1. Honey Lavender Macarons, Pistacia Vera
It would be silly to just order one macaron, but if you had to, go for Honey Lavender. The pale violet macaron is perfectly airy with an ever-so-delicate crispness on the first bite. Then comes the rich, honey butter cream center to sweeten the deal. Any Francophile will tell you that these macarons give the Parisians a run for their euro. With about a dozen always-changing varieties to choose from, Pistacia Vera will keep you coming back for more.
Honorable mention: Pistachio Macaron
2. Hot Bollywood, Dirty Franks Hot Dog Palace
Oh Dirty Franks, if only you had more room to sit down in your tiny hot dog palace. As many locals will tell you, the wait is worth it, but the dogs are just as good ordered to go or enjoyed next door at the hip 16-Bit Bar + Arcade. Wherever you settle to eat your dogs, be sure to try the Hot Bollywood. A Chicago-style hot dog with spicy mango chutney to dress it up. A slum dog this is not.
Honorable mention: Puff the Magic Popper
3. Brown Butter Almond Brittle Ice Cream, Jeni’s Splendid Ice Creams
If you know anything about the Columbus food scene, you know Jeni’s. Jeni Britton Bauer has been crafting artisan ice creams with smart and interesting flavor profiles since opening her first shop in 2002. Out-of-towers will know Salty Caramel as the best-selling flavor of this rich, locally sourced ice cream, but locals will tell you to go for the Brown Butter Almond Brittle. With pieces of homemade almond brittle mixed into this sweet + creamy ice cream, you’ll taste why Jeni’s is the coolest in Columbus.
Honorable mention: Dark Chocolate Ice Cream
4. Spicy Yuma, Harvest Pizzeria
Harvest is the kind of pizzeria where, whether you show up wearing a suit or sweatshirt, you feel perfectly dressed. That’s because its casual, rustic feel and terrific service make you feel right at home, but the pizza itself is something you’d dress up for. It’s that good. Perfectly crafted every time. The Spicy Yuma is an exceptional combination of Gouda, mozzarella, chorizo, jalapeño, corn, roasted red pepper, and chipotle tomato sauce. You could easily split a pie, but don’t.
Honorable mention: Mushroom Pizza
5. Cocktails, Curio
What’s even better about Harvest is its accompanying bar, which serves up prohibition-style cocktails and atmosphere right next door. The drinks are delicious, the bartenders good looking, and the setting almost criminal. Ask for the secret menu and you’ll almost be wishing the Eighteenth Amendment was back on the books.
6. North Market
The North Market is an institution. The Mecca when it comes to food in the Midwest. Offering up the freshest local ingredients and some of the best food in the city, the vendors here know what good food tastes like, and more importantly, they are so excited to share it with you. Central to Downtown Columbus, the North Market draws businessmen and businesswomen on their lunch breaks, families out for lunch, romantic pairs on first or twenty-first dates, and foodies hunting down the hard-to-find ingredients they’ve been looking for.
7. Heart Attack Roll, Nida’s Thai on High
At the end of the day, Columbus is still in the Midwest, so there had to be something deep fried on this list. Nida’s will treat you to the finest Asian cuisine in the city, from fried rice and sashimi to pad thai, but go for the Heart Attack. It has cream cheese and it’s deep fried so that’s all you need to know.
Honorable mention: Pad Thai
8. Gyro, Greek Festival
Every summer, the social calendar of any Columbus resident becomes full with festivals. Comfest, Pride Festival, Jazz and Ribs, and the Greek Festival. Occurring every year over Labor Day weekend, the Greek Festival brings the best of the Aegeans to the Greek Orthodox Cathedral on High and Goodale. Get the gyro and a bottle of Mythos Greek beer to enjoy as you watch traditional Greek dancing, or join in the dance yourself. Everyone wishes they was Greek.
Honorable mention: Loukoumades
9. Pollo Rojo Tacos, Bakersfield
Disclaimer: Bakersfield is a Cincinnati import. But as the inventors of Skyline Chili, the city is disqualified from ever being a city for foodies. That’s probably why Bakersfield moved north in the first place. The Bakersfield Short North location will treat you well with salads named after Johnny and June, an excellent selection of tequilas and whiskeys, and tacos a la carte. Order three or four varieties, and make sure the Pollo Rojo is one of them.
Honorable mention: Fish Tacos
10. Sacher Torte, Mozart’s
Mozart’s mission is to conduct a delicious orchestra of flavors on every plate while bringing the flavors of Vienna to Columbus, OH. The Sacher Torte is an Austrian classic dating back to 1832 and combines rich chocolate cake and ganache with apricot jam. Try this classical confection with a cup of tea or coffee for the perfect afternoon treat in the heart of Clintonville.
Honorable mention: Carrot Cake
11. Nutella Pancake Balls, Katalina’s Café Corner
You read the title, right? NUTELLA. Stuffed inside pancake balls. I don’t know what else to say.
Honorable mention: Breakfast Tacos
12. Belgian Waffles, Taste of Belgium
If you’re more of a Leslie Knope when it comes to your breakfast carbs, fear not. Taste of Belgium offers up the perfect compliment to those of you who prefer waffles to pancake balls. The waffles are as good as those you’ll find in Bruges. Golden brown with crunchy caramelized sugar. Go for any topping you’d like or have it plain, but Nutella’s an option, so I think we both know how this will go.
