Written by Amelia Jeffers
As temperatures warm and pandemic worries cool, Columbus’ urban core is still in need of our dining attention and dollars. Though most downtown restaurants have survived the devastating confluence of events over the past year, several have shuttered for good, and more than a few have launched in what have been the most uncertain of circumstances. Notable losses include The Table on 5th and M at Miranova, while additions to the dining scene include the long-awaited opening of Budd Dairy Food Hall, Chapman’s Eat Market, and Freedom a la Cart’s new cafe on Long. Read on for just a few of our top suggestions for hitting the pavement and supporting our friends in the hospitality business.
Short North / Italian Village Short North white tablecloth staples like Hyde Park on the Cap and The Pearl offer classic as well as adapted outdoor dining options, while newer concepts like Del Mar and Lincoln Social capitalize on garage-door style windows and rooftop terraces that bring the outdoors in. Casual concepts like Bristol Republic are fun options for bbq, music, and a fabulous southern brunch on Saturdays and Sundays. Tapas are an adventurous and fun alternative, and Nosh on High serves up a great selection of shareable plates like their cauliflower tots with cheese curds and vegan gravy, tuna with smoked salt, pickled ginger and soy, and the cleverly-named “What Came First” dish with chicken crisps, deviled eggs and hot sauce.
The original North Market has added a few fresh faces to their best-in-class lineup, including several veterans of the pop-up and home-based catering worlds: vegan soul food proprietor Willowbeez SoulVeg, Preston’s: A Burger Joint, and The Pastry Factory.
Nearby, in Italian Village, Cameron Mitchell’s most inventive venture yet, Budd Dairy Food Hall, is a “chef-driven incubator” of 8 different kitchens, Stauf’s Coffee Roasters, and a rotating pop-up. The building, located in Italian Village on N 4th St., was built in 1916 to serve as Budd Dairy’s main bottling and distribution plant. Today, it has been converted to a gorgeous open-concept space, with a wide variety of seating options. Plenty of outdoor deck and patio seating is available to diners, as well as a vast array of indoor options. Currently, Budd Dairy Food Hall is home to Alphabetical Comfort Kitchen, Boni Filipino Street Food, Borgata Pizza, Cluck Norris, Cousins Maine Lobster, Modern Southern Table, Pokebap, Tacos Rudos, Stauf’s Coffee, and in the rotating “Hatch,” The Cheesecake Girl. With such diverse cuisine options, it’s almost a guarantee that even the pickiest eater in your party will find something they love.
German Village Barcelona Restaurant is housed in a building that is as beautiful as it is historic, and the beautiful bar backed with rich wood trim, warm dining area filled with local artwork, and lush, garden-like patio each offer a unique dining environment as patrons nosh on delicious and authentic Spanish cuisine. Choose from a variety of tapas before enjoying large plates or one of several mouth-watering types of paella, though the menu changes often as the chefs create innovative and delicious dishes, and stop in on the first Tuesday of each month for Tapas Tuesday, where small plates are half off from 4 p.m. until close.
With a stated commitment to local food, G Michael’s Bistro and Bar serves a modern American menu with two rotating specials and a variety of distinctive small plates and entrees as well as a robust wine, beer, and cocktail menu. Start with the Rabbit Gratin, Pan-Roasted Quail, or Moroccan Spiced Lamb Sliders, but be sure to save room for entrees like the Broiled Veal Chop, Fried Walleye, and Pan-Roasted Alaskan Halibut. What’s more, every Monday, G Michael’s offers a Prix Fixe menu with an ever-changing selection of appetizers, entrees, and desserts for a $35 (or $38 for carry-out) three-course meal; each Monday’s options are posted mid-afternoon as the chef and kitchen staff take time to devise unique dishes from fresh, local ingredients selected that morning.
No mention of German Village eateries would be complete without Lindey’s. Delectable American eats are served up in a classically chic ambiance and a gorgeous courtyard that ranked in OpenTable’s top 100 patios in America. To those familiar with the high-caliber restaurant, it comes as no surprise that the restaurant consistently receives awards like Best Outdoor Dining, Best Overall Restaurant, Best Date Night Dining, and more from local media.
