Knead began this year at the top of my best new restaurants list, yet this excitingly inexpensive (most things are $10 and under) and high-performing local-ingredient-committed neo-diner just keeps getting better. And due to the profound bounty of our early September Ohio harvest plus the restless ingenuity of chef Rick Lopez, right now Knead is offering outrageously terrific, farm-fresh and handmade dishes at unbeatable bargains.
Take, for instance, the simple yet stunning new Caprazy Bread ($6). Punningly named after a caprese salad, this crazy-great open-faced sandwich is the kind of thing that had me moaning in a Homer Simpson-like, stoned-on-deliciousness feeding trance. Sublimely flavored, genuinely vine-ripened sliced tomatoes (of several shades) were layered with melted fresh mozzarella, chiffonade of basil and splashes of a perfectly matched grassy Spanish olive oil. Like a supersized and fittingly Americanized classic Italian bruschetta, those beauties arrived on hearty, garlic-rubbed Texas toast-style bread. Wowzers, did I love this!
Lopez also gives beloved junk-food favorites cheffy and locally grown makeovers. Check out Knead's handmade gyro meat. Unlike most mystery spit rolls which originate from a factory in Chicago, Lopez uses Ohio lamb and (terrine-like) French forcemeat techniques to prepare his tender, juicy and fragrant gyro meat. I especially like it on the "I Knead a Gyro Salad" ($10), where it's paired with those ripe local tomatoes, top-notch greens, sharply pickled peppers, olives, feta and more.
Queen City-style chili similarly gets a rejuvenating upgrade in The Cincinnatian ($6 for a bowl, $16 with handmade pasta). Prepared with ground duck plus al dente black beans and topped with local white cheddar cheese, it's an earthy, rich and racy rendition leavened by the requisite hint of cinnamon.
If thoughts of Johnny Marzetti conjure up wobbly childhood memories, then order Knead's inspired Turkey Marzetti ($14). This killer version of the much-maligned Columbus-created classic is an excellent green-peppery Bolognese-sauced casserole made with homemade pasta and crowned with blistered and melted local aged cheddar - a rare delight.
Ditto for the magnificent and aptly named Farm 2 Gnocchi ($18). Dollops of local goat cheese and a cornucopia of colorful and just-harvested tender veggies - yellow and purple baby carrots, fennel, sweet corn and more luscious tomatoes - topped beautiful and delicate pasta tossed in a lively and lovely pesto sauce given crunch and heft from walnuts.
With local-product-graced dishes this spectacular - plus emphatically improved cocktails (try the Jalapeno Hemmingway and the New Old Fashioned) and pizzas - Knead's climb up the ladder of best Columbus restaurants appears to be steady and inevitable.