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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

The End of the Road?

Julian Foglietti

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As the economic impacts of COVID-19 continue, we are beginning to see the effects take their toll on Columbus eateries. Here's a list of some of the changes taking place.

The Sycamore+Cosecha Cocina  

Grow Restaurants, the company which owns Harvest Pizza, has listed The Sycamore and Cosecha for sale. While there hasn't been confirmation that the restaurants won’t make a reappearance in some form, Chris Crader stated in Columbus Underground, “It’s a lot of work to re-open after the pandemic and we have a considerable amount of interest in these two properties so it doesn’t make sense to open and then close again so quickly.”

Miller's Ale House

Both Miller’s Ale House locations are closing. The Florida-based company has removed mention of the Ohio locations from their websites.

Flowers and Bread Co.

In a recent article with Columbus CEO, owners Sarah Lagrotteria and Tricia Wheeler announced the closure of the cafe portion of their business. There are plans to expand the flower and bread workshop portion of the business under the new name Flower and Bread Society.

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Food & Drink

Rémy Cointreau presents: The Sidecar

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**SPONSORED**

We teamed up with Rémy Cointreau and local bartender, Ben Griest, from Giuseppe’s Ritrovo to bring you an icon of cognac cocktails. Ben's previous videos featured the art of margarita-mixology, and now we are moving on to another tasty cocktail. This timeless, opulent drink is well-balanced and fresh.

With National Cognac Day coming up, we figured it would be great to share, Rémy Martin 1738 presents The Sidecar.

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Food & Drink

National Brisket Day is Today!

Julian Foglietti

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Photo by Brian Kaiser

With meat shortages starting to take their toll and National Brisket Day here at last - we've gathered a roundup of some spots you can go to to get your brisket fix.

Legacy Smoke House

With their main location in Hilliard and a food truck moving throughout the city, Legacy Smoke House is a solid choice for brisket on National Brisket Day, just be sure to get there while supplies last. Enjoy!

Pecan Pennys

Just off Main Street, Pecan Pennys is ready to fulfill your brisket needs. If your looking to feed a family though be sure to get your orders in advance as they're requesting 24 hours notice on dinner bundles.

Ray-Ray's Hog Pit

With locations in Franklinton, Westerville, Clintonville and Powell Ray Ray's Hog Pit is open for business with brisket stocked at all locations. #NationalBrisketDay is the best day!

Hoggy’s Restaurant and Catering

Located on Bethel Road, Hoggy’s will be stocking brisket for both dine-in or carryout. Feel free to stop in or stop by!

The Pit

With a new location opened up on Parsons Ave. The Pit BBQ will be offering brisket for the National day. Celebrate with some tasty brisket!

City Barbeque

City Barbeque will be offering brisket for the National day! So get excited and get ready for some yummy BBQ brisket!

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