Category Archives: Grocery store

Koyama Shoten

japanese markets columbus ohio

Cuisine: Japanese
5857 Sawmill Road
614.761.8118
11am-8pm Tuesday-Sunday. Closed Mondays

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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
614.458.1165
Open 10am – 8pm, daily except Tuesday.

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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.

La Favorita

mexican food columbus

Cuisine: Mexican

Sawmill Center Shopping Center
(approximately 7370 Sawmill Road – North of 270)

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The former (and original) La Michoacana has changed both name and ownership, but the menu and the food are mostly the same. We still love their Michoacana style steak (see original post below). La Favorita offers daily specials including the excellent carnitas (roast pork). Other specials are caldo de res (beef soup), caldo de pollo (chicken soup), caldo de albondigas (meatball soup), siete mares (seafood soup), pozole (pork and hominy soup), menudo (tripe soup).

ricos caldos columbus

One new item we discovered on our recent visit was tostada de cueritos (pickled pig skin). This is apparently a popular summertime dish. It’s not actually skin, it is strips of fatty cartilage beneath the skin which are boiled, braised and pickled and then served on a tostada.

bizarre foods in columbus, authentic mexican food columbus

Our original post is below:

best Mexican restaurant columbus

Cuisine: Mexican

Sawmill Center Shopping Center
(approximately 7370 Sawmill Road – North of 270)

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La Michoacana is a chain of Mexican markets – some with food service – that are found all over the city.  We’ve been to quite a few of them, ate at at least one, and concluded (to put it diplomatically) that the chain’s core competency lies on the grocery side of things.

Ccontrary to that conclusion, not all La Michoacanas are created equal. We’d heard from several people that the Sawmill location was unusually good, but put that info on the back burner until our most trusted source for all things Mexican practically begged us to join her there.

We did.  Making our way through the grocery section, we found our seats in the dining area at the back. Our server came to take our order, and we put in for a Michoacana-style steak, an order of carnitas (a weekend special), a milaneza torta, and a bowl of menudo (also served only on weekends).

We tried the Michoacana steak dish first, and it was good. Surprisingly tender, flavorful, salty and best with a generous squeeze of lime. We were already sold.

But then we tried the carnitas and it was the best we’ve had in Columbus. Not really roasted pork, this is more like confit of pork and it’s highly cravable. I should add that the beans, simple as they may seem, are also excellent at this modest little grocery store.

The Menudo here is the hangover cure of choice for Mexicans all over the city and again deserving of superlatives.

La Michoacana also does a great job with it’s Tortas and other taco truck fare. The NW of Columbus is sadly lacking in taco trucks, but this is where Dublin residents can fill their taco truck food cravings. This is the Hawaiiana torta with ham, pineapple, milanese (breaded steak), hot dogs, cheese, salad and avocado. Did you know that Mexican hot dogs are generally made with chicken?

If you have a sweet tooth there are some dessert offerings by the cash register and a freezer case of paletas (Mexican popsicles).

As it turns out, this La Michoacana was the first of many in town. The family that started the chain has long since sold off the rest of the locations to others – which probably goes a long way towards explaining the conspicuous variations among them. While all are great places to shop, this Michocana is the place to eat!

Euro Delicatessen

974 Galloway Road
(Galloway Square)
614.870.0723

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The business card says that Euro Delicatessen  is “A mini grocery store specializing in European Foods,” but this claim is modest -for anyone looking for Eastern European delicacies, this is a treasure trove. This clean, bright store sells candies, bread, packaged baked goods, cured meats, pickles, teas and a variety of other hard to find items.

Our attention, unsurprisingly, was mostly captured by the two refrigerated cases of sausages and pork products containing 3 or 4 types of bacon and many many types of kielbasa sausage including kabanosy and moldavska. Sausages hailed from countries including Russian, Poland, Hungary, Estonia and the Ukraine. We were given tastes of several of the sausages to aid in our decision making. It didn’t seen to help as each one seemed better than the last.

We were also interested in the wide variety of pierogi and pelmeni – almost twenty varieties mostly from Grandma’s pierogis in Toronto, but there were some homemade pelmeni.

There were also whole smoked mackerel and other smoked fish, cheeses, kvass (a drink made with fermented rye bread), kefir (a fermented milk drink) and, as befits somewhere selling pierogis, plenty of butter and sour cream.

Luc’s Asian Market

3275 Sullivant Ave
614.274.6757
Kitchen hours – Sat-Sun 9am – 7pm
Market hours – 9am – 8pm every day

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As we walked into Luc’s, I was immediately enchanted by a melange of aromas from the herbs, spices, vegetables, and incense – one deep breath, and I’m flooded with memories of my time in Southeast Asia.

