In 2006, Money magazine named Columbus, Ohio one of the top 10 big cities on its best places to live list. Increasingly, it's becoming known as a great place to eat too. Columbus is serious about food. This city of about 790,000 people supports three separate food magazines. And while it fiercely promotes eating--and drinking--local, its collective taste buds are definitely global.
I recently took a food writer's tour of Ohio's Character Approved capital. Here are 12 reasons I'm ready to go back for a second helping.
If you can snag a table for Skillet's weekend brunch, you're in for a filling, delicious treat. The homey German Village restaurant's "rustic urban food" menu changes regularly to reflect the season and what local farmers have on hand at the moment.
At Latitude 41 Bar and Restaurant, Chef Dean James Max sources ingredients locally--including from a rooftop garden--then gets inventive. This pork torchon with lentils and crispy pig's ear cracklings is his playful take on pork and beans.
A T-shirt in Sugardaddy's Sumptuous Sweeties proclaims, "Cupcakes are for sissies." The sweets here are strictly brownies and blondies, in a multitude of flavors, all handcrafted and luxuriously rich.
The menu changes seasonally to reflect locally grown produce at Basi Italia in the heart of the Victorian Village neighborhood. Chef John Dornback and his wife Trish Gentile offer Italian- and Mediterranean- inspired entrees with innovative twists in Basi’s cozy dining room and on its inviting terrace.
The art of making mead--wine made from honey--dates back to the time of the Pharaohs. Brothers Drake, Columbus’s first meadery, keeps its mead local and pure, buying local honey and never using additives or boiling its honey. You can sample the purely delicious results Wednesdays through Saturdays in their tasting room.
Kihachi’s unpromising location in a strip mall on the city’s northwestern edge belies the amazing Japanese cuisine within. Try for a seat at the bar to watch Chef Michael Kimura calmly, carefully produce dishes that Anthony Bourdain thought were far too authentic to not come from a kitchen in Japan.
Jeni’s Splendid Ice Creams live up to their name and then some. Owner Jeni Britton Bauer concocts signature and seasonal flavors of artisanal ice cream and yogurt from milk and cream from grass-fed Ohio cows. The New York Times said, “Jeni surpasses the creativity of all other ice cream makers.” It’s a safe bet they were speaking with their mouths full.
Brit expat Bethia Woolf is literally the driving force behind Columbus Food Adventures. She and her team pilot happy, hungry guests on a variety of food tours around Columbus; German Village, Alt Eats, All Dessert, and the Taco Truck Tour are all popular favorites. Bethia really knows her stuff--and at the end of the tour, you’ll be stuffed.
Rockmill Brewery got its start when a hydrologist told the owners of a former horse farm that their spring water matched water used in Belgium to make Belgian style ales. The microbrewery just outside Columbus produces four farmhouse ales that they sell locally. They also offer cheese pairing tastings.
Located in Historic German Village, Pistacia Vera smells like butter and sugar when you walk in the door, always a good sign for a from-scratch patisserie. They serve more than 60 seasonal pastries and confections, all made by hand. Be sure to wash down your delicious treats with their renowned coffee or espresso.
For a nightcap, the bar at M at Miranova offers a lush, big city vibe that would be at home in LA or Miami. Mixologist Cris Dehlavi offers up a changing list of artisanal cocktails, all spectacular. But for something truly special, just describe an idea for a cocktail and let her go to work.
Still not ready to call it a night? Head downtown to Dirty Frank’s Hot Dog Palace. They serve a dazzling array of designer hot dogs, along with scary-good treats like tater tot-chos and funnel fries. They also serve booze, including slushy drinks. Nothing you’d call healthy, but nothing better at 2:30 in the morning.
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