Bucket-List: 21 Bethel Road Dishes to Try

Hand-stretched noodles, French terrine, al pastor tacos and other tasty finds

Erin Edwards
Columbus Monthly
Biang biang noodles from Jiu Thai Asian Café

Noodles

Biang Biang Noodles

If there’s one bucket-list dish on Bethel, it’s the biang biang noodles from Jiu Thai Asian Café, where owners Leo Xia and Emma Bian specialize in cuisine from China’s Shaanxi Province. These long, beltlike noodles are handmade, mixed with vegetables and a flavorful chile oil, then topped with thinly sliced beef and cilantro. A drizzle of vinegar makes the whole thing go … bang. Where to find it: Jiu Thai Asian Café, 787 Bethel Road

Classic Crossing Bridge Rice Noodle Soup

This unique shop specializes in a build-your-own soup that hails from Yunnan Province in Southwest China. Here’s how it works: Much like Chinese hot pot, you start with a boiling pot of broth. Noodles and ingredients such as thinly sliced beef and veggies are served separately on a platter. Then you simply “cross the bridge” by transferring your ingredients to the aromatic broth. Where to find it: Yun Nan Crossing Bridge Noodle, 2548 Bethel Road

With Rice

Chicken Haleem and Kabab Karahi

It’s tough to pick a single dish at Tandoori Grill, which celebrates its 10th anniversary this year, so we won’t. The chicken haleem—a dish that traces its origins to the Middle East—features lentils and shredded chicken cooked down for hours with turmeric and other spices. Pair with the kebab, which starts off in the tandoor oven and is then doused in flavorful karahi sauce, a blend of tomatoes, coriander, garam masala, chili powder and other spices. Where to find it: Tandoori Grill, 808 Bethel Road

Bulgogi and Kimbap

Min-Ga Korean Restaurant is traditional Korean cooking at its finest—a place where banchan, seafood pancakes, spicy soups and platters of marinated meat compete for space on modest tables. Go for the flavorful, tender (and generous) beef or pork bulgogi and don’t skip the colorful Korean rolls (aka kimbap) featuring beef, pickled veggies, egg, crab and seasoned rice rolled in seaweed. Where to find it: Min-Ga Korean Restaurant, 800 Bethel Road

Breakfast

Elena’s Specialty Crêpes

Breakfast at newcomer Café Elena is a welcome addition to the Bethel area. This international eatery, which dabbles in Russian, French and British fare, among others, is an excellent spot for ordering crêpes, namely Elena’s Specialty, a pair of thin pancakes filled with a creamy Russian sweet cheese and topped with fresh berries. It wins you over by not being cloyingly sweet, and the crêpes are soft in the middle but crispy on the edges. Where to find it: Café Elena, 2054 Crown Plaza Drive

Fancier Fare

Peking Duck

This crispy, whole-duck delicacy evokes a different era, but you can still find it at Hunan Lion, a Northwest Columbus stalwart celebrating its 35th year. The $40 duck is served with eight pancakes (chun bing) as well as scallions, cucumbers and plum sauce. This white-tablecloth spot no longer requires 24-hour advance notice before ordering Peking duck. One formal tradition that has gone by the wayside: The duck is not sliced tableside. Where to find it: Hunan Lion, 2038 Crown Plaza Drive

French Country Terrine

Any of the dishes from chef Richard Blondin could make this list, but Blondin has mastered his terrine technique over the years. This classic, rustic French dish is a consistent highlight of the Refectory’s menu, with starring proteins ranging from escargots to duck to wild boar, depending on the season. Where to find it: The Refectory Restaurant & Wine Shop, 1092 Bethel Road

Do-It-Yourself

Chinese Hot Pot

Coco Hot Pot is a certain contender for the best Chinese hot pot in the city. Located in the Micro Center shopping plaza, this eatery’s menu is expansive, offering a variety of hot pot options in addition to Pan-Asian stir-fries, noodle dishes, soups and more. For the hot pot, you can choose from one of four different broths, ranging from mushroom (mild) to Chongqing (spicy). The restaurant features an impressive variety of ingredients to dunk in the bubbling broth, including (takes deep breath) thinly sliced beef, tripe, squid, quail eggs, duck feet, tiger prawns, tofu, mushrooms, napa cabbage, lotus root and much more. The interactive meal does require concentration, lest you misplace your squid at the bottom of the pot. Where to find it: Coco Hot Pot, 743 Bethel Road

