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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

Strip Mall Surprise: A treasure trove of bourbons, pub food at McClellan’s

Aaron Wetli

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Welcome back to Strip Mall Surprise, where we highlight locally owned restaurants and bars that just happen to be located in a, wait for it, Strip Mall. Today’s installment is a little different as it focuses on a Irish pub with great food and one of the largest bourbon, scotch, and whiskey selections in Central, Ohio: McClellan's Pub.

Opened six years ago by Amy Schirtzinger and nestled off of Sawmill Road, McClellan’s is easy to miss if you aren’t looking for it. Upon arrival, patrons are greeted by a friendly and knowledgeable staff and offered seats at a large bar or medium sized dining area, where they can peruse a high-end pub food menu and get lost in the bottle selection.

Bourbon is uber popular right now and in Ohio, November is a big month for new releases. If you can’t locate that small batch release from a giant distillery or the single barrel offering from a smaller operation, odds are with their 500 bottle selection, McClellan’s Pub can pour a shot of what you are looking for.

And what a selection it is: Whistle Pig, Weller, Woodford Reserve, McKenna, Eagle Rare, Buffalo Trace, Elmer T and Pappy Van Winkle (among others) for as far as the eye can see. When I asked Schritzinger how many of the notoriously hard-to-locate Pappys she had, her response was simple, "All of them."

So what made service industry veteran Schirtzinger decide to open a bourbon-centric Irish pub?

"I’m Irish and proud and love whiskey and pubs," she said. "Plus, I enjoy looking at all of the pretty bottles."

One of those pretty bottles that will soon (think Christmas time) be behind the bar is the W.L. Weller Full Proof. McClellan’s won’t be the only location in Central, Ohio to get this particular pour, but it may be the first, so make sure the bourbon nerd in your life is aware of this fact.

As for the food I mentioned earlier, my go-to selections are the spicy and rich Sriracha Bourbon wings (70 cents each on Wednesday) or the crispy and robust Fish and Chips ($6 on Tuesday). You can also can’t go wrong with Guinness BBQ Pork Sandwich, Prime Rib Sliders (love the horseradish and caramelized onions) or the Irish Nachos; a concoction of sliced potatoes topped with pulled pork, beer cheese, sour cream and jalapenos all smothered in the Guinness BBQ sauce.

What are you waiting for? Get out there, drink some brown, and support local.

McClellan’s Pub is located at 6694 Sawmill Rd. Visit mcclellanspub.com for more info.

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Downtown deli merger means more meats on the menu

614now Staff

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Who says all good things must come to an end? While Danny’s Deli will be closing its brick-and-mortar location at 37 W Broad St., all of your favorites from the Columbus institution are now available at Lexi’s on Third at 100 E Broad St.

Customers can be sure they’re still getting the true Danny’s staples because the owner of Lexi’s on Third, Dan Georges, is the not only the namesake—he’s the same man behind the original Danny’s Deli on Broad and Front Street.

When Dan was offered an opportunity to build his own dream kitchen in 2011, he sold Danny’s Deli to his uncle and opened Lexi’s on Third, named after his daughter, Alexiana. When his uncle retired earlier this year, Dan closed the Columbus location of Danny’s Deli and brought all of the most-loved items to Lexi’s on Third.

“I am honored to continue the family legacy of a quality dining experience. Thank you for your loyalty and patronage,” said Dan Georges in a statement.

The Danny’s Deli originals now offered at Lexi’s on Third include breakfast specials, omelettes, sandwiches and wraps, salads, burgers, melts, and more. To see the whole menu, visit lexisonthird.com.

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VASO Arctic Adventure: Win an igloo dining experience

Regina Fox

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You know that first warm-ish day in March or April when a sliver of sun breaks through the grey winter sky, warming the dry, pasty faces of overzealous people packing every patio known to man? The General Manager of the AC Hotel by Marriott Columbus Dublin Orcun Turkay wanted to give those people an outdoor dining experience they didn’t have to wait until spring to enjoy.

Scroll down to win $200 towards an arctic adventure of your own!

On a windy, rainy day in mid-winter, my trusty (614) confidants and I crowded into the elevator at the AC Hotel Columbus Dublin and selected the top floor. It was the first time visiting for many of us and we were excited to finally experience it. When the elevator finally stopped, the doors glided open to reveal an inviting hostess. She welcomed us to VASO. 

The rooftop bar and tapas restaurant is absolutely gorgeous. All its features are round—orb lights, half circle bench seating, circular rugs, curved bar—and the natural lighting made the happy faces of happy hour-goers at the bar look even happier. The panoramic view of the Scioto River and downtown Dublin is one of the best in Central Ohio. But, for the next few months, the view will be slightly obscured for folks dining in. 

The hostess led us out onto the patio where three geometric-looking igloos sat, poised for hospitality. Made of plastic and PVC pipes anchored by sandbags, these see-through huts are simple and wildly attractive. They’re unique, cozy, and, most importantly, warm. I couldn’t wait to get inside out of the cold and actually have an enjoyable patio experience in the dead of Ohio winter.

The hostess unzipped the doorway and we filed in across the oriental rug. The inside was surprisingly spacious, even with six chairs, a few side tables, and one communal table in the middle. I took a seat in one of the faux fur-covered chairs (which I later found out cost $1,200 each), covered my legs with a soft blanket, and switched on the heater. I was perfectly comfortable without the extra accommodations, but I was in an upscale igloo and, dammit, I was going to act like it.

We were all quick to draw our phones to begin snapping photos. We could see rush hour traffic inching down Riverside Drive, but being in the igloo felt like we were our own little Instagrammable world. 

After putting in orders of hot chocolate and the Ohio spiked cider from the exclusive VASO Igloo shareable menu and the popcorn and Halibut Ceviche (which landed itself on the [web]pages of Esquire Magazine), Turkay humbly explained how his establishment became one of the first in the Midwest to introduce igloo dining as a light rain pinged the top of the plastic igloo.

He told us about how strongly central Ohioans have embraced the new eating and drinking adventure. Turkay knew he’d have to hire more people this winter to staff the igloos, but what he didn’t count on was the manpower it would require to simply manage the influx of calls.

“They answer the phone, take a reservation, hang up, answer the phone, take a reservation, hang up,” Turkay said of the three hostesses he brings in at 10 a.m. every day just to man the phones. I laughed in disbelief, choking a bit on my popcorn ceviche (delicious, by the way). I washed away the kernels with a swig of boozy hot chocolate (also delicious). 

Suffice it to say, the VASO igloos are a raging success, so much so that you won’t be getting in on a weekend this winter. The tiny ecosystems are booked up through March, which is when they’ll be retired for the season. Turkay promises to have them back up in November.

After everything from cheese-filled churros to seafood paella (which were ordered by hailing our server with a remote that buzzed her wrist piece), the sun set and was replaced by LED light beams illuminating our cozy clubhouse; it was our time to go. I took one last look around and felt thankful to be on the inside looking out, even just for the evening. •

VASO is located at 6540 Riverside Dr, Dublin. The igloos can be reserved for a minimum of $100 per hour Sundays-Wednesdays and $200 per hour Thursdays-Saturdays. Visit vasodublin.com for more information. 

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