How To Celebrate National Cupcake Day in Columbus

Ah – December 15th.  I wish you were better known as National Cupcake Day, but don’t worry…you’ll get there.

For those of you that didn’t know, December 15th is in fact National Cupcake Day.  A few months ago, I gave you all some suggestions on how to celebrate National Coffee Day so I thought it would only be fitting to share some suggestions on how to celebrate National Cupcake Day in Columbus, too!  I will say many of these suggestions are based on word of mouth…I personally have not tried a lot of these cupcakes!

I’ve been hearing a lot about a place called Our Cupcakery (out of Dublin) lately.  They specialize in cupcakes and wedding cakes, and I hear they specialize very well.  Their website proudly boasts a “Create Your Own Cupcake Bar” which to me, sounds like a ton of fun.  Luckily, I’ll be checking them out on Monday!  I bought a Groupon (actually I think it’s a Faveroo…same thing as a Groupon but only focused on Columbus) for a Basic Cupcake Icing class.  I’m very excited to check it out!  Their cupcakes do look pretty good!

Some of their cupcakes....seeing as I'm a triathlete, these immediately drew my attention!
Some of their cupcakes....seeing as I'm a triathlete, these immediately drew my attention!

Next up is Pattycake Bakery.  Pattycake is conveniently located on High Street, and offers much much more than cupcakes.  I’ve actually never had a cupcake from Pattycake, but the muffins and cookies I’ve had assure me that their cupcakes would be outstanding.  Pattycake is a vegan bakery as well, which makes it really fun to try items off of their menu!  If you’re not in the mood for a cupcake next time you’re there, I suggest the “Marry Me Blueberry Muffin”.  Seriously, I’ve considered marrying it.  Seriously.









Rob Chabot was highly recommending this next one to me – it’s a cupcake food cart called 3 Babes and a Baker.   I love the name!  Their website makes them seem new to the game, but that makes it even more exciting.  However, go check out their menu.  Their cupcakes do sound delicious!  Also, they’ve got to be a winner if they come with such a high recommendation from Rob.

They have a Buckeye Cupcake.  Oh.  Yes.
They have a Buckeye Cupcake. Oh. Yes.

Another place that comes highly recommended, yet I haven’t tried, is Surly Girl Saloon located in the Short North.  Yes, I know, you probably think I’m crazy suggesting a saloon has great cupcakes.  I’ll admit…I’m skeptical too!  But from what I hear, these cupcakes are the bomb.  I hear the regular food is really good too.  I checked out their website, and it looks like they offer Red Velvet Cupcakes and a Cupcake of the Day – not a huge selection, but I bet that means what they do offer is fantastic.  They’re definitely on my “Go To” list!

If you’re feeling a little less adventurous and just want to pick up some cupcakes at the grocery store, that’s okay too.  Especially if you’re doing your grocery shopping at Giant Eagle.  Giant Eagle delivers a solid cupcake (and cake) experience…the cake is always moist and fluffy, and they have a few different frosting options to suit your mood.  I love their Aunt Martha’s Buttercream frosting.  The cream cheese is decent as well, and my mom loves the almond one…sorry, I forget exactly what it’s called.  Don’t write them off just because its a super market – give the cupcakes a try!

I’ve got a few others places to list, but these are all places I haven’t yet tried.  Again, I’ve heard good things about them, but not specifically from friends so I didn’t feel I could write an entire paragraph on them.  Anywho, other places you can go to satisfy your sweet tooth on National Cupcake Day (or any day) include Bakery Gingham, Sugar Inc. Cupcakes, and the Tremont Goodie Shop.

I’d also like to take this post to shamelessly promote another blog I co-write.  I really enjoy baking and cooking, and decided that I’d like to share some of my recipes.  Check out my blog, Bake Yourself Happy, and see what you think!  Unfortunately I don’t have any cupcake recipes up yet, but there are fantastic muffins on there!

