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Everybody Loves Ramen: What to expect at Ampersand Asian Supper Club

Mike Thomas

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To say that restaurateur Megan Ada’s accomplishments are impressive for her age is an understatement. The feats she has achieved throughout a decade in the restaurant business would be remarkable for a person of any age. Her latest venture, Ampersand Asian Supper Club, is the latest effort in a meteoric career that shows no signs of slowing down.

“I didn’t want to settle for anything less than being really good at something,” Ada explains of her passion for food service, which started with her first job at a McDonalds in Marietta, Ohio. “I loved everything about it. I loved the process of it—the serving of food, taking orders, making the food.”

Years later, a stint at med school would come and go. Ada could not escape the call of her first love—the field in which she knew she could perform at the highest level. By age 24, she was eyeing an opportunity to own her own restaurant: a Sunny Street Cafe franchise in the suburb of Westerville. After a year of research and a loan from her father, that vision became a reality.

“The first year was really hard, even though I knew how to do everything in the restaurant,” says Ada of her first experience as an owner/operator. “Being 25 and being questioned all the time…most of my employees were older than me. [I had to] prove to everybody that I could do it and that I’m serious about this, and I’ll do whatever it takes to make this place successful.”

Her passion tempered by experience, Ada’s dedication to quality food service was stronger than ever. Soon, she was ready to open her own concept, launching Asterisk Supper Club in uptown Westerville. With its eclectic atmosphere, stylish cocktails, and a menu combining comfort food favorites with the sophistication of an afternoon teatime, Ada’s establishment was an instant hit.

After just a year in business with her first original concept, another major career opportunity presented itself. Short North developers Wood Companies, impressed with Ada’s work with Asterisk, approached her with an o er to develop a dining concept for a then-unbuilt structure on High Street.

“Living in Westerville and having my businesses in Westerville, coming down to the Short North was exciting and fun,” says Ada. “This is where the big dogs are. I never thought I’d be good enough to be down here, let alone be asked to come down here.”

With a relatively young restaurant to run, Ada was reluctant to expand her operations. After seeing the potential space while it was still under construction and considering the implications of having her own place in the Short North, she eventually agreed to take on another new restaurant concept—but at the time, had no idea what that concept would be.

Tackling her third restaurant in a decade, Ada employed the patient and thoughtful approach that had previously served her well. Another dream, another year of thorough research—this time with the help of Chef Joshua Cook, an industry veteran and Ada’s general manager at Asterisk. Together, the pair drew from the cultural influences of her father’s native Guam, where a sizable Japanese population has made ramen a common staple.

Their course decided, Ada and Cook set out to experience the best ramen they could find to fuel their creativity in this new venture: Ampersand Asian Supper Club. Their journey to discover new flavors and techniques took the pair across the rapidly expanding Central Ohio ramen scene and beyond.

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“My passion started at Momofuku in New York city, David Chang’s Restaurant,” says Cook on the influence of the boisterous celebrity chef and ramen connoisseur whose career and restaurant have greatly impacted his own. “I’ve followed him my whole career. To finally get there and see this humble, beautiful restaurant where they’re just throwing noodles out like there’s no tomorrow—I was blown away.”

Since Ampersand’s opening in June of 2019, it’s reasonable to expect that the restaurant’s craft-made, highly-inventive takes on ramen would win the approval of Cook’s culinary hero. Its opening also represents another incredible leap forward in Ada’s already impressive list of accomplishments as a restaurateur and business owner.

Like Asterisk, Ampersand’s interior combines Ada’s eclectic design sensibilities with an atmosphere that is at once welcoming and sophisticated. Meanwhile, a hodgepodge of antique artwork—much of which is ostensibly Asian in theme—consumes an entire wall within the space. This playful mingling of the old and new, the traditional and the wildly original, is the perfect metaphor for Ampersand’s menu.

“I love the traditional, but to me, I look at it like, how can I do this better? How can there be a more high-end ramen, where you’re still trying trying to stick to tradition, but also pushing the envelope and putting your own twist on it?” says Cook of his work at Ampersand.

Nowhere is this philosophy more evident than in Ampersand’s Shio ramen. With almost-black squid ink noodles swimming in a fish and chicken-based broth, the Shio comes topped with—among other things— Ohio-grown bok choy and corn, katsuobushi, and a number of tender, char-grilled octopus.

Cook and Ada inside Ampersand Asian Supper Club

For diners who prefer their meal free of succulently-cooked cephalopods, Ampersand features a number of vegetarian and vegan options that exhibit the same thoughtfulness and originality as their carnist counterparts. The playfully-titled vegetarian ramen bowl “Fungus Among Us” swaps out meat-based broths for earthy, locally- grown shrooms, and packs a mean punch of umami. To fully veg out, the Vegan Donbury Rice Bowl with marinated tofu, edamame, avocado, and other Asian-inspired garden favorites is a must-try.

Like sister establishment Asterisk, Ampersand’s first-rate cocktails are creative and expertly crafted. With names like “The Shogun”—a concoction of shochu, pickled plums, and a melon habanero shrub—or “The Last Samurai,” which combines lapsang-infused Cazadores blanco, dill, and an agave gastrique, these drinks offer surprising takes on the familiar flavors of Asia.

With Ampersand, Ada hopes she’s created an establishment that will become an object of obsession. For a young entrepreneur whose rise has been nothing less than meteoric, contagious passion is a key part of the recipe for success.

