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Review: Flavor 91 Bistro features diverse fare

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What do you know about Whitehall? Well, you should know more about this Columbus enclave that was home to the nation’s first shopping center. There’s a soul to this place where community threads are woven into its diverse fabric.

With a blend of residents—46% white, 32% black, 14% Hispanic, 20% non-English speakers with 12% being born outside the U.S., according to the U.S. Census Bureau—Whitehall is home to many proud immigrants making a difference. And there’s no better example of what Whitehall stands for than Freweini (Winnie) Abraham, who proudly operates Flavor 91 Bistro along with her son Moses Hayelom and daughter Winta Hayelom. (The “91” part of the name remains a mystery that only a select few have figured out; but if you do, the owners will donate the amount of your bill to a charity of your choice.)

Photos by Julian Foglietti

Born in Ethiopia, Abraham moved to Columbus when she was 17. (Her daughter Winta was born in the Sudan and her son Moses in the US, so the “Flavor Family,” as they like to be known, is a microcosm of Whitehall.)  It was Abraham’s upbringing in Ethiopia that introduced her to hard work, farm-fresh food and an ethos that family comes first. That’s why Flavor 91 serves non-GMO, non-antibiotic, hormone-free burgers and sandwiches. They pride themselves on only using responsibly-raised, sustainable, all-natural ingredients. “I am proud of where I am from, but even prouder of where I wound up [in Columbus],” Abraham says. “Whitehall is an up-and-coming place where people from around the world are welcome.”

Flavor 91, which opened in 2016, is a community center of sorts. Where people from all walks of life pass through the Flavor doors to share stories. Flavor 91 pulls from all over Columbus, and in some cases, the country—people stop by on flight layovers all the time thanks to a major social media presence. At the bar you might hear people from Bexley talking to someone from Dublin with someone else from Grandview listening in. It’s a meeting place where cultures come together to enjoy some of the best food in Ohio.

“If you start something good and it’s based in the care for others, people will find their way to it,” says Moses. “You will be surprised who it resonates with.”

When I first walked into Flavor 91 Bistro, I felt the communal energy right away. I knew there was something special about the award-winning burger, soup and wings joint. There was a vibe that felt healthy, authentic and familial. I was greeted by Winta who said, “Welcome to our living room.”

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Situated between a hair salon and a tattoo parlor (the business-savvy Abraham owns the entire building and runs the salon on her spare time), Flavor 91 features live local music and is looking to start a farmers’ market in the parking lot—creating a vibrant community. But what about the food? Man, does the food resonate.

The chicken cream of mushroom soup is so good that it was anointed as the 2018 Souper Bowl XII Cook-off Champion. It’s this savory, heartwarming blend of spices, cream and chicken that would make any doting grandmother proud. And when it comes to their Ethiopian dry-rubbed wings, well, I have never had such a party in my mouth. 

But not much can top Flavor 91’s award-winning burgers. The hand-crafted Flavor Burger is a 5.5oz. grass-fed beef burger, seasoned to perfection and topped with pepper jack cheese, beef bacon (cured short rib), spicy flavor sauce, shredded iceberg lettuce, tomato and red onion.

What makes the family most proud is keeping it local. They source their meat from RL Valley Ranch, located in Athens, Ohio, and serve craft beer from 2 Tones Brewing Company in Whitehall. It’s obvious the owners take who they do business with very seriously.

“You want to visit the farm and make sure [the cows] are grass fed,” says Abraham. “Sometimes farmers say they feed them grass all-year round, but they don’t always tell the truth. We wanted to see for ourselves.”

The Flavor Family visited the farm and saw a huge reserve of grass that RL Farms stored for the winter months and were sold on the fact that they could tell their customers, without any doubt, they were getting what’s promised. To help reassure their customers, the Flavor Family hosts a farmers’ dinner where their locally sourced Ohio farm suppliers speak to customers about what is being served.

