Northstar Cafe (Liberty Township, Butler County)
I arrived at Northstar Cafe just at the right time, in between the breakfast and lunch rush, and was relieved to be greeted by a patient and accommodating front-house employee, Darla. A new place gets the full gamut of questions. Sometimes I feel like an interrogator, following up with earnest and looking for cross contamination. I pretty much imagine I’m wearing a deerstalker cap and puffing on a calabash pipe. More times than not, I exit without ordering or eating anything, and feeling even more down in the dumps about my celiac disease than ever. Today was not the ordinary let down, in fact, my exit included a little bounce in my step, and I think I even squeaked out a giggle.
Darla answered my questions with ease and it was clear she was familiar with the dishes from start to finish. There was never a doubt in my mind she was just telling me what I wanted to hear, and even encouraged me to mark up a menu and take it home with me. We started going through the dishes one by one and noting all my (many!) options. This is when I started to feel a little giddy.
There where a few things Darla wasn’t sure about, so she got the attention of Matt, who I later learned is a partner/owner of this local eatery. He was incredibly friendly and took no offense to any of my questions. In fact, it became clear he was very much a foodie and loved the creations the kitchen turned out everyday. With a sparkle in his eye, he explained their farm to table style offerings and noted the care they take with all the ingredients, like grinding their own meats, making sausages in-house and frying fresh french fries and corn chips to perfection.
After much deliberation (there was so much to choose from!) I ordered the Big Burrito as a bowl and Darla was quick to let the kitchen know my order was “allergy” to ensure a clean work surface and tools. She handed me a table locator and a china cup for my coffee and directed me to the coffee station and dining room. My order would arrive at my table soon.
I filled my cup (with Counter Culture coffee) and anxiously awaited what I hoped was a stellar breakfast. The dish came to my table in a timely manner and I happily dug in without reservation or inspection of possible gluten. The sweet potatoes where expertly and not overly seasoned, the egg cooked to perfection, and the crunch of the al dente red peppers and onion gave the dish the change in texture it needed to stay interesting. There was a side of salsa with the meal, but it was not needed since the flavors of the dish stood well together on their own. The only thing I would change is I would add bacon, which is a menu option, but in my excitement in ordering I had overlooked. Next time, bacon. Next time.
A few positives in my opinion, beyond the menu, was the ambiance, the great music at just the right volume, and the lack of free wifi which encouraged me to eat with purpose and not mindlessly munch only to miss the fine details in the dish. They also offer a kids menu and have plenty of booster and highchairs available.
The only negative I have to say about my experience (and I really had to stretch to find one) is the coffee was $3.00 and I wasn’t there to socialize for any length of time to enjoy refills. Next time I’ll ask for a disposable cup or bring my own travel mug to make sure I get my moneys worth.
With one location in the North Cincinnati/South Dayton region and three in Columbus, I am certain Northstar has landed on our list of go-to restaurants, and it should land on your map, too.
Safe Frier – Northstar’s frier uses peanut oil (so peanut allergy suffers, beware) and is ONLY used for naturally gluten free items, like corn chips and potatoes. Does this mean safe French fries?! Yes, it does!
Here is a list of just some of the menu options safe for gluten free enjoyment.
(V) can be prepared meat and dairy free
Big Burrito (V) (hold the wrap)
Sweet Potato and Turkey Hash (V)
Mushroom Frittata (sub the biscuit for fruit or salad)
Sides – Applewood Smoked Bacon, Housemade Breakfast Sausage, Two Eggs Any Style, Scrambled Eggs with Cheese
Lunch and Dinner
All the Salads – hold the croutons or bread.
Soups – these change seasonally and Matt mentioned the Rustic Tomato as well as the Cauliflower Cashew were certainly gf without the bread/croutons.
Square Meal (V) (beans, rice, peppers, onions, avocado, cheddar and gf corn tortillas)
Buddha Bowl (V) (tofu or chicken, rice veggies and gf peanut sauce made with tamari sauce)
Fish Sandwich – hold the bun. (grilled barramundi filet with lettuce, tomato, red onion and fresh herb aioli, and rice)
Sweet Basil Bowl (rotisserie chicken or tufu, pesto, veggies, rice + tortilla chips and salsa)
Thai Burrito (V) (hold the wrap) tofu or chicken, gf peanut sauce, crunchy slaw, rice + gf corn chips and Thai dipping sauce)
…and one Cocktail caught my attention for next time…
Spiced Rum Apple Cider
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