Herb'n Cafe serves food that is natural, holistic and decadent.

Chef Taylor Carterdoesn't want to be known as an activist chef. He's got enough on his plate helming his own restaurant at 25 without becoming a cause celebre. Speak out he does-against megafarms and in support of local, organic purveyors. But at his 1,600-square-foot Herb'n Cafe, in a strip mall in Pickerington, Carter's approachable, well-tested fare speaks loudly, too. Take the Crispy Brussels ($7) with roasted sprouts that rustle pleasantly like fallen leaves. Made slightly creamy from a toss in mustard sauce and sweet from fried onions, the starter hits all the high notes. It's simple, smart and effortlessly flavorful.

The same rules apply to Herb'n Cafe's lunch and dinner staples: complex salads, like Blue Pears ($10) with grilled fruit, blue cheese, apples, candied walnuts and blue cheese dressing, and grass-fed burgers. The latter walk that satisfying line between sweet, fat and savory, like the Pork Jowl and Avocado ($14) with crisped jowl as a playful stand-in for bacon, adding texture and saltiness to every bite, and smoky guajillo barbecue sauce offering richness. There aren't many burgers I'd drive 30 minutes for, but this beef patty, and its accompanying Parmesan crispy fries, is worth the round trip.

We'll be back to watch Carter stretch his culinary chops with the newly offered dinner menu, like with a pumpkin risotto ($16) with fried sage, candied walnuts and grilled chicken, and an Ohio Ribeye ($29) topped with a merlot reduction. herbn-cafe.com