Sunny Side Up: 2019 Dining Wins
Well, we can’t just leave things off with pain and misery. Taking a step back, 2019 wasn’t all bad. Heck, it closes out a decade of dining that has been pretty sweet, figuratively if not always literally. Then again, this was the decade in which “literally” became officially synonymous with “figuratively.” It all works. All in, it’s been a good decade for…
1. Eggs. Wow, ovum (or rather, ova) are starring everywhere. Not just at breakfast places, but at international joints like Egg-O-Holic in Dublin, where the entire Indian menu is devoted to eggs boiled, scrambled or shredded in sauce. Beyond that, you’ll find deviled and pickled eggs on menus that range from CMR’s The Pearl to newbie Nosh on High. If you want to go all fancy, The Sycamore’s Picnic Eggs are accessorized with black truffle, herb oil and chives.
2. It’s also been a good decade for Control Freaks. Restaurant centered on the BYO (Build-Your-Own) model continue to thrive. We’ve got giants like Chipotle, Piada and BIBIBOP. There’s REBoL (Healthy), Couscous House (Moroccan), Brassica (Northstar Groovy) and Veranico (salads). Even El Vaquero jumped on the bus with its Polaris project: Vaquero’s.
4. Juice is a thing. It seems counter-intuitive. A couple years ago, pediatricians had firmly labeled the stuff as a hallmark of bad parenting. No more. Now it cleanses, it detoxifies: a liquid lunch is the optimal way to get your vegetables, and you can do that at & Juice Co., Clean Juice, Zest Juice and PurePressed. Beyond that, juice has infiltrated the menus at restaurants such as Alchemy. Or consider the Beet Drop at SŌW Plated. It teams cold-pressed beet juice with a little fermented juice: Grey Goose and amaro nonino.
5. Cruciferous vegetables have never, ever been bigger. It started with Brussels sprouts, roasted on every menu. We’re now moving on to Cauliflower. When it’s not starring as some sort of entree or side, it’s a sneaky ingredient: it’s the crust in your gluten-free pizza at SIP Local…and it’s part of your mac n’ cheese at The Walrus.
6. Animal skin is huge. Pork rinds have been big this year. Not the packaged kind: fresh, hot-from-the-fryer pork rinds have made the big leagues. They’re served as appetizers at chef-driven joints like Alqueria and Service Bar. Chicken skin may be an emerging trend, too: Crispy-fried sails of poultry flesh accessorize the deviled eggs at Nosh on High.
7. For a brief shining moment in this decade, Mashed Potato Balls existed. Lou’s Fresh Flavor set up a carryout operation in Franklinton for a brief period in 2019. It sold empanadas, sandwiches and the aforementioned balls. Called Papa Renelles, the fist-sized globes of natural mashed potatoes held a seasoned ground beef center and were crackle-coated in a crispy-fried shell.
And then Lou’s ghosted us all.
8. A final little shout-out to the artwork that provides the ambiance at restaurants, especially the subversive stuff. A Common Table, a sandwich joint in Clintonville, hosted some delightful impressionist paintings that grow more disturbing and unbalanced the longer you gaze at them. There is also some fantastic carnage on display near the bar at The Old Spot in Grandview. All that meat on the menu has to come from somewhere, and the majestically framed artwork graphically depicts the sourcing.
But no complaints about seeing things clearly in this world: might as well see everything…2020.