Cheeseburgers, cheese makers, chef-driven restaurants, Columbus classics
Two years ago, Columbus Monthly embarked on an almost impossible task: identifying the city’s best burgers. Some of our top cheeseburger recommendations from that heady time came from such culinary standouts as Rockmill Tavern,
Street Thyme, Philco (now permanently closed), Press Grill, Flavor 91 Bistro and O’Reilly’s Pub. We pray the crispy-edged smashburger from Preston’s: A Burger Joint, on hiatus because of the pandemic, makes a comeback. It was the best of the bunch. [After this was originally published, Preston’s opened in the historic North Market.] Also worth a look is the house burger from newcomer Chapman’s Eat Market, and you can’t go wrong with Danny Meyer’s Shake Shack, which has two locations in Central Ohio.
Ohio’s agricultural abundance means we have excellent artisan cheeses from small cheese makers like Laurel Valley Creamery, Canal Junction, Kokoborrego and Mackenzie Creamery. In Clintonville, Weiland’s Market boasts one of the best fromage selections in town, with more than 200 artisan options from Ohio and around the world. The Indianola Avenue market’s expert team of cheesemongers, Kent Rand and Mike Kast, can help guide you. In addition to making its own cheeses and preserves, Black Radish Creamery in the North Market is also a solid bet when planning a “wow” cheeseboard. And don’t forget the charcuterie: Look locally to North Country Charcuterie for all your salami needs and more.
If you’re looking for a dining experience that showcases creativity and technique, look no further than the city’s chef-driven restaurants. At Service Bar, chef Avishar Barua has taken the Taco Bell Crunchwrap to new heights and reimagined the high-end restaurant as a takeout-only spot (for now). At Downtown’s Veritas, chef Josh Dalton reopened in August (after a pandemic-related interruption) with a tasting menu inspired by his travels to Oaxaca, Mexico. Catie Randazzo crafts family-style dinners at Ambrose and Eve, with large-format suppers like Fried Chicken Fridays. And some of the year’s best news is the arrival of two chefs, BJ Lieberman of newly opened Chapman’s Eat Market and Matthew Phelan of Novella Osteria (now open in Powell). Both chefs recently joined the local dining scene, from Washington D.C. and New York City, respectively. We can’t wait to see what they do next.
What makes a Columbus classic? It’s a restaurant that is part time machine and part uniquely Columbus. Think: The Top Steak House, which harkens back to 1950s style; the German Village stalwart and tourist draw Schmidt’s; the hallowed space that celebrates the art of French cuisine, The Refectory Restaurant & Wine Shop; and the nonagenarian Italian restaurant TAT Ristorante di Famiglia. There are our old friends Tommy’s Pizza, Ding Ho, Plank’s Café, The Thurman Café and Windward Passage. One of the city’s classic diners, Nancy’s Home Cooking, left its longtime Clintonville address after 52 years and moved into the space vacated by Jack’s Downtown Diner. [Sadly, Nancy’s closed the Downtown diner in October and has gone delivery-only.] It’s just steps away from Downtown’s oldest restaurant, Ringside Café. Here’s hoping these Columbus classics can go all 12 rounds in 2021.