This certainly isn’t coincidental – the owners of Luc’s are Cambodian/Vietnamese, and most of the staff is also Cambodian, Lao, or Vietnamese.  These origins are largely shared by their customer base as well – that’s where I discovered how I can easily get the Vietnam online visa. Why not! And, far beyond just the aromas, Luc’s is probably as close as a Columbusite can get to being in Southeast Asia without traveling.

In support of my thesis, I submit this bit of pure awesomeness:

I ordered a glass of sugar cane juice, and, next thing I know, they’re peeling sugar cane stalks by hand to prepare them for juicing (am literally checking juicer reviews now to get that at home).  While this is flat out unheard of here, it’s an omnipresent part of the street scene in just about any city from Bangkok to Hanoi.

But I’m getting ahead of myself – a quick overview is in order.  Luc’s is first and foremost a grocer, carrying a wide variety of ingredients for the cuisines of the aforementioned locales.  They also function as a quick-bite carryout, providing pre-made banh mi sandwiches, small prepared meals, desserts, house made beverages, and more.  Their most recent addition is the opening of their kitchen, which now allows them to provide a range of maybe 30 dishes cooked to order.

Accomodations, should you choose to eat in, are meager – they have perhaps 8 seats in total, and upon taking one you’ll definitely feel a part of the market scene going on around you.  The cooks, which can be seen through a window (or by peeking around the wall that divides the kitchen from the market) are also there to take your order.

Our bun thit nuong & cha gio (grilled pork & eggroll w/vermicelli)  and chicken laab arrived in short order.


As some of our readers may have observed, bun thit nuong (the name changes slightly from place to place, but it is the same dish) is a staple for us – anytime we’re anywhere that serves Vietnamese, this is a must-order item.  And, perhaps never more so than here.  Luc’s interpretation is a wild ride – the pork and the egg rolls are intensely flavored, with deep lemongrass notes, and intensely satisfying.  We suspect that the intriguingly novel pungency may reflect the multicultural makeup of the staff… to which we say, ‘three cheers for diversity!’.

The chicken laab was similarly satisfying. This is not a subtle dish – the lime and fish sauce assert themselves in no uncertain terms – but is nonetheless a faithful and enjoyable interpretation of a Thai/Lao classic.  We ordered it prepared to a mild ‘heat’ level, but the cook made it clear she’d be happy to bring the pain if so desired.

It was about at this point that the head cook (who is also co-owner) started to take interest in the oddball white folks happily slurping up her noodles and clumsily chopsticking her laab.  “Ever had chicken feet?”, she queried.

“Does it matter?  Bring it!”, we thought.  “We’d like to try it”, we said.

The feet were prepared in a black bean sauce redolent of Chinese five spice, and were about as tender as any we’ve ever had. The texture is of a gummy-meets-gelatinous, ‘you either love it or hate it’ nature, but I couldn’t imagine anyone arguing with the flavor.

As we nibbled flesh off of tarsals, another dish appeared.  “These aren’t on the menu”, she said, and explained that they were Vietnamese crepes rolled with a pork and mushroom filling.  I’ll save you the details… it’d be unfair… but suffice it to say that it’s a damned shame you’ll be unlikely to try them yourselves.

You can, however, sample from their range of unusual and eye-catching Vietnamese beverages.  Check out this basil seed drink:

It looks something like frogspawn and it has the slimy texture that its appearance suggests, but served with ice it is very refreshing. Banana syrup is commonly added to the drink which gives it a somewhat artificial flavor, but apparently it is quite bland without it.

With all of the above said, we still feel as though we’ve barely scratched the surface in describing all that Luc’s has to offer.  From fantastic fresh Asian greens to the largest variety of rice I’ve ever seen to an impressive array of fresh exotic fruits, fascinating offerings abound.

We’ll make it back to Luc’s soon.  Hope to see you there.

Note: Vegetarians will find plenty of satisfaction in the grocery offering, but the meals definitely skew towards carnivore territory.

Edit:

We’ve already made a couple of returned trips to Luc’s unable to resist what we think is some of the best Vietnamese food in Columbus. The spicy beef salad really packs a flavor punch with fermented black beans giving another dimension to the spiciness.

The pho (not pictured) had some of the most tender tendon I have ever eaten and the broth was sweet and fragrant with five spice.

The highlight was the grilled pork chop with lemongrass – essentially the same meat that appears in sandwiches and noodle dish. The pork chop with rice is actually two tender juicy pork chops served on a huge pile of rice with an optional dipping sauce.