One Of The Best Places In Town

I have a quarterly tradition:  my friend Andres and I get up and out to campus a week or so before class starts.  We meander around the local bookstores, usually College Town, and check out book prices, compare them against the ones we found on Amazon or and then call it a day.   This usually takes about 20 minutes.

What it really becomes is an opportunity to catch up, kvetch about the classes we have coming up and how they’re going to be hell (the classes are always hell no matter how excited we are) and then take a walk around Urban Outfitters and have lunch.

We do lunch on campus every so often at Joys Village, but for this book browsing, clothing shopping, bonding day, we choose Japanese Oriental.  It’s on High Street, just a block above Cazuela’s in an old white house.

I don’t know what it is about Korean food, but it is expensive!  If you ask Chuck Smith, my BMHR854 seminars in HR policy professor (it’s an applied Econ class) why that is, he’ll probably go into a rant about supply and demand and neo-classical economists.  And that’s probably true.  Korean food doesn’t have the flash and prestige of Japanese restaurants, with high-priced exotic rolls (that no real Japanese person would even acknowledge) or the showmanship that comes included in your exuberant price for dinner at a Japanese teppanyaki (steakhouse) restaurant.  Yes, teppanyaki is authentic, but the Japanese don’t smother their dishes in yum yum sauce (Genji’s) or egg yolk sauce (House of Japan on Polaris Parkway).  And so Korean food goes unnoticed and these restaurateurs need to make a living by boosting their profit margins.

So I dine smart.  I go when there are lunch specials.  I mentioned Restaurant Silla before in the Northwest Shopping Centre and their fantastic weekend lunch specials.  Perfect place for an Asian-inspired brunch that can cure any ails you might have contracted the night before.  Read that how you may.

In case you don’t feel like trekking to the ‘burbs for a good meal on the weekends, walk over to Japanese Oriental.  They have FANTASTIC lunch specials.  My absolute favorite, pictured below, are their bento boxes.  Bento boxes are traditional Japanese combinations that are usually offered for lunch or breakfast.  In Japan, you can request a Western-style or Japanese-style bento.  The Western-style still tends to have a very heavy Asian influence that while appeals to the Western palate, it at the same time expands it a little.

Japanese Oriental offers two (three are listed on the lunch menu, but the vegetarian bento was discontinued due to lack of interest) that consist of either a traditional bento or a tempura bento.  The difference is five pieces of yummy battered and fried goodness (two pieces of shrimp, three vegetables) and an extra $2.00.  It is very worth it.  Served in your bento box are usually a nice-sized serving of beef bulgogi (a smoky-sweet Korean barbecue offering), four pieces of California roll, a serving of sushi rice molded into a sakura blossom with masago (flying fish roe) on top, a piece of deep-fried sushi, a fried gyoza and spring roll with a sweet chili sauce, two mussels on the shell in a spicy-sweet-creamy sauce, wasabi and an assortment of seasonal banchan (traditional, small cold Korean dishes that vary with the chef’s mood) and a bowl of miso soup.

You can see now why I usually only go once a quarter.  It is a lot of food!  But it is delicious and I often times find myself craving it a few more times per quarter.  The price is hard to beat, the service is phenomenal and your food will be at your table within 10 minutes of ordering it.  Can’t complain about that, can you?  The lunch special menu, available until 2:30 on weekdays, also offers a variety of very reasonably-priced Korean staples that come in huge portions.

I highly recommend the boricha as an accompaniment, a barley tea that the Chinese call mai cha.  It is earthy, satisfying and caffeine-free.  It is customary to drink tea with Asian meals because of its health properties.  It has been shown that drinking cold water with a meal congeals the fats in the food you are eating, which then line the inside of your stomach, taking it longer to digest and becoming more easy to absorb.  Drinking warm tea prevents this.  There’s also a philosophy about cold and hot energies in your food, but that is an entirely different blog post.

And with any Asian restaurant, a sign of its legitimacy is how many Asians are there when you dine.  It’s crowded with Asians (me included), legit, and should definitely be one of your next culinary visits.

