Nazareth Restaurant and Deli
Posted by cmh gourmand on June 15, 2011
For readers of alteatsColumbus.com, this is a rerun. It you have never clicked on it or with it, do so – there is a lot of great eats for you to discover there.
Nazareth Restaurant and Deli is an icon of “alt eats” in Columbus. It opened over twenty years ago in the Columbus Square Shopping Center at SR 161 and Cleveland Ave. This is an area called the United Nations of Columbus food by a few. Nazareth was a pioneer in the non-campus, non-chinese cuisine of northern Columbus. The restaurant quickly became a local favorite due to good food at a good price as well as the engaging personality of owner Hany Baransi. He is quite a character – the restaurant web page lists one of his signature quotes “I love your man” and warns diners that Nazareth is not responsible for food addictions. The phrase Ahlan Wa Sah Lan (welcome in Arabic) greets diners in the parking lot and inside at the entrance. Visitors are welcomed by the image of Hany wielding a baseball bat in a Santa hat. The baseball bat is his trademark. He can be seen toting it with him in the aisles. I am not sure about the back story on that bat….and I am reluctant to ask. Hany hails from Israel so I am sure he is tough when the occasion calls for it.
The restaurant has been successful over the years. Last year Nazareth moved into a former Chili’s restaurant about one-quarter mile from its original location. The move greatly expanded the dining area and added a bar to the mix. On my visit, the bar was packed and a one man band singing 1970’s era cover songs echoed throughout the restaurant. Nazareth is still a family operation with family members mixed among employees in the kitchen and waiting tables too.
The menu is classic Middle Eastern offering all of the staples of this type of cuisine. There are some unexpected items for diversity sake including Freedom Fries, a grilled bologna sandwich, Rachel’s gyro with American cheese, a Catfish gyro and beer-battered onion rings.
Don’t be mistaken, these are not leftovers from Chili’s. The above are all well executed comfort food. Hany’s daughter explained that when families come in, some of the older and younger people are not sure what to do with Middle Eastern fare so Hany wants everyone to have something that can be enjoyed. He might tempt reluctant diners to try some hoummus then led them slowly into culinary diversity.
The Middle Eastern entrees are all well done with several being my best loved versions / interpretations in the city. One of my favorites is the Vegetarian Mediterranean Dinner which includes – hoummus, baba ghannoug, falafel and tabbouli salad served with pita bread. The pita bread is served warm which is a small but much appreciated difference. All other baba’s I have had pale in comparison to this one. Somehow it is a little less bitter, a bit more balanced and maybe has a little more love it in. I can’t fully explain the je ne sais quoi of this dish. On this subject my dining companion said “it made whatever my mother used to do with eggplant a crime that should be punishable by jail time or hard labor.” That being said let’s move along to more of the menu.
There are two versions of grape leaves. One is vegetarian and the other is stuffed with ground meat as well as rice, mint and a mix of spices. Both are excellent. While these grape leaves are smaller versions than encountered most places they pack a big, flavorful punch.
Lentils and Rice is another signature dish. The main ingredients are mixed with caramelized onions, seasoned with cumin and other spices. Nazareth’s House Sauce is served on the side (I have not figured out all of the substances in the sauce yet but the sum of the parts is very good).
The menu includes several other dishes, good soups and salads as well as desserts. My favorite item is the smallest and most simple. A sampler dish of pickled baby eggplant, pickled turnips, pickles, cucumbers, olives and Feta cheese is served with some entrees. I could eat this sampler all night with some warm pita bread and ignore anything else in front of me.
I invite you to visit Hany and his bat some day soon to pay tribute to Columbus “alt eats” history.
Nazareth Restaurant and Deli
2700 Northland Plaza Dr (SR 161/Dublin Granville Road, just east of Cleveland Ave)
Sun-Thurs: 11:00 am – 9:00 pm
Fri-Sat:11:00 am – 10:00 pm