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NYC girl looking for food in Columbus, Ohio.....help!!!

  • m

I grew up in Ohio, however I moved to NYC six years ago to attend culinary school and work in the trenches known as the New York restaurant scene. I moved back to Ohio about a month ago because I'm having a baby girl and NYC is not the place for me to raise a family. HOWEVER, this is coming as a huge sacrifice to me......the food!!! I'm not trying to be a snob.....but I've been immersed in food culture with people that are passionate about their ingredients and above all possess the technique and finesse to put out some seriously tasty food. Do people like this exist in Columbus? I'm not talking about the Cameron Mitchell 'wannabe's' (or any CMR restaurant for that matter) who have been running the same menus for years and lack the ability to season properly. I'm looking for suggestions in any style of food that is high brow or low brow, my only request is that it be delicious! I will step off my soap box now, I appreciate anyones input.

p.s. this girl is desperate!

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  1. Here's a recent thread of mine, with some Columbus recommendations.

    http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/691706

    One of the things I miss most about living in the midwest is the freshly picked sweet corn!

    1. There is a vibrant independent restaurant scene in Columbus, you just have to know where to look. There are many chain places that have outposts here and you have to make a concerted effort to reach beyond those. Do some searching on Chowhound. The best areas to look for these kinds of places are in the German Village, Short North, Arena District areas and parts of downtown. The chains seem to run in the suburbs, but not always.

      Here are some of my favorites, in no particular order:

      Lola's - Gahanna, small,intimate family run Italian food.
      Mac's - Short North, very good "bar" food, great burgers
      The Top Steakhouse - Bexley - old school steak and atmosphere
      G. Michael's, Barcelona, Banana Bean Cafe, Brown Bag Deli, German Village Cafe - group of delicious German Village eateries ranging in menu and price
      Graeter's, Jeni's, Johnsons - Columbus is home to great ice cream
      Trattoria Roma - Grandview Italian
      Paul's Pantry - Grandview coffee shop/diner
      Bakeries - Pistachio Vera, A Piece of Cake, Suisse Shop, Resch's (traditional cakes)
      Indochine - very fresh Vietnamese/Laotian in Whitehall
      Bagels - Blocks
      North Market - where to start? so many places, almost all very good, get yourself there NOW

      BTW, are you a Bexley HS grad? I have a feeling I know you

      Here is a great website written by Lisa the Waitress on what's happening culinarily speaking in Columbus:

      http://www.restaurantwidow.com/

      -----
      Trattoria Roma
      1447 Grandview Avenue, Columbus, OH 43212

      Brown Bag Deli
      898 Mohawk St, Columbus, OH 43206

      North Market
      59 Spruce St, Columbus, OH 43215

      Banana Bean Cafe
      340 Greenlawn Ave, Columbus, OH 43223

      Grandview Cafe
      1455 W 3rd Ave, Columbus, OH 43212

      Indochine Cafe
      561 S Hamilton Rd, Columbus, OH 43213

      1. Third and Hollywood in Grandview
        Rigsby's in the Short North-Chef just got nominated for a James Beard award
        Dragonfly Neo-V-Victorian Village-just got nominated for a James Beard award
        Alana's on Campus
        Sage Bistro on North Campus
        Kihachi-Anthony Bourdain ate here while in town
        Indian Oven- downtown
        Sorry can't really think of a place that has NY pizza but maybe the North Market and our Mexican food here is well.......... but that being said my fav place is Cuco's Taqueria on Henderson Road.
        Another good food local blog is:
        http://hungrywoolf.com/
        http://cmhgourmand.com/
        http://www.columbusfoodie.com
        http://www.photoeats.com/
        http://breakfastwithnick.blogspot.com/

        Welcome home!

        1 Reply
        1. re: nemis

          Rigsby's and Dragonfly were actually Semi-finalists for the Bread Awards - and it was the chef, not the restaurant.

          I run my blog at uhockey.blogspot.com - just search for restaurants tagged Columbus. Having been to NYC myriad times in the last few years there is nothing here you can't get in New York - but the nice places do shine, regardless.

          In order:
          Refectory
          Kihachi
          Rigsby's
          Luce
          Dragonfly
          M (yes, at Mitchell restaurant, but excellent)
          Alana's
          L'Antibes
          I've not been to G.Michaels, but I've heard good things.

