There's something about Northstar Cafe (a local chain of three eateries in Columbus) that makes you think you're doing something great for yourself as soon as you step inside. From the staff (friendly counter-service and food runners are preternaturally cheerful and efficient without ever seeming rushed) to the decor (Crate and Barrel meets Whole Foods) to the food (tasty, fresh, nutritious, from-scratch and local/organic) Northstar is an unbeatable spot for a casual meal.

I love Northstar for brunch (as does most of the city, as lines can be pretty long.) The yogurt with house-made granola and berries is a clear winner for me, and the baked-goods of the day (generously sized scones and muffins) never disappoint. Ricotta pancakes and many permutations of eggs make for a more substantial meal, but whatever time of day it is, I consider the Northstar Burger.

Northstar Burger

The Northstar Burger is an unexpected combination of brown rice, beets, black beans and other natural ingredients, it mimics the texture and (for me) surpasses the taste of a beef burger. Served with tomato, pickle, lettuce and brown mustard on a housemade bun - it doesn't fast casual dining in Columbus doesn't get much better.

Carrot Juice at Northstar Cafe

Another standout is the Buddha Bowl, a hearty, healthy combination of brown rice, perfectly steamed seasonal vegetables and a tasty peanut sauce with either chicken or seared tofu. Add a glass of carrot juice or the Shooting Star (juiced orange, carrot, lemon and ginger) for a special treat.

Buddha Bowl at Northstar Cafe

Do you have a go-to menu item at Northstar Cafe?