2361 North High Street (Olde North Columbus / North OSU Campus)
Tuesday – Friday 11:30 am – 3:00 pm; 5:00 pm – 10:00 pm
Saturday 12:00 pm to 3:30 pm; 5:00 pm – 10:00 pm
Sunday 12:00 om to 3:00 pm; 5:00pm – 9:00 pm
Lunch Buffet (Tuesday to Sunday: 8 items and dessert, $8.99)
As a city with a giant university in the middle, Columbus has always had some types of alt eateries to offer. However, the tipping point from the usual (Chinese, Japanese, Korean and Indian) to the unexpected can be traced back to 1995. Blue Nile was an Ethiopian Cafe that started on East Main Street by a car wash. Within a year it moved to the campus area to a place where the owner felt he could cater to a larger and broader group of diners. The eatery attracted a lot of press when it opened including a listing as a top ten best new restaurant in Columbus by the Grumpy Gourmet. As part of the story, a cab was sold to get the money needed to open the restaurant.
Blue Nile has survived changes in campus, Columbus and it’s competition to continue on as as a “gateway” alternative eatery. Countless OSU students have entered the world of international eating via the Blue Nile lunch buffet then they have come back for dates and nights out with visiting parents to show off their worldliness to mom and dad.
Mequanent and Meaza Berihun are the owners. Both are gracious hosts with Mequanent likely to refer to you as “my friend” on first contact. The husband and wife team have years of experience as guides to first time Ethiopian cuisine eaters. They are happy to provide Ethiopian dining 101 lessons to new customers. It can be a bit intimidating since custom involves eating with your fingers. Injera bread (note: different spellings exist for this food) is a flat, spongy, tangy, crepe-like, flat bread made from teff (previously only available in Ethiopia), wheat and corn flour. Diners pull off strips of the bread to fold into a C with their fingers and then use it to grab and eat their food.
There are two main styles of spicing to the food: spicy – Berbere or mild – Alichas. The typical and best route to take for a first time dinner experience is to gather a few friends and share a platter. The menu offers Specials 1, 2 or 3 for one, two, three or four people. Each special offers a combination of four items from the menu – usually two meat based entrees and two vegetable based entries with varied spicing.
Typical items include: Doro Wat – chicken cooked with bebere sauce and served with hard-boiled eggs; Kitfo -minced beef with butter and hot pepper served with seasoned cheese; and Yatakilt Wat – fresh carrots, potatoes, string beans and peppers cooked in tumeric and others spices.
Other items on the menu worth sampling include Ethiopian honey wine and the sambusas (meat or vegetable filled pastries).
If you have a medium sized group with some “wary” eaters, this may be a good first bite into the world of alt eating.
Interesting to hear the history of this place.
I’m surprised you guys haven’t reviewed Abyssinia Cafe, though (60 Country Ln, Whitehall). A very good Ethiopian place, and much less well-known than the Blue Nile.
We have a long list…and Abyssinia is on it. Let us know about any other finds.
Blue Nile is an amazing restaurant, just make sure you wear clothes that you don’t mind possibly dropping food on. The owners are also really charming people.
I agree, Abyssinia is great, I can’t wait till you review it. Blue Nile is really great for people who are unsure about trying Ethiopian. They have a lunch buffet where people can try out many different dishes. Keep in mind though that since it is a buffet at lunch, some of the dishes aren’t as fresh as when you order off the menu. I was there once at lunch and there was an injera shortage, which was a shame. Blue Nile recently catered at Enkutatash (Ethiopian New Year) and I was really impressed; the food seemed way better than what I had at their buffet. Everyone should give Blue Nile a try.
This place is fantastic! The food is amazing, I always leave there absolutely stuffed, and the prices are very reasonable. I have eaten at a number of very good Ethiopian restaurants in DC and New York, and this is one of my favorites, for the excellent food and the friendly, casual atmosphere. Among the many east African restaurants in Columbus, I have not found another that even comes close to Blue Nile.
LOVE this place! Yum!! We get the combo platters to try a little of everything, we have never been disappointed! 🙂
Blue Nile is now Cafe International and is under new ownership. The menu has changed and while there is still Ethiopian cuisine, it also features Asian dishes. Not as good as it was under the old owners, but maybe they’re still ironing out the kinks.
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