Northstar Cafe, Columbus Ohio.
At some point in the future I'll have to return to find out if the veggie burger lives up to the hype, but for now I will call Northstar the best bet for a quality breakfast in Columbus. Why 3 stars you ask? Because it is the best bet for breakfast IN COLUMBUS, a city seriously starved for breakfast of any sort. In a bigger city, I rather doubt Northstar would be a blip on the foodie map. Allow me to explain...
On a beautiful April Ohio day (AKA cold and rainy) my sister and I decided to see if Northstar lived up to the hype it has been generating since it opened. While I'm no stranger to pretentious cafes and delis, I find the concept a tad strange considering Northstar's Short North location and emo/artschool crowd. The price is right, the music is right, but something about the 'scene' is wrong considering the bright lights, slick design, and healthful but limited menu.
To begin, "Quick Casual" generally isn't my cup o' tea, so I was a bit taken aback by the order and sit/wait style seen at places like Panera. The free magazine rack definitely helps, though. Additionally, arriving early on a Saturday morning while most college kids are still asleep made the place far less annoyingly crowded than on your average weekend afternoon/evening.
To begin the meal, my sister and I ordered and split a Pecan and Date Morning Glory Muffin. Dense, nutty, and heavy for sure. Worth $4? Not so much. My sister opted to try the delectable Belgian Dark Chocolate Cocoa (actually worth the $4, by far the best cocoa I've had in Cbus) while I fed my 80-hour-workweek-schedule-induced caffeine addiction with multiple refills of the delicious and bold Brazilian Medium Roast coffee.
For our meals, obviously the Cloud Nine Pancakes. Ricotta, Banana, Real Butter, and Ohio Maple syrup? Sign me up! While certainly not on par with offerings in other big cities, these cakes were airy yet filling, flavorful yet healthy, and very well presented. The bananas were cut a bit thick, IMO, and more fruit would have been nice, but overall these cakes definitely top anything else in our anemic local breakfast repetoir. $9 for a stack of 3 is a tad steep when compared to something like Griddle Cafe or Doughboys in Los Angeles, but certainly better than an equally priced belly bomb at IHOP.
On the way out the door, mostly out of curiosity and gluttony, we picked up a "Day Old" cookie for a buck. Carmel, Peanut Butter, and topped with whole salty peanuts......this thing stole the show for sure.
All told, Northstar is a very solid dining option and while I certainly commend them for bringing a healthier option to the land of TeeJays, Bob Evans, and IHOP, the hype is somewhat undeserved.