"People usually expect to get rice and noodles here, but the banh mi comes as a pleasant surprise," Woolf said "Our goal is to convey to our patrons what is unique about each restaurant. Our focus is good food served along with interesting stories that tell about the cuisine, the owner’s background and a bit of history."
We got another taste of the exotic at Intercontinental Restaurant, where Esther, the owner, put down a large sampler plate that included jollof rice (a mix of vegetables and spices), plantains, goat stew, egusi soup (spinach soup with ground melon seeds, shrimp paste and chiles) and moi moi (a pudding made of black-eyed peas).
"During our tours, patrons get a generous amount of food, but we decided that it was better to offer too much than too little," Woolf said.
If you can believe the host of the Udipi Restaurant, our next stop, most Indian restaurants in the U.S. serve an Americanized version of northern Indian cuisine, served with creamy sauces, toned down spices and heavy with tandoori-style cooking. Udipi, named for a south Indian city, serves food from the region such as Iddly (steamed rice and lentil patties) and thin crepe dosai. The dish that got our most attention, a batura, is a large puffy bread, the size of a pumpkin that deflates when punctured.
Our appetites nearly slaked, our stop at Panaderia Guadalupana gave us a look at tray after tray of Mexican baked goodies. Thankfully, we were able to pick our choices (empenadas and churros for me) and have them bagged up for later consumption.
"The owner hails from Hildago where his grandfather operated a bakery," Woolf said. "He tries to authenticate the original recipes he learned there in Columbus."