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North Market Present: A look at the diverse community food haven

Mitch Hooper

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Ever-changing, always evolving, the North Market today serves as a cultural touchstone to what Columbus has become. Before there was an Arena District, the Greater Columbus Convention Center, and trendy shops all along the Short North, there was a place where community members could pick up fresh produce and goods. It was, and still is, an integral part of Columbus life, but now it plays a different role.

READ MORE: North Market Past: A history of the 143-year-old business

The North Market used to be a spot where beef, poultry, vegetables, and all of the options in between were available before the days of the supermarkets. There wasn’t a Kroger down the road where you could grab a pound of ground beef for dinner that night. Rather, it was perhaps your neighbor or friend who ran a butchery during the day. But that was in the late 1800s, and now with the amount of foot traffic and diverse options, the North Market has become a staple for the lunch rush as well as those going about their weekends in the downtown area. It’s one part food hall, one part farmers market, and every bit at the forefront of what has happened over the span of a century and a half.

Rick Wolfe, Executive director of the North Market (Photos: Brian Kaiser)

What the North Market leverages is community and diversity. It could be easy to fill up vendor spots with burger joints and other Midwestern classics, but Rick Wolfe said he wanted to take a different approach to give our city fresher options. Here, you’ll find Somali food, the national cuisine of one of the city’s largest immigrant communities, and the opportunity to experience a dish that’s otherwise rare in Columbus food encounters. There’s also Middle Eastern food, Indian options, and of course, there are still relics of grab- and-go-style ordering which grew the North Market to fame, filling a niche larger grocers could not. While you won’t find everything you need at the North Market—kitty litter, light bulbs, trash bags—there’s still a connection between farmers, crafters, and brewers with the community at large.

“You have to look at what’s happened around us now,” Wolfe explained. “Back in ‘95 when we moved into this building, there was no Arena. The Convention Center was just coming, there were a lot of boarded-up buildings. We have a million and a half to two million people coming here. I’d estimate that about 40% of that is tourism from the Convention Center.”

With the changing customer base comes different ways to serve, something the North Market has striven to do throughout its history.

“If we were still a fresh-only market, people would walk in and say, ‘Wow! This is really cool, but I’m not really taking a head of lettuce back to my hotel.’ We have evolved with our merchants on who comes through the doors.”

Now, the North Market can be broken up into three parts: fresh options, baked goods, and prepared food. Since Wolfe came aboard in 2013, things have changed, and he says that’s a good thing. Change is inevitable, and the North Market is all too familiar with it. His strategy for growth has been somewhat of a revolving door. The North Market serves as an incubator for local offerings to grow and learn as a business, but also it can serve as a place for vendors such as Market Blooms, which has called the North Market home since 1990, to become a known presence.

“It took me a while to wrap my arms around here and assess each individual’s needs,” Wolfe said. “And it’s not a coincidence. My mindset was—we have a lot of great prepared foods and international folks that are living in different parts of the city, but you’re not seeing it down here.”

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As an example, Wolfe mentioned Lan Viet, a Vietnemse restaurant offering options such as bahn mi and the ever- popular pho. When Lan Viet first moved into the North Market in 2010, it was probably described as “exotic,” but now alongside merchants such as Firdous Express, a Mediterranean restaurant, and Satori Ramen Bar, the overall feel is one of authenticity.

The North Market now stands on the brink of a makeover, and many have questions about what changes will be coming down the road, quite literally. How will construction impact the merchants? Will parking still be accessible? What steps can be taken to make sure businesses are protected throughout this process?

“Will there be disruption? Of course there will be disruption, but will we close? We will not,” Wolfe said. “We have to get super creative on how to minimize the disruption for you—the community, the tourist, the convention folks—to get in and out of here without being too much of a pain in the ass. It’s not 100% avoidable, but we are working very hard to minimize that disruption.”

As of now, things are still full speed at the North Market as construction hasn’t quite picked up just yet. Brittany Baum, founder and owner of Brezel, a Bavarian pretzel merchant, notes that there are fears looming with the unexpected, but remains hopeful. She, like many other vendors and merchants, has been able to cultivate a team that has up to five years of experience under their belts.

“To be honest, in the sense of business owners, we just don’t know what to anticipate, at least during that construction process,” Baum said. “But I’m really hopeful, and once that construction process is done, it will really pay off. We’re just going to be faced with challenges over the next couple of years.”

Brezel has incorporated the use of food delivery services like UberEats, DoorDash, and PostMates to counter the number of customers lost to parking or traffic issues.

Another strength of the North Market is the tight-knit community that has grown throughout the years—the type of support that doesn’t give up easily. During off times, it’s no surprise to see an employee of Brezel dropping off a few pretzel sticks to the nearby Jeni’s in exchange for a scoop of ice cream.

“It’s all the businesses together that have this kind of neighborhood feel,” Baum explained. “When we are in there working with our nearby neighbors, we can quickly ask, ‘Hey, we are out of this, Can we borrow this?’ and they can ask us for things, too. So it’s a really nice vibe for not just customers, but also business owners as well.”

For Wolfe, one merchant going out of business during this project is unacceptable. His perspective on the construction remains hopeful and the future still looks bright. He mentioned that sales are at an all-time high, the merchant slots are all full, and he refuses to lose any momentum.

