While Cincy’s restaurant landscape continues to expand in a variety of mouth-watering ways, if you want to expand your palate even further with a new food scene that’s fun, fresh, and funky, don’t be afraid to head north to Columbus. Their neighborhoods are erupting with unique new establishments that offer traditional local foods, unique fusions, and their own spin on classic flavors.
“When I first moved here in late 1999, Columbus was a collection of chain restaurants with a few established gems,” notes Amir Eylon, President & CEO of travel research firm Longwoods International and a passionate (and well-traveled) gourmet. “But we have truly become a ‘foodie’s dream’ and fostered an environment where chefs can find a willing audience for their creativity.”
The birthplace of the Wendy’s fast-food chain, the culinary reputation of ‘C-bus’ may have hit rock bottom when award-winning author Michael Ruhlman described it as “Applebee’s country.” But that’s changed entirely.
Columbus’ Short North is, in many ways, the beating heart of their culinary scene. It’s home to the North Market, where you can pick from more than 30 lunch stalls and build a meal of individual dishes, be they Polish, Japanese, Vietnamese or something else.
The Guild House
624 N High Street, Columbus, OH (43215)
Local restaurateur Cameron Mitchell has built a foodie empire that includes some 36 restaurants in 12 states. The centerpiece might very well be The Guild House, located in the midst of Short North. Serving breakfast, lunch, and dinner, it’s farm-to-table cuisine with a blended cosmopolitan vibe of hip, often repurposed décor—“suitable for revelry or relaxation”—and mismatched, grandmotherly china.
641 N High Street, Columbus, OH (43215)
Nearby, The Pearl is another Mitchell creation but with more of a gastropub focus. It serves brunch and dinner, features a diverse array of cocktails, wine, and beer, and offers a kid’s menu for foodie families with hungry little tots.
Budd Dairy Food Hall
1086 N 4th Street, Columbus, OH (43201)
Mitchell’s notable influence on the Columbus food scene will continue with the advent of the Budd Dairy Food Hall, which opens in the spring of 2020. The old Budd Dairy Company building will be reborn as a food incubator featuring eight local chefs dishing up everything from Filipino street food, to modern Southern, to Israeli-inspired dishes.
Watershed Kitchen & Bar
1145 Chesapeake Avenue STE D, Columbus, OH (43212)
But Columbus’ food scene isn’t all about Mitchell. Watershed Kitchen & Bar is a fabulous find built from the success (and in the production facility) of the Watershed Distillery. Not surprisingly, cocktails are a big focus here with the kitchen and bar working hand in hand to deliver unique beverages that pair perfectly with diverse culinary creations.
Alqueria Farmhouse Kitchen
247 King Avenue, Columbus, OH (43201)
Located in the University District, Alqueria Farmhouse Kitchen is another gem worthy of your time and appetite. The rustic interior sets a stage for a fabulous array of dishes made from locally sourced ingredients.
If you’re looking to broaden your culinary horizons, a drive north to Columbus will reward you with an array of unique, fresh, distinctive new flavors. Just make sure to wave at the Applebee’s as you drive past.
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Take a look through the photo gallery above to get a taste of what the Columbus culinary landscape has to offer, including restaurants not listed in the list above.