Author Archives: tacodrew

Meshikou

ramen in columbus

Cuisine: Ramen/Japanese
1506 Bethel Road (Bethel Center)
614.457.1689
Hours: Tues-Thurs 11am-10pm, Fri & Sat 11am-10.30pm, Sun 11am-9pm
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Ramen and fried chicken. The sudden eruption of restaurants specializing in one or the other amounts to a culinary onslaught. And so, it was inevitable – Meshikou debuts as a place that does both.

The karaage is good – crispy, with a thin, delicate crust, and exceptionally tender flesh – and more or less what you might expect from a Japanese take on fried chicken. Seasoning is mercifully restrained, the crust and flesh are as far from greasy as could be, and a basket is perfect for two to share. A sweet and spicy dipping sauce accompanies.

japanese fried chicken

As for the ramen – while strict purists may reasonably object to various elements of it, our slurping table of 5 found little to complain about and much to enjoy. The ‘shoyu tonkotsu ramen’, as the name suggests, is a mashup of two traditional styles, probably tasted as strongly of chicken stock as the pork broth that ‘tonkotsu’ promises, but nonetheless delivered on ramen’s (often lacking) key components of luxurious richness and deep broth flavor. The increasingly de-rigeur Sun Noodle ramen noodles proved that there’s good reason for their ubiquity and they were prepared to a pleasing toothsomeness. The chashu pork was solid, and the marinated soft boiled egg was absolutely perfect in flavor and texture.

ramen in columbus

In short, it was a good bowl. It was also a relatively small bowl. When it came, I eyed it with skepticism. When I was finished, I realized that the size was ideal. Did we mention it was rich?

We also tried the spicy miso version, and while it was enjoyed, the shoyu tonkotsu won us over.

meshiko restaurant columbus

Perhaps the least exciting element of the meal was the pork buns, which seemed composed of reasonably well prepared ingredients, but was marred by an excessively sweet sauce.

meshiko

There’s much left to try, including vegetable and pure chicken stock ramen options, as well as broth-less noodle dishes.

meshiko restaurant

Service was pleasant and attentive, and the space was a pleasant distillation of the interiors of the coastal ramen meccas.

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Wycliff’s Kitchen

kenyan food in Columbus
Cuisine: Kenyan
2492 Home Acre Drive
Columbus 43231
614.772.3461
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Your first decision, should you choose to dine at Wycliff’s, is this – Kenyan menu or Indian? It’ll likely be your second hint that this isn’t your typical restaurant. The exterior signage primarily promotes Indian offerings, with Wycliff’s identity relegated to a small window banner, and to the best of our ability to discern the restaurant contains two businesses offering distinct cuisines but operating out of the same kitchen and dining room.
We chose the Kenyan menu. I suspect that to do so is to talk with Wycliff, and this is a good thing – he’s gregarious, warm, and informative, and though the truth is over a decade dearer, he doesn’t look a day over 19 years old.
As they say, I’ll have what he’s having.
As it turns out, that’s often Karanga Mbuzi, or goat stew. It never fails to amaze me how much of the world has some variation on this dish, and while spicing varies, the basic concept is surprisingly consistent – bone-in goat, cut into silver dollar sized pieces, in a thick, rich, and flavorful base. Of course, stewing meat tenderizes it, explaining the popularity of the concept, and few are tenderer than Wycliff’s rendition. The goat’s flavor is pleasantly mild and the saucing is perfectly balanced. When we return, we’ll try new dishes (more on that later), but I suspect we’ll make a point of getting second helping of this.
kenyan goat stew karanga mbuzi
We also tried the Karanga Ng’ombe, a similarly prepared, but bone-free, beef stew. The only problem with this perfectly enjoyable dish was the inevitable comparison with the excellence of the goat. If goat’s just not your thing, then this’ll be a sure bet.
karanga ngombe kenyan beef stew
Less enjoyable to our group of 4 was the Chapati Madodo. Comprised of peruano beans cooked in coconut milk and served with a flatbread known as chapati, it wanted for at minimum a pinch more salt, at least in comparison to the more memorable version served by the late Taste of Zanzibar.
kenyan restaurant columbus ohio
Each of the above entrees comes with your choice of two sides, and standouts included the pilau (seasoned rice with meat), kabeji (cabbage with onions), spinach, and the conspicuously fresh green beans. We’ve said it before and we’ll say it again – African cuisines know how to do vegetables. Among the apps, we’d go for the beef samosa. We also sampled some mango mousse cake even though we didn’t really have room. It was light in texture and very mangoey.
Prices are reasonable (entrees with 2 sides cost between $10-$13 for dinner), service is pleasant and attentive, and portions are generous. Wycliff also offers some bargain lunch specials ranging from $6.49-$7.99. Grilled meats and an intriguing mashed potato dish known as mukimo are served on Saturdays. We’ll be back to try them.
And to get more goat.

