Columbus, Ohio USA
Return to Homepage

Dis 'n' Data
By Margaret Marten, Editor
November/December 2017


Hai Poké Restaurant Deceptively Delicious

The southern section of the Short North can now enjoy Hai Poké’s popular “sushi bowls.” Over the past two years, the Hawaiian streetfood favorite has been offered in a pop-up eatery at Oddfellows Liquor Bar, further north on High Street, as well as from the Hai Poké food truck and other pop-ups around town. Now, Hai Poke celebrates a further opening in the form of a new brick-and-mortar restaurant at 647 N. High St. next to the First Commonwealth Bank and across from The Happy Greek restaurant. The space had been vacant since December 2015, and was formerly occupied by the vintage shop A Gal Named Cinda Lou.

Owners Nile Woodson, 27, and Mico Cordero, 26, opened their restaurant on September 22, 2017. They offer wonderful, tasty Hawaiian-style bowls with tuna, salmon or tofu over rice and vegetables. The simple, no-stress menu, with a handful of selections, is deceptively delicious. Each fish or tofu mix is generously dressed with a special power sauce and spicy mayo. Brown rice is a healthful option. They plan to add dumplings, tacos, and more fish varieties. In the meantime, the expanding menu includes a poké hand roll, kimchi salsa, and musubis. Hai Poké continues as a pop-up eatery at PurePressed Juicery downtown during lunchtime and at their truck around Columbus.

Hours for the new High Street spot are 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. seven days a week. More information is available on their website, Facebook, or by calling 614-943-4993.

Middle West Spirits adds a Service Bar/Restaurant

The Short North distillery Middle West Spirits recently added a restaurant/bar to their facility on Courtland Avenue – just east of N. High Street at E. Fifth Avenue behind Out of the Closet. Brady Konya, 45, and Ryan Lang, 37, opened the distillery seven years ago. At that time, state laws prohibited distilleries from operating a restaurant or tasting room, so when the laws changed in their favor last year, they let out a sigh of relief and proceeded with their plans to open the Service Bar. They did this while wrapping up their multi-million dollar expansion of the distillery, which added several stories to the structure. Chef Avishar Barua (previously of Veritas Tavern) has launched a fine-dining menu that includes lamb dumplings, crispy ribs, meatballs, fish, a whole chicken (in deference to seasonal celebrations), as well as easy-to-remember sandwiches for the menu-impaired: MWS Burger and Pastrami Rachel. Vegan choices await conscious diners: Sichuan Vegetarian Dumplings, Michelone Reserve Bourbon Tofu, the MWS veggie burger and more. The Service Bar offers up to 66 seats in the main dining room, 12 seats in the private dining room, and the place is packed with plenty of craft spirits to warm up with a hot meal.

Located at 1230 Courtland Ave., the Service Bar is open Wednesday-Thursday 5p to 11p; Friday-Saturday 5p to 12a; Sunday 5p to 10p. Closed Mon-Tues. Visit or call 614-947-1231 for more information.

The Angry Baker

The Angry Baker Cakes & Pastries, a new small retail shop selling baked goods, is currently the third of the Angry Baker cafes to open in Columbus and the second one to enrich the Short North. It is located on High Street just north of 5th Avenue. In the first two locations, The Angry Baker was primarily set up as a full service, sit-down restaurant. However, baked goods have always been the backbone of The Angry Baker and the pride and joy of owner Vicki Hink. Her first cafe opened in Olde Towne East in 2011, the second one five years later on King Avenue where her bakers shared a kitchen with the restaurant crew and retailed bread and pastries in an adjacent room. The crowded conditions, however, forced the bakers to consider new quarters for their kitchen, and so out of that inspiration came The Angry Baker Cakes & Pastries armed with a new baker’s kitchen.

