Best New Restaurants 2022: Martha's Fusion Kitchen
Martha Armenta, a native of Guanajuato, Mexico, is the star behind this authentic Mexican restaurant, which specializes in a wide range of birria dishes, chilaquiles, enchiladas, mulitas and more.
“The hype for birria is relentless,” declared a 2021 story in The New York Times. Indeed, birria, the authentic Mexican stew-turned-social media darling, is just as popular in Columbus.
Perhaps no one was better prepared to capitalize on this recent rise than Martha Armenta, the engine who makes Martha’s Fusion Kitchen run. After all, she grew up eating birria in Guanajuato, Mexico. She and her business partner, real estate agent Jose Zacatelco, opened their small Mexican restaurant—Armenta’s first—in January 2021 in North Linden. As her business partner tells it, one fortuitous day Armenta walked into the restaurant with 10 pounds of beef and said, “We’re going to make some birria.”
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The restaurant hasn’t looked back. Birria-themed menu items, such as birria tacos, birria enchiladas, birria tortas and even birria noodles account for 60 to 65 percent of their sales. But there’s even more to love at this no-frills carryout, such as excellent green enchiladas topped with fried eggs, chimichangas, mulitas and street tacos accompanied by Martha’s fresh salsas.
Asked to reflect on the eatery’s first year, Zacatelco says it has been a learning experience—from the hiring crisis to a break-in last year that resulted in $5,000 in damages. “It has been challenging, but we are in a good spot. The neighborhood really welcomed us. … Everyone was super happy with us because it’s good, quality food,” he says.
Worth the Wait: Good things come to those willing to wait at Martha’s. “It’s not fast Mexican food for sure, because those birria tacos sure take a while,” Zacatelco says. “At the beginning, on a Friday or Saturday night we had a one-and-a-half-hour wait. People did not care. People just kept saying, ‘It is worth the wait.’” What is it about birria that requires patience? After the taco meat (beef or chicken) is stuffed in its tortilla, the whole thing gets dunked into the rich, red consomé, giving the tacos their hue. “Imagine, now you have a wet tortilla and you have to crisp it,” he explains. “And if you have a griddle full of [wet] tortillas, it’s going to cool the grill. So, it’s just going to take a while.”
Jose’s Pick: Though the restaurant is known for its birria, Zacatelco’s favorite menu item is a breakfast staple (and a mighty fine hangover cure). “Martha’s chilaquiles are amazing. I’m from Mexico. I grew up eating chilaquiles everywhere. But Martha’s—oh my God,” he says with reverence. “I put [Martha’s green] chilaquiles salsa on everything.”
More of Martha’s: There’s good news on the horizon. Martha’s Fusion Kitchen is preparing to expand from a carryout operation into a “tiny but mighty” sit-down restaurant, with dine-in seating for about 30 people. The restaurant is also working to get its liquor license, with the goal of adding a small bar for enjoying margaritas, cerveza and more. Look for renovations to be complete in the spring.
Martha’s Fusion Kitchen
3331 Maize Road, North Linden
This story is from the February 2022 issue of Columbus Monthly.