A case of the Mondays: Food deals to make the start of the work week feel like Funday
When that horrible alarm screams on Mondays mornings, it shatters your dreams of the weekend like a rotten egg cracked onto your face. Week in and weekend out - such is the rhythm of life.
Miseries abound in the restaurant world on Mondays too, and not just for its fried-out workers. The business end can take a sparsely attended hit after splurging-Friday-through-Sunday revelers have had their fill and all gone home until a more exciting occasion pops up. Which is usually not a Monday.
To avoid this bottom-line bummer, many advanced-thinking eateries lure in customers with Monday deals so phenomenal that smart crowds of dollar-conscious and party-hounding diners actually start looking forward to the beginning of the work week. Here are some "Let's do this!" killer deals worth dragging your tired ass out for one more evening of extend-the-weekend fun.
The Short North is your oyster
Deal Details: Dollar oysters served all evening - or until they run out - but only in the bar area, which conveniently includes several tables.
698 N High St., Short North
Art stars, powerbrokers, fashionistas and econo-savvy gourmands know this Columbus culinary pioneer still sets the haute cuisine standard in Central Ohio - and is pretty pricey except when it sells excellent oysters for a buck on Mondays. Yep, big city sophistication doesn't get cheaper than that.
Though bargain-basement affordable, Rigsby's serves its mollusks millionaire-style - chilling on a bed of chipped ice and sided with sliced lemons, a refreshing in-house-made cocktail sauce and, in the classic French manner, with its bracing homemade mignonette (vinegar and shallot-based) sauce. Those condiments are great, but if you've graduated to slurping oysters straight from the shell, then you'll taste the could've-been-overpowered nuances of these most "terroir"-flavored (actually meroir-flavored) of all foods. For instance, I recently ripped through a dozen of Rigsby's big and plump Wiannos (sustainably farmed Cape Codders) whose expected East Coast-sourced salinity was offset by an uplifting sweetness and intriguing minerality.
Deal Details: $1grilledcheese from 4-11p.m.
1044 N. High St., Short North
"On Blue Mountain" by Foxygen - a wildly infectious neo-revivalist freakout - was furiously winding down on the speakers and Monday Night Football was getting started on the flat screens - and that ambiance combo formed the perfect backdrop to my last cut-loose visit to Bodega. Naturally the place was loud, rowdy and packed a la Grand Central Station and, since it was a Monday, everybody was munching on almost-free, streaming-out-like-mad, surprisingly large grilled cheese sandwiches. Make that Pretty Damn Good grilled cheese sandwiches.
Sure a talented chef and creative menu reign here now, but Bodega hasn't abandoned what first made this place famous - its insane varieties of craft beers and those stupid-cheap-on-Monday suds-absorbers. Served with a decent pickle and chips, they're provolone-loaded, made panini-style and arrive on good pieces of thickish and nearly greaseless, grill-ridged-and-toasted bread.
Deal Details: Nathan's Hot Dogs, 2 for $4 (with chili, cheese and onions: 2 for $5), 11:30 a.m.-1a.m.
741 N. High St., Short North
The only pressing issue you'll need to address at the cool and relaxed Press Grill on a Monday evening is how many irresistible hot dogs you'll be eating. Me, I usually stop at two, but if you've seen me hog down four, don't be such a butthead and tell everyone what a glutton I can become.
Among the dog's delightful does-the-little-things-right charms is the juicy star itself - an all-beef Nathan's Famous given a good sear-grilling. The Press stuffs this winning wiener into a toasted "New England-style" bun (i.e. top-loaded and ubiquitously used for lobster rolls) and then - for a dollar more if you want it (you want it) - applies a hefty dose of its homemade chili (meaty, a little sweet and so thick it won't drip much), plus onions and shredded cheeses. Now all you need to do is doctor up those dogs with a bit of great, Ohio-made Stadium Mustard (a Cleveland tradition!) and dig in, enjoying your tricked-out top-notch tube steak with intermittent bites of the provided pickle spears.