Best Place in Town

I have always had a penchant for trying to find the best places to dine out.  For me, there is nothing like going to my favorite restaurant, bar, diner, cafe’ or sidewalk shack to get some amazingly delicious and succulent food.  I would almost consider dining out as a personal hobby of mine.  It’s really no big secret, I like food and food likes me.

This past week, after an early dismissal from class, a few of my fellow MLHR classmates and I decided to hit up one of those “best places” in town.  Now, I have only lived in Columbus for about a year and a half so I cannot say with much confidence that I know all the eatery “hot spots”.  But thank goodness I was introduced to this place – much kudos to fellow MLHR blogger, Shawn H.

So, what’s the name of this restaurant, you ask?  The name:  Tai’s Asian Bistro.  The game:  eating THE best Vietnamese/Thai food you have ever tasted in your life.

If you plan on dining at Tai’s, be prepared to bring your appetite with and leave with a doggy bag full of food.  The portions are more than enough for two people.  Whatever dish you choose to eat, it’s always served hot and fresh!  I must admit, I am a creature of habit and I usually stick to what I like (and won’t disappoint) so I haven’t tried any other dish than the fan favorite, ‘Tai’s Asian Chicken’.  It is a dish served with your choice of friend or steamed rice as well as deep-fried breaded chicken covered in a savory spicy sauce that’s accompanied by green peppers, onions, carrots and jalapenos (see picture at end of blog).  And if that doesn’t sound good enough, remember to show your BuckID at the counter and you will get a free soda!

All in all, if you are looking for an excuse to ditch your packed lunch or just need a break to catch up with some friends while enjoying some great food, Tai’s Asian Bistro is a great place to check out.  As you can see, MLHR 2012 students Shawn, David, Sultan and Sarah love it 🙂

Eating in the suburbs…

I am a big, HUGE proponent of furthering Columbus’ reputation as a foodie town.  So when I saw this article in the Washington Post about Columbus and our burgeoning (and I can’t think of a better word for it) AGGRESSIVE food scene, I was very impressed and proud of our big town/ little city.

And while I must thank the author of this article, Jane Black, for playing her part in expanding our reputation, I invite her to leave the epicenter of the city’s food scene (Arena District, Short North, German Village) and venture out into the suburbs for a bite to eat.

People are raving about the Clever Crow and its two locations downtown, the newest one in North Market.  And as much as I hate to go to Polaris and recommend people to go to Polaris, it has its benefits.

One being the Mellow Mushroom.  They have an astronomical number of beers on tap and have fantastic pizza combinations, most of which can be made vegetarian or vegan.  Try the pesto pizza with tofu.  Yum.

Polaris also has Cuisine of India, a well-priced restaurant that has a fantastic korma and a reasonably priced buffet that serves a la carte quality portions of their standard menu.

Speaking of Indian food, I have to recommend Indian Oven in the Market Exchange District, an emerging neighborhood that most would recognize as Olde Town East.  It’s on Main Street and within walking district of my townhouse.  They have an excellent wine selection, amazing dishes that cross the borders of Northern and Southern Indian cuisine and a to die for goat rezala.  Yeah, I said goat.  If you love lamb, goat is like lamb on steroids.  I go every year for my birthday and the Indian Oven neophytes that I expose the restaurant to love it and rave about it and pass the word on.  Please give it a try.

Moving further east into Asia, we have Restaurant Silla up in the Northwest Shopping Center off Henderson Road.  Go during the weekends at lunch time and enjoy their unbeatable lunch specials that include 7 or 8 classic Korean dishes at 5.99 and even decent sushi.  I prefer the soondooboo, a spicy tofu stew with seafood and the beef boolgogi, a slightly sweet, smoky and tender beef barbecue.

Korean food has yet to garner the following that Japanese food has as upscale Asian cuisine, but most Korean restaurants attempt to use the same price point.  For this reason, I stick to this special menu and avoid places like Min-Ga on Bethel that charge insane prices for just decent Korean fare.

