In Season: On the Fly

Staff Writer
Columbus Alive

You'd expect that the little-brother eatery attached at the hip to one of the best vegetarian restaurants in the Midwest would specialize in food that was seasonal - especially when considering its back porch is basically an edible garden.

But when looking at the minimalist blackboard menu of On the Fly - which is Dragonfly Neo-V's cheapie spinoff - you see it features the same items now as it did in December: chili, empanadas, a few sandwiches, a salad and some baked good sweets.

So it's only after you chat up the friendly servers there (or check out the place's "tweets," if you're so inclined) that you find out OTF does sneak seasonal ingredients into its mainstays.

That was exactly my experience recently, and after eating up some of Fly's current stuff, I feel I can generalize thusly: Though the timely and ripe add-ons might play a minor role in their construction, the chili and the many other interesting, densely textured and delicious house-baked goodies prove this place is still flying as high and true as it has since it first opened.

Put simply, On the Fly offers some pretty incredible deals on cheffy, scratch-made, healthy-minded and seasonally inflected foods.

I got a recent spread off to a hot start with OTF's always-zesty, hearty and chunky chili. While the bold flavors still arrive via smoked paprika and cayenne, they got summertime distinction from sweet corn, little bits of okra and al-dente-cooked heirloom pole beans. The latter are big and stout beige-colored legumes rather akin to kidney beans. Garnishing were top-notch cornbread and a surprisingly good, soy-based sour cream stand-in.

The heirloom pole beans reappeared in paste form inside OTF's savory empanada. It also had coconut milk and some lentils, but most of its character came from a potent seaweed addition.

The sweet empanada was said to be made with edible marigold and melon, but mostly it ate like an organically dolled-up, vanilla-custard-filled pastry. Nothing wrong with that.

There was a lot going on with the fantastic falafel, and all of it was delicious. On a wonderful, chewy, homemade pita loaf, the authentic-tasting if only mildly crusty beany balls were dressed with hummus, sprouty greens, bright carrots, freshly pickled cucumbers and more. It was a compellingly heady mess to joyously plow through.

Who would expect tomatoes and basil to crown a cupcake? Me, now, after enjoying the fried green leaf decorating a cinnamony icing with tiny hints of the cherry tomatoes it was made with. The dense, moist cake underneath had visible chunks of green squash in it and was like a nice, moderately sweet zucchini bread.

On the Fly

249 King Ave., Victorian Village