Some smartass once wrote that food in museums was like art in restaurants. Yeah, I'm pretty sure that wasn't a compliment.
But it is relevant to our city's heart of world-class edgy art, the Wexner Center, now that it's settled on a new concessionaire for its downstairs cafe. In case you haven't heard, that nod went to Taste of Belgium, justifiably famous for their North Market stall that makes those remarkable Belgian waffles and crepes.
Fortunately for art lovers without supermodel appetites or metabolisms, ToB is branching out into soups, salads and sandwiches for this new enterprise. (Besides, irresistible though they clearly are, how many Belgian waffles would you actually want to stuff down your gullet?)
Like the cafe's previous incarnation run by Cameron Mitchell (who did an OK job but failed to update, change or even tweak the basic menu), this new ToB is an ultra-casual, order-at-the-counter operation. Unlike its predecessor though, ToB has definite plans to continue evolving, retooling its menu and perhaps even offering adult beverages in the near future.
How's the grub so far? I'd say the place has gotten off to a pretty solid start. Oh sure, there were some opening week jitters, but the Wex ToB does seem to do a decent job executing its menu, which, in terms of price and variety, looks to be very amenable to the everyday university population.
Here's a taste:
• Waffle Ranchero ($6): An oddball pairing of a chilled omelet-like disc adorned with salsa plopped atop one of those sublime Belgian waffles. It was like eating a cold brunch together with a hot dessert and it shouldn't have worked, but perversely I kind of liked it.
• Salade Anversoise ($8): An excellent value. Above a large bed of undressed mesclun greens were these three generously dished-up "salads": meaty chunks of chilled, real (not canned) tuna drenched in a bright and herby vinaigrette; an easy-to-love mass of mayo-enriched mashed eggs; and a nice, not-too-heavy, onion-punctuated chicken salad with slivered almonds, big pieces of meat and a slight fruity sweetness.
• Salade Nicoise ($6/$9): The same tuna as above (in smaller quantity) with decent black olives, perfectly cooked hard eggs, welcome boiled fingerling potatoes and ToB's bright yet balanced house vinaigrette. Unfortunately, mine was missing the menu-promised green beans.
• Belgian Onion Soup ($5): My good-sized serving was a little sloppily presented and served lukewarm, but it tasted fine with long-cooked onions in a light broth capped by a raft of toasty bread gilded with melted good cheese.
• Turkey, havarti and chipotle mayo ($6): I got this sandwich on "whole wheat flatbread" (i.e. a brown tortilla-type wrap), and it had definitely above-average deli meat, good cheese, an unexpected slight sweetness plus garlicky aioli - but little to no chipotle.
• Veggie Crepe ($7): The obvious star here was the hearty, toasty, buckwheaty house-made crepe. Still, the balsamic-vinegar-hit fillings of roasted red peppers, mild goat cheese (mine was like feta) and spinach were certainly pleasing.