Giant Eagle's Market District
To use the catchphrase of an old “SNL” character, the food displays at the cafe area of Giant Eagle’s Market District look marvelous. And, it turns out, there is plenty of decent food at the eatery inside the relatively new Kingsdale Center grocery. Some of it is better than decent (and some things should be avoided).
The cafe is Giant Eagle’s entry into the We’re-bigger-and-better-than-Whole-Foods competition. The dining area is at the west end of the huge grocery store with a dizzying array of counters, food bars, displays of prepared foods and almost-ready-to-eat foods to be finished off in a pan, grill, oven or sandwich press.
Close together are a pizza counter, sandwich station and crepe bar (with various savory and sweet fillings, including ham, cheese and Nutella). Meanwhile, roasted and barbecued meats are available at the rotisserie. And in a first for Columbus, there’s a rösti bar—rösti being a crisp Swiss potato pancake topped with everything from sausages to duck confit. Then there is an Asian food cart—think street food—that features all manner of things from south India to Thailand to Singapore. Oh, and a big sushi bar. Plus two cold and hot food tables of prepared and make-your-own salads and dishes. Cookies, cakes, pastries, ice cream, candy and desserts of all manner abound, not to mention the espresso bar. You can get wine, beer, juice, soda. . . .
It would take at least two dozen trips (with friends) to try all this, so I can’t pretend to give you more than a sampling of what I liked. So here goes.
The pizza was more than decent because of the yeast-raised dough, good cheese and fresh toppings—all married in a super hot pizza oven, which is key to a proper crust. The one crepe I ate (ham and Swiss) was just fine. But the rösti was more interesting, the cooked potato crisped in a pan of hot oil. I especially liked the smoked salmon topping.
The place made a good sub sandwich. The sushi was as fine as grocery store sushi can get; it was the largest selection by far of any grocery in the area and the counter was staffed with several sushi chefs. The display of salads and fruits was nice, and on my three visits the ingredients were all fresh and the counters clean and tidy. The hot prepared dishes were nothing to sing about, but very few foods do well at a steam table, and the ones that do (stews and the like) are simple things to make well. To test my theory, I sampled the baked cod in cream sauce with butternut squash. As I said, most foods don’t do well on a steam table. If this dish had just come out of the oven, it might have been fine.
The most interesting thing here was the Asian food cart, where they make a darned good grilled satay, with chicken, beef, pork or tofu, either marinated or with a creamy peanut sauce. The pastries I tried were OK (this ain’t Pistacia Vera). But there were good breads and plenty else, including some tasty looking cookies and cakes.
Prices were reasonable—a step or two below sit-down restaurants—and some things, such as the salad bar, were a relative bargain. As for service, everyone I ran across was friendly and seemed to be well-trained.
This isn’t your mom’s grocery store, or even your grocery store—it’s a food megamall, with good eats to be had from just about anywhere in the world.
Giant Eagle’s Market District
3061 Kingsdale Center
Atmosphere: Food megamall with pretty displays.
Recommended dishes: Pizza, rösti, fresh salads, Asian food cart items, sushi.
Price range: Too wide ranging to list. Fairly reasonable.
Hours: Open 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
Reservations: Doesn’t apply.