Breakfast with Nick
By (614) MagazinePublished July 19, 2011
Nicholas Dekker holds, of all things, a Ph.D. in Theatre from Ohio State, which makes him perfectly qualified to write about breakfast. He is author of the blog BreakfastwithNick.com, where he chronicles his breakfasting journeys. Nick is also writing a book about breakfast in Columbus, due out Nov. 5th. And being one of those artsy types, he is a co-founder and event producer of the local collective Wild Goose Creative. Here are a few of his favorite local breakfasts.
If you’ve ever passed by Zen Cha Tea Salon thinking it’s just a place for drinking tea with your pinky raised, you’re missing out. Stop in their Short North location and you’ll soon feel refreshed in mind, body – and stomach.
Racheal Ward, one of Zen Cha’s tea ambassadors, helps create a space that provides tea service the way it was meant to be: a time to stop, relax and savor life. In addition to the world-class selection of loose leaf teas, Zen Cha will soothe your spirit with their eclectic weekend brunch menu, which literally infuses your breakfast favorites with tea. Their Earl Grey’s Choice Tea Pancakes top the list. The kitchen crew sprinkles three fluffy pancakes, made with tea in the batter, with maple-glazed walnuts and raisins. Layered amongst the pancakes are apples roasted with cinnamon, and the whole stack is drizzled with house-made syrup – a reduction of Earl Grey tea, sugar and spices. Pair this treat with one of their seasonal fresh fruit teas. My favorite choice is their spring tea blend: green or black tea brewed with fresh strawberries, blueberries and raspberries.
Brunch is served only from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. on weekends, and Ward suggests reservations. Now, there's even more tea-infused goodness to be had Zen Cha's second location in Bexley.
Zen Cha Tea Salon
982 N High St. and 2396 E Main St, Bexley
(614) 421-2140 and (614) 237-9690
Chicken and Waffles
For many in Columbus, when you say “chicken and waffles,” they think Linden Café. This Cleveland Avenue soul food joint, huddled in the heart of South Linden, has been serving up the famed dish for several years. When owners Michael and Tamara Mayfield took the helm about a year ago, they kept up the proud chicken and waffles tradition amongst other mainstays like meatloaf, turkey, wings, and fish. Clearly, the crowds packing their corner café want it that way.
The Mayfields serve their chicken and waffles all day long, six days a week. What makes their version unique? They offer the choice of moist chicken tenders or a mound of wings. Michael brines the chicken overnight, fries it up to order with his own special seasoning, and piles it amongst thick and crumbly waffle slices. The waffle batter is punched up with vanilla and nutmeg. The dish is adorned with fresh fruit, syrup, and to keep things honest, a little mug of melted butter. Grab your chicken and waffles with a variety of sides, including a big chunk of hash browns.
1393 Cleveland Ave.
There are plenty of people who remember Dan’s Drive-In on the South Side when it was originally an honest-to-goodness old-school diner, with girls on roller skates and cheap burgers. Dan’s is still going strong, although in a slightly revamped form. Recent owners have refurbished the space to look like it once did: gleaming chrome, bright neon lights, retro advertisements and red vinyl seats. Now under the ownership of Lucky Sahota, Dan’s boasts a large menu with all the classics, including skillets, omelets and a few Greek specialties.
I decided to blow my breakfast budget on the Traditional Breakfast, complete with eggs, bacon, potatoes, toast and coffee at a whopping $4.79. The simple breakfast plates like this one keep the regulars coming through the door. Visit often enough, and Lucky and his crew will know your name and your standard menu choice. This is my goal in life: to be able to walk into a diner and have the kitchen start my meal without anyone taking my order.
1881 S High St.
Just outside of Columbus, in Olde Pickerington Village, sits a new joint drawing in crowds with its crepes, omelettes and frittatas. Owner Wayne Moore opened the shop last November, taking his years of making crepes at home and putting his skills to work in the burgeoning village center. He has already attracted a following of regulars, who visit every week in search of sweet and savory breakfasts.
