The last month (can it really be that long?) has flown by and I am now faced with a pile of photos, notes, menus and cards and am scratching my head wondering where to start and what I can remember.
I’ll start with the new places I have been. Some of these are really new additions to the Columbus food scene and others are just new to me. One of the latter is the Mi Li Cafe (formerly Mi Mi Cafe). This is a small Vietnamese restaurant in Columbus Square, a shopping Center in the North West part of town. Not somewhere I would normally venture (unless in the pursuit of a taco truck), but I had heard such rave reviews of their Banh Mi sandwich that I had to try it for myself.
A Banh Mi is a Vietnamese sub with crusty french bread, pork slice, pate, mayo, cilantro, jalapenos, carrot and cucumber. It is a wonderful mix of crunchy, refreshing, satisfying and delicate and is really tasty. At $4.50 it very good value too. We also tried the Banh Cuon, a rice crepe with minced pork, pork patties, bean sprouts, cucumber, basil, fried onions and a fish vinaigrette. Good but not as superlative as the sandwich.
The cafe has a limited menu and a bizarre atmosphere that is a cross between a cafe and a waiting room. The rack of glossy magazine made it a little like a trip to the hairdressers, but you can flip through Cosmo while you sip the potent Vietnamese coffee.
Another place I had heard a lot about was the Pita Hut -N- Grille, (North High St)
I am amazed that it gets such rave reviews. I felt like I was back in a British kebab shop, but way too sober. I had the shwarma sandwich (pictured above) and the best I can say that the bread didn’t leak at all. The meat was tough and dry and I would take a taco over it any day.
Continuing on the Mediterranean theme, a fairly new addition is Lavash Cafe, also on North High Street in Clintonville. I really like the space which is light and airy, especially if you can snag one of the large tables in the window.
The best things so far about lavash seem to be the hummus, which is only $2.50 a plate and very good, the daily specials, the fatayer (savory pastries) and the freshly grilled kebabs. I really enjoyed the lamb kefta sandwich.
I also tried the mojadara, a rice and lentil dish that was really delicious, but a little dry by itself, so I think it would be great as a side dish paired with one of the daily special vegetable stews.
Lavash also has 15 varieties of baklava if you are so inclined, turkish coffee and mint tea.
Another new place in town is Barrio, a tapas bar with a mixture of Spanish and latin American food. Barrio is also on High Street, but down town on the corner of Spring, in an old converted Wendy’s. From the interior you would never guess its previous life. What a great trade! Barrio is a wonderful addition to downtown which has limited night time dining options. I loved the solid wood tables, the cut through to the kitchen and the blackberry infused sangria. Our server was also wonderful. I was less excited about the lighting – it really is too dark if you need a flashlight to read the menu and the prices, which seemed steep for some of the dishes.
My favorite food item was the plantain chips that we ordered off menu. We saw them as a garnish and asked if it was possible to get a full order – it was, and they were fantastic. Lengthwise wafer thin slices of plantain without the greasiness you generally get from plantain chips. I hope they will add them to the menu. I definitely want to go back and give the food another try – maybe for lunch, or brunch – sometime when I can read the menu.
Not a new place, but definitely a new discovery – the cinnamon buns at Tasi. I have a new weakness. The pain au chocolate (chocolate croissants) aren’t half bad either.
Coming soon as I battle through my backlog- Rue Dumaine in Dayton, Mushroom logging, The Details experience and some home cooking.
April 11, 2009
You sound a lot like me. I’ve visited a dozen or so places but never got around to writing about them. I so love the bahn mi at MiLi. I think perhaps you got to Pita Hut on a bad day, because I’ve never had anything less than superlative food there. Did you happen to go late at night? That may explain things.
April 11, 2009
Actually at lunchtime. Maybe I was unlucky, it certainly seems popular.
April 12, 2009
The falafel at Pita Hut is better than the meat items. If you need a beer with it, you can take it to Bob’s Bar next door. Bahn Cuon when done right is texture heaven 🙂
April 12, 2009
Glad you made it out to MiLi Cafe.. I was told by the one making the sandwich that she makes the pate herself. It sure beats the pate I usually get on bahn mi..
My brother hasn’t been impressed with Pita Hut either, so it’s not just you.
April 14, 2009
I personally loved the Shwarma it was 95% moist and jucy and 5% crispy. I enjoy a little of the “Burnt Nasty Bits” with my meat. Perhaps the person making your sandwich cut all your slices from the exterior. If you go back ask for mainly interior slices. Their cauliflower salad and tibouli were great sides. Thanks for the other recomendations.