Throughout the month of May, locals can enjoy discounted fare from select Asian American-owned eateries as part of the inaugural Asian Restaurant Month.
The event coincides with Asian American and Pacific Islander Month, which celebrates the community’s history and culture. It is organized by the central Ohio-based Asian American Commerce Group, and sponsored by the City of Columbus, Nationwide Children’s Hospital, Hollywood Casino Columbus and others.
The two-dozen participating restaurants offer myriad cuisines, including ramen, Chinese, Indian, Czech pastries and traditional bar food. And, as part of the celebration, the commerce group will host a happy hour at Sunflower Restaurant on Sawmill Road from 5 to 8:30 p.m. on May 26.
Discounts during the month include 25% off a food order at J. Liu restaurants, three wings for $5 at TaKorea, 10% off signature dishes at Jiu Thai Asian Cafe, and a free hummus or baklava at Olive & Lime.
Information about the establishments and discounts can be found at asianrestaurantmonthohio.com.
Pandemic, and pandemic-linked racism, impacted Asian American restaurants
AACG President Shyam Rajadhyaksha said the goal of the event is to not only celebrate Asian cuisine, but also to support businesses that have experienced unique hardships amid the pandemic.
“Obviously, Asian restaurants were impacted by COVID like all restaurants,” he said. “(But) then there was a lot of racism, especially against Chinese restaurants. People thought if they go there, they might be exposed to COVID. There was also a lot of prank phone calls.”
Rajadhyaksha said he also hopes Asian Restaurant Month brings awareness about the impact of immigrant establishments in certain areas of Columbus.
“If we didn’t have all these immigrant restaurants and stores on Morse Road and Bethel Road, those areas would be retail deserts,” he said. “A lot of people don’t realize that it’s really the immigrant population that’s helping revitalize these neighborhoods, or at least maintain the status quo.”
One of those Bethel Road restaurants is Jiu Thai Asian Cafe. Manager Emma Bian said she is excited to participate in Asian Restaurant Month, especially since she recently re-opened the dining room — after more than two years of doing carryout-only.
“We are very happy to let all the customers try good Asian food,” she said. “We have a passion for the restaurant industry. If I have even two hours of energy, I will contribute those two hours to make food and serve food to the customers.”
Kyushu Ramen owner Leon Zhu said staffing issues amid the pandemic contributed to the delay in opening the restaurant, located on the Northwest Side. And he is still in need of workers.
“Currently, my wife and I, we are working like over a hundred hours per week,” said Zhu, who also owns Yun Nan Crossing Bridge Noodle on Bethel Road. “We have a hard time getting help in here.”
Kevin Kim also opened his restaurant, TaKorea, during the pandemic. He started out in a ghost kitchen, then moved the Korean-Mexican fusion concept inside Buddha Bowl in Clintonville.
“The toughest part was managing food costs,” Kim said. “The price of everything would keep increasing and decreasing. It was very volatile.”
Reflecting on AAPI Heritage Month, Kim said he has noticed a change since moving from Korea to the U.S. as a kid.
“When I first moved, I felt like there was a lot of ignorance,” he said. “I felt, not specifically racism, but more so like an alienation. But it’s really cool to see how much the Asian and Pacific Islander community has progressed here and how much of a better light that we’re being portrayed in.”
Businesses participating in Asian Restaurant Month
• Aangan India Bistro, http://aanganbistro.com/
• Espresso 22, https://www.facebook.com/Espresso22powell/
• Golden Delight Bakery, https://www.facebook.com/goldendelightbakery/
• Great Harvest Bread Co., https://www.greatharvest.com/
• Huli Huli Tiki Bar & Lounge, Facebook page
• J. Lui Restaurant & Bar (Worthington), https://www.jliurestaurant.com/
• J. Lui Restaurant & Bar (Dublin), https://www.jliurestaurant.com/
• Jiu Thai Asian Cafe, www.mealage.com
• Kolache Republic, https://kolacherepublic.com/
• Kuya Ian’s Bistro, https://www.kuyaians.com/
• Kyushu Ramen and Sushi Bar, https://kyushuramennoodles.com/
• Lemongrass Fusion Bistro, https://www.lemongrassfusion.com/
• Mozart’s Cafe and Bakery, https://mozartscafe.com/
• Olive & Lime Mediterranean, https://www.oliveandlimecafe.com/
• Panda House Chinese Restaurant, http://pandahousepolaris.com/
• Sunflower Chinese Restaurant
• TaKorea, https://www.takoreacolumbus.com/
• Wild Ginger Restaurant (Hilliard), http://www.wildgingerhilliard.com/
• Wild Ginger Restaurant (Plain City), http://www.wildgingerplaincity.com/
• Wing’s Restaurant, https://wingsofbexley.com/index.html
• Woody’s Wing House (Hilliard), https://www.woodyswinghouse.com/
• Woody’s Wing House (Worthington), https://www.woodyswinghouse.com/
• Yun Nan Crossing Bridge Noodle, http://www.yunnannoodle.com/menu/
• Zen Noodle, www.hollywoodcolumbus.com