The area's latest restaurant specializes in homemade, affordable fare.

Baghdad Restaurant is a no-frills eatery that has opened on the Northwest Side, the epicenter of central Ohio's ethnic dining scene.

Baghdad takes over the space most recently occupied by Philly Steak, 5230 Bethel Road in the Bethel Centre.

Chef Sam Elnagdy said the Middle Eastern classics -- hummus, babaganoush, tabouleh, falafel and such -- are made from scratch and reasonably priced.

The casual, 30-seat restaurant specializes in kebab entrees and kebab sandwiches, all made with halal meats, or those that adhere to Islamic dietary standards.

Each has its own distinct identity, Elnagdy said.

"Everything is different," he said. "Everything has different seasonings. Everything has a different marinade."

Entrees are $11 and come with rice and a salad, he said.

"It's a good amount of food for one person," he said.

Among the fare is house-prepared shawarma, a vertically spit-roasted Middle Eastern dish that uses layers of beef marinated overnight.

Rounding out the menu are soups and, for the American crowd, cheeseburgers, Philly steak sandwiches and gyros, both lamb and chicken.

The rest-aurant will start offering daily specials, depending on what fresh ingredients are available.

Elnagdy said he has been in the United States for 20 years, working at restaurants in many states, learning a variety of cuisines.

"I worked everywhere you can imagine," he said.

The area is no stranger to Middle Eastern, or Mediterranean-style, fare, with restaurants such as Shish Kebab, Lashish the Greek and Cafe Istanbul all located on the Northwest Side.

Elnagdy said he's confident Baghdad can compete on any level.

"It depends on what your quality is -- quality and price," he said.

The new restaurant is owned by Mustafa Al Azzawi, who also owns Baghdad Bakery in Hilliard.

Baghdad Restaurant is open for lunch and dinner daily. For more information, call 614-326-0272.


Sweet Simpliciteas adds another premium tea option to downtown Columbus.

The new shop takes over 1,100 square feet of space at 259 S. Third St.

Owner Aishsa Echols said she carries 30 loose-leaf teas at the shop, some of them her own proprietary blend. Pastries are baked fresh locally and savory dishes are expected to be part of the menu in a week or so.

The store, which seats 20, got off the ground by winning a city-sponsored Kickstart Columbus contest, along with clothing maker Team Chipmunk.

Echols said she thinks there's a demand for tea in a Downtown that has plenty of coffee options.

"There's a lot of opportunity for growth in the industry," she said.


With a classic American menu in place, Firebirds Wood Fired Grill has opened in Polaris.

The Charlotte, N.C.-based chain specializes in aged steaks, fresh seafood, chicken and ribs seared over a wood-fired grill.

The new 6,200-square-foot location, at 8760 Sancus Blvd., marks the company's second Ohio location and 32nd overall.

Among the offerings are the chile-rubbed Delmonico steak, slow-roasted prime rib and wood-grilled salmon.

Most entrees are in the $18 to $25 range.

Soups, appetizers, salads, burgers, sandwiches and desserts also are part of the lineup.

The chef is Jason Shultz, a central Ohio native who has spent the last 10 years with the Bravo Restaurant Group. He recently relocated back to the Columbus area.

Firebirds has a full liquor license, with private-label wines, signature cocktails and six beers on tap, with one local offering, Four String pale ale.

Firebirds is open for lunch and dinner seven days a week.

For more information, call 614-468-9180.