In a season of excess, catching a meal (or two) at a place like The Table is refreshing. With an ethos of sustainability, the restaurant – located in Columbus’s Short North Arts District – gleans its produce from local farmers, tries to focus its menu on meatless and gluten-free meals, and strives for transparency in all it does – evidenced by its open-kitchen layout.
The goal for co-owners Sangeeta Lakhani and Jenn Marlatt is to reduce waste and create a responsible, yet foodie-approved dining experience. One initiative, though not uncommon, is to source as much as possible from local farmers, creameries, and breweries. But the duo’s buying habits are a bit less conventional: rarely requesting specific ingredients from vendors, they take a supportive approach by accepting the “leftovers” from farmer’s markets and sales, chopping up the “ugly” vegetables that nobody wanted and finding creative ways to utilize anything else. The win-win philosophy keeps the kitchen on its creative toes and helps to reduce waste for suppliers. Meats are all cured in-house, and when specific ingredients can’t be found from Ohio providers, the two look to ethically and sustainably produced global sources. Using every piece of meat, fruit, and vegetable that comes through the doors, the entire team strives toward zero waste – even preserving the last bits and pieces of the veggie inventory by pickling them for Bloody Mary garnishes at weekend brunch.
Their sustainability vision is not the only focus on the future: besides its two weekly specials, which are baked in-house, The Table also supports the students of the Columbus Culinary Institute and The Bradford School by offering sweets from Purple Sage Bakery, helping to cultivate a new generation of chefs in Columbus.
This cooperative, help-one-another attitude means the menu at The Table changes often, though it is always original and globally-inspired. Naturally, this requires creativity and flexibility, as the ingredients provided depend on the weather and the season. It is a collaborative effort between every chef, however; one dish on the menu, the “Creative Kudos” is redesigned by a different chef each week and has included everything from shepherd’s pie to ricotta and mushroom-stuffed ravioli. In addition, every weekend, each chef creates a rotation of dishes that are then plated and presented to the front of the house.
Lakhani, who also serves as the restaurant’s executive chef, strives for culturally diverse offerings. Although some dishes are classics – the Mac & Cheese, available at breakfast with a multitude of add-ons including chorizo, onion, and chilies, is one of their most popular orders – the ever-changing menu has featured Thai mussels, Indian potato cakes, and barbecued jackfruit all at once. No matter the contents of a given dish, however, it is always decadent and beautiful. Even a dish that is seemingly as simple as a breakfast of Dark Rye & Lox is gifted layers of flavor from chefs who put together wonderfully dense poached eggs from Amish farms, whipped goat cheese from Turkeyfoot Creek Creamery, and preserved lemons alongside dark rye toast and house-cured salmon.
While its charcuterie menu is relatively straightforward, showcasing meats and cheeses from around Ohio, it is no less thrilling than the rest of the globally-inspired menu. And its fresh pastries, too, are always a balance of sugary and savory, including donuts, bagels, and flaky, flavorful scones. The dessert menu is nothing short of mouth-watering, featuring coffee from Stauf’s and Backroom Roasters – both Ohio brands – and a series of sweet cocktails and wines on top of spicy Mexican Chocolate Cake, Peach Upside Down Cake with hand-whipped cream, chocolate-chip cookies, and weekly gluten-free and vegan specials.
The restaurant also hosts private events scheduled through its website, including a website called “Join my table”, where guests can book an eclectic dining experience that Lakhani describes as a “two-hour vacation” during which the chefs make all of the decisions. It also holds a recurring, ticketed event titled “Inspired: Grenache around the world”, a three to five-course meal that travels the globe, paired with wine, cocktails, and beer; the next Inspired event will be held in January 2019.
Lakhani and Marlatt originally met as students at the Columbus College of Art and Design, and although Lakhani later left for culinary school, Marlatt became an interior designer – hence The Table’s rustic, urban-chic decor. Its open kitchen and emphasis on natural light create an aura of candor, and despite its grungy style, everything about it is spotless and clean. The space is filled with vintage dishes and furniture, reflecting the renewable nature of the business, and greenery of all kinds – which staff are encouraged to take home or bring back as they wish – planted in tomato cans and other found objects. Even the changing table found in its restroom is a repurposed antique.
All of this stays true to the eco-friendly heart of the restaurant; it was inspired by the waste the pair had witnessed in the restaurant industry for years. After contemplating the effects of overproduction of food on our health and the planet’s, Lakhani and Marlatt decided to open a venue focused around sustainability and no-waste initiatives. The two Columbus creatives have run The Table for five years now and see it as a “labor of love,” putting in 40 to 50 hours of work weekly. It is a passion project, and their staff is invested in the longevity of the restaurant, too – some have even followed the duo to The Table from previous projects.
The Table has settled comfortably into its bodega-esque location on 5th Avenue on Columbus’s Short North Arts District. Nestled just off of High Street, it is difficult to believe that the restaurant is so conveniently located while seated at a table in the open, naturally-lit room. The mismatched furniture – all sustainably sourced, of course – contributes a homey feel, and out back is The Breezeway, an outdoor patio garnished with string lights and even more hanging plants. It is viable and anti-waste without the typical hippie kitsch, and all of this is capped by vibrant, mouth-watering food from every corner of the world. The Table is, in everything it does, environmentally trustworthy and tasty, from its locally-sourced food to its up-cycled vintage furnishings. As the holidays rapidly approach and everything is over-the-top and overproduced, it may become necessary to take a break with a meal that aims to preserve the Earth, so just remember to, as The Table’s tagline says, “Fork responsibly.”
Originally published in Sophisticated Living‘s November/December 2018 issue.