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Wildflower Café embodies rosy side of Columbus diners

Katie Harriman / Lantern reporter

A real diner doesn’t need a trendy angle or a hip location to keep customers coming back for more. Just a short drive from campus, Wildflower Café is a hidden gem with no frills, good food and simple charm.

For the last 12 years, McCarthy’s Wildflower Café and Catering has offered patrons the quintessential diner experience. The small establishment, located at 3420 Indianola Ave., has two booths, 13 tables and a counter that seats six. Staying true to its name, the decor is a hodge-podge of flower pictures, hung at random, floral curtains and black and white tile floors.

This place is known for old favorites like Mom’s Meatloaf, Chef Bob’s Famous Pork Schnitzel and Athens County Chicken and Egg Noodles, served with mashed tots and a biscuit.

As a vegetarian, my only complaint is the short list of meat-free options and the absence of an awesome grilled veggie sandwich I had when I visited last summer.

I ordered the black bean veggie burger, no bun, with grilled onions and coleslaw, along with a side of Wildflower’s remoulade, which, if given the choice, I would eat on absolutely everything at every meal. The mayonnaise-based, ketchup-infused condiment is a tangy-sweet sauce. This special sauce is perfect with a side of Wildflower’s thin-cut, crispy-ended french fries.

The fries stand alone. I apologize to the cooks for even making this comparison, but they’re like a way better version of the best batch of McDonald’s fries you’ve ever had, without the strange, greasy aftertaste.

My bun-free, meat-free burger was one of the best I’ve had in Columbus. Made from scratch, this bean burger, combined with the coleslaw, had the perfect texture. The ingredients were fresh and everything came out just as ordered.

My dining partner ordered the meatloaf sandwich with fries and a side of the tortellini pasta. After biting into the sandwich, my friend questioned the entire institution of burger establishments, claiming meatloaf sandwich should be available at every drive-up window, instead.

The portions are fair to generous for the price, which ranges from $6-$12 for an average meal.

Not ordering dessert would be a disservice to this fine diner where almost every dish is made from scratch. With a dry erase board full of options, such as butterscotch pie, creme brulee, blueberry peach pie and cheesecake, it wasn’t easy to decide. We landed on the chocolate lover’s cake with raspberry sauce, a mainstay on the ever-changing board of sweets.

I’m more of a pie person, but the cake lived up to its name with a dense, rich flavor, thick, fudge-like icing and raspberry sauce that tasted freshly picked and perfectly tart.

A small setback at this establishment is the cash-only policy, but taking your taste buds back to the days when diners offered authentic, made-from-scratch comfort food is worth a trip to the ATM, located conveniently by the restrooms.

Grade: A-

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