Tag Archives: Ohio

Riziki’s Tanzanian food in Columbus

One of our favorite things about Columbus, OH, is its diverse food scene, which has a particularly strong representation of East African food (which is scarce in Cleveland). I am always on the hunt for the newest African restaurant in Columbus, since it seems there is a new one opening every month. However, when we lived in Chicago for the year I fell behind, and missed the opening of Columbus’ only Tanzanian restaurant, Riziki’s Swahili Grill (1872 Tamarack Cir S. Columbus, OH 43229).

Rizikis

The vibes at Riziki’s are amazing! When you visit, you are greeted by chef/owner Riziki herself, who is from the island archipelago of Zanzibar off the coast of Tanzania. The menu at Riziki’s a relatively small, but hits all of the Tanzanian classics, which combine Indian, East African and Middle Eastern influences, as befitting its Indian Ocean location. During the Friday lunch rush, Riziki’s was doing a brisk takeout service, but we decided to eat in at the casual dining room, painted in bright aqua, with wax-print cloth tablecloths. We quenched our thirsts with some fresh tamarind juice as we perused the menu.

sambusas

We had read that Riziki’s sambusas (triangular filled dough pockets akin to Indian samosas) were amazing, so we decided to go with a mix of chicken, beef and spicy veggie, sold for only $1 a piece. The sambusas were elegantly presented in a hand-carved wooden dish, and boasted a perfectly crispy, thin, oil-free wrapper and flavorful fillings. Riziki should probably start charging triple the price. M also enjoyed the addition of the habanero-laden house-made hot sauce.  The Indian culinary influence was also present in the main dishes, including the beef Biriani ($11.99). Other mains included a whole fried fish ($14.99), which we wish we could have chosen, if we had a little more time. On Sunday, Riziki serves a special Zanzibari dish called “Sunday Funday” – Mbatata za Urojo – also known as “Zanzibar mix” ($11.99) a dish with a mix of mango, bean fritters, potatoes and chutney.

Chapati

For our mains, we decided to split a chapati with goat curry and a side of kale ($11.99). The globally-popular chapati bread heavily displays the Indian influence on Zanzibari food, and is a layered flatbread fried in ghee. A chapati is supposed to be light and flaky, and Riki’s was some of the best we have ever had. The goat curry was heavily spiced, and the chapati worked as the perfect vehicle for the hearty stew. After dinner, we chatted a bit with Riziki herself, who had come to Columbus over a decade ago. She said that business at the restaurant had been picking up, but that the location made it a bit hard to find. The strip mall housing Riziki’s was a veritable United Nations of international shops and restaurants, but its location was in the midst of a residential district far from the city center. Be persistent though, and make an effort to find Riziki’s, it is worth it!

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Estilo Brazil Grocery Store and Restaurant in Columbus

brazilEven if you are not in Rio for the Olympics (we aren’t!), you can still find a taste of Brazil in some of the most unexpected places. One thing that we are quickly learning about Ohio is that you never know what you are going to find. It may seem that you are in a nondescript strip mall, but you may just be steps away from an amazing Brazilian food market and restaurant. And yes, in Columbus, Ohio we came across one of the best international food markets we have seen in the US, Estilo Brazil (5818 Columbus Square, Columbus, OH 43231).
Storefront

There is something for everyone at Estilo Brazil, and we saw most of our favorite brands from Brazil there: Phebo soaps, Sonho de Valsa chocolates, Piraquê cookies, Pilão coffee and Madrugada teas. Beyond those brands, Estilo Brazil boasts a wide selection of other Brazilian candies, juices, soda, household products, canned and packaged foods and spices. When we were there around Easter, they also had a large supply of Brazilian chocolate Easter eggs hanging from a wooden pergola in the middle of the store (the traditional display method), which are a must-try for any chocolate-lover at least once.

Cafe

More unusually, and a great sign for us, Estilo Brazil also had an extensive refrigerated and frozen food section with frozen Brazilian cuts of meats and fresh cheeses like catupiry and Minas. We were also pleased to find some things we hadn’t seen at other grocery stores, like miniature brigadeiro paper liners (like super mini cupcake tin liners), frozen açai pulp and spices for traditional churrasco. We were really impressed by Estilo Brazil’s selection of harder-to-find items. We definitely stocked up on favorites, and took a chance on some things that were new to us.AcaiAcerola

However, one of the best parts is that Estilo Brazil, is that it also houses a traditional Brazilian restaurant with a buffet. You can get a huge plate of food at the buffet for only $10. The big draw on Saturday is the lunch buffet with feijoada, the national dish of Brazil, which is a stew of pork and beans. Though they have a selection of mains (like moqueca, chicken stew or pasta – see the weekly menu here) every day of the week, the special feijoada is only available on Saturday.  At the buffet we got feijoada, garlicky couve mineira, salad, pão de queijo and a coxinha (fried chicken dumpling), and washed everything down with a cafezinho and a Guarana Antarctica. The food was delicious, and transported us instantly back to Brazil! Estilo Brazil is definitely worth a visit if you are craving some Brazilian food, and be sure to stock up on all the Brazilian essentials while you are there.

