Mediterranean Food Imports, located in the Old North offers an authentic variety of Greek and Middle Eastern groceries. Credit: Beka Cagle | Lantern Reporter

Ohio State students searching for an assortment of ramen, homemade baklava or fresh tortillas don’t need to stray far from campus to find an international grocery store that meets their needs.

Students who can’t find their favorite snacks or ingredients used to prepare authentic Asian, Latin American or Mediterranean dishes inside national supermarket chains can visit  international grocery stores located within just miles of campus, including Lotte Oriental Foods & Gifts, La Michoacana Mexican Market and Mediterranean Food Imports.

Seongjin Baek, a fourth-year in electrical and computer engineering and president of the Korean International Student Organization, said his favorite place to find Korean groceries is Lotte Oriental Foods & Gifts, a Korean grocery store located about 5 miles from campus at 4944 N. High St.

Baek said Lotte offers his favorite Korean snacks, ingredients used in Korean cooking and instant food options such as ramen. The grocery store also has a small restaurant in the back, where shoppers can stop for traditional Korean dishes, Baek said. The store also offers a small assortment of Japanese and Chinese groceries. 

“Lotte has plenty of Korean food that Kroger or Target doesn’t have,” Baek said. “They have many Korean groceries and many Korean products. They have it all.”

Although there aren’t any Korean grocery stores within walking distance of the university, Baek said he thinks the location of the store is convenient, as it is only a short drive or bus ride from campus.  

Compared with other states Baek has visited, including Texas and California, he said he thinks Columbus, Ohio, offers a variety of options for finding affordable Asian groceries nearby. 

Baek said along with shopping at Lotte, students in KISO also will travel a couple of extra miles to shop at grocery stores such as CAM International Market or Saraga International Grocery, which both carry groceries and products from an array of countries. 

Terrell Morgan, a professor of Hispanic linguistics and director of the Center for Latin American Studies, said students on the hunt for authentic Latin American groceries should travel to La Michoacana Mexican Market. He said the grocery store and restaurant offers Mexican snacks, fresh tortillas, a selection of produce and other ingredients used in Mexican, Central American and Carribean cooking.  

Morgan said he likes to stop by the market for Mexican snacks such as Takis, spicy rolled corn tortilla chips originally from Mexico. 

“The Meijer and the Kroger where I go don’t have much in the way of Latin American food,” Morgan said. “They just have sort of the classic, mainstream stuff.” 

La Michoacana has eight locations in Franklin County, the closest being about 6 miles from campus at 3881 Cleveland Ave. 

Morgan said he also occasionally likes to go to Saraga to find specific ingredients his wife from Spain uses for cooking that aren’t available at other grocery stores. 

Christopher Brown, a lecturer in Greek and Latin, said Mediterranean Food Imports, located about a mile north of campus at 2647 N. High St., is the best place in the city to find authentic Greek and Middle Eastern groceries. 

“I would say this is a unique place in Columbus because of the combination of the staff, the quality of the food, the prices, the location and the clientele,” Brown said. 

Brown said Mediterranean Food Imports was one of the first international grocery stores to open in Columbus. He said the grocery store has catered the Ohio State Modern Greek Program’s departmental events for about 20 years and offers a variety of Greek, Arabic, Turkish and Iranian food and ingredients. 

Brown said he loves to go to Mediterranean Food Imports to find authentic food made from quality ingredients, including soups, baklava and fatayer, a Middle Eastern pie made with cheese, meat or spinach. He said he also likes to pick up olives, feta cheese and freshly cut spices that he can only find there.

“The best thing about it is the people,” Brown said. “The most interesting people in Columbus go through there. First, you have hip students and faculty, but you also have people from Middle Eastern countries.”

Editors note: An earlier version of this story incorrectly referred to Mediterranean Food Imports as Mediterranean Foods Imports.