Connect with us

Eat

Secret Ingredient

Amid the monotony of formulaic fast casuals, Sweet Carrot exceeds expectations with every bite. Refined, yet whimsical, their fascination with corn cakes and smoked meat amid an industry of imitation built-on buns and bowls isn’t just daring. It’s downhome flare that’s downright defiant. If there remains any mystery behind Sweet Carrot’s success through simplicity, the [...]
J.R. McMillan

Published

on

Amid the monotony of formulaic fast casuals, Sweet Carrot exceeds expectations with every bite. Refined, yet whimsical, their fascination with corn cakes and smoked meat amid an industry of imitation built-on buns and bowls isn’t just daring. It’s downhome flare that’s downright defiant.

If there remains any mystery behind Sweet Carrot’s success through simplicity, the secret ingredient is founder Angela Petro. Cast against type as both a restaurateur and entrepreneur, she’s no Gordon Ramsay knockoff barking orders and berating the staff, nor some smug, Silicon Valley visionary perpetually pitching the next big thing. Petro is the opposite, honest and humble, and actually stumbled into Sweet Carrot neither by design nor necessity. The impulsive purchase of a food truck as a mobile R&D platform for her decades-old catering company proved so unexpectedly popular when it launched at the Columbus Arts Festival, a permanent location became all but inevitable.

The original location in Grandview was an instant hit at the old Rife’s Market, but the second at Polaris was slow to take off. So the third in Dublin has focused on what restaurant patrons increasingly expect, a conscientious kitchen with menu options for everyone, regardless of dietary restrictions or preferences. It’s still fast casual, but with a thoughtful, artistic take on comfort food destined to grow beyond Central Ohio.

“It all came together as a curated experience. I would say it was fortuitous, at a time when I was starting to explore this kernel of an idea,” recalled Petro, whose established enterprise Two Caterers had reached a pivotal point. “When we started, we were doing simple drop-off lunches. But as we pushed ourselves, we became thought of as a high-end catering company, with creative presentation at a competitive price.”

In those early days, Petro wasn’t just wearing a proverbial chef’s hat. She was taking orders, working the kitchen, making deliveries, often serving her creations on-site, and washing the dishes at the end of the day.

“My background is blue-collar. I grew up never having catering, and that’s where most of us live. But people still have parties, they still have a need,” she revealed. “Every now and then, you need help with food, but you aren’t throwing a $30k graduation party or a $60k wedding. I still had that feeling we weren’t really reaching the market that we set out to service.”

Unable to shake the perception as a prohibitively-priced caterer for many, and uncertain any amount of marketing would change popular opinion, Petro envisioned a sister brand that would capture that long-lost clientele.

‟It bolstered the thought that we could go after this market of folks in Central Ohio who wanted wholesome food at a price they could afford, without someone in a bowtie wearing white gloves holding a silver tray. That’s how Sweet Carrot started.”

“Everyone contributed ideas to what we could roll out on our food truck—our sales team, kitchen staff, and our chefs. It bolstered the thought that we could go after this market of folks in Central Ohio who wanted wholesome food at a price they could afford, without someone in a bowtie wearing white gloves holding a silver tray,” she recalled. “That’s how Sweet Carrot started.”

The commitment to creative comfort food has always been a true community project. One of her chefs pitched the idea of savory corn cakes as a base, with brisket and pulled pork from a commercial smoker Petro picked up at auction as the perfectly decadent, working-class complement. Their signature corn salsa, adapted from the recipe repertoire of a staffer’s family potlucks, has become a ubiquitous condiment. Even the name came by way of a friend whose knack for word play was among many happy accidents. “He sent me an email that said, ‘Did you know Sweet Carrot is an anagram of Two Caterers?’,” she chided. “So that became the name of our
food truck, even before we knew what we planned to serve.”

The result is a menu that is neither seasonal, nor static, and taps into changing customer expectations. Their corn cakes are gluten-free, their slaw dairy-free, and vegetarians aren’t the only ones swooning over their fried artichokes—a callback to that first Columbus Arts Festival where they were cleverly sold as “fried arts.” And much like any credible country kitchen, little goes to waste, with yesterday’s brisket and pork becoming today’s Brunswick stew, and chicken meatballs joining kale and black-eyed eyes in tomorrow’s soup. Even the leftover mac and cheese is coated in breadcrumbs from remnant rolls and flash fried to preserve their gooey goodness. (Petro personally vouches for their portability, preferably with a side of pickles.)