Feijoada

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Pistacia Vera – the best Macarons in Columbus

francePistacia Vera ( 541 S 3rd St, Columbus, OH 43215) in the quaint German Village neighborhood of Columbus is an immaculate example of a neighborhood French bakery. There are cases and shelves full of any number of dazzling French pastries and cakes, and hoards of Columbusites of all walks of life noshing on coffee and perfect croissants and quiches. We knew we were going to be spending some time here – especially when we got a tip that the macarons on offer were second-to-none.VeraMacarons Continue reading

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La Loma: Authentic tacos in Akron

Mexico FlagThe main thing we miss about moving away from Chicago is proliferation of taquerias there – you could pretty much throw a stone and hit a taqueria on every corner. Sadly, we had pretty much given up on the taqueria-style Mexican food in the area, but we found a shining beacon of hope in the unlikeliest of places – Akron. It’s true – La Loma Taqueria (459 Darrow Rd, Akron, OH 44305) in Akron makes some of the best al pastor this side of Clark street. La Loma is located in a nondescript strip mall on the outskirts of Akron, a pretty unlikely location for crazy delicious and authentic tacos.

LaLoma - Copy

What led us to La Loma were reports of a trompo in this location – the gyro-esque spit that is required to make a proper al pastor taco. Surely enough, when we entered the taqueria we were greeted by the fully loaded trompo! In terms of tacos La Loma delivers on value and variety. At a very reasonable $1.50 each, it is feasible to try all of the meat options: carne asada, barbacoa, chorizo, chicken or tongue. We tried both al pastor and chorizo, our go-to taqueria order. Other options available with the same meats include burritos, tortas on homemade telera bread, quesadilla, flautas, sopes and tamales. LaLomaPastor - Copy

The tacos were the real deal – served on small, fresh corn tortillas, they were topped with the requisite onion and cilantro. Plus, there was a healthy slice of fresh pineapple – the holy grail of al pastor tacos – which is sometimes left off at other taquerias. The pork was spicy and the outside was well-charred, like we prefer. As a plus, there is even an impeccably clean store attached to the taqueria selling a variety of Mexican and other Latin American foods and sundries. We snagged some dried guajillo peppers and Mexican cinnamon sticks, staples we needed for recipe production. La Loma’s one flaw is that it is located a bit of a drive from where we live. However, we know we will be back when the inevitable, insatiable taco craving hits.

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Puerto Rican specialties at Campus Grille in Berea

Flag of Puerto RicoPretty much the last place we expected to find awesome mofongo was in a small town outside of Cleveland, named “Campus Grille,” but we did! Campus Grille (10 Seminary St, Berea, OH 44017)  is hiding in plain site with a nondescript name and facade in the small town of Berea, near the campus of Baldwin Wallace University. We came here specifically for one of our favorite Puerto-Rican dishes, mofongo, but were pleased to find a varied Caribbean menu. Campus Grille is a casual place, which seemed to be popular with college kids and families alike. You place orders at the counter and then they are delivered to your table.

CampusGrille2

We knew we had to order the mofongo since we had heard so much about it, and once we saw the pilón (wooden mortar and pestle) for making mofongo we knew it was going to be good! We ordered a roast pork mofongo ($11.50 – other options include plain, chicken, beef or shrimp), and the house special, coco tropical ($9.50), which is roast chicken over a bed of coconut rice and spicy pineapple chutney, and a side orders tostones – fried plantains ($3.69). Also on the menu are beef stew (carne guisada), a cubano sandwich, rotisserie chicken, and even a vegetarian plate. If you are there for lunch, the specials seemed like an amazing deal at $6.

CampusGrille

With our Jarritos fruit sodas in hand we waited only a short while for the food to arrive (there were a few tables outside, too). Both dishes were excellent, and the proportions were huge. The mofongo was excellent, and the pork was tender and well spiced, the plantain portion was flavorful and garlicky, and not mushy, which is how we like our mofongo. The coco tropical was delicious, the rotisserie chicken was tender and flavorful, and it would be perfect for those with something a bit more sweet in mind. I think Campus Grille knows that you probably aren’t going to finish your entrée, because they serve everything in round foil to-go containers from the start, and if you don’t finish you can get the plastic lid at the counter. I can see how some people would not like that, but we thought it was kind of genius.CampusGrille3

Unfortunately, we were not up for dessert, but the flan and tres leches cake looked pretty good, too. We really enjoyed our meal at Campus Grille, it had a lot going for it: great pork, Goya products for sale by the counter and Prince Royce on the radio! Most importantly, this was some of the best mofongo we have had outside of Puerto Rico. We were so happy to have found Campus Grille, and are excited to explore more Puerto Rican food in Cleveland. Do you have any recommendations for us?

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