Most people would find it difficult to work with family members. But the Flavor Family has mastered the art of working as a cohesive family.

“Foundationally, we have the most beautiful chemistry,” Winta says. “Our end goal is to support each other through anything.”

From Ethiopia to Whitehall, Abraham has seen a lot. With her family working beside her and her ability to feed the community with health-conscious food, she looks to be right at home. And when I walk through those doors, I feel right at home too.

Flavor 91 is located on 5186 E Main St, for hours and operations, visit flavor91.com.

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Food & Drink

It’s Restaurant Week! Enter grand prize, view menus, make reservations

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It’s finally here! Happy Restaurant Week July 15-20! What’s Restaurant Week you ask? You must be new. Thats OK! We’ll get you up to speed and in the know.

This week, you can enjoy 3-course meals at 120+ of Columbus’ best restaurants for a fraction of the cost. Dig into deep discounts from local favorites such as City Barbeque with special menus starting at just $15! Restaurant Week is also your to scope out some of the swankiest spots in town on the cheap like Smith & Wollensky and Mezzo !

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Or, you could get meals for FREE if you’re the lucky winner of our grand prize! In our Restaurant Week giveaway, one lucky winner will receive a $500 Marathon Gift Card AND dinner for 4 at 5 Restaurant Week restaurants! Plus, 25 additional winners will receive dinner for 2 at a participating Restaurant Week restaurant!

Your giveaway entries could help you score big, but they also do good in the community. During Restaurant Week Columbus presented by (614) Magazine & Marathon Petroleum Corporation, $0.25 donation will be made to Pelotonia for each unique giveaway entry, up to $5,000.

To view menus, make reservations, and enter the grand prize giveaway, visit eat614.com. And be sure to keep an eye on 614’s Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram pages for additional giveaways all week!

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Food & Drink

Tuttle Mall getting a lot sweeter thanks to 2 newcomers

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Malls have changed a lot over the years. Remember Waldenbooks? Was KB Toys your go-to as a kid? Heck, even Sears will soon be nothing more than a memory.

While mall establishments are frequently lost to the sands of time, it’s rare that you see a former retailer return to a mall it’s already vacated once. Well brace yourselves, sweets fans, because a gooey, sugar-frosted favorite is making a comeback at Tuttle Mall.

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Of course we’re talking Cinnabon, which was last in operation at Tuttle some years ago, and is now listed as “coming soon” on the mall’s directory. But wait! As tempting as it will be to fill up on cinnamon rolls after this long absence, you’ll want to save room for this other coming attraction: it seems Duck Donuts is also setting up shop in Tuttle.

Hop on the treadmill and give your dentist a heads-up, mall lovers—sweets are back at Tuttle in a big way!

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Food & Drink

Dive into Guy Fieri’s picks for best BBQ in nation, including one local spot

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Columbus native and mayor of Flavortown Guy Fieri has always had a soft spot for his hometown, especially its BBQ. He’s been around the country to enjoy some of the best food America has to offer for his show Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives, but it’s right here in Columbus where some of the meats are being smoked: Ray Ray’s Hog Pit.

The Food Network recently posted a list of Fieri’s top barbecue picks from DDD including James Anderson’s smokin’ hot food truck.

Guy Fieri just named us to his “Best BBQ from DDD” list. Thanks for the massive honor Guy, come back and see us anytime. http://bit.ly/DDDBestBBQ

Posted by Ray Ray's Hog Pit on Thursday, July 18, 2019

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“Chef and Owner James Anderson raises his own pigs for the succulent smoked offerings at Ray Ray’s Hog Pit, a one-of-a-kind barbecue truck in Columbus, Ohio,” reads the Food Network description. “Guy tried the super-moist Mangalitsa Brat Burger and St. Louis Spare Ribs.”

Ray Ray’s was originally featured on the “College Town Champs” episode of Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives in 2017.

Click here to view Fieri’s 59 top BBQ picks.

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