I spent the last couple of months revisiting and photographing some of the best Columbus restaurants and bars to share with you! This is likely to be an ever growing list as I continue to eat my way through the city, finding the best food in Columbus. It sometimes comes as a surprise to people, but Columbus has so much great food!
If you’re visiting for the first time, you should know that Columbus is fairly spread out–it often feels more like a collection of suburbs than a large city. You’ll want a car– or an Uber— to criss-cross the city for these recommendations.
Best Breakfast, Brunch, & Coffee in Columbus
This chic bakery located in the heart of German Village is renowned for their macarons, which I’m honestly ambivalent about. However, you’ll also find a small brunch menu and so many other tasty baked goods to choose from. You can’t go wrong with the shortbread cookies (above) or lemon tart, and they always have creative seasonal options, like a Pear Ginger Frangipane, and Pumpkin Eclair on the fall menu right now.
Address (German Village location, also in the North Market): 541 South Third Street, Columbus, Ohio 43215
The cute, airy spot with friendly staff is one of my favorite places to eat in Columbus! Dough Mama serves a small but delicious breakfast and lunch menu, along with fantastic pie.
I love their seasonal quiches, and always, always order a side of pie (despite what people may tell you, quiche + pie does not count as two pieces of pie). It’s one of those places I’m always pleasantly surprised to find empty seats. How are they not packed all the time?? While you’re waiting for that extra slice of pie to go, don’t forget to browse the wares from local artists and artisans by the register.
Address: Clintonville, 3335 N High St, Columbus, OH 43202
Two words: pancake balls. To be specific, pancake balls filled with Nutella, dulce de leche or pumpkin-apple butter. Come for breakfast or lunch, with breakfast items served till close at 3pm. I’m still working my way through the menu, but the breakfast tacos and roasted pork breakfast sandwich are also great, and I’m dying to try the biscuit balls filled with ham, apple butter and cheddar. And did I mention all this magic happens with locally sourced ingredients, in a cute renovated vintage gas station?
There’s patio seating, but the restaurant is small with limited interior seats, so you’re likely to find a line stretching out the door on weekends. Try to visit during weekdays or off hours if you can, but it’s worth the wait for the best breakfast in Columbus.
Address: Harrison West, 1105 Pennsylvania Ave. Columbus, OH 43201
I’d probably come to Fox in the Snow’s beautiful, light filled cafe even without the delicious baked goods and coffee. Set in a former garage with huge windows and a relaxing minimalist vibe, it’s a fantastic place to hang out. They want to encourage conversation, so you won’t find wifi here. Bring a friend, or settle in with a cinnamon roll and coffee or their famous egg sandwich for company.
Address: Italian Village, 1031 N. Fourth Street, Columbus, OH 43201
This cute cafe downtown has your normal elevated coffee shop offerings, as well as international options like Vietnamese coffee and bubble tea. They’re also a solid spot for breakfast or lunch, with Filipino style paninis and cupcakes on the menu. AND they’re open late-ish, which is always a plus in my book.
Address: Downtown, 246 S 4th St, Columbus, OH, 43215
Best Cheap Eats in Columbus
These three are part of a little Japanese food empire in a strip mall that also includes Japanese gift shop J Avenue, and Akai Hana, a more formal Japanese restaurant (with pretty great sushi). However, I stop most often at the three above.
Tensuke Express is my go-to for quick ramen, curry, and rice bowls. Don’t expect a nuanced, artisan broth– it’s more of a fast food ramen, but tasty nonetheless. The kimchi ramen is a good choice to give the broth an extra punch.
Tensuke Market sells pre-packaged sushi and bento style meals, along with all the ingredients you’ll need for Japanese cooking. I’m always here picking up hard to find items like shiso leaves or browsing their decent selection of sake.
Belle’s Bread might be my favorite of the three, with their amazing baked goods and Japanese café-style lunch. The French influenced pastries and fusion-y lunch options might seem out of place, but they’re actually very close to what you’d find in Japan. Think things like cod roe spaghetti (above) and omurice, alongside matcha rolls and mango mousse cake. Everything here is great, but you should try the curry donut (deep fried bread with a curry filling–it’s delicious, and hard to find outside of Japan), and I can never get enough of the matcha soft serve.
