Asia Market

asian markets columbus ohio

3456 Cleveland Ave, Columbus, OH 43224
(614) 261-6118
Open daily 9.30am-7.30pm (10am-6pm on Sundays)

We’re a bit remiss in not having covered Asia Market before… they’ve been open since 1981. It’s a large, high ceilinged market featuring an eclectic array of goods that cater not just to Asian tastes but also offers plenty of Latino and African products. Curiously, they also have the largest selection of ‘vegetarian meats’ that we’ve ever seen including vegetarian pork belly. The photo below does not show the whole case.

vegetarian food shopping columbus ohio

Even beyond that, culinary curiosities abound. The frozen fish section is huge and varied, black skinned chicken can be found, as can octopi of all sizes. It’s a great browse, and a clean and well-stocked market.

To the right side of the store (relative to the entrance),  sits a partioned area that acts as a small restaurant. There are seven tables, a TV and, notably, a high chair. The menu is very small and offers two appetizers (egg rolls and spring rolls), three noodle soups, bun cha gio thit nuong, banh cuon, and Vietnamese coffee.

Asian market cleveland avenue

The bun cha gio thit nuong was solid but not exceptional. It’s comprised of cold vermicelli noodles topped with salad, grilled pork, and egg rolls, and comes with the usual fish sauce based dressing to pour on top.

bun cha gio thit nuong

The bun bo hue was a bit disappointing. The broth was watery and heavy on the fish sauce but insufficiently meaty and spicy. Usually this dish is fragrant with lemongrass but that seemed to be lacking too. The beef was a bit of a lottery, a couple of pieces were tender and flavorful but several were inedibly chewy. There was some tendon and some slices of pork loaf but no pork blood.

vietnamese spicy beef soup

The bun rieu – a vermicelli soup dish usually made with a crab and tomato based broth – was the highlight of the meal and the dish that we would go back for.  It contained fish cake, shrimp (or crab?) paste, fresh shrimp and pork loaf, and had a pleasing dose of funk from the fish sauce and seafood.

vietnamese food in columbus

Vietnamese coffee is the only beverage on offer at the restaurant. It’s made to order and comes either black or with sweetened condensed milk and can be consumed hot or over ice. Other (canned or bottled) drinks can be purchased from the store and consumed in the restaurant.

vietnamese coffee

We probably wouldn’t recommend Asia Market as a destination for Vietnamese dining, but if you have some shopping to do and want to grab a bite while you are there then it’s good to know about. Our advice would be to order your food first, then shop and come back to the restaurant – service was a little slow.

Addis Restaurant

IMG_3447Addis Restaurant
Cuisine: Ethiopian
3750 Cleveland Ave
614.269.8680
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Open lunch and dinner every day. Until 10pm on weeknights and 11pm on Friday and Saturday.

With the closing of Blue Nile in the north campus area, Ethiopian food had become an east side affair. And, while we like Ethiopian food, we haven’t craved it enough to schlepp out to Hamilton Rd. with any regularity.

The owner Niman knew that a larger proportion of the Ethiopian and Eritrean population were on the North side, unserved by a restaurant offering their national cuisine, and with the opening of his Cleveland Avenue restaurant, Addis, he has made the cuisine far more geographically accessible for them, and for us.

The dining room is clean and pleasant, in an orderly no-frills kind of way, and service is unwaveringly pleasant and eager to answer questions. The menu is tightly focused, with less than 10 dishes, though 10 more are understood to be on their way in the next couple of weeks.

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While we’re eager to see what the menu expansion may bring, we were more than happy with what exists. We tried the mahbarawi platter with tibs, and added the zillzill tibs, a beef short rib dish. The mahbarawi platter also included 4 vegetable dishes and salad. All of the dishes are served together on a larger sharing platter with some hot sauce.

ethiopian food in Columbus

The tibs, a beef stew was, to us, the best rendition we’ve tried so far – spicy, complex, and delicious. The platter can also be ordered with chicken.

The zillzill tibs, on the other hand, was entirely new to us, and amounted to a tasty curiosity. It consisted of chunks of beef short rib meat, and the menu listed it as seasoned with garlic, black pepper, onion, and green chili. True though this may be, the flavor struck us as faintly teriyaki-esque… which was not bad, by any means, but more than a bit surprising.

