Tag Archives: market

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 

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Westgate Thai

Cuisine: Thai

3201 Sullivant Ave., Columbus OH
614.458.1165
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.