Curmudgeon in Training
Cheap: El Acapulco at Polaris. Bold statement: the best tacos in town. Skip the obligatory orange rice and refried beans and go for two soft tacos a la carte. Slow-simmered ground beef with a hint of clove and spice and poached chicken pulled off the bone, served in flour tortillas. Simple and perfect and you will be full. Test your fortitude with the housemade picosa sauce.
Rich: Moretti’s on Sawmill. Italian food has gotten a major facelift in recent years. Loads of Italian restaurants are specializing by region and season in an effort to distance themselves from the melted cheese and red sauce dishes of the forefathers. But what Italian kids want most are Italian-American classics done right. Every item that’s served in this place feels and tastes handmade. They’ve got a decent sized menu, but I’ve only had one entrée since the wife and I had our first “fancy” date there 17 years ago: the Veal Parmigiana. The alfredo sauce is super velvety. The wedding soup is fantastic, and the portion size of each entrée is good for two to three meals. You’re also likely to see a Santino there for most birthdays and anniversaries.
Sweet: I’m not a sweets guy, but the ice cream sandwiches from Jeni’s are so f*cking good that you won’t even care that you just spent like $7 on an ice cream sandwich.
P3 Magic Theater
Cheap: Every Sunday you can find me with a $10 bill in my hand, waiting at Ray Ray’s Hog Pit. Pulled Pork Sandwich topped with Ray Ray’s Sweet BBQ Sauce, with a medium baked beans and a soda of your choice. All for a solid 10 spot. Boom!
Rich: When I feel like suiting up for the night, I’m at the bar at the Rossi. Porcini Rubbed Hanger Steak never disappoints. Josh behind the bar makes Manhattans like he invented them. The Yukon Gold French Fries are the best fries I’ve had in Columbus.
Sweet: I am not huge on desert, however I am a sucker for a good after dinner drink. Try a Sazerac and soak up the history at the Elevator Bar. Legend says Sazerac was America’s first cocktail. Be sure to challenge a friend to a game of billiards on their table from 1884.
Cheap: Nong’s Hunan Express. I’ve probably tried the pad thai at 50 places since moving to Columbus, and Nong’s has always been my favorite (and their Phad See-Ew is great).The owners are so nice; I hate to admit they recognize my voice when I call for takeout. Plus it’s tucked away a bit, which makes you feel like you discovered the place.
Rich: Basi Italia. Continuing with the “tucked away” theme, Basi is always my favorite place to go when I feel like celebrating. Braised pork belly and the butternut squash risotto with a nice bottle of red wine; great cold weather meal. And what really makes Basi for me is the cozy, intimate dining room.
Sweet: Been digging the Fox in the Snow Cafe. I have a serious sweet tooth, and their cinnamon rolls remind me of what my grandma makes! It’s a really cool space with great coffee and they don’t have Wi-Fi, which is a bonus for someone tethered to their computer. Now if they’d just take away my phone too, I could relax.
Cheap: When lacking in funds, one spot that makes your dollar go farther is El Manantial Latino. One of the great Latin American food trucks in Columbus, it covers all of your staples: tacos, burritos, tortas, but also specialties like handmade empanadas and papa rellenas. Plus, with El Manantial residing in the parking lot of the 14-0 Carry Out on Hudson, you can grab your favorite ice-cold beer to wash it all down.
Rich: When I’ve got Benjamins to spend, I’d likely end up at Barrel [Spirits on High] in the Short North. Not only does Barrel offer its customers a great menu with options ranging from delicious pan-seared scallops to their amazing pomodoro burger, but their whiskey selection is top-notch. If you’re like me, you could spend all $100 on whiskey in a place like this, but luckily for you, you probably won’t remember spending it anyway.
Sweet: I’m more of a digestif man than a dessert guy, but when I do need to satisfy the ol’ sweet tooth I usually stop into Mozart’s Bakery. Formerly in the North Campus area, Mozart’s now resides on High Street, just north of Beechwold. This bakery excels in a number of desserts like their tortes, cakes, and cookies, but my absolute favorite is their marzipan peach. Tastes as good as it looks!
Cheap: I’m going to have to go with Cornerstone Deli in Clintonville. Where else can you get a breakfast sandwich, a fresh sushi roll, and a French dip all at the same place? It’s right down the street from my house, and I seem to always run into someone I know.
Rich: I’m not much for fine dining, but I have always had an affinity for The Top in Bexley. It’s like walking into an episode of Mad Men. I wanna light up a Lucky Strike just thinking about it.
Sweet: Now you’re speaking my language. What’s better than sweet pastries and strong espresso with friends? I just went to Fox in the Snow Café. Caffeine, sugar, and good tunes on the turntable…perfect. There’s also Rambling House Soda Shop—soda counts as a sweet, right?