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Haitian & American Restaurant

Haitian food

CLOSED

Cuisine: Haitian

1784 E. Dublin Granville Rd (161)

Click here to map it!

I have to admit that, prior to becoming aware of this restaurant, I’d given next to no thought to the idea of Haitian cuisine. And, upon learning of it, I presupposed we’d be in for something along the lines of Dominican and Puerto Rican – mild, plantain driven, and rice-rich.

And, assuming this restaurant is a good measuring stick, (and I’m inclined to believe it is…) well… kinda. Spicing is moderate, with the occasional kick of scotch bonnet peppers. Plantains are used, though their preparation was distinct. Rice, sure, but with a surprising twist. In spite of the similarities, our simple two plate meal made it clear that there was much that was unique to, and worthwhile about, Haitian preparations.

tostones

For example, the plantains with pikliz. The plantains were similar to Puerto Rican tostones in preparation (fry, smash flat, fry again), but semi-sweet plantains were used, giving it a flavor we found to be clearly preferable to any tostones we’ve had. The pikilz amounts to a cabbage slaw spiked with chiles – it was tart, bright, and spicy, and reminded us of an amped up Salvadoran curtido.

du riz djon djon haitian american restaurant

Next came the black rice with goat sauce. The rice is blackened by cooking it with a Haitian mushroom called djon djon, and was mixed with what I assume to be pigeon peas. It was served with a side of a reddish sauce containing chunks of skin-on goat meat (chicken is another option). Enjoyable, especially for those who appreciate a strong does of the flavor of mushroom (that’d include me).

legim

We also tried the ‘white rice with vegetables’, which is actually legim – a thick stew comprised of eggplant, chayote, cabbage, carrots and beef, flavored with epis (essentially a sofrito). It’s perhaps not much to look at, but make no mistake, it’s mild, hearty, and delicious in a very comfort foody way.

Haitian & American Restaurant’s decor is at least a half-step above what’s expected from its strip mall environs, and was very clean. Service was extremely friendly, and eager to answer the many questions we had about this new-to-us cuisine. The menu also includes American-style favorites (mac & cheese, hamburgers, and the like) as well as a $5 menu smaller portions (the dishes above were around $10 each and came with the plantain & pikliz).

We look forward to exploring its menu further, and would encourage you to do the same.

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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.

Fusion Cafe

columbus food trucks, mobile food vendor

Cuisine: Fusion

Location and hours: Check their Facebook page, or follow them on Twitter
614.581.5413

If, over the past week or so, you’ve been on High St. around Dick’s Den in the evening, or on Broad near the Columbus Museum of Art during the day, you’ve probably seen a relatively non-descript delivery truck parked along the side of the road. Perhaps the more perceptive among you even recognized its shape as that of a converted Wonder Bread delivery van.

Actually, to call it ‘converted’, is something of an understatement. While Fusion Cafe’s rolling kitchen is recognizable by its white paint job with blue accents on the outside, it’s most notable for being green through-and-through.  A partial list of their eco-bonafides include:

•They have a 45 watt solar panel array on the roof feeding 4 deep cycle RV batteries, which in turn provide for the majority of their electric needs.

•They use recycled packaging for their to-go orders, and word is that they’ll even keep your utensils for you, wash ’em up, and have them ready for you on your next visit.

•They’re proud to source many of their raw ingredients locally, sometimes from their own back yard.

•They’re fastidious about the eco-friendliness of their cleaning products.

Fusion Cafe is the brainchild of the personable Chef ‘JP’ Potter, and his charming wife, Marie. Potter is a graduate of the ECDI’s business training program, and participated in it alongside the folks who run the ‘3 Babes and a Baker’ cupcake truck as well as Michael Hemrick, the man behind ‘Zapico Foods’ (a local producer of pasta sauces).

Fusion Cafe’s menu rotates daily and is ambitiously wide-ranging, though on any given day there are 2-4 menu items being prepared and served. As being a good neighbor is particularly important for mobile vendors, beverages (smoothies seem to feature prominently among them) are only offered when the truck is not parked near other establishments that carry them.

On our visit, they were serving jerk chicken legs with rice & peas and ‘Fusion’ slaw, and veggie kabobs with the ‘Fusion’ slaw and tortilla chips.  We (of course) ordered both.

Among our group of 5, the jerk chicken legs were unanimously well received.  There has been some discussion about the authenticity of the jerk recipe – was it ‘toned down’ for the American palate? – and I will cop to having very little experience to fall back on in evaluating the authenticity of Jamaican/’island’ food.  And, really, in this case, I’ll admit to having little interest in the discussion in the first place. Let’s put it this way – if given a choice between your average properly grilled chicken leg, a typical fried chicken leg, or this, I’d easily pick the jerk chicken 9 times out of 10 (yes, there are the rare occasions when only crispy fried chicken will do).

The rice & peas were a nice accompaniment, and the ‘Fusion’ slaw was nothing short of a sesame oil-powered flavor bomb. This Asian-inspired approach undoubtedly sounds a bit incongruous, but actually worked quite well.  Fusion indeed!

The veggie kebabs were also enjoyed. This wide variety of fresh vegetables on the skewer were marinaded with a simple, subtly sweet and savory blend that never overwhelmed.  An object lesson in leaving well enough alone, these kebabs showcased the bright flavors of the vegetables and were accompanied by the aforementioned cabbage slaw and some (relatively forgettable) tortilla chips. All in all, a nice snack.

There is much left to try at Fusion Cafe (examples from the rotation include jerk pulled pork sandwiches, fish tacos, and bison sliders), and our first tastes gave us more than ample motivation to do so.  We liked the concept, had a great time talking with the owners, and certainly enjoyed the food.