          -----
          Rigsby's Restaurant
          698 North High Street, Columbus, OH 43215

          L'Antibes
          772 N. High St., Columbus, OH 43215

          1. I've nothing to add, but would include some encouragement. We drive between Brooklyn and Indiana, and I always try to stop in Columbus. Not only is it a charming town (German Village, especially) but the food quality is quite hight.
            We always try to lunch at Rigsby's and stop in the North Market when passing through.
            And once you are in a position to enjoy wine again-Barcelona has a lovely garden in which to spend the evening, and a pretty interesting wine by the glass.

            -----
            Rigsby's Restaurant
            698 North High Street, Columbus, OH 43215

            North Market
            59 Spruce St, Columbus, OH 43215

            1. Katzinger's Deli in German Village is worth a trip. On the other hand, if you're avoiding smoked fish and deli meats, though, you'll have to wait. No full-sour pickles or tomatoes, unfortunately.

              5 Replies
              1. re: quirkydeb

                QD, yuck-o! Katzinger's is very high priced, very untasty. A corned beef sandwich which should sell for $8 is $10-12 there. The only thing worthwhile is the big vat of half sour pickles, but you would need at least a dozen with your sandwich to justify their prices. If you want Jewish deli food, try Barry's at the North Market or Block's. Much better taste and better pricing.

                -----
                North Market
                59 Spruce St, Columbus, OH 43215

                1. re: Diane in Bexley

                  I agree that it is high-priced, but I find it tasty, with very high quality products. Good chopped liver (although could be a little chunkier), corned beef, pastrami, tuna salad blintzes, & kugel. However, I HATE half sour pickles (AKA salty cucumbers)! And even their "old" pickles suck. Nothing compares to a true full sour. Diane, do you really find Katzinger's untasty or do the prices affect your enjoyment? --Which IS something I can understand.

                  I didn't love Barry's, but it has been a while. The owners seemed nice. I'll have to try it sometime when I'm back in Columbus. I've also heard Danny's Deli is good, but I've never been there. Anyone?

                  Disclaimer: I used to work at Katzinger's. When I was there (~8 years ago), employees got (subsidized) health & dental insurance (and vacation time) at 25 hours. Providing benefits for employees is expensive and, no doubt, contributes to Katzinger's prices.

                  -----
                  Danny's Deli & Restaurant
                  37 W Broad St Ste 50, Columbus, OH 43215

                  1. re: quirkydeb

                    I prefer Katzinger's to Barry's and Danny's. Katzinger's has better bread than its competitors, and bread is a very important (and often neglected) sandwich component.

                    Danny's, btw, makes a good burger. Don't just try the deli sandwiches.

                    1. re: quirkydeb

                      I LOVE half sour pickles, my favorite brand is Ba'tempte, which I buy at Kroger on E. Broad St. Yes, the price at Katzinger's does affect my opinion, but I do dislike their food. Yes, the corned beef at Danny's is very good, my issue with Danny's is their location is not very convenient and I am walking-challenged, parking in that area is difficult to impossible at mid-day. I also spend time talking with Barry and his son, so that might positively contribute to my perception of their food. He used to work for Corky & Lenny's in Cleveland and really does know the deli biz.

                      Thanks for sharing employee info about Katzinger's. I don't shop at WalMart or Sam's because they treat their workers like sh*t and I have a membership at Costco because they offer their workers healthcare. I am not willing to trade on taste but social responsibility is important to me.

                      I live in Bexley and Blocks Bagels near James and Broad St. has b een a hangout for 35+ years. Their deli is pretty good. However, they no longer are open past 5:30 p.m. and so I am relegated to visitng them on weekends.

                      -----
                      Corky & Lenny's
                      27091 Chagrin Blvd, Beachwood, OH 44122

                  2. re: quirkydeb

                    I loved Katzinger's when I lived in Columbus. Over the years I may have had a couple disappointing meals there, but that's partially because they create such high expectations. My last visit to Columbus included a stop there and it was as delicious as I remember. Great bread. Great dressing. Tasty, juicy corned beef. Great combination. I don't have any experience with delis in Columbus, but my last sandwich at Katzinger's was better than a Cleveland sandwich and a match for any New York or Los Angeles sandwich I've had.

                    I was always happy to pay a premium for the quality, but it's great to hear that Katzinger's rewards their employees so well.