Speaking of other overpriced Asian restaurants, some of you may experience Lee Garden at the Chinese New Year Celebration that will be thrown on 2/4/11.  Lee Garden, while fine, demonstrates an inability to properly price their dishes proportionately to their quality.  Opt instead for Sunflower at the corner of Sawmill and Hard Road and indulge in their weekend dim sum, which is served in the traditional Hong Kong style: in carts that circulate the restaurant.  It’s nearly as good as the dim sum I’ve had in DC.  Try the turnip cake and the savory roast beef buns and the egg tarts for dessert.  You won’t be sorry.

I’m thinking this will be a two-part at least blog, so I leave you with one more recommendation for now.  Try Coco’s Grill on 5th Avenue, off of Olentangy River Road.  It’s in the same plaza that has Jimmy John’s and the liquor store, next to Burger King, across from the Meridian apartments.  Sounds like it should be soul food, right?  Well, it’s not.

The family is Chinese and Korean and serve up extremely authentic and delicious dishes.  Try the salt and pepper pork and beef flat noodles.  Also try asking for the Chinese menu.  (Yes, a lot of restaurants will have a separate menu for their Asian clients that do not include dishes with crinkle cut carrots, celery or water chestnuts in brown sauce.)  There are some tasty treasures in there if you are willing to take the leap.

To be continued!

Beyond the Ball

Breaking: OSU sports are not the only events in Columbus, OH

This post is specifically geared to the non-sports-fan audience.  So, if you ceremoniously watch ESPN’s SportsCenter, you may want to stop reading this now.  Furthermore, if your idyllic weekend involves countless hours of watching sports with a beer in hand, please stop here . . . the remaining content won’t likely appeal to you.

One thing that might be factoring into your b-school decision is where you’ll be living for the next two years.  Knowing that, I’ll try to give you a brief synopsis of Columbus and the options available to you from an food & culture standpoint.

ART & CULTURE Frankly, sports have never interested me from any aspect other than a social outing.  My favorite places to visit are art museums and galleries.  I could spend countless hours visiting them (but not every weekend).  There is a rather strong arts community in Columbus which I believe is fostered by the amount of colleges & universities within the city.  On campus, we have the Wexner Center for the Arts.  Just down High Street is The Short North district which houses multiple galleries, restaurants, and shops.  Further down the road, downtown, you’ll find the Columbus Art Museum, the Riffe Gallery, and CCAD’s Canzani Center Gallery.  Also downtown, my favorite space is Hawk Galleries… if glass is your passion, you’ll be in heaven.  Additionally, you can find more spaces in surrounding areas: German Village, Bexley, Grandview Heights, Dublin, and Delaware.  Admire from a distance or try your hand at creation… there’s a long list available.  I can’t possibly include them all here.

Beyond art, there are many other places to see and visit in Columbus.  For illustrative purposes, here’s a few: the Topiary Park, The Franklin Park Conservatory, The Columbus Zoo & Aquarium, COSI, the Santa Maria, The Ohio Historical Center, The Ohio Statehouse, and the Ohio Expo Center on the Ohio State Fairgrounds.  Columbus is truly a great place for singles, couples, and families.  Art Festivals, Oktoberfest, the State Fair, Home & Garden Show, ComFest, and just about every cultural festival imaginable are all apart of this city’s calendar of events.  Want to enjoy the outdoors?  We have the Metroparks and additional options within a couple hours driving distance (Hocking Hills, Lake Erie, etc.).

FOODIES Also worth mentioning is the food culture in Columbus.  Home of White Castle, Donato’s, Wendy’s, Max & Erma’s, and Bob Evan’s, Columbus could be viewed as nothing more than fast food and strip malls.  Yes – Columbus has fast food and vast amounts of shopping which many people enjoy.  (Note: something for everyone.)  If you are familiar with terms like edamame, sous vide, tapenade, and aoli, read on.  Columbus’ destinations for foodies are gaining national recognition lately.  Recent articles have been published in The Washington Post and Columbus was featured on Anthony Bourdain’s “No Reservations” when Anthony and Michael Ruhlman visited a few bright culinary spots in the city.  We also have our share of Farmer’s Markets that offer fresh fare late-Spring through Fall.

