Arena District Eats

The Arena District is more than just a place to dine when you’re attending a Clippers or Blue Jackets game! Although it’s an incredibly convenient place to visit for a concert or sporting events, I’ve been spending a lot of time in the area lately doing one of my favorite things – devouring delicious food! Throughout the course of this Arena District eating adventure, I’ve discovered a major obsession (the locally-sourced fare from Veranico, and especially their shortbread cookies), a new spot for brunch (hi, cinnamon roll pancake from Sunny Street), and loads of craft beer too. Whether you’re seeking brunch, dinner, or drinks, the Arena District has you covered – just keep on reading.

Brunch and Lunch

If you haven’t hit up Sunny Street Cafe yet for brunch and tried the aforementioned cinnamon roll pancake, you are missing out. This confection has an actual swirl of caramelized crunchy bits in the batter, plus a dulce de leche drizzle. If savory is more your style, there are some unique selections here as well – think stuffed biscuits and gravy or chorizo chili Tex Mex omelettes. The cute patio tucked on the side of the building is a beautiful spot for warm weather people-watching while you sip your coffee. There are also different kinds of flavored creamers on the table (this is important to me, ok?) and Sunny Street features Ohio maple syrup for their sweet dishes.

I wrote about Veranico in more detail here, but I can’t say enough good things about this concept. The salads are enormous, laden with toppings, and make even this anti-greens lady love their offerings. This spot is fast-casual but still gets as many ingredients from local farmers as possible, in addition to sporting craft beer, panini, and some utterly craveable baked goods.

Some other spots to sample: Zoup (feauring 12 daily varieties of warm and hearty soup) or a bison burger at Ted’s Montana Grill.

Dinner and Drinks

I’ve got nada but good things to say about Nada. It’s located right across from the Arena, has pork belly tacos, and a divine cheesecake with berry sorbet on top. This contemporary Mexican joint also makes a mean margarita and has a hip happy hour, meaning it’s an ideal venue for almost any occasion.

For burgers and brews, Half Pint is the perfect pre-game spot, or just to catch up with friends. The Pint Room’s sister spot boasts dozens of beers on tap from all over, and I can’t get enough of the just-crazy-enough PBBJ burger: peanut butter, bacon, and strawberries piled high on a patty.

Gordon Biersch is another crowd-friendly option for suds and spuds. The restaurant has beer flights with a fun twist: you pick 5 mini beers to taste, and your server surprises you by picking out the sixth one. My husband and I both raved about the cheese curd appetizer too – these fried nuggets are dished up with a sprinkle of candied bacon and side of creamy bacon dip for dunking. Definitely ask for extra of this stuff, because you won’t want to share. Other munchies you must order: the bottomless Legendary Garlic Fries, sky-high bread pudding, and the Marzen beer-glazed wings.

More dinner destinations: Buca di Beppo for some seriously huge portions of Italian food, or Boston’s the Gourmet Pizza for pie in every style imaginable.

Additional fun spots for drinks: With a group, Big Bang Piano Dueling Piano Bar always makes for a memorable musical evening, or try the Three Legged Mare for bourbon, whiskey, and Irish pub grub.

Culinary Clue: Looking for a place to park? Many of the Arena District area restaurants offer $3 validated parking for the first two hours when you dine with them. Get maps and details here: https://arenadistrict.com/parking/.  Make sure you take the time to stroll around the area as well; there are some gorgeously landscaped nooks and parks hidden in throughout!

Keep Connected,

Caroline

Disclosure: The Arena District invited me to visit some of the restaurants on this list and receive complimentary meals. All opinions contained within are my own. 

Caroline’s Picks: 5 Charcuterie Plates to Try

To me, meat and cheese plates are an acceptable lunch, snack, or let’s face it – sometimes my entire dinner. Maybe this is why I need to go to Europe? Charcuterie is a great shareable with friends, and pairs perfectly with beer, wine, and spirits, so what’s not to love? I can’t resist sampling all the different spreads and breads that accompany a good charcuterie plate either, so it really is a dream meal for me. Fortunately, Columbus restaurants are stepping up the game and offering some tempting selections. Here are a few of my favorite local platters:

Rockmill Tavern

http://rockmilltavern.com/
Rockmill Tavern - Charcuterie

In addition to having incredible beer and a craveable burger, the charcuterie at Rockmill Tavern is a guaranteed crowd-pleaser. The pickled veggies are tangy and delightful, and the portion is generous. Frequently, this dish features dark chocolate, which it turns out, is a wonderful compliment to the savory items on the board.

Click here to read my full post on Rockmill Tavern.

The Table

https://www.thetablecolumbus.com/

Dabs of jam, in-house cured meats, and plenty of treats for all on this cheese board! I love that you can scale the size of this charcuterie plate for one, for two, or family-style (four meats, three cheeses, and plenty of accoutrements). Plus, the offerings on this dish change all the time, so even on a return visit there will be different seasonal ingredients.

