Bitching about Cameron Mitchell can be like a sport amongst a certain sort of local "food world" folk. I suppose a wildly successful, middle-class-targeting, genuinely affable CIA graduate (the great cooking school, not the dicey spy agency) laughing all the way to the bank can easily rankle locally sourced-embracing people's hearts.
Thus it's perfectly understandable to me that with this pool of careful eaters, the word "mundane" might well crop up in connection with Cameron Mitchell.
But the truth is, Mitchell took real risks opening high-profile restaurants in largely good-eatery-deprived areas of town during the last century. And back in that day, he was a major player in igniting this city's now-burning passion for a cuisine that transcended simple meat and potatoes. Besides, these days, Mitchell's restaurants serve the kind of food most Americans actually like to eat.
Anyway, when I read that Cap City diner was doing brunches on Saturdays and Sundays, I figured I had twice as many opportunities to trek down and check out the popular Mitchell mini-chain again. Well, after munching my way around its smallish brunch menu, I can say this: It's certainly not earth-shaking grub, but if this is what a mundane breakfast tastes like, hell, I'll take it.
If you haven't been to Cap City in a while, the place is quite accommodating. Sure it's a semi-glitzy, semi-ironic take on a naturally occurring diner, but it's a comfy restaurant with a good-timing bar, nifty patio and distinctly delineated spaces.
Apart from its busy tavern areas (the patio has a bar too), there's a little front room that riffs heavily on traditional diners. In other words, it's got retro red chairs and that old-school, chrome-y look. The more lively main dining room features playful neon lights and a sliced-up geometry rendered in a sort of aqua and peach Miami Beach palette. Throughout, an always-courteous staff delivers full-flavored brunch favorites made with a noticeable measure of panache.
Take, for instance, the comforting Eggs and Hash ($9.25). That hearty (not really "hashy") platter starred a tender beef short rib pot roast married to long-cooked green pepper bits. The juicy meat was embellished with melty Vermont white cheddar, two correctly fried eggs, caramelized onions and big chunks of skin-on spuds given a last-minute partial crisping.
Thickly sliced, rosemary-scented real ham elevated the Classic Eggs Benedict ($9) from the general, deli-meat standard. Also raising up the dish were proper poachers, a tangy hollandaise and more of those a.m. potatoes.
The house-cured salmon gravlax (Lox & Bagels, $11) had a bit of spiced nuance and wasn't an overwhelming salt bomb. It came on a huge DIY plate with a so-so bagel, whipped cream cheese, capers, red onions, tomatoes, a nice salad and a much-appreciated lagniappe, pickly deviled egg. I'd call that a can't-miss combo.
Breakfast burrito fans will definitely be happy with Cap City's behemoth ($9). Slathered with a zesty and slightly creamy ranchero sauce, its surprisingly spicy innards featured chorizo, poblanos, cheese, eggs, red peppers, cilantro and more. Sides of sour cream and a mostly avocado guac helped extinguish the mild, addictive heat.
Thick rounds of challah-like bread drenched in an irresistible nut-sugar-butter-cinnamon-nutmeg mixture were the basis of the All-American Baked French Toast ($9). Eating like crusty sticky buns, those babies were paired with more pecans, fresh fruit, whipped cream and warm syrup. "Mundane" rarely tasted so sweet.
For more local food news and reviews, click to G.A. Benton's blog at blog.columbusalive.com/underthetable