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Local nonprofit catering company announces new downtown cafe

614now Staff

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Nonprofit catering company and workforce development program Freedom a la Cart has announced plans to open its first full-service cafe + bakery and survivor resource center in downtown Columbus next summer at 123 E Spring St.

A nonprofit catering company and workforce development program that empowers and employs survivors of human trafficking, the Freedom a la Cart Cafe + Bakery will serve fresh-baked pastries, scratch-made meals, and locally roasted coffee under the direction of Consulting Chef BJ Lieberman. The menu will feature Freedom a la Cart favorites from the catering menu, as well as additional “a la minute” selections such as avocado and tomato tartini and house made brioche cinnamon toast.

The flagship cafe + bakery is expected to employ about 20 survivors, doubling the current number of survivors in Freedom’s workforce development program. The cafe also allows Freedom to extend its workforce training program to include valuable front-of-house job skills like point of sale operation, customer service education, and barista training, thereby broadening survivors’ marketability to transition into jobs in the community.

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Skill-building and bonding will extend beyond the kitchen to the new “Freedom Home”—2,500 square feet of program and office spaces on the cafe’s second floor for survivors to call their own. The space will include a lounge area, a computer station for job searching and educational assistance, a trauma counseling office, and an area for group gatherings.

“In less than ten years, we’ve seen Freedom a la Cart evolve from a food cart to a successful catering operation, and now, a full-service cafe and community resource center,” said Paula Haines, Executive Director of Freedom a la Cart. “The Freedom Cafe + Bakery will not only allow us to share Freedom a la Cart’s delicious menu offerings with more of the community but will also broaden our outreach and advocacy efforts for human trafficking survivors throughout Columbus.”

Starting in the Summer of 2020, Freedom a la Cart Cafe + Bakery will be open to the public for breakfast and lunch from Monday through Saturday from 7am- 3pm. Catering orders will continue to be accepted at freedomalacart.org/catering/ or by phone.

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Food & Drink

We Sheet you not, Sheetz is coming to Columbus

Mike Thomas

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Regional gas station chains seem to accumulate cult followings of loyal customers. While word of a new convenience store coming to town may not seem like a big deal at first, just ask your friends from Pennsylvania about Sheetz.

The popular chain of convenience stores and coffee shops headquartered in Altoona, Pennsylvania has announced an expansion into the Columbus market with this remarkable hype video posted to Facebook:

Sheetz locations offer fresh, made-to-order food options that set the chain apart from the usual gas station fare.

No open date for the Central Ohio location has been announced at this time. For more, visit www.sheetz.com/

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Food & Drink

Raising the Steaks: Ruth’s Chris returns to Columbus with new Short North digs

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With no shortage of local competitors welcoming carnivores, Ruth’s Chris Steak House has opened its doors in the Short North. After shuttering its Crosswoods location in 2016 due to “market changes,” the Florida-based steakhouse is back in the Bus.

The new restaurant promises a fine-dining experience tailored especially to the Columbus market and its location.

Photos: Rebecca Tien

“Knowing that we are across from the convention center, this is one of our bigger locations to allow room for a larger bar, private dining rooms and main dining room,” says Maria Policastro, general manager of Ruth’s Chris Columbus. “We kept the Short North Arts District culture in mind during every step of the design process as well, making sure we included elements that incorporated the downtown skyline and ever-present Ohio buckeye trees.”

Indeed, the entrance feels homey and features local art on display to bring some “Columbus” to the space. The building was once home to a hotel, and while undeniably formal, the dinner-only restaurant nevertheless offers a warm and welcoming feel. The waitstaff has its service down to an absolute science. Hand-polished wine glasses top each table and every element of the dining experience is expertly attended to.

Regardless of whether diners care to indulge in one of its more than 250 wines or a vintage-inspired craft cocktail, the main event here is the food. Its extra-thick-cut, wet-aged USDA prime steaks are broiled in a trademark 1800-degree oven and served sizzling on a 500-degree plate so every last bite stays warm.

“From our food to our service, Ruth’s Chris really stands out on its own,” said Policastro. “Ruth believed in treating her guests and employees as family, so that’s how we treat them too—by being warm and welcoming and paying attention to every little detail.”

Ruth Fertel mortgaged her home in 1965 and purchased Chris’s Steak House, a 60-seat restaurant located in New Orleans. After a fire forced her to move locations and rename the restaurant, she settled on Ruth’s Chris Steak House, hence the somewhat strange moniker.

Fertel, who died in 2002 at 75, would likely be shocked to see the size of the private dining rooms in the Columbus restaurant that bears her name. “Our private dining rooms are some of the largest at any Ruth’s Chris,” says Policastro. “When designing our private dining rooms, it was important to us that we made enough space to accommodate our customers in this busy area, along with larger parties who choose to dine with us after visiting the Convention Center or coming from the Ohio State University nearby.”

The private dining rooms each have their own unique Columbus vibe, with names like the Goodale, Victorian and Buckeye Rooms. Which is fitting because, “we’re around the corner from Columbus’ historic Goodale Park, we’re part of the Victorian Village, and we are in the heart of Buckeye nation,” Policastro said. Ruth’s Chris Steak House Columbus is already seeing its private rooms booking up for upcoming events and holidays. “We cannot wait to host these special moments for those who live in and visit the Short North Arts District.”

Ruth’s Chris Steakhouse is located at 511 N High Street. Learn more at ruthschris.com/restaurant-locations/columbus.

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Easton’s “dramatic” rooftop bar and restaurant opens this week

614now Staff

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Heads up, Easton, a snazzy new concept is opening this week. Restoration Hardware, or RH, will open The Gallery at Easton Town Center and RH Rooftop Restaurant & Park and Wine & Barista Bar on Thursday, December 12, at 11am.

According to a release, The Gallery "represents the brand’s quest to revolutionize physical retailing," with "immersive experience features artistic installations of luxury home furnishings in a gallery setting."

The three-story, 55,000-square-foot space will serve as "one of the most comprehensive collections of luxury home furnishings in the world."

The "dramatic" Rooftop Restaurant will offer "a year-round, skylit garden escape offering a timeless, ingredient-driven menu beneath a soaring atrium with retractable glass walls, and sparkling crystal chandeliers.

The restaurant will open onto a landscaped park with outdoor lounge spaces and trellised London plane trees.

Situated just off the grand stair, the Wine & Barista Bar will serve craft espresso, fresh-baked pastries, and artisanal wines to enjoy in the Rooftop Park.

This development will act as the anchor for Easton's new $500 million expansion.

RH Columbus, The Gallery at Easton Town Center is located at 4120 Worth Ave., Columbus. For more information, visit eastontowncenter.com.

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