Deal Details: Half-pricesushi specials, 5-6:30 p.m. Monday (and Tuesday!)
2152 E. Main St., Bexley
Discount sushi is usually a cringe-inducing proposition - if not a downright frightening one. Not here. See, the mod and stylish-yet-casual Moshi Sushi is an upper-tier Japanese-esque fish outlet, so it's not gonna unleash a bunch of substandard crap on you. What it will do is offer cheap drinks (Yuenglings for $2; several cocktails - many sake-powered - for $5) to go with about a dozen clean-tasting, straightforward (mostly six-to-eight-piece "makizushi") rolls sold for between $2.25 and $3.75 each. Yes, you read those prices right. Here's who else read those prices right: the lively mix of students, couples, families and happy hour pals who begin streaming in prior to the deal's deadline.
My favorites are the excellently executed shrimp tempura wrapped with bits of avocado and cucumber; fresher-than-usual-in-Columbus spicy tuna (with a serious kick and not mushy or mayo-globbed); a colorful and texturally amusing vegetable roll (with pickly-sweet notes); and the tangy, wasabi-spiked yellowtail.
The pastor of pork
Deal Details: Two-for-one al pastor tacos, 4p.m. to midnight
Los Guachos Taqueria
5221 Godown Rd., Northwest Side
Success hasn't gone to the head of this started-as-a-truck taco star - nor has it gone deeper into consumers' pockets. See, though this always-bustling, immigrant-and-hipster-approved sit-down restaurant (there's still a West Side Gauchos truck) provides eye-popping carved wooden chairs and tables (embellished with horses and flowers) and arguably makes the best goddamn tacos in Columbus, it continues to sell its corn tortilla-embraced beauties for the truck-standard price of $1.50. Except on Mondays, of course, when the tacos that made Los Guachos famous are effectively $.75! (Note: There's no booze - but at these prices, who cares?)
Pig is king here, primarily in the form of the Monday night special - lightning-fast-sliced stacks of ambrosial al pastor meat. Authentically cooked gyro-style and dressed with onions, cilantro and lumps of pineapple, the generously apportioned pork arrives sear-crusted, lip-smackingly juicy and zesty-not-spicy. Try these stellar tacos with squirts of lime, bits of pickled jalapeno and, if you're adventurous, whiffs of Los Guachos' three zingy salsas - green tomatillo-based, red chipotle-based and an extremely dangerous, soy saucy-black firestarter.
Deal details: Prix Fixe dinner, three special courses for $30, 5-10p.m.
G. Michael's Bistro & Bar
595 S. 3rd St., German Village
Hot Tip: The crowds of connoisseurs who flocked to G. Mike's during Dine Originals week should know it's basically always Dine Originals week here. See, Chef David Tetzloff, guided by his fertile imagination and the best ingredients available, transforms blue Mondays into red letter evenings with special meal extravaganzas. Chosen by diners from a selection of created-for-that-Monday dishes and current menu favorites, these so-worth-the-splurge, fantastic dinners generally include carnivorous, fish and vegetable options (for the savory courses) and three or so choices each of appetizers, entrees and homemade desserts.
Anything with scallops is always excellent, and I was recently wowed by a smoky, towering and dynamic, meaty-yet-veggie-laden crawfish (puff pastry) pie starter. Entree-wise, a sear-crusted and perfectly tender, super-thick and super-fancy pork chop (with dark-braised greens, marvelous mashers, killer pimiento cheese croquettes plus a "Tabasco-maple gastrique") and a lush treatment of phenomenally fresh walleye were outright knockouts. And whether finishing with a nutty and warm-caramel-sauced date/bread pudding or an elegantly presented and lovely butterscotch pudding, any Monday blahs you might've entered with will have magically metamorphosed into on-the-way-out, high-fiving hurrahs.