Nomad Cuisine’s Globetrotting Menu is Bolstered by Creative Cocktails and a Modern Setting
Nomad’s menu ventures everywhere—with dishes from Spain, Peru, Japan and the American South to name a few—while live-fire cooking offers a throughline on this lively gastropub menu.
At Nomad Cuisine, wood-fired aromas from the open kitchen and the pulse of late-’80s alt-rock draw you into a warm, modern space that promises adventures uncommonly found in Polaris restaurants.
One of the first things I noticed upon entering Nomad, which opened in 2020, was a textural art installation with eclectic travel ephemera across the back wall. Tucked next to an old suitcase were lines from “On the Road,” Jack Kerouac’s travel classic: “There was nowhere to go but everywhere, so just keep on rolling under the stars.”
True to the spirit of the Kerouac quote, Nomad’s menu ventures everywhere—with dishes from Spain, Peru, Japan and the American South to name a few—while the kitchen’s use of live-fire cooking offers a throughline on this lively gastropub menu.
Inspired by delicious meals on his travels in Europe, local restaurateur Patrick Daly (who also owns Atlas Tavern in Polaris) bought his own Josper charcoal oven and grill even before he had secured Nomad’s Polaris address. (According to the restaurant’s website, Nomad is one of only a hundred restaurants in the U.S. with such equipment.) Manufactured in Barcelona, Jospers can be heated to nearly 1,000 degrees, cooking meats, fish, vegetables and breads quickly. The technique retains moisture while still imparting charcoal’s classic, smoky flavor to everything from the Japanese shrimp appetizer ($15) to the charcoal-fired veggie board ($18) to the chicken and shrimp étouffée ($27).
Like the food menu, cocktails are seasonal at Nomad. Each is listed with three descriptive words that guide you through curious combinations. A single serving, press-pot cocktail—employing a vessel used mostly for coffee or tea—offers a fun presentation that gives you some agency in blending the drink on your own. The spring version is the French Press Paloma (“refreshing, approachable, fun”; $15) combining fresh strawberries with hibiscus-infused tequila and the juices of lime and grapefruit.
On the two occasions I visited, I enjoyed items from both the winter and spring menus. While many standards remain regardless of season, key dishes were replaced with lighter, more seasonal fare for the spring. For example, a winter lamb dish—braised red-wine ragu served with ricotta over fettucine—gave way to the springtime option: grilled Tuscan lamb spareribs ($41)—an unusual and delicious cut glazed in a sticky balsamic reduction.
I was heartened to see that a green goddess salad ($9 half/$16 whole) was added to the spring menu, joining the grilled pear and goat cheese salad ($8 half/$14 whole). Nomad’s green goddess is delicious—bright, balanced and generous even in the half-portion. The contrast of strawberries and red onions against the green lettuce and avocado make the dish visually appealing. Ricotta salata cheese adds a savory note to the sweet and tart dressing, but I missed the crunch the promised-but-absent sunflower seeds and croutons would have offered.
The salmon entrée ($31) is roasted with an everything bagel seasoning crust and served with spaghetti in creamy caper-dill sauce and pickled red onions. It’s a playful (and trendy) nod to an everything bagel with cream cheese and lox, a classic combination. While the fish was flavorful and well-cooked, I found the pasta too heavy and disconnected from the salmon.
Many of Nomad’s dishes are more adventuresome, like the zarzuela, a Spanish seafood stew ($29), or lomo saltado, a Peruvian flatiron steak ($34). But this is still Polaris, so Nomad offers plenty of more familiar options, including a crispy chicken sandwich ($17) and a bone-in rib-eye ($59).
Nomad’s wine list is thoughtful and unusual—in a good way. The restaurant offers a select handful of glasses and bottles from smaller European and West Coast makers. On one visit, I was looking for a lighter rosé to go with my salmon entrée but questioned whether the South African option would be too fruity. Without hesitation, our knowledgeable server offered me a taste of the rosé but also suggested an alternative that you wouldn’t necessarily expect in strip mall territory: Field Recordings’ Skins, a natural orange blend from California’s Central Coast. Even though the curious orange wine was viscous and trending brown in color, its taste was clean and bright and the right pairing with my entrée.
Although some dishes can be uneven or need editing, Nomad’s offerings—from seasonal cocktails to light bites to serious entrées—are earnest and creative. In addition, the servers are knowledgeable, approachable and game to answer questions. If you find yourself near Polaris and looking for something different from what the area chain restaurants offer, head to Nomad for inventive (if not mind-bending) scratch cooking in a comfortable, modern setting. Adventures await.
2050 Polaris Parkway, Polaris, 614-505-8466, nomadcolumbus.com
Hours: Tuesday through Friday 4-9 p.m., Saturday 4-9:30 p.m., Sunday 4-8 p.m.
Not to Miss: The Smokestack Lightning cocktail ($12) combines smoky mezcal with beet-mango juice and a chile garnish. The crème brûlée ($9) is served warm with an incredibly thick and crunchy sugar crust.
This story is from the May 2023 issue of Columbus Monthly.