Barcelona

http://www.barcelonacolumbus.com/

For a Spanish slant on charcuterie, head to Barcelona in German Village. The tapas restaurant lets you build your own ideal appetizer, selecting from a number of unique meats and cheeses in any combination you prefer. Think Serrano ham with grilled flatbread, buttery cheese served alongside sweet quince paste, and pork with pepper relish. Add some Marcona almonds and mixed olives and you’ve got yourself a meal.

The Market

https://www.themarketiv.com/

The Market is guaranteed to impress with its colorful and composed platters; the wonderful components  often change on the chef’s whim. Wednesdays are wine flight and charcuterie night, and you wouldn’t want to miss that would you? Bonus: if you’re hungry for more cheese after the charcuterie course or are a vegetarian, order up the Le Délice De Bourgogne dish too – it’s essentially fancy waffle fries that come come drizzled with honey and a wedge of cheese to spread on them.

Click here to read my full post on The Market.

Fado Pub & Kitchen

https://www.fadopubandkitchen.com/

This new locale at the Bridge Park area in Dublin has a surprise twist on the charcuterie plate: garlic cheesecake. It sounds crazy, but is more of a spreadable, creamy delight perfect for slathering on baguette slices than it is a dessert. The smoked cheddar, sausage slices, and pickled veggies were all tasty too.

I like to take charcuterie platters on the go as well, for picnics or outings to breweries that don’t serve food. Katzinger’s Deli and Black Radish Creamery in the North Market will help you create a great plate for carryout, or pick up North Country Charcuterie and locally made cheese at a farmers market and you’re set.

Have another Cbus spot where you love to enjoy charcuterie plates? Let me know in the comments below!

Keep Connected,

Caroline

Harvey & Ed’s

Harvey & Ed’s
698 N. High Street
Columbus, OH 43215
614-641-4040
https://harveyandeds.com/

If you follow this blog at all, you probably know about my admiration for the Cameron Mitchell family of restaurants. I love the patio at The Barn, can’t get enough of the chocolate cake at Cap City, and dream about the sushi at Hudson 29 constantly.  This month, Cameron Mitchell Restaurants is celebrating its 25th anniversary! There’s no better way to say thank you to this Columbus dining trailblazer than by visiting their latest concept, Harvey & Ed’s, and writing about my experience.

Named for the Chief Operating Officer’s father and uncle, Harvey & Ed’s opened this past June in the Short North. The new spot provides a fusion of Jewish deli fare with classic CMR touches: flawless service, creative cocktails, and an upscale atmosphere; it’s a type of cuisine that can’t be found elsewhere in the city. I love Katzinger’s for a traditional deli sammie, but this is a great alternative when you’re looking for something different.

Start with a beverage, spiked or simple, because there are a plethora of options. The blackberry house-made soda was colorful and refreshing, or go traditional with a chocolate egg cream. If you’re leery about raw eggs, please note that despite the name, egg creams are just chocolate milk and seltzer. They’re a frothy and tasty sweet treat served in a miniature milk jug. The Boozy Egg Cream version is a scrumptious sipper too, with the addition of tequila and chili liqueur to the original (it sounds odd but trust me on this).  I enjoyed the Real Mensch too, a concoction sure to cure your winter cold – it’s scotch, lemon, and honey on the rocks. While enjoying your drinks, be sure to nibble on the Hot Reuben Dip, a cheesy delight served with a rainbow of bagel chips made with thinly sliced Block’s Bagels. The matzo ball soup is comfort food at its best, and many of the “noshes” feature favorites with a twist. A few examples: massive latkes with caviar, salmon, and green apple; Brussels sprouts with goat cheese, pumpernickel, and mustard vinaigrette; fried stuffed olives with lamb and cucumber yogurt.

For mains, you can go casual or select from fancier entrees. I opted for a lighter dish after all those bagel chips and added salmon to the Grain Salad; it was excellent. I enjoyed the blend of flavors and textures from the wheat berry, kale, quinoa, apple, almonds, figs, and feta, plus the spicy honey dressing. Looking for something between bread? Choose the Reuben, Hot Corned Beef, or a Falafel Hoagie (there’s also more choices) and pair them with potato salad, coleslaw, or fries, as well as the mandatory pickle. For more composed dishes, the menu sports selections like Roasted Chicken Tabbouleh, Halibut with raisins and chili relish, and Pomegranate Braised Lamb alongside chickpeas and radish citrus salad.

Save room for a black and white cookie for dessert, or the Chocolate Babka. Harvey & Ed’s babka dessert consists of a bread dough rolled into a spiral with chocolate pieces, then sliced and prepared into French Toast. The result is a gooey, melty chocolate confection crowned with whipped cream and berries. I’ll have to make a return for brunch too; the menu’s Pastrami Hash and Knish Quiche are calling my name, but I also could use an excuse to eat that Babka again.

