Category Archives: sandwiches

Maid-Rite

Today I went back in time, back to an age when fast food and drive-ins were a novelty. I had this taste of vintage Americana in Greenville, Ohio, a small town better known as the home of the Kitchen-Aid mixer.

For the uninitiated (and that will include most people who don’t hail from Iowa), a Maid-Rite is a loose-meat sandwich, which means it’s ground beef that hasn’t been formed in to a patty so it’s similar to a sloppy joe but without the tomato sauce.  The tradition of Maid-Rites started in Iowa where they are much more well known and dates back to the 1920’s, but the Greenville restaurant opened in 1934.

Maid-Rite sandwiches are small and a standard order seems to be at least 2 or 3, with stories of people eating double digit quantities. The meat is cooked in two special trough-like steamers. The buns are pulled out of a separate steamer, the bottom half is spread with yellow mustard, piled with meat and then topped with finely chopped onion and slices of pickle. A classic Maid-Rite is $1.50 and for 15c extra you can add cheese, making it a Cheese-Rite. The menu is limited with a couple of variations on Maid-Rites, ham and cheese or chicken and egg salad sandwiches. There are no french fries, only bags of chips but you can wash your sandwiches down with beer, soda or a milkshake.

I’ve been hearing stories about these legendary sandwiches for over a year and the visit was long anticipated, but as I gingerly unwrapped the crinkly white paper, I was worried that it could not live up to the hype. First appearances were not promising. Maid-Rites are not the most attractive of sandwiches and the soft white bun looked squashed and crumbled, even though it had only travelled a few feet from the counter.

I picked it up, trying to prevent the crumbly meat from falling out of the squishy bun and as I did I got a waft of beefy goodness. Things were looking up. The sandwich is extremely soft and the only crunch is from the onions and pickles. The flavor is surprising, much sweeter than I expected, with a touch of black pepper.  The seasoning is a secret but guesses include beer, cola syrup and mustard.

It’s a satisfying sandwich that disappears quickly and I was soon on my third, understanding how they can become addictive. By the third one I had also worked out a method of holding it so that I didn’t lose half of the filling.

In addition to its craveable sandwiches, the Greenville Maid-Rite is also famous for its chewing gum wall. The exterior walls on both sides of the restaurant are covered by wads of chewing gum left behind by the patrons of days gone by. It’s disgusting but also strangely captivating and I’ve never seen anything like it.

After 76 years the owners have just opened their second restaurant in Oxford, Ohio (home of Miami University). The food will be the same, but they are hoping that chewing gum tradition won’t be replicated.

You can find Maid-Rite at 125 N Broadway Street, Greenville, Ohio (937.548.2251). If you are taking your Maid-Rites to go, or planning to freeze them (such is their following that people often do) you can request a cold bun. By the time you reach your destination the hot meat will have sufficiently steamed the bun.

More photos on flickr.

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Filed under Burgers, Ohio, sandwiches

Clintonville Farmers Market

My normal Saturday morning routine involves a trip to the North Market Farmer’s Market. The convenience and familiarity make this routine comfortable, but every so often I break out of my usual pattern, tempted to explore other farmers markets. Last year I visited Granville and Athens farmers markets, some of the smaller weekday markets and made it as far afield as the Union Square Greenmarket in New York. This weekend’s exploration was more modest, a mere four miles up High Street to Clintonville.

Each farmers market has its own charms and while there is some repetition between the markets in Columbus each has its own unique vendors. The Clintonville Farmers market is larger than the North Market and lists about 50 vendors on its website. They weren’t all in attendance yesterday and I didn’t count but it was probably around 40. The market stretches out on the High Street sidewalk around Clintonville Commons (North of North Broadway) and the coffee at Global Gallery is an attraction early on a Saturday morning. I rode my bike so I didn’t have to  worry about parking and the market was bustling by the time I arrived by 9.30am.

It was easy to tell the season looking at the produce stalls full of strawberries, rhubarb and asparagus. There were also lots of salad greens, radishes, green onions, seedlings and flowers.

I was jealous of all of the wonderful bakery stalls that they have at the Clintonville market and I couldn’t resist buying a loaf from Daniel at la Petite Boulangerie.

Equally hard to resist was the grass fed beef from Long Meadow’s Farm. I tasted some of their ground beef at Granville Market last year and every time I taste it I’m amazed at how flavorful it is.