Perhaps most of all, we love thinking about this converted, solar-powered, onetime Wonder Bread truck as a metaphor for everything that’s right about the direction of Columbus’s food scene.

No Reservations About Knocking No Reservations

(reposted from here)

It was no secret, among many around town, that Anthony Bourdain came to Columbus last November, and it was no secret that he brought his camera crew with him.  Thanks to the efforts of a several local foodies with connections, Bourdain and crew were directed towards Kihachi and Clever Crow pizza.  From November on, we waited in anticipation for the airing of the show, which was finally aired last night.

The results?  The bit on Kihachi showed their chef, Michael Kimura, for the exceptional talent he is, and relayed the impression of two seasoned TV food personalities (Bourdain and Michael Ruhlman) made very happy by his creations. The ingenuity and passion of the man behind Clever Crow was communicated, for us, with great resonance.  Each segment was a suitable tribute to each restaurant, and each will provide them with well-deserved attention.

With that said, in total, the segment on Columbus was not a credit to Bourdain’s franchise… and it was constructed so as to emphatically not be a credit to Columbus.

Why? The narrative was essentially as follows: Columbus is a wasteland of strip malls and chain restaurants (they showed plenty of footage of both). Isn’t it amazing – just entirely beyond the odds! – that there are a couple of guys fighting the good fight in such a godforsaken place!

It goes without saying, among those who actually have experienced the full Columbus food scene, that such a narrative is lazy, sloppy, and untrue.  And it is a shame that people such as Bourdain and Ruhlman, who are ostensibly committed to recognizing the excellence of places like Rigsby’s, Alana’s, and Dragonfly, are so casual about slandering them with such broad brush foolishness.

There are a few obvious reasons for this.  First, the nature of the show.  Did you see Bourdain anywhere in the Clever Crow bit? You did not.  Only his camera crew visited them, and he simply did a voice over based upon someone else’s observations.  The man was only in Columbus for an evening.  He knew nothing about us when he came here, and he knew little more than that upon leaving.

Such is the nature of show business… frustrating, but understandable, and I can forgive Bourdain for it.  He has a lot going on.

Much less forgivable was the appearance of No Reservations consultant and Cleveland native, Michael Ruhlman (shown dining with Bourdain in the Kihachi segment).  Bourdain, quite reasonably, relied on Ruhlman to provide background on our city.  And Ruhlman simply parroted every inane negative stereotype ever spoken of the city, on air, with remarkable economy.  ‘Strip malls’, ‘chain restaurants’, on and on…

What follows is pure comedy gold:

Twitter, being twitter, was atwitter with reactions to the show last night.  Ruhlman is also on twitter, and quite deservedly was on the receiving end of a lot of criticism.  This morning, he responded:

“@michaelcoyote et al, YIKES, I think I’ll have to watch the show! I don’t know Columbus well enough to have an actual opinion about it!”

Well, Mr. Ruhlman, it’s a shame that not having ‘an actual opinion’ didn’t stop you from expressing one.

Columbus Food Adventures – Food Tours in Columbus, Ohio

I’m proud to introduce my latest endeavour: Columbus Food Adventures, a company specializing in food tours that highlight the best of the Columbus food scene.

I’m especially excited to make this announcement here since, in part, our experiences with alt.eats have led me to this point and given me the motivation to take on such a project.

Case in point: a few months ago, CMH Magazine asked the alt.eats team if we might be interested in working with them on an article based upon some aspect of this blog. Since there were so many alt.eats picks on Cleveland Ave., we suggested basing the article upon the theme of all of the great ethnic restaurants that nobody had heard about on that strip.

They bit.  Before we knew it, we were escorting a CMH writer and a couple of photographers from restaurant to restaurant.  With each stop, their excitement seemed to grow.  Comments like, “I haven’t had good Vietnamese like this since I left the East Coast”, and, “I had no idea a dish like this existed, but I really like it”, brought us great pleasure – these are the types of sentiments that both led us to start the blog and continue to give us the energy to keep it going.

The writer (and all around great guy) – Bob Paschen – was clearly captivated by the stories he encountered along the way.  He interviewed a Persian restauranteur for perhaps half an hour, then walked up to me and said, “This guy’s story is amazing!  Did you know he was previously a dentist in Romania?!”

Great food experiences, great stories… I couldn’t ignore the obvious: Columbus needs a food tour business, and we felt ourselves to be both uniquely positioned and uniquely enthusiastic about doing it.

Taking on such a project seemed like a crazy idea, but research suggested otherwise.  Culinary tourism is a growing trend, and food tour companies thrive in cities as small as Milwaukee and Raleigh-Durham.  We signed on for a couple of food tours offered in Chicago, and our takeaway was clear – we could do that.  Hopefully, we can do it better.

I’m exceptionally proud of Columbus’s food community, and have put a lot of effort into exploring it and chronicling it here, at tacotruckscolumbus, and at hungrywoolf.  We’ve long believed that Columbus’s food scene is a story worth telling and tasting, and I’m excited to have a new platform for doing so.

If you’d like to take a look at our tours (taco trucks, alt.eats, and more), please see Columbus Food Adventure’s new website – columbusfoodadventures.com

Thanks,

Bethia Woolf (aka Hungrywoolf)
Owner and Operator, Columbus Food Adventures

P.S.: We are still entirely committed to maintaining alt.eats and all of our other blogs.  Every day, someone somewhere in town is working towards their dream of owning and operating a new restaurant.  We’ll still be on the lookout for ‘grand opening’ signs wherever they may pop up, and we’ll still be around to tell you about ’em.

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.

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.