Category Archives: Indian

Tandoori Grill

pakistani food in columbus ohio

Cuisine: Pakistani

808 Bethel Rd., Columbus OH
614.326.3777
Tuesday-Sunday 11:30am-9pm

When a place looks like this, and has great food, we’re all  kinds of happy:

pakistani take out food columbus

That said, we understand that perhaps not everyone feels similarly. However, when you take the same great food and serve it in a setting like this:

best pakistani food in columbus

…that should make everyone happy!

So here’s the story – when the space next to Apna Bazaar opened up, Apna’s owners pounced on it. They gave it the pictured makeover, named it Tandoori Grill, and evolved from functioning as a simple takeout counter to providing a true, full service, sit-down experience.

Tandoori Grill (and Apna – the takeout counter is still open) specializes in Pakistani cuisine, with an emphasis on tandoori-grilled protein preparations. If you’re familiar with northern Indian cuisine (most Indian served in Columbus is essentially northern Indian in inspiration), this should be comfortable territory for you.

Especially if you start with their tandoori chicken platter. The dish exhibits all of the traits one would expect from the style of preparation, but raises it to a level otherwise unfound in town. The char is restrained but present,  the marinade penetrates deeply and has a brightness and complexity of flavor that’s in a league of its own, and the tenderness is second to none.

tandoori chicken tandoori grill Columbus

It would’ve been the hit of the meal, were it not for the tandoori kabob karahi. This dish, made of ground chicken kefta-like kebabs that have been grilled, sliced, and tossed in a tomato based masala sauce,  had our table of 4 fighting over the scraps. It’s a bit on the spicy side, and a wonderfully complex melding of flavors and textures.

best northern indian food in columbus

On a previous visit we tried the fish karahi, and found it similarly appealing. The kitchen took obvious care in not overcooking it, and the distinct flavor and texture of the fish made for a dish that differentiated itself significantly from its karahi-sauced compadre.

best indian food in columbus oh

Our meal began with crispy, flaky samosa, one filled with a minced chicken mix, the other with a potato mix. Both were enjoyed, with our nod going to the chicken version.

best samosas in columbus

Rarely have we had such a satisfying meal and yet left feeling like there’s so much more to try, but we’re big fans of dishes such as pakora, tikka masalas, kormas, and seekh kabobs, and eagerly look forward to the chance to taste them.

Especially since we’re relieved to report that food at Tandoori Grill is every bit as good as Apna’s has been. Service has been on the ball on both of our visits, making for a complete and completely pleasant experience.

Read more about Apna Bazaar and some of their other dishes here.

Reethika

reethika indian restaurant columbus ohio
Reethika
Cuisine – Indian (Hyderabadi)
Federated Blvd., just east of Sawmill
614.659.0889
http://reethikacolumbus.com/

Click here to map it!

Reethika (pronunciation – think ‘Ithaca’ with an ‘R’ in front) perhaps isn’t quite as flashy as some of the other new Indian restaurants in Columbus, but their Hyderabadi home-style food is very noteworthy and the welcome is warm. They opened quietly at the end of November but the location, between the two large Indian markets on Sawmill, guaranteed they wouldn’t go unnoticed for long.

Reethika indian restaurant columbus ohio
The friendly owners are Mr and Mrs Reddy, and Reethika is named after their daughter who also works in the restaurant. They family hails from Hyderabad, a large city in Southern India.

Reethika Indian restaurant columbus
Reethika offers an $8.99 buffet for lunch, which is comprised of more interesting dishes than we’re conditioned to expect. Buffet items change daily, though all come with an order of fresh (and excellent) chapatti.  A separate section of the buffet contains chutneys, raita and dessert. The chutneys are exceptional and are obviously freshly made.

sheek kebab at reethika columbus
Dinners have been equally good, and many of our favorite dishes so far have been the appetizers. The seekh kebab was a standout, extremely flavorful and well seasoned; the tandoori chicken wings (unusually and deliciously deep-fried), Manchurian cauliflower and the mirchi pakoda, green chilis deep fried in a crunchy spicy gram flour batter. Pakoda is an alternative spelling of pakora. The palak pakoda was extremely light and crisp.

indian food in columbus ohio

Of the entrees the green chicken curry is notable. A complex mix of spices and herbs, hard to pin down but vibrant in color and flavor.

