Category Archives: Grocery store

Does Columbus have any ‘real’ Chinese food?

This question finds its way to us with increasing frequency, both online and in person, from dismissive newcomers to Central Ohio as well as jaded locals. We have plenty to say about it, but first, lets talk about this idea of what’s ‘real’. 

‘Real’, in this context, is almost always used as a synonym for ‘authentic’. To the extent that anyone has the authority to categorize any Chinese food as authentic, it certainly isn’t us. 

What we can do, though – with a little help from our friends – is to distinguish the restaurants that are cooking menu items for the Chinese palate from those that are not. In other words, while we’re not fools enough to believe that we can measure any given restaurant’s success in maintaining absolute fidelity to Chinese culinary tradition, we do believe that our merry band of grazers can discern the intent to appeal to a Chinese audience. And, we can share our thoughts on what we enjoy.

OK, so back to the original question. We have to admit that it evokes a mild sense of indignation in us, as we’ve been enjoying the fruits of many of the city’s delicious Chinese kitchens for years – often with Chinese dining companions – and have felt some measure of pride in the range of options available to a city of our size. I mean, ‘Are there any?’ Of course! How many? 

Time to make a list. 

This was a process full of surprises. Once we made our initial list, and then continued searching, we were astounded by how much it grew. There’s an awful lot out there, and far more than we’ve had the opportunity to experience.

Sounds like a new food adventure to us! Over the next year, we’re going to visit/revisit each one of the restaurants on the list (linked below), and we’re going to try them with as many people as is practically possible so we can try as broad of a range of dishes as possible. We’ll post a brief accounting of each here, and hopefully put that pesky question to rest once and for all. 

The List:

Well, almost there. Please bear in mind that while we’re trying to be complete, we may not have caught everything. If we missed something let us know! Also, please understand that some of these restaurants will only have Chinese-American offerings shown on their website. You have to explore their broader menu in person to get the full story – which is exactly what we intend to do.

After the full list (which also includes markets and bakeries), we’ve taken our first stab at categorizing restaurants by their specialties. This will be refined as our adventure progresses, but is intended to illustrate the breadth of regional and culinary specialization found among the city’s Chinese offerings.

Columbus Chinese Food Guide 


Estilo Brazil


Cuisine: Brazilian
5818 Columbus Square, Columbus, OH 43231
(614) 269-8990
Open Monday-Saturday
The last time we visited Estilo Brazil at it’s old location on Cleveland Ave., we were charmed by the flavors of the cuisine and the tropical vibe of their small side patio. We also could clearly see that the tiny back-of-the-market space just wasn’t up to the task of producing much food or accommodating many guests… especially in Central Ohio’s temepramental climate.

With the opening of their new, larger Columbus Square location, the seating’s better, the menu’s expanded, and the concept is clearer – alongside the bright, clean market sits a Brazilian PF, or ‘prato feito’, a popular traditional style of Brazilian dining.

PF is described as the working man’s meal, and as such we’d say that the working man has it pretty well off. The fundamentals are straightforward – beans, rice, a starch or two (usually fries), salad (potato or lettuce), and a rotating roster of proteins. For us, the proteins are what makes the concept shine.

Currently, two options are consistent – the linguica calabrese and picanha. The linguica, a spiced pork sausage reminiscent of a Filipino longaniza sans sweetness, makes for a pleasant and generously portioned accompaniment to the beans and rice, but the picanha, strips of beef sirloin rump cap, steals the show. Picanha is sliced so that each strip features a small knob of gristle-free fat at one end, and cut against the grain so that a reasonable degree of tenderness compliments the deeply beefy flavor of the cut. First timers can opt for half longaniza and half picanha, which makes for a good overview.


A rotating third meat option is also available, and as of both visits it was described as a Brazilian version of a chicken stroganoff. Tempting though it was, the picanha and linguica won out for us both times.

Ordering is simple as the entire operation is structured as a cafeteria line. Once you’re at the beginning, lids come off of all of the food and it’s as easy as pointing to what you want. With small quantities of food being staged, the kitchen seemed busy with preparing refills for the steam table and as such freshness was consistently high.

One of the consistent sides is Paçoca de pilão, dried beef that is mixed with toasted cassava flour and ground until very fine.


All of the dishes we tried were almost entirely devoid of spicy heat, but the remedy awaits, should you desire it, in the form of a variety of bottles of hot sauces on the counter. Beverages are limited to cashew fruit and passion fruit juice, though a wide selection of bottled and canned drinks are available in the market.

