Category Archives: Grocery store

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)

Click here to map it!

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!

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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.

Panaderia Oaxaquena

Mexican Bakery and Grocery
63 S. Murray Hill Rd., West Side
614-878-5220

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Attentive alt.eats readers will recall that we’ve been more than willing, in the past, to feature markets that prepare their own food items for consumption on-premises.  With this post, we’re going to stretch this a bit to include markets that make exceptional food items which may require a bit of home preparation to complete… because damn, these guys make some amazing molé!

Tucked away just off of West Broad Street, Panaderia Oaxaquena is a full fledged grocery store which includes a meat counter, produce section, and bakery. As such, molé is just one of their house-made offerings – they also have their own Mexican-style breads, cheeses, sour creams and more.

We were tipped off about Panaderia Oaxaquena by G.A. Benton of Columbus Alive. He included their molé in his ‘Get Real for Cinco de Mayo‘ article in 2009. Good molé is hard to come by and even harder to make (making molé sauce from scratch can literally take days), so that was all the enticement we needed.

You can choose from molé negro or molé rojo, and the package gives instructions for completing the dish. You can read about our interpretation here.

As for the cheeses, highlights include quesillo, a type of string cheese that can be grilled like halloumi.

Crema comes in two varieties – the regular white and pale pink. We haven’t been able to find out much about the pale pink one, so if anyone know why it is pink and what it is used for, please let us know.

You can also find these flatbreads called tlayudas, which are often served with beans and cheese, like a large tostada.

As PO is also a bakery, we bought some bread, hot from the oven, which steamed as we greedily broke into it. Soft, light white, and delicately flavorful. You can see the bolillos below which are used for tortas (Mexican subs).

Mecca Market & Grill

Cuisine: Pakistani
2256 South Hamilton Rd
614. 501-1550

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Mecca started out as a grocery store and purveyor of halal meat.  When the latest owner took over the store, he decided to put a kitchen together and offer Pakistani food. In his own words,” I have meat and groceries in here, why not cook some food and offer take out.”

As you walk into Mecca Market, you will be greeted by the friendly owner and his staff. They are very helpful and eager to answer any questions about their groceries, halal meat and their menu.

Walking towards the back, you’ll see a meat counter and next to it is the counter where you order your food. Since this is intended to be a take out business, they don’t have a dining area set up in the store. However, if you really want to eat in, there is a card table that will seat about 6 people. Due to the small operation, not everything listed on the menu is available everyday. If you’re not up for simply trying whatever happens to be on offer, it is probably best to call ahead and see what is available.

Pakistani food according to the owner is  more intensely spiced than Indian food. But there are a lot of similarities with Northern Indian food because of the shared geographic region and with their use of the tandoor.

First up was the garlic naan. The naan had the perfect texture of being crispy on the outside and slighty chewy on the inside. It could have used a little more garlic but that depends on how much you like garlic. We had also ordered a plain naan as well and the execution of it was just as perfect as the garlic one. Plastic silverware was offered to us but we decided to use the naan and our hands for utensils.

We ordered a serving of tandoori chicken and batair. Batair is quail and it is a very popular fowl eaten in Pakistan. This is something that is not usually offered in Indian restaurants. If you see Batair on the menu, then you are likely in the hands of a Pakistani chef. Flavor wise, both birds were phenomenal. Intensely spiced and had the right amount of charring. The quail was definitely more tender of the two. It’s hard to say what quail taste like as the spices definitely overpowered the taste of the meat. However you can tell the difference by the texture. We will be ordering it again next time.

Next up was the goat curry. This was surprisingly not spicy and mild with curry spices. Overall it was very savory and went well with the naan bread which we used to sop up the curry sauce.

We ordered the briyani of the day which was the chicken briyani. The staff explained that briyanis takes a while to cook so they pick a different meat each day to make a pot of briyani instead of offering 3-4 types of briyanis a day. They are happy to take custom orders if you call in the morning for a pick up later in the day. The briyani was very fragrant with a deluge of spices such as cardamon, cinnamon, cumin, cloves and etc. The rice was perfectly tender and the chicken was nicely integrated with the dish absorbing all the spices and liquid that the rice was cooking in.

