Dining Democratically.

Coming from a city that’s known for its chains, I do my best to find ways to support the local independent restaurateur. With the odds stacked against new restaurants (57 to 61 percent of new restaurants here fail within the first three years),* it takes some cajones to give it a go. In the past few years, though, Dine Originals has helped even the playing field for the chef who doesn’t want to conform to the Applebee’s mentality. With cooperative buying, an aggressive marketing campaign and (lucky for us) Dine Originals Week, this organization has helped to make dining locally a mainstream idea.

Dine Originals Week (November 8th through the 14th) is scheduled just in time for me to bury my swing state election woes beneath a pile of lobster macaroni and cheese. With tasting menus designed around a $10, $20 or $30 price point, 53 area restaurants are ready to help me remember that voting with my fork has more immediate – and delicious – results than the alternative.

Below are a few menus that I find particularly interesting, with commentary.

Basi Italia, $30

I’m not sure when kale became a selling point, but I’m a greens convert.

• Chopped Kale and Roasted Pear Salad with Toasted Walnuts, Maple-Parmesan Vinaigrette
• Salmon Osso Bucco with Crisp Lump Crab Risotto Cake
Preserved Lemon and Parsley Pesto
• Baked Apple with Vanilla Bean Creme Brulee with Whiskey Caramel

Bel Lago Waterfront Bistro, $30

Dine Originals works; I’d never heard of this restaurant before, and now I’m craving their east coast comfort food.

• Select One: Bel-Lago House Salad or Cup of Soup
• Jumbo Pan-Seared Scallops – served with spicy white cheddar Lobster Mac n’ Cheese
• Grand Mariner Creme Brulee, topped with Candied Pecans

Deepwood, $20

I have a crush on Deepwood and I’m dying to see how they do Cincinnati-style chili. I found that their service is consistently excellent, even when they offer special menus. (This is not always the case in high end dining, I’m afraid.) They offer three different price points for Dine Originals Week, but this is the one that interests me the most.

• French Onion Soup – Caramelized Onion, Beef Broth, Crouton and Melted Swiss OR Harvest Salad – Apple, Fennel, Celery, Arugula, Sunflower Seed, Golden Raisin Dressing
• Vegetable Pot Pie- Root Vegetable, Mushroom, Thyme Cream, Sweet Potato Biscuit Crust OR Cincinnati Style Chili – Ground Beef Seasoned with Cinnamon-Clove-Allspice, Spaghetti, Bean, Shredded Cheddar
OR Spring Roll – Ahi Tuna wrapped in Crisp Wonton Wrapper, Jasmine Rice, Pickled Cucumber, Cranberry-Ginger Relish
• Butterscotch Pot de Crème – Whipped Cream, Pine Nut Tuille

One of Katalina's Cafe Corner's excellent sandwiches (from a much warmer day)

Katalina’s Cafe Corner, $10

A tiny sandwich shop in Victorian Village has a way of making sandwiches that change lives. They are participating in Dine Originals Week with several lunch and dinner selections, each at $10. I’ve listed two.

• Rustic White Anchovy and Fried Egg on Old World Loaf:
Marinated White Anchovies, Fried Egg, Mixed Fresh Spring Mix sprinkled with Lime Juice, melted Parmesan, Balsamic Basil Dressing on toasted Old World Loaf.

Or, for dinner:

• Slow-Cooked Pork Tacos: With Sprouts, homemade Chimichurri Sauce, Avocado, Queso Fresco, Tomitillo Sauce, Cilantro, Red Onions, Tomatoes and our famous slow-roasted Pork with Secret Sauce on Corn Tortillas.

Finally, we all know that there’s a clear litmus test of dining democratically for yours truly: pork belly. If you don’t want to go through all the menus searching for this heavenly treat, I’ve done the research for you. Both G. Michael’s Bistro and The Short Story Brasserie (in Granville) feature it in their selections. They clearly get my vote.

I found the following here.*According to H.G. Parsa, associate professor of hospitality management at the [Ohio State] university, a longitudinal study of restaurants indicated the failure rate for restaurants in Columbus, Ohio, was 57 percent to 61 percent for a three-year period from 1996 to 1999. The highest failure rate was noted during the first year, when about 26 percent of the restaurants failed. About 19 percent failed in the second year and 14 percent in the third year, according to the analysis.

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One thought on “Dining Democratically.

  1. baseballboy says:

    That anchovy thing at Katalina’s is my favorite sandwich in the whole world, and normally it is $11 dollars. Yussssssss.

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