Address (all in the same strip mall): Upper Arlington, 1167 Old Henderson Rd, Columbus, OH 43220
Phone (Tensuke Market): 614-451-2551
This bare bones Mexican spot is famous for their Al Pastor tacos–juicy marinated pork with pineapple slices. Tacos are just $1.50 to $2 each, and you’ll find more authentic choices as well, like beef tongue (yum!) and tripe (no thanks). Los Gauchos is great for a quick lunch, and perfect for late night munchies since they’re open till at least 11 every night.
Address: Northwest Columbus, 5221 Godown Rd. Columbus, OH 43235
A Columbus institution! Come for the huge menu of creative hot dogs, stay for the local music on the stereo, and hair band art on the walls. I photographed the classic Chili and Chicago Dogs, but the Seoul Dog (kimchi and mayo) and Pittsburgh Princess (coleslaw and french fries) are two of our faves as well.
Did I mention they serve beer, are open late AND have options for your vegan friends? There’s often a line during peak times (lunch and basically dinner onwards), so you may have to wait a bit. It’s worth it for one of the best cheap restaurants in Columbus.
Address: Downtown, 248 S. 4th Street, Columbus, Ohio, 43215
Second location: 2836 W Broad St, Columbus, OH 43204
Best Casual Dining in Columbus
Hands down the best Korean food in the city. I’m a big fan of their Kimchi Jige (kimchi stew, shown above), Kimchi Fried Rice, and Pork Bulgogi. You’ll get a selection of yummy banchan included with your meal as well (none of this charging extra for sub-par Kimchi like local bastardizer of Korean food, Bibibop). Min Ga has a family feel, with the same friendly faces serving every time you visit, and skews heavily toward an Asian clientele, always a good sign for authenticity.
Address: Northwest Columbus, 800 Bethel Rd, Columbus, OH 43214
I can’t actually speak for Sunflower’s regular Chinese menu. It could be awesome, but I’m here to steer you in the direction of their weekend dim-sum lunch. Order steamed dumplings, turnip cakes (really good!), and more from the roving trolley carts, and stuff yourself silly.
I’m a little less crazy about their dessert options–and you’ll want something more palate cleansing after all that salty deliciousness anyway– so scroll down to Desserts for a place to hit up afterwards.
Address: Dublin, 7370 Sawmill Road, Columbus, OH 43235
Don’t discount ethnic food when you’re looking for the best places to eat in Columbus!
There seems to be an inverse relationship between “fanciness” and tastiness when it comes to Ethiopian food. The prettiest Ethiopian restaurants I’ve been to have had the worst food.
So yes, this place is sort of in the ghetto, and yes, you should definitely eat there! Everything is great here, but Ethiopian veggie dishes are consistently amazing, and Addis is no exception. The veggie combo (pictured) is a great place to start, and I’m also a fan of the addictive Fir Fir, cubed beef mixed with injera bread in a spiced sauce.
Address: Northeast Columbus, 3750 Cleveland Ave, Columbus, OH 43224
Chinese Beef Noodle Soup’s name seems to be a direct translation of their specialty. But they don’t need a catchy name with food this great! If you’ve been to Xi’an Famous Foods in New York, you have a bit of a reference point. This is Columbus’ version of Western Chinese.
The Spiced Beef Noodle Soup (they mean spicy) with handmade noodles is something I crave for days until I begrudgingly head down to the packed University district to drive around in circles until I find a parking spot. But it’s sooo worth it. Oh, and order the amazing Smashed Cucumbers too. If you don’t want to deal with parking, they also deliver through Grubhub.
Address: University District, 10 E 12th Ave. Columbus, OH 43201
A beer, Valter’s fried schnitzel sandwich, and their ridiculously addictive house made chips with beer cheese are all I need to improve a terrible day. I should probably try more of the menu, but why take the chance when you’ve found the perfect meal? Their sunny patio is nice when weather allows, and the restaurant is in an old brick home with just enough renovation to retain its charm.