Erin Hall, 25, an experienced cake decorator, was hired as a baker a little over a year ago and is co-owner of the new High Street shop. She says she developed an interest in cake decorating as a teen, earned a degree from Hocking College in baking, and spent four years as a cake decorator at Giant Eagle Market District before deciding to opt out of the corporate environment. She and co-baker Amanda Black along with breadmaker Allison Keller produce baked goods for all three locations. “We’re trying to be everybody’s go-to when they think of baked goods,” said Hall about the new shop. “Whether it comes to design or dietary needs (vegan and gluten-free), we try to work with people.” A build-your-own pizza on rosemary focaccia bread is a special lunch item they added after considering customers’ feedback. “We’re working on some different savory pastries,” she said. “But it won’t be as much [food, soup] as at King or Olde Towne East.” The small space at 1247 N. High Street was last occupied by Elena’s Specialty Cakes.

The Angry Baker creates specialty cakes as well, and their website shows quite an assortment. Hall says she designed a Godzilla birthday cake not too long ago and plans to have cakes on display for customers who need the last-minute convenience of something big for special events. Muffins, danish, brownies, cheesecakes, cupcakes, mini pies, scones, and other exquisite treats can be viewed on Facebook at TheAngryBakerShortNorth. Hours for the new location are Tuesday through Sunday, 8-4. For more information, call 614-641-7490 or visit

The Bitter Barista and The Angry Baker Become Friends

Wyatt Burk recently opened The Bitter Barista
located at 249 King Ave. next to The Angry Baker.

The Angry Baker has partnered with a coffee shop, The Bitter Barista, that recently opened in the space adjacent to the restaurant at 249 King Ave. Vicki Hink invited owner Wyatt Burk to occupy the space, selling coffee and her pastries, after she moved the bakery portion of her restaurant out of there to the new High Street location. The King Avenue space also provides Burk with enough room to run his new roastery, Little Ghost Roasters, in the back of the shop.

Burk, 25, began his coffee-job journey during High School working at the Mean Bean Cafe in Delaware, Ohio, later in a variety of coffee shops, including work at EspressOasis in the OSU Medical Center while attending OSU and Winans Chocolates + Coffees in German Village. “I’ve always enjoyed the practice, serving people,” he said, “and coffee roasting caught a lot of my interest – all the science behind it and how it affects people, communities.” Burk’s education at OSU (in political science) was interrupted while tending to his ailing grandmother, and later abandoned, but he maintained an interest in helping communities and knew that coffee was one way to accomplish that.

Burk’s aunt, who travels the world as a taster for Starbucks headquarters in Seattle, encouraged his interest. He invested in a one-pound roaster three years ago and began teaching himself roasting in preparation for future work within the coffee industry, later acquiring certification but eventually moving forward on his own, envisioning a “reverse gentrification business model” for his small enterprise. “I knew that I wanted to do politics to try to do some good in the world,” he said, “so I started to think of ways I could do the same with coffee.”

Burk envisions strategies to benefit communities such as investing in property in order to help small business startups, like his neighborhood coffee shop, before the real estate is taken up by wealthy developers or unscrupulous landlords, and by possibly managing rent-to-own programs. “I’m hoping that I meet and find enough people along the way who can help me build something like that,” he said.

The Bitter Barista will focus on Central and South American coffee. In the meantime, Burk says he’ll probably just be roasting what the neighborhood wants. “It’s a pretty quaint and cozy place where I can experiment for a little while,” he said. Pastries are supplied by his co-brand, The Angry Baker. The two shop names “angry” and “bitter” sound like a strong cup of coffee, but they’re actually a smooth, mellow brew.

Hours are 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. seven days a week. More information is available on Facebook at thebitterbaristaud (The Bitter Barista University District).

Madison-USA Envisions a Lifestyle
Chicago entreprenuers bring fresh concept to Columbus

Jarrel Tolbert in Madison-USA * photo | Maria Galloway

American Apparel, the well-known national chain store specializing in basic American-made fashion, operated for over 11 years at the northwest corner of Fifth and High. They finally closed earlier this year, along with their other national chain stores. The empty, vulnerable storefront that remained could easily have succumbed to a developer, restaurant, or bar aspirant but instead came into the hands of three ambitious young men from Chicago. Three men, each possessing ideals and a plan to add something unique to the area.

