Numerous new bars, breweries, or restaurants opened up in the last year, signifying a legitimate boom for the Columbus food & drink industry. These are just a few of the standouts:
96 Gender Rd., Canal Winchester
Originally an American micro-brewery-inspired Euro brewery, BrewDog boomeranged back to the states for a renaissance in production that breathed new life into the brand. A Scottish export, BrewDog operates 50 bars around the world. An “alternative small business” model encourages investors from across the globe to own a piece of the pub. They call themselves “Equity For Punks,” and at 46,000 strong, they’ve provided the capital to bring the Dog to Central Ohio in a big way. The brewhouse and taproom, located in Canal Winchester, was first U.S. foray when doors opened this spring, along with its in-house bar, DogTap Columbus. Offering shuffleboard and arcade games, this location will be BrewDog’s largest worldwide. With the brewery and bar on deck, BrewDog is already expanding into downtown with another location, slated to open in Franklinton this summer. Hop on this booze-and-games train as the brewery sets down roots in the good ol’ US of A.
What the Waffle
117 Oak St.
There’s something a bit magical about the little, unassuming building on Oak St. Now the Columbus Food Hub, it’s been the starting grounds for some of the city’s freshest culinary concepts—namely Hot Chicken Takeover and J Hot Fish. Today, it’s the spot for What the Waffle, a set-up as simple as it is sweet. In addition to its limited-time-only hours (7-11 a.m. weekdays), WTW has but a few items to choose from—and they’re all damn good. Want a waffle breakfast sandwich? Good. It’s gonna have cheddar cheese and a fried egg. It’s just down to you to pick bacon or sausage. Only redskin potatoes and sweet potato muffins grace the rest of the menu, with little to distract you from the titular task at hand.
What a concept…
Buckeye Bourbon House
36 E Gay St.
Okay, we give: such simple branding is difficult to resist. Something about seeing our two favorite B-words right next to each other already has us unconsciously heading toward Gay Street.
There’s enough well-crafted small plates to keep gas in the tank (maple bacon donuts and pulled pork paninis would make for a solid Downtown pre-game), but the food is just the backup option here. Sip through 40 different makes of the magical mash—including rare finds on this side of the Bluegrass state (Wild Turkey’s Diamond Anniversary, Knob Creek 2001) and craft spirits from far away lands, like California’s Amador 10.
Either way, you had us at the B’s.
Watershed Kitchen and Bar
1145 Chesapeake Ave.
Honest, Midwestern food. That’s how Watershed describes the fare at the restaurant that they swore would never happen—owners Dave Rigo and Greg Lehman wanted to focus their efforts on running their distillery. They went from concept to concrete in about six months—lightning fast in an industry where openings are pushed back, and investors frequently fall through. With their own capital, and heading the design, the duo went full steam ahead. Soon, Watershed had the kitchen that was never intended. The eatery is nestled next to the distillery, and the giant stills can be seen through a glass wall in the dining room, reminding everyone of Watershed’s first love. Sit and eat and see the passion that made the not-so-accidental eatery happen.
195 Chittenden Ave.
Cooking with fire is the Texas way. Offering vegetarian alternatives with your barbeque brings that wild west style full circle back to the heart of it all. Owners John Havens and Aaron Mercier have been friends since high school, and their take on the smokey practice is unique. The campus-area BBQ joint’s menu features mouth-watering items like pulled pecan-smoked ruby trout, rib-meat poutine with mole gravy, and the “Austin Hangover” featuring up to a full pound of pulled pork or brisket, slow-cooked for 18-hours in one of Rooks’ two custom smokers—affectionately named “Pancho” and “Lefty.” Havens quips, “Every culture in the world has a barbeque tradition.” This might just be the beginning of ours.
987 N Fourth St.
The folks at Grow didn’t spend much time mourning the loss of Salt & Pine, considering shortly after closing its doors they were focusing on opening Cosecha. Chef Silas Caeton grew up with a dad who spent time in Mexico during medical school. He was fluent in Spanish, and passed his love of the culture and the food down to his son. Caeton is not Mexican, and doesn’t claim authenticity of cuisine, but rather, his own take on the food he has come to love. He embarked on a discovery trip to Rio Blanco, where he investigated methods and ingredients he would bring back to the states for his curated menu. The items on offer will include tamales made with corn grown in Oaxaca, then ground locally in Columbus. Determined to make the menu sources as local as possible, he has been test-growing plants used for spices and sauce that can’t be found in our temperate Midwestern climate. Slated to open in March, Cosecha Cocina will offer a new world of flavor to Columbusites.
Platform Beer Co.