Address: German Village, 976 South High St, Columbus, Ohio 43206
Marcella’s is part of Cameron Mitchell’s empire of Columbus restaurants. They’re all pretty solid restaurants, but frequently a little overpriced for what you get.
However, I like Marcella’s enough to pay the $15ish price for entrees. The Penne alla Vodka (above) is a favorite, and the Spaghetti and Meatball (yes, just one giant meatball, and it’s perfection), is a go-to comfort food. There’s two locations, but head to the Polaris restaurant if you’re driving and don’t want to pay for valet at their Short North location.
Address (Polaris location): 1319 Polaris Parkway, Columbus, Ohio 43240
After I took photos at The Carvery, I realized that maybe I should have planned for some more props. But really, the sandwiches are the star of the show at this meat-centric restaurant. You’ll find some sides, salads and usually one vegetarian sandwich, but I’ve never bothered to try them.
This is not your average deli food; you can watch them slicing freshly cooked meats and sending them right down the line to fulfill the lunch rush. The menu changes seasonally, but you’re always guaranteed a good variety of meats, from brisket, to porchetta, to chicken (like the flavorful apple butter chicken sandwich above). They also have great taste in music–probably the only spot in Columbus I’ve heard playing the Dead Kennedys!
Address: Downtown, 51 East Gay Street. Columbus, Ohio, 43215
This fried chicken joint hails from Cincinnati, also home to some pretty great food. The chicken is free range and delicious, though I could happily fill up on just the biscuits or cornbread. Everything is surprisingly reasonably priced, particularly for the Short North area. They have a decent selection of beers and cocktails, and nice beer hall-style patio space.
Address: Short North, 790 N. High Street, Columbus, OH 43215
Best Fine Dining in Columbus
Anthony Bourdain ate here for the “Heartland” (basically everywhere in between the coasts) episode of No Reservations! Buuuut, Kihachi didn’t make it on the show. Still, this is easily the best, most authentic Japanese restaurant in Columbus.
The menu includes some sushi and sashimi, but they’re not a sushi bar, and you’re likely to find quite a few unfamiliar items on the menu. If you feel adventurous, ask for the Omakase dinner, sit back and enjoy course after course of small plates chosen by the chef. Ordering off the menu, you can choose from entrees like udon and rice bowls (the unaju is just as amazing as what we had in Japan), along with a ton of mouth watering small plates. Our favorites are the hamachi kama and sea bream box press sushi (top photo)–it’s so mind-bendingly good, especially with the yuzu-infused soy sauce! The restaurant is small and only open for dinner, so I recommend calling for a reservation, even for weekdays.
If I haven’t already made it clear, this is hands down one of the best Columbus restaurants!
Address: Dublin, 2667 Federated Blvd, Columbus, OH 43235
The food at this Spanish and tapas spot probably tastes just as good in the winter, but you should definitely try to visit in the summer, and snag a spot on their lush patio. We’re fans of the Paella, goat cheese stuffed avocado, wine selection…and really most everything we’ve tried here. Tip: tell them it’s your birthday (I mean, it should be true) and dessert is free.
Address: German Village, 263 East Whittier Street, Columbus, OH 43206
I feel like a lot of places try for what this old school, French influenced restaurant has, and most fall short. The high quality, the consistently amazing food, the mouth watering –and highly Instagrammable– pear tart I have to order every time. I do wish their staff would relax a bit (maybe it’s just me being allergic to formality). Their menu changes frequently, so you have ample opportunity to try something seasonal. Ask about suggested wine pairings; they’re happy to do smaller pours so you can pair a different wine with each course.
Address: Northwest Columbus, 1092 Bethel Road, Columbus Ohio 43220
Best Dessert in Columbus
They’ve expanded to six other cities across the US, but Columbus still feels like Jeni’s is ours. I’m not exaggerating when I say it’s one of the best ice creams in the country. Jeni’s really shines when it comes to the fruit flavors, creating ice creams and sorbets that actually taste like their namesakes. But everything is great, from the vanilla to the awesome curried pumpkin flavor on their fall lineup right now.
