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Columbus: On the Menu

A culinary world tour in 2 days and 1 city

By Lauren Powers

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My husband, James, was in charge of planning our first wedding anniversary celebration, and he arranged a Columbus itinerary so we could explore the fantastic dining scene in one of our favorite cities. We’re big foodies, but I found I had a lot to learn and taste.

Day 1: Vamos a comer

I was delighted as we pulled up to the beautiful Le Méridien, The Joseph hotel on a Friday afternoon. The outside is a lovely mix of modern and classic—the brick elements blend with the established buildings in the neighborhood while the tall windows drew my eye up to the sky. James and I were quickly greeted by the valet and helped into the lobby with our bags. Standing in the lobby, I admired the marble floors, the Illy coffee bar and the contemporary artwork. I could hardly wait to get started on our celebration.

As we settled into our room overlooking High Street, I soaked up the view of downtown and asked James where we would be eating for lunch. He pointed down to High Street and told me we were headed to El Arepazo Latin Grill, just a short ride on the free CBUS, the city’s Downtown Circulator, away.

Sleek décor welcomes guests to Le Méridien Columbus, The Joseph hotel.
Le Méridien Columbus, The Joseph hotel in Columbus, Ohio has a sleek two-story black and white lobby
Le Méridien Columbus, The Joseph hotel in Columbus, Ohio has a sleek two-story black and white lobby
Sleek décor welcomes guests to Le Méridien Columbus, The Joseph hotel.

With a fun mix of traditional and innovative dishes from Venezuela, Mexico, Cuba, Colombia and more, the menu made it tough to make a decision. I opted for a dish that I had never tried before, a Venezuelan arepa—a circular sandwich made using corn cakes as the slices of bread. Stuffed in the middle was a warm filling of melty cheddar cheese, black beans and creamy avocado. Every item that passed our table caught my eye, including the Patacon, a fried plantain topped with lettuce, bright green banana peppers, avocado and cheese. My husband and I toasted each other with vibrant mango juice and finished dinner with a slice of their tres leches cake—a sweet, fluffy, slightly indulgent cake crafted with three types of milk (leches) and a South American favorite.

The rest of our evening was spent in the lobby of the Joseph enjoying the fireplace and people watching. Their Illy coffee bar transforms into a regular bar in the evenings, which draws both locals and visitors of the hotel. It was the perfect place to wind down after the week and I commended James for his hotel pick—he knew I had always wanted to stay at the Joseph. He didn’t give me too many details about the rest of the weekend, so I was excited to see what else he had planned for us.

Day 2: Cold brew & Mediterranean fare

We woke up Saturday morning and knew we wanted to try a fun, neighborhood favorite for brunch. We had heard great things about Katalina’s, so we enjoyed a leisurely half-hour walk from the hotel through the streets of Victorian Village, feeling more than hungry once we arrived. Located just off of Neil and 3rd avenues, Katalina’s is always bustling on the weekends—and for good reason. Since they are known for their pancakes balls, we were quick to order the variety stuffed with Nutella to share. The Mexican French Toast was another winner—the Mexican chocolate added just a touch of spice. James ordered the Shagbark black bean tacos, which highlight locally sourced ingredients such as the black beans and corn tortillas from Shagbark Seed & Mill (a certified organic mill in Appalachian Ohio) and the fresh crema from Snowville Creamery (a grass-fed dairy farm in Southern Ohio). Both of us had a hard time deciding what to order from the drink menu, which tempted us with choices ranging from cold brew from local roaster Thunderkiss Coffee to fresh-squeezed blood orange juice. We enjoyed our food on the cozy patio of family-style tables with bright-colored chairs and umbrellas. James was doing a great job of picking just the kind of places I liked—can’t beat a delicious brunch on a cute patio.

Scrumptious brunch dishes await at Katalina’s.
An overhead view of platters of brunch food at Katalina's in Columbus, Ohio
An overhead view of platters of brunch food at Katalina's in Columbus, Ohio
Scrumptious brunch dishes await at Katalina’s.