                    -----
                    Los Angeles Cafe
                    280 E Haven Ave # 30, New Lenox, IL 60451

                  3. A couple of non-restaurant recommendations. Carfagna’s, an “Italian” meat market and grocery that is a good place to find a much wider variety of ingredients: http://www.carfagnas.com/

                    And Thurn’s, a meat market/sausage maker/smokehouse operation so old school it doesn’t have a website (or take credit cards – cash or check only, but you won’t believe how much you can buy there for a ridiculously low price). The blog post I found below will give you a good idea of what they have to offer (and the same blogger is well worth keeping your eye on for other Columbus rec’s).

                    http://www.restaurantwidow.com/2009/0...

                    Open only Thurs. – Sat. (and only till 1:00 on Sat.). Well worth the trip. The schinken/schenken (German smoked “prosciutto") and double-smoked bacon are must-buys whenever I make it to Columbus. Then I go crazy trying other stuff.

                    -----
                    Carfagna's
                    1405 E Dublin Granville Rd, Columbus, OH 43229

                    1. Well, Columbus is not NYC, but it could be a lot worse.

                      Things that are as good (or maybe better) than in nyc:
                      Jeni's ice cream: lime cardamom yogurt, wildberry lavender, lemon blueberry yogurt, creme fraiche w/amarena cherries...
                      Pistacia Vera: lovely cakes for parties, dollar cookies, macaroons, even had yuzu mousse
                      Northstar: best veggie burger anywhere (I'm not vegetarian), chocolate truffle cookie. Sweet potato hash for brunch. Yummy peanut slaw is only available at the Clintonville location. Prices keep going up, but still cheaper than nyc.
                      Kihachi: good sushi, but great small dishes, very authentic, and WAY cheaper than nyc.

                      Places that would be solid neighborhood standbys in nyc:
                      Basi Italia, esp the outdoor seating. Very NY, hidden in an alley.
                      North Market
                      Tensuke market: homemade green tea ice cream, takeout sushi
                      Betty's/Surly Girl/Tip Top/etc with decent inexpensive food and beer.
                      maybe G Michael's, Tasi, Zen Cha for tea (and brunch)

                      Places that are sometimes rated as great in Columbus, but if they were nyc, I wouldn't bother:
                      Alana's, Barcelona, Katzinger, Dragonfly, Spagio. Of those, even in cbus, I wouldn't bother with any besides Alana's.

                      If you get desperate to explore:
                      South Indian: Udipi, Dosa Hut, etc
                      Somali restaurants, like Darbo
                      Mexican, west near 161
                      Vietnamese places north
                      Cambodian-Mexican place whose name I forget (not that great, but it's fun to say you went). Ditto for average Indonesian.

                      BTW, bread is disappointing. Rigsby's/Tasi sells some (the bakery in north market undersalts, and gets stale after half a day). Parbaked La Brea from Kroger's is a good alternative.

                      -----
                      Spagio
                      1295 Grandview Ave, Columbus, OH 43212

                      Basi Italia
                      811 Highland St., Columbus, OH 43215

                      Udipi Cafe
                      2001 E Dublin Granville Rd, Columbus, OH 43229

                      Northstar Cafe
                      951 N High St, Columbus, OH 43201

                      Darbo Restaurant
                      3764 Cleveland Ave, Columbus, OH 43224

                      North Market
                      59 Spruce St, Columbus, OH 43215

                      Tasi
                      680 N Pearl St, Columbus, OH 43215

                      6 Replies
                      1. re: moss

                        Basi does not even make their own pasta - it would neither stand up nor stand out in NYC.

                        I disagree strongly with your assessment on Dragonfly - it would be quite the destination for NYC vegans.

                        Pistacia Vera and Northstar are "good for Columbus" but are certainly not doing anything that cannot be found better in NYC. Petrossian and/or La Maison du Chocolate, Bouchon, Bouley....

                        -----
                        Northstar Cafe
                        951 N High St, Columbus, OH 43201

                        1. re: uhockey

                          True, Basi wouldn't stand up as an Italian restaurant, but the fact that it's off an alley with a garden is as close to a NYC experience as one can get in Columbus.

                          I have never had a veggie burger anywhere as good as the one at Northstar. If it were in NYC, I would go across boroughs for it. Pistacia Vera would be a fantastic neighborhood bakery in nyc. It's not a fancy French bakery, but sometimes you want a huge cake for under $60, and sometimes you want cookies that cost $1 instead of $4.

                          I guess I'm glad I'm not vegan if Dragonfly is as good as it gets!

