Paul Yow and Hae Ran had comfortable jobs with one of the city’s top-rated restaurants.
Two weeks ago, they traded that security and comfort for a place of their own.
The husband and wife, who worked together at Barcelona, have opened Natalie’s, a casual American and Korean restaurant in downtown Columbus.
Yow acknowledges the potential pitfalls.
“I can make an argument against owning a restaurant,” he said. “It’s risky business.”
Yet it’s been the couple’s goal to branch out into the next phases of their careers.
So they decided to start small, taking over the former Serenity Cafe, 79 S. Fourth St., just north of East State Street.
“It’s a hard job but it’s fun for us,” Ran said.
“Performing art is what I say. We go through a recital in front of people.”
The restaurant was named after the couple’s 24-year-old daughter, who occasionally works at the restaurant.
The menu is tidy, manageable and affordable, with no single item topping $12.
Natalie’s will start off as lunch only, with dinner hours and a weekend brunch being introduced over time.
The menu includes popular American dishes, such as a Chicago-style Italian beef sandwich dunked in beef au jus and chicken salad served on a croissant.
Beef brisket is braised in apple cider, and served with a griddled egg.
The fare delves into international territory with dishes such as the kimchee ramen soup and bulgogi, a thinly sliced marinated beef sirloin.
They call their burrito with Korean-style beef and black soybean hummus a korrito.
The Korean breakfast sandwich has ginger-cured pork belly, egg, cheddar and caramelized onions.
“I’ve never liked the word fusion,” Yow said, “and this is not fusion.”
Downtown Columbus has long struggled to find an evening audience, but Yow sees some uptick in dining, particular the cluster of Dirty Frank’s, Little Palace and
El Camino, just down Fourth Street, plus the established Gay Street corridor.
“People want affordable food that’s freshly prepared,” he said. “That’s what a lot of these little independents are doing.”
Natalie’s is open lunch only Monday through Friday, with dinner and brunch in the offing. For more information, call 614-228-5199.
If patrons of Mia Cucina in Powell hadn’t noticed any major changes recently, it’s by design.
Jason Gillespie, who recently purchased the restaurant, said he’s made only subtle modifications since taking it over few months ago.
For starters, the wine list has been updated and expanded to include roughly 40 selections in all price ranges.
The menu has stayed virtually untouched, with some additions and improvement to the quality, he said.
Most entrees are in the $14 to $20 range.
The original Mia Cucina was opened three years ago in New Albany by Vern Blazek, Jack Illig and Mike Unnone.
The Powell location, 230 W. Liberty St., opened a year and a half ago.
Gillespie, an entrepreneur, said he was looking for business opportunities when he found out Illig was going put Mia Cucina on the market, so he snatched it up.
“I got involved because the planets were aligning,” he said. “Restaurants are always a big gamble.”
Just west of the busy four-corners intersection, Mia Cucina has had a bit of trouble getting noticed in the restaurant-rich Powell area, Gillespie said.
“There are so many options,” he said. “There are so many different places.
“We are a little bit off the road.”
Mia Cucina is open dinner hours daily.