Kuya Ian’s Bistro Is Rolling With The Punches In An Era Of Uncertainty

By Kevin Williams
As Ohio goes through its own stay at home order, many restaurants find themselves at a crossroads as to how to best weather this storm. Some restauranteurs have to answer hard questions: are they set up to offer takeout? Is doing take-out only a viable business plan for the immediate future?

For some, it is not possible to offer a take-out only service and have opted to close entirely, laying off their staff for the time being. Some, faced with stock, labor, and demand issues are offering abbreviated menus. Some places, like Los Guachos Tacos, opted to have a “free” day and gave away their items to patrons until they ran out — then closed for a few weeks before re-opening.

Some, are rolling with the punches, and are staying open and trying to cater to the community, as best as they can.

Kuya Ian’s Bistro is a family-owned restaurant, offering traditional Filipino dishes to Columbus residents. They offer dine-in, take out, and delivery through apps like Uber Eats or DoorDash.

Kuya Ian’s Bistro serves a wide range of dishes such as:

  • Chicken Adobo, a chicken and vegetable dish, in a sweet and savory sauce
  • BBQ skewer sticks, both pork, and chicken
  • Pancit glass noodles with green beans and carrots served with a citrus sauce on the side
  • Lumpia, a Filipino version of spring rolls — filled with pork or chicken
  • Longanissa, a sweet traditional Filipino sausage — usually served with rice and an egg
via Facebook

Also attached to Kuya Ian’s Bistro, is Chuchay’s Supermarket — a Filipino grocery and convenience store.

Robbie Firmalan, an employee of the Family-owned Bistro and Chuchay’s market, has come up with new solutions to cater to their clients, stay healthy, and serve the northside community. For example, they offer delivery with no minimum charge — for both the Bistro and Chuchay’s market. They’re even running a special at the market — no delivery fee for senior citizens.

He says that the community has been supportive thus far in their operation.

“People have been understanding — people keep their distance when picking up their orders, and we try and get everyone in and out as quickly as possible,” explained Firmalan.

“Most customers using our delivery service tend to be older Filipinos, due to their high risk of contacting COVID-19. Seeing a familiar face at their doorsteps delivering food and groceries helps put their mind at ease,” he said.

Because many states are having similar stay-at-home orders, it does affect sourcing ingredients and stock. It’s not as easy to go on a “supply run” to get specialty sauces or items typically found in Filipino food that may not be nearby in Columbus.

“Our main supplier for ready-to-eat foods has a shelter-in-place ruling, which makes some of our dishes unavailable. We’ve been forced to improvise by making some of our pre-made ingredients from scratch such as sauces and a few appetizers. It can be quite a challenge sometimes, but Nonie has perfected these recipes over decades,” Firmalan said.

Yet and still, Kuya Ian’s Bistro is remaining optimistic. Their main cook and family matriarch, Nonie, has kept a lively online presence. The Facebook and Instagram pages are full of appetizing pictures of dishes made by her. Just recently, she posted a thank you video online thanking everyone for the support. The Facebook page is full of smiling customers, receiving their to-go orders. Even other pictures of smiling senior citizens with their delivered groceries from Chuchay’s market.

Chuchay’s Supermarket offers food delivery — including fresh vegetables and fruits.

Demand may be tough right now — no one knows what the future may bring as many Ohioans find themselves out of work temporarily (hopefully). As of right now, Kuya Ian’s says they’re open for business. However, they have shortened the business hours to protect both the staff and the customers. Chuchay’s Supermarket has instituted a policy of only allowing ten people in the store at a time, along with abbreviated business hours.

So far, anti-Asian racism has stayed at bay. Firmalan says that there haven’t been any instances yet in their operation. But, reports across the country of discrimination and poor treatment keep coming in as some people associate COVID-19 with Asians, unfortunately.

The future effects on local small businesses remain yet to be seen, as COVID-19’s positive test caseload continues to rise, and more Ohioans find themselves without income. Whether or not this will affect the ability for residents to order from places like Kuya Ian’s, or Chuchay’s — we just don’t know.

Kuya Ian’s Bistro, along with it’s attached Filipino grocery store, is situated on the north end of Columbus — located at 6863 Flags Center Dr., on the corner of Cleveland Avenue and Shrock Road.

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