Prices, offerings at Dad’s Coneys and Wraps are a blast from the past
This old-fashioned operation offers good coney dogs, irresistible loose meat sandwiches and “smothered,” enchilada-like wraps at throwback prices
With food prices soaring since the global pandemic caused crimps in the supply chain, I can barely afford to eat things I don’t even pay for anymore. What I mean is that a menu-exploring, give-the-place-a-fair-shake restaurant reviewer’s budget doesn’t go so far lately. And don’t get me started on “that’s really all that $150 buys these days?” grocery store experiences.
It’s almost enough to make a contemporary diner nostalgic for a time when many people associated “organic” only with a branch of chemistry. If such thoughts resonate with you, I can report that I recently ate in a throwback place whose decor, cuisine and prices seem to have been mysteriously beamed in from an earlier era. Welcome to Dad’s Coneys and Wraps in the Graceland Shopping Center.
Being a blast from the past isn't surprising from Dad's if you're familiar with Columbus restaurant history and know that “Dad” refers to Tony “Neno” Prince. Back in 1968, Prince and his wife, Matilde “Talita” Arroyo, founded what was likely the first Tex-Mex restaurant in the area: long-running Talita’s Mexican Food in Clintonville. Several related, tradition-embracing restaurants would follow throughout the ensuing decades.
While the most recent member of this pack is bright and tidy, “new” doesn’t spring to mind when assessing Dad’s. It’s essentially an unassuming small cube with six utilitarian tables and time-warp embellishments on white walls that include: photos of vintage pickup trucks; framed 1960s articles about Ohioans in space (John Glenn, Neil Armstrong’s moon landing); and covers of old records by Jerry Lee Lewis and Bobby Darin.
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A menu starring coney dogs and Talita’s-evoking fare follows suit. Ditto for Dad’s old-fashioned prices — no item exceeds $7.99. Another thing about Dad’s: Mirroring Talita’s, many dishes are composed from a core group of rearranged ingredients.
One of these components is Dad’s habit-forming coney sauce. Basically, good Texas-style chili — abundant ground beef in a zesty, veggie-shunning, cooked-down sauce — it’s deeply satisfying as a big side ($2.75). Add seasoned fries or crispy tots (both $2.75), plus Dad's chile-kissed queso sauce ($2.75), and you have a cut-above, fast-food-style meal.
Order that fine sauce atop an all-beef wiener (or a pretty convincing veggie dog) with onions, mustard and shredded cheese, and you have an irresistible combo (coney with cheese, $3.55). Also irresistible: Dad’s slaw dog ($3.55) — the same combo, but with nice, appropriately creamy and sweet house slaw replacing the cheese.
Just as that latter delight is associated with West Virginia, Dad’s hefty-sized coney spaghetti with cheese and onions ($7.25) is a spicy spin on a “four-way” Cincinnati classic. And Dad’s loose beef sandwich ($3.45) — a decent bun happily overloaded with loose ground beef lightly scented with “taco seasoning” and garnished with mustard, pickles and onions — echoes the Maid-Rite sandwiches popular in Greenville, about 100 miles north of Cincinnati.
If visually unlovely, that sandwich induced later cravings. The large but oddly chilled pulled chicken sandwich ($3.45) with unmelted pre-sliced cheese and commercial barbecue sauce did not.
When generous amounts of the same chicken — only warm — joined cheese and jalapenos inside a bulging flour tortilla wisely ordered “smothered” (swamped in spicy enchilada sauce topped with melted cheese), the resulting smothered chicken and cheese wrap ($5.99) was a win. Dad’s beef and cheese wrap ($3.79) with jalapenos (50 cents extra) was another pleasant, Talita's-style burrito. Conversely, my bean and cheese wrap ($3.79) was meager and forgettable.
Whether dining in or getting food to go, expect friendly, conscientious service. And don’t leave Dad’s without saying “hi” to “Mom” by ordering some buttery and rewardingly soft and chewy chocolate chip cookies sourced from a small local business called Mom’s Kitchen. Characteristically for this eatery, a bag containing three of the sizable treats costs all of $2.50.
Dad's Coneys and Wraps
128 Graceland Blvd., Clintonville