One of the things that’s hard about visiting a new market are the competing urges to buy the first thing you see that looks really good or wait to scope out the whole market before you make a purchase. By waiting you run the risk of them selling out of x while you wandered around assessing your options, but by purchasing the first one you see, you may not get the best price or quality. Being a regular at a market means that not only are the range of vendors and the layout familiar, but you get to know the individual producers and who you like best for certain items. While I was on new territory, Clintonville Market had helpful signage to introduce each vendor and I appreciated being able to see where each vendor was from.

I enjoyed seeing the Jacob lambs wool at Cota Farms. My uncle and aunt used to keep Jacob sheep and its rare to see them in the States. Angie Adams was happy to chat to me about their sheep and even showed me photos. They will have lamb at the market in a couple of weeks.

I arrived home hungry with a full pannier and a bulging backpack. Our post-market brunch was strawberry smoothies made with Elizabeth Telling Farm strawberries and a sandwich made with Daniel’s bread, Thurn’s smoked bacon and 5 year old smoked cheddar and some spicy lettuce mix from Meadow Rise Farm.

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Earth Day Celebration 2010

The real work of Earth Day was done last weekend with a massive volunteer effort throughout Central Ohio. Almost 4,000 volunteers picked up trash, planted trees and worked in community gardens. Events like Thursday’s Earth Day celebration at Franklin Park are a forum for inspiration and education. The event gives non-profits and eco-friendly businesses an opportunity to explain their products, missions and campaigns. By trying to achieve a zero waste event we can teach people about recycling and composting and by offering healthy, sustainably produced foods we can introduce people to some fast food alternatives.

When I was asked to organize the food vendors for the Earth Day celebration, I started to think about the sort of vendors that would appeal to me at such an event. I wanted to focus on local, independent businesses and make sure that there were plenty of options for vegetarians and vegans. I knew we would need to have more food options than previous years, because there are so few options close to Franklin Park. As this was the 40th anniversary of Earth Day we were hoping for more attendees than previous year’s, and if you want people to stay and listen to music on a weekday evening, chances are they are going to get hungry.

I remembered that the Columbus vegetarian restaurant blog Nothing Better to Do had featured a Comfest dining guide, so I contacted them to solicit some ideas. We invited some Comfest veterans:  Dragonfly and Wellness Forum as well as some of the favorite vendors from previous years: Wholefoods Market and Rad Dog, who were the first vendor to sell out. Another vegan option were the soups and turnovers from Lucky Ladle. I was a fan of the potato and spinach turnovers. Poor Shannon had her umbrella stolen the night before, but she was still all smiles. You can catch her at some of the farmers markets this summer.

Phat Wraps had an enticing display with all of their fresh toppings and they proved to be another popular choice. It’s fun being able to customize your own food. Their permanent location is in the OSU campus area on North High Street, but look for a second location opening soon.

A couple of festival newcomers were Portia’s Creations, featuring Kombucha Bob and Skillet Rustic Urban Food, debuting their new trailer. The pork belly quesadilla with salsa verde from Skillet was my late lunch, and it was delicious. Skillet is a great example of local, seasonal sourcing and they work directly with a number of farmers. I look forward to seeing the trailer out on the streets again soon.

Pattycake had beautiful cupcakes, flower cookies and their perennial favorites: snickerdoodles, oatmeal and toll house cookies. Taste of Belgium flipped crepes, cracked jokes, perfumed the air with caramelized sugar and handed out endless samples of their addictive Liege waffles.

A special thank you goes to Jeni’s Ice Creams and Columbus Brewing Company who gave out free scoops of ice cream and beer to volunteers. It’s amazing how long people will stand in line for a free scoop of ice cream, but it is wonderful stuff. Jeni’s is doing great work teaching people about seasonal eating through the medium of ice cream. It’s almost time for flavors that bloom.

Thanks also to all of the volunteers at the festival and the ever-patient Franklin Park Conservatory staff, especially the electricians.

Some other food highlights awaited those that made it over to the community garden. The live fire cooking theatre was in full swing and we found garden guru Bill Dawson showing off pizzas fresh from the outdoor oven.

Inside the education pavilion were a series of cooking demonstrations. I only made it to one, but I did get to listen to Devon Morgan (pastry chef at Alana’s) teaching us how to reuse and recycle ingredients in the kitchen. Devon showed us how to make chocolate nut balls with leftover cake trimmings and that’s the sort of recycling anyone can get behind.

Some more photos from the event are on flickr.

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Filed under Columbus, festivals, sandwiches, soup, special events, street food

Captain Cream Cheese

I’ve been a bit neglectful in not writing a full post about Captain Cream Cheese – I’ve been a big fan of this little neighborhood gem since it opened back in January. Captain Cream Cheese operates out of the same tiny parking lot hut that houses Mikey’s Late Night Slice, next to Bodega on High Street. There are tables and chairs set out in the parking lot, and now that the weather is warming up it’s a lovely spot to sit and people watch.

