Michelle Reed likes that her three kids are having a childhood similar to her own.
But the lifelong resident of Whitehall also is excited by the different experiences she is able to offer her children thanks to changes in the East Side suburb’s population.
Over the years, the city and its nearby Columbus neighborhoods have attracted a diverse group of residents. The area has large Latino, Somali and Ethiopian populations. The city, which has been attractive to newcomers because of its extensive rental properties, is developing a program with Huntington Bank to encourage more people to buy homes.
“It’s very multi-cultural,” Reed said. “You get a little bit of everything. Everybody seems to get along.”
Within Whitehall’s five square miles, visitors can shop at several ethnic grocery stores and dine on foods from around the world.
At La Michoacana Mexican Market, visitors can do both. The market sells a wide variety of foods imported from Mexico, including rows and rows of dried peppers and spices, and fresh fruit and vegetables. At the store’s tiny restaurant, diners can try authentic Mexican food that is made on site.
The nearby King Gyro Greek Restaurant offers numerous delicacies from Greece. Owner Yianni Chalkias prepares Mediterranean dishes like stuffed grape leaves, gyro sandwiches and falafel. He also offers a feta burger served with fresh-cut fries and a reasonably priced kids’ menu.
Chalkias, who has been in the same location for 21 years, enjoys seeing customers who came in as children return with their families.
“It’s neat but it makes me feel old,” he said.
Another excellent dining experience is Indochine Cafe, a Vietnamese restaurant known for its tasty noodle dishes and friendly owners.
More interesting shopping opportunities can be found on Main Street, which is home to several ethnic markets. The Asian Supermarket & Gifts has plenty of familiar things — rice, panko and soy sauce — and oodles of imported goods. Kids will enjoy picking out some colorful candy or a savory snack. The store also has a wide array of sauces and a sampling of fresh produce.
Dire Dawa Grocery Store offers a peek into Ethiopian cuisine. The store carries traditional bread (a porous flatbread often used to scoop up sauces and stews) and numerous dry goods and spices.
For more treats, head to Resch’s Bakery. This East Side institution has been baking bread and cakes for 100 years. The store sells traditional baked goods and German-based sweets.
The area also is home to Columbus’ oldest Italian restaurant, TAT Ristorante di Famiglia. The casual restaurant welcomes families.
The proximity of these businesses makes it possible to visit several in one day and create a multi-cultural outing.
Whitehall also has several venues for active fun. The city’s five parks offer play equipment, sports fields and bike paths. Children will enjoy checking out Lamby Lane Park, which received a playground renovation, not too long ago.
For indoor fun, visit Holiday Lanes, a kid-friendly bowling alley.
Families also will enjoy checking out the Four Seasons Golf & Fitness Center. The year-round golf practice facility includes a pro shop and miniature golf course. Four Seasons also offers golf instruction and fitness classes.
The Whitehall Branch of the Columbus Metropolitan Library can help kids keep their minds fit. The library has a cozy children’s section where librarians bring books to life during interactive story hours.
Whitehall residents are eagerly awaiting the construction of a new library building set to begin next year. The new facility, which will be located on East Broad Street near the existing facility, will be about three times bigger.