I grew up eating things most people wouldn’t. At a very early age, I learned about edible wild foods, and although I think that mostly started with fruits and berries, it quickly moved to dandelions, dock, and other greenery. My grandma took me foraging on the Oregon coast, where mussels, gooseneck barnacles, and whelks might be on the menu. Wild game was part of life, and I’ve eaten everything from bear to elk.
So it shouldn’t come as a surprise that I am still an adventurous eater. Now, I don’t have the time to forage, although backyard violet leaves, dandelions (always!) and wild onions are likely to get treated like garden-grown produce. One of the benefits of living for the first time in an urban area is all the restaurants. Yesterday we deliberately plotted and planned to discover a couple of them.
After my gig in Montgomery, just north of Cincinatti, we meandered over toward Eastgate, looking for a non-franchise or chain restaurant. There are many, but the one that caught our eye was the Kolache Factory, which did turn out to be a chain, just a very unusual one. Standing next to a Chipotle in a strip mall, when we walked in, curious to find out what a kolache was, it looked like a donut shop. Kolache, it seems, are the proto-sandwich. Balls of sweet yeasty dough with fillings of all sorts, they ranged from jalapeno poppers, to BBQ beef, to pepperoni, that we tried.
Part of the charm of the Kolache Factory was the kid behind the counter. Jeremy bubbled with energy and when we admitted we’d never seen a kolache before, he took the time to chat with us about them, how they were made, and his pride in the whole process was apparent. We sampled the three flavors I mentioned above, and an apple-filled one for a sweet. They aren’t big, so this was more an appetizer portion. There was a strong temptation to try more, but we wanted to save room for further discoveries. We’ll be back, though!
We rambled onward, pointing the nose of the little car in the general direction of home. As we drove, we chatted. One thing we love is to take pointless drives like this, it gives us a chance to talk with few distractions. We’d discussed a certain restaurant where we remembered a really good meal, and headed in that general direction. I was pointing out something, when a sign caught my eye.
“Shawarma – Gyro – Philly Steak”
Now, I’d decided when I saw the Avengers movie that sometime I’d hunt down a restaurant and try shawarma.Finally, here it was. And he’d just been talking about really good gyro meat. So… a quick turn around later, and we walked into Chateaux Beirut. Now, this was definitely not a chain restaurant. Located in a dilapidated strip mall, with an empty storefront right next to it, and very few people inside it, they urged us to try the buffet. Which was tempting, but it didn’t have shawarma on it, and with the kolaches already in us, we wanted something smaller.
I ordered the beef/lamb shawarma, he ordered the gyro. It was more than we could eat, but oh! the flavor. They arrived with seasoned fries, and my shawarma was wrapped in fresh, lightly toasted pita. Heavily lamby, I could almost have been eating goat, and it was delicious. We will definitely be going back with empty stomachs to try the buffet. The family took turns checking on us, Mama, son, and daughter tag-teaming for service, as the only other people in the restaurant may have been related to them as well. With food like that, they don’t need ambiance. We wound up bringing home leftovers, so we’ll enjoy it over again for lunch today.
Now, I’m going to find a recipe for kolache. That little place was great, but too far for an easy drop by and pick-up a dozen. Which is probably a good thing…