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Review: Ambrose and Eve defines comfort with more than food

Kevin J. Elliott

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Several months back, when I first interviewed the dynamic duo of Catie Randazzo and Matthew Heaggans upon opening their now omnipresent Preston’s burger joint, they had been prepping and planning Ambrose and Eve for a significant time. But they had very little to reveal other than saying that the restaurant would be an upscale dining experience—as opposed to the luxury junk food of Challah, the food truck, and Preston’s—and that it would be like “the best dinner party ever thrown, but every night of the week.”

Catie Randazzo (right) and Matthew Heaggans
Photo by Brian Kaiser

Sure, that’s a bold statement, but think about who’s doing the talking. If you’ve come to recognize Challah and Preston’s as institutions in the Columbus food scene, then you should trust in the words and culinary aspirations of Randazzo and Heaggans. And with Ambrose and Eve being the all-encompassing gem in their growing empire, you should trust that despite major setbacks, this is the duo at the height of their conceptual powers.

The cozy South High Street spot has only been open a little over two months, but it’s already become a regular haunt for foodies in the know, and a buzzy destination picked by national publications eager to find the next great food city. Repeat business proves they’re doing something right, especially with a menu that aims to challenge as much as it does comfort its guests.

“I’ve always felt frequent, but well-executed change is the way to see people often,” says Heaggans. “We try to keep the food fresh and interesting so people don’t get bored. I’m super grateful to a lot of our diners who come here over and over again. Our reservation system tracks who’s dining with us and a really large chunk of our reservations day to day are people who have dined with us before, and we’ve only been around for a short spell.”

Indeed, comfort is key in creating a culture. And seeing that there was a particular need in Columbus dining for what Heaggans calls a “homey sort of restaurant,” the simple-yet-refined design of the space—like stepping into a farmhouse dining room or a grandparent’s generational home—and familiar-yet-elevated scope of the menu, creates an experience that few places in the city could replicate.

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The menu has a number of traditional staples inspired by comfy diners and home-cooked meals. Chicken and dumplings, fried chicken, pot roast, shrimp scampi, and spaghetti-o’s, mingle with pastrami carrots, veal sweetbreads, and the show-stopping red oil tatare: all delicacies for all palettes. Yet each plate is presented with a particularly leveled-up crux of flavors.

The aforementioned lunchtime snack that came from a Chef Boyardee can, is prepared instead with a housemade anelli pasta and sauce with meatballs culled from a mythical secret recipe. While the red oil tartare, though perhaps a challenge for some, is raw beef tendon expertly mixed with garlic chips, sesame, sunflower, rice, vinegar, and served with the spot’s signature scallion rolls. With snacks, shares, unparalleled veggie dishes, and over-the-top family dinners, the duo’s collaboration to distill their influences into a comfortable but challenging menu, guarantees those return visits continue, as it’s ever-changing, and as everything is worth a try.

“When one of us has an idea for a dish, we talk about it,” says Randazzo about the creation of a new dish. “We talk about the integrity of it, how
to manipulate it, update it, the texture, the plating, the acidity, all facets
of what we want the dish to be. Then we make the dish. We eat it. We discuss if it needs more salt, acid, fat, or heat. We remake the dish. We discuss it again.”

But as comfortable as Ambrose and Eve can seem on a relaxing night out, or as compatible as the menu can be given its range and warmth, semantics rule. Randazzo and Heaggans will always prefer “lost sleep” and outright “exhaustion” to keep the restaurant outside too much of a comfort zone. As much as they provide the simplicity of a great meal, they are always keeping Columbus diners on their toes.

“Columbus still has room to grow,” says Randazzo. “I often find people saying, ‘Well it’s good for Columbus.’ I don’t want to hear that; I think it’s a cop out. We as chefs need to push ourselves, and push the boundaries that has made the food scene in Columbus comfortable. If we really want to get on the food map then we need to take chances. I love Columbus and I always will. It is my home, and I want to do as much as I can for this city. Whether with food, volunteering, or lending a hand to whomever I can. But there is still work to be done, and I am ready to put the time in.”

Ambrose and Eve is at 716 S High St. Visit ambroseandevecolumbus.com for a menu and reservations.

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Clintonville Brunch Crawl: We dare you to squeeze all 3 stops into 1 day

614now

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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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