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Caffe Illyria opens on State St - breakfast & lunch

Home Forums General Columbus Discussion Dining Caffe Illyria opens on State St – breakfast & lunch

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    Another white OPEN sign caught my attention. Caffe Illyria on State Street is now open for Breakfast and lunch and offers some Albanian flavor.

    Chef and owner Ziam soft-opened Caffe Illyria three weeks ago to local foot traffic, and is eager for more clientele. No stranger to the breakfast and lunch business, Ziam has been operating Warehouse Cafe for the last eight years. He’s created another spot with equal warmth and charm at 214 E. State Street, a location that’s housed breakfast and burger spots in the past. During the renovation he pulled down the drywall to remove nice brick walls and enhanced the space with his own decorations – plants, photos, U.S. and Albanian flags. Completing the space is a small outdoor patio that’s tucked away below street level for more private dining.




    At first glance, I felt at ease with the Caffe’s gentle charm. This charm was enhanced by the warmth extended by Ziam and his staff, a rotation of family and relatives. This day I was greeted by Ana at the counter and Enyo at the grill.


    All of the menu items are chalk written on the walls for effect, and they have printed menus as well. The special board will list the daily soup as well as their featured item, sometimes offering Albanian specialties like kabob, grilled fish over salad, and lemon chicken. Regular menu items include Tuna Melt (5.25), Grilled Cheese (3.25) and Gyro (5.25), and a few twists including Ham Hottie Deluxe (5.25), Philly Cajun Reuben (5.25) and the Albanian Panini (5.75). Ziam was quick to point out that everything is made to order, and the extra time spent on preparation would shine through on the finished product. Everything, including the baklava (1.75), chicken salad (3.95), red potato salad (1.99), is made in house and guaranteed fresh. Ana is particularly proud of the Illyrian Big Burger and Fries (5.75).


    Although I just had lunch at work and was on my way home, a new restaurant is my Call of the Sirens. Curious and intrigued by their their Albanian heritage, I ordered the Albanian Panini. I would consider this their signature sandwich, a fusion of Italian and Albanian cuisine. It was really delicious. The light crispy panini bread sandwiched layers of sliced gyro meat, and included onions, tomatoes, banana peppers, feta cheese and housemade tzatziki sauce. The house chips were included, but I’d go for fries for $1 more on the next trip


    Breakfast items include Hot Cakes (3.75), several omelets, including a gyro omelet w/toast and homefries (4.50), and Egg Sandwich with choice of meat (3.75). They also offer Expresso, Cappuccino, and Latte. Daily breakfast specials will be offered as well.

    Caffe Illyria

    214 E. State St

    (near State St and 5th St)


    Hours: Monday-Friday 8am – 3pm (breakfast 8am 10:30am)


    Very cool! Definitely have to stop by this place, not only cause I love Warehouse Cafe…but I’m also a huge Buffy/Angel fan.



    Core_Models wrote >>
    Very cool! Definitely have to stop by this place, not only cause I love Warehouse Cafe…but I’m also a huge Buffy/Angel fan.

    D’oh! You beat me to the nerd reference.

    This place looks great, and is yet another reason for me to whine about the fact that I can’t be downtown during the day.


    Nice – great write-up, Jason! Thanks for letting us know about it. I can’t wait to visit.



    Thanks, everyone. I wish Ziam and his crew all the best. I really like this space, the staff and their food made with care.



    At the risk of sounding like a bad Seinfeld episode, I’d love to see a classic Albanian dish on the menu. I know most Americans will just go for the gyro or hamburger, but something more authentic would be incentive for me to eat there.

    Also, I love this building! For some reason, it reminds me of London. So great that it’s a restaurant rather than empty!



    yeah I don’t know crap about albanian food, but my mind immediately went to something hearty like goulash, not paninis and burgers. But if i’m ever in the area, I might check it out.



    Looks good, nice write up.



    @ joev & dirtgirl – There are many similarities between Greek and Albanian cuisine – dolmades, kabob, stuffed eggplant, and feta salad for example. I think local diners would enjoy these items given the opportunity, and they are introducing some of them as daily specials to see how they are received. While the Albanian Village salad and gyros may be widely accepted, some of the typical Albanian dishes like chicken livers, stewed meat, and fried anchovies may – or may not – be popular with the downtown lunch crowd. This is what they will find out in the coming months, and I’m hoping for more ethnic options.

    I had a similar discussion with Fernando at Mexica some months ago, and encouraged him to offer more ethnic eats on his menu instead of predicable Mexican-American cuisine. I think that a lot of Columbusites are curious culinary explorers, and will embrace the unique <if it’s good>. Sometimes they need a little coaching, though. Ziam has the passion and personality to make a quality Albanian menu, and I will certainly encourage him on my subsequent visits.



    Very cool! I work right down the street from Warehouse Café, they’re great people. I never would have known about this place, so thanks for the heads up! I might walk down today to check it out.

    And joev, you took the words right out of my mouth with the Seinfeld reference! I was thinking the exact same thing while reading patient_zero’s review! Haha.

    Walker Evans
    Walker Evans

    Very cool. Will have to check this out sometime soon. It’s a great building. There’s a lot of potential in the area around State & Fifth. Lots of old buildings still intact for more of this sort of thing. ;)



    Albanian food?
    The menu is not much different from a Gyro place /regular sandwich joint. Where are the Tave Kosee (sp?) Byreks, mmm mm livers, and the pies?

    Farce I tell ya, Farce!
    Wait till I tell my Albanian friends. They will be pissed^2 off.

    Good location though. And the interior looks good.
    I will take the Philly sub.


    I happened to stop in the 2nd day they were open and they were already out of take-out menus. My sandwich was great and I wish them much success.
    I looked very hard at purchasing this building when I opened my brokerage and I can tell you that the family has done a tremendous amount of work to this space. It is virtually unrecognizable from the former space.


    I really don’t see anything indicating this is an Albanian restaurant other than the fact that the people who own it are Albanian and have a couple dishes reflecting that.



    Talcott wrote >>

    Core_Models wrote >>
    Very cool! Definitely have to stop by this place, not only cause I love Warehouse Cafe…but I’m also a huge Buffy/Angel fan.

    D’oh! You beat me to the nerd reference.

    The name made me think of Twelfth Night.

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