The mutter paneer (fresh homemade cheese cubes cooked with peas) was well above average and the paneer was nicely browned. Reethika caters well for vegetarians with five vegetarian appetizers and nine vegetarian entrees.

They have plans to offer idli and dosa at the weekends and there are often daily specials.

Udipi Cafe

2001 East Dublin Granville Road (161) * Columbus * 614.885.7446

Cuisine: (Southern) Indian / Vegetarian
Open seven days per week

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I love Indian food I could not begin to describe the subtle and not so subtle flavors of Northern, Southern, and the other regional cuisines of India. Each meal is an exploration of spices, tongue pleasing tastes and tongue tying names. OK, honestly my lack of knowledge is due to sloth because I am a sucker for an Indian buffet. A buffet is like a parade for my stomach – there is so much to see and eat that I lose track of the names and all of the flavors start to blend together.

Udipi is a coastal city in southern India known for diversity and as a rich farming area. The 161 / East Dubin Granville Road strip was known as restaurant row in the 1980′s, it consisted of miles of the best Columbus had to offer at the time: Flakey Jake’s Hamburgers, Chi Chi’s, Olive Garden, The Elephant Bar and every chain restaurant that could find space to build. The area is still overrun with eateries but the glory days have gone. Udipi Cafe is very much an outlier in the seemingly endless array of fried food and cheese covered cuisine. The Beechcroft area is not exactly known for it’s large Asian Indian community however 80% of the buffet customers at Udipi seem to be natives of India and make the trek to this part of town for the buffet. I think that is quite an endorsement.

I am certain the term vegetarian strikes fear into the minds and stomachs of many meat eating, Applebees lovin’ central Ohioans. I imagine the concept of Indian cuisine does the same to the people in a venn diagram overlapping with carnivores afraid of people that eat vegetables by choice. If you have one of these people in your life, might I suggest you take them to Udipi Cafe – as their gateway meal to the “dark side” of culinary choice.

The way to lure people in is through the value of Udipi’s lunch buffet. This all you can eat buffet will knock one back a whooping $7.46, including tax. In exchange for what would be a tip at many places you have access to fourteen plus entrees as well as soups, salad, sauces and dessert. A pitcher of water is brought to your table so you can stay hydrated during your feast.

At some point during your meal a dosa (masala pictured below) will be delivered to your table…..

If you don’t have time to dine in, you can drop in to fill up a large carry out container for the same price.

The Udipi Cafe buffet is a great way to explore the vegetarian cuisine of Southern India. The buffet experience does not make you bother with having to remember or pronounce what you are eating.

The buffet is offered from 11:30 AM to 3 PM Monday to Friday.


After several lunch time trips for the buffet, I was inspired to return in the evening to explore the menu in meal form. The evening experience is very different from the lunch buffet. There seems to be a different crew on board at night. My evening experiences often seemed to be hampered by a language barrier and what I can only describe as disjointed service, not bad mind you but somewhat confused. Eye contact is critical to move service along in the evening. The night staff seem content to let you sit for long periods of time so as not to disrupt your mediation or digestion depending on where you are in the meal. One of the evening research sessions involved the usual suspects (including Hungry Woolf/Columbus Food Adventures – photo credits on some shots below) and we delved into the menu in depth.

While evening service is a bit underwhelming. Everyone is friendly and each staff person has a good knowledge of the food. Two things are overwhelming: the menu selection and the size of the dosas.

The menu is fun to read. One section is headlined: Ye Soup Kettle and lists the soups made on site. There is also the Udipi Royal Dinner: choice of soup; choice of Idli or Medhu Vada or choice of dosa or Uttappam and Sambar with chutney. One might choose to end the evening with the Falooda Deluxe: vermicelli with vegetable seeds in condensed mild with raspberry syrup and rose ice cream. I am not sure if these terms made me feel like a visiting dignitary, pampered or a participant in a renaissance festival but I liked the variety to the point of indecision. Note: The carry-out menu uses different terms and phrases for the menu descriptions.

Fortunately, with a few people in tow one can easy explore the menu and the cuisine of southern Indian by ordering a few combination plates. We did not eat or meet a dosai (crepes made with rice) we did not like. We also enjoyed the Uthappas (Indian style pancakes) served with a variety of sauces.