Petro admits she’s been the beneficiary of both luck and good fortune along the way, from a tiny little lunch company to a beloved local food truck that prompted patrons visiting Columbus for the Country Living Fair to plead her to open an outpost in their hometowns too. Even the name Sweet Carrot and its origin are metaphors for what great restaurants do best, turning existing ingredients into something completely new and unexpected.

“I believe in this brand, and never conceived of it as a one-off. When we opened the first Sweet Carrot, I struggled creatively to try to find the guardrails, to keep it something that could become a multi-unit restaurant,” she recalled. “I wanted everything and the kitchen sink. I originally had a wine section and wanted to have a small market with products packaged to take home. If I’d opened it as a single location, it would have been a very different concept.”

The character of Rife’s Market was both a blessing and a curse. Petro and a team of staff and friends were sanding tables and painting the walls themselves. But the design and layout were more intuitive than intentional, setting a high bar for replicating the aesthetic at additional locations with less inherent character. Though Polaris was ambitious and demographically desirable, the new Dublin spot reveals the maturity of a brand ready to break out of Columbus.

“This third iteration is not the end, because there’s so much we’re going to learn. Though it is tempting, and exciting, and flattering to think about opening another location, it’s also the right time to pause,” she noted. “We’ve opened two restaurants this year, as a very tiny company. But we are definitely looking to keep expanding and evolving. We’re small, but mighty.”

To find the nearest Sweet Carrot, or to check out their catering or special diets menus, visit sweetcarrot.com

Continue Reading

Food & Drink

Kick off summer with FREE Krispy Kreme this Saturday

Mike Thomas

Published

on

It’s officially summer in C-Bus, which, due to climate change, apparently doubles as monsoon season (thanks a lot, Al Gore).

If you’re still there after reading the words “climate change,” we have some good news. Krispy Kreme, purveyors of those sugary-sweet rings we all know and love, want to help you celebrate “summer” (and the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 space mission) with a free doughnut this Saturday, June 22.

BROUGHT TO YOU BY

Free doughnuts might just be the perfect way to salvage a weekend wrecked by rain. As always, please remember to pace yourself!

Continue Reading

Biz + Dev

Signage suggests new eatery coming to former Short North Blick space

Mike Thomas

Published

on

A brand new awning sporting the words “Ned’s Bayou” has appeared over the former Blick’s Art Supplies location at 612 N High St in the Short North.

While initial searches have turned up little information about this forthcoming business, we can only assume that this will one day be the sight of a Louisiana-inspired restaurant of some sort.

BROUGHT TO YOU BY

Then again, the word “Bayou” carries other connotations. Maybe this will be the Short North’s first-ever spot for gator rasslin’. Only time will tell!

614NOW will keep an eye peeled for more info on this business as it becomes available.

Continue Reading

Food & Drink

Hop On: (614) rolls around in new brewery party bus

Regina Fox

Published

on

So many breweries, so little time, so few volunteers to drive your tipsy tush around, right? Wrong! Columbus, I’d like you to meet CBus Brew Bus: a brewery party bus tour that offers a new and refreshingly different way for curious hop heads to experience the local craft beer scene.

It was a despairingly shitty day in Central Ohio when our very strange-looking Uber pulled up to the (614) Media Group office. We all raced to the front to catch a glimpse, giggling at the thought of our impending adventure. 

Our tour was private, meaning we had the whole bus to ourselves and were able to customize the pickup and dropoff locations, as well as the destinations. Public tours, on the other hand, are made up of several small groups that meet in the heart of downtown at City Tavern and visit predetermined breweries. (I know what you’re thinking and yes, the AUX cord is up for grabs on both private and public tours.)  

Photos: Rebecca Tien

Owner Andy Bachman and his wife/tour guide extraordinaire/HBIC Jess greeted us at the door as we took our seats. The inside was decked out with paintings of Godzilla wearing a shirt reading “I Heart Local Beer” and Godzilla wearing a Block “O” tee—both raising foaming pints of beer, naturally. Unlike a real school bus where Kenny from 5C won’t stop kicking the back of your seat, CBus Brew Bus chairs face inward to keep conversations flowing right along with the brews. Between each seat is a cup holder that contained a 6.75-ounce sample glass that we would use to sample three unique beers at each of our three destinations.

