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Global Goodies: Inside look at exciting finds at second Saraga International Market

Laura Dachenbach

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For years in Columbus and other Midwestern cities, if New Americans wanted to find the fixings for kimchi, the right brand of rice noodles, or some teff flour to bake a batch of homemade injera, they had to find and frequent small ethnic stores with a limited selection, make a substitution, or perhaps do without.

Saraga International Market opened in Indianapolis in 2005 and quickly changed that model by bringing the foods of multiple cultures to one large grocery store, providing a hub for newcomers who were longing for the flavors and textures of home. The store also became a homing beacon for foodies and experimental chefs looking to expand their palates, those who wanted to recreate the foods they had tried while visiting overseas, or those who simply find a food label written in Spanish, French, Arabic, or Mandarin to be an exciting find.

Photos: Brian Kaiser

Six years ago, Saraga made its Columbus debut on Morse Road and is continuing to expand. At the end of this past May, its Cleveland Avenue store opened its doors. The new 59,000-square-foot location has everything Saraga shoppers have come to expect in quality and variety, with additional space to grow. A store on South Hamilton Road remains in the process of opening, hopefully soon ready to serve eager customers from Whitehall, Pickerington, and Canal Winchester.

“We have a very strong passion, serving this community. We’re not here just only making money. We want to serve. Our mission is helping this community,” said John Sung, the store owner.

When Sung says “community,” there’s the sense that the word refers to many groups: the Linden neighborhood, the immigrant community, and the number of people with a passion for world cuisine. Certainly, around the world, the marketplace is a gathering space, meant for more than just commerce. Marketplaces welcome and connect people. Saraga maintains that environment.

“I’m also an immigrant from South Korea. 30 years. I came here to the United States 30 years ago,” said Sung, describing the homesickness his family felt, the comfort that familiar food brought, and the experiences that drew him to the food industry. “We love to serve international food to everybody: Nepali, Somali, Hispanic, Central American, South American, African.”

And American. You’ll find Pringles and Coke, chicken wings, and T-bone steak among the aisles of at Saraga. In fact, domestic products are the base of Saraga’s staples, but customers from everywhere around the globe have contributed their knowledge and added to the store’s ever-growing international inventory.

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The word “saraga” means “living” in Korean. “Living a life is a big challenge,” says Sung. “Immigrants come to the United States and need to find a job, make money, support a family. This is a big challenge.” Saraga the store supports people adapting to this challenge, providing food, jobs, and cultural understanding for newcomers.

In keeping with its support of the community, the new Saraga location will be home to several other vendors including a Mexican restaurant, a Paletería (ice cream parlor), a Puerto Rican bakery, and Khaja Ghar—a Nepali restaurant similar to Momo Ghar at the Morse Road location, known for its incredible traditional dumplings.

“We provide space for new entrepreneurs,” said Sung, explaining that it can be difficult for small immigrant-run businesses to get the exposure they need to develop a customer base, and the cross-pollination from the diverse clientele at Saraga helps those businesses thrive. (Indeed, Momo Ghar eventually found itself featured on the TV show Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives.) “They get support from us, construction-wise, financial-wise, so they can start their business and they can grow.”

A grocery store is not an easy business. A large number of workers are needed and much of the stock is perishable. Saraga prefers to advertise with old-school flyers and face-to-face contact, a large business entity making itself personal and relatable to the customers who value it. But Sung’s experience seems to have been his best teacher, and he moves forward not only by a business plan, but also by a persistence that has guided him over the last 30 years, and his mission to serve.

“Every day is a challenge.”

Saraga’s second Columbus location is at 3353 Cleveland Avenue.

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Food & Drink

You’ll like Buckeye Donut’s newest treat a la lot

614now

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Columbus’ favorite donut shop will be rolling out [literally] a brand new treat just in time for the annual Columbus Food Truck Festival.

We think you’ll like it a la lot.

Ice cream and donuts will converge in perfect harmony for Buckeye Donuts Apple Fritter A La Mode! That’s right, a cool scoop of vanilla ice cream will rest on top of the fan favorite sweet and fruity fried pastry, all drizzled in sticky caramel. You might need a napkin (or sleeve) for this one.

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This special goodie will be available Friday and Saturday from 11:00 AM- 11:00 PM only at the Columbus Food Truck Festival on the Scioto Mile.

Click here for our advise about how to optimize your experience at the foodie fest.

BEHOLD! The newest member of the Buckeye Donuts Family: Apple Fritter A La Mode! 🍩🍦Get your hands on this bad boy…

Posted by Buckeye Donuts on Thursday, August 15, 2019
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Food & Drink

Rossi or Ratssi? Rodents force closure at Short North restaurant

614now

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Someone is getting assigned to some “Charlie Work” after The Rossi Bar and Kitchen was served a red sticker by the Columbus Public Health Department.

The Short North restaurants was issued an emergency order yesterday because of “rodent activity in the basement prep area.” Reportedly, inspectors discovered dead rats in traps and excessive rat feces in the bowels of the 895 N. High St. building.

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Rossi will remain closed until the facility is cleaned, holes in the basement are repaired, and the rats are under control, according to a post from Tom Sussi, a local licensed and insured Private Investigator.

Sussi added that sources informed him that employees are not being paid on time.

Rats!The rodents forced a popular Short North restaurant to shut its doors.The Columbus Public Health Department…

Posted by Tom Sussi on Thursday, August 15, 2019

In an Instagram post, Rossi announced it’d be closed “for the next few days due to emergency repair.”

