My Old North Columbus neighborhood suddenly got flush with a batch of intriguing food-on-the-go folk who work hard and offer (generally) easy, (usually) quick and (often) terrific new dining options. Here are three worthy improvised eateries within a 10-minute walk of High and Hudson.
First the mea culpa. I'm prone to a rant now and then (please look more surprised) and what frequently sets me off is what I perceive to be lemming-like trend swallowing. Recently, the endlessly publicized food cart movement threw me in to a few unseemly tizzies. So if you were on the receiving end of one of my "Excuse me if I don't champion a fad because I want to eat seated at an actual table with a grown-up drink, real plates and flatware!" conniptions, I sincerely apologize.
I mention this because 1) a friend of mine who mans the super-neat (and cheap!) Cheesy Truck began teasing me about one of my ragged food-truck screeds.
2) In reality, I heartily applaud the liberating "so long, boss" rugged individualism and lone-wolf entrepreneurial spirit of mobile food vendors and
3) My Old North Columbus neighborhood (aka "ONo!") suddenly got flush with a batch of intriguing food-on-the-go folk who work hard and offer (generally) easy, (usually) quick and (often) terrific new dining options.
Here are three worthy improvised eateries within a 10-minute walk of High and Hudson.
When & Where: Monday and/or Tuesday, 7 p.m. to 11p.m.-ish, outside Jack's Bar at Summit and Tompkins
Background: Craig Long is a waiter at Skillet Rustic Urban Food who serves Skillet's great stuff from a little silver cart. (Geedunk is Navy slang for a sort of snack bar.)
"I'm not a cook or a chef and have no idea what I'm doing," Long self-deprecatingly told me on a rainy and dreary Monday evening. One bite from the minor masterpiece of a toasted cheese sandwich Long would soon make told me someone very talented knew exactly what they were doing. That'd be Skillet's chef Kevin Caskey, who sets Long up with a single, quick-to-assemble $5 dish/snack/sandwich option per evening of operation. That night, the intensely likable Long filled brioche bread slices with a sharp, rich and altogether remarkable pimento cheese spread and then expertly griddled it in clarified butter. As I chewed the perky and buttery beauty, the chilly rain momentarily seemed transformed into warm sunshine. The Coop
When & Where: (times approximate) Tuesday through Friday, 12-8 p.m.; Saturday 9 a.m.-5 p.m. for brunch, at Cliffside and Indianola
Background: The poultry-centric Coop is a large ex-fair food trailer (nee Granny's Cinnamon Rolls - The Coop plans to make its own rolls soon in homage to Granny) that lists specific local sources and is run by Angela Theado, a self-described "gastronaut" who attended Columbus State's cooking school and was a grill cook at Alana's.
The Coop's menu changes daily and ranges from a great French Omelet BLT sandwich ($7 - with arugula, good tomatoes, local aged sharp cheese and a chivey mayo) to more dinnery fare, especially after 3 p.m. I recently had a knock-out duck leg ($11) with juicy meat and crackling skin sexily crisped up "a la minute." That lusty bird was paired with the perfect richness-cutting foil of a fennel-y and super-bright Asian slaw (made with shredded cabbage, edamame, carrot threads and spicy Thai chilies) that I would gladly eat daily by the healthy and delicious bucketload. Pickled Swine
When & Where: Tuesdays and Thursdays, 11 a.m.-3 p.m. beside The Speed Factory, near High and Kelso
Background: Owners Katrina Rutherford (an old restaurant pro), Todd Meister (who co-owns Meister's Bar) and Giovani (who owns High Street Tattoo and has two culinary degrees but no last name) bring uncommon style and business savvy to their decked out food truck.
The Pickled Swine (hmm ... I might've been called that a time or two) has a pretty terrific logo -a tipsy pig hoisting a martini glass - and lots of stacked-high, sharable deli sandwiches outfitted with flavor-bomb add-ons (many sandwiches are $9 and come on good, soft rye). I tried the tri-hogged namesake sandwich (with ham, pork rinds, a killer spicy bacon aioli, homemade pickles, swiss and more) and the zingy Angus Young (roast beef, goat cheese, that tingly aioli, good greens and tender, braised red cabbage) - both earn big two hooves up. The Swine also sells good homemade soups ($3) plus fun and creative homemade popsicles (like chocolate with habanero).
Photos by Jodi Miller