                          -----
                          Northstar Cafe
                          951 N High St, Columbus, OH 43201

                        2. re: moss

                          I recently heard that Columbus has the second highest Somali population of US cities so it seems to reason the Somali food might be good. Has anyone tried it to report?

                          1. re: Niki in Dayton

                            Your stat regarding the population is factual - however I've not seen/found ANY Somali food here in Columbus. I'd be interested to hear if anyone knows of any since I feel our ethnic food diversity is generally quite lacking in authenticity.

                            1. re: uhockey

                              I've been to Darbo http://www.darborestaurant.com/ a couple of times and it is pretty good, but I haven't been for a couple of years.

                              -----
                              Darbo Restaurant
                              3764 Cleveland Ave, Columbus, OH 43224

                              1. re: kura kura

                                Thanks for posting about Darbo. I didn't know about it, and now I can't wait to try it!

                                -----
                                Darbo Restaurant
                                3764 Cleveland Ave, Columbus, OH 43224

                        3. To: mk614 If you're a Columbus native or a BHS grad, there are tons of places that you are already familiar with, but I'll throw my 2 cents into the ring too.
                          Mexican: Definitely El Vaquero {Riverside Dr ONLY, don't be fooled by others. The original location reigns supreme!
                          Italian: Giuseppe's Ritrovo Main St Bexley & Mia Cucina in New Albany. Due Amici downtown.
                          Like Brown Bag a lot.
                          Ice cream: Johnson's, Graeters & Jeni's
                          G Michael's is wonderful too.
                          Japanese: House Of Japan (Tuttle or Polaris)
                          Chinese (Thai): Wing's Restaurant Main St or Ding Ho (Phillipi Rd) The Lantern (Broad St) Lotus Grill (North Off 23).
                          Get the Italian Wedding Soup from Paul's in Grandview.
                          Sarefinos & The Pastaria (as are many others in the North Market) are very deelish too.
                          PIZZA: Hands down, RUBINO'S all the way.
                          The Clarmont & Japanese Steak House aren't at all what they used to be.
                          There is always Lindey's, Bexley Monk & Hickory House.
                          SUSHI: Sushiko (North off 23).
                          GREEK: Yanni's (Cleveland Ave).
                          Club 185 is a fun casual place to hang.
                          Cimi's Bistro in Grove City was a pleasant experience. That's enough for now off thetop of my head. More to follow as I think of some more good ones that I unintentionally omitted.

                          -----
                          Due Amici
                          67 E Gay Street, Columbus, OH 43215

                          Lindey's
                          169 E. Beck Street, Columbus, OH 43206

                          Club 185
                          185 E Livingston Ave, Columbus, OH 43215

                          Giuseppe's Ritrovo
                          2268 E Main St, Columbus, OH 43209

                          Yannis Cafe
                          145 N Main St, Manteno, IL 60950

                          North Market
                          59 Spruce St, Columbus, OH 43215

                          Lotus Grill
                          150 Hutchinson Ave, Columbus, OH 43235

                          Grandview Cafe
                          1455 W 3rd Ave, Columbus, OH 43212

                          Ding Ho Restaurant
                          120 Phillipi Rd, Columbus, OH 43228

                          2 Replies
                          1. re: MeanJeanBean

                            MJB, have lived in Bexley most of my life and the pizza at Rubino's is awful. Not sure if you are re-living past memories (it used to be really good), or if you live in the area today. It is horribly greasy. If you are constipated or need to go, this is better than Milk of Magnesia, but not by much.

                            Also noticed you didn't mention the Grill & Skillet, which has gone way down hill as well.

                            FYI - lovely little Italian home cooking place in Gahanna is Lola's. The owners are always in the restaurant, but it gets crowded.

                            Captain Nikki, who used to own Fisherman's Wharf on Morse Rd (and then it moved to Bexley), is opening a new restaurant off Polaris Pkwy. Very much eagerly awaiting that. He is the brother in law of Yanni, whom you mentioned above. The Yanni referenced is not in IL, I assume you mean the one on Cleveland Ave. near I-270.

                            -----
                            Yannis Cafe
                            145 N Main St, Manteno, IL 60950

                            1. re: Diane in Bexley

                              I have lived here for 28 years, and I still don't get Rubino's pizza. Our friends who grew up in Bexley adore it; anyone else wonders how they can even stand it. To me, it tastes like cardboard with bland tomato sauce. But I guess that's exactly what makes for a real local flavor.

