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Nile Vegan offers plant-based Ethiopian food near Ohio State’s campus

Mitch Hooper

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Tucked away on Worthington St. near Ohio State’s campus is a hidden gem awaiting your arrival. There are no bright neon signs attracting visitors from the streets, and the interior only holds three booths. In an age where Instagram aesthetics and social media presence dominates, Nile Vegan chose to focus on what’s really important: the food.

Nile Vegan is a new restaurant offering plant-based Ethiopian cuisine created by chef and owner Siyum Tefera. The inspiration behind the menu here is thanks to Tefera’s roots growing up in Ethiopia where he lived until 2010 when he and his family made the move to Columbus. Whether it’s the injera or the Shiro be Gomen—chickpea sauce with stewed kale—these recipes come directly from Tefera’s time watching his mother in the kitchen throughout his childhood. It’s this feeling of home cooking combined with community that Tefera is hoping to build with his eatery.

As mentioned previously, the interior of the restaurant is simple. It feels somewhat like sitting in a dining room in your home with a kitchen attached to it—this was intentional, too. Tefera said when he was younger, he would sit in his dining room while his mother cooked meals and the two would converse about life. He continued this ideal with the design of the restaurant by keeping the kitchen area open and visible to customers. When I ordered my meal and took a seat, I watched Tefera slice onions and tomatoes that would eventually find their way into stews and sauces on my plate. Not only does this provide the chance for customers to interact with Tefera and his team, it’s also a bit of a flex. These folks aren’t using frozen goods from giant grocery stores or mass creating food—they are using fresh ingredients made to order.

The eating experience here is also twofold: it’s delicious, and fun to eat. Instead of forks, spoons, and knives on the table, your eating utensils are your hands. The injera—a sourdough risen flatbread—serves as a bed and sponge for scooping and soaking up the various sauces and stews.

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And the options for sauces and stews can range from mushroom stew to curried vegetable medley featuring freshly chopped cabbage, carrots and potato chunks stewed in vegan butter, onion, garlic, and turmeric. While most dishes are made on the mild side, Tefera said he can make dishes more spicy, or you can control your spicy adventure by adding as much—or as little—berbere, a fiery bright red seasoning, which is available on your table.

With winter on the horizon, trying Ethiopian food should be on everyone’s to-do list. The dishes are akin to comfort food, but on the non-traditional side. Instead of mashed potatoes and chicken noodle soup, it’s hearty portions of slow-cooked stews chock full of spices and seasonings. While you’re free to attack the menu as you see fit, I recommend bringing a friend and each ordering something different so you can share entrees. This gives you the chance to experiment with new flavors and options while also finding your menu favorite. If you ask Tefera, he recommends the Shiro, which is a slow-cooked chickpea sauce. And if you ask me, I’ll take three extra helpings of the Misir be Bamia—a stew featuring red lentils with okra.

But why plant-based? A cursory Google search shows a multitude of Ethiopian dishes where the main star is meat like Tibs—sauteed meat chunks, or Kitfo—Ethiopian beef tartar. For Tefera, it wasn’t so much adding a new vegan eatery to a growing list in the city, rather it was just a part of his lifestyle. He said he grew up eating mainly vegan, as Ethiopian traditions maintain ideals such as fasting on-and-off for nearly half the year. On those days, observants only eat one meal in the afternoon or evening and cut out all animal products. Choosing to stay vegan wasn’t so much of a concept as it was just what Tefera naturally knew.

Though Nile Vegan has only been open since mid-October, Tefera already has his eyes set on the future. First he said he wants to better understand his customers and their desires so he can serve them better. This includes tweaking the menu options as well as adding a few new ones such as an eggplant stew. Additionally, he wants to change up the interior of the restaurant. As of now, the three booths that are available can be quickly filled up, leaving patrons nowhere to sit. In the future, expect more options for single eaters, as well as a patio area once the weather warms.

For now, though, Tefera said he has been humbled by the amount of reception the restaurant has received. Beyond Tefera’s work, it’s been a family effort, as his mother can be found in the kitchen, cooking orders, conversing with her son, and serving as quality control. Hey, she did create these recipes, after all.