In the ultimate test of fortitude, Chef BJ Lieberman and his all-star team launched Chapman’s Eat Market nearly in the middle of the most taxing 12 months any restanteur has seen in 30 years. That Chapman’s has not only survived but thrived on their tasting menu in-house dining and a la carte carryout menu is a testament to what lies ahead for this talented group of industry veterans. Current faves are the Shallot Butter-Roasted Grouper, the Braised Duck Leg and Molé Rojo, and the ice cream - always the ice cream.
Downtown / Mid-City As we get closer to the re-opening of live entertainment in Columbus, look no further than The Keep for your pre-show dinner and drinks. Just a block away from the Ohio Theater, The Keep Kitchen and Liquor bar is the perfect start (or finish) to your night. The chef-driven, modern brasserie is a nod to the art deco elegance of its location inside the historic Leveque Tower, where it serves as a true (upscale) hotel restaurant serving breakfast, lunch, and dinner options. Among our favorites are the Steak Frites and kimchi buttered scallops.
Milestone 229, (voted the best brunch in Columbus!) is located on the Scioto Mile and offers unmatched views of downtown Columbus and the Scioto River. Inside, Milestone 229’s glass walls and high ceilings allow for beautiful sunlight to filter in during the day and views of the river and fountain outside at night. As the weather warms up, reserve a seat on the patio to enjoy Milestone 229’s prime location to the fullest. The menu, sourced from local farmers, is a modern celebration of classic American comfort foods, with options for those with dietary restrictions or preferences, and a kids menu.
Freedom a la Cart Café + Bakery, located on Spring St., is an extension of the non-profit Freedom a la Cart, which was founded to empower survivors of sex trafficking and exploitation by providing an environment in which they can heal and grow to prepare for employment and reintegration into the community. The Café and Bakery serves a variety of
sandwiches, salads, and bowls, as well as a full espresso bar.
Around the corner, Wolf’s Ridge Brewery has made the most of an unsuspecting alley by extending their tap room for outdoor seating. A dining experience that combines brilliant craft brews with intriguing and innovative dishes, the restaurant’s fortitude has not wavered as the kitchen combines bold flavors into dishes such as the Chive Gnocchi or the Mussel Puttanesca. Pro tip: don’t miss the Beets & Goat Cheese small plate - fan fave since the earliest days of Wolf’s Ridge.
Long the heart of downtown dining, the Gay Street restaurant corridor is home to some of Columbus’ most consistent and creative concepts. From the Ziliak family’s classic italian cuisine at Due Amici, to the boundaries-pushing, cutting-edge creations by Josh Dalton at Veritas, no one who attests to being a “foodie” in Columbus should miss a visit (or two or three) to Gay Street.
Despite the massive hit to foot traffic, several terrific options are still making it in the Arena District. Enjoy a stunning view of the city from atop the Canopy by Hilton hotel at Goodale Station, a restaurant that prides itself on its local ingredients, inspirations, and collaborations, while dining on tasty New American Cuisine like Grilled Creekstone Ribeye, Gemelli Pasta, or Buratta. Complete the meal with one of many signature cocktails (including several zero-proof non-alcoholic cocktails) or any of a number of wine or draft beer options. For those who prefer a lighter dining experience, check out Goodale Station’s happy hour from 4-6 p.m., when “snacks” (a selection of appetizers) on the menu are half off and the menu features a selection of cocktails, beers, and wines.
Nada’s bright, Latin-inspired fare is only matched by its colorful decor: enjoy delightful tacos, cocktails, and large plates surrounded by vibrant red walls or on the restaurant’s patio. Stop in for dinner and marvel over the array of striking flavor combinations on the taco menu or taste any one of the phenomenally crafted entreés, and complete the night with a margarita (classic or with a twist – like the Chile-Mango or the Cerveza Paloma).
Just down the street on Nationwide Boulevard, Jeff Ruby’s Steakhouse is the epitome of special occasion. Beyond the impeccable food and service, a Jeff Ruby dining experience is also about the ambiance. The swanky interior is the perfect backdrop to some of the best steaks in Columbus.