The Oberlin Review

Fusions Restaurant Owners Emphasize Diversity, Inclusivity, Equity in Culinary Offerings

Fusions+restaurant%2C+located+at+9+South+Main+Street+focuses+on+serving+a+wide+array+of+culturally+authentic+food+options+to+its+customers.
Fusions restaurant, located at 9 South Main Street focuses on serving a wide array of culturally authentic food options to its customers.

Fusions restaurant, located at 9 South Main Street focuses on serving a wide array of culturally authentic food options to its customers.

Photo by Talia Barton

Photo by Talia Barton

Fusions restaurant, located at 9 South Main Street focuses on serving a wide array of culturally authentic food options to its customers.

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Many students at Oberlin value the creation of safe spaces for different identities, a priority often shared by establishments in downtown Oberlin and greater Lorain County. Oberlin’s Fusions Restaurant is no exception — it has been committed to creating an accessible dining experience since its opening in November 2017.

But where and what is Fusions? And how exactly does a restaurant foster a safe space?

I came to know Fusions in January 2018 when Santos Martinez, the owner Belinda Martinez’s husband, approached me to help create a menu and website for the new restaurant after he learned I had experience in simple graphic design.

Located at 9 South Main Street, Fusions replaced Wild Mango, which had been in that location since 2016. Martinez acquired the business and continued to use the same recipes as her predecessor. She kept the existing staff and added her family members to complete her team. The employees played a vital role in ensuring that the place ran smoothly and decided to improve the restaurant from the bottom up.

They loved the recipes, but felt that the menu and interior were not representative of the culture of acceptance they hoped to embody. Changing a restaurant’s dining room takes time and money, and for a new restaurant, they’d need to establish themselves first as their own unique establishment before renovating. Many might be put off by the elegant, formal interior design of the newly-renovated space, but, rest assured that Martinez has no interest in allowing elegance to deter inclusivity.

“I don’t care if you’re coming out of bed in your pajamas! If you’re hungry, come in and eat,” she said when I revealed that I felt my joggers and jacket were out of place. Despite my outfit, I was welcomed into an inclusive environment where I felt at home.

Fusions offers several East Asian-fusion and American classic comforts that may leave customers wondering, “Why so many options?” Martinez assured me that the amount of food listed is intentional.

“In a college town, you have different appetites from students and locals alike,” she said. “You also have different cultures that you want to respect and represent. We want to make sure we can cater to the different masses.”

Their menu offers several gluten-free, vegetarian, and vegan options. “We love the students and want to make sure that anyone who comes in here can enjoy a meal,” Martinez said.

The cooks have a fantastic handle on producing quality cuisine, and the experience of eating at Fusions is a relaxing one. Orders take around 15 minutes to produce, and there’s no rush to finish your meal.

One of their signature items is the Monster Burger, which is my personal favorite. Each burger delivers a flavorful beef patty topped with a sunny-side up egg, bacon, onions, and Muenster cheese, and is accompanied by a healthy serving of fries. It’s a dish that will leave you satisfied and full, but requires commitment. Its five-spice bacon and runny yolk add to the rich experience of biting into this burger, and make for an unforgettable gastronomical experience.

Not in the mood for a burger? Fusions also offers an expansive array of sensational fried rice dishes, topped with your choice of veggie or proteins — I go for the beef. Either way, this fried rice is unlike any other in Oberlin. Their Hawaiian BBQ ribs are another fun option — the meat slips

right off the bone. The side of white rice is a great base for the meat, sauce, and its side of broccoli.

The cooks at Fusion are committed to enriching diners’ experiences by respecting the specific Asian culture that inspires each dish. Their Southeast Asian-style Bouillabaisse, szechwan and curry soups, and different salmon and seafood preparations are all crafted with love and attention by the restaurant staff.

Eventually, Fusions hopes to incorporate different Latinx foods, such as Pupusas, arroz y frijoles, tacos, as well as their specialty, cauliflower dough pizza. Martinez and her staff want their restaurant to be more of a safe space rather than a melting pot. She wants each individual to be respected, and she does that best by slowly adding different foods to the menu that represent the diversity found in Oberlin.

Those who don’t understand the dishes can expect their servers to break down what each food item entails.

“My staff are patient, and like we said before, we want to be welcoming because that’s the base of our family,” Belinda said. “My husband is Guatemalan and our children respect what it takes for one to work their way up in a society that often isn’t so welcoming to immigrants. You won’t find that disrespect here. If you don’t know something, there is no shame in asking us.”

“If I can give students or townsfolk one thing, that would be the acceptance that we may not always find at home,” she said. “Some people don’t even have places to call home, and we have people here who also don’t have many connections here and feel alone [too],” Martinez said. “When you sit down in one of my booths, I am interested in ensuring that you eat, and that you feel respected no matter your socioeconomic background or educational experience… that’s who we are. We are the Fusions family.”

They welcomed me, and I am a part of their family. I hope that other students find their way through those doors too. Until Oct. 1, students with a valid ID receive a 10 percent discount. Martinez and her staff await their regulars and new guests alike, and they are ready to provide a quality dining experience with rich, delicious food.

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