New Haitian Columbus restaurant gives customers a taste of island fare

Gary Seman Jr.
The Columbus Dispatch
Claucia Dossous, co-owner and chef of T-Co Islands Restaurant, prepares a to-go container at the restaurant in Columbus, Ohio June 18. T-Co Islands specializes in Haitian cuisine and is located on Cleveland Ave and Morse Rd.

At T-co Islands Restaurant, the bold flavors back up the enticing aromas, owners of the new eatery in Northland said.

Food at the Haitian restaurant – certainly a rare style of cuisine locally – is cooked with care by chef and co-owner Claucia “T-Co” Jean-Louis, a native of the tropical nation.

“I love to cook,” she said. “I’m always in the kitchen. Me, I’m happy. I know the Haitian cooking.”

“My wife can cook,” added her husband, William, who also spends time at the stove. “She loves to cook. That’s why I open a restaurant for her.”

Their daughter, Shelove, also works at the restaurant, located 4466 Cleveland Ave. just south of Morse Road.

It is a mostly carryout operation, with a few tables inside.

Behind towering clear-plastic panels is a steam table of freshly cooked fish, several styles of rice, meats, vegetables and pikliz (pronounced pickles), a ubiquitous condiment in Haitian cooking. It typically consists of cabbage, carrots, lime juice, bell peppers, scotch bonnets, onions, garlic and other ingredients pickled in vinegar.

Sarah Janvier, a native of Haiti and self-described biggest fan of T-co Islands Restaurant, said pickliz is a worthy complement to the red snapper, broiled whole, griot (crispy nuggets of deep-fried pork) and chicken.

A disc of savory, mashed deep-fried plantains is served as a side with many plates. Of the various rice options is the black rice, which gets its dark hue from pureed mushrooms.

T-co makes its own brand of legume, a traditional Haitian dish. It's a thick, dark stew offering beef, crab, eggplant, chayote squash and other vegetables, typically served over white rice and accompanied by beans.

Most meals are $12 to $14. There are regular specials, too, such as the joumou, a soup made of beef and pumpkin.

“I make my own seasonings with fresh herbs,” the chef said. “Everything is fresh.”

Word is spreading there’s a new, home-style Haitian restaurant in Columbus, T-co Jean-Louis said.

“People drive, like, an hour and a half, just for the food,” she said.

Hours are 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. daily. For more information, call 614-944-9088.

Nyam: Jamaican fare coming

Speaking of island fare, Jerky’s Jamaican Grill is set to open the first week of August at 1247 N. High St., straddling the University District and Short North.

Owner Henry Bacchus said the menu will have all the favorites: jerk chicken, stewed oxtails, conch seafood soup, curry chicken and other dishes associated with Jamaica.

He said it will be mostly carryout and is setting up an app where people can people can order ahead of time, although walk-in customers also will be welcome.

Winner winner, chicken dinner

Two local BD’s Mongolian Grill franchisees have inked a deal to start opening Huey Magoo’s restaurants, known for chicken tenders, throughout a large swath of Ohio.

Husband and wife Tim and Ronda Hobart plan to open 20 stores over the next eight to 10 years in central Ohio and Dayton, the first of which to be operational as soon as the first quarter of 2022.

Tim Hobart said he liked the business model of Huey Magoo’s, based in Orlando, which offers tenders marinated for 24 hours and hand-breaded to order. Another option is grilled tenders, plus sandwiches, salads and 10 sauces, not just one.

“It’s just a really fun brand,” he said. “They just really kind of hone in on what they do well.”

End of an era

Buffalo Wild Wings flew the coop on Sunday, ending a 25-year run at 5240 Bethel Centre Mall.

The store’s website asked customers to join the restaurant at its future location, slated to open this fall, but didn’t give specifics about the new site.

Brothers Greg and Doug May, and father, Don May, opened the franchised store, eventually adding two others, in the Grandview Heights area and one near Hilliard.

“For the first six years we were the No. 1 grossing chain,” said Greg May, referring to Bethel.

He said the family loved the location, because at the time, most Buffalo Wild Wings were on college campuses. They played to a young post-college crowd by offering inexpensive wings and beers, ample numbers of TVs dialed into sporing events, plenty of parking and open floor plan.

But as the years progressed, the location lost of some of its sheen. Chicken wings weren’t that much of a novelty, there were more Buffalo Wild Wings stores and Easton Town Center, Polaris and the Short North were becoming major attractions, siphoning off the twentysomethings that were Bdubs – as it is informally called – bread and butter.

In late 2013, the Mays sold their units to Steve Grube of Grube Inc. based in Defiance, Ohio.

No one from the company could be reached for comment.

’Shroom and gloom

Mellow Mushroom, the groovy pizza joint at 6505 Dublin Village Drive, has closed.

gseman@thisweeeknews.com

@ThisWeekGary