Captain Cream Cheese is Zach Henkel (with able assistance from his Girlfriend Lindsay) and he makes about 14 flavors of bagels ranging from plain to the big Italian, a huge bagel with cheese and peppadew peppers. The bagels are ‘hole-less’ which seems to make for a better sandwich. Perhaps not a classic bagel, they have proved popular thus far. As well as bagels and various flavors of cream cheese (of course), they offer bagel sandwiches, soups and sometimes salads. The food is all house made, tasty and most notably great value.

Currently they are offering a spring special of Hocking Hills ramps, either in your sandwich, in a potent cream cheese or with scrambled eggs. Zach is very accommodating to special requests. The sandwich above is an egg sandwich bagel with ramps and red peppers in an everything bagel.

In the evening Zach runs his other business as a pedi-cab and can often be spotted in his captain’s hat pedaling around the Arena District or Short North. For a big order, he might even deliver your bagels (in a limited radius) by pedicab.

More photos on flickr and Columbus Underground Interview with Zach. You can also follow him on twitter @captainbagels

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Filed under Breakfast, Columbus, sandwiches, Vegetarian

Roadtripping: Lancaster PA

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Lancaster is to me synonymous with Pennsylvania Dutch food and a trip to Lancaster is always a great excuse to indulge in some of my favorite Amish delicacies. Although Ohio has a large Amish population and you often see Amish butter, cheese or vegetables I haven’t found anything quite like Lebanon Bologna, my all time favorite lunch meat.

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There is something about the tangy flavor that I crave and makes most other summer sausages or bologna taste bland by comparison. To satisfy my craving for smoked fermented meat products I was taken to S. Clyde Weaver’s. A local institution since 1920, with an impressive selection of local meats, cheeses, pretzels and speciality foods. They also have a cafe and make a mean sub. 

Pennsylvania Dutch food is well suited for road trips, with all sorts of wonderful portable foods. You can stock up on dark, hard pretzels, whoopie pies, beef jerky and root beer.  A Lebanon Bologna sub made a great rest stop lunch break. Much better than having to stop at a service station.

Not so portable but hard to resist is the rich molasses flavored shoofly pie, another local delicacy and another childhood memory.

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I was treated to a traditional Lancaster breakfast of fried scrapple and eggs. Scrapple is easier to find in Ohio and I believe it is similar to another Ohio delicacy goetta which I have yet to try. Scrapple reminds me of haggis, something made with left over offal, some filler and seasoning, both born from an age when no part of an animal was wasted, but while haggis is made with sheep offal and oatmeal, scrapple is made with pork offal and cornmeal.

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The flavor of scrapple is similar to country sausage given the combination of pork and sage. The texture once cooked is crisp and crusty on the outside and smooth and mushy in the middle. It is one of the few things that I eat ketchup with. 

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At S. Clyde Weaver  I also discovered my new favorite potato chips, dill pickle flavor chips from Route 11. These hand cooked chips are made by a small company based in the Shenandoah Valley in Virginia, but luckily they are available at Weiland’s in Columbus so I can continue to feed my addiction. They taste unnervingly pickle-like but with a little more emphasis on the dill and a little less vinegar. They are perfectly light and crunchy and a great accompaniment to a sandwich or hot dog. They have a wide range of flavors, but so far the dill pickle have not been surpassed. 

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Road Tripping: First stop Pittsburgh

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I stopped in Pittsburgh to meet a friend for lunch. She asked what I wanted to eat and when I said ‘something Pittsburgh-y’ it seemed that there was no option other than to go to Primanti Brothers.

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Primanti Brothers have been making sandwiches since 1933 and are Pittsburgh’s most famous sandwiches. Having seen them featured on Man versus Food I was curious to see what all the fuss was about.

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It really is a monster of a sandwich with whatever meat (or fish) you choose, french fries and coleslaw. I have to admit I wimped out on the sandwich. It didn’t really appeal to me and having done nothing but sit in the car all morning, I wasn’t hungry enough to tackle one myself. I had some chili cheese fries, which came covered in a blizzard of bacon bits.

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Needing to stretch my legs and curious to see a little more of Pittsburgh, we went for a walk around The Strip neighborhood and poked around the Pennsylvania Macaroni Company with its various rooms of cheeses, olives, pasta and produce. The cheese and olive selections were particularly impressive.

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Back on the road – next stop Lancaster.

