Tag Archives: vietnamese food

Spring in your step?

It’s been a long gray winter in Central Ohio, but after a few days of glorious sunshine spring seems to be on the horizon. Time to stop hiding under blankets and get out and about. If the promise of spring makes you want to get out of the house and try something new, there are some opportunities this week to break out of your winter comfort zone.

This week (March 8th-14th) is Dine Originals Restaurant Week, giving you the chance to sample fixed price menus at 40 plus of Columbus’s independent restaurants. The list includes many of the best restaurants in the city and it is a lower cost way to try somewhere that you have always wanted to. Columbus now seems to have a surfeit of restaurant weeks (3 a year) and my highlights of past restaurant weeks have been Pistacia Vera, Alana’s, Sage and G Michaels. [pictured above: Osso Buco at G Michael’s at the 614 restaurant week]

If you don’t feel like a three course dinner, happy hour can be another low risk way chance to try somewhere. My favorite happy hours at the moment are Rigsby’s, especially for the Monday night $1 oysters and their every day 3 small plates for $10 (try the smoked salmon crostini) and Deepwood (try the mozzarella fritters and frites). [pictured above is the pork belly appetizer at Deepwood]

If you are a pizza fan and looking to branch out from your default pie provider then next Sunday’s Pizza Grand Prix V is for you. Bring your favorite pizza to share and try a range of pizzas from all over the city. Not a take-out pizza purchaser? Then you can enter the home-made pizza competition and learn from pizza pioneer Dave from Weber_cam as he fires up his modified weber grill. There are some interesting new pizza places in Columbus including Clever Crow (at Circus Bar) and Yellow Brick Pizza in Olde Towne East. The above pizza is the carbonara pizza from Bono Pizza and below is the Big O from Yellow Brick Pizza.

If Dine Originals and Pizza aren’t offering enough novelty for you, then Columbus has a wealth of ethnic restaurants and off-the-beaten track hidden gems. Trying a new cuisine can be a mini travel adventure within the confines of 270. Ethiopian, SalvadoreanEcuadorean – there’s plenty to choose from. We have been on a Vietnamese kick recently with big bowls of steaming pho to warm us up on frigid evenings, and light fresh rolls and noodle salads for a taste of the season to come.

Clockwise from top left: delicious nem nuong cuon (pork on sugar cane stick rolls) at the newly opened Pho Hoa Jennie Cali on Refugee Road; Surprising and refreshing Jellyfish salad at China Jade near 161/71; steaming Pho Tai Bo Vien (noodle soup) at Huong on Morse Road; crispy Bahn Xeo (Vietnamese Crepe with shrimp, pork and mung beans) at Huong on Morse Road. Other favorite Vietnamese restaurants include Indochine on South Hamilton Road and Mi Li Cafe in Columbus Square, off Cleveland Avenue.

What do sunny days and the promise of spring make you hunger for?

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Filed under Columbus, ethnic eats, special events

Ethnic Columbus

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Columbus is often thought of as a white bread town, territory of generic chains and home of the fast food giants White Castle and Wendy’s. Dig around though, and between the Olive Garden’s and Applebees you can find some fantastic independent restaurants and (the point of this post), some ethnic gems.

Last week in two days we ate Colombian, Korean and Vietnamese food and had some proper boiled bagels for breakfast. Stretch that time period out to a couple of weeks and you can add in Thai, Indian, Chinese, Japanese and Mexican. Columbus also has plenty of Middle Eastern and Greek offerings as well as a wealth of small Somali and Ethiopian restaurants. This winter I am hoping to start exploring Somali cuisine and would love any recommendations of places to start. The only cuisines I haven’t been able to find in Columbus are Sri Lankan and Moroccan. If anyone knows of any please let me know. In the mean time here are some recommendations of places that I love and you should try.

Yau’s Asian Bistro (1493 N. High Street) was recently reviewed by G.A. Benton in Alive. Conveniently close to campus it offers many of the standard ‘Chinese take-out’ offerings but lots of more interesting dishes as well. They also serve bubble tea and plenty of good vegetarian options. The dish pictured is the famous spicy salted squid, one of my favorites. Yau’s, as many of the restaurants in this list, is somewhere you go for the food and not the stylish interior and like most of these restaurants they do not have a liquor license.

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Arirang Oriental Market (1526 Bethel Road) was recommended to me by a reader (Thank you Molly). You would never guess that it has a restaurant in the  back. You order at the front counter and then find a seat and wait to be signaled to when your food is ready. The menu was mostly translated from Korean but we did ask for some guidance. It is extremely clean, good value and I am looking forward to going back and trying some more dishes. I ordered the hot and spicy beef soup with noodles and we also shared a Korean (mung bean) pancake. The soup was perfect for a frosty night and the pancake the best I have had. We were given three side dishes including the requisite kim chee. I had previously wondered why Korean restaurants give you the side dishes at the same time as your food (usually I would prefer them to nibble on while I wait). When my cauldron of soup arrived still at a rolling boil, I was glad to have sometime to eat while it cooled down.

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Mi Li Cafe (5858 Columbus Square) is our go-to for Vietnamese food. Usually we head there when the craving for a bahn-mi sandwich hits but I have eaten everything on the menu including sam bo luong, a drink made with seaweed and ginko nuts. Friday was a pho dac biet day  (noodle soup with beef, tripe and meatballs) although I was secretly coveting Donna’s bo kho (beef stew). I have heard great things about Indochine but I haven’t made it there yet. Soon.

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The Columbian food I mentioned was from the taco truck El Manantial Latino which has just moved to a new location at Lane and High. On this visit we had the Colombian tamale – larger than a Mexican tamale with more meat and vegetables inside. It comes wrapped in a banana leaf rather than a corn husk. The menu offerings vary daily so it is best to ask what they have.

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If I want to make an effort for Thai food I go to Bangkok on Refugee Road which also has an eclectic grocery store. Apart from the drive they also close early, so more often than not I find myself eating Thai food at Nida’s Thai on High. As well as being extremely convenient Nida’s has the advantage of serving cocktails and sushi. It is the most atmospheric of the restaurants I have mentioned. The dish pictured is the tasty appetizer Mee Krob.

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I haven’t yet mentioned Mexican Food — and you know what I am going to say: yup, taco trucks. Many of these will stay open this winter serving steaming hot atole to go with your tacos. Don Pedro’s are currently offering a Thursday special $4 pambazo’s and the pambazos alone are worth the drive. Seriously craveable. My other favorite trucks include Los Potosinos, Los Guachos, Taqueria Jalisco and Taco Nazo, but there are over 30 to choose from. Closest to down town are Junior’s (on 5th Avenue) and Chapis tacos (near Broad and Souder).

I should also mention Japanese, of which my favorites are Sushi Bistro Masa and Kihachi. Both of these are in Dublin and whereas most of the other restaurants I have mentioned are places I would go on a weekday evening. The Japanese restaurants are for more of a special occasion, especially if you want to take full advantage of the more exotic offerings. Pictured are some fried salmon balls from Sushi Bistro Masa.

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Last but not least bagels. Blocks Bagels, with two locations in East Columbus are the closest thing I have found to New York bagels in Columbus. Boiled before they are baked, Blocks have been making bagels in Columbus since 1967. They have over 20 flavors as well as a sandwich counter and the bagels are as dense and chewy as they should be.

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So there you have it, plenty of places offering hot steamy bowls of soup, spice and carbs to keep you warm this winter. I know that this list is far from extensive, so please feel free to share other ethnic favorites and hidden gems.

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Filed under Columbus, restaurants, soup, Taco trucks