Restaurant review: From appealing to zesty, Alphabetical knows how to do flavor right

G.A. Benton
Special to The Columbus Dispatch

It’s up, it’s down, it’s way down and then it’s up again. It’s the coronavirus pandemic, and just when I think the infernal roller coaster ride of it might be about to end, it seems to take a surprising new turn. 

One thing about the two-years-and-running pandemic has remained constant: It keeps throwing restaurants off course.

This became all too apparent again recently while driving to a new and pricey but fun pizzeria I was planning to review and where I’d already dined. With crushing timing, the eatery just then posted on social media that it’d be closing soon due to the ongoing challenges of this pandemic era. 

Classic burger and fries at Alphabetical Comfort Kitchen in Budd Dairy Food Hall

I felt awful for the business. And a little sorry for myself because the pizzeria’s closure had me staring down the smoking barrel of a planning misfire that ripped a hole in my review schedule, dining-out budget and intended meal for that evening. 

I needed a dinner “plan B” I thought while driving past Budd Dairy Food Hall. Cue the lightbulb-above-the-noggin moment when I suddenly recalled a place that several servers at Budd Dairy had previously recommended. 

Following that advice, I’d find more than my plan B; I’d find my plan ABCs at Alphabetical Comfort Kitchen.

One Buff Chicken sandwich over fries at Alphabetical Comfort Kitchen in Budd Dairy Food Hall

Alphabetical is hard to miss. It’s the first business you encounter after passing through Budd’s main entrance. What’s more, Alphabetical operates from a stall whose loopy graphics and eye-popping colors — largely purple-and-gold with turquoise detailing — brought to mind a Mardi Gras parade float parked on the set of a Nickelodeon game show.     

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Alphabetical’s food brought to mind the kind of fare I’m always happy to find at specialty concession stands in stadiums and arenas. In general, this means indulgent sandwiches made with good ingredients that usually include juicy meats and immoderate garnishes.

Alphabetical’s garnishes often involve slaw, and that’s true of the Braised and Confused ($11): brisket in a toasted roll with “tangy jicama slaw,” red cabbage, aioli and shredded cheddar. The good-tasting beef was braised, but there’s nothing confusing about this messy yet coherent and eminently likable sandwich. Maybe its name is meant to rekindle fond memories of the Led Zeppelin song or a Richard Linklater movie.   

One Buff Chicken ($10) is another goofy-named sandwich that you might want to eat with a bib on. And you’ll want to eat it if, like me, you enjoy the chile-and-vinegar sting of Buffalo-sauced pulled chicken. The sloppy but entertaining assembly received crunch and extra punch from a celery-jalapeno slaw, green-bean-casserole-style fried onions, ranch and feta.  

Crunchy onions likewise adorned the Beer Gut Dog ($11), a satisfying chili-cheese coney with a thick, juicy, garlicky, split-and-seared quarter-pound wiener, pleasant house chili (tipsy with beer but otherwise straightforward) and shredded cheddar. 

A Beer Gut Dog at Alphabetical Comfort Kitchen in Budd Dairy Food Hall

The Hawaiian High Five ($10) was like an unsmoked barbecue pork sandwich with slaw, crispy bacon, caramelized pineapple plus gratuitous provolone. Verdict: not bad. 

The Faux Philly ($9) had neither slaw nor meat but wasn’t lacking in flavor. Nicely cooked-down mushrooms seasoned with a shawarma-esque spice blend plus earthy black bean hummus, sauteed red peppers, feta and mixed lettuces added up to a salty vegetarian winner. 

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These sandwiches all come with chips; upgrades are worth a spurge. Alphabetical’s Brussels sprouts ($5 upcharge, $7 a la carte) — crinkly, appealingly fried-to-dark veggies with a selected topping (go “citrus honey Sriracha with feta”) — were a menu highlight. The crispy, not oily, house fries coated in dry-rub-style spices ($2 upcharge, $4 a la carte) were no slouch, either.    

Braised and Confused sandwich with Brussels sprouts at Alphabetical Comfort Kitchen in Budd Dairy Food Hall

Fries are served with four different burgers bearing one-third-pound patties. “The Classic” ($14) brought seared meat that was attractively pink in the middle. It also brought a glossy and toasted brioche bun, melted American cheese, caramelized onions, aioli, aggressive house pickles and yet more evidence that Alphabetical is well-versed in the ABCs of comfort food.     


Alphabetical Kitchen (Budd Dairy Food Hall)

Where: 1086 N. 4th St., Italian Village

Contact: 614-906-7687, www.abc-kitchen.com

Hours: 4 p.m. to 9 p.m. Tuesdays and Wednesdays; 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Thursdays and Sundays; 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays; closed Mondays

Price range: $7 to $15

Ambience: fancifully appointed stall with friendly and speedy service in the Budd Dairy Food Hall

Children's menu: no

Reservations: no

Accessible: yes

Liquor license: no (but full bar available in building)

Quick click: You’ll want plenty of napkins on hand for this place’s flavorful and indulgent sandwiches — and don’t sleep on its crinkly, fried Brussels sprouts.