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Surviving Columbus after Manhattan

  • m

I was recently reading a thread "Can I survive a move from Manhattan to Pittsburgh?" The poster asked for advice how to survive post-Fairway, Zabar's, etc. So, what answer do you have for Columbus? I don't think we have anything in the high-end that can compete, but how about some really tasty unique eats? Places where you'd take your snotty nyc guests to show off (or at least defend with)?

I take people to Jeni's Ice Cream, Pistachio, North Star for the veggie burger. (And life would be difficult without North Market and Trader Joe's.) I'm looking for more standouts, not just places that are perfectly okay, even good or very good.

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  1. All of the places you mentioned, for sure. Add in Pure Imagination for chocolate, and both Omega and Eleni Christina for baked goods. One of the fortunate things we have going on in Columbus is a plethora of really good ethnic joints, with quality and authenticity to rival those in Manhattan. Mi Mi Cafe has the best banh mi and pho this side of the Mississipi. Sher e Punjab for really good Indian food. You can get virtually anything in this town. Starliner Diner is a place with nice funky diner appeal. The only thing we're lacking (I think) is really good Puerto Rican and Slavic (Hungarian, Polish, etc) food.

    The other thing that differs Columbus from Manhattan is that in Manhattan you can get virtually anything delivered from anywhere, almost any time day or night. Columbus? Restaurants (for the most part, with a few notable exceptions like Betty's, etc.) roll up the sidewalks at 10 or 11pm.

    1. I definitely agree: in Columbus, it's Jeni's, Pistachio, and North Star - and Alana's. Food & Wine. The food is always fabulous (better and more original than what some 'high-end' places around here serve; ditto for the wine list) and the atmosphere is funky & cozy at the same time. Best of all, there is always a sincere focus on local and seasonal ingredients. You could bring Blue Hill fans there without a second thought.

      1. Try Creole Kitchen in Mt. Vernon Plaza for great Creole & Cajun. Katzinger's Deli in German Village is nice. For taking friends out, I love the patio at Barcelona in Ger Vil, though not this week. (Brrrr!) :-) And I'm a huge fan of Rosendales -- not cheap but so memorable & worth every penny. Have you been to BOMA (Bar of Modern Art) Fun dance place, gets hopping LATE. M is good too for upscale. Betty's & Surly Girl are fun and cheap.

        2 Replies
        1. re: boyomom

          Would be interested to try Creole Kitchen but isn't Mt. Vernon Ave. kind of scary? What kind of neighborhood is this? Will our car still be there when we are finished eating breakfast? Don't scare too easily, take Long St. downtown from Bexley every week day but want to ensure we will be welcome and safe. Please comment, thanks!

          1. re: Diane in Bexley

            It's across from the Martin Luther King Center, and yes, it's not in the city's best neighborhood. I go all the time am a white suburban mommy in a minivan with lacrosse stickers all over it and never have had any trouble! It's kind of a strip mall (HARD to find -- no sign, just painting on the window) and your car is parked right in front of the window. In fact, I think the folks in the neighborhood are pleased to see that folks like me have discovered the place and are spending $$ there. Though you won't spend much! Nothing is more than $6 or $7. Warning though, there is only ONE table and it's not pretty (a six-foot table with a plastic tablecloth, sporks and eat out of foam boxes), so if you want to eat there, call ahead & make sure no one has the table. (95% of their biz is takeout.) That is fun though if your a true hound, as it's a blast talkign food with Chef Butcher. He's a character! And he'll share old southern an Cajun/Creole secrets. KILLER desserts. ENJOY! It's a wonderful experience.

        2. What do you miss most?

          1. well i admit i am long out of date and the food scene in cols has improved since i lived there, but i have some suggestions.

            first, avoid pushing the ohio ice cream fetish on them, nyer's dont eat the stuff and they will already think the midwest is a bunch of fat ice cream eaters, so why play into that stereotype?

            second, they will want to try the local bagels for breakfast, so have some block's on hand. plain, pumpernickel, poppyseed or everything only. any wacky midwest flavored bagels will horrify them.

            otoh, i would wholeheartedly say if you want to directly compare nicer restaurants and international ethnic foods you are mostly going in the wrong direction (ie., they are not going to want bahn mi or katzingers).

            if they are real 'hounds they will want to try the more local specialties instead:

            WHOLE EARTH pizza w/ wheat dough if its still around, the fabulous thick cut bologna sandwich at the DUBE, NANCYS HOME COOKING diner if its still around, that funky hotdog place on west broad that makes tiny sized chilidogs, the open faced grilled subs at GRINDERS (i think its called WG GRINDERS now?), the dayton-style party style pizza of donatos, any somali restaurant, any appalachian joint, anyplace outside of a high school cafeteria they offer johnny marzetti, and any new bbq joint that has opened up (that's not CITY BBQ).

            well you get the idea, stuff like that. i know those arent what you were thinking, but i'd at least throw a few of these unique things in the mix during the day, along with the new/nicer dinner places in columbus that frankly will be familiar to them.

            ps - don't forget to tell'm columbus is home to white castle and show them 1st white castle and the company hq, that will totally burn any brooklyn billyburg hipster type - lol!

            good luck and please report back after the vistiors are gone. have them report too!