Honorable mention: Waffle with another topping. Leslie would be ashamed if you ate just one.
13. Melted Pecorino Cheese, Marcella’s
Marcella’s is the finest jewel in the Cameron Mitchell crown of restaurants around the Columbus area. You can’t go wrong with Marcella’s menu, full of small Italian plates made for sharing, but what brings me back every time is the melted pecorino. Although there’s some assembly required, this dish will bring before you a bubbling dish of melted cheese with a plate of crostinis, thinly sliced green apples, and honey. The combination of tart apple with sweet honey and hot melted cheese will satisfy every one of your taste buds.
Honorable mention: Calamari
14. Pour-Over, Stauf’s Coffee Roasters
Stauf’s is the epitome of cool. The aroma of coffee fills both the retail and café spaces of this Grandview favorite. The staff is super knowledgeable and knows more about coffee than you do, but isn’t pretentious about it. Ask them about the many varieties they’re roasting that month, then pick your favorite and watch as they demonstrate the proper pour-over method.
Honorable mention: Milky Way, if you like your coffee full of chocolate and caramel syrups
15. Buckeye Donuts
To go with your coffee. I want to go to there all the time always.
16. Black Raspberries, Champaign Berry Farm
After a few days in Columbus, you might forget that you are, in fact, surrounded by farmland. Drive an hour or so outside of Columbus towards Urbana and you’ll find Champagne Berry Farm, where you can pick your own red and black raspberries every summer. Peak season occurs around July, situated between strawberry and apple picking seasons. With so many farms around the city, only a foolish foodie would refuse the opportunity to eat local.
Honorable mention: Lynd’s Fruit Farm in Pataskala for apples, pumpkins, and corn mazes
17. Dollar Grilled Cheese, Bodega
Bodega is in the Short North closer to Ohio State’s campus, serving as the perfect linkage between artsy and affordable. Go for the dollar grilled cheese on Monday night. SERIOUSLY. Grilled cheese on chewy, farmhouse bread for just a dollar. Better yet, go during happy hour and select any of their extensive selection of craft brews on tap for half price. You won’t believe how small your bill is.
Honorable mention: Hawaiian Burger
18. Northstar Burger, Northstar Café
If you’re in need of directions to a tasty place for dinner, follow Northstar. Not only is the menu delicious and vegetarian friendly, but all of the dishes are prepared with the freshest, organic, and, when possible, local ingredients. With multiple locations around the city, you’re never far from a great meal. The Northstar Burger is made with black beans, rice, and beets, but herbivores and omnivores love this one equally. Great taste + no guilt.
Honorable mention: Chopped Salad
19. Plain-Ass Pepperoni, Mikey’s Late Night Slice
If you’ve ever been out in Columbus, you’ve ended one of your nights standing in line for far too long, probably in the cold, waiting for Late Night Slice. The pizza is delicious. I think. It’s called Late Night Slice for a reason, and it serves the needs of its Late Night Customers very well. After claiming your slice from the window, smother it in Mikey’s legendary slut sauce. Spicy, tangy, creamy. Few know what’s actually in it, but few care. The other kick-ass thing about this place is they won’t serve homophobes.
Honorable mention: Plain-Ass Cheese
20. Chicken Diablo, Figlio
Hit up Figlio for a stylish Italian meal on Grandview Avenue, especially if wood-fired pizzas are your forte. Watch from your seat as the pies are slid into the ultra-hot oven and heat things even more by ordering the Chicken Diablo. Grilled chicken breast with penne pasta and a spicy herb cream sauce. Head over to neighboring Vino Vino with your date afterwards to cool things off with a flight of expertly chosen wines.
Honorable mention: Chicken and Avocado Pizza
21. Arepas, El Arepazo
Pearl Alley, what a foodie gem you are. Go during the summer for the Pearl Alley Farmers’ Market or any time during the year for arepas at El Arepazo. Hearty corn cakes are filled with the protein of your choosing, topped with lettuce, and served with a side of chimichurri. The colorful graffiti art on the patio will have you feeling like you’ve hit the streets of Venezuela without ever leaving Ohio.
Honorable mention: Carne Asada
22. Thurmanator, The Thurman Cafe
Another entry to remind you that Columbus is, in fact, a Midwestern city through and through. Quarter pounder? No. Half pounder?! Not even close. The Thurmanator features over a pound and a half of meat. Bring your game face, accept the challenge, game on.
Honorable mention: Thurman Burger, with all the taste and half the meat
23. The Village Addiction, Brown Bag Delicatessen
The sandwiches at Brown Bag Deli are nothing like what you’d find in your lunch sack as a kid. Far from it. Create your own sandwich with high-quality meats and cheeses or choose from the chalkboard. With smoked turkey, Havarti cheese + cranberry mayonnaise, the Village Addiction is a foolproof selection that you’ll certainly be giving thanks for.
Honorable mention: The Mohawk Stroller
24. Buckeyes, Tailgating parties and homes across the city
O-H! Oh! Whether it’s an expression of team pride or joyful excitement, the sight of Buckeyes will elicit a reaction in Columbus. In the center of the Buckeye State, you would be hard pressed to find anyone in the city of Columbus who hasn’t tried this winning confection of peanut butter and chocolate. Buckeyes are reason enough for Columbus to be the best damn foodie city in the land. Go Bucks!
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