                          2. I feel your pain... and know what you mean about not wanting to be viewed as a food snob... it is just really hard to downgrade from tons of great places to searching hard to find something that is acceptable!

                            I am not at all a chef, grew up in Dayton, home of conservative bland imaginationless food, and then spent 22 years in SF - turned into a bit of a foodie... now back in Dayton and suffering, but finding some decent places to eat, decent food but zero ambiance... and forget eclectic / fusion without paying high prices... SF was a very affordable place to eat very very well, imagine NYC was the same...

                            it is hard, but hang in there, you WILL find your spots...

                            chowhound was great for me, and I am also using Urbanspoon, but sadly most of the local Dayton reviews are not reviews to my mind, but just comments, like they have the "best pizza" or "really good food" or the service is great... would hope Columbus has people who actually review places... I lived in Cols back in the 80's... wish I was there now, but stuck in Dayton...

                            Hang in there and let us know when you open your own restaurant!!!

                            I was at Taste of Bali a few weeks ago and happy with my meal, it was a sampler, but I have been 2 years without a steady diet of good interesting food, so I may not be the best to speak at this point!

                            I also went to Denises' Ice Cream in Clintonville, had honey fig and it was really really good! Heard Jenni's is good too... not such a fan of Graters so far, but only went once and the Blueberry Pie was just not bold and sassy enough for me, but will give them a whirl witha less ambitious flavor to be fair.

                            Will be following your replies on what you like, so when I come to Cols I will have extra insight into my options! Congrats and welcome back!

                            -----
                            Taste of Bali
                            2548 Bethel Rd, Columbus, OH 43220

                            1. From someone with an LCB background: I'll put in a vote for Kihachi. I lived in Tokyo and it's absolutely an authentic izakaya -- and even more authentic than those in NYC that are calling themselves izakaya. I've always been taken there in a group with Japanese diners, and if you can go with someone Japanese, you will get things that are not on the menu, but even if you don't, the menu is much more varied and extensive than the usual sushi place. You can skip sushi altogether and have a great meal.

                              This is going to sound strange because it's inside a mall, but Adobe Gilas actually does a very nice job with its Mexican street food. I duck in before movies, sit at the bar, and ask them for small plates (the manager will do it if you're nice). The mahi-mahi tacos are splendid and there are beer specials to put you in a good mood.

                              Enjoy Columbus. It has amazing retailing and just wait until the farmers markets begin. You won't have any trouble finding good things to eat.

                              -----
                              Adobe Gila's
                              3978 Easton Sta, Columbus, OH 43219

                              Kihachi Japanese Restaurant
                              2667 Federated Blvd, Columbus, OH 43235

                              1. Try Darbo for Somali and Blue Nile for Ethiopian.

                                Of course, Jeni's ice cream!

                                The Refectory is wonderful fine dining, and the service is exceptional.

                                North Star and Katzinger's are great for casual dining.

                                Hunan House and Hunan Gourmet are our favorites for Chinese, and Bangkok is great for Thai.

                                Udipi is a really good and reasonable vegetarian Indian restaurant.

                                Skillet in German Village is great for breakfast/brunch, if you can get a table. Worth waiting, though.

                                Basi Italia, Lindey's, G Michael's, Cafe Istanbul, Ocean Club, and Barcelona are other favorites.

                                -----
                                Basi Italia
                                811 Highland St., Columbus, OH 43215

                                Lindey's
                                169 E. Beck Street, Columbus, OH 43206

                                Hunan House
                                2157 S Mission St Ste C, Mount Pleasant, MI 48858

                                Darbo Restaurant
                                3764 Cleveland Ave, Columbus, OH 43224

                                North Star Cafe
                                4023 S Evergreen Dr, White Cloud, MI 49349

                                1. Has anyone mentioned Olive Tree Mediterranean Cafe on Hilliard Rome? They serve delicious Mediterranean food of all types with fresh and delicious bread. They have excellent mezze, on par with Lebanese Taverna and Bacchus in the national capital metropolitan area. This place ought to be treasured throughout the Columbus metropolitan area.

                                  -----
                                  Olive Tree Mediterranean Cafe
                                  3185 Hilliard Rome Rd, Hilliard, OH 43026

                                  1. mk614- Any updates on what you've tried and liked/didn't like? I am very curious to hear your reviews please! :)