Two new Grandview/U.A.-area restaurants prepare fast food with panache
As the icky economy stubbornly continues to stay stinky, savvy cuisine entrepreneurs have been taking to the streets, selling their rapidly prepared wares out of limited-risk food cart startups.
On the other side of the devalued coin, brick-and-mortar restaurants are drawing inspiration from cheapie street eats already proven to be popular in other cities. Two well-thought-out examples of this latter form have recently sprung up in an area of town known for supporting long-established eateries.
So will the newbies be embraced? Well, based on my first bites, I'd say their chances are pretty damn good. Here's a taste.
Piada Italian Street Food
Piada Italian Street Food is the newest brainchild of the Doody family, who have brought us the lovely Lindey's and the fine Bravo and Brio chains. Conceptually, Piada borrows heavily from the successful Chipotle and Cosi corporations - and overall, Piada does it at least as well and at rousingly good prices.
The routine here is to pick a protein (all are solid - there's steak, chicken, Italian deli meats, salmon and Italian sausage) and then choose to have it served in a self-designed extra-large salad, giant pasta bowl (with pre-cooked, oily angel hair strands) or in the place's namesake item, a "piada." A piada here is a burrito-like wrap that's less chewy and more like an actual bread product than a nondescript flour tortilla.
That said, I found the piada flatbreads to have an unthrilling faint scent of oil (used to brown-spot and puff them up). Where this place really succeeds is with its wealth of very welcome - and free! - inspired add-ons like sauteed zucchini, artichoke hearts, arugula, peppadew peppers and good cheeses.
My recommendations are pairing the cooked-to-order salmon ($7.65) with the excellent, rich and basil-forward pesto into a salad or making a piada with either the steak ($6.55) or chicken ($6) - both are rosemary flavored - with the believable, tangy and tart pomodoro sauce.
Hints: Putting pasta in a wrap is something I wouldn't personally do; avocado is an unlikely pairing for Italian food; the peppadews go with everything; except for feta, I wouldn't mix the fish with cheese; and erring on the side of pile-on restraint is a prudent idea.
Other big pluses for the very promising, Lane Avenue strip mall-located Piada are inexpensive Italian beers and wines and a highly functional interior combining heavy-duty wooden furniture with a bright and clean white-wall look.
Loops Good Food
The windy streets in, around and below the famous Chicago "Loop" provide the influences for the Greek-tinged, Chi-Town-style fast food served at Loops.
Sporting an interesting interior design that engagingly riffs on subway stations, Loops pays further tribute to the city with the big shoulders by naming its zestily seasoned pita sandwiches after actual Chicago streets.
From the short sandwich list, I liked the Jackson St. ($5.75) best. Wrapped in a puffy and toasty pita loaf were generous amounts of griddled real chicken strips cleverly complemented by a good thick and rich hummus plus chunks of crunchy chopped cucumber.
But the Taylor St. ($7.25 with cheese) was also pleasing. Basically a Philly steak sandwich, it crammed in big chunks of beef (beef actually identifiable as steak), sauteed 'shrooms and onions.
And the Feta Fire ($6) was also applauded. It was a gyro jacked up with a spicy feta sauce and was about as can't-miss as that sounds.
Rounding out the pita pockets, I recommend going with the Poppy Slaw ($1 - pink, crunchy and tangy with lemon perking up a poppy seed dressing) and the extra-crispy, battered and highly seasoned (like with oregano and cheese) Loops Fries ($1.85).
For more local food news and reviews, click to G.A. Benton's blog at blog.columbusalive.com/underthetable