also serve sandwiches and individual entrees for those of you who want a cleaner experience with your ocean critters.

Outside of obvious restaurant challenges like serving customers and keeping a clean shop, a seafood restaurant like Kai’s or Boiling Seafood has to do a careful dance with their living inventory. Lobsters, crabs, mussels, clams, and crawfish all arrive live, and hang out in a freezer for their short stay where they reach a hibernate-like state, but remain very much alive.

“Once we do get it in, it sells out so quickly,” says Cho. “Especially with the crawfish, we were surprised with how much demand there was for them in Ohio.”

Open for just over a month, Kai’s has been flush with customers so far. An evening at Boiling Seafood will bring bib-covered patrons many a shell to crack. It’s no mystery that this tradition of eating with your hands and abandon brings a buttery smile to Columbus faces.

By Jeni Ruisch / Originally appeared in Stock & Barrel Spring 2018

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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

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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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