Restaurant Review: Izzy & Mo’s
For a brief moment in history, the King Avenue space next to Till was destined for doughnuts. And while the plans have since changed significantly, bialys and babka are pretty good consolation.
Izzy & Mo’s is the new culinary project from Magdiale Wolmark and Cristin Austin, the team that brought Columbus renown restaurants such as Dragonfly (extinct) and Till Dynamic Fare (its replacement). The new place is comparatively downscale and easy to walk into. It’s a narrow spot, open off to the side of the original dining digs.
Perched on the front counter is a manageable variety of baked goods to choose from. In the savory department, there are options such as bialys and bagels. In the case of both, they are disturbingly good.
The science of baking is entirely different from the science of cooking. Stove-top prep can evolve and correct itself. In baking, once it’s in the oven, you’re done. It’s much harder to amend and correct baked items.
And Izzy & Mo’s seems to have perfected the elusive art of baking. While the bagel has the requisite chewy qualities, it mixes them with an uncommonly tender, toothsome texture. Sprinkled with a mix including paprika and pepper, the Everything Bagel ($1.45) makes the ones from big box stores feel like rawhide chew toys in comparison.
The same appealing qualities can be found in the Bialy ($1.45). At its center is a delicate, savory diced onion blend.
More serious appetites will appreciate the sandwich artistry. The whole process of watching the sandwich being made is intoxicating. Both loving-care and epic generosity go into the mix, as layer after layer of meat is hand sliced and piled on the bread.
In the end, you get something like the Cuban Reuben ($12). It sports both a mild layer of kraut and the house sweet pickle mix, plus wet slices of painfully fresh, briny cured meat and melted cheese. Every bite is balanced with a merger of the ingredients.
A special Turkey Sandwich ($12), turned a simple collection of Russian dressing, avocado slices and turkey into something sublime. Watching it in production, it looked straightforward -other than the balancing act required to get the mountain of turkey in place. Still, the whole was more than the parts, and smoker snobs (including this one) declared the turkey to be perfectly infused with smoke flavor, without being the least bit dry.
The Smoked Gravlox Caesar Salad ($8) is built on soft baby greens (likely kale), with thick slices of dewy salmon, a snowy parmesan lid, swirly croutons, and pale pink, pickled deviled eggs. Even absent a personal affinity for lox, the fish flesh is undeniably good quality, and the rest of the dish is fancy and filling all at once.
For dessert, the front counter holds a couple of irresistible options: berliners and babka. The berliners glisten in their sugary icing, holding a homespun, mildly sweet strawberry filling ($3). The babka hits with its layers of dark chocolate ($3). The chocolate-to-bread ratio is mighty –with just enough bread to hold the deep dark chocolately layers together. Like the berliner, it aims for a mild sweetness, rather than an intense sugar charge the might overwhelm the other flavors.
For the value, Izzy & Mo’s doesn’t seem that pricey, in spite of the online warnings from diner reviews. There are plenty of double-digit burgers in town that deliver less quantity and quality. The comparison will be controversial, but lots of locals will heartily celebrate a ten-dollar pint of ice cream. About the same money can buy a sandwich, made with homespun artistry, that takes about as long to eat, and is more nutrient dense.
Subway diners might not be the right match for Izzy & Mo’s, but there are plenty of food fans that can fill the void. You can find it at 249 King Ave.
For more information, visit www.izzyandmodeli.com.
Photos by Walker Evans. Photos are taken at a different time than review, so discrepancies between photos and review may occur.