Old-school classics and more-contemporary fare are well-executed at one of the better diners in town
Like other top-notch diners, Hangover Easy in Olde Towne East is a bustling and versatile place. And like other neighborhood favorites, Hangover Easy attracts a wide range of patrons: people in suits or sweats ripping into terrific breakfast burritos; night-shifters clad in hospital scrubs enjoying after-work omelets and mimosas; health-minded eaters arriving in shiny bike-riding garb; and grinning restaurant critics wearing pants freshly decorated with sausage gravy.
If I didn't know better, I'd assume this lively and popular, scratch-cooking operation with friendly, speedy service had been around for decades rather than a couple of months. Enhancing its “classic” ambience, this spinoff from the Hangover Easy on the Ohio State campus displays a strong preference for vintage-style appointments that celebrate the neighborhood.
Retro diner stools with padded red seats rim the cozy front counter. They also pop up in the bright-and-tidy main dining room, which is embellished with a checkered wooden floor and an eye-catching wall adorned with oversize comic-book panels of Wonder Woman and Superman. The space also features TVs, plenty of windows, padded black banquettes, photos of old Lincoln Theatre shows and East High School basketball and baseball teams, plus posters of '60s “dream” concerts such as Jimi Hendrix with the Soft Machine at the original Veterans Memorial.
Despite this old-school vibe, Hangover isn't behind the times. Rather than conventional diner muck, the house brew is good Crimson Cup coffee ($2.50). Prefer something stronger? The spicy Bloody Mary and Mango Screwdriver are as good as ones I've sampled elsewhere for twice Hangover's $5 price.
The expected classics, which are executed very well, are joined by healthful and contemporary dishes on the well-rounded, joke-laden menu. So along with a combo of over-easies, a choice of morning pig meat, crispy home fries and toast (“Sloppy Seconds,” $7.50), you'll find whole wheat avocado toast with pico de gallo, eggs and fresh fruit ($9.99), and hearty oatmeal with chia seeds, Greek yogurt, honey and fruit (Overnight Oats, $7.99).
Breakfast burrito fans would be wise to order The Dirty ($8.99). Loaded with scrambled eggs, zippy chorizo, those good home fries, queso, melted cheese, pico de gallo and avocado ($1 extra), if you want it — you do — you'll find few better.
Even an ostensibly simple Western Omelet ($7.99) outpaces most others with its unblemished yellow color and generous supply of melted cheese, plus diced-and-griddled ham and veggies. Bonus: It comes with a bread choice, which should be a house-made biscuit. Feel like splurging? Tack on a side of irresistibly rich and meaty sausage gravy($3.99) — just make sure your napkin is properly placed while you greedily partake.
And why not have some nifty buttermilk pancakes ($5.50)? They're fluffy, golden-brown, nicely crisped and far from leaden. For an extra $1.50, you can crown them with a pie-filling-like blueberry topping and a tangy, cream-cheese-based icing.
One of the most pleasant surprises here is the tender and delicious house-made corned beef that substantially elevates Hangover's Reuben. The hefty sandwich is $10.50, and that includes a side such as crisp thin fries uplifted with seasoned salt.
I enjoyed the tender grilled chicken and house-made Thousand Island dressing in Dr. Bob's Cobb Salad ($10.99). But I wish the cheese-packed ensemble with hard-cooked eggs was larger and had enough lettuce in it to offset its rich ingredients and seem more like a salad.
I had no qualms with the “Black n Blu” Burger ($10.99 with a side), a gloriously messy assembly with candied bacon, caramelized-onion jam, bacon aioli and more. Like most items at this destination diner, the big and juicy burger is brimming with flavor and deftly built to please.