Again, did I mention the large portion size? Check. The depth of the menu and the quality of the vegetarian fare here is very impressive. Beverage choices include Lassi, milkshakes, Indian beers and teas. Several desserts are available as well. There are many Indian restaurants in town now. This is one from the first wave and has stood the test of time and changing palates very well. Udipi is a good first experience for novices and well worth the effort of Indian food aficionados.

Mardi Gras Ice Cream & Cakes

Cuisine: Ice Creams of the World

1947 Hard Road (Intersection of Hard Road and Smokey Row)
Monday to Sunday 1 pm to 9:30 pm / 10:00pm in summer months.
Closed for a period of time in the winter.
614.766.2020

Click here to map it!

There is an ice creamery in our city that is beloved for having fascinating flavors made from unusual combinations of non traditional ingredients. The owner of this little ice cream shop started scooping her exotic creations in 2000 and quickly grew a loyal following. This is not the story of Jeni’s Splendid Ice Cream. This is the tale of Mita Shah and Mardi Gras ice cream. Mita has always enjoyed cooking and making special Indian dishes for her relatives. She also likes to experiment with flavors. She created a mango ice cream recipe which she gave to the owner of a nearby ice cream store. Mango rapidly became a customer favorite so the owner asked Mita if she wanted to work for him. She told him she would rather purchase the business when he was ready to sell, and was later given the opportunity to buy Mardi Gras. She kept the name while changing the recipes of many of the traditional homemade flavors.

Mita has created a United Nations of ice creams. In addition to the standards, she offers several flavors based on Indian desserts, a few with Asian leanings such as lychee or green tea and several obscure or forgotten regional ice creams including Blue Moon (a very blue, vanilla based ice cream). She has a repertoire of 200 flavors, scooping 48 at any given time including (depending on ingredient availability) at least 16 international flavors.

Mardi Gras has an unlikely location, buried in a strip mall on the Northwest side of Columbus. Over ten years a loyal customer base has developed at a place that is way off the radar. The walls are lined with photographs of happy customers. A cricket team comes in for a traditional round of Sweet Rose milkshakes before matches.

Customers bring her recipes and ideas for her to try out. One customer brought her a recipe for Spumoni that was passed down from her Italian grandmother. Mita is constantly searching for authentic ingredients and dries her own fruits so she can create flavor profiles that meet her high standards. She teaches her employees to take special steps to store and cover the ice cream to preserve freshness and flavor.

Unique flavors such as Kesar Pista (a mix of saffron, almonds, pistachios and cardimum) are balanced out with flavors such as Rum Raisin or Highlander Grogg. Mardi Gras has something for everyone with kid friendly soft serve options, candy toppings, sugar free and fat free options. There is even a flavor with noodles in it, that one is staying a secret until you try it. The staff gladly offer as many samples as one needs to make a decision since there are so many new options to choose from.

Popular flavors include: Mango, Sweet Rose (it really has the aroma of a rose), Ginger (not too intense, but full of flavor), Anjeer (Fig), Guava and Roasted Bananas. Mita’s more exotic flavors combine a balance of subtle and intense tastes while allowing one to taste the true essence of the main ingredient. Tasting notes for the Falooda Kulfi (a combination with Iranian, Pakastani and Indian roots that includes pistachios and rose water) were: “intensely floral, creamy, sweet aroma, like sticking a nose in a flower“. Mardi Gras makes a party of flavors and tastes which allow one to explore the world via an ice cream cone.

Chutnys

Cuisine: Indian

CLOSED MARCH 2011 – reopened as Paradise Chutnys with new Management

195 East Campus View Blvd (270 and 23 North, Crosswoods, next to Starbucks)
Open Tuesday to Thursday: 11 am – 2:30 pm (lunch buffet $7.95); 5:00 pm to 9:30 pm
Friday to Sunday: 11:30 am – 3:00 pm (lunch buffet $9.95); 5:30 pm -10:00 pm
614.430.0090
Chutnys.com

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The Crosswoods complex at SR 23 (North High Street) and I-270 is not far off the beaten path. In fact, many paths beat their way to this suburban, strip mall laced part of the northside. The Crosswoods area is densely packed with apartments, office buildings, condominiums and not so long ago, six steakhouses in a quarter mile area. Somehow this retail center has become beaten down with numerous failed restaurants, unpatched potholes and thousands of cars driving by in search of an Applebee’s. Buried in the rubble of what was once a booming retail strip is a ruby of an Indian restaurant.

