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Curb Serving

Ohio has long been regarded as one of the fertile crescents when it comes to the hamburg. Dotted all across the state are stories of diners, drive-ins, and dives in small towns that started as modest mom-and-pop kitchens and have stood the test of time and development to outlive their era and thrive in the [...]
Kevin J. Elliott

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Ohio has long been regarded as one of the fertile crescents when it comes to the hamburg. Dotted all across the state are stories of diners, drive-ins, and dives in small towns that started as modest mom-and-pop kitchens and have stood the test of time and development to outlive their era and thrive in the new millenium—Wilson’s in Findlay, Crabill’s in Urbana, K’s in Troy, Kewpee in Lima, and perhaps the most legendary of them all, Swenson’s in Akron. Since 1934, when Wesley T. “Pop” Swenson went from selling hamburgs out of a station wagon to opening the first drive-up restaurant on South Hawkins Street, their signature sandwich, the Galley Boy (rumored as a precursor to the Big Boy), has endured and lived up to the title of “America’s Best Cheeseburger.”

In my endless quest for the best burger, I’ve always held Swenson’s Galley Boy in high regard. With a fresh-ground patty, a toasted bun, two special sauces (one a tangy tartar-like mayo mix, and the other, a ketchup-barbeque hybrid that sits at the bottom) and topped with a green olive, it’s truly the gold standard. But that’s just the food. Ask any native of Akron or Canton and they’ll tell you that a night out at Swenson’s is a regional rite of passage, a nostalgic tradition that has been passed through generations, and definitely not something they thought they’d ever see in Columbus.

“There are a lot of Arkon transplants in Columbus, so it was a no-brainer,” says Swenson’s director of marketing Crystal Griffith on the move to central Ohio. “I think though that it actually started by accident when our CEO just hinted at the idea of putting a store in Columbus, and instantly Twitter exploded at that prospect.”

Indeed, the Swenson’s experience is something to behold. Though the drive-up or drive-in concept is something that’s been bastardized (I’m looking at you Sonic) and preserved in the amber of roadside travel (any summer root beer stand), Swenson’s greatest pride comes in its curb-served system of service. So when I heard that Swenson’s was planning an expansion into the Columbus area, I was thrilled that I would no longer have to trek to Akron or Canton for a fix. My only concern was that in expanding, Swenson’s might not have the logistics in place to replicate that one-of-a-kind experience.

My partner and I chose the most dreary of November nights — the requisite wintry mix — to put the “new” Swenson’s to the old test. You pull up, making sure not to turn off your lights, and wait for the magic to happen. Instantly a server sprints to your car, delivers a menu, and returns to the hive. The buzz of activity is quite unique. As such, the curb servers train in a specific language and code, gestures and movements. Our servers that evening were overly chatty, telling jokes and suggesting we choose the Ohio or California (citrus-spiked slushies in orange, grape and cherry) over my pick of a strawberry phosphate. Even in torrential weather, they were on stage, and proper stewards of Swenson’s complicated system.

“It’s one thing to have a drive-thru where you’re talking to an electronic box, and it’s a very impersonal experience,” says Griffith. “With us it’s a face-to-face experience. You’re choosing what music to listen to, you’re choosing if you want to come in your pajamas, or if you want to be there with your children or your dog. We just provide white tablecloth service at an affordable price.”

Beyond the Galley Boy (quick tip: the veggie burger substitute Salad Boy is righteous on it’s own), Swenson’s menu revels in specialties that have persevered for decades. There are the standard issue onion rings and fries, both great choices for sides, but have you tried the Potato Teezers? Resembling fried mashed potatoes, the Teezers pop with the bite of jalapeno and cheddar cheese and will likely become a favorite of anyone who tries them. The aforementioned soft drinks are another oddity on Swenson’s expansive menu. In addition to the Ohio, California, and Florida fountain specialties, they boast flavored phosphates and 18 different milkshakes, encouraging customers to create combos like hot fudge and peanut butter, or pineapple and orange. If that’s not enough dessert, the Xango, a cheesecake rolled in a flaky pastry, is another must-order and the ultimate destroyer of diets everywhere.

To that end, there’s not much at Swenson’s that isn’t without guilt or sin. I’ve yet to try their coneys, but they too look unparalleled in the world of fast-food. If you’re looking for a glutton’s feast, there’s no better stop. And if Dublin is too far, not to worry, they’ve already broken ground on a Polaris location. And in the Twittersphere, there are rumors of even more Swenson’s goodness to soon enjoy in the central Ohio area.

The holy grail of hamburger excess has finally arrived.

Swenson’s is located at 7490 Sawmill Dr. in Dublin. Visit swensonsdriveins.com for a full menu and hours of operation.

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Food & Drink

Taft’s on Draft: Cinci Brewporium opens first Columbus location in Franklinton

Linda Lee Baird

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After hearing all the hype about Cincinnati’s up-and-coming Over the Rhine neighborhood a few years back, I went to see it for myself. The first stop was Taft’s Ale House, a gigantic brewery inside of a church originally built in 1850, fully renovated for guests’ reveling pleasure. After spending the next few hours sampling beverages and snacking on beer cheese pretzels, I was inclined to believe the neighborhood hype. Did I fully explore OTR that night? I don’t actually remember. But I’m certain that I had a great time at Taft’s. So when I found out that Taft’s was coming to Columbus, the news sounded even sweeter than their Maverick Chocolate Porter.

