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A Lox to Love: Where to celebrate National Bagel Fest Day

Regina Fox

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Did you know there’s a place in the Short North where you can find an Instagram-worthy cheese pull and parking? Sturgill Simpson and salmon? Bread dough but not dollar dough?

This enigma is not really an enigma at all, but rather The Lox Bagel Shop.

Cash-free and as delectable as can be, Lox Bagel is drawing crowds and pulling “likes” for its hand-rolled, boiled, and baked bagels with such gaily-colored innards as beet and thyme cream cheese, pastrami, cucumber, capers, avocado, and, of course, lox.

Photo by Brian Kaiser

The schtick and schmear is all courtesy of Cincinnati transplant-turned Ohio State Buckeye, then Italian Village resident, Kevin Crowley and his partner in crime Silas Caeton. The burgeoning bageler got his start at Northstar, a quick half-mile walk down High Street. From his more than five years at the environmentally-conscious cafe, Crowley gleaned the importance of exceptional food and service and treating people with respect.

Silas Caeton (left) and Kevin Crowley
Photo by Brian Kaiser

“We chose to put our employees as our top priority, even above our guests,” Crowley wrote in an email. “We do this because if we can have an engaged, happy, healthy, and balanced team, then the obvious next step is guests that are well taken care of, as well.”

And well taken care of we are.

What writing lacks in monetary benefits, it more than makes up for in freebies and invitations. I, along with another (614) staffer, was lucky enough to get a sneak peak of “Lox” a few days before it opened.
As soon as we got there, I took note of Crowley’s composure during the chaos that ensued on the eve of opening day. Crowley strode throughout the dining area and kitchen—signing papers and crushing inspections—with the one thing business owners who believe in their product are afforded: confidence.

Photo by Brian Kaiser

He took us back into the small and toasty kitchen to show us where the magic happens. The kitchen is small in a way that not even a petite, agile person would be able to navigate without the constant “Behind!” or “Ope, I’m just gonna slide right past you” warnings. Tall baking racks with peeled-back plastic reveal trays of post-boiled bagels in their proofing phase. The boiler itself which resembles an art classroom kiln, an assembly line complete with all the best bagel accessories, and tables covered with bread in various phases cluttering the kitchen.

BROUGHT TO YOU BY

But, perhaps the biggest obstacle of all for the busy bakers is the massive Wood Stone oven. The glow of the XL-refrigerator-sized oven warms the faces of those keeping a watchful eye over the bagels, making sure each and every one receives a perfect tan and crackling crust.

Also in the kitchen are shiny metal tubs filled with the finished product. Crowley caught me eye-flirting with the bagels and encouraged me to try one.

“Don’t feel like you have to finish it, though,” he assured.

Crowley demonstrated by picking one up, tearing it open with his hands, biting off a mouthful, and discarding the rest in the trash.

My eyes bulged. That was a perfectly good bagel, I thought. Great,
in fact
.

I followed suit by carefully selecting what I thought was the most blue-ribbon grade bagel in the bunch. But, instead of tossing most of it in the trash after one bite, I enjoyed it down to the last sprig of rosemary.

Great indeed.

As we left the kitchen, I gave one final glance to the fallen bagel that wasn’t worthy of Crowley’s time or appetite. Splayed open atop a mess of plastic wrap, latex gloves, and a slew of other kitchen-related garbage, I realized that despite my non-discriminatory palate, not all bagels are created equal.

“[The perfect bagel for us] is a product that has been cold fermented for at least 24 hours and up to 3 days, has a nice, golden exterior crust with a nice textural difference between the exterior and the soft, chewy interior,” wrote Crowley. “[It’s] well seasoned and well seeded in order to provide both a great sandwich making bagel but also a great bagel on its own.”

Starting out, Lox will offer four bagels: everything, plain, seasalt and herb, and sesame. These pieces of bread can be dolled up with several different spreads and jellies. The breakfast bagel is egg and cheese, but can be made your way with bacon, sausage, pastrami, or avocado for an upcharge. The Lox bagel is ready to go at breakfast and/or lunch.There are rotating sides and salads for sale and breakfast sandwiches like pork and veggie. For the featured sandwich, just ask.