Madison-USA is the brainchild of Evan Turner, Jarrel Tolbert, and Jelani Floyd. It’s essentially a men’s apparel store, and at first glance, one sees a spacious, white, light-filled interior with a minimalist approach to merchandising. What is less obvious is the philosophy behind the business. Jarrel Tolbert, 28, whom I interviewed, emphasized that it’s not simply a men’s apparel store, but a men’s lifestyle store. They sell other products – home goods and publications – geared toward a particular lifestyle. In this case, a creative amalgamation of streetwear culture and sports.

Co-owner Evan Turner, 29, is a former Ohio State University basketball star and currently a Portland Trail Blazers shooting guard. Jesse Villanueva, their store buyer – referred to as a professional streetwear enthusiast – was once profiled by the New York Times in a “Sneaker Connoisseur” series. Tolbert said he and his partners have always been interested in fashion and sports. Growing up in Chicago, they played basketball together. Madison-USA, the store’s name, is a nod to the district they frequented – the corner of West Madison Street and South Pulaski Road – that became an integral part of their journey into the streetwear savvy lifestyle.

Attire as Artwork
Tolbert serves as the shop’s art director. His minimalist approach reflects his view that streetwear can be considered and displayed as artwork. “Clothing is the artwork. It’s not a bunch of clothes sitting on shelves or racks,” he explained. “I’m a minimalist, so I think you can see a lot of that in the design of the store.”

Their “ever-evolving mix of niche and mainline brands” includes streetwear staples like sneakers, hoodies, printed T-shirts, sweatpants and their in-house line on Champion garments. The shop stocks magazines reflecting the world of “art and fashion or sports and fashion or sports and art” as well as home products – starting small with items like incense, coffee table accessories, phone chargers.

A lifesize white sculpture by Chicago artist Hebru Brantley is in the center of the shop, bringing art to the forefront of Madison-USA. “He has become very popular among streetwear culture, and in the Chicago art community in general,” said Tolbert about Brantley and his character Flyboy. The north wall is adorned with framed photos by three prominent photographers, serving as a gallery, again reflecting the shop’s artful approach to honoring streetwear culture.

Tolbert plans to conduct workshops to educate and engage the community with discussion about fashion trends. “Even if you’re not necessarily into the clothing, we still want people to come and learn,” he said. “Be it the streetwear culture or even just like the fashion world in general.” Similarly, he and his partners want to become informed about Columbus. Their pop-up shop in May at the High Street space offered them some insight into the Columbus scene and gave them the green light to proceed with their plans to settle in the Short North.

“We all come from the same place,” said Tolbert. “We all share similar goals. We all want to make a difference.”

Madison-USA, 1219 N. High St., is open Tues. through Sat. Noon to 8 p.m.; Sun. Noon to 6 p.m.; Closed Monday. Call 614-754-8126 or visit for more information.


Le Chocoholique closed after seven years next to the UPS Store near the Cap at 601 N. High St. Owner Monica Barr and her son Justin will continue to partner with other businesses and individuals who are interested in their house-made chocolates, truffles and other specialty desserts. Visit their website at or call 614-223-4009.

Roots Records is no longer open at 1357 N. High St. They operated there for 20 years specializing in Reggae music before closing at the end of September. The store is active online at

After celebrating 20 years in business earlier this year, Grandview Mercantile moved out of the Short North on October 15 to make way for the developer Pizzuti Cos. to demolish the building at 873 N. High and construct a six-story apartment building. Sharon O’Brien is now operating her furniture and antiques store in Grandview at 1489 Grandview Avenue.

Coming Attractions

Future tenants in the Brunner Building under construction next to Donatos Pizza have been announced: a branding agency 160over90; a real-estate consulting firm DGD Group; a clothing boutique Thread; and an unnamed restaurant. The building will be completed next spring.


Email or call 614-251-0656 with neighborhood news items for the Short North Gazette.

Email the Editor

© 2017 Short North Gazette, Columbus, Ohio. All rights reserved.

Return to Homepage