By Pixie Bretney

Word of Mouth

You read all the fancy restaurant reviews you want—with some so precious they’ll spend 400 words alone just on the “ambiance.”

But sometimes, it really just comes down to what’s on the plate, as far as what keeps folks coming back.

So, we presented (614) readers—and a few of our writers—with a simple prompt:

If you had to recommend one menu item at any Columbus bar, restaurant, or food truck, what would it be? As in, “You’ve got to go to ______, just for the _______.”

Here’s what they dished:

By Brady Oxender

The Whitney House 

Fried Chicken

I go to The Whitney House just for the fried chicken. Their Sunday dinner special, the fried chicken, is everything food should be. Good God, the portion—white and dark and so much of each! I swear they give you a bird-and-a-half per order. Flavorful and crunchy breading—never oily—that clings just right to the meat. The chicken itself is soft, juicy, and simply falls apart in your mouth. No sauce is needed … but Lordy, the sauce! They call it “cinnarachy.” It’s cinnamon, Sriracha, and honey—and it’s heaven. Round out the plate with pickled vegetables and mac and cheese that deserves its own write-up, and you just can’t lose. Brady Oxender

By Samantha Siman

Rockmill Tavern 

Brussels sprouts

These aren’t the Brussels sprouts your mama made. You know, the ones you had to sit at the table until you finished? These are giant, but you’ll be glad since they’re caramelized with homemade honey mustard, and somehow simultaneously crispy and ooey-gooey. A side of these is more filling than french fries. And although I wouldn’t say they’re guilt-free or a health food, it’s okay to pretend they are. I like to pair them with the cheesy biscuits and make a meal out of sides. And if I’m really hungry, I get them on the side of the black truffle grilled cheese. Samantha Siman

By Jackie Kemble


Crispy Chicken Sandwich

The buttery toasted bun and mayo are perfectly balanced with the acid from the red onions and pickles—but the chicken really makes it. Hammered super thin, brined, lightly fried, and layered between amazingly simple but delicious ingredients. I can’t think of a word other than “perfect” to describe this sandwich. Actually—and I know these are fighting words—I defy you to find me a better one in the city. Get it with the Schmaltz Potatoes. You’re welcome.” – Jackie Kemble

By Steve Croyle

Lineage Brewing 

Hand Pies

That’s right. Hand pies. I thought the same thing: Are these people tricking me into eating Hot Pockets? Nope. The crust is flaky, crisp, and buttery. You could eat a bucket of empty crusts and be happy, but they aren’t empty. These are filled with deliciousness. They’re all great, but the breakfast hand pie best articulates the skills in this kitchen. Fluffy scrambled eggs, creamy sausage gravy, and gooey, cheesy potatoes, all cooked to perfection in a golden brown cocoon of awesome. The best brunch in town is wrapped in puff pastry, served with a side of roasted apples, and washed down with a Spacefruit, the Grapefruit infused IPA. – Steve V. Croyle 

By Melissa Holcomb

The Pearl

Beet Salad

Note to self: not all salads are green and leafy. And thank goodness… it would just get in the way of The Pearl’s beet salad—and its perfection! Red and golden beets with chunks of avocado and a crunch of granny smith and candied cashew is the perfect bite. But you can’t forget about the egg … oh the hardboiled egg! (I am a firm believer an egg can always be involved!) This dish offers so much in texture, flavor, and contrast-— the way the beet color bleeds through the buttermilk dressing (swoon) is beautiful. – Melissa Holcomb

By Pixie Bretney

Blind Lady Tavern

Pork Belly Banh Mi

It’s the perfect sandwich year-round! Warm, juicy five-spice braised pork belly, topped with cool and crunchy cilantro slaw backed by a little bit of jalapeño heat; homemade aioli on the perfect bun and house-made chips. Served up in a cool little historical joint with some of the best cocktails in town, you can’t go wrong! – Pixie Bretney

By Natalie Burkey

The Refectory

Crème brûlée

Sumptuous, dangerous, complicated. Words that can describe only one thing. Creme brulee at The Refectory. Once you tap through the bubbly sugar crust, your spoon plunges into a treasure trove of hot pudding that devastates your taste buds and leaves you clamoring after your waiter to order more, immediately. I simply cannot think of a better reason to frequent this fine dining establishment than for a bottle of wine expertly paired with “the creme brulee of the gods.” Bon appetite. – Natalie Burkey

By Justin McIntosh

The Angry Baker 

Seitan wings and waffles

Seitan is not only fun to pun, it’s also a treat to eat—particularly in the hands of the Angry Baker. Though I have, as an 11-year vegan, wholly discarded the particular primal pleasures of, say, gnawing on a Flintstones-sized meatstick at ComFest, I do understand why meat-replacement proteins often, in a word, suck. You won’t suffer any of those pains—or the pangs of hunger—with Owner Victoria Hink’s seitan wings and waffles. This delectably filling and satisfyingly decadent veganized version of the soul food classic might even prompt the staunchest paleo to yell out, upon finishing, “Hail, Seitan!” – Justin McIntosh