Columbus, Ohio USA
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Farewell, Haiku Poetic Food & Art
By Margaret Marten
November/December 2016 Issue

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Haiku restaurant at 800 N. High St. is closing on December 10 after 18 years in business to make way for a Crawford Hoying development project. Similar to Kent Rigsby’s departure a year ago, it is a poignant reminder of the Short North’s rapid sea-change. Change is inevitable, but the pace feels more like a race to the finish line! Both award-winning restaurants were long-lasting and will be remembered as elegant establishments operated by creative owners who were and still are greatly respected.

Paul Liu and his wife Julie opened Haiku Poetic Food & Art on January 29, 1999. Restaurant reviewer Doral Chenoweth reported that more than one hundred people showed up. He described Haiku as “pure and picturesque.” True. The restaurant’s interior resembles a beautiful gallery or meditation retreat. In fact, it has functioned as a gallery for artists ever since its inception. Rotating shows were initially curated by Joe Baer until Adam Brouillette took over in 2004. Doug Fordyce was the first artist to exhibit at Haiku 18 years ago when they opened. Grant Gilsdorf will be the last.

The place is all about creativity. Even the menu headings are ink-brushed objets d’art. With a nod to its namesake, Haiku invites diners to compose haiku on thick paper and clothespin them to frames. Once a week, the staff clears out the old ones to leave room for the next batch. Brouillette said they sorted through “boxes and boxes of thousands of haiku that people had written over the years” during a book project for the restaurant’s 15th anniversary a few years ago. When you walk in the restaurant, there are haiku everywhere. Outdoor stands a timber pavillion with chairs and tables, piled stones and shrubs, a koi pond and strung lanterns.

It is a family-run business. Liu’s wife Julie, who studied interior design, and both his daughter Josephine, an artist, and son Justin have served as managers. “Some of those employees have been there 15 years, 16 years,” said Brouillette. “That doesn’t happen in restaurants normally.” Liu opened his first restaurant when he was 18 while attending college in Greenville, S.C., and over the years owned more than a dozen others. Haiku has surely been the culimination of his culinary career.

During a recent visit, Brouillette said many folks from the arts community were dining there. He saw Liu gaze around the room and notice Joe Baer and some artists who had shown over the years seated at the tables, and he seemed extremely overwhelmed and happy. “He had this face on showing them how happy he was,” said Brouillette, “but behind the scenes I think he has a little sadness knowing that something wonderful he created, groomed and grown is going away. I think it’s tough for him.”

A book of treasured haiku from customers and staff, along with recipes, featured artwork of past artists and thoughts from Paul is available for purchase at Haiku through December 10, 2016

© 2016 Short North Gazette, Columbus, Ohio. All rights reserved.

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