I did take some time out to meet with Lisa and Becke, two of my fellow food bloggers here in the capital city. We had brunch at Zen Cha tea salon. (I love Zen Cha - great teas and pretty decent food. Their bubble tea is the best because they make it fresh, not from the weird mixes like so many other places in town.) Us gals decided that this summer would be a great time to get all our other fellow bloggers together for a confab. Also, maybe a bunch of us could meet up for a raid on one of the farmer's markets on Saturday as well. It's always fun to put faces with blogs!! If you are interested and live in the Central Ohio Area, let us know!
Because I had been pressed for time lately, I have been eating out a little bit more than usual. And boy does it suck! I hate chain restaurants! No consistency - too many crap-tastic items on the menu usually pulled out of a freezer and nuked at the last minute. Some restaurants suffer from "food service-itis" - sauces from mixes, pre-cut potatoes plus other atrocities - you know that every box and can in the pantry says "SYSCO" on it. Life is too short to eat nasty food like that...
So what's a gal to do?
My solution - Try to eat at little places in town that offer great food at reasonable prices. It isn't always easy. There are a lot of really bad restaurants out there. You all have horror stories of that little Mexican joint that was so scary you were afraid to eat there the moment you walked in the door. There used to be a "diner" here in town that would display strawberry pies with green mold growing on them. Thank god they died a quick and painful death before any of their patrons did.
My first favorite hole in the wall is Mi Mi Cafe [5858 Columbus Square, in the Columbus Square Shopping Center (just down the way from the Bowling Palace) at the corner of Cleveland Ave and E. Dublin-Granville Rd.] I learned about the cafe from Lisa over at the Restaurant Widow. I count on her for her flawless ability to sniff out great food. So far she and her hubby have batted 1000 for all the places they recommended and I have tried. So get on over there and check her blog out!
So back to Mi Mi's. They have the best Banh Mi sandwiches. Who would have thought a fusion of French and Vietnamese cuisine would be so freakin' addictive? Crusty bread is layered with pate, mayo, pork, pickled radish and carrots, a little bit of fresh jalapeno and cilantro for kick, topped with a little fish sauce. Oh boy! It is really good. I am drooling just thinking about them. Here is a picture of the culprit.
While the hubby and I are addicted to the sandwiches and the Vietnamese coffee (both hot and cold), our daughter loves the Pho. I do too, truthfully. For those of you not familiar with this noodle dish - it is rice noodles served in a excellent Asian-style beef broth, and topped with thinly sliced beef, tripe, and meatballs that have gelatinous pieces of tendon in them. It comes with a platter of herbs, bean sprouts and lime to doctor the soup to your taste, plus hoisin and sriracha sauces to dip your meats into. My hubby just adds the sriracha right into the broth. When we were all sick with the flu a couple weeks ago, this is what I brought home for dinner. Better than mom's chicken soup!!
Mi Mi's has a very small menu. Only four items on it - plus coffee, tea and bubble tea. Lunch is pretty busy, with the patrons stopping in to grab sandwiches - so you may want to stop in for dinner if you can't take time for a leisurely lunch. Sunday morning is really really busy. The owner joked it was because all the nail salons were closed on Sundays. The service can be slow when they are busy - they only have three people running the whole operation. Be patient. It is worth it.
The other place I have been stopping into on the way home is Pita Hut Grille. It's been years since I had a shawarma. What is a shawarma you ask? In this case, its a combination of beef. lamb and turkey that is highly seasoned and then roasted on a spit. It is then slivered off and tucked into a pita with hummus, tomatoes, onions and pickles, and topped with a tahini dressing. Dammit - now I need to go get one. I'll be back in a few....OK all better now....
Their side dishes are acceptable - I didn't like their tabbouleh. It was too minty - it over powered everything else. I like fresh mint - but there are limits to everything. Their French fries are food service - acceptable but not great. They had an eggplant salad ( I am not sure of its official name) and while it was pretty darn good the rest of the family was less than impressed.
Pita Hut is not the bargain that Mi Mi's Cafe is. At roughly $5 a sandwich, it sets me back almost $20 for three sandwich combos. True, they have coupons on their website, but still...it ain't cheap fast food folks. If you are really poor, you'd better resort to the dollar menu at Wendy's across the street.
Now here is a debate that my family had when eating their dinner one night - Shawarmas or Gyros?
My family is gyro crazy. It is our fast food of choice when we are on the Northwest side of town. We have been customers of The Gyro Shoppe for about 15 years now and I figure the owners must be buying a summer home with all the money we have spent there over the years. Now here is the thing - don't expect this to be a Greek restaurant. It ain't. Don't expect haute cuisine. It ain't that either. And it definitely isn't health food. They serve a great gyro and fries quickly and cheaply. I love their fries. They are cut on site and fried up fresh. They aren't like Mickey D fries at all - but add some seasoned salt and they rock my world.They also have something called a Romanburger which a double burger with everything PLUS several slices of grilled salami, feta and gyro sauce. I don't even want to think about how many years have been taken off my life by those damn things. Lastly, they also have baklava for dessert. Lots of kinds - including chocolate chip. Hang on - need to make another quick trip....must have chocolate chips....hmmmmmmmmmmm.......
So yes Virginia, there is good fast food out there - even if you have to search for it and possibly pay a little more than you would at the Golden Arches. But isn't making your taste buds happy worth a couple extra bucks now and then?