By offering an "affordable luxury" to central Ohioans, Cousins Maine Lobster has clawed its way into the local food-truck scene.
A franchisee for a Los Angeles-based company, the souped-up food truck began dishing out lobster rolls and other dishes last week at Pins Mechanical Co. locations in downtown Columbus and Dublin.
The plan is to be open daily at various points around central Ohio. The truck's location each day can be tracked at cousinsmainelobster.com/truck/columbus-oh.
The house signature rolls ($15.50 each) are the Maine, featuring chilled lobster with a touch of mayo, and the Connecticut, which has warm lobster with butter and lemon. Both are served on split-top buns that are toasted per customer request.
Other lobster-based menu items are grilled cheese, tater tots, tacos, bisque and quesadillas. The only dishes without lobster are clam chowder and shrimp tacos.
Everything is prepared to order, and the goal is to get the orders out in 60 to 90 seconds -- except for the grilled cheese, which takes a little longer.
The local franchisee is Kathy Nuss, a Hilliard resident and a pediatric emergency-medicine physician for Nationwide Children's Hospital.
Nuss said she is a lobster enthusiast who frequently took family trips to Maine as a child.
She said she was impressed by Cousins, which she saw on the TV show, "Shark Tank," which features entrepreneurs trying to get funding from the show's wealthy hosts.
Cousins has 32 franchised food trucks in 15 cities across the U.S.
Nuss flew to L.A. and was impressed with the food and the professionalism of the company. She said she then purchased a 32-foot truck and had it retrofitted with the appropriate equipment.
Nuss has operating rights for Franklin and Delaware counties.
"We think there's great opportunity to bring a product that maybe doesn't exist so much in that area," said Jim Tselikis, who founded the company with his cousin and fellow Mainer, Sabin Lomac, six years ago.
Nuss is in charge of electronic medical records for the children's hospital and an ER physician on the weekends, and she is not about to quit her day job to sell lobster rolls, she said, though she is optimistic about the brand. (She has hired Stacy Garrett as operations manager for the food truck.)
She said she isn't certain whether she would start another food truck or open a Cousins restaurant, of which there are eight across the country.
"I wanted to find an investment opportunity and I thought this would be fun, to be honest with you," Nuss said. "I thought it would be a great opportunity to bring a franchise-brand food truck to Columbus."
Los Guachos Taqueria is expanding again.
The restaurant -- known for its spit-roasted al pastor pork, tacos, burritos, tortas and other casual Mexican fare -- will replace Hass Tacos, Burritos & Mas location at 7370 Sawmill Road in Columbus, near Dublin.
It will be the third brick-and-mortar location owned by the locally based restaurant group, founded by Carlos Nonato.
His sister, Edith Nonato, said the restaurant is expected to open in a month or so, and it will have a full liquor license.
The other Los Guachos restaurants are at 5221 Godown Road in northwest Columbus and 1376 Cherry Bottom Road in Gahanna. A Los Guachos food truck also operates in west Columbus.
Tuula Mallonen has delayed her retirement.
The owner of Tuula's European Cafe was poised to sell her restaurant. However, the deal fell through, so she signed another two-year lease at 3856 Hard Road in Dublin.
Mallonen said she temporarily will close the cafe, known for its homemade savory dishes and baked goods, from May 17 to Aug. 17 while she visits her mother overseas.
"My customers understand," she said. "They're happy -- happy I'm coming back, anyway."
Yellow Brick Pizza quietly opened two weeks ago at 245 King Ave. in Columbus, just south of the Ohio State University campus.
The original Yellow Brick still is in operation at 892 Oak St. in Columbus' Olde Towne East neighborhood.
The pizzeria's new neighbor is the Angry Baker, 247 King Ave., which also maintains a cafe and bakery in Olde Towne East.