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Burger Battles: How 4 local plant-based patties compare to beef

Regina Fox

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I raised Holstein dairy feeders growing up and fell in love with the cows and the process year after year. I worked hard to nourish, groom, and train them to be fit for show, but I worked harder to push the thought of them becoming steaks out of my mind. In hindsight, I realize I had an important job: to ethically and responsibly raise beef to be processed and consumed.

I believe animal agriculture is important to many peoples’ lives, not to mention livelihoods. However, I also realize the importance of introducing plant-based proteins into our diets to safeguard the future of our planet. In short, I am very much an omnivore—eating more veggies than meat but never willing to turn down some beef jerky. It’s served me well in life for many reasons: my protein variability, dietary flexibility, etc. But recently, it’s presented the opportunity to explore the remarkable and noteworthy changes in the burger scene in Columbus.

Eating green is trending right alongside the city’s awareness about sustainability. If you spot a classic cheeseburger on a restaurant menu, odds are it has a plant-based counterpart. But, how do they stack up? Can a meat burger really be compared to a plant- based patty? If so, which is better? Well, folks, I do believe that after consuming eight different burgers in one day, I have answers to all your questions and more.

Northstar Burger vs Classic Cheeseburger at Northstar

The Northstar Burger is arguably the tallest pillar in the local veggie patty community. It’s been perfected over the restaurant’s 15 years of existence to ensure only the best finished product is handed over to the customer with that signature Northstar hospitality. I’ve let Earth Day after Earth Day pass me by without getting my hands on a free Northstar Burger, so I went into this experience as a first-timer—I finally tasted what all the hype was about. The black beans + brown rice + beets patty is moist and billowing at the bun with smoky flavor that complements the white cheddar cheese. The earthy beet taste pairs well with the burger’s kale, tomato, pickle, and onion toppings. I think it’s safe to say Northstar has created the standard to which all veggie burgers should be held.

The classic beef buddy made its way onto the menu when Northstar Easton hit the scene and has been superbly received ever since. Niman Ranch provides the brisket and chuck for this ground-in-house-daily sandwich. Coming as no surprise, the Classic Cheeseburger is just that—a classically juicy, savory, and perfectly greasy cheeseburger. The chewiness of the beef and the crunch of the veggie toppings create the perfect bite every time. Bonus points for that gorgeous cheese melt!

The Original White Castle Slider vs The Impossible Slider with smoked cheddar

Well, well, well, White Castle, we meet again, except this time, I’m sober. Northstar is a damn-near impossible act to follow, but I tried my best to keep it in perspective as I held the fun-sized- sandwiched between my fingers. “I could find enough change on the sidewalk to buy this sandwich,” I reminded myself as a single onion shaving fell onto my lap. I took a bite. “Hm,” I thought. “I wonder if there’s any room on the crave train.” While moist beyond my personal preference, the quality of the burger is right on par with the price and for that reason, I’m in (Shark Tank tone).

It looks, sizzles, and tastes like beef, but it’s made from plants! The smaller-than-a-floppy-disk-sized patty of the impossible burger is quite a convincing substitute for beef, especially with all its colorful veggie fixings! But while the plant-based burger is flavorful, it lacks the moisture you’d typically find in beef. However, in the Impossible Slider’s defense, I wouldn’t check the moisture box with the Original Slider either. Alas, the White Castle buns seem to soak up more than their fair share of the juiciness.

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Burger King Whopper vs Burger King Impossible Whopper

BK can hang its crown on the coat rack in the corner of the market they’ve carved out with their flame-grilled burgers. The Whopper is simply a good fast-food sandwich. The beef is tender and melts in your mouth alongside the fresh toppings and generous dollops of mayo and ketchup. I can’t believe I’m saying this as a born-and-raised-Midwesterner, but this was my first time trying a Whopper. It won’t be the last.

Burger King just recently stepped up to the plant-based plate and I think they knocked it out of the park. Hardly distinguishable from the original, the Impossible Whopper has the signature broiled taste we’ve come to know and love from BK. (At least most of us.) The composition of the burger isn’t quite as tight as the beef and there is a subtle grainy flavor that comes through, but for a comparable price to its beef counterpart, I’d recommend this for a #MeatlessMonday lunch.

Third and Hollywood Burger vs Third and Hollywood Corn and Black Bean Burger

As a member of the same restaurant group as Northstar, Third & Hollywood refuses to settle for mediocre, which is why they serve the same Niman Ranch brisket and chuck blend. This upscale Grandview gem ups the ante with a more generous patty of succulent meat that lends some of its juices to the bun below, creating a perfectly gluttonous, greasy handheld. It’s a sexy-looking sandwich. I just wish I could say the same about myself when I was devouring it.

Guac is extra and so is this veggie-based burger. After a long day of burger bites, this one was the tops. What I like most about this veggie burger is that it doesn’t try to trick you into thinking it’s beef—it’s an entree all its own. The texture of the patty is creamy with help from the rugged mound of guacamole and smooth smoked gouda. I was pleasantly caught off guard when I kick struck my palate from the southwestern-flavored sauce on the underside of the sesame seed bun. If you want your veggie burger to convince you you’re eating beef, this may not be your pick. But, if you’re looking for an outstanding, protein-forward, fresh, and fun sandwich, I’ll point you to Third & Hollywood every time.

When I'm not weaving a beautiful tapestry of words, I'm likely digging through jewels and vinyls at an antique shop near you.

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Food & Drink

Tastebud Traveling: Free tasting event coming to North Market

614now Staff

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Take a family tastebud trip with the return of Kalamata’s Kitchen Tasting Tour at the North Market this weekend.

