Exploring Ethnic Food in Columbus
January 9, 2012
A friend once told me that Columbus lacked the ethnic enclaves that give character to some of the larger U.S. cities; I had to disagree. We not only have our share of Old World communities (German Village, Italian Village, Hungarian Village), we also host thriving new immigrant populations that are rich in culture and diversity. People from Asia (including South Asia and Southeast Asia), Africa, the Middle East and Latin America call Columbus home and contribute to the economic and social growth of our city. The restaurants and food carts/trucks that have risen out of these communities have helped shape and define the ever-evolving Columbus food landscape. Thanks to blogs like Taco Trucks Columbus and Alt Eats Columbus , awareness of these food vendors has not only spread throughout Central Ohio, but Columbus has begun to garner national attention for its internationally-inspired cuisine.
For the curious who have yet to delve into the ethnic realm of Columbus food, I suggest employing the aforementioned blogs as your guide. Written by knowledgeable folks, these blogs are continually updated with new restaurants and offer a lot of good tips for the uninitiated and experienced eater alike. If you'd prefer a guided tour, Columbus Food Adventures (owned and operated by Bethia Woolf, who is also part of Taco Trucks Columbus and Alt Eats Columbus ) offers several food tours that showcase a cross section of ethnic food available in Columbus. Their Alt Eats tour stops at Mi Li Cafe (Vietnamese), Intercontinental Restaurant (Nigerian), Solay Bistro (Somali), Panaderia Guadalupana (Mexican), and Udipi Cafe (Southern Indian). Columbus Food Adventures also offers a Taco Truck tour during the warmer months where patrons experience a sampling of Mexican street fare from a representative group of Columbus's ever-growing fleet of taco trucks.
The influx of immigrant foodways into Columbus has not only spawned a rise in ethnic eateries, it has inspired more conventional restaurants to include ethnic-inspired dishes in their repertoire. Columbus menus now include banh mi (Explorer's Club ), takoyaki (Freshstreet ), kimchi (Dirty Frank's Hot Dog Palace ), street tacos (Surly Girl ), chilaquiles (Starliner Diner ), and chorizo (Katalina's Cafe Corner ). Additionally, the past two years has seen an explosion of new African restaurants in Columbus, so it's only a matter of time before we begin to see some African-inspired dishes showing up on more menus. The dynamic created by the rise of immigrant communities in our city makes it an exciting time to explore the restaurants, food carts, and eateries that are beginning to make a noticeable impact on our food choices.