“These are the times in life where you make moves like this at your strongest—you don’t wait until it’s too late. And I’ve said this to everybody from past, present, and future, there’s been an evolution since 1876. This is our third building on this piece of property and we are the last one standing in this part of town. The only way we’re still here is we’ve accepted change, we’ve adapted to change, and we’ve stayed ahead of change.”

millennial | writer | human

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Food & Drink

See what “big changes” are coming to The Market Italian Village

Regina Fox

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Fans of The Market Italian Village certainly aren't enjoying this temporary closure while it undergoes renovations, but the restaurant promises the wait will be worth it.

The neighborhood restaurant recently announced in a release "big changes" coming to the space to create more "experienced-based dining."

"We’ve teamed up with incredible designers, architects, and artists to give our space a beautiful update and we can’t keep our mouths shut about it any longer!" wrote The Market Italian Village on Facebook.

The Market is currently closed and will reopen to guests the weekend after Thanksgiving with two very special additions:

  • Columbus’ FIRST chef's table - A unique experience to get up close and personal with one of the city’s most unique chefs, Tyler Minnis. The reservation-based tasting counter seats four and will face toward the kitchen, giving guests direct access to Chef Tyler throughout the dining experience as he creates a four-course tasting menu. Available for $50-60 per person on Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays.
  • Community Table Seating - Perfect for group dining, this intimate booth is reservations-only for large parties, seating up to 16 guests. Those seated at the community table will order from a pre-set family-style menu, pre-determined by Chef Tyler on a monthly basis.

The post went on to say the restaurant "just scratched the surface" of its announcements.

https://www.facebook.com/MarketItalianVillage/posts/2719875781402957:0

The Market Italian Village is located at 1022 Summit St. Keep an eye on their Facebook page for updates.

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Food & Drink

Too Good To Eat: SuperChef’s stuffed Scriddle Pancakes

@findyourfork

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Pancake my eyes off you, sweet cakes, cause no one stacks up to you.

Feast your eyes on the thickest thiccest pancakes that Columbus has to offer. SuperChef Ohio serves up these jumbo stacks of comfort in style, by combining the culinary flavors of savory and sweet—essentially, the best of both worlds.

https://www.instagram.com/p/BuRtmUYAMhu/?igshid=19h0q3u82h40e

Stuffed to the brim with scrambled eggs, deliciously sweet candied bacon, and house-made sausage all covered up in warm maple syrup, these cakes are not to be missed.

Picture this: four of the thiccest, fluffiest, and softest pancakes stacked one on top of each other with hot maple syrup cascading down the sides.

Grab that knife in your hand and take that first slice down all four pancakes all at once. Watch as the warmth from the layered cakes is released, and along with it all the combined flavors of sweet and salty bacon and sausage.

Shove a generous helping of the cakes into your mouth and close your eyes. Feel instantly comforted by the penultimate flavors of breakfast all in one bite.

Take a big swig of coffee (or milk, whatever suits you) and prepare for another bite of breakfast dream come true. Fancy yourself a one-stop-shop for all your breakfast needs? SuperChef Ohio has got you covered.

SuperChefs has locations in Downtown and Gahanna. Visit mysuperchefs.com for more information.

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Food & Drink

5 tasty merchants announced for North Market Dublin

Regina Fox

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You now have five more reasons to be excited for Dublin's North Market with its recent announcement of merchants. North Market veterans and newbies alike are coming together for the first phase of committed businesses for the Bridge Park public market.

Momo Ghar, Dough Mama, Market Bar, Coastal Local Seafood, and The Dublin Farmer's Daughter will occupy five of the 19 stalls.

“Like we have done for 143 years at our downtown location, we are successfully curating the best-in-class fresh meats, seafood, bakery, and produce categories for the Bridge Park facility that will provide a unique experience for visitors,” said North Market Executive Director Rick Harrison Wolfe.

In case you're not hip to the dynamite dumplings, Momo Ghar will be opening a third location inside North Market Bridge Park. As Food & Wine so affectionately wrote, “Once you try this food, you will never have any problem finding your way back here.”

Dough Mama is yet another Central Ohio favorite, serving "stick-to-your-bones" comfort food with a twist, according to the website. Guests can enjoy homemade biscuits, sandwiches, soups, desserts, pastries, and more.

Market Bar will be quenching the adult thirsts of North Market Bridge Park goers with a variety of craft beer and fine wines to go. This concept is owned by Pete Volker and Wayne Lin.

Central Ohio seafood distributor Ian Holmes, owner of Coastal Local Seafood, will bring his expertise to the North Market Bridge Park merchant community. Upon opening their first retail shop at North Market Bridge Park, Coastal Local Seafood will be able to provide the same wonderful seafood ingredients for home chefs and will also serve on-site menu items such as lobster rolls and crab cakes. Dublin residents and guests can look forward to enjoying fresh oysters at the New England-themed raw bar.

The Dublin Farmer's Daughter is a new concept from the owners of Copia Farm, partners Caitlin Bergman and Dan McLeod. This venture will focus on the highest quality ingredients sourced from our farm and other local farms said Bergman in a release.

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