A local franchisee has big plans for Tom + Chee, a Cincinnati-based restaurant concept known for its classic and offbeat grilled cheese and soup.
Ron Freeman said he will open the first store in April at 10709 Blacklick-Eastern Road in the Pickerington Plaza, followed by another location roughly 30 days later in the vacant Ruby Tuesday (later Marlin & Ray's) at 1840 Hilliard Rome Road.
A third is planned to open in the fall in a yet-to-be-identified storefront in Gahanna.
Freeman said he likes the concept: an affordable, quick-casual restaurant that appeals to a wide swath of diners, from mothers with children to executives who want a speedy bite for lunch.
"It's the American comfort food -- grilled cheese and soup" he said. "It's perfect."
Freeman called it a "high-quality product," with gluten-free, vegetarian and vegan options available.
Freeman said he and his wife, Dawn, plan to open seven to 10 stores total over the next five years in central Ohio.
The Freemans, who until recently owned six Sport Clips haircutting studios, also are franchisees of Gigi's Cupcakes, one in the Polaris area and the other in Pickerington, next door to the planned Tom + Chee.
Freeman said he is working on franchising rights for other regions of the state and beyond.
The restaurant chain was founded by Trew Quackenbush and Corey Ward, who opened the concept in a tent in 2009 in Cincinnati's Fountain Park.
A brick-and-mortar store opened a year later, said Sharon Rudd, spokeswoman for the chain.
Featured on national TV shows such as Shark Tank and Man v. Food Nation, Tom + Chee is known for nearly 20 savory grilled-cheese sandwiches, a number of sweet donut grilled-cheese sandwiches, plus a build-your-own section.
Soups include classic tomato, chunky tomato basil, creamy tomato basil, seasonal choices and a soup of the day. Salads round out the menu.
Rudd said the average diner's bill is about $8.
There currently are three company-owned stores in the greater Cincinnati area, and three franchise locations in Louisville, Ky.; and one each in Lexington, Ky.; Lansing, Mich.; and Freehold, N.J.
There are new Indian dining options in Dublin and Polaris.
Dakshin Indian Bistro has moved from Sawmill Road to 8631 Sancus Blvd. Managing partner Ram Nugooru said he was looking for a bigger space.
The 4,200-square-foot location has a separate 1,200-square-foot banquet facility that seats up to 100.
Chef Pandia Rajan Pitchai said he has expanded the menu, particularly the Indochinese selections, which include dishes such as Manchurian chicken, chili paneer, hakka noodles and Szechuan fried rice.
Dakshin, which takes over the former Noora Persian Cuisine space, continues to serve a wide range of regional dishes, including dosa, a crispy crepe that's somewhat rare in central Ohio's Indian restaurants.
In another significant move, Nugooru has purchased a franchise of Paradise Biryani Pointe, the nation's largest chain of Indian restaurants, just so he can serve the biryani, a dish made of basmati rice, seasonings, meats or vegetables.
Paradise Biryani, which has more than 40 locations nationwide, is known for its proprietary masala spice mixture, which is very popular in the Indian community, Pitchai said.
Dakshin offers daily lunch buffets, with an a la carte menu in the evenings.
Most entree prices are in the $9 to $15 range. There is a full liquor license at the restaurant.
For more information, call 614-389-2670.
Curry N Grill has taken over the former Indian Palace at 5720 Frantz Road.
The 48-seat restaurant, owned by Syed Monoar, serves up familiar Indian dishes -- tandoori, vegetarian, biryani and such -- with most entrees priced between $9 and $15.
Chef Mohammad Alom said he stresses consistency and makes his own spice mixtures.
There's a lunch buffet daily and an a la carte menu at night.
Monoar noted that the restaurant is closed between lunch and dinner. There is no alcohol.
For more information, call 614-761-4799.