Culinary Clue: Harvey & Ed’s was one of this year’s Bucket List restaurants. Check out the full post for the entire list of new and old establishments that I’m making sure to sample in 2018.

Shoot me a message over on Instagram and let me know your favorite dish at Harvey & Ed’s if you’ve visited!

Keep Connected,

Caroline

Disclosure: I received a complimentary meal from Harvey & Ed’s. All opinions in this review are my own, as was the decision to write this post. 

Food Lover’s Staycation: Hotel LeVeque

Hotel LeVeque
50 W Broad Street
Columbus, OH 43215
(614) 224-9500
https://autograph-hotels.marriott.com/hotel/hotel-leveque/

It’s hard to miss the LeVeque Tower on the Columbus skyline. Architecturally beautiful, imposing, and frequently lit up in honor of holidays or social causes, the grandeur of this historic building is now available to the masses by way of Hotel LeVeque. Consequently, when I received an invitation to visit LeVeque Tower and stay at the hotel, I jumped at the chance. I’ve been dying to have a Columbus staycation, and this was the perfect opportunity to be a tourist in my own city! I immediately began planning our overnight getaway, and setting my walking foodie itinerary.

When you first step into the lobby at Hotel Leveque, your eyes might have trouble adjusting. There is so much to take in: thoughtful lighting, gilt mirrors, and lux upholstery. Upon viewing our room, I couldn’t help but swoon and hope that their designer would come make over my house. The decor is elegant and plush, far from the stale, generic furnishings that are the trademark of so many travel accommodations. There is a subtle celestial theme throughout Hotel LeVeque, from the constellation artwork, to the telescope on the shelf in our room, and even the turn-down service, which featured a projector illuminating the ceiling of our darkened room in a soothing array of stars and galaxies. I think my husband was embarrassed by my excitement over this feature, but I consoled myself by eating the chocolate truffles the staff also kindly left for us.

We started off our dine and dream adventure after freshening up by going and exploring the parks and buildings adjacent to the hotel, including some nooks I’d never discovered before, including a pretty landscaped area near City Hall and the World’s Largest Gavel by the Ohio Supreme Court. Next, we strolled to Veritas for some light appetizers and cocktails, just a short walk from the hotel. If you haven’t been to Veritas, the candied bacon risotto is a must, as is the Citizens Trust bar above the restaurant (see my full post for more on this). Later, we headed back to LeVeque for our main meal at The Keep, the in-house restaurant.

I’ve written about visiting The Keep previously, and this visit for late night dinner and drinks was just as enchanting. We devoured plates of short ribs with scallion pancakes, steak tartare with a quail egg, the ultra-rich and decadent Corn and Caviar dish, and a dessert special of smores cake (hey, I was on “vacation”) in the cozy, gas-lit dining area. Make sure you wash this all down with a bourbony beverage from the fabulous bar. The concierge had a wealth of knowledge about other spots within walking distance too, so there are plenty of dining options to choose from for a return visit.

After a good night’s rest, we were famished of course. Next time, I will definitely plan to eat brunch at The Keep in the morning. But if you are looking for an outside breakfast within walking distance, I can’t say enough good things about Cravings Carryout Cafe, just a block away. I’m in love with their bronuts (brioche donuts) and iced coffee. On the casual side, Jack and Benny’s is also nearby and serves up traditional diner grub like bacon, eggs, and buckeye pancakes. Milestone 229 brunch is another good selection for a morning jaunt and scrumptious fare. Checkout isn’t until noon, so lingering with breakfast room service is always an option too.

Lastly, I have to mention that this hotel really focuses on personal touches and local partners as well. The Candle Lab even created a custom LeVeque candle, perfumed with the bergamot and lavender to mimic LeVeque’s signature scent. Watershed Distillery is heavily featured on the cocktail menu at The Keep, as are offerings from other local makers. Overall, can you tell I was sad to check out the next morning and get back to real life?

Does anyone else love to staycation as a way to explore Columbus? What neighborhood should I immerse myself in next with an overnight stay? Bonus points for walkability.

Keep Connected,

Caroline

Disclosure: My overnight stay at LeVeque was complimentary, but all opinions are my own. 

Veranico Kitchen + Provisions

Veranico Kitchen + Provisions
401 N. Front Street
Columbus, OH 43215
614-670-7423
http://veranicocolumbus.com/

Fast-casual and chef-driven aren’t concepts that you expect to find in descriptions of the same restaurant, but Veranico Kitchen + Provisions is breaking the mold. Healthy, delicious, locally sourced, and fast – what’s not to love about this Arena District joint? Veranico comes to the capital city by way of the same owners as Market 65, the Chipotle-esque salad spot downtown. This association explains a great deal about the tasty vegetables that Veranico is dishing up, but there is a lot more to love than just salads on the menu here.