Try the Goat Cheese & Red Cherries, or the Riesling Poached Pear sorbet, if they’re on the seasonal menu when you visit. They’ll happily offer you samples of any flavors you’re intrigued by, so make sure to do a thorough taste test before you make your decision!
Address: 10 locations in Columbus, see the website for addresses, or type “Jeni’s Ice Cream” into your GPS to see the location closest to you
If I weren’t so loyal to pie, this would be my favorite dessert place in Columbus. The Dessert Bowl features Hong Kong-style desserts, crepes, waffles, and a handful of savory dishes. My favorites are the fruit dishes, like the Glutinous Rice with Mango. Prices are a tad high, but you won’t find many of their menu items anywhere else in Columbus.
Address: Upper Arlington, 2839 Olentangy River Rd, Columbus, OH 43202
Without question, the best donuts in Columbus! Sure, Columbus has its share of classic donut shops, but too often they taste like over-sugared cardboard to me. Destination Donuts’ scrumptious yeast donuts are so much better! You’ll find flavors like Berry Cardamom and Mojito alongside the classics, the majority of which are vegan to boot. Their donuts are stocked by some coffee shops around town, but it’s worth visiting them in the North Market for the full selection and munchies available in other booths.
Address (inside the North Market): 59 Spruce Street, Columbus OH 43215
This Mexican ice cream spot adopted the name Diamonds because the owner didn’t want to change the awning left over from a jewelry store that previously inhabited the space. Turns out, it’s a fitting name! With over 70 delicious paletas (popsicles) to choose from, creative ice creams like sweet corn, and yummy Mexican fruit sundaes, you’ll want to keep coming back until you’ve tried everything. Try the mangonada, or one of the fruit paletas, or just give in and put together a giant dessert feast.
Address: Northwest Columbus, 5461 Bethel Sawmill Center, Columbus, OH 43235
Best Drinks in Columbus
Step away from the frozen margarita and head to this perfect little Tiki spot near downtown! When it’s too cold for their little oasis of a patio, the interior has almost (is there ever really enough?) all the kitsch you could ask for. It’s amazing for chasing away the winter blues. I wouldn’t spend the money on their food offerings, but the drinks are consistently great; fun and fruity without being too sweet. Beyond the wide Tiki drink menu, there’s a variety of rums to sample, and enough beers choices to keep the killjoy non Tiki-phile in your group happy.
Address: Downtown, 105 N Grant Avenue, Columbus, OH 43215
Columbus is pretty spread out, so I frequently miss that dense, “real city” feeling. Demark’s second floor space overlooking High Street fulfills a bit of that yearning. Their menu changes seasonally, and is always full of delicious, creative cocktails (War and Pisco, anyone? I can’t resist a good pun). Stop by for happy hour for discounts on wine and classic cocktails, and give the locally sourced snacks and small plates a try as well.
Address: Short North, 463 North High Street, Columbus, OH 43215, second floor
This craft cocktail bar with a curated vintage vibe is hipsterific, yes, but legitimately great. Small, candlelit and cozy, their cocktails are pricey but worth it. For maximum coziness, I recommend trying to snag the little “window” spot in the dining area cut to face the bar.
While you’d want to come here for Curio alone, they’re next door to the yummy Harvest Pizza (which should probably have its own separate listing, but hey, you’re hearing about it here), with the full menu available at the bar. The mushroom pizza + whatever strikes your fancy from the seasonal cocktail menu is a virtual guarantee of foodie bliss, and it’s one of the best places to eat in Columbus during the winter.
Address: German Village, 495 S. 4th St, Columbus, Ohio 43206
Rockmill is technically outside of Columbus, but you won’t regret the 30ish minute drive to get there. Set in the hilly Lancaster countryside on a former horse farm, it’s basically a park that serves beer.
Order one of their yummy Belgian-style beers, explore the grounds, picnic by the lake, and when the weather gets too cold, stay warm inside the farmhouse. They don’t serve food, so you’re encouraged you to bring your own. Tensuke Market (on the list above), and Katzingers are good choices.
(p.s. see my Rockmill post for more photos)
Address: 5705 Lithopolis Rd NW, Lancaster, OH 43130