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It's less than 4 square miles, but Columbia Heights offers community members and commuters a world of tastes.

Ethnic grocery stores and restaurants line Central Avenue and allow hungry passersby to satisfy their appetites for a variety of cuisines in a matter of blocks.

Columbia Heights has long been home to immigrant communities, but it wasn't always this diverse. Primarily Polish, Slavic and German families used to reside in the area, said Anoka County Commissioner Jim Kordiak, son of legendary community member Al Kordiak.

"My world, the same community, is a different place today," said Kordiak, who has alternated living in Columbia Heights and the city of Ramsey. A lot of the old businesses he remembers from growing up, like the Five and Dime, have been replaced by diverse eateries and shops as other ethnic groups moved into the city, taking advantage of the ready and affordable housing, he said.

A trip down Central Avenue, the main thoroughfare, reflects the diversity, and can make anyone's taste buds well-traveled.

Sarah Barchus is a University of Minnesota student reporter on assignment for the Star Tribune.