I’m no interior design guru, but Veranico’s decor is far from cold and corporate. The atmosphere consists of bright pops of turquoise, an artist-created tile wall, weathered wood, succulents, and sunshine. This setting makes it a cheery place for lunch or a happy hour beer. However, the main focus here should be the salads, in suggested combinations, or you can build your own custom veggie tower. Each salad bowl is enormous and piled high with goodies. I am the type of person that likes the toppings more than the lettuce, so this is right up my alley. Furthermore, the ingredients are local whenever feasible, and as many components as possible are created or prepared in-house, such as caramel apple vinaigrette, charred corn cut right off the cob in front of you, Shagbark Seed and Mills bean salad, and just-roasted Brussels sprouts. The signature salads encompass flavors from all over the world, like the Samjoko, filled with Korean BBQ and peppers, the Delhi (tandoori chicken and feta), or the Mexican-inspired Adobo Cobb.  If you choose to concoct your own salad, you get to select every element from lettuce to cheeses to protein. There are so many options that are unique for a salad spot too, such as edamame, pear, curry chickpeas, watermelon radish, buffalo cauliflower, and avocado ranch dressing.

Make sure you don’t fill up on those massive salads though – you’ll want stomach space for the rotating cookie special and the other savory treats. I found an unexpected delight in the Caribbean black bean soup, even though the summer heat topped 90 degrees when I sampled it. Creamy, slightly spicy, and with just a hint of brown sugar, all these tastes meld together for an incredible flavor experience. I will be attempting to recreate this dish (probably unsuccessfully) at home soon. Also available for hungry diners: grain or black bean bowls, as well as fresh panini sandwiches. The day of my visit, the cookie feature was a hibiscus sage shortbread. It was puffy and perfect, and left me wondering why sage isn’t used in desserts more frequently. Other previously offered versions of cookies include coconut cream cheese or brown butter cinnamon. The granola bars are sweet enough to count as dessert, made from scratch with luscious honey caramel.  Take a swig of the fresh mint tea or lemonade to go with your meal too, or mix them together for the best Arnold Palmer imaginable. There is a small bar inside as well, with a few beers on tap, wines, and happy hour specials.

In case you couldn’t tell, I’ll be headed back to Veranico soon. If you’ve been, tell me you favorite salad combo in the comments below!

Keep Connected,

Caroline

Disclosure:  The Arena District team invited me to come and try Veranico. All opinions of my experience reflect my own honest views. 

Toast Bar

Toast Bar
1028 Ridge Street
Columbus, OH 43215
(614) 928-9035
http://dan-the-baker.com/

Is there anything better in life than breads and spreads? Dan the Baker doesn’t think so, and I’m inclined to agree. Tucked onto a side street near Grandview that you probably never knew existed, Toast Bar is a mecca of carb-loaded deliciousness. I almost hesitate to write about this place, because I love that it’s such a hidden gem. You may have caught Dan’s creations previously at Weiland’s, Hills Market, or the Worthington and Clintonville Farmers Markets; however, trying the mix-and-match toasts is something you need to head to the shop to experience. The seating area is teeny, so many patrons seem to grab their goods and go, but I managed to snag a stool at the window.

The signature item at Toast Bar is naturally the toast flight. From the ever-changing menu, you select three breads and three toppings to slather and smear on, to make your own custom board. Dan’s crew is churning out all varieties of bread imaginable for you choose from: garlic asiago, country sour, sesame, olive polenta, sun flax, and sprouted grain, to name a few. Spreads are often made in-house or sourced locally, and include house-made butter, lemon curd, strawberry jam, or maple almond butter. You can’t go wrong with any combination, I promise.

The highlight is the toast bar portion of the bakery, but don’t miss out on the pastries either. The “cruffins” are a croissant dough sprinkled with granulated sugar, rolled in a muffin shape, and stuffed with fillings like raspberry cheesecake or peaches and cream. Toast Bar serves up cookies, matcha or regular croissants, and of course, loaves of bread for sale as well. I scarfed down a tasty egg danish (buttery dough enveloping local bacon, pepper marmalade, and an egg) during my last visit too. The coffee menu is a little pricey, but I have to say, I really enjoyed my iced latte sweetened with maple syrup, and the Ohio honey vanilla latte caught my eye for next time.

Culinary Clue: Toast Bar just announced that they are expanding their hours to 8am-2pm Wednesday-Sunday. There will also be additional lunch options in the form of salads and sammies, so I can’t wait to return to try these offerings!

Have you been to Toast Bar? Send me a message on Instagram and tell me your favorite bread and spread pairing!