Accompaniments included lentils, cabbage, and spinach, and all were up to snuff. The injera bread as good as any we’ve had, and was conspicuously fresh. Portions, as always with Ethiopian food are plentiful. Dishes are cooked to order and Niman was keen to point out that dishes like kitfo can be cooked to your taste – anywhere from rare to well done. We were also asked what level of spice we wanted. As is traditional with Ethiopian food be prepared to eat with your hands.

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We also enjoyed Ethiopian tea and coffee and Niman told us that on Friday they prepare traditionally prepared Ethiopian coffee and offer samples to customers.

La Bendicion

la bendicion

3872 E. Main St.
Columbus, 43213
614.745.3135
Open 8am-7pm Mon-Sat (closes at 6.30pm Wednesday)

Here’s a quick post on an east side food spot of note; La Bendicion is a fun little Guatemalan owned bakery that opened recently on the Main St.

guatemalan bakery columbus

The bakery sells a range of bread rolls, pan dulce (sweet breads), cookies and pastries. We really enjoyed a flaky pastry with a sweet cheese filling.

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However, our favorite item was the freshly made churros. Obviously made by hand, they were the lightest, airiest churros we have found in Columbus and, still hot from the oven, they were absolutely delicious.

latin bakeries columbus ohio

We’ve seen La Bendicion products on sale at Mi Bandera on 161, and you may see their wares popping up in other Latino markets around town. It sounds like they also make cakes although none were available to try during our visit.

Menya Noodle House

menya noodle house

Menya Noodle House
3503 Market Street
Powell, 43065
614.282.6377
11am-9pm Saturday & Sunday

Early in 2013 we read that Luce had a new Japanese owner and was being rebranded as Luce Nuovo. More recently, they’ve cordoned off a section of their restaurant (including a separate entrance) to open Menya Noodle House, a weekend-only ramen shop that debuted this weekend.

ramen in powell ohio

Menya offers three ramen broths – shoyu, miso and tonkotsu. The miso had already sold out, so shoyu and tonkotsu it was for our group of 3. We unanimously prefered the tonkotsu (pork bone broth, pictured below). Nice and rich and meaty, we thought it to likely be the best tonkotsu broth in the city. The shoyu, by contrast, struck us as fairly average.

ramen in columbus ohio

The pork belly topping was sliced into long bacon-like strips. It was tender but otherwise indistinct, and a more traditional chashu would have been preferable. You can order extra seaweed, egg or pork belly toppings, though they were out of eggs on this visit. Both the ramens that we sampled were served with thin ramen noodles.

ramen in ohio

There is a small selection of appetizers, including cold tofu with ginger and bonito (best eaten with the provided soy sauce) , edamame, and several rice dishes.

japanese food in powell IMG_3289

You can also order from Luce’s Italian offerings, printed on the back of the Japanese menu.

For more on ramen in Columbus check out our article for Columbus Crave.

Jie’s Good Tasting

chinese restaurant grandview

Chinese
1413 Grandview Ave
Columbus, OH 43212
(614) 824-4657

In the former Grandview location of two short lived businesses – Yogi’s pierogis and Yi’s Bento Express – a new Chinese restaurant, Jie’s Good Tasting, has opened. They have 24 seats for dining in, though due to the cramped accommodations and chaotic, disorganized service, they’re probably best suited to take out.

Despite these caveats, there is a good reason to visit Jie’s, namely homemade dumplings that are easily some of the best in town. Ignore the menu and ask which flavors they have, as the menu is not necessarily representative of much of anything if our visits are any indication. On our last trip there were four types available: San Xian (our favorite so far – a mix of pork, shrimp and chive), pork and napa cabbage, pork and pickled cabbage (our number 2 pick) and pork and celery. 16 come to an order, they’re priced in the $7-8 range, and are served with a pleasant soy/vinegar dipping sauce. What makes them good is the thick but tender wrapper and the juicy and flavorful fillings. They go quickly.

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Also worth ordering are the dumplings in hot and sour soup and the spicy dumplings (smaller portion of 8 dumplings) pictured behind.

chinese dumplings columbus

The pan fried pork buns seemed to be popular with the large groups of Chinese students frequenting Jie’s but we found them a little too chewy and thought that the bread to filling ratio erred too far on the bread side.

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The menu offers a lot of the standard American Chinese take-out dishes (General Tso is present and accounted for) and a few more interesting choices. We enjoyed both the cumin chicken and the cumin beef. Both dishes are moderately spicy, fragrant with cumin and comprise chunks of meat with fried potatoes. Steamed rice must be requested separately.