Kalamata’s Kitchen will kick off a 12-month, 12-city tasting tour in Columbus on Saturday, February 22. This premier event for kids and families will feature tasty bites from North Market vendors representing food from around the world.

According to a release, every child participant is treated like a VIP as they discover new foods and learn about unique perspectives from celebrated chefs. Kids receive a VIP badge and a Food Adventure Passport that is stamped each time they try a new food. They will also have the opportunity to meet Sarah Thomas, co-founder and author of the Kalamata’s Kitchen book series.

This event is free and open to the public.

For more information, visit kalamataskitchen.com and/or northmarket.com.

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Food & Drink

Nice To Meat You: Pit BBQ drops major news

614now Staff

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Hot off the opening of their newest restaurant, The Pit BBQ announced yet another location.

The smoked meats adventure, started by former Buckeyes Chimid Chekwa and Bryant Browning as well as D’Andre Martin and Mike Johnson, first opened in 2016 at 3545 Cleveland Ave. in Columbus’ North Linden neighborhood. 

Photos by Rebecca Tien

Earlier this month, they expanded to 1542 Parsons Ave. and just recently, the restaurateurs have signed a lease for a third location at 4219 N. High St. in Clintonville.

Curious to learn more about the cravable BBQ joint? Check out our (614) Magazine coverage here.

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Bistrolino Old World Kitchen brings unique flavors to German Village

Mike Thomas

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In the conversation around modern dining, there are certain descriptors that have taken on less than positive connotations. These inherently harmless words became objects of mockery due to overuse, thanks in part to concepts that probably had no business applying them in the first place. In particular, the word “fusion” seems to have worn out its welcome.

The much-maligned “F” word notwithstanding, the crossover success of Lebanese-meets-Italian on display at Bistrolino Old World Kitchen and Bar is not just an attempt at novelty, but is backed by the rich historical similarities common to the two cultures. Take it from the Romans and Ottomans: as unique as a civilization may be, you don’t spend so much time in close proximity without a few things rubbing off.

Like the traditions from which they hail, Bistrolino owners Sam Chedid and Francesco Todisco found common ground in their love of food. A native of Southern Italy, Todisco started making pizzas at age 13. His 24-year career in cooking took him to numerous kitchens in New York City, and later, to work as a chef in his wife’s native Columbus. Chedid began his career as a civil engineer, but never fully connected with work in that field. Dreaming of opening his own restaurant, he took a job with Aladdin’s Eatery to learn the ins and outs of the industry. It was here that the two connected, and began collaborating on the concept that would become Bistrolino.

Photos: Rebecca Tien

“I always told him we would open a restaurant together and he’d laugh it off,” Chedid says with a laugh of his own. “Over our time getting to know each other, we realized how similar our foods were ingredients-wise, and decided to put them together.”

Looking at the common elements between the two food cultures served as a starting point for Bistrolino’s menu. There is much that the two culinary traditions share outright, and other areas where commonalities allow for creative synthesis of complementary flavors from each culture.

With their plan of action decided, the duo already had a destination in mind for their new venture: Columbus’ historic German Village. “The neighborhood has been fantastic. We always knew we wanted to be here,” Chedid said. “The old architecture and little streets remind us of home.”

And the food at Bistrolino seems to have reminded others of their home, as well. Since opening in late December 2019, the restaurant has already attracted clientele from far and wide—including members of the local Lebanese and Italian communities in search of familiar flavors that are hard to find in Central Ohio.

“I wanted to introduce people to more Lebanese food that you don’t see unless you go to Lebanon,” Chedid says of Bistrolino’s offerings. “We love hummus, we love tabbouleh, but we’re just trying to stay away from that, because that’s what you find everywhere commercially.”

If off-the-beaten-path Lebanese food is decidedly less familiar to the American palate, Bistrolino’s fusion of Italian favorites offers a gateway to new experiences. Whatever level of familiarity one approaches the menu with, the dedication to quality and freshness on display in the kitchen is sure to win fans.

“If I can tell you anything about the food that we make, it’s that it’s all about simplicity and very high-quality ingredients,” says Todisco. “The culture where we come from, sitting down at the dinner table is not just to feed ourselves. It’s to come together and have a good time. All of our dishes are made having in mind that usually when people come together, they are sharing.”

The shareable menu concept is well-expressed through a variety of familiar Mediterranean favorites, from flatbreads (each available as an open-faced Italian Puccia or the more sandwich-like Lebanese Mankoushe) to charcuterie. A selection of terrine, single-serve roasted dishes served right in the cooking vessel, present some of the restaurant’s more decadent offerings. Whether it’s the made-to-order lasagna, lamb chops, or a brasciola (the menu’s most expensive item at a more-than-reasonable $20) comprised of thinly-sliced, cream- of-basil-stuffed NY strip—the entire menu offers an incredible value for fresh, scratch-made fare.

From a Lebanese salad called Fattoush to frittatas and much more, vegetarian options at Bistrolino are abundant, as are unique wine selections. The house wine from the Massaya Vineyards label of Lebanon offers a taste of a country that is considered a hidden gem among wine producers.

Whatever the mood calls for, diners would do well to arrive early to secure their preferred dish. The confines of the small kitchen’s limited storage space and Todisco’s commitment to using the freshest possible ingredients sometimes means that items will run out.

“I feel sorry when I have to tell people we are out of something, but there is nothing I can do,” he explains. “This is the only way to keep everything super fresh.”

Food so good it sells out? Maybe fusion isn’t such a bad concept after all.

Visit Bistrolino Old World Kitchen and Bar at 495 S 4th St in German Village.

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