(Note: this post was originally posted in the Travel section of the Charleston Gazette-Mail on July 10, 2016. It was an honor to be featured and share some of my favorite places to dine in Columbus.)
Ohio’s tourism slogan might be “The Heart of It All,” but the capital city of Columbus is quickly becoming the heart — and soul — of the state’s culinary scene.
You can find this surprising dining metropolis just a quick, three-hour jaunt from Charleston, making it the ideal weekend getaway this summer. Columbus is a known haven for breakfast fanatics and ice cream enthusiasts, but there are plenty of options for every taste and budget.
Here’s a quick breakdown of how a weekend might go:
Upon your Friday arrival, head for the historic neighborhood of German Village for a casual dinner with drinks. Harvest Pizzeria is the perfect place to unwind after the drive, followed by libations at its sister spot, Curio.
The focus at Harvest is on local ingredients, and the pizza shines as a result. Don’t miss the Spicy Yuma pie, on a blackened and chewy crust topped with a chipotle-spiked sauce, corn, chorizo, roasted peppers, cheese and jalapeños. Add an optional egg on top and let the runny yolk ooze and enhance every bite.
To fight off the heat, head next door to Curio for innovative Prohibition-era cocktails like a Silver Dollar Pony, swimming in bourbon and bitters.
The next morning, venture over to Fox in the Snow Café for breakfast in Italian Village. This newer spot boasts excellent pour-over coffee, tantalizing custard donuts, and an arugula-crowned egg sandwich that will have you raving. Make sure to get there early or you might miss out on some of the best of the baked goods.
To stock your pantry at home, make North Market your next stop. Here you can purchase everything from colorful macaroons to crusty marble rye, and it is also the best way to get a taste of Columbus for lunch.
Hot Chicken Takeover is a personal favorite, specializing in fiery fried chicken and cool house-made ranch, but don’t forget about renowned Katzinger’s Deli Reubens, Brezel’s jumbo chocolate chip pretzels or healthy quiches from Little Eater.
To enjoy a sunny Columbus afternoon, shopaholics can journey to Easton Town Center, an outdoor fashion mecca, while families and animal lovers can spend the afternoon at the award-winning Columbus Zoo.
At dinnertime, there are many mouthwatering choices, but for road trippers Wolf’s Ridge Brewing is an easy winner. Such beautifully plated dishes aren’t typically found in a brewery, but this restaurant excels at both food and beer. The bright and modern interior is the perfect place to indulge in dishes such as corn bisque and scallops, all paired with craft brews in every imaginable style.
Banish your sweet tooth by heading to the area’s most beloved ice cream purveyor for dessert: Jeni’s Splendid Ice Creams. There are various locations around the city, so stop into the shop nearest you, and experience the wide array of seasonal flavors. Opt for the mini scoops to try all the varieties, like salty caramel, pistachio and honey, or biscuits and peach jam.
Before leaving town, brunch at Katalina’s Cafe is essential. The Breakfast Tacos and the sweet-and-spicy glazed bacon are fabulous, but the must-try items are the pancake balls. Plump nuggets of pancake batter are filled with your choice of Nutella, dulce de leche caramel or pumpkin-apple butter, and these bites are ready for dunking in maple syrup.
Fresh-squeezed juices and hot coffee will help kick-start your day, and the umbrella-filled patio laden with picnic tables make for a cozy morning experience. Katalina’s alone is worth the journey to Ohio.
With its short distance from Charleston and wallet-friendly lodgings, Columbus is the ultimate road trip destination for local foodies.