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Even though I’d probably wind up in the poor house and lose all of my killer cooking skills, I would dine out every meal of every day if I could. Clearly, the appeal is getting sauced while someone else cooks your food and not worrying about the dirty dishes piled high in the sink. But it’s more than that. As a kid my family only ate out on “special” occasions (baptisms and graduations), but when we did, it was an extravagant treat. At ten I ate my first microscopic bite of caviar at the Chart House in Fort Myers, Florida. (Sadly, it’s now a Joe’s Crab Shack.) But those salty black pearls at the Chart House is a meal-moment that I recall almost daily and that I try to relive each time I try a new restaurant. Needless to say, I eat out as much as our budget will allow, which is usually once a week, and sometimes we go to the fancy joints with the notion that “everyday is special.” Yet the more I cook, the more I expect the same caliber of food, flavor, and flare when I eat out. This isn’t easy to come by, especially in the age of monotonous, franchise restaurants.
Dedicated to finding quality restaurants I called upon my fellow Connotation Press editors who happily obliged my request for restaurant reviews, which span from California to Maryland to India. Some readers may wonder why assemble an anthology of national and international restaurant reviews. My answer is simple: whenever and wherever I travel my first question is “What’s the best place to eat?” Dare I say I’m not alone?
May this Special Editors’ Issue rouse you to travel close to home—like Editor-in-Chief Ken who visited Smokin’ Jacks in West Virginia where he filmed his culinary experience. Or maybe it will inspire you to visit a family member’s favorite restaurant, such as “A Poetry Congeries” editor John who dined at The Dove Restaurant in Florida. Or think of this issue as a guide if you ever find yourself in Bowling Green, Ohio and in need of a fantastic lunch. My hope is that our collective homage to the restaurants that nurture our appetites tempt you try a new place, compliment the chef in-person, or tip the waitress you love at your old stand-by just a few bucks more.
Happy Badger Café & Tea House by Amanda McGuire
Photographs by Sarah Lenz
Inside a quaint colonial brick house on Main Street in Bowling Green, Ohio, the colorful Happy Badger Café and Tea House welcomes those who hunger for something different from the mainstream. The name pays homage to owner Donna Cohen’s husband Alan whose nickname happens to be Happy Badger. The Café offers a menu, prepared by the Cohen family, of healthy, fresh vegetarian soups ($4.95 bowl/ $3.95 cup) and sandwiches on Zingerman’s bread ($7.95). Yep, that’s Zingerman’s, as in the Ann Arbor, Michigan foodie mecca of breads and pastries. The Cohens believe the best products come from local businesses, hence Zingerman’s breads, dairy products from Calder’s Dairy and Farm, and tofu and cheeses from Rosewood Products, both also from Michigan. Not only are these yummy goodies used as ingredients in Happy Badger’s delectable dishes, but also they are sold as part of The Happy Badger Food Club of Deliciousness.
Happy Badger soups are a perfect starter. The vegetable stew is rich with tomatoes, carrots, zucchinis, and potatoes, but the unique part of the dish is the discovery of a cheddar bacon scone at the bottom of the bowl. The peppered bacon farmhouse croutons turn a good broccoli cheese soup into something exceptional. The smokiness of the bacon compliments the creamy cheddar and stout broccoli flavors. I hardly doubt anyone would be disappointed with any of the soups served daily. The Zingerman’s Savory Strudel is another perfect dish for those seeking something light. The Spicy Indian is a delight of potatoes, peas, and curry wrapped in crispy Phyllo-dough ($7.95). The strudels are awesome, but they pale in comparison to the sandwiches.
Hands-down my favorite sandwich is the BBQ Tofu, which is created with tofu slices marinated in a spicy, syrupy Syrian BBQ glaze, then broiled, slathered with Calder’s Dairy Farm cream cheese, and garnished with tomato, sprouts, and avocado. The delicate balance of heat from the glaze, cool sweetness from the cream cheese, tang from the sprouts and creaminess of the avocado excites my palate into a tizzy. If you prefer something a bit lighter, try the House Made Tuna sandwich. Instead of heavy mayo, the Cohens use olive oil, lemon, red peppers and red onion for the salad, which is served with light balsamic greens, alfalfa sprouts, tomato, and Dijon mustard. As someone who craves tuna salad sandwiches regularly, I declare Happy Badger as the best place to get one in Bowling Green.
Perhaps the most popular sandwiche available is The Berwyn Special, which begins with an avocado base that is piled high with muenster cheese, shredded carrot, cucumber, tomato, alfalfa and mung bean sprouts and oregano. While the description may not sound filling, it easily tames the hungriest of appetites. Legend has it that Alan Cohen memorized the Berwyn after eating one every single day during his stay in Washington D.C. In order to gain permission to use the recipe, Alan called the National Food Café, where the Berwyn originated in 1976, but the tables quickly turned when Alan recalled, by layer, the sandwich for the new owners. What makes Happy Badger Café special are stories like the aforementioned that Donna and Alan share with diners. Donna, Alan, and their family’s gracious hospitality—their ability to greet guests with open arms and fall into casual conversations—makes anyone feel at ease.
The Cohen’s welcoming spirit is ever-present in the atmosphere of The Café. An eclectic mix and match of well-loved wooden chairs and tables create an intimate dining space. The whimsical art and matte pull-out posters from a Neil Young song book dress the walls and cultivate a sense of peacefulness and playfulness. A perfect place to enjoy of cup of organic, fair trade Jade Cloud green tea or house-made yogi tea with a hearty meal, the Happy Badger allows guests to unwind, relax, and share a moment in solitude or loved ones. The Happy Badger makes this diner very happy. And I encourage you to “make someone happy”—if you find yourself in Bowling Green, Ohio, grab a bite at the Happy Badger Café and pop into the Happy Badger General Store while you’re at it.
311 N. Main St.
Bowling Green, OH 43402
Bowling Green, OH 43402
Dinner Check: $
Hours: Mondays-Saturdays 11-6, Sundays 12-4
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