Village Crepe can ease your morning woes with sweet crepes featuring a variety of fresh fruits and homemade preserves. The signature crepes are the Parisian style, served with lemon and sugar. Other delectable preserve choices include raspberry, peach, strawberry and a spicy blueberry. If the signature crepes aren’t enough to keep you coming back, try one of their weekly specials, which have included pistachio caramel sauce with whole mango, chocolate with Port wine sherry, gingerbread with butter rum sauce, or cranberry goat cheese. For those looking for more traditional dishes, try a breakfast sandwich, some French toast or a frittata. Moore rotates frittata specials as well, from chorizo and andouille, to blue crab and savory mushroom.
21 N Center St., Pickerington
If you were an Ohio State student any time between 1969 and now, chances are you have some fond memories of Buckeye Donuts. Perhaps you snuck in late one night to soak up the effects of your party-going; perhaps you stopped by for coffee and a jelly-filled delight on your way to class. After 42 years in business, the little corner diner still draws OSU students and alums alike with its glowing neon sign, cheap menu and the smell of fresh-made donuts.
Jimmy Barouxis is now the third generation of a Greek family serving the campus area 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. Christmas, Thanksgiving, New Year’s – they’re open.
“We don’t know how to stop working,” Jimmy says. Buckeye Donuts serves breakfast and lunch, too, but it’s their donuts that make lifelong converts. Apple fritters and Bismarcks are top sellers, as well as a new Buckeye donut featuring – surprise! – peanut butter and chocolate.
Choose between “regular” varieties like vanilla cream, apple and spice, and powdered, or go nuts with the “fancy” menu of fritters, Bismarcks, bowties, and cinnamon rolls.
1998 N High St.
Cuban French Toast
Out in Hilliard, just west of the I-270 loop, up on a small hill by some railroad tracks, sits a tiny blue diner that serves up some delicious Cuban breakfast: the Starliner Diner. Owner Molly Davis named the joint after her 1960 Ford Starliner, and has been welcoming customers to her surprisingly colorful diner for years. Take in the bright paintings and the collection of kooky clocks while you enjoy traditional brunch dishes, omelettes or spicier Cuban fare.
Starliner’s Cuban French Toast isn’t listed on the menu, but I highly recommend asking for it. This scrumptious dish begins with homemade Cuban bread; the crust is trimmed from the bread, and the thick slices are then cut into squares, dunked in batter with vanilla and spices, and fried. Reminiscent of cubed donuts, the French toast is served with a dusting of powdered sugar and some fruit as a side – no syrup required! The dish is so good that one of Molly’s servers began hawking a half order to her customers as a “breakfast appetizer.” Share a plate as a group while you wait for your huevos rancheros or chiliquiles, two highly recommended options to awake your taste buds.
5240 Cemetery Rd., Hilliard
Downtown old Worthington is one of the quaintest neighborhoods in all of Columbus. And I mean historic quaint: brick streets, old lampposts, and huge potted plants. At the heart of the district sits the Worthington Inn, a former stagecoach stop and hotel that has endured as a restaurant since 1831. Victorian detailing, warm fireplaces and wood accents remind you of the Inn’s history, and inside you’ll find a cover-all-your-bases brunch buffet that’s traditional without being pretentious.
Take a stroll down the line. At the top you’ll find the breakfast standards: potatoes, veggies, bacon, and a whole tray of eggs benedict. Head chef Tom Smith adds a signature touch to this culinary runway show with three weekly specials. The day I visited, his crew featured potato-crusted cod, bistro chicken and beef ragu. At the end of the line, you’ll find a huge platter of peel-n-eat shrimp and smoked salmon. A second table hosts fresh-sliced prime rib, made-to-order omelettes, and a waffle bar. The final table is stacked with sweet delights such as cakes, pies and cookies. Top off your brunch with coffee, juice, mimosas and Bellinis – and then have a seat with the comfort food-loving crowd.
The Worthington Inn
649 High St., Worthington