482 S. Front St.
Columbus, OH 43215
Open Thursday through Saturday, 6:30pm – Midnight
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There exists, in the Brewery District, a bar with no signage. The owners seem to do little in the way of self-promotion, and the lights are dimmed to the point that you might not even think they’re open. They occupy the old Gibby’s building on Front St., and call themselves ‘Double Happiness’.
Once inside, you’ll not mistake them for Gibby’s, or for that matter, any other Brewery District watering hole past or present. Huge red lamps hang from the ceiling, and a strong East Asian vibe permeates. DJs spin on some nights, live music occurs on others. Asian beers and sake-based drinks are the bar’s specialties. The place aims for and hits ‘cool’ dead center.
The only reason we know of this place is because we know Kenny Kim and Misako Ohba, owners of Fresh Street. They have struck a deal with Double Happiness, and now serve kushiyaki (and more) out of the previously dormant kitchen within. They call this new endeavor ‘Freshstreet Yakitori’.
Yakitori, literally translated from Japanese, means charcoal-grilled chicken on skewers. In the US, it’s often (mis)used to refer to anything Japanese-inspired that is charcoal-grilled on skewers, which is a range of offering that should technically fall under the umbrella term of ‘kushiyaki‘.
I mention this only to underscore one point – Freshstreet is serving far more than chicken. In addition to chicken thighs, skin, wings, and meatballs, they’re also serving pork belly, pork cheek, beef short ribs, bacon-wrapped mushrooms, beef heart & kidney, and on and on. As of our last stop in, they had perhaps 13 unique skewer options, with more to come.
I fear I may have objectivity problems – I’m thoroughly enamored with Kenny & Misako, and I’m a sucker for charcoal-grilled meats. When I walked in, it went something like this:
So it made for a good reality check when I happened to talk to a local restauranteur who is well versed in Japanese street foods, and had just been to Double Happiness. They said that Freshstreet’s kushiyaki was about as good as any they’d had anywhere.
Freshstreet also offers ramen and rice balls, and both are seriously good. The ramen’s chicken broth sets the standard in town, and the subtle spicing and crusty grilled exterior of the rice balls make for an edifying experience.
Expect the menu to change somewhat due to availability of ingredients, time of year, and the whims of the kitchen. This has long been a big part of the charm of Fresh Street, and our general advice would be to roll with it – you might not necessarily get the thing you’ve been craving from last time, but you’ll probably discover something new that you’ll end up craving next time.
Please note that Freshstreet provides vegetarian and vegan options. Skewers generally run between $2.50 and $4.00 each, and cups of ramen run $4.00 apiece.