This time last year, I was travelling back and forth to Columbus, Ohio for work. Over the many trips, I was able to get to know the city fairly well. You may not know it, but Columbus is well known for being an ideal test market for food, and it is obvious by all the unique food venues in the city. Combined with the fact that this city is up and coming with millennials, there is much that might surprise you in this midwestern corner of the world.
Here are my recommendations on what to enjoy in certain neighborhoods in the city:
Renaissance Columbus Downtown - Great for the luxury traveler - if you are a Marriott Rewards member (which you should be, since it’s free!), you can get free continental breakfast as well as tea, coffee, and cookies throughout the day from the lounge on the top floor. The hotel has a restaurant, bar, pool, hot tubs and great workout space. The rooms are comfortable and spacious with modern fixings.
Residence Inn Columbus - Great for the long term traveler - apartment style digs (full kitchen and mini living room) housed in an eclectic former bank space (vault decor, 3-story-high ceilings). There is also a fantastic bar on the main level (Buckeye Bourbon, see below).
Both hotels are in the heart of downtown.
With the recommendations and help from coworkers in Columbus as well as friends who went to The Ohio State University (located in Columbus), I like to think the below food options are top-notch. You decide:
El Arepazo Latin Grill - sitting a stone’s throw from the Capitol building, El Arepazo serves up amazing fish tacos which are filling and flavorful.
Buckeye Bourbon - as mentioned above, this bar located in the Residence Inn has an incredible old world decor inspired by the history of previously being a bank. Grab one of their gin cocktails!
Tip Top Watering Hole - If you are looking for classic midwestern bar food, this is the spot to visit. Frequented by many of the state government employees, it has a down to earth vibe.
Poke Bros - I’m telling you, Columbus was doing poke bowls chipotle-style before they were cool. I’m a huge sushi/raw fish aficionado and I was very impressed by this spot that allows you to mix and match all the toppings you might ever want for a poke bowl.
Jeni's Ice Cream - Jeni’s is an Ohio institution, which I wasn’t going to pass up. There are multiple locations but my favorite was the one behind the State Capitol building because it sits in the middle of a food truck pod. Everyone knows that food trucks and ice cream are a perfect match!
Dirty Frank's Hot Dog Palace - As someone who doesn't really eat meat, I had to check this place out as they serve vegetarian and vegan hot dogs! I know what you’re thinking - that's weird. But, I dare you to try them as they are absolutely delicious. The hot dogs are served up with so many incredible toppings and sauces, that you need a fork and knife!
The adorable German Village transforms you to some cobblestoned corner of old town Boston. With cute homes adorned by white picket fences and dark red brick, American flags, and narrow streets, you will forget you’re in Ohio!
The Thurman Cafe - One of the German Village’s most well known bars, this place is plastered in dollar bills and other odd decor. But the beers flow and the bar food is top notch. Their big thing is that their burgers are enormous (¾ of a pound). And of course they have the diner usuals like fries and onion rings.
Schmidt’s Sausage House - I can’t speak for the sausages, but this place stays true to the German Village vibe. I snagged a delicious slice of German chocolate pie at this spot.
Rockmill Tavern - This bar and restaurant has a modern aesthetic with sleek decor and a refined menu of sandwiches or fish, meat, and pasta entrees. Go for the delectable spicy honey butter on some biscuits.
From left to right: Thurman Cafe, Schmidt's Sausage House, Rockmill Tavern.
The Short North:
This cute strip along North High Street is chalk full of cute restaurants, bars, and shops. In the summer, there are often street festivals as well.
Mike’s Late Night Slice - More of a food truck than a restaurant, Mike’s offers enormous slices with tons of dipping sauces. You can grab a beer from the bar next door and sit in the garden to enjoy the two together.
Simply Rolled - Okay, I ate a lot of ice cream in Columbus. Always on-trend, Simply Rolled offers up Thai street food inspired rolled ice cream. Watch out for the long lines to get the goods, though being attached to a hippy grocery store, this spot allows you to peruse the aisles while you wait for your roll!
Left to right: The outdoor seating at Mike's Late Night Slice; Rolled Ice Cream.
Graeter’s - another Ohio classic, Graeter’s ice cream is known for their black raspberry. You might have to drive over to the University to get some of this but trust me, it’s worth it.
Scioto Greenway - this amazingly well maintained stretch of land along the Scioto River allows bicyclists, joggers and walkers a chance to take in the city skyline, nap on the grass, or admire the river and its bridges.
The Book Loft of German Village - Appearing like a house from the outside, this shop's exterior is misleading as to how enormous it is. Inside, there is a treasure trove of thousands of books for sale. You can meander the endless shelves, walking up and down the stairs and down the long passageways of this house until you find your perfect read (or two, or three…).
Audubon Climbing - Connected to the Scioto Greenway, the Audubon offers up outdoor auto-belay for those itching to get their hands on some fake rock in the outdoors. Bring your own gear!
Kinetic Climbing and Fitness - A bit more on the outskirts of town, this small climbing gym has tons of character and a great vibe from the locals who hang out there. Run by professional climber and climbing hold designer Tony Reynaldo, this gym is unique in that the routes are unrated - a liberating experience to test your skills out in a non-numerical way. There are also amazing swinging rings across the gym - try them out!
All in all, Columbus is an incredibly fun city to enjoy if you love to eat, drink, and be merry. Rock climbing availability was a surprising plus as well. Check it out on your next trip to the midwest!