Chutny’s has survived where many well known competitors have failed to thrive. This nondescript location, sporting a nylon banner for a sign may have the best value Indian buffet in town (based on variety, number of offerings and price). The restaurant does not seem to get much traffic from the nearby office workers but it does run a brisk lunch time business with what appears to be every Indian IT worker on the north side (based on observation and overheard shop talk). The menu offers a wide range of northern and southern Indian cuisine as well an assortment of tasty milkshakes (Elaichi Kesar and Roohafzaa) and Lassi.

The buffet is impressive in the depth of dishes and the quality of the food. There are fifteen entrees to choose from which include two to three soups, two to three varieties of Biriyani rice and frequently filled arrays of other dishes. A few entrees are perennial including Palak Paneer (stewed spinach and paneer cheese in a curry sauce), Chicken Makani (a creamy, flavorful chicken dish which seems to be a house favorite) and a daily special daal (lentil based stew).

Ginger Chutney - all kinds of awesome!

A second buffet station features a mixed variety of desserts (usually mango custard, frequenty (sweet) curd rice, and almost always (milk and flour balls in sweet syrup) Gulab Jamun). On occasion beetroot halwa makes an appearance but disappears quickly. There are vegetables for salad, three chutneys which usually includes a ginger chutney (which can only be described a nirvana in liquid form) as well a variety of sauces and condiments.

naan

There is a self serve beverage station for those that want coca-cola products. The service is exceptional with staff getting more than a bit nervous if they see your water glass is below the 85% mark. Fresh, hot, crispy, sliced naan (bread) is brought to your table within 5 minutes of arrival.

The dining area is mostly booths with some large tables for groups. There is seating for sixty and a noticeable high volume carry out trade at lunchtime. Light Indian music plays in the background as the servers strive to anticipate your next move so they can meet your needs without interfering with your dining experience.

For those eaters that have never experienced Indian food, this is a very accessible option at an unbeatable price. For those acquainted with the finer details of northern and southern Indian dishes, there is an excellent depth to the main menu that would take months to explore. The entrees vary in price from $5.99 to $13.95.

While Columbus has quickly grown a large number of Indian restaurants in just under a decade, this one is worth putting at the top of your list. It has received high rankings on a local Indian culture website and may be a destination the local Indian community is trying to hide in very plain sight.

Apna Bazaar

Cuisine: Pakistani/Indian

810 Bethel Road
614.326.2762
www.apnabazaar.biz

Click here to map it!

After our experiences at Luc’sMecca, and Arirang, we’ve come to believe that some of the best international cuisine in town is put out by pint-sized kitchens shoehorned into the corners of out-of-the-way ethnic groceries.  As such, when we were told about another grocer/kitchen combo out on Bethel Rd. (thanks, Amar), we were primed to expect the best… and we are happy to say that we weren’t let down.

Apna is located in a fun (from an alt.eats perspective) little strip mall across the street from Microcenter that is also home to Banana Leaf, a Korean restaurant, a Thai/ Vietnamese restaurant, a Mexican grocery store, and a bubble tea shop.  While Apna’s primary focus seems to be on take-out and catering, they’re also happy to serve you at a table in the back of the store that seats up to 8 people.

Apna Bazaar’s kitchen specializes in tandoori and karhai preparations.  The photo above is the tandoor oven, which we were allowed into the kitchen to admire. Another shot in the kitchen (below): making chicken samosas.

We started with tandoori boneless chicken (you can also get a leg and thigh or a whole chicken), served straight from the tandoor. Garnished with onion, lime, and with a relatively mild sauce on the side, this dish was a little spicy, far more tender than most tandooris we’ve had, and very very popular. It was altogether too quickly devoured.

Luckily for our hungry group of 8, the food kept coming. We sampled (below, clockwise from top left) chicken karhai, beef nihari, goat qorma and chicken kabab karhai.

The word karhai (or karahi) refers to both a traditional wok-like Indian/Pakistani cooking dish, and a cooking method that uses this dish. Apna offers chicken (whole or half), goat, and kabab karhai preparations. We tried the (bone on) chicken karhai – fragrant with ginger, this was one of the more mildly spiced dishes we tried – and the kabab karhai, a generous quantity of heavily spiced ground chicken shish kababs, chopped up and sauteed with onions and tomatoes.  Both were enjoyed by all, with the nod going to the kabab version.

