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Review: Cap City Diner (Columbus, OH)

I have a dream.

A dream that one day the old Vinyl/Diner on Sycamore will be a diner again. Maybe it’ll be a little upscale (would you like foie with your eggs, sir?), but it’ll be open late and serve things that are fried and really good meatloaf. Community members and people who come to OTR just for the bar scene congregate for good food and good service.

You can stop laughing now. It’s not that far fetched.

So when I hopped online at Zagat’s looking for a place for brunch, I found Cameron Mitchell’s Cap City Fine Diner. You may know Mitchell’s Fish House in Newport and West Chester– same guy. Someone referred to him as the Jeff Ruby of Columbus, and that seems to be true. As both Terry and I like Mitchell’s (one of our big bonding moments was “You like the Chilean Sea Bass Shanghai? That’s the only thing I order there!” Yeah, I know.), we figure we’d try one in Mitchell’s hometown of Columbus when we were there for Podcamp Ohio a couple of weeks ago. This was actually our second meal in Columbus (I’ll write about the first one later) and all we wanted was some sort of upscale brunch-type food. We didn’t quite get it (but that isn’t really a bad thing).

This is not the place to go on a diet. They start you off with cinnamon rolls, fresh out of the oven. Cream cheese frosting, cinnamon– they’re not the best I’ve ever had, but a very unexpected start.

I read on Zagat’s that the potato chips were to die for, and mentioned it to Terry, not thinking we’d order it. I mean, who eats potato chips with– I kid you not– alfredo sauce and blue cheese for breakfast? We did. It was in the interest of science and my readers or something. Crispy, kettle-style chips, freshly fried topped with alfredo and blue cheese. Stop my beating heart, no pun intended.

I had a bit of a hard time deciding what to order. I thought about the vegetable plate– I wanted something light, considering the heart-attack-on-a-plate I just nibbled on– but then someone nearby me ordered it and it looked sort of sad, a bit like someone said, “We need something vegetarian, let’s take our side dishes and pile them on a plate!” That was, indeed, the only vegetarian dish on the menu. I ended up with the salmon, probably the least diner-y thing on the menu. It was similar to things I’ve ordered at Mitchell’s Fish House: moist and tender, flavorful, with nice sticky rice and a really great citrus sauce. However, it wasn’t anything special, and it wasn’t terribly diner-y.

Terry went for the diner experience, and it was one of a limited number of dishes that really said “diner”: meatloaf and mashed potatoes with gravy. The meatloaf was tender, almost soft (I am positive that it was made from a blend of meats– probably beef/pork/veal) and the cloud of mashed potatoes was seasoned with garlic and onion and topped with fried onions. The gravy was made with barbecue sauce (Terry begged me to recreate it; I’ll see what I can do) and he proclaimed it the best non-homemade meatloaf he’s had in years, and some of the best gravy (excluding mine. Smart man.). It was pretty darn good, and exactly what I imagine when I think “upscale diner food”– or, as Mitchell puts it, “Fine Diner”.

We didn’t order dessert. Are you kidding? We’d never make it home. This was a fun place for a Sunday morning, and it has won several “best brunch” awards. I’m not so sure about that– they didn’t have a lot of brunch items on the menu– but it was fun. It only fueled my dreams of a real diner in the old Diner on Sycamore– anyone want to pay me and a staff to do it? I promise it’ll have good meatloaf and pies to die for…Cap City Fine Diner and Bar on Urbanspoon

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