Pita House Restaurant

Middle Eastern | File this under hidden gems because the fresh, vibrant and inexpensive Middle Eastern food at under-the-radar Pita House is pretty unbeatable. Its sparse strip mall digs, however, are very beatable. That's why there's a constant stream of to-go sacks being packed for in-the-know locals. They're digging top-notch kubeh (aka kibbeh, two for $5) and meal-deal kabob plates ($10), like smoky and seared, tender, juicy and aromatic kafta. Most plates come with rich and wonderful hummus plus two sides, such as outstanding roasted cauliflower salad, lemony tabbouleh, bright and tangy eggplant salad and ratatouille-like matbukha. Sandwiches like chicken shawarma ($7) likewise outpace competitors. pitahousebexley.com

Creole Kitchen

Creole/Cajun | This Spartan strip-mall carryout isn't much to look at, but chef Henry Butcher's food explodes with joy and flavor. Butcher, a lifelong student of the kitchen who's pulled gigs in hotel and restaurants around the country, hung his own shingle in 2006 and hopes to expand soon into an adjacent space for full-service dining. Until then, call ahead; wait times vary greatly, since it's often just Butcher and one other cook working the stoves. We recommend Seafood Fettuccini, Crawfish Etoufee, gumbo, and "Ooh-wee!" spicy Chicken Andouille Jambalaya. creolekitchen.biz

Mad Greek

Greek/Mediterranean | Mad Greek is takeout-friendly across the board. There's a designated takeout menu online, and even an arched carryout-only door for when you arrive to pick up your stuffed grape leaves and chicken kabobs. The separation from the dining room entrance means you can get in and get out of this Whitehall spot with little hassle. We've had great luck with Greek street food classics here, including Souvlaki ($6.50) so packed with tender and flavorful pork that it's practically a fork-and-knife sandwich (ask for an extra side of creamy garlic sauce). Pair a pita sandwich with the hearty and flavorful Lentil Veggie Soup ($2.99), and splurge on house-made Chocolate Walnut Baklava ($5). themadgreek.biz

Nazareth Restaurant & Deli

Middle Eastern | We're always tempted to sit down and eat at Nazareth in Gahanna. We simply want to hang out with the gregarious owner who greets regulars by name and newcomers with the same enthusiasm. His personality warms the boxy, shopping plaza space off North Hamilton Road, and infects the servers who are friendly and quick with your order. Good thing Nazareth's traditional Middle Eastern fare travels so well or we might never leave. Here you'll find solid versions of classics like lamb shish kebab, lemon chicken soup and the popular spicy chicken and rice made with house hot sauce. The menu standout, however, is the wonderfully cumin-laden Lentils & Rice ($6). It's a healthy helping of al dente green lentils, fragrant rice and caramelized onions and a side of citrusy house yogurt sauce. If you add spicy chicken to the meal (and you should for $4), you'll need the sauce to help calm down the heat. nazarethdeli.com

While you're here: Mix and match a six-pack at neighboring Crafted Drafts.

Da Levee

Cajun/Creole | The Gahanna outpost of this New Orleans-themed bar is designed strictly for carryout orders. Sure, there are a few tables and chairs for those who wander in and want to stay, but it's best to get your red beans and rice and spicy chicken po' boys to go (and ideally paired at home with a cocktail or two). The setup is exactly the same as the original location-order at the counter, daily rotating blackboard of Cajun and Creole specials, and not a meal more than $10. We stick to the left side of the board with the day's six specials and love that you can mix and match orders, combining two half portions into one meal for $8 (just a buck more than a large portion of one item). Our go to: Spicy Jambalaya with chicken, sausage and dirty rice, and the sweet-savory Maque Choux with caramelized corn, green chilies and black beans. facebook.com/daleveeonstygler

Indochine Cafe

Vietnamese/Laotian | Even before the Pho-splosion that made Vietnamese food suddenly trendy, Indochine was a hidden gem and neighborhood staple. The setting is inviting, as is the staff, but if you have to go to-go, Indochine still gets it right. The streamlined menu features an assortment of banh mi and steamed or fried rice platters, but two dishes really stand out. You can order "Bun Cha Gio Thit Heo Nuong" or simply say "Number 23." Either way you'll get a fantastic dish of chilled rice vermicelli noodles and fresh veggies with warm grilled pork and eggrolls. Or get the pho, specifically the special Tom Yum Pho. The carryout version comes perfectly deconstructed for the ride home. facebook.com/columbusindochine

Chi Thai

Chinese/Thai | From the curb, Chi Thai looks Asian chain-like. It's a huge, white tablecloth space in a Gahanna strip mall. But don't be deceived by looks-it's very much a local operation and it also serves some of the best Chinese on this side of town. (The bar, however, falls short with an OK wine list and limited beer selection, which is why we opt for takeaway here.) What we order: Szechuan Bean Curd ($10.75) with fried tofu and a chili-spiced black bean sauce and pan-fried Cantonese-style egg noodles ($12.95) tossed in a savory brown sauce with flank steak, shrimp, chicken and bright veggies. The lot can be packed on weekend nights, but, luckily, there are parking spaces for takeout customers only. chithairestaurant.com

The Angry Baker

Bakery | Takeout was made for spots like The Angry Baker. Vicki Hink's hip Olde Towne East cafe is packed on weekends (seating is limited to a short counter and a few tables), so make a point to call ahead. Some of the breakfast offerings (like the standout Vegan Pumpkin French Toast) don't travel well, so go for a bowl-we love the Tu-No Bowl with chickpeas ($9)-or something between buns, like the Broccoli Burger ($9.50) or the seitan-based Vegan Reuben ($9.50). Grab a treat for the road, too, like a savory tomato, feta and basil scone ($3.25). theangrybakerote.com