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April Highlights

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More visits to the Mi Li Cafe and I have almost worked my way through the menu. On our last visit the owner told us ‘you are so brave, you will eat anything’. This was after a bowl of Bo Kho, a delicious beef stew with brisket and beef tendon and a glass of Che Ba Mau, a three bean drink (more of a dessert really) with three layers of different beans (mung beans, adzuki beans and I’m not sure of the third) with shaved ice and coconut milk. Bizarre, very sweet and defies all your bean expectations. No photo – it has to be seen to be believed. Despite my love of the frozen taro bubble tea, I promised on my next visit to try another Vietnamese drink speciality Sam bo Luong made from seaweed, lotus and barley.  Apparently it is also really sweet. hmmm. I am skeptical (especially because in her description lotus sounded like locusts) but I now have a reputation to maintain!

The Details Experience and several other trips to Details to eat fish tacos, sip cava and mourn the departure of Chef Drew and his smoked pastrami and maple syrup. foie_gras1

Earth Day, celebrated in my usual style with a free veggie burger at the Northstar Cafe and as if that wasn’t enough, we got free coffee at Kick Start too. We thought that they had all of the lights off because of Earth Day, but it turned out that the West Side of High St in the Short North had a power outage. 

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Some new discoveries at Jeni’s – the manhattan float with bourbon soaked cherries and Boylan’s cherry soda and the cocoa rococo sundae. Look at all those nuts! I can’t wait for their Mother’s Day special flavors (although I think they may only be available online). Cafe au lait and mimosa sorbet sound amazing. 

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Morels from the Greener Grocer sautéed in butter. I believe these ones were from Oregon, but they have had local ones too. Definitely a splurge item – unless you are lucky enough to pick some yourself. img_2722

Ohio versus the World wine tasting for Columbus Foodcast at Oinosnervosa’s comparing some of the best of Ohio wines with similarly priced wines from around the world. I discovered some more Ohio wines that I like. I was already a fan of Kinkead Ridge but I particularly enjoyed their (other label) River Village Cellars Syrah Ohio River Valley 2006 and Ferrante Golden Bunches 2007 is a very good local Riesling. It was a fun and educational evening and there some excellent cheeses to boot.

The much awaited return of Bono TO GO, currently serving Pizza from their mobile wood fired oven in the parking lot outside their new premises in Grandview. They hope to be open sometime in June serving pizzas, crepes and caesar salad – watch this space.  

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The famous San Rolando. Pizza Perfection.

The Taco Truck Tour. It was a fantastic day and we had a great turnout. It was really exciting to share our enthusiasm for taco trucks and see how much others enjoyed their food. I am already looking forward to the next tour. There will soon be a Columbus Foodcast about tacotruckscolumbus.com.

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Taco trucking. We still continue to check out leads on new trucks (our most recent discovery was Mi Chula) and revisit old favorites. One of our favorites is Los Potosinos and I love the family that owns it as well as their food. It is evident how much they enjoy what they do and how proud of their product they are. Every time we go there seems to be some delicious new dish or drink – last night hibiscus water and sopes. Lydia assures me that drinking the hibiscus water will make me skinny, which is much needed after all those tacos. They have a lot of dishes that are not on standard taco truck menus including their famous Pollo al Carbon and tostada borraches.  Their coconut ice cream is perfect for a hot afternoon and was a favorite on the taco tour. 

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Hibiscus water and dried hibiscus

Hibiscus water and dried hibiscus

We have had several fun evenings sitting eating and chatting in front of Los Potosinos. Here CMH Gourmand attempts the Mexican equivalent of the Dagwood – the torta loca especial. Inconceivably, CMH Gourmand was again defeated by a sandwich. Even with help from the Foodcast crew he only managed half. It truly is a Mexican monster.

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Home smoked salmon thanks to Donna who caught it, brought it back from Alaska and generously shared it with us and BB who smoked it and paired with a beautiful cocktail of dill infused vodka with a dash of tomato oil.

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One of BB’s experiments this month wasa bacon explosion. This became a group project with no shortage of volunteers and skills on offer and plenty of bystanders to drool and crack jokes. Whether you think the idea is genius or crackpot you can read more it here

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One of our taco tripping discoveries was the bakery Otro Rollo on Sullivant Avenue (close to the Taqueria Little Mexico). Our favorite items so far have been the elusive caramel filled churros (we have been back twice for more to no avail – only one of their staff makes it and it seems to be a lottery when) and vanilla cream filled donuts with chocolate sauce. Unbelievably good.

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Filed under Columbus, dinners with friends, Drinks, restaurants, sandwiches, Taco trucks