The nihari was another crowd pleaser, a delicious rich stew of tender beef shanks cooked overnight.  Apparently a popular breakfast dish in Pakistan, Apna’s nihari was deeply flavored with cloves, cumin, ginger and cardamon, and had a heat that came on slowly and peaked impressively.

The qorma (korma) consisted of tender goat served in a sauce whose richness was similar to the nihari, but was distinctly different in flavor with plenty of cardamon and a lot of chili. Among a table full of spicy-hot foods, it was the hottest of the dishes that we tried.

The meal was accompanied by seemingly endless piles of naan bread. Apna’s naan is different than most, and is considered by our Indian friends to be more authentic – made with whole meal flour, it was lighter, crisper, less doughy and served without any butter or ghee.

Apna Bazaar also has a selection of Indian sweets including gulab jaman, laddo and halwa, but as we were too full, we managed only a cup of steaming hot milky chai.

Apna Bazaar does not provide many options for vegetarians, and with the exception of potato samosas and naan bread all of the dishes are meat based. Drink selections are also limited but include water, chai, Coke and some Pakistani sodas including the sweet and floral Pakola.

Our bill, including drinks, came to about $10 per person. The owner seemed willing and able to adjust the spice level in most of the dishes. We recommend calling ahead an hour before you want to collect your food.

The Food Corner

Cuisine: Indian (and Mexican and Greek and American and…)
60 N. Wilson Rd.

614.208.3600

Click here to map it!

Note: As of 10/9/2010, The Food Corner is closed.

Anyone remember the Kentucky Taco Hut that used to be in the OSU campus area?

I think we found its indie cousin.  Much as you could leave KTH with a bucket of original crispy, a meat lovers pie, and a burrito supreme or two, at The Food Corner you can take your pick from a menu with such divergent items as quesadillas, fried bologna sandwiches, gyros and tandoori chicken.

We’d driven by The Food Corner on numerous occasions, and while we’ve gotten a chuckle out of the ‘American – Mexican – Kabobs & Curry’ sign, we can’t say it inspired us to try them.  It took an Indian gentleman’s suggestion (we bumped into him during a fruitless attempt at finding a rumored Filipino grocery on the west side) to nudge us into entering.

It’s clear this used to be a fast food restaurant – perhaps a Wendy’s?  At any rate, for such a conversion, it’s unusually clean and well sorted out, if maybe just a bit lacking in the charm department.  The process seems to be that you order at the counter, sit (your meal will be brought to you) and then return to the counter to pay.

 

Click to enlarge

 

The menu (above) that shows the aforementioned motley mix o food is surprisingly extensive and almost comically wide-ranging, but it really just scratches the surface.  There is also an entirely separate full Indian menu – with, I kid you not, 102 additional items – as well as an Indian lunch buffet.  I don’t think we’ve ever seen a more ambitious range of items on offer anywhere.

Since the owners appeared to be of Indian origin and the recommendation came from an Indian man, we stuck to the Indian menu.

First up was the vegetable samosa, served chaat style – with chickpeas and a variety of sauces.  There were a lot of flavors playing well together in this dish, but the samosa itself struck us as being a bit on the chewy side.

Next came the ‘bread basket’ – a mix of naan, garlic naan, and aloo naan. All of these were enjoyable – particularly the aloo naan with its potato and onion filling – but they’re not quite up to the heavenly deliciousness of Mecca’s wonderful bread offering.

We have no idea what came out next.  We ordered an item off of a photo on the wall that is not on the take home menu we intended to rely on… and what came out most assuredly was not that item anyhow.  It was a chicken dish in a brown sauce, and was surprisingly bland by the standards of Indian cuisine.  The chicken was on the dry side.

Last, but not least, was the mattar paneer… which, mercifully, was both as-ordered and on the menu.  The paneer – a light, rennet-free cheese – was as good as any I’ve ever had, and the sauce that came with it was enjoyable if curiously subdued.  This is but one of twenty vegetarian options available on the Indian menu.

The buffet (which went untried on this visit) seemed a good value at $6.99.

The Food Corner’s service was solid, and the owners were thoroughly kind and helpful.  Our recap of our experience isn’t entirely glowing, but it’s hard to suggest that that should mean anything when there was (due to the size of the menu) so much left untried. To that end, if any of our readers do try (or have tried) the place, we’d love to hear from you in the comments.