In the rapidly expanding build-your-own bowl era, Brassica seeks to distinguish itself with greater options, better ingredients and freshly cooked meals.

Part of the Northstar Cafe family of restaurants, Brassica's third central Ohio location has opened at 1442 Lane Ave. in Upper Arlington.

With a nod toward Middle Eastern cuisine, the restaurant offers four key proteins -- harissa-rubbed brisket, lamb bacon, chicken shawarma and falafel -- and a parade of homemade toppings and sauces.

One of the differences between Brassica and its competitors is that much of the broad menu is prepared in an open kitchen, even down to the homemade pita, which serves as the bread for sandwiches. Other bowls are built with a foundation of greens, lentils and rice.

"Brassica stands alone in the sea of fast-casual restaurants because of the values we share with our cousin, Northstar Cafe," Brassica general manager Sean Jones said. "Like Northstar, we serve responsibly sourced, artisan-produced foods by uncommonly friendly people, in a beautifully curated environment.

"However, we have translated those values into a quick-, fun-, casual-style eastern Mediterranean eatery."

Brassica was founded four years ago by Kevin and Katy Malhame, who established four Northstar Cafes and Grandview Heights' Third & Hollywood, a full-service restaurant just off Grandview Avenue.

Brassica takes its name from the family of plants that includes broccoli, cauliflower, kale and mustard greens -- popular for their health benefits, Malhame said.

The latest location, taking over the former Trek Bicycle shop, has an open floor plan and modern accouterments, seating 70 inside and another 24 on the patio.

It takes 60 to 120 seconds for staff members to complete an order.

"It's a very efficient system," Malhame said.

Sandwiches are $7.50 to $12.50 and salads are $9.50 to $14.50.

Beverages include the minty house pink lemonade, Boylan Bottling cane-sugar pop and an assortment of craft beer.

Hours are 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. daily. For more information, call 614-929-9997.

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Vaso, the dining concept at AC Hotel by Marriott Columbus Dublin, 6540 Riverside Drive in Bridge Park, has introduced climate-controlled, see-through igloos to its rooftop patio.

The six-seat igloos, made of plastic and PVC pipe, will be available for reservations through the end of March, said Orcun Turkay, hotel general manager.

The full-service experience includes the tapas-style Vaso menu and drinks. Each igloo comes with a heater, fur-covered chairs and blanket, he said.

Diners also are treated to a bird's-eye view of the Scioto River and nearby Historic Dublin.

Sundays through Wednesdays, the reservation rate is $100 per hour, which is waived if customers spend that amount of money on food, drinks or bottle service, Turkay said. The price Thursday through Saturday is $200 an hour.

Customers can reserve the igloos for hours at a time as long as they pay the minimum, he said.

However, the bill must be one check and an automatic gratuity of 20 percent will be applied, he said.

Turkay said the patio is closed to customers during winter months, save for igloo dwellers and those who want to take a closer look at the plastic domes, which were rolled out before New Year's Eve.

"The demand is very good," Turkay said. "We can add two more, maybe."

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After a three-year absence, Charleys Philly Steaks has returned to the Ohio State University area, where the sandwich chain got its start in 1986.

The new shop is at 1980 N. High St. in Columbus.

The restaurant is known for its Philly-style cheesesteaks made with grilled beef or chicken, loaded fries, boneless and traditional wings and chicken tenders.

gseman@thisweeknews.com

@ThisWeekGary