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The za’ jing noodles, similar to Korean jajagmyun noodles, are boiled noodles served with a black bean sauce and here with your choice of tofu or shrimp.

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The tomato and egg soup claims to be made with homemade noodles but on the day we visited we were skeptical of the claim.

Jie's good tasting

If you love dumplings like we do, then a trip to Jie’s is worthwhile… just set your service expectations low. On both visits we found them to be more or less unfamiliar with diners basic expectations (flatware, water, bowls for soup etc).

Hass

wood fired grill columbus

Cuisine: Mexican
7370 Sawmill Road, 43235
(614) 760-0155
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Simply put, Hass is good, solid, real-deal Mexican in a part of town that is largely lacking. Nestled between Anna’s and Sunflower in a strip center on Sawmill Rd. just north of 270, it operates as a (surprisingly refined) dining room that is semi-attached to a Mexican market (La Favorita). If there’s one thing we’ve learned in researching alt.eats restaurants, the restaurant-market connection gives us reason for heightened expectations.

mexican restaurants dublin ohio

Expectations met by Hass’s wood fired grill. The flavor of the carne asada (steak) coming off of it is definitely a cut above, especially in the ‘papas calientes’ – a grilled/baked potato that has been sliced open and flattened, and covered with the aforementioned asada, plus bacon, mushrooms, onions, cheese and salsa. It’s like alambres atop a buttery baked potato, and this is a good thing.

Mexican wood grilled potatoes

The selection of tacos is reasonable, with a fair range of options. Fans of spit-roasted al pastor should find contentment here – it’s a solid and enjoyable rendition that doesn’t (yet?) quite meet the lofty benchmark established by Los Guachos. Fish and shrimp tacos are good, as is the vegetarian taco (taco verde), filled with cactus, potatoes and melted cheese, known as the taco verde.

Burritos and tortas are also available, as are a variety of daily specials. Tostadas are freshly made.

Hass wood grilled tacos

Hass is very new, and in speaking with the owner he admitted that there are some kinks to work out with service and the like. In our experience this was true, though it was nothing major, and we wouldn’t let it deter you from checking it out if your in the area.

Charritos Mexican Grill

New Mexican restaurant in Upper Arlington

Cuisine: Mexican
4740 Reed Road #103
Columbus, 43220
614.929.5866

The opening of a new Mexican restaurant typically merits the same attention as the opening of a new Subway, and with good reason – if you’ve had it anywhere else, you’ve almost certainly had what the new place has to offer. The code of the American ‘Mexican’ food palate has long ago been broken, and the resulting template is impressively well established locally.

Charritos, however, bucks the trend. Sure, you can find sizzling fajitas, but you can also get real, street-style tripa and lengua tacos, or even a tlayuda. Even Mexico City-style spit roasted al pastor is on offer.

Mexican restaurants in Columbus

In other words, it’s true Mexican food with the occasional nod to more dominant local sensibilities. And, it’s quite good, which is unsurprising – as we understand it, the owner and his family run several restaurants under the same name in his native Oaxaca.

We first caught wind of this place when a friend suggested that the al pastor was better than at Los Guachos. Yeah, that’ll get our attention. We tried it in a chicana, which is a politically correct naming alternative to Guachos’ gringa, and we had to agree that it was damned solid rendition. The al pastor was impressively tender, nicely flavored, but lacked the flame kissed crusty bits that put Guachos over the top… at least on our visit. Beyond that, it was pure classic gringa/chicana satisfaction through and through.

Chicana at Charritos Mexican Grill

The tlayuda was a pleasant surprise, first because they had it at all (it was a special) and second because it was so different than what we’ve found elsewhere in town. The shell was distinctly unique – thicker, crisper, and overall better. The local preference for chorizo was not recognized, and a seriously tender asada took its place. Black beans coated the shell as usual, but a smattering of white beans finished it off on top. It’s a solid alternative to the more common (as in, two places carry it…) version.

Charritos clayuda

Ditto for the tripa, and the lengua, and on and on. The flautas were particularly enjoyable, stuffed with what appeared to be tinga-style chicken. The caldo de mariscos has never been my favorite dish, but it was at least as good here as anywhere.

flautas at Charritos Mexican Grill

In other words, Upper Arlington just got a taco truck cleverly disguised as a strip mall restaurant. Use it as such, and enjoy taco truck quality food in the comfort of a warm dining room this winter.