Find out where in-the-know locals go for their favorite cheap ($10), rich ($100) or sweet bites in the capital city
By (614) MagazinePublished July 27, 2012
1. Blake Compton
Founder, Hudson Street Hooligans
Cheap: Johnnies Tavern on Trabue. The only place I go to get my drink on in San Margherita. For a 10 spot, I’ll omnomnom down a Super Cheeseburger with bacon, extra bacon and a side of bacon. Oh boy – just the thought of that makes me squeal. What kind of beverage would this ‘lil pig enjoy? Well the only freaking draft they have on tap. A nice pint of Yuengling lager – and I’m such a regular they know I don’t want no frosted mug. I may like my beer cold, but I like keeping the drinking sensations in my hand alive! Seriously, they’ve got some cold-ass beer.
Rich: Oh the joy of spending $100 on a date … how many times have I taken a girl out for a date dropping one-tenth of a G and realizing all I got was 50 dollars worth of food and a night of head shaking as they babble about the next episode of True Blood. If I was freely dropping 100 bucks on myself, I’d end up at the Jury Room chomping into a few appetizers, where I inevitably can’t decide which one to pick so I go with a Trial by Fire – a sampling of them all. After that, we are off to the races to see how many Kentucky Bourbon Barrel Ales I can down while still being able to calculate the size of the tip I’ll give the server. A 100-dollar tab includes a 20-dollar tip, right?
Sweet: New to the scene, a simple dish called Hodduk made by a gypsy style restaurant. I say that because it’s a food truck. Ajumama, with Korean leaning cuisine. You might ask yourself, “Blake you are ridiculous, and write like a 10-year-old, why were you picked to do this segment?” To that I would answer: Stay on task; this section is about sweets not my hobknobbing. Hodduk is a splendiferous dessert-style pancake filled with yummy cinnamon, crunchy walnuts and my type of sugar: brown. All warm and delightful inside, the taste is heaven and the price is nom-nom-nominal.
2. Danielle Elias
Cheap: I’m barely slipping under the $10 mark on this one, but I have to say both the slow-roasted pork & egg sandwich at Katalina’s Cafe and the bohn-fire sandwich at Commonwealth Sandwich Shop are mouth-watering. Clearly there’s a pork theme here, but I have to tell you, each sandwich is so different and so special. The way the pork & egg melts in your mouth in a spicy, sweet, salty kind of way, or the way the cilantro and jalapenos crunch and pop in contrast to the succulent pork shoulder … yum! There are days I dream of these sandwiches. True story.
Rich: If I truly want a fine-dining experience with top-notch cuisine, classic concoctions, and quite an impressive story to tell ... there’s one place in Columbus that does it right every time. The Refectory. The only challenge while sitting down for a meal there is trying to narrow down what I want to eat from such an impressive menu. From the marble of escargot, to the roasted fresh goat cheese, the marinated bison loin and the veal tenderloin & sweet corn stuffed quail, it’s impossible to go wrong. And, just when I think I can’t possibly stuff myself any more ... they draw me in with their “world-famous” creme brulee. Anyone who knows me, knows I LOVE dark chocolate, but their brulee is a game-changer.
Sweet: Speaking of dark chocolate, a quick trip to the German Village is a good one when it includes a trip to Pistacia Vera. Just a few bites of their chocolate bombe is something words can’t describe. The crisp dark chocolate shell on the outside and the creamy chocolate mouse on the inside is a win-win. I know most folks gravitate toward their colorful little macarons, but I’ll gladly put those aside for a moment of indulgence with their dark chocolate-y dessert. Did I mention they have great coffee, too? Also, it’s not a formal shop, but the home bakery, Layer, has a killer dark chocolate espresso tart.
3. Jason Quicksall
Musician, Cowtown Round
Cheap: If you have $10 to spend, you go to Nazareth Deli. I would get Spicy Chicken on Rice with french fries OR if it was Sunday, then I would get the Spaghetti Special at Villa Nova. I wouldn’t have enough money to buy a big frosty mug of beer, but I would stare longingly at those drinking them across the bar.
