The Little Eater — a new restaurant in the North Market — offers salads priced by the scoop.  Credit: Courtesy of Cara Mangini.

The Little Eater — a new restaurant in the North Market — offers salads priced by the scoop.
Credit: Courtesy of Cara Mangini.

North Market is trying to keep things fresh with a new restaurant — and the restaurant has the same ideal when it comes to the food.

Little Eater, a produce-focused restaurant, is making its way to the North Market in January to open its first permanent location.

“The concept is the perfect balance of fresh, local and authentic — and that’s what North Market is all about,” North Market executive director Rick Harrison Wolfe said in an email.

Since 2012, Little Eater has served its customers as a pop-up shop in The Hills Markets downtown and in Worthington, owner and chef Cara Mangini said.

The restaurant will bring the North Market to full capacity, according to a press release.

It will be located in between North Market Cookware and Firdous Express.

As for the name, Mangini said her last name means “little eater” in Italian.

Mangini began her culinary career at the Natural Gourmet Institute in New York City and has since cooked in France, Italy, Turkey and Napa Valley, Calif., according to a press release.  

Everything at Little Eater is locally sourced and produce-inspired, she said.

The restaurant will feature salads priced by the scoop, soups, sandwiches, crostini (small toast appetizers), frittatas and an abundance of seasonal vegetables all year long, Mangini said.

“The scoop concept allows you to have a little bit of this and a little bit of that,” she said. “It’s beautiful, decadent, satisfying food. There’s no sacrifice in this food — the salads are hearty and balanced, whether you do them alone or pair them with something else.

“It’s big eating, actually,” she laughed.

Salads by the scoop range from $4 to $12. Prepackaged salads are $5. Sandwiches, frittatas and crostini can cost anywhere between $7 and $10, depending on what they’re paired with, Mangini said.

Additionally, Little Eater will serve a variety of baked goods. Chocolate chip cookies, buttermilk cheddar biscuits with honey butter and apple cake are among some of the restaurant’s sweet treats.

Mangini and her team also aim to highlight a variety of locally sourced vegetables.

“Our food really delivers the seasons,” she said. “I think there’s a peace of mind eating with us. We take really great care in sourcing these vegetables.” 

For example, in the spring, Mangini serves seasonal vegetables such as asparagus and radishes. In the summer, heirloom tomatoes, squash, eggplant and beets are a part of Little Eater’s continuously changing menu.

“The idea is that we are connecting our customers to the work of local farmers,” Mangini said.

Wolfe said he is excited for Little Eater’s opening.

“Little Eater brings a delicious concept that will fill what I have seen as a void: a produce-driven lighter option in the market,” he said. “Cara’s passion for fresh and all things produce are a fantastic addition. I love the fact that without having a permanent home, Little Eater, in a very short time, has built a huge following in Central Ohio.”

Wolfe said Little Eater’s business plan with the North Market has been in the works for a couple of years.

Mangini said the North Market is the perfect fit for her restaurant.

“The North Market is such a gem in Columbus,” she said. “It’s exciting to be a part of that energy. The market and its history and heritage has so much to offer to the Columbus culture.”

Situated right beside Little Eater’s under-construction stall, North Market Cookware owner Kay Davenport said she’s thrilled to have Little Eater next door.

“I used to make special trips to the Hills Market just to get her salads,” Davenport said. “We are really excited.”

Ruthie Cathers, a third-year in environmental engineering, said she’s eager to try out Little Eater’s vegetable-based entrees.

“I cannot wait for this place,” Cathers said. “I think Little Eater will captivate many people in the North Market with its artistic take on healthy grub.”

Little Eater will be open Tuesday through Sunday. It will be open 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. weekdays, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturdays, and noon to 5 p.m. Sundays.