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.

Lotte

Korean Market columbus ohio

Cuisine: Korean
4944 N High St, Columbus, 43214
614.885.3232
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Tuesday -Saturday 11-8pm (last order 7.30pm)

I have a sneaking suspicion that Korean restaurants are trying to hide from us.
The whole idea behind strip malls is that every storefront faces the parking lot, but Silla somehow manages to be tucked away behind a bar, accessible only by going down a forbidding path between the walls of two buildings. Arirang, another strip mall location, is a grocery with a restaurant in the back. You could shop the entire retail space without even knowing that the (essentially walled off) dining area existed. A solid restaurant with a primarily Korean menu on north campus hides in plain sight behind the name ‘Japanese Oriental Restaurant’. And, finally, does anyone remember the Korean restaurant on Lane & High in the ’90’s? It was stuck so far back in a building that the only way to get there was by going down a dank, dimly neon lit, vaguely Blade Runner-esque corridor.
lotte korean food columbus
Now there’s Lotte, an established Korean grocery with a new secret. Towards the back of their sizable retail area there’s an entry to a storage room. Enter, and you’ll see sacks of rice piled high among various other palleted goods. And a door. Enter that, and you’ll find their shiny new restaurant. And, if you’ve actually made it this far, chances are you’ve made your first mistake; you order at the grocery checkout, and take the receipt – which is your order ticket – to the employee working the counter in the restaurant.
lotte oriental food restaurant
The dining area is bright, clean, cramped, and no-frills. Like Arirang, water is self-serve from a dispenser and utensils are stored on boxes at the tables. Also like Arirang, the menu is small and largely focuses on better known Korean favorites, such as bulgogi, bibimbop, and kimbop. Service was brisk, and our orders arrived quickly.
korean grocery store columbus
All were solid, if not exceptional… at least until you factor in the pricing. Our group of 7 ordered the entire menu, ate almost to the point of bursting, took home leftovers, and paid just over $50 for the whole spread.
this is what happens when you order the whole menu
I’m tempted to think of it Korean fast food – it’s not the best, but it’s fast, cheap, and will take the edgy off of any Korean cravings.
lotte oriental new restaurant
Lotte probably has the widest selection of the three dedicated Korean markets in Columbus, including a large selection of prepared foods and banchan dishes. The staff are also helpful.
korean ingredients columbus
One last note – #5 on the menu is not translated into English, and it’s what we believe to be a regional Korean spin on kalbi tang stew (Woogeoji galbitang – beef rib and cabbage soup with soybean paste). This is the only place we’ve seen it in Columbus, and it’s a deeply vegetal beef broth soup with generous chunks of beef. Definitely worth a try if you’re looking for something out of the ordinary.

korean beef rib and cabbage soup

Kolache Republic

kolache republic Columbus

Cuisine: Czech/Slovak by way of Mid-America.

730 S. High St @ Frankfort
Mon-Fri 7am-2pm, Sat 8am-3pm. Closed on Sundays.
614.928.3151
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So, kolaches. Texans assert that they’re a Texas thing. Minnesotans may claim that they’re spelled ‘kolacky’, and have dubbed Montgomery, Minnesota the ‘kolacky capital of the world’. Iowans… well, they make claims, too… yeah, thanks for the input, Iowa.

Czechs and Slovaks undoubtedly find this Yankee bluster cute, and as best as anyone can tell, are the actual originators of the pastry.