Korean Barbecue

Much like hot pot, Korean barbecue is all about a fun, interactive dining experience. Gogi offers tables with inset grills for DIY cooking such meats as rib-eye, pork belly, beef short rib, bulgogi and NY strip. Don’t forget to keep the soju flowing. Where to find it: Gogi Korean BBQ, 1138 Bethel Road

Soups & Stews

Spicy Mala Ramen

Mike Shek’s ramen joint is one of the most well-respected in town and for good reason. His spicy mala ramen starts with a house-made Sichuan tare (or base) and a chicken-based broth, which are joined by straight noodles, scallions, kikurage mushrooms, braised pork and a soft-boiled egg. Where to find it: Meshikou Ramen, 1506 Bethel Road

More:Top Ramen Picks in Columbus

Soondubu Jjigae

SoGong-Dong Korean Restaurant lies somewhere in between Min-Ga’s old-school vibe and Gogi Korean BBQ’s lively atmosphere. Although it offers Korean barbecue, the specialty at SGD is its soondubu jjigae, a silky tofu soup served with plenty of banchan on the side. Where to find it: SoGong-Dong Korean Restaurant, 2950 Hayden Road

Salads

Tiger Cry and Papaya Salad

Aside from Bangkok Restaurant & Grocery, it can be hard to track down great Thai food in Columbus, which makes us thankful for Bamboo Thai Kitchen. At this Olentangy Square eatery, two salads, Tiger Cry (featuring tender beef) and green papaya salad (aka som tum), represent Southeast Asian flavors at their best: a balance of salt, sweet, sour and heat. Where to find it: Bamboo Thai Kitchen, 774 Bethel Road

Seafood

Whole Fried Snapper

Tarek Albast’s Mr. Hummus Grill has big expansion plans in Columbus, almost as big as the menu at this Lebanese eatery. It’s hard to pass up the beautifully plated whole red snapper—golden and crispy on the outside and nicely tender on the inside—with a side of fattoush salad. Where to find it: Mr. Hummus Grill, 1450 Bethel Road

Kai’s Signature Boil

For those looking to get their hands messy, Kai’s Crab Boil is the seafood boil restaurant of choice. Just don your bib and select your shellfish (ranging from clams to lobster), add-ons (such as corn on the cob and sausage), flavoring and spice level. Where to find it: Kai’s Crab Boil, 839 Bethel Road

Handhelds

Spicy Chikin Sandwich

We’ll just lay it out there: Mike Shek’s chicken joint, Meshikou Chikin, offers what is easily a contender for the best fried chicken sandwich in town. It brings the heat, is wonderfully crispy and is nestled in a bun that won’t give out on you. Where to find it: Meshikou Chikin, 1504 Bethel Road

Falafel on Pita

At the unassuming shop Mediterranean Food Imports & Bakery No. 2 on Godown Road (look, we think it counts as Bethel), you can head to the back of this small market for a made-to-order falafel sandwich on house-made, still-warm pita bread that’s loaded with toppings—one of the best-kept secrets in town. Where to find it: Mediterranean Food Imports & Bakery No. 2, 5215 Godown Road

Gringas

Consistently ranking among the very top spots for authentic tacos in Columbus is Los Guachos, which has grown to four brick-and-mortar locations as well as its West Side food truck. The must-order here are the gringas, tacos featuring al pastor straight from the spit, pineapple, melted cheese, cilantro and onions on a grilled flour taco. Where to find it: Los Guachos Taqueria, 5221 Godown Road

Banh Mi

Buckeye Pho is a solid spot for the restorative Vietnamese noodle soup, but one of Columbus Monthly’s contributors, Thao Thai, picks the restaurant’s bahn mi as the best in town. Read Thai’s essay about searching for the city’s best Vietnamese sandwichWhere to find it: Buckeye Pho, 761 Bethel Road

This story is from the May 2022 issue of Columbus Monthly.