Sweet Stella Designs
Cheap: If you have $10 and your stomach is growling, head over to Surly Girl Saloon. Surly Girl has been a favorite hangout and gathering spot of mine for almost a decade, and for just $8, you can nab a trio of either black bean, tofu, or chorizo tacos, with a side of chips and salsa. I typically opt for the tofu tacos on corn tortillas, which are bold and flavorful without being too spicy. The crisp lettuce and soft cheese complement the texture of the crunchy fried tortilla perfectly. I’ve been known to wolf down all three tacos in an awfully short timespan.
Rich: Nida’s Thai on High is one of my favorite restaurants in town because they have so many vegetarian and gluten-free options clearly marked on their menu, so there’s no guesswork (or annoying your server with endless questions about what’s in the food). Between the refreshing cocktails, flavorful appetizers, and generously portioned entrees, it’s sometimes hard to narrow down the choices, especially when you can customize your meal with various options of proteins, sauces, noodles, and rice. Some of my favorites include the veggie spring rolls, which are crispy on the outside and soft and savory on the inside; the Chu Chee tofu with bell peppers in a red curry coconut sauce; and Pad Pak tofu with vegetables in a white sauce.
Sweet: Many people might hear the term “gluten-free” and think it’s synonymous with “this can’t be any good.” Cherbourg Bakery shatters all those preconceived notions of gluten-free baked goods being dry and tasteless. Their food is crafted with love and care, and you can tell that there is a lot of attention to detail that goes in to every aspect of creating these delightful treats. I recommend the s’mores bar, overflowing with marshmallow-y goodness; the cinnamon sugar donut, which tastes like fluffy cinnamon toast; and the madeleine cookies, spongy and buttery and dusted with confectioner’s sugar.
Rich: I’m rarely in this situation, but if I was, I would go to one of the places I mentioned above with nine of my besties, because nothing tastes better than good dinner with good friends.
Sweet: I lied earlier. Donuts taste better than good dinner with good friends, and nobody does donuts better than Buckeye Donuts.
Astor & Black
Cheap: The best bang for your 10 bucks is lunch at Indian Oven on Main Street. This place is white-tablecloth traditional Indian at its finest, but during lunch you can nab one of their specialties for around $10 (I highly suggest the eggplant Baigan Bhartha or the Tandoori Tikki Masala spiced just to your liking). And the best part? They offer a lunch buffet so you can taste multiple offerings and figure out which is your fave!
Rich: Hands down, Marcella’s. On my first visit, I felt underwhelmed. It wasn’t until I went with a group of friends/regulars that I understood how to make the most of it—order all of the things and then share amongst yourselves. It’s Italian, that’s how it’s supposed to be enjoyed anyway. When I moved out of state for a bit, I would have dreams about the melted pecorino appetizer. It comes bubbling hot in a small cast iron skillet with crostini, paper-thin apple slices, and truffle honey! Spread cheese on crostini, dip apple in honey, combine, and then relish in all the flavor components that are happening in your face.
Sweet: I am not so well-versed in the sweets category, but if you enjoy just a bite of something like I do, I suggest Pure Imagination Chocolatier in the North Market. Master Chocolatier Daniel Cooper creates works of art with each truffle he dreams up. You may think he is selling little metallic trinkets alongside the treats in his glass case, but those are just truffles sprayed with edible 24-karat gold!
Cheap: There are so many options, but it’s a no-brainer for me: Monday Oyster Night at Rigsby’s. It’s one of the best-kept secrets in Columbus. I love sitting at a table by the bar and chatting with local friends and neighbors.
Rich: Rain or shine, snow or sleet, I would take my $100 and enjoy every bite and every sip on my favorite patio at Basi. The summers are always bustling and winters are warm and cozy—they have blankets and heaters to keep you nice and toasty. The food is always delicious and the staff treats us like family.
Sweet: If I am looking to indulge my semi-sweet tooth, I am heading to Pistacia Vera for macarons. I love walking into their inviting space—it’s as if the birds should be chirping, the sun should be shining, and the staff should be singing. I pick out my favorite flavors and whistle my favorite tune as I head out the door.
Cheap: Usually if I’m doing something for under $10, I’m doing breakfast or lunch. And since I live and work out east, it’s where I usually have these meals. For breakfast, the Grill and Skillet is perfect: cheap and easy diner food. I’d also strongly recommend TAT Ristorante de Famiglia and their large chicken salad for lunch. Hardly anyone under 60 ever goes in there, but their homemade Italian dressing is deceptively addicting.
Rich: I guess I’m sticking to the east side again. There are a ton of places I’d love to try out or revisit in town, but when I think of dropping a note on a meal, I always think The Top Steakhouse first and foremost. Dark atmosphere, generous a la carte portions, strong drinks, and proper service. What else would you want? A guy quietly playing piano? They have that, too.
Sweet: Barcelona for a Grand Marnier poured into a snifter of espresso.