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Popular Hoyo’s Kitchen makes its move to North Market

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Hoyo’s Kitchen will hold its grand opening at North Market on Monday, August 12. Read below for the full scoop on the Somali restaurant.

The foreboding threat of heavy rain looms over downtown Columbus on a summer evening. But upstairs inside the cavernous, empty, and dimly-lit North Market, brothers A.B. and Mohamed Hassan describe the path they’ve walked as the founders and co-owners of Hoyo’s Kitchen, a fast casual Somali restaurant launched alongside their family back in November 2014.

Hoyo’s new North Market location has been met with a few delays, but to the Hassans, who have learned the business without any prior restaurant experience, setbacks are only a slight inconvenience—nothing compared to the uncertainty and stress they’ve been through since Hoyo’s first opened in an awkward strip mall corner on the corner of 161 and Cleveland Avenue in northeast Columbus.

Photos: Rebecca Tien

“We wouldn’t have survived the first few years if it wasn’t just us, our sweat,” recalls Mohamed. “Restaurants are competitive in general, but Somali restaurants in Columbus? There’s one that comes up every year or every few months. And another one that shuts down every few months.”

The concept of a family restaurant was in the works long before Hoyo’s became reality, explains A.B. “We grew up eating good food, and I’d always tell our mom, ‘We’re gonna open up a restaurant to showcase your talent.’ ”

When an opportunity to occupy a space not far from the city’s buzzing international Morse Road corridor presented itself, A.B. knew it was worth the risk. Poise, purpose, and commitment to the mission carried the Hoyo’s team through a tense initial period, when a small and inexperienced staff and a lack of equipment threatened their vision for a fast casual model.

“I just was confident if we offer good food—even though the old adage is ‘location, location, location’—it wouldn’t apply to a business that offered good food.”

The Hassans eventually hit their stride, and along the way grew more comfortable moving away from the norms of Somali restaurants. Most notably, the initial plan to operate as a traditional sit-down restaurant was scrapped in favor of a quick service restaurant model in line with trends across the food service industry. As their comfort with large-scale food prep and customer service grew, Hoyo’s earned a reputation as a Somali restaurant unique for its accessibility to those new to the culture’s food.

“[The American community] realized you could go to Hoyo’s Kitchen and we’re all born and raised here, so we can communicate, we know how to converse with people in English. That worked to our advantage because many of the other restaurants, they’re New American-run. There’s a language barrier. So we broke that barrier down and people appreciated that,” says A.B.

Eventually, word reached North Market Executive Director Rick Harrison Wolfe, who surreptitiously visited Hoyo’s one day to see the buzz for himself.

“They came, and they loved it. They absolutely loved it. Rick offered me an opportunity to propose [the concept for a stall]. He asked me if I was interested and I was like, ‘What? Hell yeah man.’ I never thought North Market was attainable.”

“It was the break that we needed at the perfect time,” adds Mohamed.

It’s hard to tell what’s more impressive about the Hassans: the confidence necessary to start such a bold enterprise from scratch, or the calmness in the face of such a profound step up. Regardless, A.B. and Mohamed are eager to share their recipes with a diverse clientele fond of trying new recipes without reservation.

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“Nothing about our stall is subtle. I designed it to be eye-catching,” says A.B. “The food is not scary. It’s familiar, it’s just different. Everyone knows what rice is, our rice is different. People have had chicken before I’m sure, ours is just different.”

“The cool thing about it is everybody that’s here [at North Market] is willing to try something, so you’re not having to coax them or pull them by their ear,” echoes Mohamed, who frequented North Market as a high school senior new to Central Ohio.

“Whenever I would go out, I would come to the North Market. Or when cousins from out of town would come, I would take them to the North Market. This is kind of like a stamp of validation. They were pretty adamant about having a North Market that looks like the city, basically. There’s a huge Somali population in Columbus—the second largest in America—just behind Minnesota. So it’s pretty cool to see the Indian stall here, and then the Nepali stall here, and we’ll be the first African stall in the North Market in their history.”

The mission, first and foremost, is food. Yet A.B. has another tangential assignment in mind for Hoyo’s when their long-awaited debut finally arrives. The friendly fast casual environment is designed to expose customers to the delicacies of a culture with deep roots in the Ohio capital, roots that are here to stay.

“Food is part and parcel to the culture. It’s the gateway to the culture,” he explains. “We’re just doing our part to elevate the culture and the people, and the first way to do that is through the food. Some people don’t even know we have a cuisine. Media tells people we were starving—there was a famine in Somalia, of course, that came because of the lack of a central government. But Somali food is one of the best foods in the world.”

The process of normalizing and accepting a foreign culture may have never looked so natural and inevitable. Despite making history inside one of Columbus’ oldest institutions, the Hassans are calm, collected, and ready to proceed.

“The only pressure I have is to represent it right. I want to make sure I represent it right, because we’re gonna be the first ones to do it here, and we’ve got to make sure people leave thinking, ‘Maybe I’ll try another cuisine within the continent. Maybe I’ll check this out.’ … North Market]’s gonna be crazy but I feel like I’m not even stressed out. I’m really not. I’m just ready to do it.”

Hoyo’s Kitchen is located at The North Market on 59 Spruce St.
For more information on the restaurant, check out northmarket.com for the latest.

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Food & Drink

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

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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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Rossi or Ratssi? Rodents force closure at Short North restaurant

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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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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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