About the only thing anyone could reasonably agree upon is that Columbus has no claim to involvement with this promiscuous pastry, or at least, that is, up to now.

kolache republic

Kolaches are apparently the kind of thing people get homesick for, so with Columbus’s significant transplant population, it was only a matter of time before someone arrived with the fix. Enter Kolache Republic, a tidy new little cafe on South High in the Brewery District.

kolaches in columbus

For the uninitiated, kolaches come in two basic forms (and people with too much time on their hands even bicker about this, but never mind) – square sweets, and elongated savories. Both begin with a light, pillowy, white flour pastry. The sweets are topped, somewhat like a danish, with any of a variety of fillings, with the blueberry and lemon curd being among our favorites. The savories are filled with a delicious kielbasa or ‘hot hot hot polish’, come in 3 flavors, and take a form not unlike a pig in a blanket.

columbus kolache republic

We’ve enjoyed both varieties, both here and at the food cart of the same name that came before. They’re absolutely destination worthy, especially when paired with some of their Cafe Brioso based coffee drinks.

But Kolache Republic has something we like even more. Something that’s served as a special, that we wish were always available. Something that’s not a kolache. That item is the runza.

runza at Kolache Republic

Nebraska claims this dish, though the Germans deserve the credit. Yep, another one of those things. It’s a larger bun, something along the lines of 6″ in diameter, perhaps made with the same dough as the kolaches, filled with seasoned sauerkraut and ground beef. That may not scan like something that’d generate excitement, but I’d encourage you to give it a go. My wife thought it sounded unpleasant, but upon seeing mine begged for a bite and thereafter pronounced it delicious.

Solid sides and a sandwich are also available, making Kolache Republic an ideal lunch stop. Do check ‘em out!

Khyber

khyber restaurant columbus

Cuisine: Pakistani

425 Industrial Mile Road,
Columbus, Ohio 43228
614.275.2022
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Click here to map it!

This is the kind of story we like to write.

A cook from a restaurant we adore – Adil from Tandoori Grill – strikes out on his own to open a new restaurant, Khyber, in a new part of town. The owner of Tandoori Grill, Said, wishes him well; we’ve spoken to both and there are clearly no hard feelings. The food at Tandoori Grill remains great, the food at Khyber makes for an impressive debut, and just like that the city has doubled in quality Pakistani dining options. As far as we’re concerned, everybody wins.

Khyber occupies the west side space that previously held Azteca de Oro. As with Azteca, environs are humble but comfortable. As with Tandoori Grill, a small Pakistani grocery with a meat counter adjoins.

Pakistani food columbus

Khyber’s speciality is tandoori dishes – grilled meats and nan bread cooked in the tandoor oven. The nan bread is cooked to order and, like at Apna Bazaar/Tandoori Grill, it is thinner, less doughy, and in our estimation far preferable to most other options in town.

pakistani restaurant columbus

Of the tandoori meat dishes we’ve tried, we particularly like the seekh (ground meat) kebabs – available in lamb, beef or chicken. They are nice and juicy, feature a good amount of spicing and heat, and are great paired with nan and a little of Khyber’s yogurt based chutney.

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Also tasty  are the chapli kebabs – burger-like ground beef patties with onions, tomatoes, chiles and spices.

pakistani food columbus

The menu offers some interesting meat stews and satisfying vegetarian options. Stews include nehari - a rich beef curry stew with extremely tender slow cooked beef; goat quorma – a mild curry with lots of gravy and a meat based curry with wheat called haleem, barley, and lentils. Not listed on the menu but also available (and one of our favorites) is aloo keema, a ground meat and potato curry.

potato and ground meat curry

A little drier (in terms of the saucing) but still entirely enjoyable are the karahi dishes – curried meat, either goat or chicken, with tomato, green chili and onion.

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For vegetarians, or as a great side dish for the tandoor grilled meats, there are lahori chana (whole chickpeas in sauce), mash dal (white lentil dal) or bhendi (curried okra). We particularly liked the okra and the mash dal. Adil said that there would be at least one dal available daily.

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The menu is expanding and there are often specials. In addition to the listed items we’ve also tried samosas, goat biryani, cow’s foot curry and house made desserts including kheer (fragrant rice pudding) and semiya halwa (sweet, spiced vermicelli noodles).

One interesting, and somewhat incongruous, item is the New York style gyro. Served as more of a deconstructed dish, it’s comprised of rice topped with lettuce, gyro meat, pita slices, and a generous saucing. Unconventional though it may be, we’d take it over the vast majority of the gyros we’ve tried locally.

new york style gyro

With the most expensive dish priced at $8, and many served for far less, Khyber is very good value for the quality of food and a great addition to the West Side.