Columbus may not be one of the top 10 most populous cities within the United States, yet it manages to have everything that one of the biggest U.S. cities would have. For example, between John Glenn International and Rickenbacker International Airport, Columbus has direct flights to and from Los Angeles (under five hours from LAX), San Francisco, Las Vegas, Miami, Chicago, Atlanta and dozens of other key cities. Yet Columbus — home to the NHL’s Columbus Blue Jackets, the MLS’ Columbus Crew, college sports institution Ohio State University and four Fortune 500 companies — manages to carry a “small town” vibe in that its residents are friendly, its upscale food is economically-priced and traffic only seems to happen during rush hour.
I had the pleasure of visiting Columbus, which the New York Times named “one of 52 places to visit in 2019,” during this year’s Sonic Temple Art & Music Festival. Los Angeles was well-represented during Sonic Temple — Foo Fighters and System Of A Down were two of its three main-stage headliners, while Scars On Broadway, Tom Morello, Henry Rollins, and Comedy Store owner Pauly Shore were also on the festival’s bill — as the sold-out, multi-day event on the grounds of MAPFRE Stadium brought in well over 40,000 attendees per day.
I intend on returning to Columbus in July as part of another travel-related assignment, so I was sure to take notes on some of the highlights from my four-day trip to the Ohio state capital. Below are 10 places I hope to visit again if returning later this year.
Mitchell’s Ocean Club is a modern American restaurant and lounge from renowned restaurateur Cameron Mitchell. Located in Easton Town Center, Mitchell’s Ocean Club offers an impressive menu of seafood, prime cuts of steak, signature cocktails, and a Wine Spectator-honored wine list. Below is a video of the wonderful shrimp cocktail I had the pleasure of enjoying.
Simply put, Big Fun buys and sells vintage toys. But once you are inside, you will find Big Fun to be paradise, should you be a fan of vintage cartoons, comics, comedy, horror and/or classic Hollywood. You can spend a few dollars on a novelty item, or hundreds of a rare, out-of-print — all your call. I personally came away with some Abraham Lincoln band-aids, a novelty faucet handle and an old WCW action figure, all of which are intended gifts, of course.
Beyond being an ideal spot for “premium chocolates, freshly roasted coffees, and gifts that delight,” the German Village location of Winans also has an impressive wine selection. Initially founded as a bakery, the Winans legacy goes back five generations. My chai tea latte was fantastic, and I was given the option of having it made extra-spicy by the barista. Which I politely declined.
As a New Yorker, I’m conditioned to be a pizza skeptic, so when my Uber driver told me that GoreMade Pizza was her favorite local pizza joint, I accepted her challenge. As the GoreMade website states: “You’re only as good as your ingredients.” They primarily use ingredients from local farmer’s markets for their pizza and cocktails, so everything I ordered tasted fresh, not surprisingly. GoreMade has a fun back-patio area if you choose to visit on a nice day.
The Rusty Bucket was founded outside Columbus proper in Dublin, Ohio a little over 15 years ago. Nowadays, the company operates 23 restaurants in five different states. While some people will hear that and say “Why go to a chain when you are visiting another state?” I choose to retort with “Well, it probably became a chain because it was great in the first place.” I dined twice at the Rusty Bucket’s Easton during my trip as I not only loved the comfort food — chicken parmigiana with a side of fettuccine for one meal, a bar-pie-style Margherita pizza for the other meal — but also the friendly and focused service. And I still have about $15 left on my $50 gift card, which ought to tell you how fair the pricing is over there!
Speaking of comfort food spots with multiple locations, Melt Bar & Grilled was founded by Cleveland musician and Chef Matt Fish. The chain has been featured on both Man Vs. Food and Diners, Drive-Ins & Dives. It specializes in craft beer and grilled cheese sandwiches, but the Columbus location I visited also has a partnership with Arcade Super Awesome. In other words, there are currently 13 pinball machines and a Killer Queen arcade machine on-site. In turn, a visit to Melt ought to provide hours of nourishment and entertainment.
If arcade games and home video game consoles are more of your thing than pinball, then you must go to Brewcadia. Unique from any other arcade I have been to — children’s parties aside — no coins or tokens are required to play the machines at Brewcadia as long as you are eating and/or drinking. The games regularly rotate out and currently, there are not only around two dozen arcade games, a Sega Genesis console, and two pinball machines but also a closet full of board games. The snacks and beer selection are also great at Brewcadia.
Another beer-related recommendation? Yes, but hear me out — I didn’t even order a beer here when I had lunch; my friend, an Ohio local, chose the spot. World Of Beer has a great food menu, full of internationally-minded, non-beer-related and/or brunch-acceptable items. As some examples: the Warm Donut Bites, the Avocado Toast, the Pesto Hummus, flatbreads, tater tots, and build-your-own-burger options. The “Spirits & Wine” menu was over a dozen pages, so there truly is something for everyone at a World Of Beer location.
An artisan ice cream company headquartered in Columbus, Jeni’s is known for both its creative flavors and its high-quality ingredients. Founded by an Ohio State University attendee, Jeni’s now has 34 storefronts — four of which are in Los Angeles — in addition to nationwide retail distribution. In 2013, Jeni’s won a sofi Gold Award for “Outstanding Product Line,” while its founder Jeni Britton Bauer released her third cookbook earlier this year. Expect ice cream brilliance from Jeni’s, dairy-free options included, as opposed to “mint chocolate chip” or “rocky road”-type fare.
A hotel can help make or break a trip. In this case, the Hilton Columbus At Easton helped make my May 2019 trip a success. Located less than 20 minutes by car from John Glenn International Airport, less than 20 minutes by car from German Village and Downtown Columbus, and just steps from the Easton mall complex, this hotel was conveniently located for dining, shopping, and all logistical needs. It also had a pool and jacuzzi — both open daily until midnight — and a 24/7 fitness center. Friendly staff, a kitchen that was open late, a decent breakfast buffet, and rooms that appear to have been recently updated. I hope to stay at this hotel again if returning to Columbus in July.