“Breakfast: the most important meal of the day.” Such is the mantra of anxious mothers everywhere, the call-to-arms of spatula-wielding, toaster-toting fanatics. And yet breakfast, though certainly divine in its own right, is somehow bolstered, somehow tastier when paired with lunch — the ingenious hybrid: brunch.
That said, some brunch-loving students might be unaware of the variety of Columbus venues — be they near campus, in the Short North or even downtown — serving up this unmatched meal. I took a look at several venues known for their brunch: Mozart’s Piano Café and Bakery in Clintonville, DK Diner in Grandview and Tasi in the Short North.
Mozart’s Bakery and Piano Cafe
Hungry? In need of a breakfast pastry that puts Twinkies and Toaster strudels to shame?
Simply hop on the line 2 Central Ohio Transit Authority bus, and Mozart’s is about a 25 minute ride away. Nestled in the northern corner of Clintonville at 4784 N. High St., the European-inspired Mozart’s inhabits a large, restored space that dates back to 1934. With its bright sandstone facade and red tiled roofs, the building resembles a southwestern fortress, ever-conspicuous in its more subdued surroundings.
We were seated with ease in the ballroom, one of the three available seating areas, and ordered an immediate round of coffee — a dark-roast with a rich, strangely pleasant aftertaste. I paired my cup with an apricot-almond scone, costing $2.89, which though relatively pricey, was a healthy balance of flaky and dense, loaded with whole almonds and apricot pieces.
The Austrian-inspired menu boasts a series of breakfast and lunch plates served round-the-clock, including quiches, sandwiches, soups, salads and omelettes — all clustered around the $10 mark.
I opted for the Mozart’s Breakfast Sandwich, which isn’t offered after 5 p.m., featuring two fried eggs, smoked Black Forest ham, bacon and melted cheddar piled high on whole wheat toast. While the presentation itself lacked creativity, this could perhaps speak to the simple nature of the dish — the sandwich was fresh, hearty and satisfying, with fluffy eggs and perfectly-toasted, oat-encrusted bread. Void of garnishments and sides, the dish could have used an extra kick — some pepper or some spice here and there — but was overall delicious.
As we departed, we were of course drawn to the vast and beckoning dessert display, which was aptly-situated by the exit and boasts an assortment of vibrant pastries and sweets — many simply too pretty to eat. I selected a marzipan peach: a $2.99 ball of marzipan-coated cake, filled with raspberry compote and sweet vanilla crème.
Ultimately, my overall impression was positive; I left with a full stomach, satisfied tastebuds and a box full of goodies. However, given its pricier menu and more subdued atmosphere, the venue may not be ideal for a group of college students seeking a fast, cheap brunch.
Small, crowded and loud — in most cases, these qualities do not make a desirable restaurant.
Unless, of course, you’re DK Diner. Situated in the nearby suburb of Grandview at 1715 W Third Ave., this neighborhood venue exudes a certain character — a small-town feel.
With black-and-white photos, posters and vibrant community emblems lining the walls, a relaxed and friendly atmosphere thrives at DK, drawing in constant waves of customers. Available tables are never a guarantee. The diner does, however, offer self-serve beverages including Pepsi products and Crimson Cup coffee — with which waiting patrons can sip on to bide their time.
That said, the menu is simple and straightforward, boasting a number of affordable, traditional dishes — including scrambled eggs, omelets, biscuits and gravy — as well as various “DK Favorites,” including the ever-notable “Donut Sandwich” ($6). Feeling both adventurous and slightly masochistic, I selected the combo of cheese, fried eggs, and bacon, sandwiched between a grilled glazed donut.
Separate, the constituent parts of the sandwich are good — nothing to rave about. Once piled atop the donut, though, these otherwise ordinary foods transform into a parity of sweet and salty, fatty and delicious. Leave your diet at the door. As I bit in, my taste buds were quite literally met by an explosion of fat.
I also managed to sample the Veggie Scramble, which though slightly ordinary and in need of a few more vegetables, was well worth the price of $6.75.
As we departed, I — a donut enthusiast — picked up an assortment of cream-filled, raised and goofy-looking cake donuts for the road, all ranging from $0.95 to $2.75. The verdict? Though all were fresh and delicious, I was especially enamored with the apple fritter: With bits of apples scattered throughout, the donut’s crisp, glazed exterior was well offset by a soft and doughy interior.
On the whole, I found DK to be a charming, fun alternative to nearby campus venues. However, given its location (the bus route is less straight-forward), I will likely opt for other, more accessible venues instead.
Tasi — the Short North’s “back alley gem,” as noted on the restaurant’s website — is no exception to the eclectic, young and homegrown feel of the neighborhood.
Upon entering the venue, located at 680 N Pearl St., I was immediately struck by its small yet laid-back nature. Exposed brick and neutral hues, in tandem with bright red chairs and chalkboard menus, make for a casual, cool environment. And although we found a table relatively quickly, the venue is small and the seating limited.
Though Tasi offers self-serve, Crimson Cup coffee, I instead opted for a refreshing pot of walnut tea — bizarre yet pleasant, its light and earthy flavor easily satisfied my coffee-accustomed taste buds. I paired it with a sugar dusted chocolate chip scone ($2.50), which, though less massive than that of Mozart’s, was just as — if not more — fresh.
That said, the menu is diverse, boasting everything from “Poached Eggs with Black Bean Cakes and Jalapeno Butter Sauce” to the slightly-more-simple buttermilk pancakes (both $7).
Through a number of clever, inventive combinations, Tasi transforms and makes new the traditional bacon, eggs, toast notion of breakfast.
As for my meal, it was an obvious choice: “Huevos Rancheros with Queso Fresco and Black Bean Tortilla” ($7).
The well-seasoned, perfectly-poached eggs were accompanied by a mild salsa, as well as four small but nevertheless filling slices of black bean tortilla. The complementary mixture of flavors — the yolk and the salsa and the subtle hints of onion — was intensified by the sheer quality of ingredients. Everything was fresh.
Even while eating, I was already planning my next meal there — in my opinion, the telltale sign of a good restaurant. A mere bus ride away via line 2 COTA bus, Tasi is a perfect venue for young, hungry, quality-seeking college students.