So, if you’re an international student (like my roommate Edouard) and not attached to American football, have no fear.  We are a diverse city that has many international influences (thanks to the amount of professionals entering and exiting the city working in government, higher education, retail, insurance, and banking).  Without a doubt, Columbus has something for everyone.  Rest assured – you will enjoy living here and, if you ever find yourself with some extra time on your hands (which is rare), there’s plenty to do right outside your door.

Want more?  Also visit Insider Ohio for additional information on the area.

My Vegan(ish) Weekend

My boyfriend and I decided to test the limits of my culinary skills and our appetites and sanity by having an all vegan weekend this past weekend.  An all vegan LONG weekend even!  This decision was brought on as a way to complete a post-holiday detox and move away from all the junk we ate over Christmas.

Mind you, being that my family is Chinese, we did not have a holiday ham replete with starchy sides and sugary desserts.  For our holiday dinner, we had a Chinese hot pot, where you simmer vegetables and sides like tofu, fish cakes and daikon radish in a hot broth that you cook pieces of raw meat and seafood in.  You then pluck it out of the hot pot and drop it into your bowl where you’ve made a concoction of soy sauce, vinegar and sha cha, a smoky, aromatic and not sweet type of Chinese barbecue sauce.  It’s perfect for winter, it’s communal and it brings the family together in a very basic, almost primitive way.

My boyfriend’s family, however, is not the same.  I’ve always joked that I like to date because then I get to have the holidays that I get to see on TV, where families have Easter egg hunts, big turkeys and elaborate Christmas meals.  My boyfriend’s family does not disappoint.

At hand at all times were meats, hams, cookies, cake, petit fours, cheesecakes, chocolate dipped pretzels from Sarris’ (a Pennsylvania institution.  Some of you know what I’m talking about.), candied popcorn, sodas, punch, cheeses, hour d’oeuvres, chocolates, nuts… you name it!  And I mean at hand at all times.  I like to pretend that I have awesome self control, but the only reason I’m not 8000 lbs is because I don’t keep any stuff like that in my house.  So I grazed, and munched, and binged, and devoured, and tasted and slurped and crunched.

Needless to say, we were feeling pretty lousy about ourselves after the holiday, so vegan diet it was!

Here’s how we did it:

We had lunch at Northstar Cafe, now with three locations including the original Short North, Clintonville and the brand new Easton store.  I had the Northstar burger, which will be hands down the best veggie burger you’ve ever had.  My boyfriend had the sweet basil burrito with tofu.  (Ask for extra sauce.)  You can get almost everything made into a vegetarian or vegan dish there.  Perfect place for mixed (carnivore/omnivore/veggie) company.3

I made a vegetable korma using a canned sauce that I bought at World Market over in Lennox.  Mixed it with some fresh vegetables, simmered it and served over brown rice with seared tofu.

I also made a Thai creamy coconut curry adding kale and red bell peppers to this recipe.

Next we went to Tasi in the Short North, a wonderful brunch location.  I broke my veganism and had the smoked salmon bagel because it’s honestly too good to pass up.  Everything there is amazing and you need to try it.  You won’t be disappointed.

And finally, we made a Korean meal at home of an eggplant dish, kimchi fried rice (minus any of the meat ingredients) and fried tofu (first recipe on the page).

As you can see, it’s not too hard to be vegetarian or even vegan.  None of these recipes left us wanting for meat or dairy, and we felt great.

I will admit, on this final note, that on Monday, we attempted to go to a vegetarian Southern Indian restaurant by Northland called Udipi Cafe.  It was highly recommended by our friend and the price point was great.  Unfortunately, it was closed.  Instead we went to El Paso Mexican Restaurant and Taqueria.  This place was definitely not vegan.