406 N Sixth St.
Platform Beer Co is a Cleveland brewery with designs on the capital city. They opened up a new brewhouse and bar in the Discovery District around the new year, and the taps have been a-flowin ever since. The head brewers, Dan Reeve and Blake Mikesell have been living in Columbus since long before Platform tapped them for their talent. They have watched the city grow, and welcome the Cleveland expats with open arms. Platform set up shop in the old Carfagna’s meat packing plant, giving the brewhouse an open, factory feel, and carrying on the local history of the space.
825 Polaris Pkwy
Hold the damn phone—Duck Donuts ain’t just another bakery where you can go in and pick out a chocolate frosted sugar bomb to satisfy your sweet tooth. No sir. At this donut shop franchise in Westerville, you fill out an order form, design the donut of your dreams, and they make it to order. You can even turn your donut into an ice cream sundae, and get yourself a nice hot cuppa Joe to help avoid the sugar coma. A visit to their website encourages you to print out your order form at home, and fill it out for when you visit their bakery in the flesh. One can only assume that stepping into the place causes a form of donut vertigo that might slow down the ordering process. Check out their menu online, or head inside and let your nose guide you.
Elia Athenian Grill
20 N High St.
Y’all remember when Downtown was just a bunch of generic delis and coffee shops? Those days are long-gone, my friend, as the lunch gods continue to bestow the suit-and-tie crowd with more elevated options. Enter Elia Athenian Grill at Broad and High, a fast-casual, make-your-own joint that offers finer food, yet with an understanding of the needs of an on-the-go urban eater. No MSG and no preservatives, but you still get freshly shaved, slow-roasted meat from that traditional rotisserie, which we’re pretty sure, in Greek, means “hell yes.”
Biscuit & Branch
685 N High St.
Welcome Columbus’s newest tribute to contradiction, serving some of the most rustic, Southern-inspired food amidst its modern marble walls, and atop its slate concrete tables.
But, man…those biscuits. They were enough to give one of our writers a damn-near existential epiphany—so good that they could admit that it rivaled their own family favorite.
But your family—god bless ’em—probably aren’t able to spin off as many inventive uses of the starched stuff. The Memphis Benny (two over easy eggs, shaved country ham, sausage gravy); the Biscuit French Toast (blueberry compote, Ohio maple syrup, lemon zest, mascarpone); the Daddy Frankie (grilled beef tenderloin, sage butter, stone-ground cheese grits, scrambled egg); and the Paul’s Nasty (spicy fried boneless chicken thigh, sausage gravy, Tillamook reserve cheddar), all floating on that fluffy pillow of flour and flavor. We almost had to go back four different times in the joint’s first week.
Credit to Culinary Director Paul Yow (Barcelona, Hae Paul’s, Westies) for his tasty homage.
GoreMade Wood Fired Pizza
936 N Fourth St.
When Nick Gore opened the small wood-fired pizza shop next door to Little Rock last fall, he made the place feel like home. Starting a pizza joint isn’t exactly setting out to break the mold, so he decided to do his own version of the familiar, and do it well. A chalkboard menu boasts the impermanence of the fresh, daily offerings, and the combinations of local ingredients aim to create new flavor profiles that set GoreMade apart from its chain location brethren. With amalgamations like basil pesto, sunflower sprouts, kalamata olives, tomatoes from the farmer’s market, and the unexpected garnish of the sweet and spicy radish-like Nasturtium flower, Gore can tickle palates with his novel flavors, while making a pizza-eater feel right at home. Backed by signature cocktails and a selection of local beers, the hand-tossed pies are sure to shine. From the cozy patio to the 1,000-degree, wood-fed oven, GoreMade plays with the notion of familiarity and adventure while never losing sight of the original goal: damn good pizza.
503 S Front St.
Rockmill Brewery is a Lancaster landmark on a former horse farm that Columbus day-trippers emerge from with starry eyes and plans to return. Its Columbus taproom, Rockmill Tavern, is a close-to-the-capital taste of such rural comfort. Styled with reclaimed barn wood and a living wall courtesy of Stump Plants, Rockmill has managed to make the city sister of their brewery an inviting respite from the busy streets of downtown. The taps are filled with Rockmill Brewery creations, and the custom cocktail menu utilizes OYO liquors in its libations. The espresso bar is not to be missed. (It’s worth mentioning we had one of the best cups of coffee we’ve ever had in Columbus after dinner here one rainy evening.) Rockmill Tavern also boasts something the brewery cannot—food. The menu at the Tavern is elevated without being pretentious. There is more than one iteration of duck, and the burger is skillfully and simply done. Each dish has a complimentary beer or liquor to round out the palate. Visit the city kid for a beer and a bite, and don’t forget her country sister back on the farm.