Table Talk: After 50 years, central Ohio's Talita’s rebrands, expands

Gary Seman Jr.
ThisWeek group
General manager Jessica Jasper (right) and assistant manager Katie Miller are pictured at Talita's Burritos and Coneys' downtown Columbus location at 30 S. Young St. on March 18.

The Talita’s name carries on, 53 years after its humble beginnings in Clintonville.

The latest concept to emerge from the Tex-Mex bellwether, which has gone through numerous revisions since 1968, is Talita’s Burritos and Coneys, which has three central Ohio locations.

“We’re doing very well during this pandemic, and places are coming available,” said Frank Prince, owner of Talita’s Southwest Café, 1335 Dublin Road, referring to COVID-19 and the vacancies resulting from storefronts closing.

“And the pandemic made us go to quick-service carryout and delivery,” said Prince, who’s part of the family that founded Talita’s Mexican Kitchen, which no longer exists. “With that in mind, we thought, shoot, we could duplicate this a lot easier than a full-service sit-down restaurant.”

Prince, president of the parent company, Talita’s, has given licenses to three independent central Ohio shop owners: his daughter, Christina Smith, 14950 E Broad St. in Pataskala; Jessica and Matt Jasper, 30 S. Young St. in Columbus; and Jack Haines, 6542 Hayden Run Road along Hilliard's northern edge, the latter opening in April.

“I’m a fan of the food,” said Jessica Jasper on why she sought a license.

The agreement gives her the authority to use the name, recipes and menu, with the ability to add items, she said.

The Jaspers took over the former Buckeye Chili & Smokehouse, which had been closed for about a year.

With the help of friend Katie Miller, the couple spent months cleaning the place and sprucing up the dining room, which has new carpet, paint and a nod to South High School’s blue and gray colors.

The Talita's Burritos and Coneys location at 30 S. Young St. in Columbus is one of three central Ohio locations.

The menu is a deep dive into Talita’s past – featuring a large assortment of burrito options, with the additional “wet” topping of enchilada sauce, now called “smothered.”

They range from $7.29 to $8.99.

Coneys are all-beef hot dogs cooked in beef broth for added flavor. Toppings include cheese, coleslaw and onions. Two Coneys with cheese, for example, are $5.69.

Pasta is big, too. A plate of spaghetti with Coney sauce, cheese and onions is $5.25, or $8.25 for a large.

Jessica Jasper said the menu travels well, whether for pickup or delivery.

“I like the idea we can be simple,” she said.

Despite the size of the space, about half is reserved for inside dining. Lack of parking was an initial concern for Jasper, but she said those who spend a minimum of $15 on food receive an hour of validated parking at a nearby garage.

Hours are 10:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. Mondays through Fridays. For more information, call 614-502-0028.

Talita's Burritos and Coneys offers burritos, tacos, enchiladas and Coneys, among other Tex-Mex menu options.

Meanwhile, Prince is branching out into another project called Dad’s Coneys and Wraps, which will operate under his organization, Veterans with Vision: Leaving None Behind.

Prince said he is seeking nonprofit status for the group.

Prince, a former U.S. Marine, said he is working with Columbus North Elks Lodge 2700 in Northland to open the first Dad’s. He said he is working with Columbus State Community College to find veterans graduating from the hospitality program to own each of the future Dad’s. He said he would receive a 5% royalties fee, which would go back to the organization, and the owners keep the rest.

Prince said he is working with additional Elks and Veterans of Foreign Wars posts across central Ohio.

“It’s going to be an easy menu for them,” he said.

French toast host

Valter Veliu has a new side hustle.

The chef and owner of the Valter’s at the Maennerchor, which is inside the Columbus Maennerchor in the Brewery District, has acquired the old Shade’s Restaurant property at 2486 S. High St., south of Frank Road.

Veliu said he has begun renovation on the restaurant, which should be open by next year.

“It’s going to take some time,” he said. “We’re talking about a half-million-dollar investment.”

The working title is Shade’s French Toast House, but that could change, Veliu said.

The restaurant will serve scratch breakfast and lunch fare. One of his goals is create the best hash browns in the city. They involve freshly grated potatoes, a blazing hot skillet, oil and butter.

On a related note, Veliu recently cemented an 18-month lease at the Maennerchor, 976 S. High St.

Watershed moment

Watershed Distillery’s three single-barrel bourbons that hit state liquor-store shelves March 22.

The distribution was made possible through the help of the Ohio Division of Liquor Control, which selected Watershed for its fourth private-barrel selections program.

Watershed is the first Ohio distillery to be chosen for that program, which was started in 2017.

Ambry Spice, Ohio Honeycomb and Pilfer’s Pick, all aged a minimum of four years in Ohio-made bourbon barrels, will be available at 25 state liquor agencies across Ohio.

Fast-casual Guys

The Halal Guys has announced its foray to Columbus, with plans to open seven locations in the central Ohio area.

Franchisee Smart Food Choice LLC will be the leader in the local expansion, with the first restaurant expected to open by the end of the year.

The concept, which was started in 1990, is known for halal meats and a custom garlic white sauce, plus hummus, babaganoush, falafel and baklava.

gseman@thisweeknews.com

@ThisWeekGary