A Restaurant Week Mixtape with Nick Dekker
Nick Dekker, author of Breakfast with Nick, is perhaps the leading gourmand of breakfast foods in Columbus. So, when I decided to write an ode to Columbus's Restaurant Week, he was my go-to tour guide of all things gastronomic. Together, we've assembled an unholy buffet of this week's decadent foods paired with music fit for the most gluttonous smörgåsbord.
When I approached Nick to collaborate on this blog, I left him with an open slate. The only rule was for him to choose only his top 5 restaurants from this year's list of Restaurant Week participants, and then I would scan my library of music to find individual musical selections that fit the culture, mood, and taste of the menu he describes.
It's essentially a foodie's mixtape for five of our favorite restaurants in Columbus. Here goes.
Nick's Pick: Hungry Soul Cafe
"Any time I point out Hungry Soul Cafe to someone, they either exclaim 'Oh, that’s where that place is!' or 'There’s a restaurant there?' The inauspicious location – at the street level of a parking garage, on a side street downtown – belie the low-ceiled haven that is the restaurant. The owners George and Anita Keller have created a warm and welcoming spot that focuses on comfort foods of varying types. True to Anita’s Southern heritage, they serve biscuits and gravy, shrimp and grits, chicken and waffles. And fitting for George’s Hungarian background, they feature eastern European favorites like chicken paprikash, goulash, and at brunch these thin, Hungarian crepes called palancsita." -Nick
Kylie's Pairing: Brahms' Hungarian Dance no. 5 ... on the banjo!
This practically chose itself. There are so many incredible Hungarian composers, but I did want to pay homage to music traditions of the American South, though, so a piece with banjo was an obvious choice.
Nick's Pick: The Table
"True to their name, The Table emphasizes gathering together. Dishes can be served individually or family-style, and their good food and warm welcome encourage diners to focus on their companions and not their cell phones. The restaurant itself, housed in a building that dates back to the 1920s, is a charming mash-up of recycled tables, chairs, cups, saucers, and silverware. As much as possible, they make items like breads and charcuterie in house, or they source from Ohio farms. My personal favorite: the akoori on their brunch menu, a spicy mix of scrambled eggs and vegetables served on toast." -Nick
Kylie's Pairing: Dimitri Naiditch playing Bach's Concerto in A minor with jazz band accompaniment
Simply put, I love the light buzzing of conversation at The Table. Nick definitely picked a great restaurant that showcases delicious patisseries made by my buddy Nina Hernandez. (Her work is delicious!) Plus, I love the upscale, eclectic ambience, and I wanted to choose a piece both Classical and whimsical.
Nick's Pick: El Arepazo
"The Arepazo family of restaurants – particularly their Pearl Alley location downtown (which is currently closed for renovations) – easily top some of my favorites in the city. I’ve simply had too many good meals there of the colorful, spicy, and filling variety, from the Venezuelan arepas (fried corncakes filled with meat, cheese, and vegetables) to the tacos to the ceviche to some stellar chilaquiles. The key item in all of this: their incredible cilantro sauce. It’s addictive, but fortunately you can buy bottles to take home." -Nick
Kylie's Pairing: Fuga con Parajillo by Aldemaro Romero with Gustavo Dudamel and violinist Alexis Cárdenas
Nick's assertion about the cilantro sauce is true. It's transfixing, really, and I am proud to admit I am an addict of their delicate arepas with that sultry sauce. This piece features a violin cadenza just as delicious plus the added spice Gustavo Dudamel always brings with the Orquesta Sinfónica Simón Bolívar. Just don't drool on your keyboard.
Nick's Pick: 101 Beer Kitchen
"I’ve only been to 101 Beer Kitchen for brunch, but I’m willing to bet their dinner options are similarly enjoyable. The brunch experience is simply charming. We’ve had servers that banter playfully while offering reliable recommendations for beer (their drink menu is impressive). The kid’s menu is adventurous and comes served on colorful trays. And brunch menu itself? Probably the most representative item is the 101 Twinkie, a giant piece of French toast shaped like its namesake pastry, filled with vanilla cream and draped in slices of bacon." -Nick
Kylie's Pairing: André Rieu and his Johann Strauss Orchestra performing Zorba's Dance (Sirtaki) live.
Who is possibly as charming and playful onstage as André Rieu? No one. Befitting of a fine beer menu and what sounds like the Incredible Hulk of Twinkies, I give you André Rieu.
Nick's Pick: The Market Italian Village
"The Market still sails under the radar in the up-and-coming Italian Village, but they have much to offer. They operate as a full service coffee shop, for everyone that needs a cappuccino on the way to work in the morning, and as a full restaurant and bar, for everyone who needs a cocktail to go with a wood-fired pizza at the end of the day. And they’re just about everything in-between: a lunch spot, a place to fill a growler with beer, or the corner store for (admittedly higher end) coffee, wine, beer, milk, cheese, meat, and more." -Nick
Kylie's Pairing: Maria Callas performing Casta Diva from Bellini's opera Norma
The Market Italian Village is oddly special to me. It is the closest to Italy I think Columbus gets aside from Basi Italia ristorante. I was born in Naples, Italy, and my family lived in Gaeta outside the American Navy Base, and my whole family talks about the little markets we frequented. They're special, they're familiar, and The Market Italian Village accomplishes that familiarity plus a sleek look and a knack for Neapolitan pizza.
So, I had to choose an artist as familiar, classic, refined, and timeless as the experience of sipping espresso on a tiny patio in our own faux-Italia. Maria was the only choice; la diva cannot be surpassed.