Taste of Belgium
For those of us who occasionally have been lunching at the Wexner Center for the Arts over the years, Taste of Belgium, which also runs a stand in the North Market, is a welcome change from the various past operators.
Even though it’s in the basement, the space is not boring. Artsy walls and cleverly located windows grace the area, as befits a museum with attitude, although the blond wood tables and chairs are a little on the utilitarian side. Like everyone else, I stood in line to place my order (the wait can be longish at peak times). There seemed to be no menus posted and the few plastic-encased ones available at the counter were in the hands of folks ahead of me. I was patient and eventually inherited one in time. (These were, for the most part, mannerly university folk, after all.) I got a card with a number on a stand, and when the food was ready, a server delivered my order. Note: Try eavesdropping because you might come across an intellectually challenging conversation. Or not.
The food was fresh, authentic and well-prepared. One beef, so to speak, and I’m doing so in a politically incorrect way, is the menu tended to favor the gender of which I’m not a member. For instance, there were no burgers or fries.
Taste of Belgium does breakfast all day—mostly waffles, fruit, yogurt and oatmeal. The pretty good waffles were tall, crisp and tasty. The only one to avoid is what they call Waffle Rancheros. The ranchero part was a thin, vaguely tomatoey faux-chili on top of a spongy cake of scrambled eggs. That’s on the top waffle. The bottom waffle was sweetened. Ugh! It came, as do many dishes, with a nice little side salad.
Other salads were uniformly excellent. The Salade de Roquette was quite good. The crisp and flavorful arugula included crimini mushrooms and shavings of Parmesan as well as a few tomato halves, croutons and a small croissant. Salade Niçoise was the real deal, with all the right ingredients: greens, green beans, halved tiny boutique potatoes, hard-boiled egg, olives and a decent canned tuna. Neither salad was overdressed.
I also was taken with the hummus (more lemony than garlicky) accompanied by pretty and satisfying vegetables, as well as pita for dipping.
The crepes, made with organic whole wheat flour, were dry and spongy rather than greasy and tender. Despite their flaws, they did feature good fillings. The Traditional was stuffed with a small layer of egg, ham and what surely tasted like a good Gruyère. The salmon version was built around a smoky/salty salmon with crème fraîche and red onion. There was a sandwich style, too—on your choice of whole wheat flatbread, rustic roll or waffle. It was dressed with cream cheese and capers. Love those capers!
I also loved the beverages. They had an espresso machine and knew how to use it. Portions tended toward generous and a good many variations were available to keep you amused (and awake). There was chai, cider and good sweet drinks. I particularly liked what was called an Orange Jillius: orange juice, vanilla and soy milk. It was sort of like an orange sherbet milkshake. When I finished, I wanted another one.
Taste of Belgium
1871 N. High St.,
Wexner Center for the Arts
Atmosphere: Campus-casual in an artsy environment.
Recommended dishes: Salade de Roquette, Salade Niçoise, hummus plate, smoked salmon sandwich, Traditional crepe.
Price range: Breakfast $3-$6; soup and salads $4-$8; sandwiches $5-$7; crepes $5-$8.
Service: Mannerly and intelligent.
Hours: Monday through Friday 8 am to 4 pm; reduced hours during breaks.
Reservations: Not accepted.