The Clintonville outpost of the Victorian Village classic is a worthy addition to the neighborhood
The welcome new Katalina’s in Clintonville — aka Katalina’s, Too! — has a menu much like the Victorian Village original. But while both places offer similar, crowd-pleasing, “homemade food with attitude” that’s “Latin-leaning and Southern slanted,” there’s a striking difference between the establishments. Unlike the older Katalina’s — where limited seating can translate into long waits, especially on weekends — the new Katalina’s, the subject of this review, offers ample perching spots.
Some are periodically sun-splashed on the popular High-Street-facing patio. Inside, wooden banquettes and tables are available alongside lengthy communal tables and counters. The roomy, lively and trendy fast-casual eatery also features a sloped ceiling strung with Edison bulbs; gray bricks; a wealth of Katalina’s-branded merchandise; paperboard food trays; amusing large collages alluding to a preference for Ohio-sourced ingredients; and a graffiti-like rendering of the operation’s counterculture-appropriating tagline: “Peace, love and pancake balls.”
Katalina’s signature pancake balls — pick the Nutella-filled option — are pancake batter’s answer to doughnut holes. With crisp exteriors leading to soft interiors — and served with sweet-and-spicy, house-seasoned bacon, plus high-quality local maple syrup — the deep-fried tidbits are easy to like. I’d like them even more if they were less oily (eight small orbs are $12.50). Their perfect match: a good and potent locally roasted Thunderkiss Iced Coffee ($4.45).
If price compromises the joy of ripping into the splendid-though-modest-size Chile Relleno Casserole A-Go-Go ($13.95), console yourself that it comes with a very nice little salad — albeit one hard to eat in its small container. The inhalable casserole conceals a roasted poblano stuffed with pimento cheese beneath simpatico partners: corn-studded and coarse-crumbed cornbread, ranchero sauce, Snowville Creamery crema, cilantro and spiced pepitas.
The highly recommended Holy Tomole Soup ($5.95) is another zippy and delicious comfort food. A thick, brick-red puree with a spicy kick, it tastes like a hybrid of red mole sauce, roasted tomato bisque and tortilla soup.
Sweet-and-spicy mole notes enliven the massive Mazatlan Slow-Roasted Pork & Egg Sandwich ($12.95, with a bag of Shagbark tortilla chips). Perhaps the best value here, this killer assembly stars tender and juicy pulled meat offset by melted local Amish provolone, avocado, aioli, a fried egg and toasted, good-quality white bread.
The playful menu’s jokey language is on full display in the “Everything But the Chicken Sink Sammy” description ($14.95). A riff on chicken and waffles, this showcases a fried buttermilk-brined breast of Amish Gerber chicken crusted in Shagbark chips and dusted in a hot sauce-mimicking melange from North Market Spices. Rich Amish cheddar and cinnamon-forward “brioche French toast” — mine wasn’t as eggy as good French toast — complete the package.
Seeking something less indulgent? Katalina’s Prego Steak Sandwich ($13.25), made with lean but flavorful bavette sirloin from The Butcher & Grocer, fills that bill. The construction includes about a salad’s worth of local greens, house piri-piri sauce and a glossy, high-quality, locally produced roll from Matija Bakery. For an extra $3.95, you can upgrade the standard-issue side of Shagbark chips to Katalina’s spicy and irresistible “Especial Creamed Corn,” which resembles esquites (a dynamic Mexican corn salad happily popping up around town lately).
The vegan Shagbark Black Bean Tacos (three for $12.50) — local Koki’s soft corn tortillas with beans, corn, avocado, greens, house pico and grassy sprouts (the tacos taste better without these health-boosters) — are likely the leanest item here. They’re pretty flavorful, too, but would benefit from a touch of pureed beans or another richness-lending element.
Alcohol isn’t offered, but a great drink to pair with the tacos — or any of the sandwiches here — is Katalina’s Watermelon-Mint Lemonade ($5). The lovely beverage is so refreshing and seasonally apt that enjoying it is like sipping summer from a plastic cup.