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Food & Drink

Fried, Smothered, & Loaded: Vegetarian Junk Food

Mitch Hooper

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Whenever the words “vegetarian” or “vegan” are thrown around, people’s defense walls go up as they instantly imagine bland salads or unseasoned tofu. Since both diets have become wildly popular trends in the world of eating, they are often associated with exclusive, healthy, clean, natural, raw, whatever…eating.

As a vegetarian, I’m here to tell you that’s bullshit. Sure, we vegetarians eat our share of salads, and occasionally tofu is substituted for chicken on our health-conscious dishes, but that’s not the full picture of our plates. Whether it’s loading up on carb-heavy sides, covering things in cheese (or vegan “cheese”), or living off the appetizer menu; living a plant-based diet can be just as much fun and games as any other fare – and here are a few dishes from around Columbus to prove it.

AM Philly

Angry Baker Olde Towne East | 891 Oak St.

Angry Baker has found a way to cover things in cheese and still please the vegans. The AM Philly comes loaded with sauteed mushrooms, onions, and peppers with tofu scramble atop a fresh and soft hoagie bun. To keep it in true “cheese/steak” form, they top the entire masterpiece with vegan cheddar cheese and a little vegan mayo. The sandwich is every bit as flavorful as a regular Philly, plus it’s just as messy to eat. I recommend a few squirts of Sriracha on it, but then again, I recommend that on everything

Buffalo Mac

Woodhouse Vegan Pop-up | 1038 N High St.

Keeping it cheesy, but plant-based, comes from the vegan pop-up at Oddfellows with the Buffalo Mac. The entree is relatively simple, but that just means more chances to really focus on flavor. The Beyond Meat “chicken” strips are marinated in buffalo sauce to really pack a punch and then is topped with more buffalo sauce and dairy-free ranch dressing with a bed of dairy-free mac and “cheese” to dig into. It’s finished off with some raw red onion and scallions to fully recreate that buffalo-style experience. Keep an eye out for Woodhouse’s first brick-and-mortar location setting up shop in the Italian Village.

Fried Cauliflower 

Hadley’s Bar + Kitchen | 260 S Fourth St.

Cauliflower is the new favorite vegetable amongst dieters for being low-carb. It’s inviting to a variety of flavors, and it can be used in many creative ways. At Hadley’s, the fried cauliflower resembles the bar-style boneless wings you might be craving since ditching meat. It’s the little things you miss as a plant-eater (like dipping sauces). So finding a place that offers three different sauce options—Dr. Pepper barbeque, house hot, and General Tso’s—is quite a gratifying moment. Dunk these addicting suckers into Hadley’s house-made ranch or bleu cheese and you’ll be fighting your carnivorous friends off as they ask to try a bite.

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Parma, Italy

Melt | 4206 Worth Ave. & 840 N High St.

Usually Melt’s sheer amount of dairy usage is enough to scare off any vegan within a 10-mile radius, but that all changed once Melt added an entire menu dedicated to vegan options. There are tons of options to choose from, but the Parma, Italy might take the caloric crown when it comes to plant-based indulgence. The sandwich features vegan chicken (or fried tofu) smothered in basil marinara with roasted garlic and vegan mozzarella cheese all in between two crusty pieces of garlic toast. It might not hurt to park a little further away from Melt just to burn a few extra calories on the way to and from devouring way too much food. 

The Joe Vegan Sloppy Sandwich

Lineage Brewing | 2971 N High St.

“Have some more sloppy joes! I made ‘em extra sloppy for you!” If that scene from Billy Madison still haunts you any time you go to break out some Manwich from the cupboard, put that canned sauce down and go to Lineage. Immediately order a beer to wash away the memory of the lunch lady, and then snag the Joe Vegan sloppy sandwich off the menu. It’s a hearty combination of lentils and kidney beans in the iconic sloppy joe sauce, and it’s topped with raw onion and your choice of vegan cheese sauce or cheddar cheese. Throw in a side of potato chips and it’s like being a teenager all over again except this time you didn’t have to steal your dad’s beer.

Vegan Barbeque Jackfruit

Alchemy | 625 Parsons Ave. 

& 1439 Grandview Ave. 

Jackfruit is a delicate fruit that tastes almost nothing like fruit. It’s a great vessel for sauces and flavorings, but if it’s not cooked properly, it can turn into a mushy mess. Thankfully, Alchemy has perfected this process with their vegan take on a classic barbeque pulled pork sandwich. The jackfruit is tender, but stays in form on the roll. For added texture and taste, the sandwich is served on a crunchy ciabatta roll with carrot cabbage slaw in an herbed cashew cream.

Brussel Sprouts

Barrel On High | 1120 N High St.

Don’t turn your nose up on Brussel sprouts, these green brain-looking vegetables are great for absorbing flavor and they have that “meaty” taste. At Barrel on High, these Brussels are oven-roasted and tossed into a Thai chili sauce making them potentially your new favorite thing. While the Thai chili brussel sprouts are worth tripling up on and calling it a dinner, might I point you in the direction of the Impossible Burger as well. The Impossible Burger has grown to fame because it resembles every aspect of meat while remaining plant-based, and Barrel’s straight-up approach of making an American classic go vegan will have you double checking the menu to make sure it’s not actually beef.

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