Keep Connected,

Caroline

Spring and Summer So Far 2018

I haven’t done a photo post in awhile, so I thought it might be fun to share a little update of my spring and summer so far. At the end, I’ve also included some things on my future to-do list for the rest of the summer.  Don’t forget to sign up for the Columbus Culinary Connection newsletter either; you’ll get monthly updates and recent posts straight to your inbox! Here are some of my most memorable sunny moments so far for 2018.

Jeni’s Strawberry Jam

https://jenis.com/strawberry-jam-2018/

Jeni of Jeni’s Ice Creams hosts a strawberry-themed bash every summer, featuring all things berry or delicious from Rambling House Soda, Ray Ray’s Hog Pit BBQ, Fox in the Snow Cafe, Dough Mama, Hot Chicken Takeover, Bacca Coffee,  and Little Eater, as well as a Land-Grant beer to wash it all down and Hirsch berries to take home.

Bake Me Happy

https://www.bakemehappygf.com/

I finally made it to this gluten-free bakery, and was blown away. Bake Me Happy makes all your favorite childhood treats, like oatmeal creme pies and zebra cakes, in addition to pepperoni pizza scones and donut muffins!

Hooray for Fresh, Local Food

I’ve been enjoying our garden produce and some bounty from local farmers markets. I scored these great pickled onions in Athens, and my husband is crazy for the ‘shrooms from Tiger Mushroom Farms in salads. I also made this strawberry-rhubarb cream cheese tart which was warm weather-ready and up the last of the season’s rhubarb.

Eating at The Top

Some other local bloggers and I went to The Top steakhouse in Bexley for a fun event, where we sampled a little bit of everything, including escargot, lobster salad, shrimp cocktail, cheesecake, and an immense bone-in steak.

Family Feastin’

We love our yearly traditions in my family, and always have brunch with mom for Mother’s Day and get back to our German roots for Father’s Day. We left both get-togethers absolutely stuffed. Above is just a taste of our Deutschland-inspired feast.

A few other things on my summer bucket list:

  1. A visit to High Bank Distillery – I am intrigued by their menu and am always down to sample a local whiskey
  2. I just left Washington D.C. for a quick weekend getaway, and will be sharing more about our eats soon
  3. The Dublin Irish Festival – we always have so much fun at this event every year
  4. Staycationing at Hotel LeVeque – super excited for this one and ready to be a tourist in my own city
  5. The Columbus Food Truck Festival – so many trucks to try, so little time

What are you up to this summer? Let me know your Columbus summer checklist!

Keep Connected,

Caroline

Caroline’s Picks: 5 Afternoon Teas to Try

Listen, I like wearing jeans and drinking a hoppy beer as much as the next girl. But sometimes, I just want to be fancy and pretend I’m Lady Mary from Downton Abbey. Is this too much to ask? My mom also hosted a super snazzy afternoon tea to celebrate the Downton Abbey finale, so I suppose it’s genetic. However, if you aren’t into washing delicate china and making scones from scratch, there are plenty of local spots that will serve up an elegant afternoon tea just for you.

Cambridge Tea House

http://cambridgeteahouse.com/

Some girlfriends took me here for my birthday this year, and we had the best time. This is traditional afternoon tea at its finest: white tablecloth service, three-tiered platters piled precariously with desserts, fluffy scones with homemade jam and clotted cream, and mini sammies, plus the cutest tea cozies. Even the milk and sugar vessels are appealing! Make sure that you call ahead for reservations – the seating area is small and scones sell out fast.

Asterisk Supper Club

https://www.asterisksupperclub.com/

I love visiting uptown Westerville, but even more so that Asterisk is on the scene. The decor is library-themed, and they make some delicious craft cocktails if you want something stronger on the side. The afternoon tea here is served 7 days a week, which is extremely convenient for busy folks who can only make it on the weekends. Asterisk boasts the most delicious ham, brie, green apple, and dijon tea sandwiches, in addition to multiple scones, sweets, and a wide variety of teas.

ZenCha Tea Salon

https://www.zen-cha.com/home

ZenCha has more teas than you’ve ever dreamed of on their menu: Jasmine Pearl, Chocolate Covered Cherry, or African Safari. I haven’t been disappointed yet in their take on a tea latte either! Instead of your typical high tea fare, this space sports a brunch menu with nods to tea, such as Earl Grey or matcha-infused pancakes and chai-spiced shrimp and grits. ZenCha also can create custom tea party events for bridal showers or other occasions.

Koko Tea Salon

https://www.kokoteasalon.com/

Koko’s recently closed its Gahanna locale, and is gearing up for expansion to Easton, but you can still get your tea fix at the downtown outpost while you wait. High tea service here will earn you the typical offerings of sandwiches and scones, but Koko’s churns out a rainbow of dainty macarons, cupcakes, and other treats to enjoy with your hand-blended tea too. Don’t miss the theme teas as well, around topics such as Paris, Alice in Wonderland, or chocolate.