Lunch for 3 with two drinks came up to $20. Most dishes range from $5 – $10. There are a few vegetarian offerings like palak paneer and couple of aloo dishes. Best advice is to call ahead and check what dishes they are offering for the day or call ahead for a custom order. The people at Mecca are very accommodating and will cater and deliver their food for a function/party.

Salam Market and Bakery

Cuisine: Middle Eastern
5676 Emporium Square (Columbus Square Shopping Center)
614.899.0952

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There are lots of ethnic markets in Columbus that offer far more than you might guess from first glance: Arirang, Mecca and Salam, just to name a few. Salam is a wonderfully organized, clean grocery store where you can stock up on dates, olives and spices, but it is also a halal butcher (and the first place I have seen lamb tongues) and a bakery. We had heard rumors about the meat pies at Salam and were determined to try them. Our first attempt was unsuccessful and we learned the hard way that they sell out by lunchtime. Our perseverance paid off: These pies are seriously good.

Our early start was rewarded with a choice of six pies (three vegetarian and three meat): cheese, chicken, spicy kebab meat, zatar, falafel and a larger chicken pie. The regular pies were $1.50 each and the larger chicken pie was $1.99. The pies, which of course reminded me of Cornish pasties. were made from pita dough made fresh that morning.

We chose the cheese, chicken and kebab options, all still warm from the oven. The gooey cheese (possibly halloumi – we didn’t ask) was buttery and salty and fairly mild flavor-wise. It would be good with some chutney or hot sauce. The chicken and the kebab were chunky tomato and onion based sauces with meat. The kebab (of the ground and seasoned meat variety) had some chili heat and the chicken was milder but fragrant with cardamom. The bread was light and soft and it wasn’t hard to see why these sell out quickly.

The open kitchen means that you can watch them making pita bread (they supply restaurants such as Jeddo Kebab and Lavash). The dough is mixed and kneaded, divided into balls, rolled into rounds and left to rise before it is baked. The guy in the red cap is taking hot pita breads out of the oven.

The pies were not labelled but the staff were friendly and happy to explain the fillings and prices, and let us watch what they were doing. As well as buying our pies we also explored the stores and found these interesting green almonds, a Middle Eastern spring time snack.

Arirang

Cuisine: Korean
1526 Bethel Road
614.459.8070
Open until 9pm

Click here to map it!

Arirang was first recommended to me by a Hungrywoolf reader (Thank you Molly). It has become my favorite place for Korean food, and I thought that it was still a wonderful secret until G.A. Benton from Columbus Alive wrote his humorous post about it this week.

From the outside you would never guess that this little grocery store has a restaurant in the  back. You order at the store’s front counter and then take your ticket to the open kitchen at the back of the store. Find a seat and wait to be signaled to when your food is ready. There is no table service so you go up to the counter and collect it yourself. The menu has recently been updated and is in English and Korean with a clear indication of which dishes are spicy. There are three price brackets ranging from $4.95 up to $8.95.

With its extremely bright fluorescent lighting and slightly sterile feel, Arirang is not somewhere to go for the atmosphere but what it lacks in ambience it makes up for with the food. It is also extremely clean, good value and you can do some shopping while you are there.

Your meal will come with the traditional banchan (a selection of small dishes, including the requisite kimchi.) and there is an urn of complimentary barley tea as well as a water cooler.

My favorite dishes tend to be the spicy ones but there are plenty of options for people who do not like spicy food. Some of the beef soups are very lightly seasoned. The dolsot bibimbap (mixed rice in a stone pot) is also not spicy and comes topped with lots of vegetables, sprouts and kimchi. The egg was fried with a soft yolk rather than the raw egg that is often served. As well as large steaming bowls of soup and noodles there are also stir fried dishes and I really enjoyed the stir fried pork.

The picture at the top of the post is kim-bap, a Korean roll (a vegetarian sushi style roll) and we have enjoyed the crispy pancakes both mung bean and seafood.

The soups are extremely hot in temperature and usually arrive at a rolling boil. If you are really hungry, order a pancake or a roll to eat while you wait, to prevent searing your mouth. Also a good idea not to go right before they close – it’s hard to eat steaming food in a hurry!