Restaurant review: Whole World
After more than 30 years as a pioneering local vegetarian eatery, Whole World Natural Bakery and Restaurant suffered a nighttime fire that shuttered the business for several long and frustrating months. Recently, the place has gottenback up and running, and except for minor alterations, you'd never know anything happened.
So there are fresh coats of paint in gold and burnt (the irony!) orange, an improvement in the HVAC department and a new carpet, but overall it's Whole World exactly as you remember it. That of course includes the semi-famous mural of anthropomorphized fairy-tale-like critters frolicking through the changing of the four seasons.
Relatedly, as a server informed me, that fanciful painting'spreservation was a bit of a mystery considering the fire spread all around it yet barely claimed a small portion of the mural's left corner.
Whole World's menu also survived the flames. Thus back in place are many vintage hippie favorites. These include excellenthomemade soups (such as a tangy, chili-like black bean), sandwiches made with great baked-here bread loaded with veggies and/or things like cheese, tofu or seitan plus some unusual, scratch-made pizzas. Oh yeah, and a ton of sprouts, which get tossed onto nearly everything indiscriminately.
Naturally, the beloved Broccoli Burger ($6.50) has returned. It's an herby, medium-sized brown rice patty with a bunch of authentic broccoli flavor enriched by melted colby cheese and mayo. Like most sandwiches here, this perennial crowd-pleaser comes on one of Whole World's wonderful, toasted, slightly sweet and bulky whole wheat buns.
Fans of theHearty Garden Salad ($8) will be glad it's again available. Stacked high with lettuce, cabbage, cheese, thick onion and pepper rings, it's rimmed with raw zucchini and cucumber discs. This thing's really big and isespecially good with one of the many housemade dressings (like the potent creamy garlic, the rich tahini or the vegan Asian sesame).
If you've never tried the outrageous Herb and Guacamole pizza ($11-$16), you really should. It layers fresh, creamy and garlicky bright green guacamole above a rockin' pie with a hearty and yeasty whole wheat crust, bright tomato sauce and melted cheese.
Adding crunch was a sprinkling of sunflower seeds, and rhyming with the guac and 'za were diced tomatoes (oh yeah, it's gratuitously crowned with sprouts, too). Call this visually striking collision of flavors "stoner food deluxe" - it's crazy, but crazy good.
I also enjoyed a Tofu Sloppy Joe ($6.50). Much better than it likely sounds, it was a biggie mound of soft, crumbly tofu sporting bold and racy flavors from smoked paprika plus cooked peppers and onion. Though it came on one of Whole World's excellent buns (with sprouts), this messy munch was more of a knife-and-forker.
The Seitan Gyro ($6.50) might sound like Greek food from hell, but it's worth a try if you're a fan of this kind of sandwich yet leery of the mystery meat's usual provenance. Stuffed in a toasty pita and wrapped in foil like the street-food fave, it's got all the requisite toppings (including feta) and tastes similar to the actual thing, even if its thick planks of herby seitan were on the chewy side.
Desserts are generally hefty baked goods, like substantial cookies with crystalized ginger or my recent favorite, a lemon bar. The latter zest-laden treat showed off a super bright citrus flavor between its buttery, shortbready base and sugary, brittle crust.
For more local food news and reviews, click to G.A. Benton's blog at blog.columbusalive.com/underthetable
3269 N. High St., Clintonville