Marcelo Martin hopes he can turn around a troubled spot in Powell by serving honest, homemade American fare at reasonable prices.
North Liberty Diner, Martin's latest restaurant, has taken over a narrow storefront at 240 N. Liberty St. The projected opening date is Sept. 7.
It was basically a turnkey operation, with its homey art applications and Ohio State color scheme remaining.
"The first time I saw this place, I knew it was ready to go," said Martin, who also owns Baire's restaurant in Marion. "We didn't need to do any major changes here."
Yet, a decisive conceptual makeover was needed in the kitchen, he said.
So, Martin hired chef Dave Patterson, a Lindey's alumnus who specializes in homemade fare with bold flavors.
Where some diners prefer an exhaustive laminated menu, Patterson said he has counterprogrammed, offering some essential house-made staples -- chili, omelets, meatloaf, pancakes, bologna sandwich, soups and such -- while focusing on many nightly specials.
Always on the menu will be a variety of hand-patted 7-ounce burgers.
One signature option is the M.O.P. -- and, yes, it's as sloppy as its name implies, Patterson said. The patty is topped with mushrooms, onions and provolone, and given a shot of sriracha.
"It will be a mess," Patterson said. "You will not be able to pick it up."
After spending 20 years in Cleveland, he has become fond of a few Northeast Ohio classics, such as chicken paprikash and pierogies, which he intends to serve. Fridays, he plans on fish fries, using Lake Erie perch when it's in season.
Most of the menu will be priced between $6 and $16, with some more-expensive fare, such as prime rib on Saturday.
The 35-seat space has been a revolving door, most recently housing the Diner, Jodi's Home Cooking and the Grace Diner.
Meanwhile, the center itself has seen some high-profile departures, such as Yukon Steakhouse and Mama Zarella's.
Yet, the shopping center's new owner has redevelopment plans in the works. Locally based TIA Real Estate Holdings LLC, owned by physician Alex Alahakoon, has purchased the 26,000-square-foot center.
Property manager John Chess said several cosmetic changes are under consideration by the city of Powell, including improved signs, landscaping, plants and benches.
The shopping center's name also will be changed to Liberty Square, Chess said.
North Liberty Diner will be open for breakfast and lunch Tuesday through Saturday, with dinner hours on Friday and Saturday and brunch Sunday. It will be closed Mondays.
For more information, call 614-436-6000.
In what could be a first for Columbus, a Mexican restaurant on the Northwest Side is using a wood-fired grill for its casual street fare.
Owner Jose Banderas said he has purchased an expensive hood system so he could burn a mesquite-fired grill at Hass, which is expected to open in the next two weeks in the Sawmill Center, just south of Hard Road.
Hass, named after the style of avocado, is next to the La Favorita grocery store, which also sells home-cooked meals. Banderas also owns the three central Ohio El Acapulco restaurants.
He said Hass will specialize in burritos, tacos and other inexpensive fare, such as bowls and quesadillas, using specially marinated steak, pork and chicken, plus shrimp and fish.
It also will be one of the few Mexican restaurants to have a vertical rotisserie for "al pastor" pork. It also will open with a full liquor license.
Speaking of casual Mexican, Charritos Mexican Grill is slated to open in a week or so in the Arlington Pointe shopping center.
The restaurant, at the southeast corner of Reed and Henderson roads, will specialize in familiar Mexican fare -- tacos, burritos, salads fajitas and the like, priced in the $5 to $12 range.