Table Talk: Italian Village's Budd Dairy Food Hall stresses dine-in diversity, drinks

Gary Seman Jr.
ThisWeek group

Budd Dairy Food Hall is capitalizing on a growing trend: Offer a diversity of vendors featuring mostly simple, inexpensive fare and a spacious, cafeteria-style place to sit and grab a drink.

The food hall, part of the locally based Cameron Mitchell Restaurants’ portfolio, opened April 7 at 1086 N. Fourth St. in Columbus' Italian Village neighborhood.

The first-floor center of the space is occupied by Comfort Kitchen, Boni: Filipino Street Kitchen, Borgata, Cousins Maine Lobster, Cluck Norris, Modern Southern Table and Stauf’s Coffee Roasters, bookended by Pokebap and Tacos Rudos. A frequently rotating pop-up space, called the Hatch, is occupied by the Cheesecake Girl.

For Ana Cruz (left), owner of Tacos Rudos, the business is a family affair. Beside her are (from left) her brother Uli Cruz, cousin Manny Santos, sister Dalia Cruz, father Magdaleno Cruz and mother Jackie Santos.  Their restaurant is one of the 10 initial restaurants in the Budd Dairy Food Hall, which is part of the Cameron Mitchell Restaurants portfolio. The food hall April 7 at 1086 N. Fourth St. in Columbus' Italian Village neighborhood.

Although it might seem more food-court style than business incubator, the concept is popular in big international cities where guests can find a variety of cuisines and a place to sit, said Krizzia Yanga, owner of Boni: Filipino Street Food.

“The food hall is kind of like a street market,” said Yanga, who also owns Bonaficio near Grandview Heights. “It’s just a place where you experience a culture.”

Vendors have a small space and, generally, a limited bill of fare, so they can put out food quickly.

“Obviously, we need to be creative with our menu,” she said.

A newcomer to the Columbus food scene, Uli Cruz thought the food hall seemed like a good fit for Tacos Rudos, a fresh-Mex startup he had founded with his sister, chef Ana Cruz, and Junior Martinez.

Once one of the largest milk-processing plants in the country, the Budd Dairy building has been transformed into a food hall.

He vied for an end unit, which has more seating, so he could flaunt homemade tacos, tortas and homemade tortillas.

“From the beginning, we wanted to stress the brand,” Cruz said. “We make everything from scratch.”

The food hall takes over the 18,000-square-foot former Budd Dairy Co., which served as a bottling plant, buyer and distributor of milk.

It’s a cross between rustic and modern, with shiny white tiles, lots of natural lighting and two bars. A rooftop patio soon will have its own bar, too, general manager Jeremy Hughes said. The basement area is used by private businesses, Hughes said.

It seats 300 and will increase to 500 when COVID-19 restrictions are lifted.

He said many original fixtures are scattered throughout the building, which opened in 1916.

“We got to bring it back to what it was originally,” he said, adding that Budd Dairy closed in 1967.

Steve Gibson, a regional director of Cluck Norris, said vendors try not to step on each other’s toes by offering the same fare, so he doesn’t offer chicken wings.

It’s the first public location of Cluck Norris, which has been quietly building its brand inside local Rusty Bucket Restaurant and Taverns, of which it is affiliated. Gibbons said the concept is trying to make a name for itself with crispy-fried chicken sandwiches, tenders and a pork-tenderloin sandwich.

“It’s only five items – pretty simple,” he said of the menu. “We can rock-and-roll it pretty quickly. I think people like that.”

Dishes at some places might seem a little upscale. Modern Southern Table is selling scratch-made low-country shrimp, New Orleans-style gumbo and Louisiana blackened fish. The most expensive single serving is $15.99 for crab-and-shrimp gravy over rice.

“I don’t consider us a soul-food place or creole place,” said owner Sadaya “Daisy” Lewis, who previously owned a restaurant by the same name in Zanesville but didn’t like the commute. “I consider us a Southern place.”

Budd Dairy hours are 4 to 11 p.m. Tuesdays through Thursdays, 4 p.m. to 1 a.m. Fridays, 11 a.m. to 1 am. Saturdays, 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Sundays and closed Mondays. For more information, call 614-505-2630.

The Budd Dairy Food Hall building is at 1086 N. Fourth St. in Columbus' Italian Village neighborhood.

New look for Tucci’s

The dining room at Tucci’s, which has been closed since April 5 for remodeling, set an April 16 reopening date at 35 N. High St. in Historic Dublin.

The interior will have all new features; furniture, flooring, lighting, artwork, restrooms, open kitchen, bar countertop and wine racks, said owner Craig Barnum, also founder of CLB Restaurants, which includes Matt the Miller’s Tavern.

“The whole theme is much lighter, open, brighter, fresh,” Barnum said. “The old concept was maybe a steakhouse kind of look.”

Meanwhile, seating is available at the all-seasons enclosure – imported from Germany last year – on the 65-seat patio.

Once warm weather returns for good, the enclosure’s sides will be removed for the season, Barnum said.

For sale: Kilwins franchise

The Short North location of Kilwins, an ice cream and chocolate shop at 662 N High St., is closed for good.

Closed last March because of COVID-19, Kilwins’ franchisees, Ernie Malas and Bobby Carpenter, planned to reopen post-pandemic but decided against it.

They decided to put the franchise up for sale, which is being brokered by Randy Sokol of Sokol and Associates, who can be reached at randy@sokolandassociates.com.

Fare noir

Black Box Fix, to offer creole- and Cajun-style cuisine, will open its first central Ohio location May 1 at 4037 Fenlon St. in Easton Town Center.

With two locations in the Cleveland area, Black Box Fix will bring gourmet sandwiches and street food, such as its signature “OMG Philly” and the “Crabby Catfish” sandwich.

gseman@thisweeknews.com

@ThisWeekGary