Mozart’s Cafe

https://mozartscafe.wordpress.com/

Mozart’s is known for heavenly desserts, but have you tried their afternoon tea offerings? There is often live piano music during dining hours, and plenty of European flair. Order up scones, a miniature apricot Linzer cookie, and teeny cranberry chicken salad canapes or smoked salmon sammies with a pot of tea. Reservations are required for this special menu.

Do you have a favorite Columbus tea zone? Let me know in the comments below!

Keep Connected,

Caroline

Butler County: Where to Dine and Drink

You may have heard of the Donut Trail, via last week’s post or other sources, but did you know that Butler County boasts some great spots to eat and imbibe? My husband and I thoroughly enjoyed experiencing the culinary scene in the area, located just north of Cincy. You’ll want savory items (and maybe an adult beverage or two) after filling up on all those donuts, and the locals have you covered in this regard. Let’s discuss some of the delicious places that we dined and drank:

To Eat:

 

Flub’s Dari-ette

http://www.flubsicecream.com/

This soft-serve paradise is swirling up frozen confections to the masses in every variety. I was crazy for my orange creamsicle twist cone, but don’t miss the signature Cyclones. These aren’t your average blended ice cream treats. Give Brian’s PB Cup a whirl (Chocolate dip-top, peanut butter topping, and crushed peanut butter cups cycloned into vanilla creamy whip and topped with homemade whipped topping and Reese cups) or try Ellinghaus’s Blondie (Chocolate and vanilla twist ice cream mixed with cookie dough and brownie then finished off with chocolate dip top and home made whipped topping).

Hyde’s Restaurant

http://www.hydesrestaurant.com

It’s easy to see why this mom and pop joint has been around since 1946. The prices are reasonable, they serve breakfast all day, and oh my, the pie! The meringue on the banana cream pie was mile-high, and I’m still thinking about the flaky crust on the cherry pie. You’d think I wouldn’t be able to finish this pie after all those donuts, but you’d be wrong.

Jungle Jim’s

http://junglejims.com/

I could spend hours happily getting lost in Jungle Jim’s Fairfield. To call it a grocery store is almost an insult; it’s more of a mecca for food: delicious, unusual, or international. The cheese aisles alone are worth the trip, and the varieties I came home with were ones I’d never seen elsewhere, like truffle goat cheese or banana coconut gouda. There a whole section just for butters, one for pretzel breads, and even sections for foreign fruits and exotic game like rattlesnake. Wait, why did I leave here again?

Henry’s Candy Co

https://www.facebook.com/henryscandyco/

The sweet tooth strikes again at Henry’s in Hamilton. Chocolates, Jelly Belly beans, and every other colorful candy you can imagine line the shelves here. I snagged some nutty trail mix (one of multiple offerings) to tide us over on the drive home.

Cozy’s Cafe

http://cozyscafeandpub.com/

The name says it all – we received the best service, amazing food, and the desire to linger forever at Cozy’s. The interior is a Chip and Joanna Gaines farmhouse chic dream, and the outdoor patio area is immense, filled with Adirondacks and fire pits perfect for lounging. We were wowed by the short rib fries, the massive crab cakes, the Manhattan, and especially the zucchini carrot cake. Not to play favorites, but I need to go back to Butler County for Cozy’s alone – the backyard vibes are beckoning me this summer and I want to check out their brunch.

To Drink:

We were especially surprised by the number of breweries in Butler County during our visit. As hop heads, we discovered that there were plenty of superior suds to savor, and we met some of the dynamic folks behind these operations as well.

Quarter Barrel Brewery Hamilton

https://qbbrewery.pub/

This bar and restaurant just opened as an outpost of the original Oxford location. On tap, you will find some unique beer styles that you don’t often see, such as a Grissette and a Biere de Garde. On the menu, there is tasty pub grub too, like flatbreads and a pork belly BLT, pictured at the top of this post.

Municipal Brew Works

http://www.municipal.beer/

We loved chatting with Jim at Municipal who told us a ton of fun facts about Butler County, in addition to a few ghost stories. The building, we learned, used to be the municipal building for the City of Hamilton, hence the brewery name. The garage doors previously opened for fire truck bays, there are jail cells upstairs (spooky!) and a former shooting range for police detectives in the basement. There is also a beer available for every palette, from and aptly christened Approachable Blonde to a coffee porter. The riverfront patio here is large and lively, with daily food trucks and friendly pooches with their owners. A must-visit in my opinion!

Fig Leaf Brewing

http://www.figleafbrewing.com/

Fig Leaf is a newer operation, but that doesn’t mean they are short on beers. I really enjoyed Fig Leaf’s numerous hazy New England IPA selections, and they are doing some fun infusion flavors as well. It’s a very family-friendly place, with large tables and plenty of board games. The owners and their families have created some gorgeous woodwork pieces inside as well.