Following brunch, we strolled back through Victorian Village and admired the stately historic homes. We stopped at Goodale Park and sat on a bench by the pond enjoying the sunshine and watching locals walk their dogs through the park. We spent the afternoon checking out the local boutiques along High Street, like Tigertree, Rose Bredl and Rowe Boutique. After a few hours of shopping, we stopped for coffee at Mission Coffee Co., a hip, lively café located just off of High Street. We ordered their cold brew and a pour over and enjoyed the warm summer breezes.

Hats and racks of clothes for sale at Tigertree, a clothing store in Columbus, Ohio
Spruce up your wardrobe at Tigertree on Columbus’ High Street.

For dinner we selected Brassica, a lively eatery with a flavorful Mediterranean menu. I was excited before we even had a chance to glance at the menu. With their sleek wooden benches, modern globe light fixtures and marble topped tables, it was easy to see why Brassica is always popping up on popular Instagram feeds around town. As much as I loved the decor, the menu was even more appealing.

Spruce up your wardrobe at Tigertree on Columbus’ High Street.
Hats and racks of clothes for sale at Tigertree, a clothing store in Columbus, Ohio
Mission Coffee Co. serves cold brew coffee, lattes and more.
Mission Coffee Co. serves cold brew coffee, lattes and more in Columbus, OH
Mission Coffee Co. serves cold brew coffee, lattes and more in Columbus, OH
Mission Coffee Co. serves cold brew coffee, lattes and more.

Guests start with a base of either warm, house-made pita bread or crunchy greens (like the tortilla or lettuce option at Chipotle), then build their custom dish with spiced lentils, rice and a number of tasty toppings such as harissa-rubbed beef brisket or lamb bacon. I added a couple pieces of their falafel patties, which were cooked to perfection—slightly hard on the outside and soft on the bright green inside with the right mixture of garlic, cumin and a touch of chili pepper. To round out our order, we split the famous Brassica fries—crispy fries topped with Mediterranean spices and served with a side of tangy yogurt sauce. We also ordered two Minty Pink Lemonades, which were light and refreshing (no splitting those delicious drinks, however!).

Day 3: Oui to French pastries

Sunday was our final day of culinary exploring. For brunch, we headed to High Street to Salt & Pine. About a 30-minute walk from the hotel, it made for a leisurely Sunday morning stroll through downtown. Salt & Pine’s brunch menu has options ranging from griddle cakes to cinnamon French toast to a breakfast burrito. I relished my Salmon Benedict (a crumpet topped with pink salmon, runny egg, and a spoonful of hollandaise), while my husband splurged on the cinnamon French toast made of soft brioche topped with house-made cinnamon French toast ice cream, Ohio maple syrup and a dollop of whipped cream. Both were immensely satisfying and started our Sunday off just right. By the end of our meal, I was sad to realize that it was already Sunday afternoon—the weekend had been flying by and I was in food heaven.

Enjoy a decadent Parisian-inspired pastry at Pistacia Vera.
A plate of pastel-colored macarons at Pistacia Vera in Columbus, Ohio
Bite into Pistacia Vera’s freshly baked, and tempting, treats.
Fresh croissants topped with sliced almonds in a bakery case at Pistacia Vera in Columbus, Ohio
A plate of pastel-colored macarons at Pistacia Vera in Columbus, Ohio
Enjoy a decadent Parisian-inspired pastry at Pistacia Vera.

Following brunch, we enjoyed the walk down to German Village. As we wandered the brick streets, we admired the historic houses with tidy, beautiful gardens and ornate decor. On South 3rd Street, we stumbled upon Pistacia Vera, a Parisian-inspired pastry kitchen. We ordered a couple of coffees and a light snack of macarons to nibble on. The dessert display, however, was too tempting, so we also selected a few desserts to take home. The pain au chocolat, fresh lemon tart, shortbread cookies and chocolate chunk pistachio cookies were the ones that caught our eye.

Fresh croissants topped with sliced almonds in a bakery case at Pistacia Vera in Columbus, Ohio
Bite into Pistacia Vera’s freshly baked, and tempting, treats.

As we walked back to our hotel for the last time, I commended James for planning such a fun weekend. In just a few days, we had sampled Venezuelan cuisine, eaten locally sourced dishes, visited trendy coffee shops and even enjoyed French pastries. Despite not flying overseas, we had found plenty of previously undiscovered gems that would soon become favorites. I realized that perhaps adventure was closer than I had thought.

Explore more of Columbus’ incredible food scene