Greater Columbus Sister Cities organizes excursions and exchanges within our growing global family, but sharing in these connections doesn’t necessarily require a suitcase and a passport. Common bonds wait in the restaurant kitchens of some of our newest neighbors and established immigrants who share their heritage everyday as a vital part of the city’s enviable ethnic food scene.
Here are 10 easily missed, but absolutely essential, destinations for diners interested in expanding their culinary palate and cultural perspective.
Sidebar • 122 E Main St.
Spain is perhaps the most ethnically complex country in Europe, and Seville is no exception. The architecture, industry, and cuisine all offer historical hints to the city’s past. As close to Morocco as it is to Portugal, you can taste the convergence of cultures with every bite. Sidebar’s Pan-Atlantic menu hints at the shared history as well. Seville is hardly known for its vegetarian fare, but espinacas con garbanzos are a notable exception. The Andalusian dish features stewed spinach and chickpeas, with flavors that reflect both the Jewish and Moorish roots of the tapas standard. Their Galician-style octopus and potatoes seasoned with Spanish paprika are equally authentic.
Drelyse • 1911 Tamarack Circle
In Accra’s expansive, open-air Makola Market, among the more popular fare is grilled tilapia. Though the Ghanaian capital city sits on the Gulf of Guinea, the freshwater fish remains a local favorite. Drelyse credibly captures the spirit and hospitality of Ghanaian cuisine. Blackened and blistered, onions and peppers top the crispy tilapia while hints of garlic and ginger accent the flaky flesh. Okra stew with either crab or beef is served with banku, a paste of fermented cornmeal and cassava, or fufu, a dough of plantain and cassava flour. Both are starchy staples pinched off and eaten like deconstructed, do-it-yourself dumplings.
Estilo Brazil • 5818 Columbus Square
Skip those all-you-can-eat steakhouse chains if you want a true taste of Brazil. In Curitiba, you’ll find the best local restaurants by looking for a sign out front reading “por quilo”, or per kilo. Though Portuguese is still spoken by the staff, this small strip mall grocery also offers an ever-changing cafeteria of authentic dishes sold “by the pound”. Fried plantains, seasoned sausage, and coxinhas, peculiar pear-shaped chicken croquettes, are standards complemented by daily specials. Though the costela com mandioca, or slow-cooked beef rib and cassava, are a worthy Wednesday special, don’t miss Saturday for feijoada, a spicy black bean and pork stew considered the national dish.
Valters at the Maennerchor • 976 S High St.
When immigrants from Germany settled in Columbus in the mid-1800s, they drew architectural inspiration from their homeland, making German Village one of the city’s most distinctive neighborhoods. The seamless blend of homes, businesses, galleries, and restaurants connected by cobblestone streets is still reminiscent of modern-day Dresden. Pork is preferred over beef amongst the German people, and Valters offers several traditional dishes in the boisterous bier garten setting embraced by both state capitals. Start with the schnitzel and spätzle, lightly-breaded, pan-fried pork cutlets with crinkly egg noodles common in Eastern Europe comfort food—or ignore that penchant for pork and order the hearty sauerbraten, a German-style pot roast served with a side of red cabbage.
Claudiana • 8475 Sancus Blvd.
Though perhaps best known for its pesto, Genoa evolved from a small fishing village that grew through the surrounding hillsides into a culinary capital anchored by the charm of an old world port. Claudiana offers the intimacy of a tiny Italian family restaurant, easily undiscovered in a northside strip. Though familiar fare abounds, the seafood selection is the “reel” catch. Red snapper with a creamy arragosta sauce of diced shrimp, spinach, and tomato over fresh pasta for the fish folks—or the owner’s favorite, spaghetti alla vongole, homemade pasta complemented with clam meat, garlic, shallots, red pepper, and tomatoes tossed in olive oil and white wine.
Q2 Bistro • 472 Polaris Parkway, Westerville
Most Americans are only acquainted with the western incarnations of Chinese take-out. But regional delicacies are as distinct and diverse as those found in the US. Unlike those fast food phonies, Hefei is home to Anhui cuisine, one of the “Eight Cuisines” of China—renown for the unique flavors that come from roasting instead of frying. Though Q2 Bistro’s fusion menu still offers excellent executions of your fried favorites, their signature rice pots are akin to clay-pot cooking, a traditional Chinese preparation method. Custom combinations of seasoned chicken, pork, beef, and seafood paired with vegetables and steamed rice suit any preference. But the standout dish is still the fork-tender roast duck.
Olive Tree • 3185 Hilliard Rome Rd., Hilliard
At a glance, the beachfront city of Herzliya wouldn’t seem to have much in common with Columbus. But look deeper and you’ll find a community with frequent festivals, several sports teams, fascinated by film, and rich with restaurants. Olive Tree offers a mix of Mediterranean and Middle East influences for lunch and dinner daily, but the Sunday brunch should not be missed. Stay for shakshuka, an iron skillet of eggs over-easy still simmering in a savory tomato stew, served with pita points to dip in the runny yolks. For those on the go, try the sabich—a breakfast sandwich with grilled eggplant, sliced hard-boiled egg, potatoes, Israeli salad, and a touch of tahini.
Toast Bar • 1028 Ridge St.
First, forget the Danish. The popular pastry is actually Austrian. Second, scratch the aebelskabels as well. Alice’s popular pancake ball truck left for California this summer. And, of course, Denmark on High is a cocktail bar. What’s a Dane to do? Fortunately, there’s still a decidedly Danish dish sometimes available at an unlikely destination. Dan the Baker’s elusive Friday-Saturday-Sunday Toast Bar is the only place in Columbus serving smørrebrød, the open-face sandwich sensation, and the French variation called a tartine. If you are very lucky, Dan will surprise you with ham and asparagus, shiitake and oyster, or Gruyère and roasted tomato on a toasty slice of dense sourdough.
Dakshin • 5251 N Hamilton Rd., 8380 N High St.
Fortunately, Columbus has no shortage of impressive Indian eateries. But for an original Gujarati experience, newcomer Dakshin offers a true taste of Ahmedabad. Advertised as a “lunch buffet,” the nearest American metaphor, it’s not exactly what most might expect. Thali, named for the large metal platter on which the meal is served, allows diners to choose from a variety of entrées (both meat and vegetarian) and the chef decides the rest. The mix of dals, chutneys, rice, yogurt, and naan is also a feast for the eyes, designed to offer a balance of six tastes (sweet, salty, bitter, sour, astringent, and spicy) all on one plate.
Tainan City, Taiwan
Chinese Beef Noodle Soup • 10 E Twelfth Ave.
Taiwan is a nexus of Asian and Western cultures. Despite an emphasis on seafood due to limited land for livestock, beef noodle soup is among the most popular and pervasive dishes. If there were a contest in Columbus for on-the-nose restaurant names, the tiny campus counter with a dozen seats cleverly called “Chinese Beef Noodle Soup” would win the prize. Thin-sliced beef and homemade noodles in a savory broth with fresh spinach, hard-boiled egg, and a sprinkle of sesame seeds sounds deceptively simple, but the dish is revered for a reason. For the more adventurous, try the fried pork intestines (or Chinese chitterlings) for something you won’t find at the average carryout. •
For more about our sister cities, visit columbussistercities.com.