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Food & Drink

Moveable Feast: A tour of Columbus taco trucks

Mike Thomas

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The secret is out: if you’re on the hunt for authentic, often- regional, and reliably delicious fare from south of the border, food trucks are your best bet.

Though they’re now a regular subject of thinkpieces, blog roundups, and even televised food competition shows, food trucks as we know them sprang forth from a culture of migrant groups serving and partaking of the unique flavors of a faraway home.

Since their early days, food trucks have become a familiar staple in the landscape of American food culture; finding one often takes little more than a stroll to a nearby office park around lunchtime. Like many past innovations from immigrant communities, a concept that started from necessity and convenience has been embraced by the mainstream and reworked to include food of all imaginable origins.

Photos: Brian Kaiser

While attention today may fall on the hottest new chrome- spangled truck-slinging gourmet burgers or lobster rolls at $18 a go, there are still many purveyors of humble mobile eateries plugging away with the same affordable, Central-to-South American dishes that made the food truck concept a hit in the first place.

Like any locale with a sizable population of migrants from Latin-American nations, Columbus boasts an almost daunting array of traditional food trucks to choose from. As it was in the beginning, these trucks often feature cuisine from their proprietor’s hometown or region. In spite of the wheeled vehicles that house them, many of these operations can be found dependably at a fixed location that they never leave.

While Columbus is blessed with dozens of great brick-and- mortar spots serving up legit Hispanic food, OG-style taco trucks are still slinging some of the best food you’re likely to find in the area. Even if these ostensibly-mobile food vendors are out of your way, they are worth the seeking out.

You can try to Yelp your way through the taco truck tour of your dreams, but it might be easier to just get in the car and go. That’s what we did one afternoon, heading to the city’s west side where an established Hispanic community means a remarkable concentration of taco trucks-per-mile.

First up was Sabor Costeño Taqueria, a taco truck situated in the parking lot of a Shell gas station on Georgesville Rd. With an emphasis on coastal Oaxacan fare, this bright red truck featured a menu of special soups as part of their “weekend only” offerings (enticing weekend menus being a common sight at many trucks).

While the al pastor and chorizo tacos we picked up at this first stop resembled familiar onion-and-cilantro-adorned street tacos, the rich flavors of the pork placed these a cut above the ordinary. It was a sign of good things to come.

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Just up the street on Georgesville was Taqueria El Buen Sabor. Deeply- ingrained fast-food impulses enticed us into trying the gorditas at this truck, but the delectable creation that passed through the window into our waiting hands bore little resemblance to the multi-tortilla’d cheese concoction at Taco Bell.

These gorditas were something like a tostada with an additional top shell. The crispy tortillas used in this preparation were made fresh on-site—a sure sign of next-level taco skills. In this dish was every texture you’d want, from the crispy- yet-delicate bite of the shell to the tender, succulent meat (chorizo again in this case). A strong undercurrent of fresh dairy from a splash of crema and queso fresco rounded out the gorditas’ exceptional avor, which at three for $10 almost demanded a second helping.

Directly following our meal, the staff at Taqueria El Buen Sabor treated our crew to a selection of fresh-squeezed tropical juices. Pulp- intact, these chilled beverages offered a refreshing come down from the hearty dishes that preceded them.

After an afternoon of pork-stuffed delights, the final stop on our taco truck trifecta offered a selection of vegetarian and vegan offerings to satisfy the veggie-inclined among us. A fairly new venture according to employees within, Arepa Picante on Sullivant Avenue is a sleek black truck specializing in Venezuelan and Mexican offerings.

As the name suggests, the arepas were the star ingredient in most of this truck’s dishes. A vegan arepa stuffed with plantains, spicy tofu, and avocado, as well as a simple black bean and cheese arepa, were among the creations we sampled that day. No matter what goes into them, these crispy, chewy, scratch- made arepas ensure that everyone leaves satisfied.

It’s worth mentioning that while each of these trucks featured its own unique flavors and vibe, the unifying factor among them was exceptionally friendly staff. Every person we spoke to on our taco tour was more than happy to answer our questions, usually with the kind of warm genuine smile that may be hard to find in the rush for lunch at your nearest fast-casual chain.

While some of the novelty may have worn off, food trucks remain a destination for those in search of authentic flavors and hard-to-find regional delights. Though our sample size was relatively small, there was still nothing we tried during our humble tour that was less than exceptional—and this was just one part of town. With countless trucks tucked away throughout the city, surely there are riches to be discovered just around the corner.

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Food & Drink

National Brisket Day is Tomorrow!

Julian Foglietti

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Photo by Brian Kaiser

With meat shortages starting to take their toll and National Brisket Day around the corner here's 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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Community

{UPDATED} Indoor Dining: what’s NOT opening?

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Los Gauchos

PINS Mechanical Co.

