Westgate Thai

Thai | If you really want to show your friends you know how to find a great hidden gem, take them to Westgate Thai. It's a four-table spot you'd never know was there by the looks of its Sullivant Avenue ethnic grocery (Westgate Thai Import Market) exterior. But inside is some of the best, and cheapest, Thai you'll find in Columbus. Order like a pro and get the Khao Kaphrao Khai Dao ($6.99), a mix of veggies and meat tossed in a gingery Thai basil and garlic sauce and topped with a runny fried egg, the Pad Phrik Khing ($6.99), a stir-fry-like, aromatic red curry (without the coconut milk) with green beans and a choice, and the Lap Kai ($6.99), a ground meat salad with crunchy toasted rice, chili heat and spearmint served with leaves of romaine lettuce. Bonus: Order for more than two and they'll give you a well-packed box to carry out your meals. facebook.com/westgatethai

Frank's Fish & Seafood

Seafood | About a year ago, owner Frank Gonzalez set aside a small portion of his retail seafood market off Trabue Road for a 10-seat restaurant. The result is one of the best hidden gems on the West Side for fish lovers. The two-table eatery is decorated like a seaside cottage with lighthouse border wallpaper and kitschy fish art. The daily menu scribbled on a large chalkboard promises dishes that fit the ambiance-beer-battered cod, cornmeal-fried perch, fried oysters and spicy catfish, most of which come as sandwiches (any topped with Meyer lemon aioli are a must) or platters with a choice of Southern sides like hushpuppies. The guy who takes your order from an open kitchen window is also the cook. He's likely juggling several tickets, so be patient. While you wait, wander into the attached market where live lobsters swim in a tank and fresh seafood and shrimp is ready to grab from tubs of ice. franksfishandseafoodmarket.com

While you're here: Grab a bottle of seafood-friendly, organic wine from their backroom cellar.

Al Almeer

Middle Eastern/Moroccan | We became fans of this Roberts Road eatery in Hilliard last year in its previous incarnation as Casablanca Grill. Under the same management, but with a new name, thankfully not too much has changed. Al Ameer has the usual Middle Eastern suspects, kebabs, shawarma and the like, and it's all good. But what you really want here is the seven-item Moroccan menu, namely the tagines-a stewed vegetable dish typically spiced with berbere and cooked in an earthenware pot. We prefer the fragrant Meat Tagine ($14.95) with huge pieces of fall-off-the-bone lamb and rice (chicken and fish are also options). The only downside is they can be tough to catch (due to their popularity we're told). Call too late on a weekend night, and they might be sold out. Your best bet? Place your order late afternoon to early evening on Saturday. casablancagrillhilliard.com

The Olive Tree

Middle Eastern | Sunday brunch is a big draw for this Hilliard eatery (Did somebody say shakshuka?), but skipping lunch or dinner here would be a shame. The dining room isn't very big, and it can get crowded quickly, but there's plenty of space to wait near the counter if you're getting food to go. Olive Tree has some of the best creamy hummus around, but we love it even more when topped with warm whole chickpeas, hot pepper puree and lemon juice in the Hummus Masabacha ($7.50) starter that comes with a good helping of fresh pita bread triangles. If you're feeling street food, get the Spicy Gyro Platter ($12.50) served over rice with a kicky gyro sauce. The Vegetable Couscous ($14.50) is a comically large portion of carrots, zucchini, spaghetti squash, potatoes, cabbage and chickpeas tossed with steamed semolina and North African spices. It's homey and filling without feeling heavy, and reheats well the next day. olivetreecolumbus.com