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Recommendations for Columbus in early March

Hey, folks. My wife and I (two Floridians) will be in Columbus for a few days in early March. We'll probably be staying at or near the Renaissance Columbus Downtown Hotel, but we won't have a car, and my wife has some mobility issues that keep her from doing too much walking. However, we love taking cabs to get around a strange city in search of a good meal, and I'm a huge fan of public transportation and walking when I'm out on my own.

So we're always on the lookout for funky little gastropubs or pubs with great food (although we don't drink), excellent burgers and Mexican food, NY/Jewish-style delis, Mediterranean and Middle Eastern, and local specialties we couldn't get back home. And when she's busy and I'm on my own, I'm always on the lookout for cured meats, sausages, Italian delis and sub shops, etc.

So what are some people's favorites? I love "Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives" sort of restaurants, but a slightly more "special occasiony" place would be nice too. Good desserts are always a plus, no matter the price level.

The North Market sounds like a definite destination for us, especially with Jeni's for ice cream, but what are the best places there? That sounds like a place I'll enjoy visiting on my own while my wife is busy at her conference. The online menus for the Explorers Club, Katzinger's Deli, and Rigsby's Kitchen look great, but what do people say about them? Would they be worthwhile choices? What are some other local favorites?

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  1. The Thurman Café is a Columbus burger landmark. It's been on several TV shows and is worth a visit.

    The other places you mentioned are all consistently good and worth a visit. Katzinger's is opening in the North Market also but I don't know if they'll be there by the time you arrive. Jeni's is a must try.

    Columbus has a great food truck scene. One good way to try them is for a lunch at Dinin' Hall, where many trucks gather and you can get food and eat at tables. Aromaku and Swoop are my 2 favorite trucks lately.

    For more upscale, I love G. Michael's in German Village. It's very close by cab. The food is consistent, creative, and delicious, and it has a great atmosphere. Rigsby's is a Columbus staple as well so it would be a good choice also.

    1. I think Rigsby's is one of the best restaurants in the city, possibly *the* best. I find the food consistently good, as is the service. On Monday nights they have $1 oysters at the bar.

      I always want to like Explorer's Club more than I do.

      Katzingers is great if you don't have regular access to a solid NY deli. If you do, then it's just fine.

      I'd also mention Harvest for artisanal pizza (close by cab), Tip Top, for casual and tasty and very Columbus (and a quick walk from your hotel), and if you're looking for a diners, etc type place, I'd check out Dirty Frank's Hot Dog Palace--a very short cab ride from your hotel.

      People really like El Arepazo, which is also quite close to your hotel, but I haven't made it there yet.

      1. So many of these sound right up our alley. Thank you so much, and if you think of anything else, let me know. Our trip is a little more than a month away, and I'll report back.

        1. My wife and I are regulars at Explorers Club - if there's a special cuisine night, it might be worth trucking all the way down to Merion Village for a visit (Thurman Cafe is also in that area as well.)

          Katzinger's would be worth a visit if you're going to German Village - if you go, stop by Pistacia Vera for some of their macarons.

          Nearer to where you'll be staying, El Arepazo is a nice place that is only open for lunch that gets packed at lunchtime from the downtown business crowd. I'd arrive later (past 1:30 PM) if you want to avoid the lines. Si Senor is a Peruvian sandwich shop that is close by that is quite popular as well. Tip Top is a slight step up from the DD&D style of restaurant but a lot of fun, especially later in the evening (my wife loved the Mac & Cheese there)

          I have not been there yet, but if you don't mind a little kitsch, the Grass Skirt Tiki (same owners as Tip Top) has also opened up relatively nearby as well.

          1. You might enjoy Schmidt's Sausage House in German Village, too. German style food, house made sausages (Bahama Mamas are probably the most popular) and huge, delicious cream puffs, made with a rich pudding type cream.

            1. Just an FYI, the Arnold Sports Festival is Feb. 27-Mar 2. The city will be overrun with tens of thousands of people. Getting a hotel or dinner reservation will be a challenge.

              1 Reply
              1. re: Scoutmaster

                Thank you for the warning! Luckily we've already booked our hotel, and we won't arrive until after all that.

              2. Here's a possibly surprising answer: At least once, you should go down to the first floor of your hotel and have dinner at Latitude 41. Their chef started in June of 2013 and is interested in using local ingredients in interesting ways. I had a terrific heirloom tomato risotto there last summer (which probably won't be on the menu in March, since the tomatoes won't be in season). But there will certainly be something worth trying.

                You can also walk from your hotel to the Elevator Brewing Company on High Street, where the meals are good and the local beer is great.

                1 Reply
                1. re: krc456

                  Awesome, thank you! Our trip is getting closer, so I appreciate the heads-up.

