Columbus Monthly’s Best New Restaurants 2023: Pickerington’s Jhapali Kitchen & Bar

Authentic Nepalese cuisine shines at this family-owned restaurant in Pickerington.

Erin Edwards
Columbus Monthly
A spread from Jhapali Kitchen & Bar, from left: momos, Kingfisher beer, garlic naan, chatpata, chai and Nepalese goat thali

Jhapali Kitchen & Bar is emblematic of one of the more interesting developments in Columbus dining in recent years: a burgeoning Nepalese food scene around Pickerington and Reynoldsburg.

Co-owner Dilli Bhattarai runs Jhapali with his brothers and sister-in-law. The family is among the more than 30,000 Bhutanese-Nepali refugees who have resettled in Ohio since 2018. In 2010, Bhattarai and his family came to Central Ohio from the Jhapa district, in Nepal’s southeast corner, far from the more tourism-heavy Kathmandu Valley.

The Pickerington restaurant, tucked next to the 25,000-square-foot GN International Grocery, specializes in both Nepalese and Indian fare. The spacious white dining room is somewhat spare, save for a colorful and inviting bar offering wine, cocktails and import beers (like Kingfisher) in cold mugs. And while the service at this family-run establishment can be slow at times, the flavorful dishes are worth the wait.

Chatpata at Jhapali Kitchen & Bar

Familiar and well-executed Indian fare, like samosas, biryanis, kormas, vindaloos and grilled tandoori platters, are all here, along with some of the best naan we’ve run across lately—crispy yet chewy and glistening with butter. Meanwhile, traditional Nepalese specialties on the menu include chicken choila, thukpa noodle soup and, of course, momos (Nepalese dumplings that come deep fried or steamed). But don’t miss the flavor-packed sekuwa: meats like chicken, pork or goat that are skewered and then grilled.

If you enjoy variety, order one of the restaurant’s Nepalese thalis. These combination platters (named after the platter, or thali, on which they are served) often include basmati rice, crispy papadum, saag, vegetarian curry, riata, mango pickle, dhal, gulab jamun (for dessert) and your choice of chicken, goat, lamb, fish or gundruk (a Nepalese dish made with leafy greens). The intention is to give you a good balance of six flavors: sweet, salty, sour, pungent, bitter and astringent—and it pays off.

The Bhattarai family at Jhapali Kitchen & Bar in Pickerington, from left: Dilli, Kumari, Sarun and Gyan

Jhapali Kitchen & Bar

859 Windmiller Drive, Ste. 300, Pickerington, 614-694-0300

Side Dishes

Chatpata: Co-owner Dilli Bhattarai says his grandfather was a street food vendor in Jhapa, where, as a child, Bhattarai fetched water for the food stall’s customers. His grandfather’s specialty? The puffed rice snack known as chatpata. The colorful treat is a standout starter at Jhapali, featuring puffed rice, dried instant noodles, chickpeas, cucumber, onion, lemon, chiles and other spices.

Have Your Cake: For something very traditional from Nepal’s eastern plains region, ask for an order of fluffy Jhapali bhakka. Made simply from rice flour and water, these steamed rice cakes are a street snack often accompanied by a condiment like tomato achaar.

This story is from the 2023 Best New Restaurants package in the March 2023 issue of Columbus Monthly.