There was no shortage of excellent food during my recent trip to Ohio. Some dishes–like my Dad’s blueberry pancakes, my mom’s Italian-style lentils, and my aunt’s buckeye candies–were served up at home, while others came from the various restaurants we visited in both Athens and Columbus. We are a family that enjoys life’s little edible pleasures, so we made sure to fit in one last meal out before Sasha and I had to hop our flight back to London.
Although we’d spent the night at a hotel that was so close to the airport we could see a runway out our window–and despite the fact that breakfast there was free–we packed up the car and drove over to the Easton Town Center in order to visit the Northstar Cafe. I’ve been there a couple times before, for lunch and for dinner, but I’d never started the day there. We were all very efficient at getting ready that morning and actually arrived at the restaurant before they were even open; we ended up being some of the very first customers through the door.
Northstar has an unusual arrangement that is kind of a cross between cafeteria and sit-down restaurant–not unlike a Subway or a Costa. When you walk in, you grab a menu from a container on the wall and decide what you want while you wait in line (the place is so popular that there is almost always a line). You place your order at the register and are given a little table marker so the waitstaff can find you once you’ve sat down. If you want a baked good (they have huge cookies, decadent scones, and sumptuous muffins/cupcakes), you can pick it out at the front of the store; likewise, you can help yourself to any soft drinks you might have ordered. Even with a queue, all of this tends to happen rather rapidly, so I always feel as though I’m rushing to decide what I want to eat and drink–all while trying to spy an open table that I can claim once I’m ready to sit down. That’s not really a complaint; I just find it kind of weird because the food at Northstar is such good quality that it doesn’t seem like the sort of thing you should be getting from a place where you aren’t ordering at your table and paying at the end. (Or maybe I just have a silly obsession with familiar routines…)
During this particular visit, I decided to eat fairly heartily so that I wouldn’t be hungry before our late post-landing lunch at JFK Airport. In addition to the inevitable cup of breakfast tea, I had a bowl of homemade granola with a side of bacon (because American bacon is the best). Sasha had the “cloud nine pancakes,” which are made from ricotta and are served with bananas and maple syrup:
My parents went in a more savory direction. My mom chose the winter vegetable strata, which contained kale, gouda, ham, and butternut squash, with an arugula side salad. Whereas I used bacon to offset the healthiness of my breakfast, my mom opted for a cup of hot cider with maple syrup whipped cream.
My dad ordered what must be one of his all-time favorite dishes: hash. The Northstar version is made with sweet potatoes and turkey, and is topped by two sunny-side-up eggs:
It was such a delicious breakfast that I ate too much and found myself wanting to go crawl back in bed for a couple more hours of sleep and digestion. Unfortunately, that option was not on the menu, and we had to head to the airport for check-in instead.
I’m glad that we had such a good final meal with my parents because Sasha’s and my lunch in New York was pretty awful. Not only was the service slow (and grumpy), but my salad was so wilty that I had to send it back to the kitchen, and my “medium” burger was basically raw in the middle. All in all, not the most satisfying of culinary adventures–and definitely not worth the $60 that we had to pay for it. I’d already started off feeling positive about Northstar Cafe, but found it even more appealing after comparing it to the Palm Bar and Grill.
There are, of course, many other dining options at Easton besides Northstar. If you want a more upscale sit-down meal, you might opt for Mitchell’s Ocean Club or McCormick & Schmick’s; perhaps you’d like an Italian meal at Brio, sushi at Kona, or a wine flight at Cooper’s Hawk. If you’re pressed for time, you might just want to grab a drink at Planet Smoothie, or a cup of soup at Panera. I could go on, but you get the drift. The point is that, despite being surrounded by all these other venues, Northstar holds its own, and is a valid option no matter what style of fare you’re used to or what sort of experience you’re after. Having now eaten breakfast, lunch, and dinner there, I can honestly recommend the cafe for any and all meals–but no matter when you head over, don’t be surprised if there’s a bit of a crowd; I’m not the only one who knows how good the food is!
Northstar Cafe can be found at 4015 Townsfair Way, Columbus, Ohio, 43219.