            1. thanks for the recs. i've been to most, but still haven't been to nancy's (strange hours), creole kitchen, or any of the somali places yet. what does mrnyc mean by appalachian places? sounds interesting. i forgot to mention the excellent fresh green tea ice cream at tensuke and basi italia, esp when their patio is open.

              i wouldn't say that there's a "plethora of really good ethnic joints", more like a handful of decent ones. thank goodness they exist, of course. it's not hard to survive eating in columbus - but are there places/foods that make it really fun?

              to answer boyomom, some things i miss most:

              fresh bread, prosciutto di parma, etc from the corner store
              constantly researching and trying new places
              lots of people interested in food (e.g. hundreds of postings a day on chowhound)
              outdoor dining in summer (wide sidewalks, great people-watching)
              dinner at 9, with the restaurant busier when we leave than when we arrived.

              food places: fairway, h&h, donut plant, chelsea market, places hidden behind curtains (burger joint, dessert studio), max cafe, expeditions to queens (sripaphai, spicy & tasty), restaurant week (esp gramercy tavern), realizing you're hungry & walking over to the closest ethnic neighborhood (nha trang in chinatown, chennai garden in curry hill, han bat in koreatown), decent sushi all over, lots more.

              2 Replies
              1. re: moss

                Ah yes! Delivery. That's the best. You can use Cafe' Courier, but will pay a few bucks for the service. They deliver many restaurants. 614-457-3900. You might like the Thai at Pad Thai on Refugee Rd. Really good! I swear, the sushi at SushiKo at Crossroads is fab. It's right by a Marcus movie theater, so it's a great date night or night out with pals. For good gourmet grocery, Hills Market is good (on 315 just north of 270). If they don't have what you want, they will find or order it for you. Great meats, cheese guy and wine gal.

                1. re: boyomom

                  There is also another delivery service in town - depending on where you live - wedeliver2you.com - they have a smaller selection of resturaunts - but still some good ones -- like cafe corner, easy street cafe, paul liu, etc. I also think his rates are pretty good and the service is good as well -- and he is a small local guy who is just trying to get going.

              2. Don't forget Pistachio is now Pistacia Vera. Has everyone tried it in its new digs (where Thurn's used to be) yet?

                1 Reply
                1. re: Budser1228

                  I've been a few times. The space is really nice, although there is no inside seating, as yet. The owners are planning on adding seating because so many people have let them know they miss it. I think when they do that, the new space will be much better than the old. The kitchen seems to be much larger as well.

                2. I lived in Manhattan for four years before moving out to Columbus two years ago. Manhattan has its share of great cuisine, but I've found a few places that give NY restaurants a run for their money. I'm of Chinese descent and there's a place on High Street called Joy's Village that I go to whenever I miss home. It's extremely authentic cooking and it has a gigantic menu. All the friends I've taken there have been impressed because the Chinese food is so much better than Chinese food they've ever had. (Because it is REAL Chinese food, not the terrible stuff they sell at Mark Pi's or Panda Express.) Furthermore, if you know your Chinese food, the chef is very open to taking requests for items not on the menu. Good luck finding that in Manhattan!

                  1. Replicating Manhattan in Columbus is impossible, but the city does have a few gems that live up to the hype (many already mentioned.) Omega Bakery rivals any quality NYC bakery, IMO, and Jeni's Icecreams are without compare.

                    Rosendales certainly has an upscale city menu and the reviews have been good, but I've not yet had the opportunity to attend. Tyfoon on Vine is certainly an NYC/LA sushi scene and I'll actually give them credit for being as good as Nobu in SoHo (Nobu, however, is overrated in my opinion.)

                    Northstar is decent, but I think too many people overrate their food THINKING that it is truly organic. Neo Dragonfly, however, is a gem that is rarely talked about and on par with Vegan food anywhere in the US.

                    Pizza, Pasta, Bagels.......yeah, I'm not going to lie...there is no Il Mulino in Columbus. :-) Whole Earth Pizza is unique, and Marcella's is quite good.....but certainly not on par with what NYC has to offer. I would have offered Fisherman's Wharf as a great destination, but alas it is gone.

                    Thurman's and Schmidts are definitely unique, however, and well known for what they do.

                    1. > I don't think we have anything in the high-end that can compete

                      As an occasional visitor to Columbus, I've enjoyed excellent meals at a few of the higher-end restaurants there, including the Worthington Inn and L'Antibes. While I wouldn't compare their creativity to the ultra-expensive places in New York or Chicago, you can find perfectly competent, delicious upscale cuisine in Columbus, when you are in the mood for such a meal. You can find the most recent article in the Dispatch naming the top 20 restaurants in town at www.dispatch.com/live/content/weekend...