Taft’s Brewpourium Columbus spans nearly 6,000 square feet in the Gravity development, including over 2,000 square feet of patio space. Like the development itself, Taft’s is building an artistic theme into its new offering. “Our actual design is going to be kind of focused on ‘80s/‘90s pop art,” said David Kassling, Managing Partner for Taft’s Brewing Company. “Being that Franklinton definitely has its art roots, we think that’s a great way to ingrain ourself in the community.”

Kassling said that the word brewpourium literally means the place where the brew is poured. That they’ve chosen to make “brewpourium” part of their name tells you everything you need to know about what Taft’s wants to be known for: its carefully crafted suds. The brewpourium will have at least 10 taps serving Taft’s original varieties, including its signature Gavel Banger IPA, which was voted best beer in Cincinnati last March by the city’s residents.

Taft’s will offer a full food menu as well. Kassling is particularly proud to introduce New Haven-style pizza to Columbus. “We’re recreating a style that doesn’t exist anywhere else in Ohio,” he said. (The style is also known as apizza, which is pronounced "a piece," as in, I’d like a piece of that crisp coal-red cheesy goodness right now, please.) Kassling describes it as a cross between New York and Neapolitan style. Taft’s version features our and tomatoes imported from Italy.

Rounding out the menu is another ‘90s-inspired treat, this time in dessert form. Remember Dunkaroos, those cookies that came in a package with icing designed for dipping, perhaps consumed while you watched episodes of Saved By the Bell? Taft’s will serve up Taftaroos, its unique take on the snack.

Kassling plans to use the brewpourium’s large space to offer patrons activities beyond food and drink. The stage will be open for games of darts when not in use for performances. On the floor, guests will find shufflepuck and Killer Queen, an arcade game utilizing 8-bit graphics in line with the old-school theme. Video game fans will also find gaming stations inlaid in the bar, with several retro options to choose from.

With three Cincinnati locations in operation, Kassling is not new to the business. Even so, expanding to Columbus marks a milestone, and one he wasn’t always seeking to meet. “We didn’t necessarily look at this as we needed to expand to a new city or we needed to expand to Columbus,” he said.

But when the opportunity to join the Gravity Project presented itself, Kassling said it proved too good to pass up. “We’re really excited, not only because of the nature of the building being so modern and unique, not just to Columbus, but to anywhere. But also the shape of our space is funky, and that led to different ideas in what we wanted to do with our build out.”

Kassling acknowledged that in coming to Columbus, Taft’s is joining a few of our communities: the community of Franklinton, to be sure, but also the well-established community of independent breweries operating across the city. An installation built into Taft’s countertop will pay homage to this fact, incorporating crushed cans and packaging from breweries like Seventh Son, Land-Grant, and North High. “It’s gonna be totally an art piece,” he said.

Rather than focusing on the potentially competitive aspect of the brewing scene, Kassling emphasized the camaraderie and common goals within the industry. “At the end of the day, craft beer is a great way to bring people together,” he said. “And at the end of the day, we’re all preaching community and good times.”

While Taft’s new location may not be in a church, Kassling’s words are the type of preaching that I can get behind.

Taft’s Brewpourium Columbus is located at 440 W Broad St. in the Gravity project. For more details about Taft’s, visit taftsalehouse.com.

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Food & Drink

New “relaxed” wine house now open in Dublin

614now Staff

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Next time you're in Dublin, make sure to stop and smell the rosé at the city's newest wine bar. Coast Wine House recently opened at 75 S High St., offering a contemporary wine bar + bottle shop inspired by a blend of the spirit of coastal California and traditional wine country cafés, markets, and bodegas, according to the website.

Coast assures they don't take themselves too seriously "in contrast to the conventional wine world," describes the website.

"The mood is decidedly relaxed. The wine is pleasantly chilled," Coast says.

The wine bar is run by Dustin Snow, who his wife, Molly, believes brings a "warm and relaxed" feel to Coast.

"A visit to our house is by no means fancy, but Dustin makes it special, because he genuinely wants to make you feel at home," she wrote on Instagram. "And since Coast is an extension of our home you will have this same warm and relaxed experience."

https://www.instagram.com/p/B2r1Q5OgbAT/

Coast is open Wednesday and Thursday from 12pm- 9pm, Friday and Saturday from 12pm- 10pm, and closed Sunday through Tuesday. To learn more visit coastwinehouse.com.

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Food & Drink

Get a sneak peek of Columbus’ new “urban” diner and bar

614now Staff

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The final touches are being put on Columbus' newest restaurant, and we want to get you inside for a sneak peek!

The Woodbury will open at 215 E. Town St. in the near future, offering an "urban" diner setting and "vibrant" bar scene, according to the restaurant's Facebook. Lunch items and dinner entrees will be offered, as well as breakfast favorites all day long.

Join (614) on Monday, December 16th from 5pm- 7pm at The Woodbury for an exclusive sneak peek preview party before they officially open!

Be the first to try samples from their menu! Including the following food and drinks:

Meat Option:

  • PB&J Wings
  • Crab Rangoon Dip
  • Chicken Hotcake Taco

Vegetarian Option:

  • French Toast Casserole
  • Rings of Fire (battered fried hot pepper rings)
  • Vegetarian Ravioli Lasagna

Drinks (choice of 2):

  • Jack Daniels Mule
  • Old Forrester Old Fashioned
  • Jack & Cola

Keep up to day with The Woodbury by following them on social media at @woodburycbus.

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