Nile Vegan is located on 1479 Worthington St. near Ohio State’s campus. For hours, operations, and more information, follow Nile Vegan at @nilevegan on Instagram.

millennial | writer | human

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Food & Drink

Brewery District bakery to close after 10 years

614now Staff

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The Brewery District will be sans a bakery in just a few short days.

After 10 years, Kolache Republic will be serving its last pastry on Saturday, February 8.

"We are truly grateful to our community of customers, friends, family and staff who have supported us in our pursuit to bring a unique food experience to this vibrant city as Columbus’ first and only kolache bakery," wrote Kolache Republic on Facebook.

https://www.facebook.com/Kolacherepublic/posts/3438844786142628

Other than deciding it was "time to hang up our oven mitts and start a new chapter," the Czech pastry shop did not provide a reason for the closure.

If you're planning on showing a lot of love for Kolache Republic before it closes, Kolache recommends calling ahead for any orders of a dozen or more.

Kolache Republic is located at 730 S High St.

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Hilliard looking to tap into its first brewery soon

614now Staff

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Orlando-based Crooked Can Brewing is targeting a February launch for their new taproom and brewery space in Hilliard, according to Drink Up Columbus.

The 4,000-square-foot taproom will be joined by a 7,000-square-foot patio, which will provide outdoor seating for the brewery as well as Hilliard's Center Street Market, which is expected to open in March.

The taproom will also feature large viewing windows where patrons can get a behind-the-scenes look at Crooked Can's new 16,000 square foot brewing operation.

Once open, Crooked Can Brewing will be located at 5354 Center Street in Hilliard. For more info, visit Drink Up Columbus.

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Food & Drink

Restaurant Week: High Bank’s $20 deluxe comfort food menu doesn’t disappoint

Regina Fox

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If you've sequestered High Bank into strictly a booze category, you're missing out on one of the most well-executed comfort food menus in Columbus, especially during Restaurant Week.

Weighing in at a mere $20 per person, High Bank's three-course menu is so tantalizing, you'll struggle to pick just one dish from each. Believe me, I certainly did.

Course 1: Choice of Garden Salad, Nacho Fries, Loaded Baked Potato, Five Ways Spaghetti

With great power (being tasked with choosing just one starter) comes great responsibility (making sure I pick the best). Luckily, there really is no wrong move.

Ever had Taco Bell's Nacho Fries? High Bank's are better. Crispy, battered fries smothered in melty queso, seasoned beef, refried beans, and a generous heap of sour cream make for an elevated, indulgent, heavyweight starter. The portion is definitely big enough to share, but I wouldn't blame you if you didn't.

Course 2: Choice of High Bank Bacon Cheeseburger, Queso-Rito, Spicy Chicken Sandwich, High Bank Bowl

Since stick-to-your-bones food is officially back in season, you have to get down to High Bank for their fried chicken menu items. The chicken is battered using an incredibly light and crunchy buttermilk, fried, then dusted with cayenne that leaves a warm glow on your palate—not too hot, not too mild.

Restaurant Week features two chicken entrees: the Spicy Chicken Sandwich and the High Bank Bowl.

The sandwich is an instant comfort food classic, but the High Bank Bowl is like the designer version of KFC's Famous Bowl. The mashed potatoes are perfectly salted and buttered, the sweet corn adds just the right amount of sweetness and pop, and the cheese and gravy culminate into a savory sauce. Colonel Sanders would be impressed.

Course 3: Choice of Mint Chocolate Sandwich, Snickerdoodle Sandwich, Oreo Sandwich

At this point, I was almost too full to function, but I had to press on. To absolutely no one's surprise, High Bank's third course did not disappoint.

The Snickerdoodle Sandwich came with two perfectly under-baked snickerdoodle cookies bookending a lump of hard-dip butter pecan ice cream. Drizzles of white chocolate over top sent this dessert into the winner's circle.

I can't remember the last time I felt so repleted, but I'd do it again in a heartbeat, and so should you. At just $20 a head, this is a deal you can't afford to miss.

Click here to check out High Bank's Restaurant Week menu. To learn more about Restaurant Week January 20-25, visit eat614.com.

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