                2. If you like Indian food, one of out favorite restaurants in Columbus is Mughal Darbar on High st.. We have good Indian food here in NY and we still make it a point to have dinner there whenever we're in town. Delicious food, great service, family owned and operated. They've also got a funky little bar there too.

                  1. Well, we just got back tonight, and I wanted to thank everyone again for their recommendations. Here's a quick rundown of our meals.

                    Thursday afternoon: Our first stop was the North Market. My wife was charmed by the pasta at Pastaria, and ended up getting fusilli in their creamy seafood sauce, which came with bread and their delicious garlic butter, full of roasted garlic cloves. She also got what she called one of the best salads of her life, which contained raisins, berries, pine nuts, gorgonzola cheese, and a great balsamic vinaigrette dressing.

                    I got a very good muffaletta sandwich from Pastaria Secunda, which was different from a traditional New Orleans-style muff due to some kind of spicy aioli on it. I followed that up with the best pierogies either of us had ever tried, from Hubert's Polish Kitchen. Buttery, oniony, creamy, chewy -- they were perfect pierogies.

                    Then we made our way to Jeni's, and the sampling ensued. We all tried a lot, but I narrowed my favorite flavors down to three:
                    3. Goat cheese and red cherries
                    2. Biscuits and peach jam (arguably the best ice cream I've ever had)
                    1. Birch and marshmallows (which tasted just like the vanilla-creamy, wintergreeny foam on a frosty mug of root beer... well played, Jeni!)

                    Thursday night: My wife was exhausted, and her friend we were meeting for dinner had literally just flown in herself, so I decided to have us go to Latitude 41 right in the Renaissance Hotel. I had the mussels, and we shared the fig and goat cheese pizza and the crispy brussels sprouts. All okay, but the pizza was rather bland and burned. Nothing really knocked our socks off, but we would not have made it anywhere else that night.

                    Friday lunch: My wife was doing her conference thing, so I picked us up lunch at the Tip Top Kitchen, to share back in our room. Her Reuben sandwich, my Italian beef sandwich, and our shared smoked salmon fritters were all kind of greasy and bland. I redeemed lunch for her by picking her up a "Celebration" blondie from the nearby Sugardaddy's to celebrate a presentation she had made that morning, and she proclaimed it the best sugar cookie she had ever had: http://sugardaddys.com/MoreInfo/blond...

                    Friday dinner: We took a cab down to the Short North neighborhood to check out the scene, planning to find a restaurant and visit the Jeni's down there for dessert. We decided on Fabian's Pizza, since Chicago-style deep dish pizza is impossible to find in Orlando, and she didn't want to go anywhere too fancy. The pizza we ordered was gigantic, but just okay. (I must sound like a jerk by now -- we really do like most food, I swear!) Jeni's was awesome again, needless to say.

                    Saturday lunch: I walked back to the North Market by myself that morning, about a mile each way, while the streets were mostly deserted and the weather was brisk and beautiful. I brought her back pesto fusilli from Pastaria, and was thrilled that they had samples of almost all their sauces available, with soft Italian bread for dipping. I loved their balsamic tomato sauce, and wish I could have bought a container to take home with me.

                    I also picked us up a nice-looking chicken cutlet and pierogies from Hubert's (to share), and got myself an Italian sub from Sarefino's Pizza, owned by the Pastaria folks. I didn't realize they were going to bake the sub in their pizza oven, as I greatly prefer my Italian sandwiches cold. It was fine, though. She wasn't super-hungry, so we ended up with tons of leftovers. Luckily we had a tiny fridge in our room.

                    Saturday dinner: I think we just laid low and ate leftovers, as we had an event in the evening and she was tired.

                    Sunday morning: She met another friend for breakfast in the hotel, and I finished all our Saturday leftovers, including what was left of the deep dish pizza.

                    Sunday lunch: Killing time before our evening flight, we walked to the very nice ZenCha Tea Salon, right near our hotel on Gay Street. The couple who worked there was incredibly nice and welcoming, so we shared a platter of assorted scones (which came with a smooth, creamy lemon butter) and had some tea to warm up. She loved her creamy, pudding-flavored milk tea, and I sampled a German hot tea called strawberry valley, steeped with real dried strawberries! I am really not a tea drinker, nor am I a fan of hot beverages in general, but it was a chilly day (at least by our FL standards), and it seemed like the right time and place. I loved it, and our entire experience at ZenCha was zenlike, relaxing, and one of the highlights of our entire trip to Columbus.

                    I wish we could have tried Rigsby's or Katzinger's or the Explorers Club, but plans don't always work out, especially since we didn't have a car. It was a good trip overall, and I appreciate everyone's advice, once again.