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The Little Corner That Could

"So, it’s a bakery that sells sushi?” “It’s not a bakery—it has everything.” I overheard this conversation between an obviously first-time customer, and their more experienced friend as I sat at a table at Corner Stone Deli and Cafe in Clintonville while working on this article. I couldn’t help but smile at what I overheard, [...]
Jeni Ruisch

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“So, it’s a bakery that sells sushi?”

“It’s not a bakery—it has everything.”

I overheard this conversation between an obviously first-time customer, and their more experienced friend as I sat at a table at Corner Stone Deli and Cafe in Clintonville while working on this article. I couldn’t help but smile at what I overheard, as it’s a pretty concise summation of the thought process everyone goes through the first time they come in. I long ago stopped marveling at the mashup of food genres on the menu, as I was too busy basking in the glory of the unpretentious dining room for roughly a decade.

Throughout college and beyond, the quiet streets between High Street and Clinton-Como Park were my daily backdrop. It was the first place I had lived since I was a kid where I knew my neighbors. Though the main drag of High street has always been bustling, the last decade has seen a lot of change in this part of town. I watched as abandoned storefronts turned into trendy shops, and the housing prices in the area went through the roof. Through all of the changes, one character was a constant: Corner Stone. I would spend hours upon hours there doing school work. Sometimes only a cup of coffee paying the “rent” for my table, sometimes staying through the day, and eating breakfast, lunch and dinner there. I lived a turbulent third of my life in that North Side neighborhood. And through each loss and gain, I had sushi, bagels, and giant salads to return me to my baseline.

Song Tjiang and wife Mediana Lien run the store every day without fail. The place has remained mostly unchanged in the 11 years since he bought it. It used to be Mill Street Bagels, and when Song (as everyone calls him) bought the business in 2007, he kept that menu. That explains the bagel sandwiches and salads … but business wasn’t exactly booming, so Song knew he needed to dig a little deeper. With a background managing the sushi department at a Whole Foods, and a rise in popularity for the raw fish dish, Song added a sushi counter to his deli. And that was when the lines of patrons really started growing. Within a year, he added rice bowls and (I would argue) some of the best pad thai in the city to his menu. Add a cooler full of ice cream treats, bubble tea, and delicious cookies, and you have the eclectic menu of Corner Stone that has proven to be a winning combination.

I can picture characters from many chapters of my life within the walls of this place. Friends I’ve lost all but facebook contact with, exes I thought I would spend the rest of my life with, and visiting family and friends who wanted to go to “my favorite place.” The quiet backroom was an incubator for the birth of my writing career. My first paid writing gig was an advice column about house plants. Was I good with plants? Black thumbs hidden behind my back I smiled, “Of course!” Thanks to Google and the bottomless coffee cups at Corner Stone, I was able to quit waiting tables to write full time.

Song and his wife, like any long-time Columbus residents, have watched as the city around them has exploded.

“We used to be the only family restaurant here in Clintonville, [along] with Whole World and Nancy’s. Now we have 20, maybe?”

With Whole World gone the way of the dodo, and new lunch and dinner spots opening up all the time, Corner Stone has remained a .. er… reliable pillar in a rapidly changing place.

In the late winter of 2012, after my mom died and the relationship I was in ended simultaneously, I lost all sense of bearing. That was the year the world was supposed to end, and in a way, mine did. When I needed a hot meal and some respite from packing up her things, I would trudge through the snow, up the street to Corner Stone. The familiar decor and menu would be there unchanged, calmly waiting for me. It was an institution of the neighborhood, and possibly the only time I felt at home during months spent in flux. But Song, his wife, and their employees always seemed cheerful, and grateful for my business, not knowing how vital their presence was to me.

“People want to support Mom and Pop restaurants around here. Neighbors support us a lot.”

And neighbors they are. Song hires locals, and takes pride in giving young people restaurant experience. He knows many of his customers by name, and after buying the building in 2016, he’s here to stay for the long haul. Just like his diners. I remember the hours upon hours I sat at tables, clicking away on my ancient white Macbook writing papers, and years later, grading them. I took comfort in knowing I was in a place where I could really relax and focus on my work, where coffee and a good meal was within reach. I asked Song if it ever bothers him when people camp out at his tables, and he shakes his head, laughing. He can’t even seem to imagine it as a problem.

I sat for hours and watched the sun set through their giant front windows for years, doing homework, job hunting, sometimes just wasting time. As I sat to write this article, I clocked in over six hours in their chairs, and ate my way through examples from each part of their menu as I looked back on the entirety of my 20s. The writing career that started within these walls has come full circle. Now I’m a full-time editor, and I’ve been given a chance to revisit a part of my past. I don’t make it up to this part of town much any more. But I think it might behoove me to make the trip when I have a few hours worth of work to do, and I want to take a stroll down memory lane.

Song makes his rounds, greeting people and collecting their dishes as some click away at their keyboards, and some catch up with friends the old fashioned way, face to face.

“We never rush people,” he says with a smile. 

The Corner Stone is located at 3296 N High St. For more, visit cornerstonedelicafe.com.

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Food & Drink

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.

Dough-mama.com

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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Food & Drink

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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