Ada to add ‘Ampersand’ to Westerville restaurant group
By JOE MEYER –
Asterisk Supper Club owner Megan Ada and her husband Joshua Cook are branching out Uptown.
They will further punctuate Uptown’s culinary offerings with another of their signature restaurants, through the opening of their Ampersand Asian Supper Club at 32 W. College Ave., sometime in the fall of 2024.
The Uptown Ampersand will occupy the ground floor of the new building still under construction at 32 W. College – located west of State Street, behind the Graeter’s Ice Cream building and across College Avenue from the main City Hall parking lot.
The new, three-story brick building with a hexagonal turret is built to blend in with its historic Uptown neighborhood. Its two upper floors will be apartments. Ampersand also will occupy its canopied, building-width patio on College Avenue.
Ada and Cook debuted their Ampersand model in 2019, with the opening of a location at 940 N. High St. in the Short North Columbus neighborhood. They will continue to operate there at least until its lease expires in five years, Ada said, with Cook managing both the Short North and Westerville locations.
The menu features gourmet Guam- and Japanese-style ramen, rice bowls and small plates, great Asian cocktails, Japanese beer and saké. All broth is made in-house. Mushrooms in the dishes are locally grown, and the “ethically raised” pork is sourced from reputable farmers.
Cook, a veteran chef with a couple of decades of experience in gourmet kitchens across Central Ohio, spent a year perfecting the ramen recipes. They were inspired by Jesse Ada, Megan’s father, a native of Guam.
“It’s going to be something so different to Uptown,” Ada said.
From Sunny Street to Asterisk to Ampersand
Ada, who also lives in Uptown with Cook and their elementary-school age daughter, opened her first restaurant in 2010, purchasing the Westerville Sunny Street Café franchise at 644 N. State St. The breakfast and lunch café is in the Northridge Crossing Shopping Center, just south of Maxtown Road.
Ada grew up in Marrietta and was beginning medical school, after graduating from Ohio State University with a Biology/premed degree, before deciding to get into the restaurant industry, she said on her Asterisk website. After attending the Johnson and Wales Culinary School in Florida, she purchased the Sunny Street operation and was on her way. She was only 25 years old.
She branched out to create her first concept restaurant just five years later. After a nine-month complete renovation, the upscale Asterisk Supper Club opened at 14 N. State St. in 2016. The historic building was constructed in 1893 as the Bank of Westerville, and for many years housed the Williams Grill.
Everything inside the restaurant looks old, and much of it is. But none of it was there before Ada and Asterisk. The library-inspired décor is lined with stuffed bookshelves. The front bar it built, incorporating an antique top, and the back bar is an ornate, vintage Brunswick that once appeared in a Western film.
“You’ve got to fit with the building,” Ada said of the design. On her websites, she credits her mother, Laurie, for designing the interiors of both Asterisk and the Short North Ampersand.
With the Uptown Ampersand going into a brand new building, its décor will be Asian inspired and modern, she said.
So what’s with the punctuation references in the restaurant names of “Asterisk” and “Ampersand”?
Ada said she was looking for a word that had to do with books, and began with an A. “Asterisk” popped in her mind, and she liked its shape of a star – denoting something special.
She again credits her mom with coming up with “Ampersand,” which is the word for the squiggly symbol for “and.”
The “and” it stands for, “leads to something that’s next,” Ada said, which appealed to them both as the name for her next venture.
Aiming to open this fall
Creating her next restaurant in the space at 32 W. College Ave. will take and estimated 6-8 months, Ada said. And her new landlord won’t turn over the space to her until March or April.
Timing of the venture has come in a rush, starting just about Christmas. The owners of the new building were in talks with a franchise to put a restaurant on its ground floor – which they quickly dropped when Ada approached them.
The Short North was hit with a little drop in pedestrian traffic during the Covid pandemic, and a couple of other public setbacks since have not helped. She expects a rebound in foot traffic there, but recently Cook and Ada began considering the option of a second Uptown restaurant, near their home.
“If only we were in Westerville, we would be so much busier,” she said they thought.
The couple, and Uptown, will find out this fall.
TOP: Architect’s rendering of the new Ampersand Asian Supper Club at 32 W. College Ave. (Courtesy of Megan Ada)
BELOW: Construction site at 32 W. College Ave., on Jan. 18, 2024. The top two floors of the building are to be apartments, with the new restaurant operating in the ground-floor level. (UWI photo by Joe Meyer)