I had the caminate torta, which is breaded chicken, refried beans, a fried egg, avocado, lettuce, tomato, and cheese on a buttery bun.  I could only finish half of it and took the rest home.

My boyfriend had the pollo empanizado which roughly translates to breaded chicken.  It was three breasts pounded thin and breaded, served with rice, refried beans, lettuce, tomato and a whole sliced avocado.  Both dishes were only $8 each!

If you’re not familiar with the Northland area, it may be a little jarring to you.  It’s not the nicest area anymore, but neither is it dangerous.  It’s worth checking out if only for El Paso and for the Super Seafood Chinese Buffet which has all you can eat crab legs on the weekends.

Let me know what you think of these recipes and the restaurants!

Gourmet Food on the Cheap

In another attempt to bring you ideas on how to save money, this one may not be considered as strong as my last post. I mean, we are still talking about gourmet food here — you’re going to drop at least $15 a person. But these plates will take you to some of the best restaurants in Columbus at heavily discounted prices. It was even featured on NPR WOSU, so you know it’s cool. And if you make your reservations fast, you’ll get to partake! They call it Restaurant Week and it begins today, Monday January 17th through the 22nd. Prices range $15-$35 a plate for a fixed multi-course menu. What’s more? Restaurant Week benefits the Mid-Ohio Foodbank. I’m going to try the Melting Pot with my boyfriend, just $30. Or you can check out Hyde Park or Cameron’s for the same price, and Mitchell’s Steakhouse or the Refectory for just $5 more.

To peruse other participating restaurants and their menus, as well as phone numbers to make reservations, go to:

Pistachio Pudding

One of my favorite holidays is Thanksgiving.  I believe Thanksgiving is a day that everyone can agree on two things:

(1) a great day of eating amazing food with family & friends

(2) napping.

I have yet to meet anyone who doesn’t seem to agree with me on no. 2.  Some of the best sleep of my life has taken place on Thanksgiving day.  I love nuzzling into the couch and drifting off to the NFL’s Detroit Lions getting blasted every year.  It seems the older that I get, the more I enjoy a nice “uninterrupted” nap.  Plus, I think my belly stuffed full of food helps, too.

Since I moved to Ohio last year, I am going to officially miss two Thanksgivings with my family.  Last year, I did make my own Thanksgiving meal with all the trimmings.  It was the first time I ever made that big of a meal – all for me.  But I will tell you, it certainly was nice not having to fight my twin brother for the last piece of pumpkin pie since I had the pie all to myself.  Sadly, I’ve realized there are ‘some’ benefits of having your own Thanksgiving.  And I won’t forget I had leftovers for a month  :/

Now, there was only one ‘dish’ I didn’t make for my Thanksgiving meal last year.  Its not because I couldn’t, but its because I probably would’ve messed it up in a major way.  Every year, for as long I can remember, my mom, Bonnie, would always call me a week before we would have Thanksgiving dinner and ask me if I had any requests.  Of course, being the ‘diva’ child that I was, I did.  I told my mom, “You know what I like.  Make me pistachio pudding.”  To this day, I have NO IDEA how she makes it.  And quite honestly, I don’t want to know.  Pistachio pudding, for some odd reason, I crave in the month of November.  And Bonnie has a way of making it in such a way that makes the fat child inside of me scream for more.  I have to admit, I grew up eating amazing food cooked by an even more amazing mother.  Every meal for me was like Thanksgiving.  So missing a South Dakota Thanksgiving  is ‘kindofabigdeal’, if you know what I mean.

I want to wish all the MLHR students a Happy Thanksgiving.  I hope every can and will make it home for the holiday weekend.

And if anyone is having amazing pistachio pudding at their Thanksgiving this year, eat two bowls “In the Name of Eric”.  Please.  And thank you.

Making Friends Across the Globe: Part 2

I wanted to follow up to my post from two weeks ago entitled “Making Friends Across the Globe” this week because I actually got to practice what I preached.

