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Cajun Comeback: This local restaurant closed because it was too popular for its own good; now, after two years, it’s back

Cajun Comeback: This local restaurant closed because it was too popular for its own good; now, after two years, it’s back

Sarah Sole

It was overwork that made Justin Boehme realize he needed to take a break from his Cajun and Creole concept Da Levee. Since opening in 2010, the concept had become quite the success, but Boehme was, in his words, killing himself, working seven days a week up to 20 hours per day.  

“I had to take a step back and realize what I was doing to myself,” the Indianapolis native said.

Boehme pivoted in 2018, trying his hand at other business ventures. But Da Levee’s fans weren’t ready to let go of their beloved eatery. 

Boehme cited that support as the reason he opted to, after not operating for more than two years, ultimately bringing back Da Levee, which reopened in mid-January of this year, and at its original location at 765 N. High St.


“It wouldn’t be here without the love,” he said.

Boehme’s passion for Cajun food began in 2003. Fresh out of the U.S. Army, he moved back to Indianapolis and began working in the kitchen for Yats, the Cajun food concept that would eventually grow to include a Grandview location.

Boehme was no stranger to food service—he had been a kitchen manager at Bob Evans in high school. In less than a month, he became general manager at Yats. When the concept began expanding, Boehme wanted to expand with them. But owner Joe Vuskovich, who had become a mentor to Boehme, advised him to strike out on his own.

Photo by Aaron Massey

Setting his sights on Chicago, Boehme started planning his own Cajun eatery. But when an investor pulled out, he had to find an affordable option. Headed to Columbus for the tattoo convention Hell City, Boehme fell in love with the area. He opened the Da Levee in 2010.

For the first three months, Boehme lived in the restaurant, sleeping in the back on an air mattress and showering in the mop sink until he was able to afford a proper apartment.

The spot became a neighborhood staple right off the bat. And the concept expanded. Boehme opened a spot in Gahanna in 2018, using it as a location to cook food for both restaurants. Working with corporate food company Aramark, he also served over 1,000 meals daily at corporate offices across Columbus for Nationwide, Chase, and OhioHealth.

But with everything together, It had all became too much.

“I had to take a step back,” he said.  

The year 2018 was when everything changed. Boehme sold his Gahanna location to Mexican restaurant Mi Tradicion. He turned his Short North spot into a bar called Eugene’s Canteen and ended up subleasing the location in late 2019 after that concept didn’t fly.  

Boehme had been busying himself helping with the development of the CBD sparkling beverage business W*nder. But when the sublease of his Short North spot fell through this past June, Boehme had to quickly come up with a solution for the space.

Short Supply—part convenience store, part bar—was a concept Boehme developed in just seven days. But now that he was back in Da Levee’s original space, everyone started asking about the restaurant.

“It became overwhelming,” Boehme said.  

So he gave in, and mid-January, he reanimated Da Levee as a delivery and takeout kitchen. He plans to offer hot food at the bar.

Though Boehme remains dedicated to a Cajun and Creole concept, he’s less thrilled with the idea of staying in the Short North. He’s begun shopping around for possible locations. Where he ends up, he said, just depends on what he finds—he could be next door, he could be in Westerville, he could be in Chicago.

But though his future is open-ended, Boehme is certain he’ll be cooking and serving up meals until he retires.

“I’m meant to make people happy with my food,” he said.

If you like this, read: National Cajun restaurant chain reopening its only Central Ohio location


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