Columbus Monthly’s Best New Restaurants 2023: Joya’s Cafe
Chef Avishar Barua’s hip Bengali-American café in Worthington counts China, Korea, Thailand and Taco Bell among its culinary influences.
After making a splash as the top chef at Service Bar, which spilled over into national recognition on Bravo’s Top Chef: Portland, local chef Avishar Barua had plenty of options. He decided to continue having fun while working hard to launch his first restaurant—notably, in his hometown.
Named for Barua’s mother, Joya’s is a self-described “seriously fun, Bengali-American” café. That actually undersells this perennially packed, hip little Worthington wonder, because its culinary influences also include China, Korea, Thailand and Taco Bell.
Classic dishes are frequently reimagined, through laborious scratch-cooking techniques and creativity, into chile-kicked knockouts whose multiple components and dynamic qualities merit multiple adjectives.
The terrific kati roll—a large, Kolkata-style flatbread wrap with ground-lamb kebabs, egg, “maple chaat yogurt,” apple chutney, pickled onions and cilantro crema—is tangy, rich, spicy, tart and sweet.
Joya’s huge Toast-In-A-Box is an eccentrically folded, outside-the-box sandwich featuring toasted house-baked bread (a take on Japanese milk bread), a veggie omelet, pepper jack, salty pork roll, chiles, multiple condiments and crunchy garnishes.
Descriptions of Joya’s fried rice and the Not Pad Thai—two spirited stir-fries on the evolving, small menu—would include “umami-bomb” and “wok-hei smokiness.” Among the fine café drinks, Joya’s milk chai (his mother’s recipe, by the way) could just be described as “a must.”
657 High St., Worthington, 614-468-1232, eatatjoyas.com
Stealth Mode: Observant diners will notice daily specials in a display case (like excellent vegetarian Scotch-egg riffs and samosas). But Joya’s has a “secret kitchen menu,” too, with its own Instagram page. The menu showcases limited-run, what-the-staff-eats delights that have included multiculti burritos and tricked-out Cincinnati chili. Printouts of these specials are thoughtfully available for dining luddites.
Anatomy of a Smash Burger: The hard-to-make, easy-to-love Joyaburger—a secret menu item whose popularity catapulted it onto the regular menu—stars two house-ground patties made of chuck eye steak, bacon and bone marrow. Completing the “smash-terpice”: a garlic-buttered and griddled house potato bun; pepper jack; steamed-and-grilled shaved onions; hatch chiles; house-made pickles and condiments.
Dinner Party: Typically for Joya’s, it keeps early hours until it doesn’t. See, Joya’s has another secret: It’s been hosting occasional dinner parties that involve a tasting menu, special beverages, a reconfigured dining room and fancier dinnerware. These soirees should be open to the public in March via tickets sold on Tock.
This story is from the 2023 Best New Restaurants package in the March 2023 issue of Columbus Monthly.