From crazy, jam-packed football Saturdays to trying to get across town to meet up with friends, Columbus’ hustle and bustle city lifestyle can seem a bit much at times. Even if only for a little while, one can find serenity at the North Market — a safe haven and Columbus’ only remaining public market that offers a variety of fresh and authentic foods all housed in one place by locals.
The North Market was established in 1876 and has grown to include 35 vendors offering various kinds of locally inspired foods. The market works to highlight the diversity of the community by promoting local businesses, said Rick Wolfe, executive director for the North Market, in an email.
Hot Chicken Takeover, Pastaria, Little Eater and Produce and Provisions are among those 35. While these businesses all have their differences, all seem to have one thing in common: a strong work ethic to create great tasting food and a desire to remain local.
Hot Chicken Takeover put on its local cooking aprons in April 2014 after owner Jon Deloss had spent a few months experimenting and serving different kinds of chicken from his kitchen to friends and strangers, said Cam Williams, director of operations.
From its humble beginnings as a pop-up shop in Olde Towne East, Hot Chicken Takeover now resides on the second floor of the North Market.
Williams added that their history isn’t the only thing that makes Hot Chicken Takeover’s chicken different from the rest. The love and devotion for quality chicken plays a big part.
“What makes (our chicken) super special is that we put a lot of love into it,” Williams said. “It’s chicken that’s never frozen. It’s all Ohio-grown chicken that we get the day before we serve it.”
Williams described the love-devoted process as one that involves brining the chicken for 16 hours overnight, coating it with breading twice, frying it twice to make it extra crispy and serving it hot, further ensuring that the final product is fresh.
The community experience one has while eating at Hot Chicken Takeover also makes an impact.
“Right when you walk in you are greeted by one of our staff members and he or she tries to make them feel as welcome as possible either by introducing them to a regular or explaining the menu to them,” he said. “By the time they are sitting down, they have already met a couple of people, so it’s a community of people eating together elbow to elbow, and it happens to be really good food as well.”
Don Ziliak, owner of Pastaria, said he also tries to create this community-based experience by learning everyone’s first names and their specific order while also making sure that he has “something for everybody” to eat with options including 26 different raviolis and 19 sauces, along with choices of pasta, meatballs or chicken.
Ziliak said that one way he ensures that there is something for everyone is by creating sauces that include ingredients that are specific to certain ethnicities.
“It’s our twist on all kinds of stuff,” he said. “We have something we call ‘Italian sausage crio,’ which would be more like a cajun-type thing but we serve it over pasta. We do a chipotle cream sauce, which I don’t think you’re ever going to find in Italy. The chipotle is a smoked jalapeno pepper, so that’s got Mexican influences on that.”
Ziliak said that most of his concoctions originated from foods he had tasted at other restaurants or conversations he heard between chefs or customers.
“Whatever flavors and combinations that I’ve tried at other restaurants throughout the years, we try to put our own spin on things and try to make something for everybody,” he said.
Cara Mangini — owner of Little Eater, a restaurant, and Little Eater Produce and Provisions, a grocery store — also implements feelings of community through produce-inspired foods for the current season. Produce is supplied by local farm partners, such as Sunbeam Family Farm and Wayward Seed Farm.
“Right now we are moving into the heart of fall produce. So we are at the height of harvest, so our menu is now reflecting that,” she said. “We just got a 200-pound delivery of local and chemical-free cauliflower, so now we have a really beautiful roasted cauliflower sandwich.”
Mangini added that the vegetables are the center of the menu, showing that one can mix and match any seasonal vegetable with any of the menu items.
“You can either do multiple scoops of vegetables that will serve as a meal or you can pair them with our farmers’ dishes or with a soup or with our sandwiches or with our zucchini,” she said. “So each dish is really inspired by a vegetable that is currently in season and available to us locally.”
Mangini went on to add that Little Eater Produce and Provisions creates a place for local farm partners to sell their produce and deliver produce year-round.
“We are creating a space where we can actually sell that produce to people and hopefully inspire people to cook the same vegetables we’re using at the restaurant at home,” she said.
The goal for both Little Eater and Little Eater Produce and Provisions is to put vegetables at the center of people’s plates to honor the work of their farmers and and support the health of our community, Mangini said. The way that they do that is by making vegetables taste great and to create a visual experience for people, focusing on the community and the food they make.
Whether you’re looking for fresh chicken that’s served on the spot, homestyle pasta with some love from other countries, or dressed-to-impress vegetables, the North Market has the best to offer.