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Restaurant Review: Red Velvet Cafe

Miriam Bowers Abbott Miriam Bowers Abbott Restaurant Review: Red Velvet CafeAll photos by Mollie Lyman.
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The cupcakes and coffee are probably the headliners at Red Velvet Café, but the sandwiches deserve a bigger chunk of the spotlight.

That’s no slam on the cupcakes, not at all. In fact, the house cupcakes are devastatingly gorgeous and delish. It’s easy to get distracted by the sweets –and we’ll get to a discussion of them in a short bit. But the sandwiches? Good night, those will drive eaters back to the establishment for lunch and dinner.

The café is located between two downtown powerhouses: Little Palace and Dirty Frank’s. From the looks of it, the spot has been good for business, with a constant stream of foot traffic making its way through the cafe doors. It’s an order-at-the-counter joint, and cupcakes take center stage with a little chalk board of menu items off to the side. On the board is a listing of sandwiches, just names with no detailed descriptions, though the counter team seems happy to disclose all the details. Typically, the details start with a qualifier that the sandwiches are Filipino style, and that turns out to be a very good thing, indeed.

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Consider the Ham Sandwich ($6). It doesn’t have thin, anemic, deli ham slices from a machine. Instead, the chewy, grilled bread shell is filled with carved holiday ham. The counter disclosures included a reference to a pineapple juice marinade, that element replaces some of ham’s signature salt with a mild sweetness that’s not cloying, it’s pleasant and perfect. There’s also a slice of tomato and maybe a little mayo, to hold it all together.

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Or the Cheese Steak ($6.50). This one’s got a little bit of onions and cheese, and steak that is, again, real meat. It’s not processed stuff, not thinly sliced. The sandwich is filled with tender wedges of savory steak.

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Avocado takes center stage in Avocado Toast ($6). It’s a thick slice of toasted bread, topped with fresh spinach leaves weighed down under the weight of a lush supply of mashed avocado. Pressed into the avocado is a sun dried tomato and bacon, then it’s topped with a poached egg and sprinkled with pepper for prettiness. The combo is heavy and heady all at once.

And then the cupcakes. Even focusing on the lunch options, it would feel odd to leave without at least one cupcake. And then it’s difficult to choose only one cupcake. If you had to choose one, it should be the Black Forest Cupcake: a rich chocolate mini-cake with a maraschino cherry on top and plump, natural cherries buried deep inside the cake itself. There aren’t enough things in the local baking scene with this combination, so get it when you can.

Of course, we don’t have to choose just one cupcake. A half dozen feels like a bargain at $15, and it relieves the terrible burden of choice: choose lots. The Knight in White is better than it sounds; it’s a chocolate cupcake with white chocolate icing that actually has white chocolate chips hidden away for an extra intense, chocolatey charge. Or the Buckeye — sure, everyone loves buckeyes anyway, and it’s topped with a chocolate-covered candy. It’s also frosted with an impossibly light and creamy frosting, intensely flavored with peanut butter.

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At the table, the S’more Cupcake is extremely popular. Built on a sweet white cake with a tender crumb, it’s glazed with chocolate and topped with a mini-graham and a roasted marshmallow. As for the cafe namesake Red Velvet cupcake: it’s a mild, reddish chocolate cake topped with a sweet, cream cheese frosting.

The downside of six cupcakes is that the ongoing wonder of sugar can get a little exhausting. But it’s worth the risk. Before or afterwards, you can wash it all down with a custom coffee brewed by a barista.

You can find Red Velvet at 246 S. Fourth Street.

For more information, visit www.redvelvetcafecolumbus.com.

Photos by Mollie Lyman of www.fornixphotography.com. Photos are taken at a different time than review, so discrepancies between photos and review may occur.

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