HOME > Chowhound > Great Lakes >


Best CHEAP hidden gems in Columbus, OH?

I've lived here for 15 years and know all the main picks (Starliner Diner, Barley's, North Market, Villa Nova, Banana Bean Cafe, ...). What are some great AFFORDABLE hidden gems here? Extra points to centrally located picks (I live in Clintonville) but please don't hold out on me if it's near the outer belt...

  1. Click to Upload a photo (10 MB limit)
  1. Olive Tree Mediterranean Cafe in Hilliard is excellent. Some of the best Mediterranean food that I have ever eaten, and this comes from one well familiar with Baltimore's Greektown. Metro Columbus is fortunate, as Olive Tree compares favorably to Greektown as well as Bacchus near Washington, DC. Please enjoy the Olive Tree's delicious and reasonably priced food.

    1 Reply
    1. re: elgringoviejo

      Thanks for the recommendation. I'll try it when I am in C-bus after the first of the year.

    2. I had one good meal at Johnny Oak's Po Boy Shrimp Shack. My fries weren't as crispy as I would have liked but they were very tasty. My house made boudin sandwich was also good. And there were several other very interesting sounding items on the menu.

      I was in town for just a couple days and my walk to Johnny Oak's led me directly past a sentimental favorite from my college days: Moy's. Great potstickers, boiled chicken, shrimp with scrambled eggs. Of course, I don't think I've eaten there in ten years.

      All of High Street along the campus area seemed filled with new and interesting eateries. And, of course, lots of dull looking ones, too. Johnny Oak's is expanding. I saw a sign advertising the coming of their cheesesteak shop. I almost ate at a Mexican/Columbian food truck parked in a gas station parking lot. I had my heart set on the Columbian hot dog, so when the proprietor told me that she was out of them, I headed towards Johnny Oak's, so I fared well in the end.

      1. For lunch--El Arepazo downtown is fabulous and the prices hover around $10/person. The cilantro sauce is killer! http://www.elarepazolatingrill.com/in... It's in Pearl Alley (behind Cafe Napolitana, which speaking of, is great NY style pizza--also affordable).

        If you want donuts, the Goodie Shop in UA just reopened--best homemade donuts in Columbus. It's in Tremont Center by the Old Bag.

        1. SO many choices, hard to pick just a few:
          German Village - Brown Bag Deli, Thurman Cafe, The Mohawk, Pistachio Vera (bakery)
          Arena Dist & Short North - Flatiron, Mac's, North Star
          Near East Side & Bexley - Creole Kitchen, Cook Shack BBQ
          Reynoldsburg - Scali

          1. Little Dragon's is a great Chinese restaurant on Morse Rd. The menu has two sections, American-Chinese and Chinese-Chinese. When I was living near C-bus earlier this year I had many culinary adventures here. (Including my first experience with balsam pear, aka bitter melon) My bf doesn't even really like Chinese, yet would always suggest Little Dragon's for dinner if we were in that area.

            Little Dragons Chinese Restaurant
            1508 Morse Rd, Columbus, OH 43229

            1 Reply
            1. re: justlauralibrarian

              Hometown Cafe & Deli on Bethel Road is a similar place - a 'blue' menu for the real Chinese dishes and a 'yellow' menu for the "white boy chinese."

              They do some great traditional smoked and cured meat platters for appetizers, too.

            2. Lac Viet Market in the North Market or Cuco's Market & Taqueria on West Henderson Rd

              2 Replies
              1. re: nemis

                Yes, Lac Viet Market is great. My husband loves the habanero sauce. I can't even look at the stuff without breaking into a sweat. LOL

                Lac Viet Market
                59 Spruce St, Columbus, OH 43215

                1. re: gardenwife

                  just wanted to put in a plug for Mimi's. great, legit Vietnamese. full thread is here on the old board:


              2. I think most of the restaurants in Cbus are quite cheap compared to major US cities:

                Specific hidden gems:

                Dragonfly Neo's weekend brunch.
                ZenCha's weekend brunch.
                Luce in Powell, dinner or lunch.

                1. Just curious, but have you tried Dirty Franks yet? The hotdog based menu is admittedly a gimmick, but it's a really fun gimmick, just about everything I've tried there has been great, and it's completely possible to go in for a dog, some tots, and a drink and get out for $6.

                  I'd also second Olive Tree - they're quite good.