Between curiosities of our careers and a mutual interest in beer, we hit it off with both Jess and Andy immediately—a perk of the service before we even shifted into drive. 

“It’s a great way to meet other people who may already enjoy craft beer,” Andy said of the tour. “You might even be somebody new to town or visiting from out of town and it’s a great way to acclimate yourself to the Columbus culture.”

First stop: Zaftig Brewing

We hustled in to avoid the rain and were met by an expecting Frank Shoults, Zaftig Taproom Manager. One of the most special qualities of CBus Brew Bus is the personalized experience you receive at every checkpoint. There were other bar guests upon our arrival, but Shoults gave us his undivided attention as he explained the beers, and waited patiently as we decided on our individual flights of three. 

I’m an IPA girl through and through, but I wanted to use this excursion to expand my hop horizons. I went with the Big Barleywine (14% ABV), Nuts For You Peanut Butter Stout (8% ABV) and Juicy Lucy IPA (7% ABV) because, well, old habits die hard.

While Andy understands that beer isn’t everyone’s thing, he’s confident the CBus Brew Bus can provide an experience even the most inexperienced beer drinker can appreciate. 

“Through this tour, you get to sample nine different types of beer and there’s usually something within that range that people will grab onto,” he assured. “There’s something for everybody. Don’t fear the beer!” 

We sipped and gossiped until Shoults came over and invited us on a tour of the Zaftig brewing facility. We learned about cultures, yeast, the canning process, and the importance of having a CFO (chief feline officer—follow Hops on Instagram at @zaftighops).

BROUGHT TO YOU BY

Second stop: Parsons North 

Jess popped the top of our crowler of Sweet Lucy and officially christened our trip with its first road beers before we were even clear of the Zaftig parking lot. You can throw a rock from pretty much anywhere in Columbus and hit a drinking establishment, but there’s just something about sipping on an ice-cold IPA with your buddies while doing 65 down I-71 South. Beer tastes better while you’re doing a mile a minute. Amirite?

It was becoming crystal clear that the three seemingly small samples at each brewery + to-go beers between stops were going to add up quickly.

Like at Zaftig, our bartender was also ready and waiting for us with an ice-cold pitcher when we tipsily traipsed into Parsons North. Mulberry Saison (7% ABV), American Stout (5% ABV), and Grapefruit Wheat (6% ABV) were the three beers we were treated to—none of which I would have ordered on my own accord, but were all brews I’d drink again. 

Andy, now retired from Columbus City Schools, was first introduced to craft beer during his residency in Boulder, CO and, more specifically, his experience with Boulder Beer Company about 20 years ago. Experimenting with different craft beers has been a muse of mine for about five years now. Andy, however, is a pioneer of sorts.  

“From that point on, I was pretty anti-domestic,” Andy said laughingly. But, he returned to Ohio in the mid-90s only to discover how far, far behind we were in the craft beer scene. Andy became a teacher but clung to his passion for beer. Without the capital for a taproom or enough knowledge of the process to become a brewer himself, Andy landed on the idea for the CBus Brew Bus.

Third and final stop: Platform Beer Co. 

The trip from stop 2 to stop 3 is what Andy calls the “sweet spot.” What he means is that the riders are experiencing peak fun. I couldn’t agree more. Our small, but lively, group of (614) staffers and Jess—who was going beer sample for beer sample with us—drank the rest of our Sweet Lucy crowler under-the-light of the green LEDs that lined the ceiling of the bus, and talked and laughed at unnecessarily high volumes until we rolled to a stop at our final destination. 

At Platform, I tried the Seltzer Project: Tangerine-Grapefruit Hard Seltzer (5% ABV) and I loved it. Will it replace my Black Cherry White Claws this summer? Stay tuned. I also had the Mello Hello IPA – Brut (5.4% ABV) and loved it, also. 

By this point, at our third brewery, it was crystal clear that the three seemingly small samples at each brewery plus to-go beer between stops had really added up—tipsy would’ve been an understated adjective for our crew. But, we got way more than a Friday morning hangover out of the deal. Jess was our new favorite drinking buddy, we fell in love with several new brews we may have never taken a chance on otherwise, we learned the ins and outs of Zaftig’s brewing process, and we bonded with each other in a way that few coworkers get to experience. 

What will your Brew Bus adventure hold?

For more information and to schedule your next trip, visit cbusbrewbus.com.

Continue Reading
X