Wednesday, July 25, 2012


2515 Wilson Road
Highland Heights, KY


We were lured into Smashburger by a BOGO coupon included in a recent issue of The Enquirer. The menu looked promising - a black bean burger, several vegetarian salads, unique veggie sides like fried green chilies, fried pickles, flash-fried carrots and green beans, and sweet potato fries. Intrigued, we stopped in to check it out.

a bright, inviting entrance

The interior is clean and inviting, and staff were friendly and very helpful. While customers order at a counter similar to any of the myriad fast food joints dotting highway exits, Smashburger reminded me of the burger equivalent of Chipotle, especially when I noticed that the restaurant, like Chipotle, offers bottled beer in addition to the standard soda fountain drinks. Kentucky locations also offer popular Ale-8-One, the only soft drink invented in Kentucky still in existence.

Clean design

We shared a side of fried pickles ($2.29) to start, and I opted for the Spicy Baja Black Bean Burger ($4.99), which certainly lived up to its name. Chock full of freshly sliced jalapenos and red onion, then slathered in guacamole and spicy chipotle mayo and finished off with melted pepper-jack cheese, this sandwich isn't for the faint of heart. It will light you up - if you can actually figure out a way to eat it. Since we were both curious about their Smashfries (rosemary, olive oil, and garlic, $1.99), I added them to my order as well.

Fried pickles
The wire serving trays may look stylish and bang-up-to-date, but the paper lining does little by way of containing drippings and juice. Messy, messy, messy.

Spicy Baja Black Bean Burger with Smashfries

Steve chose the Mushroom Swiss chicken sandwich ($5.99), which comes with your choice of grilled or fried chicken. He added chili cheese fries to his order for an extra $2.99. Unlike my sandwich, which was packed with flavor, his was limp, bland, and disappointing. Neither of us was impressed with the shoestring fries, which tasted freezer burnt.

Mushroom Swiss chicken sandwich with chili cheese fries

The problem I had with Smashburger is that everything seems thrown together sloppily. From the over-sized patty on a buttery-slick bun to the lashings of condiments, I found it a struggle to handle my sandwich and not end up wearing half. Messy doesn't even begin to describe it. As it happened, I had several napkins in my lap and something still seeped through and ruined a pair of my good trousers. Epic fail!

Even though Steve and I both drank water and used a buy-one-get-one coupon, our meal still clocked in at over $16.00. There are scads of restaurants we can eat at for that price, and have a much more pleasurable experience. Eating should be enjoyable - Smashburger is not.
Smashburger on Urbanspoon

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Orzo Tomato Salad with Feta

Orzo Tomato Salad with Feta
Serves 8

 A coworker passed along this recipe to me. It was originally published in Bon Appetit in the April 2006 issue. I have tweaked it to comply with a vegetarian diet. I tend to err on the side of caution with the seasoning. I use McKay's instant broth, which is a little salty, but because the orzo is drained and rinsed, much of the salt is washed away. I normally do not season the vinaigrette but instead adjust to taste at the end. Ideally this recipe is to be served at room temperature.

Orzo Tomato Salad with Feta


  • 1/4 Cup Red wine vinegar
  • 2 Tbs Fresh lemon juice
  • 1 tsp Honey
  • 1/3 Cup Olive Oil
  • 6 Cup Vegetarian broth
  • 1 Lb. Orzo or riso
  • 2 Cup cherry tomatoes, halved
  • 1 7 oz. package feta cheese
  • 1 Cup basil, fresh
  • 1 Cup green onion, chopped
  • 1/2 Cup pine nuts, toasted

Orzo Salad ingredients

juicing the lemon

1. Whisk together vinegar, lemon juice, and honey in a small bowl. Gradually whisk in olive oil. Season lightly with salt and pepper.

Whole Foods 365 brand of feta cheese is vegetarian.

2. Bring broth to a boil in a large heavy saucepan. Stir in orzo, reduce heat to medium and stir occasionally, until al dente, about 8 minutes. 3. Drain and rinse. Transfer to a large wide bowl and toss frequently until cool.

4. Toast pine nuts. Toasting pine nuts is easy - just heat a dry skillet to medium-high, add pine nuts and stir for a minute or so, just until they start to turn color and are fragrant. Place on a paper towel to cool.

5. Mix tomatoes, feta, basil, and green onions into orzo. Add vinaigrette and toss to coat. Stir in pine nuts. Season with salt and pepper.

For a printable copy of this recipe, click here.

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Copper Blue

Copper Blue (A Grub Shack)
900 Main St.
Milford, Ohio 45150
tel: 513-239-8450 

 Named after the fantastic LP by Sugar (in my mind*), this locally owned restaurant is housed in a former Shoney's. They've tinted the windows with a coppery film, spruced the interior up with a bold color scheme, and added music selections right out of the old 97X handbook. We heard Barenaked Ladies playing as we walked in, and they offered up lots of good WOXY-style bands during our visit, including some deep catalog stuff. Nice.

 The menu selections are standard American fare - similar to the big "TGI O'Chilibee's" chain restaurants (think burgers, steaks, huge appetizers etc.), except that most everything is made fresh in-house. I ordered a spicy black bean burger ($7.99) and was surprised to find that it was actually hand-made, rather than a previously frozen patty. It had a nice flavor and was really thick, if a little gummy. While this is the only vegetarian entree on the menu, they offer several good-sized veggie appetizers (black bean dip & chips, or veggie flatbread, each around $6) and a handful of salad options that could stand-in for an entree if desired.

 Others in our party ordered the fish tacos ($8.29), a steak salad ($10.79), and buffalo mac & cheese ($13.99). Portions were large but not belt-busting crazy big like Cheesecake Factory, and everything was plated nicely. Service was excellent; friendly and efficient. Props also for the small but decent selection of craft and imported beer. They stock several from Mt. Carmel Brewing Co. and Bluegrass Brewing Co. as well.

 Their hand-cut fries are probably the best we've had around here - even better than those from Five Guys. In fact, the only ones we've had stateside that are better were at Emmon's Dublin Chipper in Alexandria, Virginia. We'd return just for the fries - but everything about the place was inviting. It's not the sort of place we'd go out of our way to visit, but on the off chance that we are in the Milford area again in the future, we'd go back.

 Sorry for the lack of photos - my camera battery was out of juice.

 *The restaurant is actually named Copper Blue in homage to the owners' respective native lands (the 'Copper' Country of Michigan's Upper Peninsula, and the 'Blue'grass of Kentucky). But I wouldn't be surprised to hear Sugar on the restaurant's playlist.
Copper Blue on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

2012 Vegetarian World Summit

The 2012 Vegetarian World Summit, Veganpalooza,  runs July 11-15. The free online conference promotes veganism to awaken the mind, body and spirit. To register, visit