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Hey Pinheads. We're so excited to hear that our world is beginning to reopen! Many of you have reached out asking about our opening plans so we wanted to provide a brief update on Pins Mechanical Co. While we fully trust and support the decisions of our local leaders, it’s our responsibility to ensure the health and safety of our team members and guests, while not sacrificing the experience that makes Pins, Pins! With that in mind, none of our locations will be opening in May. There are many unknowns with COVID-19 and we hope that taking this extra time will help our guests and teammates feel better about the measures we’ve put in place to keep all of us safe. For example, on top of our already stringent cleaning procedures, we’re installing UV technology at all locations (ensuring you always have clean balls to play with). We’re looking forward to welcoming back our kick-ass team to train and adjust to this new normal. Once our people feel comfortable + confident, we’ll know it’s time to get rollin’ again! Thank you for your incredible support, online sales, photo shares + kind words over the last two months. Even when you couldn’t show up, you showed up and we’ll never forget it! We’re hopeful that everyone will be safe and smart as we begin to reopen the doors to the small businesses that make our communities so special. See you soon, Pinheads!

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Old North Arcade

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Dear friends, . As you are most likely aware, Governor DeWine has permitted the reopening of bars and restaurants for dine-in seating effective 5/21. We are very grateful that our leadership is now offering businesses the choice to do what they think is right. We offer no judgment for the bars and restaurants that are/have chosen to open. However, for our particular business, and for our staff, we still think it's too early. We are going to remain closed this week and next but do hope to open soon. Your understanding and patience is greatly appreciated and we cannot wait to see you all. It is important to us that we apply an extra layer of safety and precaution on top of the govermental recommendations. Tentatively, we are looking at the end of May to reopen in a very limited capacity but we're following local and national developments very closesly so will be quick to bail if things turn south. Your continued support has been quite humbling. Thank you. Stay healthy, support local, and be more than kind to one another. . Cautiously optimistic, . ONA Staff

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Watershed Kitchen + Bar

101 Beer kitchen

They are delaying opening dine-in service until May 26th.

Matt the Miller's Tavern

Stay tuned on social for patio and dine-in updates!

J. Gumbo's

J. Gumbo's will continue to stay open for online ordering for pick up and delivery - stay tuned for dine-in updates.

Mouton on High

The Whitney House

The Whitney House will be opening Tuesday, June 2, 2020 at 11 am.

The Guild House

Stay tuned for opening dates!

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Stay safe everyone 💕

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Smoked On High

Dirty Frank's Hot Dog Palace

The Woodbury

The Woodbury will be opening its doors for dine-in service on June 1 2020.

Roosters

Roosters are not opening dine-in until May 26th 2020.

The Eagle

The Eagle is temporarily closed - stay tuned on social for updates!

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In light of the government mandated closure of dine-in business for an indeterminable period of time, we’ve made the incredibly hard decision to temporarily close The Eagle Columbus. . Given the truly unprecedented and quickly evolving nature of this health crisis, we’ve been forced to make the best decisions we can, with the information we have. As the true scale of this crisis has been revealed, it’s become impossible to deny the impact this mandate will have on our business and team members. This decision was made as all of our decisions have been: with the health, happiness, well being and best interests of our guests and team members in mind. . The state of Thunderdome Restaurant Group is strong and we look forward to seeing and serving you all on the other side of this. Truth, courage, and be well.

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Lavash Cafe

Tiger + Lily

Tiger + Lily is sticking to carry out for the time being. Follow them on social for updates for dine-in!

Yats Grandview

Red Lobster

Red Lobster is continuing to stick to curbside pickup, delivery, or touchless pick-up.

Harvest Pizza

Bareburger Columbus

Bareburger is opening for dine-in on May 26th, 2020.

Mezze

City Barbeque

Local Cantina - Creekside, Grandview, Dublin, Westerville, Hilliard Locations

Creekside Local Cantina is delaying opening indoor dining until May 26, 2020.

OH Pizza and Brew

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Coronavirus

Don’t be that guy/gal who forces your favorite bar/restaurant to permanently close; here are the rules

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Once the flood of COVID-related documentaries start to infiltrate our Netflix and Hulu feeds, one of the most debated topics will be which smoking gun the auteur chooses. NBA player Rudy Gobert recklessly rubbing his hands over every microphone during a press conference days before testing positive comes to mind first. The spring break bro who wouldn’t let the virus stop him from raging will make its rounds. Even the scene at Standard Hall made some people’s skin crawl.

The Ohio Investigative Unit will be doing its best to monitor situations at restaurants and bars in order to prevent any future anecdotes like the ones listed above. Local law enforcement agencies will be assisting the OIU to make sure that establishments are complying with the Dine Safe Ohio order. With the issues that were brought up following the opening of outside dining on May 15, the OIU has made specific stipulations for patrons to follow:

  • 6-foot social distancing between employees AND members of the public
  • patrons must be seated while eating and/or drinking 
  • no more than 10 people to a table
  • no billiards, video/arcade games, dancing, or card playing
  • patrons must follow specific guidelines put in place by restaurant/bar

For those who have no shame dancing by themselves in public, you’re golden. However, patrons can be written up for not following the OIU’s guidelines. 

Some people may be able to shoulder a citation, but bars and restaurants are the ones who have the most to lose here. In a press conference on May 18, Gov. Mike DeWine mentioned that OIU will issue citations that could result in the permanent loss of liquor licenses.

So once again the ball is in the consumer’s court: follow these very simple rules and avoid the risk of putting your favorite restaurants and bars out of business for good. In 2020, being spring break bro is the worst look.

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