“I just want it to be a ramen place where you want to keep coming back, where you crave it when you’re at home,” she says of her creation, the latest piece in what seems to be a small but steadily-growing restaurant empire.

Ampersand Asian Supper Club is located on 940 N High St.

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Food & Drink

Restaurant Week Sneak Peek: Wolf’s Ridge Brewing

Regina Fox

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In less than 10 years at its natural sunlight-soaked digs on N 4th Street, Wolf's Ridge Brewing has managed to become a place revered not only for brewing some of the best beers the city has to offer, but also for serving some of the best food.

What better time to experience them both than Restaurant Week January 20-25?

We were lucky enough to get a sneak peek of Wolf's Ridge three-course menu before it was released to the public, and we think you're really going to like it.

First Course: Choice of baked brie, endive salad, or bread and butter

The endive salad offered depths with every bite: the brightness of the shaved pear, the fresh earthiness of the endive, the texture of the fennel, the crunch of the walnuts. But the star of this dish was certainly the pool of tangy, creamy blue cheese dressing hiding below the colorful mixture.

Second Course: Choice of salmon, grilled cauliflower, or pork tenderloin

Without a shadow of a doubt, I believe each one of the entrees offered during Restaurant week are slam dunks, but to me, the choice was obvious: pork tenderloin.

The three plump and pink cuts of pork were so tender, they could be easily cut with just a butter knife. The succulence of the meat played well with the sweet, nutty sunchoke puree, and rich smoked hazelnut butter. Like the french origin suggests, the demi-glace soaked into the tenderloin truly was the "icing" on top.

Third Course: Choice of cheesecake or fudge bar

If at the end of your meal you're feeling bright, light, and flirty, the cheesecake is for you. The toasted coconuts coating the mousse-like rum cheesecake, icy pineapple sorbet and orange marmalade will send your palate on an all-inclusive trip to the seaside.

Feeling a little more dense or moody? The punch of the espresso ice cream, thick chocolate bar, and sticky caramel crémeux will have you closing your eyes, and "mmm"ing through every bite.

At $40, the Wolf's Ridge Restaurant deal is quite possibly the best time to experience the creative, elevated menu. But, you and the other 900,000 residents of Columbus already know that, right? So, don't wait to make your reservation!

To learn more about Restaurant Week January 20-25, visit eat614.com.

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Food & Drink

Restaurant Week Sneak Peek: Pig out on amazing deal from Hoggy’s

Mike Thomas

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Longtime fans of barbecue in Central Ohio will remember Hoggy's, the family-owned local barbecue chain which originally opened in 1991. Recent history saw Hoggy's step away from the restaurant game in favor of a thriving catering business. With a newly-renovated store on Bethel road, this OG Columbus BBQ joint is getting back in the retail mix.

Scroll down for an exclusive giveaway

We recently stopped by Hoggy's to preview all the delicious goodness they've cooked up for Restaurant Week. With a deal this sweet, it's time you got reacquainted with this awesome, homegrown barbecue spot!

Restaurant Week Deal: Choose three meats, two sides, and your choice of cobbler or banana pudding, all for $15.

You read that right: THREE meats. While Hoggy's brisket, pulled pork, or pulled chicken are all solid choices, be sure that one of your trifecta of picks is the baby back ribs. These are truly some of the best ribs we've tried in town.

Bonus sleeper pick: we found Hoggy's wings to be exceptionally crispy and flavorful, serving as the perfect delivery method for their great BBQ sauces.

When it comes to sides, you really can't go wrong at Hoggy's. From the potato salad to the "cowboy style" baked beans, each side has the same home cooked flavor that you'd hope to find at a family cookout.

As long as you're treating yourself, don't be afraid to go double-starch in the sides department. The mac and cheese (with both penne and elbow macaroni) is a can't-miss, but then who in their right mind can can pass on cheesy potatoes?

If you have any room left for dessert, either of the available options will be sure to send you over the edge into a food coma. Hoggy's satisfying cobbler is served oven-hot, just like grandma used to make. Likewise, the decadent banana pudding is everything it should be and more, with a fluffy, creamy texture that is unlike anything we've seen elsewhere.

When it comes to Restaurant Week, Hoggy's isn't playing around. For $15, this is one of the best bang-for-the-buck deals on the entire RW lineup. Don't sleep—there will be time for that after you've stuffed yourself with sides, dessert, and all the delicious smoked meats you can handle!

To learn more about Restaurant Week January 20-25, visit eat614.com.

Comment your favorite BBQ side dish to be entered to win dinner for two at Hoggy's!

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Food & Drink

New plant-based diner takes root in Downtown

614now Staff

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From the people who brought us Eden burger comes a new plant-based diner sure to satisfy your hunger.

4th & State is a vegan cafe and diner located in the heart of downtown Columbus under the leadership of Chad Goodwin.

Click here to read more about Eden Burger

Featuring fare aimed at both breakfast and lunch, hours will soon be expanded to cover dinner service to coincide with the launch of the restaurant's beer and wine program.

Below are pictures of a few of the most popular breakfast items thus far:

4th & State is located at 152 E State St. and is open Monday through Friday from 7am- 3pm, and Saturday through Sunday from 9am- 4pm. To learn more, check out their Instagram.

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