Photo by Brian Kaiser

I was wiping cream cheese from my cheek with the corner of my fried chicken skin bagel sandwich (cute, Regina, real cute) when Crowley came over to hand me the “perfect bagel.” Browned to perfection, bubbly, full of body. To me it looked like every single one of the bagels coming out of the Lox kitchen. But who am I to argue?

The Lox Bagel Shop is located at 772 N High St Suite 106 in the
Short North. It’s open 7:30am to 2 pm Monday-Friday and 8 am to 2 pm on the weekends or until it sells out.

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Food & Drink

Draft Picks: Local craft brews to please the mainstream beer drinker

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It’s football season again, and what better game-time beverage is there than cold, refreshing beer? Maybe you want to support local businesses instead of handing more money to Corporate America, but you know some of your squad will at out refuse to drink your favorite IPAs and ales, and will ask you for a Bud Light.

Or maybe you even want a break from those big flavors and want something drinkable, with a lower ABV, to go with your chips and burgers. What to do? We have some answers.

THE FOUR-LETTER WORD

Much of the mainstream beer drinker's hesitation with, and even aversion to, craft beers lies in one ingredient: hops. Americans have a love a air with hops. Many, if not most, craft breweries center their offerings around the almighty IPA. Hops are citrusy, pungent, flavorful...and bitter.

For those mainstream beer drinkers, “hops” truly is a four-letter word. Sure, hops balance sugars and add crispness and flavor, but flavor is a funny thing.

There’s a lot to be said for individual tastes. One person’s “I can’t drink mass-market beer; I need a beer with flavor” is another person’s “OMG, how can people drink IPAs? I need a beer with flavor.”

KNOW YOUR NUMBERS

Look for low IBUs—and by low, I mean in the teens or even single digits. While an “average” IPA has bitterness in the 40-60 range, and IPAs in the 20s and 30s are fairly mild, anything with an IBU over about 18 had Erin grimacing and sticking her tongue out with a vehement “No. No way.”

Another appeal of mass-market brews is their low ABV and the associated low carbs. Corporate beer is seen to be healthier, by those standards. But most of the craft beers we tested have similar ABV to the mass market beers.

The biggest drawback to these local beers is that you can’t grab and go at the corner gas station or even in most mainstream grocery coolers. Giant Eagle and Kroger carry a few; smaller groceries like Hill’s and Weiland’s carry some; specialty beer and wine shops carry some, but many are only available on draft, by the growler, either in the brewer’s tap room or at a specialty store.

The upside to this is that breweries are happy to tell you where to find their products, and buying by the growler ensures that you’re getting some of the freshest beer available. And, anyhow, you have two or three half-used packages of Solo cups already, right?

THE RUNDOWN

Lagers, pilsners, Oktoberfest, and Kolsch-style beers are going to be your best bets for low-ABV, low-IBU, mainstream- friendly options.

Dayton’s Warped Wing Brewing Company sells its Trotwood lager in cans as well as draft. Called “a beer’s beer” by the company, it’s malty and smooth, unassuming and balanced, a lot like Budweiwer and a little more flavorful.

Nocterra’s outstanding Trail Break helles lager, made with all German malt and hops, is easy drinking at its easiest. Another excellent choice is Old Dog Alehouse & Brewing’s Monk’s Tale—a smooth helles that started as a summer brew, but will be extended into the fall.

If crisp pilsners are more your thing, check out North High Brewing’s Life sparkling ale, full of complex flavor, or Commonhouse Ales’ Czech Please, a clean, no-frills brew with a nice finish.

Elevator’s Heiferweizen and Grove City Brewing Company’s Jolly Orange are similar to Blue Moon, delicious with a slice of orange, each having its own slightly distinct character—Heiferweizen a little lemony, Jolly Orange a little spicy.

Mexican-style lagers, similar to Corona, are generally easy-drinking and popular, with or without limes. Grove City’s A Poco was Erin’s closest estimation to a cold Corona. Land Grant’s Urban Sombrero has faint spicy and oral notes that add character.

Combustion’s Sir Veza was a universal hit with my friends. Curtis described it “light, like a light beer, but with the flavor of a lager.” At 4.5% ABV, that’s not far off.

