We are so lucky to live in a city that celebrates food from countries and cultures all around the world. As someone who tries to travel as often as possible and loves to eat, I am always on the lookout for good, authentic cuisine in my own city.
Sure, places like Chipotle Mexican Grill and Noodles & Company are fine in a pinch – I do love my veggie burrito bowls and Japanese pan noodles. But it never hurts to bypass the Americanized versions of your favorite international dish and try something new.
South African 🇿🇦
This food truck is particularly close to my heart. After visiting my dad and the rest of my family in Cape Town a couple Aprils ago, I was craving the food you can only find in South African market stalls. I’m usually a pretty strict vegetarian. Here at home in Columbus, I gravitate more toward curries and stir fries (and tacos, if we’re being honest). But when I’m in South Africa, it’s all about the seafood, braai (barbeque) and biltong (similar to our beef jerky).
Luckily, Fetty’s Street Food offers the best of both worlds.
Fetty’s focuses more on the Indian and Thai influences present in much of South African cuisine – all while keeping that street food charm. You can pick up a familiar dish such as a crispy panaeng curry, but you can also find something uniquely South African, such as koeksisters (fried dough infused with honey) or bunny chow (a hollowed out loaf of bread filled with a curry, originating on South Africa’s east coast in Durban, where much of its Indian population resides).
And don’t worry – no bunnies are harmed in the making of bunny chow. Although it was originally a vegetarian dish, it’s now typically made with lamb or chicken. Fetty’s version uses chicken.
One of my favorite memories is walking through the streets of Paris’s famous Latin Quarter and stumbling upon a little creperie stall. Even though I took, I don’t know, three years of French in college, my fluent friend had to order for us. That was slightly embarrassing, but it was a small price to pay for that perfect crepe.
I’ve never really met a crepe I didn’t like (or at least finish eating), and I certainly couldn’t tell you what makes one authentic or not, but I can tell you that Holy Crepes’s are some of the best I’ve found here in the capital city.
There’s a little something to fit everyone’s tastes, regardless if you’re a fan of sweet, dessert crepes (like me), or prefer the savory variety. Some, like the Philly Steak crepe, take on an American twist. But others are more similar to what you might find in a Parisienne cafe, using orange marmalade, nutella, and other fresh fruits.
Look. You can find delicious and unique food at restaurants all over this city. But I do have to encourage you guys to try your hand at cooking some of it yourself – and, honestly? Saraga International Grocery, just a hop, skip and a jump away from Easton Town Center on Morse Road, is your one-stop shop.
I’m a big fan of Jungle Jim’s International Market, but driving down to Fairfield on a regular basis just isn’t my cup of tea. Saraga is pretty much the next best thing.
I know how popular the supermarket is among our international community here in Columbus, so I’m not going to pretend it’s a “hidden gem,” but for those of you looking to expand your ingredients beyond the single international aisle at your regular shopping spot? This is the answer to your prayers.
The supermarket is inside an old Toys “R” Us (RIP), so it’s a lot to take in at first. You do need to spend a lot of time familiarizing yourself with the various sections. I first found out about Saraga after searching far and wide for rose essence for my rosewater macarons – it was one of the only stores I could find that carried it.
Giant bags of jasmine rice for all your curry dishes? Done. Fresh fish and wallet-friendly produce? Of course. Not to mention more rice vermicelli than you’ll know what to do with (eat Singapore noodles every day, obviously).
Now, you may know Momo Ghar from its North Market location. But did you know it all started with Saraga? Their dumplings are kind of a big deal in the local (and national!):
foodie community, so if you haven’t tried them yet…well, what’s stopping you? It’s never a good idea to shop on an empty stomach, anyway.
Guys, I have saved possibly the best for last. At the corner of Bethel and Sawmill roads sits one of my very favorite places in the city. It’s a good thing I live in Olde Towne East, otherwise I’d be there way more often than is appropriate.
If you’re a human being in America, there’s pretty much a 100 percent chance you’ve had a popsicle. But have you ever had a paleta?
These lovely Mexican treats have been having a moment this side of the border, but they’re not very easy to find here in Central Ohio outside of Diamonds Icecream.
Diamonds uses all-natural ingredients and fresh, seasonal fruit to create their paletas from scratch. No artificial flavoring. You can see entire kiwi slices and pistachio nuts in the dessert, so you know you’re getting the real thing.
While you’re there, try some of the homemade ice cream and other authentic Mexican food. You can basically have a multi-course meal at this place. Do yourself a favor and check it out before ice cream weather is behind us.