One of the many things I admire about independent food vendors is the passion they have for what they do. I’ve heard it said time and again that the profit margin in the food industry is next to nothing: those who do it don’t do it for the money; they do it because they love food and they love what they do. This ardor is no more evident than in Freshstreet’s Kenny Kim and Misako Ohba. Introducing Central Ohio to Japanese crepes in the summer of 2010 (via their Foodie Cart), this husband and wife team stood out in the newly-emerging Columbus mobile food scene with boundless enthusiasm and an innovative menu that was both delicious and affordable.
For the uninitiated, Japenese crepes are more crispy than the French version, and Freshstreet’s are an ever-changing culinary adventure into East meets West. Crepe specials such as the Panko-fried Oyster Po Boy and the Crab Rangoon with Thai Chili highlight an already impressive menu that features Bacon Okonomi-Yaki, Soy Chorizo Avocado, Salmon Cream Cheese, Brie Veggie Egg, and my personal favorite, the Bulgogi Cheesesteak. Additionally, there is a selection of dessert crepes like Nutella S’mores with Strawberry, Lemon Tart with Custard and Blueberry, Banana Salty Caramel, and Apple Pie with Custard.
The spring of 2011 saw Freshstreet’s Foodie Cart retired for a fixed location. Working out of the Mikey’s Late Night Slice shack located at 1030 North High Street, Kenny and Misako introduced their take on another Japanese favorite to the streets of Columbus: takoyaki. These savory balls have a pancake-like consistency and each is filled with a piece of octopus. While I highly recommend the octopus (it’s very mild with a little bit of chewiness), Freshstreet also offers options like Japanese sausage or cabbage as a filling. A big part of the Freshstreet experience is being able to watch the takoyaki take form under the skilled hands of Misako or Kenny: batter is poured into takoyaki pans, then carefully manipulated into ball-shapes before your eyes.
Toward the end of 2011, Freshstreet embarked on yet another endeavor. Although they still maintain their lunch presence at Freshstreet Takoyaki and Japanese Crepes out of the Mikey’s Late Night Slice location, Kenny and Misako have recently opened Freshstreet Yakitori in Double Happiness at 482 South Front Street in the Brewery District during the evenings. While yakitori refers to chicken that is grilled on a stick, Freshstreet’s menu includes a variety of grilled meats, seafood, and vegetables; as well as ramen, soba, and specials such as rotate (scallops) grilled on the shell.
These two not only make amazingly delicious food, they enjoy doing it and it shows. More importantly, they want their diners to enjoy the experience. Kenny and Misako proactively engage their customers with special promotions such as Autotune 4 a Discount, Dance 4 a Discount, Free Vinyl Days, and t-shirt giveaways. Freshstreet’s appreciation for, and interaction with, their customers is a hallmark of the Columbus food scene. You need look no further than their Tumblr page to see a group of smiling, happy customers enjoying their Freshstreet experience. And their enthusiasm hasn’t gone unrecognized. Kenny and Misako have appeared in food blogs throughout the country; they were even recently featured in the Chicago Tribune. And, following a visit to Freshstreet, Chef Jonathon Sawyer of The Greenhouse Tavern invited Kenny and Misako to team up with his other venture, Noodlecat, for a Japanese Street Fair-themed event in Cleveland last month.
For more on Freshstreet Yakitori, read my latest post here.