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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

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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