Portions are generous, and a run through the line will set you back $11, which strikes us as a bargain. In the context of Columbus Square offerings, Estilo Brazil may not feature the most exotic or adventurous range of flavors, but it’ll undoubtedly provide a damned good square meal at a reasonable price.



Korean Market columbus ohio

Cuisine: Korean
4944 N High St, Columbus, 43214
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


khyber restaurant columbus

Cuisine: Pakistani

425 Industrial Mile Road,
Columbus, Ohio 43228

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.


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.


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.


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.

Estilo Brazil Barbecue

brazilian food in Columbus OHio


Estilo Brazil has expanded and moved to Columbus Square. See new post here: Cuisine: Brazilian

4738 Cleveland Ave.
Open Mon-Saturday 11am-9pm, Sunday 11am-6pm

In the past, when discussing our penchant for visiting ‘by-immigrant-for-immigrant’ restaurants, we’ve occasionally been asked if we ever get the sense that we’re somehow intruding.

Almost without exception, the answer is no. Once the restaurant’s employees get a sense of our interest, and realize that we haven’t just haplessly stumbled into an experience we’ll reflexively dislike, the default reaction is one of distinct pride in their culinary culture and a strong desire to demonstrate its virtues.

Estilo Brazil Barbecue is a perfect example. There might’ve been an element of wariness initially, but once we demonstrated a bit of good natured interest to the folks running the show, we were smothered in kindness. Every aspect of the dishes they were serving was explained in great detail, and, from their perspective, nothing would be left untasted by us.

Which, as of our first couple of visits, wasn’t the task it might seem. Estilo Brazil is modeled after a Brazilian ‘PF’, which translates to mean ‘one dish, one price’. The dish may change from day to day, and their repertoire may grow to include some Peruvian offerings, but as this outdoor kitchen largely consists of a grill and a couple of burners for sides, we expect expect meat to be the primary focus.

On our last visit, that meant picuña beef and linguiça churrasco, served with beans & rice, yuca, and a pico de gallo-style sauce/relish. The picuña is a cut that isn’t commonly found in the US, and Estilo goes to some pains to procure it. The preference for it, though, becomes obvious upon trying it – it’s cooked medium, and sliced in such a way that there’s a flavorful little knob of fat at the top of each strip. Seasoned with a special churrasco-spiced sea salt, it’s an enjoyable and novel take on steak.

estilo brazil market, estilo brazil bbq

And it would’ve been our favorite part of the dish, if not for the linguiça – a type of Brazilian/Portuguese pork sausage. Seasoned in such a way as to emphasize the flavor of the (very coarsely ground) pork to a degree I’ve not experienced before, it was sublime.

As sides, the beans and rice were fine utility players, and the thick hunks of boiled yuca (aka manioc, cassava) made for a pleasant potato-like starchy accompaniment to the meat. Condiments include dried yuca (which we enjoyed) and a hot sauce that consisted of whole, round, not quite dime-sized hot peppers in oil.

Brazilian food columbus ohio

The outdoor restaurant, which has a pleasant tropical beach like feel, sits against a Brazilian market (called Estilo Brazil)

Estilo brazil bbq

As well as the new outdoor barbecue venture, Estillo Brazil has a juice bar in the back. We tried their passionfruit juice and the açai ‘bowl’. The passionfruit juice was pleasantly tart, and sweetened to order. We’re told it has a calming effect.

Brazilian market columbus

It might have, but we’re pretty sure it was cancelled out by the açai. This was blended thicker than a smoothie, and had a texture almost like a pudding, and was served in a shallow bowl garnished with strawberries, bananas, and oats.

Brazilian juice bar columbus

We were eyed wearily as we spooned up the viscous purple-black concoction; told it was an acquired taste and that we didn’t have to finish it. It tasted largely of blackberry with a hint of chocolate, and finished with a slight chemical-like aftertaste. Admittedly unusual, though mostly pleasant, we finished it without any sense of obligation.

And then the buzz hit. One of us is fairly sensitive to caffeine, and was feeling effects similar to a cup or two of coffee – might there have been guarana in the açai bowl?

Can’t say, but the ultimate result is that our house is very, very clean.

We also can’t say with certainty what the prices are for the dishes at Estilo Brazil – they weren’t posted, and both times we went they insisted we didn’t pay (no, we gave no indication as to our desire to write about them or our association with this website). Our recollection is that they were planning for the PF to be in the $6 – $8 range, which struck us as a bargain. Items from the smoothie bar ran from $3 – $6.

