Slow Food Columbus

Portia's Cafe

4428 Indianola Ave, Columbus, OH 43214

Quite a few sustainably-oriented small farmers in central Ohio don't pursue organic certification, and most sustainable restaurants prefer to source locally. So it's a shock to walk into this little Clintonville restaurant and find a menu that's 95% organic and 100% GMO-free. It's even more of a shock when you discover that they spurn the most readily available organic ingredients because those ingredients are produced by mega-corporations that pour their money into anti-GMO campaigns. That unwavering, absolute commitment to sustainability is the hallmark of Portia's Cafe.

But is the food good? In a word, yes. Owner/chef Portia Yiamouyiannis is a wizard at making delicious dishes within self-imposed limits—raw, vegan, gluten-free—that would make other chefs blanch. This is a place to take committed carnivores who don't believe that vegan food can be good, or that it can fill you up. It is, and it does.

Portia's commitment to sustainability pervades the business, as you'll notice when you see employees taking your order on the back of a used order slip. What you probably won't notice is the owner hauling some of their recycling to the public recycling bins herself. You won't know that they compost their food scraps and bleach-free paper towels and napkins, or that they give that compost to a local farmer who, in turn, grows food for the cafe. You probably won't realize that over 90% of the kitchen equipment, dishes, and containers are reused—either purchased from restaurant auctions or repurposed. And you have no way of knowing that employees are paid above industry average, have a voice in decisions, and can miss work if necessary, no questions asked.

What all of this shows is that, for Portia's, sustainability isn't a buzzword or a marketing strategy. It's fundamental to the nature of the restaurant and to the character of its owner. That commitment, along with the skill in the kitchen, make Portia's a must-try for any central Ohio fan of sustainable food.

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