DINING

Tastemakers 2021: Krizzia Yanga, Owner of Bonifacio and Boni Filipino Street Food

Nicholas Dekker
Krizzia Yanga, owner of Bonifacio and Boni Filipino Street Food

Thanks to Krizzia Yanga, Columbus has come to know the delights of Filipino cuisine, first through her bygone Red Velvet Café, followed in 2016 by the full-service Bonifacio and now through Boni, her street food eatery in Budd Dairy Food Hall. “I had grown up in Columbus and never really saw Filipino food represented in a mainstream way,” Yanga says. “When we started introducing it at Red Velvet, it was a packed house every weekend. There were Filipino restaurants opening around the country doing a modern interpretation and marketing it outside of Filipino communities. That’s when we decided to start looking for a dedicated restaurant space.” By and large, Columbus diners have been eager to embrace Filipino fare, and part of Yanga’s role is to educate. “For a lot of folks it’s the first time [trying Filipino food], or they’ve grown up with a Filipino best friend and are diving in deeper,” Yanga says.

Bringing People Together

Among Bonifacio’s most popular offerings are its Boodle Nights, featuring a communal Filipino dinner called kamayan. During the meals, guests eat with their hands from piles of sticky rice, pickled vegetables, longganisa pork sausages, lumpia spring rolls, shrimp and more on tables covered with banana leaves. “Ever since we’ve launched it, it’s been one of our most popular services,” Yanga says. “It’s got its own cult following.” In a brilliant stroke, Yanga and her team adapted the meal as a take-home kit during the pandemic shutdown, complete with instructions, banana leaves and cocktails. “I think it’s an interesting way to interact with your food and celebrate with people,” Yanga adds. “The funniest thing is watching parents versus kids, because kids are so in tune with digging in with their hands. Kids are such naturals.”

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Opportunity Knocks

Following the success of Bonifacio, Yanga was approached by Cameron Mitchell Restaurants to open a stall in the new Budd Dairy Food Hall in Italian Village. “They had secret-shopped us a couple times, and one of their execs left a card inviting us,” Yanga says. “Essentially, we had to figure out how to take what we already do and adapt it into a setting where we have to communicate quickly what it is we’re serving.” Meanwhile, Bonifacio reopened its dining room in October with a new menu focused on small plates and large-format shareables.

“Our goal has always been to hopefully make Filipino food part of the culinary landscape of American food as other international foods are,” says Yanga. “Having survived the pandemic, we’ve seen how to translate the food in that way, almost like Chinese takeout is a staple. It was really eye-opening to see this is something people will get every week, and seeing the potential of that was cool.”

Find more of Columbus' Rising Culinary Stars:Tastemakers Class of 2021

Bonifacio

1577 King Ave., Fifth by Northwest

Boni Filipino Street Food

1086 N. Fourth St., inside Budd Dairy Food Hall

Speed Round

Age: 30

Hometown: Columbus

What’s something you are excited about right now? “The food hall boom in Columbus—easier access for both diners and food entrepreneurs.”

What does Columbus need? “More underrepresented international and regional cuisines”

Reading recommendation: “Also Filipino: 75 Regional Dishes I Never Had Growing Up,” by Angelo Comsti

This story is from the December 2021 issue of Columbus Monthly.