Best new restaurants 2010
Homemade pierogies stuffed with Mackenzie Creamery goat cheese and Berkshire brats with orange braised cabbage, house-cured bacon and cranberry ginger marmalata (front), pork tacos with red cabbage slaw and smoked jalapeno sauce and Elevator Brewing Co.'s Wooden Shoe Bock beer. Photo by Michael A. Foley/Rycus Assoc.
We have no argument with the almost fanatical interest in restaurants using homegrown ingredients. In fact, our selection for the best of the Best New Restaurants of 2010 is among the most successful in implementing the local and fresh agenda.
Knead Urban Diner makes its own many things, including great bread, and it keeps track of its local suppliers. Not only is there a listing on the menu, but also a map of Ohio on a wall identifying them. And the restaurant has a lively choice of many more good Ohio beers than you knew about. Back that up with great food, knowledgably prepared, and it adds up to Knead being an easy choice.
And our pick should be no surprise considering the folks behind the venture: chef Rick Lopez and his wife, Krista. This combination has opened four restaurants over the past 14 years, and each one has made our Best New Restaurants list. In fact, this is the second time one of their operations has won Best of the Best. (The first was Trattoria La Tavola, which opened in 2006.)
As the year began, we were expecting a disappointing crop of new eateries thanks to the dreary economy. Indeed, there was little action in the upscale market. But we were pleased with the number of new ethnic restaurants performing at a high level of authenticity and quality, as well as places similar to Knead that tapped into the farm-to-table movement. With restaurants like these, there’s no need to sit home and eat canned soup.
Best of the best
505 N. High St.
The latest effort from Rick and Krista Lopez—located near the North Market and across from the Greater Columbus Convention Center—is an eclectic blend of Italy and the American Southwest, with a frequently changing menu. Among sandwiches, the vegan Slop V Joe is good enough to entice carnivores, if they didn’t notice the Cuban-OH, featuring a slow-roasted pork shoulder. There are interesting pizzas, from the prosciutto to the Fun Guy (bacon, two cheeses, tomato sauce and shiitake and oyster mushrooms).
Dinner offerings come in two sizes and many flavors. Want sort-of-familiar dishes? Go for French fries and gravy (but the gravy is pork and porcini) or meatloaf (Ohio ground beef with Old Leghumper beer and house-cured bacon). Want exotic-but-not-strange? Squash ravioli are savory and succulent, and they are good enough for the Emilia-Romagna region of Italy; the homemade pierogies and brats are a northern Ohio specialty worth ordering.
Best of the rest
240 S. Fourth St.
The folks behind the Rossi, Club 185 and Granville’s Del Mar have another winner in Little Palace. Keeping the name, but not the menu, of the Greek-American place that was here for years, the owners turned the somewhat grimy interior into a pretty, warm and welcoming place. Warm and welcoming, too, are the delicious pizzas made with the real deal: buffalo milk mozzarella and other high-quality toppings. The pies sport a chewy New York-style crust, which is blistered in a hot pizza oven to wonderful, smoky effect. The mini burger, mini-meatball sub, little chicken sandwich and gyros (meat-free, too, with the earthy grain quinoa) elevate bar food to a new level.
1439 Grandview Ave.
Good Middle Eastern fare is a joy to eat and fun to share. It is family food, communal food, food for conversation. While we do wish that the plain setting were cozier, the offerings are freshly prepared and well-made. We like the appetizers, in particular the hummus, baba ghanoush and tabbouleh. Actually, we especially like all the menu items. Bring a group, order large sampler platters and share the joy.
Park Creek Kitchen
2124 Arlington Ave.
This modestly sized place in the middle of Upper Arlington is not at all modest when it comes to the menu. This is not fare for the calorie conscious; it is food for the flavor seeker. We’re talking delicious buttermilk fried chicken and an outstanding burger with grilled mushrooms and rich Taleggio cheese. Wines by the glass are well-priced and well-chosen, and the space has a warm and cozy feeling. The chef/owner clearly wants to please, and he does.
77 E. Gay St.
Plantains are good for you, and, even better, they’re yummy. If you haven’t tried them—from the salty and crispy mashed unripe version to the soft, sweet ripe ones—you should do so. And the place to order them is Plantain Café, where the starchy fruit is served in several forms, including long fried strips with a lime and garlic dressing or in a delicious soup. This is a Cuban restaurant, and several classics of this cuisine are expertly done—from the pressed Cuban sandwich of roast pork, ham, pickle and cheese to the shredded beef dish called ropa vieja. Service is sweet, like a ripe plantain.
3535 W. Dublin-Granville Rd.
In a town with lots of Indian restaurants, Tadka’s offerings from the northwestern portion of the country stand out for flavor, freshness and interest. The flavorings vary across the menu, with great success. Go for the things you’ve never heard of, such as chilgoza kurkuri, a pastry appetizer. Things you have heard of also are worth trying, including the rogan josh made of goat and the perfectly succulent Baigan bharta (eggplant that’s baked, mashed, flavored and fried). The kitchen even got in on the Ohio produce craze in the summer with palak aur bhutte ki subzi, which features fresh corn kernels and smooth creamy spinach. Just be careful where you sit; some of the tables and chairs are sized for a grammar school.
1330 N. Hamilton Rd.
Korean and Japanese are done well at this newcomer. Whether you’re craving tempura, beef bulgogi or just about anything else from those parts of the world, this is your place. The menu is huge and includes a range of dishes from the two cuisines. Huge, too, is the crusty seafood pancake, a great appetizer to share. We heartily recommend the sushi and sashimi—and many other things, from the soothing avocado and seaweed salad to fried slices of fatty tuna. Such Korean standards as the rice dishes called bi bim bap are well worth eating also. Enjoy.
John Champlin and John Marshall are restaurant reviewers for Columbus Monthly.