Food News: Afra Grill Owner Faces Federal Charges; Wine Shop Coming to Linworth
Restaurant openings, closings and more Central Ohio food and drink news
Abdirahman “Abcos” Ahmed, the owner of Columbus’ popular Afra Grill, has been charged with money laundering and conspiracy to commit money laundering as part of a $250 million pandemic relief fraud scheme. On Tuesday, the U.S. Department of Justice announced criminal charges against 47 defendants, alleging they stole millions of dollars that were meant to provide food to needy children during the pandemic. Federal officials are describing it as the largest COVID-19 relief fraud scheme to date. Ahmed, who owns property in Delaware County, was owner and operator of now-closed Safari Restaurant in Minneapolis, which allegedly “received more than $16 million in fraudulent Federal Child Nutrition Program funds,” according to a press release from the Department of Justice. The Columbus Dispatch has more here. Afra Grill first opened in 2020 at 1635 Morse Road, and the fast-casual East African eatery was named one of Columbus Monthly’s Best New Restaurants in 2021. This year, Ahmed opened a second Afra Grill location at Easton Town Center. We reached out to Ahmed, who often goes by "Chef Abcos,” but he has not yet responded.
Openings & Announcements
Donnie Austin, a certified sommelier and former owner of House Wine in Worthington, announced this week that he and his wife, Megan Cavanaugh, plan to open Aardvark Wine & Beer in Linworth. The wine and beer shop, which is expected to open by the holidays, will be located at 2355 West Dublin-Granville Road, replacing JT’s Grab & Go. The convenience store’s neighboring sister business, JT’s Pizza & Pub, will remain in business. Aardvark, which will be open daily, will primarily sell wine bottles between $10 and $30 as well as a variety of craft beers. The shop will offer frequent tastings as well. “We want our neighbors and friends to drink great wine without necessarily spending more,” says Austin, who lives in Worthington. “People have come to trust me with putting the right bottles in their hands and at their tables, whether it’s a dinner for two, a backyard barbecue, or a party for 200 of your closest friends.”
Bonifacio owner Krizzia Yanga is the new owner of a big check. Yanga was on hand this week at the annual conference of the National Asian/Pacific Islander American Chamber of Commerce & Entrepreneurship in Washington D.C., where her Filipino restaurant was awarded a $100,000 grant from GrubHub. Yanga and Bonifacio are on a tear. Last December, she was named one of Columbus Monthly’s 2021 Tastemakers, and Bonifacio was recently featured in Food & Wine.
Pierogi Mountain (105 N. Grant Ave.) is set to appear on season four of Food Network’s Triple D Nation, a spinoff of Guy Fieri’s TV show Diners Drive Ins & Dives. The episode will air at 9 p.m. on Friday, Sept. 23. This is Pierogi Mountain’s second star turn; Matthew Majesky's pierogi restaurant first appeared on Diners back in 2017.
A nano brewery called Half Baked Brewhas opened a taproom at 765 N. High St., formerly home to short-lived Short Supply in the Short North.