Rich: I would just chow at Bahn Thai. Entrees aren’t too expensive so I would get like three, along with some dumplings, and proceed get my drink on. Ate there this past week, and I think it was the best meal I’ve ever had in Columbus.
Sweet: Well, I don’t have a huge sweet tooth, so I would go to Jeni’s because my girlfriend (Bree Frick) loves it more than life itself.
4. Rachael Ranney
Cheap: I would go to Creole Kitchen, and order shrimp po boy and a sweet tea. Chef Butcher is the only man I trust with New Orleans food here in Columbus, Ohio. Carry-out only and it’s mind-boggling delicious. Their crawfish etoufee is phenomenal.
Rich: Akaihana on Old Henderson and Bethel. It’s the No. 1 restaurant among the native Japanese community in Columbus. Simple, clean lines and everything is unique, authentic, and exotic. The best sushi in the city.
Sweet: I don’t have a big sweet tooth, but I have very little willpower when it comes to Pistachia Vera. I can never get a box of macarons home. I buy one and usually destroy it before it gets back to my house. Their artistry completely overpowers my lack of sweet tooth.
5. Jeffrey Stavroff
Assistant City Attorney
Cheap: Press Grill. Everything at Press is awesome: the food, the beer, and the people. You can’t go wrong with any of their daily specials. It’s an absolute joy to go on Sundays, when the special is a $9.99 NY strip steak with a potato.
Rich: M at Miranova. Simply walking through the entrance doors to the Miranova building makes me feel like I’m living the high life. Cameron Mitchell’s restaurant M only adds to that high life. Indeed, the food is decadent, tasty, and artfully prepared. However, the cocktails are out of this world. You’re a fool – and I won’t want to talk to you – if you don’t have at least three cocktails when you go.
Sweet: Resch’s Bakery. My Mom always stopped by Resch’s to pick up sweets and breads. I always remember getting airy French cruller donuts with an oversized chocolate milk. Although Columbus now has many great bakeries and sweet shops, Resch’s is an institution. This place blows all other bakeries out of the water.
6. Andrew Levitt
a.k.a. entertainer Nina West
Cheap: I love to eat, and if you have seen my glitter and rhinestone belt expand, it should be no surprise as Columbus is full of great cheap eats. I have a ton of favorites, but my current go-to spot after a show is Dirty Franks. I have about five to six favorites, but my top two of the moment are Lara’s Pittsburgh Princess and Slappy Pappy’s Super Sloppy. Get one of ‘em charred, the other bacon-wrapped, and top it off with a delicious and refreshing PBR, and we are talking some of the best cheap eats around. And my love affair with Liz Lessner stays completely intact.
Rich: You know, one of the best meals I have had in a long time was at the amazing L’Antibes. My boyfriend and I celebrated a recent anniversary there, and the atmosphere provided a cozy and romantic setting with savory and insanely delicious food. I had the sweetbreads au poivre, and I think I talked about it to anyone who would listen for about two weeks. I don’t think you can go wrong with anything on the menu as I think executive chef Matthew Litzinger wouldn’t allow it. Perfection for the palate.
Sweet: I am a Columbus gal, through and through, and I have to pick Jeni’s Ice Cream to give myself that ultimate indulgence. It really is one of my very favorite things about this city. I take every special guest there. I tweet about the flavors incessantly. I talk about it more than is probably healthy. Current trio obsessions? Juniper and Lemon Curd, Backyard Mint, and Wildberry Lavender. I have dreams that one day Jeni and I will conquer the world together but until then, I just keep sampling the flavors at the Short North store until they make me decide on what I will be eating.
7. Roni Stiffler
Co-Owner, The Tree Bar
Cheap: I love Pei Wei. Price is good, flavor is good, variety is good. If I am downtown, it’s a Cuban sandwich from Plantain Cafe. However it’s Five Guys or Jersey Mikes if I am hungover … which happens on occasion.