This past Friday I was invited to dinner at one of the international student’s home. Of course, I was so excited to try real, traditional Chinese food, so I accepted the invitation without question. Of course, as is American custom I had to offer to bring something to add to the meal, but my host said no, that I only needed to bring myself.

When I got there, I was greeted by my friend’s roommate, his friend from the MBLE program, and three more international students from our MLHR program. Dinner was already on the table when I arrived and the guys all announced that they were starving, so it was time to eat. I sat down, then chopsticks were passed around the table, when they got to me, my host said, “Oh, here, this is for you” (handing me a spoon). It was probably best I didn’t try to make a fool of myself using chopsticks (that will be a challenge I’ll have to tackle next time).

The food itself was so good. There was rice, a chicken leg, carrots, potatoes, all covered in a thick sauce (that I cannot pronounce) all served hot in a large bowl. Everything that was “extra” or anything that wasn’t supposed to be in our bowls at first was placed on the table and served “family-style.” The atmosphere truly felt like a family dinner away from home.

The best part about the meal was getting to talk to another international student from the MBLE program, so we were all able to learn more about the kind of work he does in his program. Also, it was fun talking to everyone about China as well as what things were similar in both Chinese and American culture. One of the most interesting things was the fact that Facebook is banned in China, so it was interesting to hear the international students talk about being able to use it in the United States. One of my favorite moments of the dinner was trading relationship stories and at one point one of the women from MLHR said “I think that is an issue that is something that all girls know” after we had been talking about guys and relationships. We all started to realize that, yes we were born and raised in different countries, but the four of us are still women, which means there are so many things we have in common.

Overall, dinner was such a great experience and a nice way to learn a little bit more about Chinese culture, and more importantly the interests and feelings we all share, no matter what our nationality. These friendships with international students are so amazing because not only do you get to experience another culture, but you also get to make new friends in the process. So, while you are at OSU, take the time to get to know the international students, because they bring so much invaluable knowledge and friendship to our program.

North Market

I never considered myself a “foodie” until I moved to Columbus (about 4 years ago), but now I thoroughly enjoy going to local restaurants, watching Top Chef to watch up and coming chefs compete, and even reading some of my dad’s Wine Spectator magazines. In my search for the new “unique” groceries and restaurants I found myself at North Market (located technically in the Short North) right across from many of the Arena District bars.

From the outside, it looks like an old industrial warehouse. The brick and huge sign posted in front look like they’ve been around for at least 100 years and when I went last week it looked really quiet. However, inside is a different story. Everywhere you turn there is a different vendor. It is set up so that each vendor has an open space where they have a counter and you can see their products. There is a vendor that has bubble tea, smoothies, and loose tea for sale. In fact, I found tea there that I can never find anywhere else. The other great thing about North Market is that vendors who also have stores in Short North are in North Market. Jeni’s Splendid Ice Cream has a space at North Market and in Short North. Nida’s has fresh sushi (made as you like upon request) and she also has her restaurant in Short North.

There are two unique vendors there that include one that sells just spices and one that has all organic, natural groceries. Having been to Europe, it reminds me of some of the little grocery shops that line the main streets in many European cities. There are also freezers and refrigerators full of food imported from outside the U.S.

The market also has events from time to time, such as cooking classes, chef series with local chefs, and there is an upcoming holiday open house (check their website for details). And, all of the vendors seem to be active participants in the city of Columbus.

But enough about the food, one of the things that makes North Market great is the fact that you feel as though you are shopping in a little community. As you enter, there is a huge board hanging from the ceiling with information about each of the vendors (what spaces they own, their philosophy on the food they sell, and their history). At North Market, you know exactly who your money is going to when you take a few minutes to read about the vendors.

When to Go: Believe it or not, the end of the work day is the time that I’ve found is best (during the week, of course).

Where to Stop: I LOVE Bubbles, the Tea & Juice Company. They have great smoothies (which you can add bubbles too if you like) and so much loose tea, it’s a little overwhelming. I also LOVE Curds & Whey (they carry an Ohio/Lake Erie goat cheese that is out of this world).