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Food & Drink

Survival guide: Winter Beer Fest edition

Steve Croyle

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Beer festivals can be a fun and rewarding experience where old favorites can be compared to bold new offerings, but you’ve got to know what you’re doing. Wander into a beer festival on a whim, and you’ll find it to be an obnoxious affair full of frat boys, some well into their fifties, chest bumping everybody because they just earned another badge on Untapped.

This is especially true of winter beer fests, where cabin fever can bring out the worst in people. With this year’s edition taking place February 8-9, there’s little time to prepare, and with people eager for any excuse to get out, this festival will be a madhouse. Smart patrons will preview the beer list and formulate a plan of attack, but like Mike Tyson said, “Everybody’s got a plan until they get punched in the face.”

So what do you do?

Book a Hotel

You’re already dropping some coin here, so just go all-in and make a weekend on the town out of it. Stay within walking distance of the Convention Center, and just blow a month’s pay on the good life. Eat, drink, be merry, and gain 25 pounds. The austerity you have to practice after the splurge will help you get back to your fighting weight, and the kids will forgive you for blowing their tuition savings, someday.

Go Early

That means pop for the early admission ticket, or even that VIP package, and go on Friday. Avoid the Saturday crowd at all costs—that’s the day you run into more of the party-time types. They’ve probably done a little pre-gaming en route to the festival, so it won’t take long for the aforementioned chest bumping to begin.

There are a lot of good people who go on Saturday because they have no other choice but you should take a vacation day, check into a hotel on Friday, and plan to queue at the door no later than 6:30 Friday evening.

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Swim Downstream

Most people like to work their way up to the heavier beers. The logic is sound, but flawed. Big beers don’t really wreck your palate—it’s hops that will dull your senses. While that first wave of people is lining up for lagers, you can partake in those big, barrel-aged stouts that will draw a crowd later in the night, which is when you can start sampling the lighter beers. Sours are best if you same them for last.

Or Just Volunteer

There are people who will be paying almost 100 bucks for VIP treatment, and those people still don’t get treated half as well as those who volunteer. Volunteers get free admission, free parking, free food, and swag. Not just festival swag, but sometimes the brewers will sweeten the deal and hook up their volunteer pourers with cool stuff. You have to put in a five-hour shift, but it’s fun.

Volunteering completely flips the script, too, because Saturday can be extremely entertaining when you’re on the other side of the tasting table. Slots tend to fill up quick, but you can always get on the list in case somebody bails. Volunteers also have access to special bathrooms—clean bathrooms with no waiting.

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Food & Drink

Too Good to Eat: Hubbard Grille’s Short Rib and Shrimp shareable

@findyourfork

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If looks could krill, you would be on the floor. Literally.

Hubbard Grille's Short Rib and Shrimp shareable dish will knock you right out of your seat because it will hit you hard and fast with flavor and more.

Photo by Angela Lee of @findyourfork

Imagine this: the most tender and delicious pulled beef short rib layered on a bed of the creamiest and cheesiest white cheddar grits with tomato jus. Top the bite-sized goodness off with a perfectly tender and seasoned prawn, add some color and texture with delicately placed microgreens and take that first bite.

With that first bite, you’ve just experienced one of the most delicious flavor profiles that the Columbus food scene has to offer. Second bite and your taste buds are just begging, pleading, and crying for more. Third bite and you are already shamelessly scraping off every last drop, speck, and flavor from the dish with your spoon.

You might actually even pick up the dish with your own two hands and unashamedly lick the plate clean. You might also start bargaining with your fellow table mates to negotiate the remaining pieces on the plate.

No judgement here. We have all done it at one point. You gotta do what you gotta do, am I right?

Hubbard Grille is located at 793 N. High St. in the Short North. To learn more + view the menu, visit hubbardgrille.com.

@findyourfork your average noodle connoisseur, taco devourer, and mimosa lover. When she's not busy snapping pictures of her latest yummy foodie adventures, you'll find her at your local coffee shop casually relaxing with a pastry in hand and a latte in the other.

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Food & Drink

Beloved burger joint opening in Hilliard next week

614now Staff

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Swensons Drive-In is expanding their central Ohio footprint in just a few days. The Hilliard stand will open at 4810 Cemetery Rd. on Monday, September 23.

Hilliard will be the third stand in Columbus with a locations in Dublin and Polaris.

The Akron-based burger chain prepares their burgers, including the signature Galley Boy, using premium cuts of beef ground fresh daily and made to order. The buttered and toasted buns only add to the juiciness of the meat.

https://twitter.com/SwensonsDriveIn/status/1175043808268099585

Apart from the greasy goodness that is Swensons food, one of the other reasons to patronize the stand is its car-side service. From the comfort of your pajama pants, Swensons Curb Servers will be at your window, eager to take your order and sprint, literally sprint, it back to the kitchen for preparation. Just be sure to not drop a single Potato Teezer between your seat because we all know that is the land of no return.

Visit www.swensonsdriveins.com for more information.

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Food & Drink

Review: Matt & Tony’s dishes out classic comfort food in downtown

Regina Fox

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I've gotten to try a lot of interesting cuisine with this job, but it's rare that I get the opportunity to sample a mother's spaghetti recipe outside of my childhood home. This is the type of experience that Matt & Tony's Wood Fired Kitchen, which recently opened inside the former CBC Restaurant space, offers its guests.

At Matt & Tony's, you don't have to sneak off to the bathroom to Google what a menu item is so you don't look ignorant in front of your date, and that's what makes it so great.

The menu bodes familiar comforts like fried chicken, fish & chips, veal parmesan, and burgers. There's no proprietary flare or fancy sauce smears around your plate—it's all just damn good food.

I sampled Madeline's Spaghetti & Meatballs, which is straight from the cookbook of co-owner Matt Rootes' mother. The sauce was sweet and plentiful while the meatballs were hearty and succulent. I didn't want to gorge myself on the first entree, but I couldn't seem to stop twirling those perfectly-boiled noodles around my fork...

Next up was a Wood Grilled Steak with mashed potatoes and broccoli. I heard once that butter wasn't a carb, so I spread it on thick and cut myself a piece with a crispy fat edge—juicy, tender, and lean. I didn't eat all 12 oz., but I very easily could have.

The Fork N' Knife BBQ Ribs at Matt & Tony's are straight out of a BBQ fairy tale. This healthy helping of slow-cooked, fall-off-the-bone meat is smothered in sauce and almost impossible to put down. You may not be excusing yourself to Google what you just nervously and unknowingly ordered, but you'll probably require a bathroom mirror to make sure you've wiped all the sauce off your mug after devouring these racks.

Feeling like Thanksgiving? Have a little alternative celebration for yourself with Matt & Tony's Half Roasted Chicken with crushed herbs and lemon butter. Slip into a food coma with the sides of potatoes and seasonal vegetable. Dream a little dream of country gravy (which can be found drowning the fried chicken dinner entree).

Rootes says he and his partner Tony Wildman chose to open Matt & Tony's to give the people of downtown an option for high-quality steaks and seafood at a reasonable price without all the "frou-frou." I, for one, think that's exactly what downtown needs.

While so many other restaurants are reaching for globally-inspired dishes made with ingredients you can pronounce, Matt & Tony's is executing classic comfort dishes you grew up on in a warm, inviting atmosphere—it's like a little slice of home on Short St.

Matt & Tony's is located at 525 Short Street and is open 11am- 10pm Sunday through Thursday and 11am- 11pm Friday and Saturday. Visit mattandtonys.com for more information.

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