Koyama Shoten

japanese markets columbus ohio

Cuisine: Japanese
5857 Sawmill Road
11am-8pm Tuesday-Sunday. Closed Mondays

Click here to map it!

Koyama Shoten is a small Japanese market that has been open since 1986. While not as large or busy as Tensuke, you can nonetheless find some items at Koyama that aren’t carried at Tensuke. As such, it’s definitely a popular stop for Columbus’ Japanese community.

japanese markets ohio

One of the main attractions at Koyama is their bento boxes (available both for lunch and dinner) and ready made bentos are found on a small table at the back of the store, available from 12.30pm-8pm. If you don’t see any out there ask one of the staff. If you want a specific one and are short on time or have a large order it is advisable to call ahead.

bento boxes take out

Here’s the menu:
Sake (Grilled salmon) (pictured bottom right)
Unagi (BBQ eel) (pictured top left)
Karaage (Fried chicken)
Tonkatsu (Pork cutlet)
Hirekatsu (Pork fillet cutlet)
Yakiniku (Grilled beef)
Buta Shouga Yaki (Ginger pork) (pictured top right)
Korokke (Croquette)
Hambagu (Hamburger patty served with demi-glace)

Gyu-don (bowl with thinly sliced beef) (pictured bottom left)
Katsu-don (Pork cutlet with egg over rice bowl)
Oyako-don (Chicken with egg over rice bowl)

At Koyama, everything with the “don” suffix are served in bowls with a side of  Japanese pickles. All others are in the rectangular bento box with sides of pickles, vegetables and fruits. Each one comes with a small bowl of miso soup. These bento boxes are not as varied as most restaurant bento boxes often are – they consist of rice and protein with the aforementioned garnishes, but they are an exceptional value for lunch with most in the $5-6 range. It’s a simple and healthy take out lunch. We recommend the gyu-don bowl, the unagi and the ginger pork.

There is nowhere to eat at Koyama. It is strictly take out, but there is a nice little park a few blocks away.

Westgate Thai

Cuisine: Thai

3201 Sullivant Ave., Columbus OH
Open 10am – 8pm, daily except Tuesday.

Click here to map it!

Thai restaurants have been found in and around Columbus for quite some time, but… ummm, how should we put this… unadulterated Thai has been thin on the ground with Bangkok as the only game in town. But with the recent opening of Erawan, and now Westgate Thai, the full flavors of Thailand are steadily working their way into the city’s consciousness.

Westgate Thai operates out of the Westgate Import Market, and occupies the kitchen and dining area that previously hosted the lovably improbable ‘Lindo Mexican/Cambodian restaurant’ (the signage for Lindo is still up, if you find it you’ve found Westgate). Accommodations are basic, with perhaps 16 seats in total, but service is consistently kind and thorough.

The entirety of the staff consists of a husband and wife duo, with the wife in the kitchen and the husband manning the front of house. Given the small size of the operation, this has been more than adequate, and wait times have been entirely acceptable.

Pad Phrik King

The food’s been great. From the yum woon sen to the pad phrik khing to the nice selection of curries, we haven’t found a bad pick in the bunch… and we’ve probably eaten more than half of the menu. They’ll adjust for your taste in spicy heat, which is to say that if you like it truly hot they’ll be happy to take that as a challenge.

If, among the fairly wide selection available, you’re looking for a place to start, I’d recommend the khao kaphrao khai dao (my preference is with pork) – a potent shot of Thai basil mingling with garlicky porky goodness, served with an egg that’s been fried until crispy around the edges (but still maintains a runny yolk) and rice. Try it as the Thais tend to do, by constructing bites with pork, egg, and rice all on one spoonful (yes, Thais mostly use a fork and spoon at the table).

Yum Woon Sen

Prices are notably wallet-friendly – apps start at $.50, and entrees are generally between $5.99 and $6.99. Entrees are discounted by $1.00 for lunch business. We had a group of 5 eat to contentment and beyond, and walked out with leftovers on a $32.00 bill. A few vegetarian and pescetarian options are available.

We’d be remiss in neglecting to mention that Westgate Import Market itself is a worthwhile destination. Southeast Asian staples and curiosities make for great browsing (we rarely leave without buying something), and the family that runs it is friendly and welcoming in the extreme. They offer a variety of prepared foods near the checkout – we’ve particularly enjoyed the mildly sweet sticky rice desserts packed in lengths of bamboo.