Pier W in Lakewood, Ohio

Meals On Wheels

The sheer number of restaurants in Columbus to try—new and old—is mind-bending.

Hell, you could fill up a whole magazine just talking about the food and drink in this city (and we do).

Still, sometimes getting outta Dodge is just what the diner ordered.

There are many little mom and pop shops and historical spots that a local can travel to for an evening of dining in, or a shopping excursion to bring ingredients and goodies back to the capital city. They are all within the border of the heart of it all, and some are just a quick jaunt. Join us as we round up some gastro-getaways for your date night, Sunday brunch, or weekend escapade.


There are some shopping/eating experiences that are worth driving for. (We’re looking at you, Ikea.) There’s nothing like a little country store stroll in the summer, or getting gifts from your friends from a quaint little spot. These places are great for getting a bite for yourself, and bringing some home for a friend. A roadside produce stand that eventually grew into a six-figure square-footage international market? Thanks Jungle Jim’s, we’ll be seeing ya in Fairfield. How can you not wanna visit a place like Spoon Market & Deli in Wooster, that started with 14 seats and now offers 29 craft beer brands? A one-stop bridal shop, a reconstructed railroad station, and item called “Bacon Cheeseburger Salad”? I am already in the car, headed to Unusual Junction in West Lafayette and its Lava Rock Grill. My best travel advice, in six words: Grandpa’s Cheesebarn, Ashland. Change/shorten life.” Wanna go real country? Go dine “where the cows were kept, farmhands worked, and friends gathered after a hard day’s work,” at The Barn Restaurant in Smithville.

Destination Dining

Sometimes you want a birthday weekend getaway for your honey, and sometimes, you want a pot of gold at the end of your mini-road-trip rainbow. It’s worth it to treat yo self once in awhile, and these Ohio spots can deliver. Continuously operating since 1803, The Golden Lamb Inn in Lebanon is Ohio’s longest continually operating business. Stay at the Inn overnight, so you can enjoy The Black Horse Tavern to your heart’s (and stomach’s) content. The Pine Club in Dayton was named one of the Top Two Steakhouses in the country by the Food Network. Who’s the other one? WHO CARES. The “W” in Pier W (left) in Lakewood is for, as far as we’re concerned—wonder. A sunset meal suspended over Lake Erie is not your usual response to “what did you do this weekend? Ever felt like eating a farm-fresh meal at the site of Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall’s wedding? We know the answer: it’s Malabar Farm Restaurant in Lucas, it’s also a state park, and you can visit Malabar Farm just up the road. The former Mount Vernon “candyland” that is the Alcove Tavern has upscale fare and and an upstairs dinner theatre. Enjoy beautiful lodging, and horses that roam the expansive grounds at Guggisberg Swiss Inn in Millersberg. Chalet in the Valley Restaurant is within walking distance, as well as Doughty Glen Winery. These spots are special occasion destinations that are decidedly a little on the fancy side.

Diners, Drive-ins … Trains?

As history’s heavy hitters, this group has one thing in common: A great story. Once something has withstood the test of time, it’s worth the drive to check it out for yourself. Sure, there’s a real novelty to the newest gastrobrewpub in a hip part of town, but sometimes you get an itch that only classic Americana can scratch. These spots are strides beyond greasy spoon, but they are as unpretentious as they come. Hats off to Buckeye Express Diner in Bellville for the simplest, most succinct slogan in all of food: “We provide homemade comfort food in an Ohio themed train car!” Try to trackdown the Mothman in Pomeroy and then wash down the adventure with a “Chum Bucket” full of peel and eat shrimp at Court Street Grill. Go Back to the Future by traveling deep south down High Street for a retro meal at Diner 23 in Waverly, where every single menu item is under 10 bucks. The first Crabill’s hamburger was served in 1927 out of a barn in Urbana for a nickel. The gas is more expensive, but the burger not much. You’ll never forget the “Hungarian hot dog” at the original Tony Packo’s in Toledo. The Fork and Finger in Portsmouth is proof that some of the best food comes from a menu scrawled on a whiteboard, day-of. Pull your car up to The Spot to Eat’s car-hop service for greasy goodness—and make sure to take a pie or two for the road. At the Nutcracker Family Restaurant in Pataskala, the bacon-wrapped meatloaf embraces an old-school philosophy on cholesterol.