A lot can change in five years. Kids become teenagers, phones turn into computers and cities transform. Coming back to Columbus after five years of living abroad, the last statement has never been more apparent. The changes are readily visible when I drive down High Street, with the new OSU dorms on campus, Long’s Book Store now an empty parking lot, and shiny high rise condos towering over either side of the Short North, but what might be even more striking, and heartening, are all of the locally-owned restaurants, coffee shops and bars that have cropped up around the city like the corn for which Ohio is known around the world.
Coming back home, I’m reminded of how memories are inextricably attached to place and how new places give us the opportunity to form new impressions of a home we once knew so well. With that in mind, I set out for a day of exploring the Columbus food scene, to see what’s changed, what’s new and what’s just as I left it.
A new vibe in German Village
I started the day at one of Columbus’ recent success stories — Fox in the Snow. With their first café launched back in 2014, I had been following the rise of Lauren Culley and Jeff Excell’s pastry and coffee venture on my periodic visits home for several years now. As a coffee lover with a major sweet tooth, I was an instant devotee and always curious to see on Instagram which pastries they would roll out next.
That’s why I was happy to learn of their most recent expansion to German Village. The snow was lightly falling as I approached their new, sturdy brick home on Thurman Avenue, which I later learned was a movie theater in the 1920s. In my mind, the perfect worn-in building for the comforting pastries and sweets that are Fox in the Snow’s trademark.
Ordering a blueberry danish and a classic drip coffee, I took the corner seat, a great spot for people watching as neighbors came in to grab a quick coffee and people met up to talk business or catch up. The danish was flaky and sugar-studded, and the blueberries, though not in season, were still very much sweet. On the way out, I took note of Fox in the Snow’s aptly matched, millennial-geared neighbors: Native Cold Pressed, The W Nail Bar and STUMP plants—all companions with a similar aesthetic and ethos, complimenting each other and bringing a more modern vibe to this historic corner of German Village, which previously had only been on my radar thanks to the legendary Thurman Café down the street.
Fourth Street: from empty warehouses to a bevy of food spots
Next up, a visit to Fourth Street was in order, which I soon discovered is one of the real stars of all the new development in the city and probably one of the most dramatic transformations. When I left in 2013, Fourth Street was home to little more than a hookah bar and empty warehouses, yet in only five years time all the new development on High has trickled out to this more affordable area of the city, the affordability apparently encouraging local entrepreneurs to open restaurants, bars, and cafes aplenty. The street is lined with these starting stories, from Cosecha Cocina to Seventh Son to the soon-to-open Woodhouse Vegan.
One of these newcomers I was eager to try was GoreMade Pizza, a wood-fired pizzeria that launched in 2016. The brainchild of Nick Gore, the story goes that the business grew out of a weekly pizza night. After running a catering business out of his Subaru for a few years and selling at local farmers’ markets, Gore found a home in an old TV repair shop in the Italian Village section of Fourth Street. Sourcing fresh ingredients, the restaurant focuses on quality pizza with inventive toppings like squash sauce and Peppadew peppers. As I took a bite of my Clintonvillian pizza—an earthy variety featuring truffle oil—from my seat at the bar, I thought about how before I would only ever drive past where I now sat, thinking of it as little more than a means to an end, a way to get downtown or a faster route to High Street. These days it’s a destination in its own right, and if food is any indicator of the health of a city, then it seems that Columbus is filling out, offering ever more diverse options for a more balanced diet and surely a more vibrant economy.
The world to Columbus
For the final stop of the day, I headed to Franklinton to see how the craft beer scene was faring. The last time I was in Franklinton was back in the summer of 2013 for an Urban Scrawl. My memory of the area was that of a slightly rough-around-the edges yet burgeoning creative haven. Like many of the most interesting places, nothing was too done up or sealed off, giving the impression that anything was possible.
Five years later and now Franklinton’s unbound potential is much more reality than imagination. The artistic hotbed apparently catalyzing public and private investment in the form of new residential developments, offices, and a handful of interesting breweries, Brew Dog being chief among them. From the rooftop of their two story complex on Town Street, all of this was visible. With a fire pit crackling in the foreground and the Columbus skyline in the background, it felt like the perfect way to cap off the day’s explorations.
I’m standing on the freshly-poured patio of a UK based company with a Punk IPA in hand looking out at a Columbus in the midst of significant growth and change—a reminder that Columbus is becoming a destination in its own right throughout the region, and apparently internationally, as well. Funny to think that while I was off exploring other corners of the globe, people were starting to pay attention to the one I left behind, even making a point to stay put and set up shop, transforming a place I was once eager to leave into one where it now feels more difficult to say goodbye.
Story by Elizabeth Sensky.