Rivertown Brewery

http://rivertownbrewery.com/

Our last stop of the trip certainly wasn’t my least favorite, and I’ll definitely return here too. I’ve loved Rivertown’s sour beer offerings for some time, and the tasting and tour of the brewery did not disappoint. Furthermore, our lunch was craveable: think giant pretzels, cornbread, bacon wontons with jam dipping sauce, and BBQ deviled eggs for apps. But don’t miss the photograph-worthy Rt. 63 burger, topped with an oozy fried cheese square, brisket, and a sparkler in the middle! Another tidbit we learned: they just started bottling and brewing Iron Line, a new line of beer exclusively for Kroger. Lastly, don’t miss the Groupon for a beer, growler, and tour if you visit Rivertown – it’s a steal of a deal.

If beer isn’t your preference, then the libations at The Roosevelt Room cocktail parlor are sure to please. This locale is serving up draft wine, happy hour specials, and a swanky atmosphere designed around Theodore Roosevelt. My inner history nerd is swooning right now. The drinks all have Roosevelt-themed names, such as the gin-based “Monocle” and the bold, bourbon-forward “Big Stick.”

Ready to head to Butler County yourself? Find out more information about the Butler County Donut Trail and its breweries and restaurants here: https://www.gettothebc.com/. The Visitor’s Bureau site can also give you ideas about other activities to do while you’re in town, since you’ll (probably) want to do other things besides eat during your journey. There are all kinds of outdoor activities that are ideal for warm weather, like golf, art exhibits, and even wakeboarding lessons! There are also other culinary destinations that I’d like to pay a visit one day: Swine City Brewing, Jolly’s Drive In, True West Coffee, Liberty Spirits, and Bagel & Deli, to name a few.

Finally, I have to mention our home base during the trip, The Courtyard Marriott Hamilton. This hotel had a modern, clean interior, and the staff was stellar. It is situated on the Miami River with water views, and within quick walking distance to both Quarter Barrel Hamilton and Municipal Brew Works, so no driving is required! Hamilton is a reemerging area, and if you love the musical Hamilton, you will adore its historic downtown, filled with Alexander Hamilton quotes and statues. There are also dozens of murals, sculptures, and art studded throughout the urban landscape.

If you haven’t yet, be sure to check out part one of the series, focusing on the Butler County Donut Trail and my favorite sweet at each stop. Have you had the pleasure of going to any of the locations listed in this post? Let me know your favorite.

Keep Connected,

Caroline

Disclosure: The Butler County Visitor’s Bureau hosted me on this trip, in exchange for an honest blog post. All opinions are my own.

The Butler County Donut Trail

The Butler County Donut Trail: Warning: this post may cause a serious sweet tooth!

Passport-style trails are currently popping up everywhere. In Central Ohio, we have a coffee trail, Dublin’s Celtic Cocktail Trail, Hilliard just launched an ice cream trail, there’s the Licking County wine trail, and of course, the Columbus Ale Trail. Just a short drive from the capital city though, is one of the most magical, sprinkle-covered passport programs around: the Butler County Donut Trail.

Located just north of Cincinnati, Butler County has your donut dreams made. The donut trail is a collection of twelve donut stops that you visit, purchasing a donut at each location. Begin the trail by downloading a passport here, or snag a passport at any stop on the trail. As you visit each stop, ask the cashier to stamp your passport. Once you’ve conquered every stop, turn your passport into the Butler County Visitor’s Bureau (or mail it in) and they will reward your donut-eating prowess with a t-shirt. Because it’s also a quick road trip from Columbus, it’s easy to make a day jaunt to Butler County, knocking out a few shops at a time throughout the year until you’ve collected all the stamps. Just make sure to get an early start – some shops sell out by noon or even before.

The most fun thing about the trail (besides the donut-devouring) is seeing that every shop had something special that set it apart, whether it be the owner, the theme of the shop, or the unusual varieties of flavors offered. Some were old-fashioned mom and pop spots, while others were modern and Instagram-ready. During my journey, I had the most scrumptious and unadorned yeast donuts and basic French crullers. However, I also gobbled up some crazy versions topped with candy ingredients or Fruity Pebbles cereal; there’s appeal for both pastry purists and the most adventurous sugar lover. Some locales were in the ‘burbs, others were near commercial areas, but all were delicious.

Here’s my breakdown of every stop on the trail, with my favorite donut to devour at each:

Holtman’s Donut Shop

https://www.holtmansdonutshop.com/

Home to some of the most creative and colorful goodies on the trail, Holtman’s features a plethora of flavors, from maple bacon to Lucky Charms,  or from heavily sprinkled and Fruity Pebble-laden. This stop is also located around the corner from IKEA, so pop inside afterwards to walk off all those donuts!

