Table Talk: Pho Le adds to international flair in Northland

Gary Seman Jr.
ThisWeek group
Special pho "Dac Biet" with all options of protein, including eye-of-round beef, well-done brisket, soft tendon and beef meat balls, as well as ground chicken summer rolls, is among the available items at Pho Le Vietnamese Cuisine, 1623 Morse Road in north Columbus.

As Northland’s demographics have shifted, the restaurant scene has flourished with a diversity of cuisines.

The latest independent operator in the Columbus neighborhood is Pho Le Vietnamese Cuisine, which takes over a storefront at 1623 Morse Road.

Pho Le is among a cluster of retail outparcels along Morse Road in front of where the old Northland Mall stood that includes national operators like Mr. Hero and T-Mobile alongside local restaurants Couscous House (Moroccan) and Afra Grill (mostly Somali food).

“Everything is so diverse around here,” said Tina Lee, who opened Pho Le with her husband, Alex Luong. “It’s going to be a good spot.”

The menu should be largely familiar to those who have indulged in Vietnamese food. It features a wide of assortment of pho, fried and steamed rice platters, vermicelli noodle bowls and banh mi sandwiches.

Even so, it offers a few dishes uncommon in central Ohio, such as the banh mi with pork meatballs – a sandwich that gets a layer of homemade mayonnaise and pickled vegetables and is served on a crispy French-style roll – and a rice platter with Korean barbecue ribs.

Pho Le also has weekly specials, such as the banh xeo – a crispy pancake with pork and shrimp and a hint of fish sauce.

Most entrée prices are $6.50 to $15.

Other assorted goodies include fried dumplings, spring rolls and Vietnamese iced coffee.

Pho Le’s interior seats 25 with proper social distancing.

Luong’s other trade is building and designing, and Lee works in the restaurant.

“We just love cooking,” she said.

“I never thought I would get into the restaurant business, but it’s something my wife wanted to do,” Luong said. “She was working at a nail salon for so long, for 20 years. She wanted something new to do.”

A "Com Dia" rice plate with grilled beef, served with a Vietnamese iced coffee, is among the available items at Pho Le.

Growth in the number of Vietnamese restaurants has been on a slow but steady pace over the past several years, as evidenced by the openings of Buckeye Pho, 6-1-Pho, Saigon Baguette & Coffee, Huong Vietnamese Restaurant and Pho Chef.

Luong said he soon will add a bakery where he will bake his own baguettes and make fresh noodles, separating himself from the pack.

“I don’t just sit in one place and do one thing,” he said. “I’m going to expand my place in the future, in the next couple years.”

Pho Le is open 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. Wednesdays through Mondays and closed Tuesdays. For more information, call 614-505-7664.

Upper crust

For a neighborhood pizza joint, Castello Regina Pizza covers a lot of territory.

For starters, the pizzeria makes several styles of crust from scratch: thin pie cut, New York style, a medium-thick crust, deep dish and stuffed pizzas – a regular bottom crust and pizza toppings capped off by crust that’s been brushed with garlic sauce and showered with parmesan for a golden hue. Sauce is served on the side.

Mohamed Said and chef Farid Oubelaid own Costello, 2577 Indianola Ave. in the Old North Columbus neighborhood.

The pizza madness includes a build-your-own section, 20 specialty pies, plus Stromboli, calzones and pizza rolls.

The menu additionally offers a large assortment of pasta dishes, subs, burgers, gyros and salads.

Castello has only a pair of seats near the counter and relies mostly on carryout and delivery. When orders are finished, Said takes a picture of the meals and sends them to customers.

Mikey’s gambles on casino

Mikey’s Late Night Slice is laying its cards on the table at Hollywood Casino Columbus.

The hometown pizzeria will become part of the dining options in May at the casino, 200 Georgesville Road in west Columbus.

Mikey’s Late Night Slice will replace the roughly 1,000-square-foot space near the casino entrance from the garage, which currently is home to the i.o. Bar. i.o., a complement to the casino's o.h Sports Bar, will remain open Thursdays through Sundays during renovations.

The new space will have a bar and dining area, which will be expanded.

Blending in

Healthy Blends, the latest healthy tea-and-smoothie emporium, was scheduled to open at 8 a.m. April 3 at 5877 Karric Square Drive near Dublin.

Owned by partners Alex Dominguez and Tinia Suggs, the independent shop offers healthful meal-replacement smoothies, which have the vitamins, minerals and proteins of a regular meal and only 300 calories.

Teas, likewise, are considered healthful, often combining fruit juices with no sugar added, Dominguez said.

gseman@thisweeknews.com

@ThisWeekGary