                  1. Two ideas for you:
                    Dosa Corner for vegetarian indian (specialty is their namesake, Dosas) on Old Henderson near Kenny. I think most menu items are around $6

                    MiLi Cafe - in the huge shopping center at 161 and Cleveland ave near the thrift store. Probably the best vietnamese in town and a total hidden gem. Pho is around $6 and Bahn Mi are $3-4 if I remember right. My husband and I had one of each and split it.

                    Actually I'll throw in a third - Nazareth Deli. in the same huge shopping center but closer to the bowling alley. Great cheap middle eastern. I love the spicy chicken with rice and lentils.

                    1 Reply
                    1. re: dirtgirl

                      I have to second Dosa Corner. I prefer it to Udipi, both for taste and price (Udipi certainly has nicer decor however). The masala dosas are so delightfully buttery. Dosas, however, do NOT make for good takeout.

                    2. I love Indochine! The owners are so lovely and I think the food is terrific. 561 S Hamilton Rd
                      Columbus, OH 43213. (614) 231-7357

                      1 Reply
                      1. re: jevi

                        I thought their menu was pretty routine and the pho and bun were both so-so. What am I missing? Is there a secret password to get the specials menu, or things we should order next time? The owners were really sweet and we'd really want to love it.

                        Also, can you BYO since they don't seem to sell beer?

                      2. Yanni's on Cleveland Avenue/270 is always a favorite of mine. Not the best area of the city but guaranteed great Greek food. I also second the Indochine recommendation. Was a regular when I lived in Columbus.

                        1. Just want to remind everyone that "Restaurant Week" in Columbus is January 18th to the 23rd-looks like the highest three course dinner is $35.00 (french restaurant called the Refectory and most steakhouses) and the most inexpensive is $15.00 at the Columbus Brewing Co.

                          1. Thanks everyone! There are some great suggestions here and I look forward to checking them out. What I'm realizing is that I know of all the centralized food spots but not any of the ones away from the German Village to Worthington line that I tend to gravitate to. I look forward to checking out the places that are are outside of my normal line.

                            BTW: I do love the Taco Trucks in town. My favs are Los Potosinos and Super Torta.

                            1. We've eaten at Feta Greek Kuzina a few times and liked everything we've had there. It's family run and everyone from the cooks to the folks at the counter are friendly and very knowledgeable. Great food!

                              Feta Greek Kuzina
                              1839 Winderly Ln, Pickerington, OH 43147

                              1. I love Anna's Greek Restaurant for the Sunday buffet - for what you get, it's the best $15 you'll ever spend. We also, and VERY surprisingly, loved the pizzas at La Scala - they are running a special most nights - most things on the menu were only $8.95! and they had a live band we DANCED to. Totally cool.

                                1. Route 62 BBQ in Johnstown. My favorite BBQ in the state of Ohio (and I travel a lot).


                                  1. Have you discovered Lavash? Wonderful, inexpensive Mediterranean food - fresh, hot, delicious. Tip: try their now-famous lentil soup with a quick squeeze of lemon. In Clintonville on High Street just north of the stalwart Aladdin's.

                                    We also love the "hipster comfort food" at Tip Top Kitchen and Cocktails on Gay Street downtown Columbus. Pick: the must-have pot roast.

                                    1. The Blue Nile in Clintonville has delicious Ethiopian, and the owners are as sweet as anything. The zilzil wat, eggplant, and cabbage are amazing. I don't normally like hot food, but the Blue Nile's food is so flavorful that the hot stuff is worth the pain.

                                      Note: They have been charging extra to sit at the traditional tables. Grrrr. And the prices have been climbing--so go now, while it's still at the cheaper end!

                                      Next: Not exactly cheap, but an amazing bargain for 3 courses is The Refectory's $24 bistro menu.

                                      1. This is a tough list to beat. http://www.urbanspoon.com/lb/33/best-.... However I am Puerto Rican so I enjoy the food at Costelos 2492 Home Acre Drive, Columbus, OH 43231. And a relatively new place opened in Hilliard and now a second spot in Upper Arlington named Louies Grill Fusion http://www.louiesgrillfusionrestauran... .

                                        Costelos Restaurant
                                        2492 Home Acre Dr, Columbus, OH 43231

                                        1 Reply
                                        1. re: rorican4040

                                          rorican4040 - have you been to Costelo's recently? I tried going tonight (Friday at 7:30), but found the restaurant empty and a closed sign in the window. Is this place gone, or relocating? I'm Puerto Rican and would love to have some mofongo.

                                          Costelos Restaurant
                                          2492 Home Acre Dr, Columbus, OH 43231