Rich: Cameron’s, Milestone 229, Latitude 41 – I love them all. Cameron’s is probably my all-time favorite. Milestone has given it a good run since it opened. It’s like your two kids fighting to be your favorite but the oldest clearly is – the oldest came first, duh. I really hope my mom sees this.
Sweet: I am a sucker … for sure SUCKA for sweets. Since I have been on a diet for the last six years or so, I try to stay away from the sweet stuff. Honestly, my mom’s blueberry pie is the best you can get. If I were spending money, I would just get her the stuff to make it. But I digress; this is about a place to go and it would have to be Jeni’s Ice Cream. It’s probably the only place I will go.
8. Dan Swartwout
Comedian, Cash Explosion
Cheap: Rotolo’s Pizza. Do you remember how the Goonies reacted to seeing that pirate ship? That’s how I felt the first time I had Rotolo’s. From that moment on, Rotolo’s became an important part of my life. How important? It’s our family’s traditional Christmas Eve dinner.
Rich: Thai Orchid in Powell. I love spicy Thai food, and Thai Orchid takes spice seriously. One time, they prepared my meal with the following special instructions: “!EX EX EX EX EX E !HOT” (I took a picture of my receipt to commemorate the occasion). It was amazing. With $100, I could eat that same meal and order four more to go.
Sweet: I want a 3D cake that looks like a Rotolo’s Pizza. Can somebody do that? It would make a perfect dessert for Christmas Eve.
9. Erin Corrigan
Organizer, Independent’s Day
Cheap: I’ve traveled all over the world – Kyoto, Zürich, Cape Town, Prague, Copán Ruinas, Paris and so on – and Tip Top’s mac ‘n cheese is my favorite non-dessert thing anywhere. I’d eat it every day if I could. Although, if we’re talking about the non-mac ’n cheese hours of the day (i.e. breakfast), the Cloud Nine Pancakes at North Star are amazing. I don’t do a lot of pancakes, but these could become a serious habit.
Rich: Alana’s is full of quirky surprises – right down to actually listing “a surprise” as a menu item. The combinations of flavors in each dish are so unique: cucumber/mint/vinho verde, avocado/lobster, chili/lime/melon/cucumber/peanut … the list goes on. I always want to try everything on the menu.
Sweet: Even though it’s not my final answer, I have to give props to Pattycake Bakery for their orange creamsicle cupcakes, which I swear have life-saving properties (in addition to abundant deliciousness). But I’m a die-hard Jeni’s fan from way back in the Scream days. I’ve been known to go to North Market for a fix two or three times a week, and to reminisce ad nauseam about the incredibly lengthy list of flavors gone by (Plum Wine, for example – not to be confused with the Plum Sake Sorbet of today). Tom Bauer once joked that if they were to open a Jeni’s in Guam, I’d show up there. He’s probably right.
10. Jordan Kuntz
Marketing Specialist, CD101
Cheap: North Market. That’s a no-brainer. For $10, I can get a Salsalito Turkey Sandwich from Best of the Wurst, or pierogis from Hubert’s Polish Kitchen, or sushi from Nida’s … you get where this is going. There’s no other place you can get such a great variety of food made by people who care about their ingredients and where they came from.
Rich: Basi Italia. I’ll never forget the first time I ate there. It’s kind of hidden on a side street in Victorian Village so I wasn’t expecting to find the most romantic patio in Columbus, which it is. Another time while dining there I was so inspired (by the crab and sweet corn risotto and grilled watermelon salad) that I went home and attempted to recreate the meal. Unfortunately, I’m not as talented as chef Johnny Dornback, or as charming as his wife Trish, but thankfully I live in the neighborhood so I don’t have to go far to enjoy it.
Sweet: I don’t have much of a sweet tooth. Give me a beautiful cheese plate or a glass of bubbly for dessert, and I’m in heaven. Having said that though, I’m kind of obsessed with Pistachia Vera in that I want to live in their gorgeous shop in German Village and eat all the croissants and homemade preserves. And if you haven’t tried their macarons, you’re truly missing one of the most surprisingly delicious treats in Columbus.