There are some restaurants that show off Columbus to good advantage. Indian Oven, on East Main Street, is one of them. If someone who is new to town is laboring under the misconception that Columbus is a boring food town, one visit to Indian Oven will disabuse them of that grossly mistaken notion. That’s why, every year, I take every member of the firm’s Columbus crop of new summer clerks to Indian Oven for lunch. They have a good lunch, and they leave knowing that Columbus is a bit more interesting and diverse than they previously thought.
For starters, this is a good looking place to eat. The color scheme is red and yellow — appropriate for Indian cuisine, don’t you think? — and the interior features lots of burnished aluminum surfaces, high ceilings, small drop-down light fixtures, and large windows that flood the dining area with natural light. The open, bright surroundings make Indian Oven a delightful place to dine.
More importantly, the food is even better than the decor. This is one of the few restaurants in Columbus where you can take a vegetarian and a meat-eater for a meal and be confident that they both will have lots of interesting and well-prepared choices that will meet their dietary requirements. I’m predictable — I usually get either lamb korma or lamb curry, so much so that for years the staff referred to me as “lamb curry guy” — but I’ve taken dozens of people to lunch and dinner at the IO, and I’ve never heard anything but raves. (The lamb korma and lamb curry are both so good I don’t feel any need to experiment; I get to the restaurant with every intention of trying something new, but I just can’t resist ordering one of my all-time favorites dishes.) And for dinner the kitchen will stretch out a bit, serving dishes like goat or fresh seafood that are always exceptionally well prepared.
I also like the fact that this is a friendly, welcoming place. The gracious proprietor tries, with immense good humor, to get me to sample something different. The staff are nice folks, and they aren’t shy about making suggestions, either. One of them told me that I needed to try their tea because it was “life-changing.” I wouldn’t go quite that far, but it is an excellent, spicy concoction that goes very well with lamb korma and roti. And I really don’t need the tea to change my life — just having Indian Oven as a regular lunch stop has been life-changing enough.