Michelin-starred chef BJ Lieberman shines with new German Village spot

From its country-store-like name, you might not expect Chapman’s Eat Market to be one of the best Columbus restaurants to open this year. Dig a little, though, and you’ll discover that this outstanding-yet-affordable eatery, which occupies the German Village space that once housed the original Max & Erma’s, is exactly what you’d expect from its top-notch chef.

That would be chef-owner BJ Lieberman, whose resume sparkles with Michelin stars. After honing his chops at groundbreaking Husk in Charleston, South Carolina, Lieberman helped garner the globally acknowledged Michelin honors for three elite Washington D.C. eateries, including influential and hip Rose’s Luxury, where Lieberman served as head chef and chef de cuisine.   

Central Ohioans can largely thank his local connection — Lieberman’s wife, Bronwyn Haines, grew up here — for the opportunity to enjoy his refined-yet-unpretentious food without negotiating a seven-hour drive. Haines can also be thanked for the new restaurant’s name: Her great-grandparents operated a bygone Clintonville shop called Chapman’s Poultry Market.  

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This weekend, Chapman’s will begin offering a full-service eight-course tasting menu that looks like a great deal for $60. But it'll continue to offer an evolving version of the eclectic and brilliantly executed little takeout menu the restaurant launched with in August — only one item on it reaches the $20 mark — on which this review is based. 

Chapman’s embrace of seasonality means that the miso-enhanced and inspired Gazpacho ($9) and the wonderful, handmade Chitarra pasta ($13) with summer veggies, pesto and house ricotta that I gobbled in mid-September are not presently available.  

Commensurate with the culture-hopping menu, though, handmade pasta popped up again recently in a Thai-Burmese-style curry dish called Chicken & Shrimp Khao Soi ($16). The moderate-sized but dynamic composition also included crispy thin noodles, colorful veggies, lemongrass, toasted nuts, fish sauce, chilies, firm proteins and a smooth, nuanced and addictive DIY curry sauce — several items arrived in some-assembly-required mode to preserve their integrity — enriched with pureed bananas.  

If ossobuco were made in Lebanon by a Mexican chef who’d spent time in England you might wind up with something like Chapman’s excellent Lamb Shank Barbacoa ($21): spork-tender meat in a mild but fragrant glaze topped with mint chiffonade and served with risotto-like arroz verde, pickled raisins, plus a bright and zippy, hummus-riffing “chile chickpea” dip.

If a Big Mac and fries were reinvented by a creative and talented, Michelin-starred chef and utilized great ingredients— nevermind the “if,” it’s happened — you would wind up with Chapman’s Double Burger ($12), a delicious comfort-bomb in a glossy house-made bun, plus a side of incredibly crisp and flavorful Shoestring Fries ($4) cooked in butter, pork and beef fat. 

Fried chicken sandwiches are practically mandatory on contemporary menus; Chapman’s makes a good one whose sesame and ginger accents showcase juicy thigh meat with a crackly crust that takes its cue from Japan (Karaage Chicken Sando, $11). Add a house-made roll and a kraut-meets-slaw-type garnish and you have an inhalable if modest-sized package.

To make that more of a meal, tack on a side or appetizer such as those fantastic fries. Among other strong options are: Smashed Cucumbers ($3) — a terrific banchan-style dish with hefty, ginger-kissed and sesame-fortified cuke segments; Braised Red Bean Onigiri ($3; get two if you’re hungry) — vegan delights made with better sushi rice than you’ll receive from many local specialists;  and the Mini Wedge — a pretty little salad with dill sprigs, hard-cooked eggs with custardy yolks, edible flowers and plenty more ($6). 

Don’t leave without a pint or three of Chapman’s house-made ice cream ($7 each). From the lush texture of the gelato-like Cafe Au Lait to the tangy Goat Milk, Raspberry & Chocolate Chip to the light (made with oat and almond milk) Horchata & Cinnamon, they’re what you’d expect from a top-notch chef.