Oberlin Blogs

A Foodie's Guide to Downtown Oberlin

April 26, 2022

Yuhki Ueda ’24

As a Third-Culture Kid (or TCK), I grew up in a number of different cities and countries. I was born in Pennsylvania; then lived in Thailand for several years; moved to Bangladesh, lived there for several years; moved to the Philippines, where I lived until my sophomore year of high school; and then transferred to an arts boarding school in Michigan for my junior and senior years. As such, I have had the opportunity to grow up in relatively diverse and unique environments that allowed me to learn about and appreciate a multitude of different cultures. And guess what a big part of culture is? That’s right — food! I am a big foodie at heart, and growing up mostly in Asia (and being Asian myself), I particularly love Asian food, which Oberlin offers a small but solid selection of. In my several years here, I have explored a lot of the different food options that downtown Oberlin offers. Here is a list, in no particular order, of some of my favorite eats and restaurants that I have discovered here thus far: 

 

1) Kim’s

Favorite items: Spicy Tofu Stew, Kimchi Ramen, Bibimbap, and Red Bean Buns

I have to include Kim’s, of course! Kim’s is a favorite of both Oberlin locals and students — on weekends, it’s not uncommon to see long lines of hungry customers that sometimes even extend outside the restaurant. I really like Kim’s Spicy Tofu Stew and Kimchi Ramen if I’m looking for something soupy and spicy. Sometimes, I go for the Bibimbap, which is a dish that combines rice and an assortment of toppings such as meat and/or vegetables. If I’m craving something sweet for dessert I’ll order the Red Bean Buns, which are a childhood favorite of mine. There is something for everyone at Kim’s, and there is also a good selection of vegetarian and vegan options. There is a grocery section inside the restaurant, so you can also choose from an array of food and drink items such as instant ramen, instant rice, frozen dumplings, seaweed snacks, rice crackers, mochi, Ramune (a type of Japanese soda), tea, and frozen desserts.

 

2) ThiNi Thai

Favorite items: Black Pepper Tofu/Shrimp, Phat Kee Mao, Tom Kha, and Spring Rolls

ThiNi Thai is one of the newer restaurants on the block. When I found out that there was going to be a Thai restaurant opening up downtown, I was thrilled. Having lived in Thailand for several years and being a fan of the cuisine, I was excited to hear that I would have access to authentic Thai food here at Oberlin. Now, ThiNi Thai is one of my go-to restaurants for when I want to eat something other than dining hall food (and no, this isn’t a dig at the dining halls — it’s just nice to eat something different from time to time!). I don’t think you can go wrong with any of the dishes, but my favorites are the Black Pepper Tofu or Black Pepper Shrimp, which come with jasmine rice; the Phat Kee Mao, which is spicy, stir-fried rice noodles seasoned with a variety of herbs and spices including Thai basil, and comes with one of two protein options: either tofu or shrimp; their Tom Kha, a creamy coconut soup with shrimp and mushrooms; and their Spring Rolls, which are vegan. According to their specials menu for this week, it looks like they’ll have Tom Yum Shrimp (if you couldn’t already tell by my multiple mentions of shrimp, I am a big fan of shrimp!), which I have never ordered before but which I hope to try sometime this week!

 

3) Aladdin’s Eatery

Favorite items: Hummus, Tabouli, Loubie Bzeit, Lebanese Salata, and Carrot Apple Juice

Aladdin’s Eatery is a Lebanese-American restaurant with a variety of options for people with different dietary preferences. Their appetizers — my favorites being the Hummus, Tabouli (a salad with parsley as its main ingredient), and Loubie Bzeit (a garlicky dish with green beans and tomatoes) — come with pita bread. I also really love their Lebanese Salata, which is a salad featuring tomatoes, cucumbers, onions, and lemon juice, among other tasty ingredients. They also have a selection of fruit juices and smoothies, my favorite being their Carrot Apple Juice. In my experience ordering from Aladdin’s, the food has always been fresh and flavorful and the portions, hearty and satisfying.

 

4)  Bingo Chinese Restaurant

Favorite items: Vegetarian Mapo Tofu, Vegetable Dumplings, and Passion Fruit Bubble Tea

Bingo offers a wide assortment of Chinese dishes, one of my favorites being their Vegetarian Mapo Tofu, which comes with a serving of rice. It’s slightly spicy and quite flavorful, and it’s my go-to order from there. I also sometimes like to order their Vegetable Dumplings, which you can choose to have steamed or pan-fried. As for drinks, I enjoy their Passion Fruit Bubble Tea, which is a refreshing, perfect balance of sweet and tart. My friend who orders from Bingo pretty regularly recommends their Pan-Fried Rice Noodles, with beef, chicken, or shrimp as its protein options.

 

5) The Feve

Favorite items: Chicken/Tofu Wings, Seared Ahi Tuna Salad, Shrimp Summer Roll Salad (seasonal), and Blueberry Pancakes

The Feve offers three options for wings: chicken, tofu, and cauliflower (all of them are solid options but the chicken and tofu wings are my personal favorites), which I highly recommend with their Spicy Garlic or Teriyaki Garlic sauces. If I am in the mood for a salad, I typically go for their Seared Ahi Tuna Salad, which features ahi tuna (which can be substituted with tofu, if desired) with mixed greens, tomato, red onion, red pepper, cucumber, and shredded carrots. The Feve’s April 2022 brunch menu offers a Shrimp Summer Roll Salad (yes… shrimp, again!), which I just had this past weekend — it’s the perfect combination of refreshing, tasty, and filling. Another brunch item I like a lot is the Blueberry Pancakes, which I find comforting. I don’t have access to my favorite pancakes in Oberlin anymore since the restaurant serving them, Black River, closed due to the COVID-19 pandemic. I loved ordering their Vegan Pancakes topped with bananas and either blueberries or strawberries. I used to be more of a waffle person, but Black River’s pancakes made me change my mind — I like pancakes and waffles equally now (I think?). Their servings were quite generous and their pancakes tasted heavenly! I still remember the joy of drizzling maple syrup over the steaming stack of pancakes and taking the first, blissful bite whenever I would go to Black River for brunch. Okay, I’ll stop gushing about them now! Anyway, since Black River closed down, The Feve’s pancakes have become my go-to for when I need a good pancake fix.

 

This list is by no means comprehensive (who knows, maybe I'll make a part two at some point!), but it’s a quick guide to some of my recommendations from the options available downtown (with the exception of Black River, of course). Considering that Oberlin is known for being “in the middle of nowhere,” I think it still does a pretty good job of catering to an array of food preferences. It might be a small town, but there are a good variety of foods and restaurants to choose from!

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