February is Black History Month and an opportunity to name-check some terrific eateries that are Black-owned. Echoing previous roundups, the following group of establishments is only a sampler platter of the feast of Black-owned Columbus restaurants. Presented in no particular order, here are a few eateries I’m inclined to over-order delicious food from, over and over again, regardless of the month.
Modern Southern Table
1086 N. 4th St. (inside Budd Dairy Food Hall), 614-505-2637, modernsoutherntable.com
Chef-owner Sadaya “Daisy” Lewis is a native Ohioan who learned to cook in Alabama, where her Southern grandmothers tutored her as a child. Her “A+” soul food stall in the Budd Dairy Food Hall indicates she must’ve been a brilliant and creative student (the “modern” in Modern Southern Table alludes to flavor-enhancing tweaks Lewis made to granny-sourced recipes).
Say hello to the best cornmeal-crusted catfish you might ever taste. The Alabama fried chicken is fantastic, too; so is its spicy cousin, low-country chicken. Frankly, from kicky chicken-and-sausage gumbo to outstanding sides like zippy, brothy collard greens; zesty Geechee red rice; righteous mac-and-cheese; and the downright revelatory, gazpacho-evoking black-eyed pea salad, everything here rocks.
Ena's Caribbean Kitchen
2444 Cleveland Ave., 614-262-0988, enascaribbeankitchen.com
Visit perennially hopping Ena’s Caribbean Kitchen, owned by Ena Hayles, and you’re visiting a North Linden landmark with deep community ties. The to-go-oriented eatery with a reggae-happy soundtrack is also deeply tied — a la virtual quantum wormhole — to Jamaica.
Flavors of that beach-rich nation arrive in hefty, inexpensive plates of: jerk chicken with grill-smoked, falling-off-the-bone, vividly seasoned meat that brings real island heat via Scotch Bonnet chiles; BBQ jerk chicken that’s basically jerk chicken with a complementary, tangy-sweet house barbecue sauce; and wonderful curry goat with bone-in tender meat amid gravy bearing notes of clove, allspice and ginger. Entrees come with serious sides, like cooked-to-sweet cabbage with onions, peppers and hints of chile; Jamaican-style rice and beans; and crisp, hand-cut fries.
Way Down Yonder New Orleans Finest Restaurant
3847 S. High St., 614-662-8623, waydwnyonder.com
Every day is like Mardi Gras at Way Down Yonder in the Great Southern Shopping Center. Make that every Thursday through Sunday, when this family-run eatery is currently open.
Chef-owner Yonder Gordon channels her native New Orleans visually with a purple restaurant exterior that leads to an interior brightened by huge Mardi Gras beads and walls tinted in the Mardi Gras colors of purple, gold and green.
Gordon’s food follows suit with peppery “Crescent City” classics like red beans and rice enhanced by smoked-sausage; rich, spicy crawfish etouffee; excellent fried shrimp, chicken and fish; and a splurge-worthy extravaganza, called Down by the Bayou, of crawfish étouffée ladled atop fried fish.
93 N. High St., Gahanna, 614-532-5182, marlowscheesesteaks.com
Marlow’s Cheesesteaks has been in the news lately because of the restaurant’s tragic loss of Christopher Mateen, a beloved employee. I’d encourage concerned readers to visit the GoFundMe page set up for Mateen’s bereaved family.
I’d also encourage readers to visit Marlow’s. Because the Philly cheesesteaks from this relatively new Gahanna eatery owned by ex-Philadelphians — married couple Shanika and Jomar Sheppard — are the genuine articles made with genuine ingredients brought in from the Philly area.
A smile-inducing mural of Philadelphia celebrities sets the Philly-honoring tone for a tiny menu offering excellent fries and the well-named Classic Wit Wiz, or what countless cheesesteak-makers pretend to cook. Diners with everything-and-the-kitchen appetites should order the crazy-good Marlow’s Way cheesesteak.
Shrimp Lips Seafood & Chicken
1622 Parsons Ave., 614-230-2554, shrimplips.com
When owners Dorothea and Johnny Carter moved to Ohio from Florida, they brought serious seafood know-how with them. That’s largely why their Shrimp Lips stand, a former dairy bar on the South Side with playful signage, is so popular.
Whether expertly fried or grilled, shrimp earns its star billing; like most items, it’s enhanced with zesty Creole seasonings and garlic butter. But don’t sleep on the terrific fried fish, fried chicken, soul food-style sides, specials or lavish combo platters.
Riziki Swahili Grill
1872 Tamarack Circle South, 614-547-7440, rizikiswahiligrill.com
The Zanzibari-style dishes from Riziki Swahili Grill — named for owner Riziki Yussuf, who’s from Zanzibar (which is off the coast of East Africa in the Indian Ocean) — are knockouts. Combining elements of Indian and Mediterranean cuisines, the distinct delights from this Northland-area overachiever with a modest, colorful interior (offering African and maritime allusions) are widely approachable, too.
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Dishes are generally large and served with saffron basmati plus lively kachumbari (pickled-cabbage-based salad). Some faves — chicken biryani and beef pilau — sound Indian, but don’t really taste Indian. Other faves — mishkaki (kebabs), samosa-like sambusas — reappear as garnishes in the buffet-in-a-bowl “Sunday Funday,” a turmeric-brightened potato soup-based showpiece.
Preston’s: A Burgers Joint
2973 N. High St., prestonsburgers.com
As of press time, this smashburger champion hadn’t yet relaunched in its new Clintonville location. But Matt Heaggans — who co-owns Preston’s with Letha Pugh (Pugh also co-owns Bake Me Happy) — recently said (via email) his team is working hard toward an early February opening. I’ll see you there!
This article originally appeared on The Columbus Dispatch: Several black-owned restaurants to try during Black History Month