“I'll tell you what, it smells good,” Zack said. Janie chimed in, “This would be a great beer pong beer!” Now, maybe you’re not having “that” kind of tailgate (or maybe you are), but any beer that stands up to beer pong is a testament to drinkability.

Oktoberfest-style beers generally also fit the bill. Elevator’s Oktoberfest is heavy on the malt, similar to Rolling Rock, but other brands are sweeter and heavier, reminiscent of Sam Adams beers.

Looking further into fall, Grove City’s Alumni lager is scheduled to return in November. Around the same time, Chicago’s Forbidden Root Brewing Company is scheduled to open its Easton brewery and taproom, including their super- drinkable Hoodie Weather Vienna lager.

For something slightly different (and a little further out of Central Ohio) but still excellent with salty snacks and grilled burgers, seek out Catawba Island Brewing Company’s Hot Blonde Mango Habanero Ale. It’s not like anything you’ll buy in the beer cooler of your corner store, but it’s slightly fruity, a bit spicy, and will add a little kick to your game-time cookout.

Not so much of a beer drinker, or having an upscale morning tailgate? How about mead-mosas? Yes, you read that right. Mead-mosas. Skip the wine-aisle bubbly, head to one of many specialty groceries or the taproom on the East side, and grab one of Uprising Meadworks’ bottles, like the ginger-lime Copper Knob, to mix with your orange juice.

So pass up the drive-through this football season, and try something local. You’ll find easy-going selections with flavor, reasonable ABV, and great drinkability, that your mainstream- beer-fan friends, and even you, will love.

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Food & Drink

You’ll hardly recognize newly-renovated GasWerks, fun features added

Regina Fox

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After a months-long renovation, Park Street enthusiasts can finally return to one of its most popular establishments: GasWerks.

The bar reopened over the weekend, debuting several new features including two live music stages, a large dance floor, and a food menu prepared right out of a vintage COTA bus permanently located inside the bar.

Guests can also test their skills at new games like skee-ball, and a 15-foot Space Invaders game, as well as other classics on vintage systems.

Outside, the patio features corn hole, new chairs and tables, and an open-sided Airstream camper with comfortable seating for social gathering.

What hasn't changed is GasWerks great drink specials, playful atmosphere, and welcoming spirit. The bar is located at 487 Park St. and is open Wednesday and Thursday from 5pm- 2am, Friday from 4pm-2am, Saturday from 3pm- 2am, and closed Sunday through Tuesday. To learn more, visit gaswerksbar.com.

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Food & Drink

Beloved local burger joint opening Downtown location, more neighborhoods soon

Regina Fox

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In a very small amount of time, Preston’s: A Burger Joint by chef Matthew Heaggans and chef Catie Randazzo's went from a cultish pop-up to the home of many peoples' favorite burger.

With the help of a newly-created hospitality group, Heaggans and Randazzo will be expanding Preston's into more neighborhoods.

"We know Columbus wants to eat more Preston’s burgers and we want to make that dream a reality," said Reed Woogerd, CEO of Muse Hospitality.

The flagship location for the Preston’s expansion will be at 15 W. Cherry St. in Downtown. More locations throughout Columbus are planned with hopes of tapping into the Cleveland and Cincinnati markets, as well.

"We want Preston’s to be Ohio’s burger," said Woogerd.

Click here to read more about the smash burger

Matt Heaggans and Catie Randazzo are two of the most respected chefs in the restaurant scene. Together and individually, they have created some of Columbus’ most beloved concepts, including the most recent: Ambrose & Eve (which will operate under the Muse Hospitality umbrella).

Randazzo is the creator of Challah food truck, featuring the chicken sandwich with the biggest cult following in the city. Challah is no longer operating as a food truck, but recently was featured as a pop-up menu at Ambrose & Eve and could see a full brick and mortar comeback as the group expands.

Heaggans and Randazzo created Preston’s: A Burger Joint that has been racking up the accolades, including best burger in Columbus. Currently you can find Preston’s operating as a food truck, at Woodland’s Tavern and Woodland’s Backyard.

With around 70 years collective experience in the industry, Muse Hospitality's mission is to continue to guide and push the elevation of the Columbus food scene and culture.

Letha Pugh's Bake Me Happy will continue to operate independently, but will be bringing a gluten-free edge to the Muse concept.

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