Donut to Devour: Maple Bacon

Kelly’s Donuts

https://www.facebook.com/kellysdonutsandmore/

The retro vibe in this Hamilton joint puts you in a good mood at once, and if the shop’s atmosphere doesn’t, Kelly’s donuts will. The creamy, rich peanut butter filling in the Reese’s-esque donut will make you melt, and there’s nothing to not love about the s’more concoction sprinkled with graham cracker crumbs, mini marshmallows, and a chocolatey drizzle.

Donut to Devour: S’mores Donut

Martin’s Donuts

https://www.facebook.com/martinsdonutshop/

This cheery pink Trenton bakery is small, but it’s making some mighty tasty donuts. The turnovers, yeast donuts, and especially the cheesecake donuts were all a hit. The Cherry Cheesecake = tangy filling + graham crumbs + fruit pie filling.

Donut to Devour: Cherry Cheesecake

Jupiter Coffee and Donuts

http://www.jupitercoffeeanddonuts.com/

Situated up the street from Jungle Jim’s, Jupiter is nice place to have a coffee and unwind…with more donuts! They do a monthly seasonal donut, which during my visit was a heavenly carrot cake creation. The cream cheese inside out donuts and sprinkled versions were sampled winners too.

Donut to Devour: Carrot Cake

Milton’s Donuts

https://www.facebook.com/miltonsdonuts/

Milton’s Middletown shop had a wonderful mix of interesting donuts – another Fruity Pebbles offering, barely cooled glazed rings, devil’s food donuts, and super-friendly folks behind the counter. My favorites though, were the giant glazed croissants.

Donut to Devour: Glazed Croissant

Ross Bakery

https://www.facebook.com/Ross-Bakery-120335357979540/

Ross Bakery churned out one of my favorite traditional donuts of the trip – a massive yeast donut the size of my face, perfectly tender and shaped like a soft pretzel! Also on the menu: a buckeye-inspired chocolate peanut butter treat topped with a mini Hershey bar.

Donut to Devour: Pretzel Donut

Stan the Donut Man

https://www.facebook.com/Stan-The-Donut-Man-147690215281038/

Stan the Donut Man, the name says it all. Stan is doing donuts old school, in the best possible way. I’m currently drooling as I think back upon the pineapple fritter (who knew such a thing existed?) and the Davey Crocketts, maple iced mini cinnamon buns.

Donut to Devour: Davey Crockett

The Donut Spot

https://www.facebook.com/The-Donut-Spot-116081498413772/

I knew the line out the door at The Donut Spot was a sign of good things to come. Cookies and cream, Bavarian cream, and cream cheese filled donuts all await at this Fairfield bakery, but go for the “clunker,” a dense, lightly glazed mass of cake donut hunks. Simple and divine.

Donut to Devour: The Clunker Donut

The Donut House

http://the-donut-house-westchester.business.site/

Tucked in a small corner of West Chester, The Donut House is dishing up heart-shaped donuts, donuts iced to look like baseballs, and even some with crushed Oreos. Best of all: there was a chocolate-dipped one with Butterfinger pieces on a puffy dough that I got to take home.

Donut to Devour: Butterfinger Donut

Mimi’s Donuts

https://www.facebook.com/Mimisdonutsandbakery/

This Hamilton locale boasts a fun mix of traditional and crazy flavors. I loved the cinnamon twists and the lemon blueberry, but the German Chocolate’s ooey gooey coconut topping captured my heart.

Donut to Devour: German Chocolate

Central Pastry Shop

http://centralpastry.com/

Located in downtown Middletown, this is the only required passport spot I couldn’t visit, since they were closed on Sundays. However, locals gushed over Central Pastry to me, especially their cakes and the tiger tail donut, a thin and twisty delight.

Donut to Devour: Tiger Tail Twist Donut

Oxford Doughnut Shoppe

http://www.oxforddoughnutshoppe.com/

This spot comes pre-stamped on your Donut Trail passport, because it’s a little out of the way. I didn’t make it to the Oxford favorite on this trip, but Miami University students rave about these kettle-fried classics.  Bonus: score a dozen donut holes for just $2!

Donut to Devour: Red Velvet Cake Donut

Ready to hit the trail? Find out more information about the Butler County Donut Trail here: https://www.gettothebc.com/. The Visitor’s Bureau site can also give you ideas about other activities to do while you’re in town, since you’ll (probably) want to do other things besides eat during your journey.

Stay tuned for part two of my Butler County trip next week, featuring some of the best spots to dine and drink in Butler County. Have you completed the Donut Trail yet? If so, let me know your favorite donut spot in the comments below!

Keep Connected,

Caroline

Disclosure: The Butler County Visitor’s Bureau hosted me on the Donut Trail, in exchange for an honest blog post. All opinions are my own.