What makes Columbus a culinary capital?
Rich food traditions, preserved by immigrants who helped settle the city. Quality meat, dairy and produce from Ohio’s farmers. And, now, community-spirited entrepreneurs, who have launched ice cream shops, canneries, meaderies and other culinary concepts.
Combined, these ingredients make the food scene in Columbus about far more than dining out — although there are plenty of flavorful opportunities for that, too. Columbus wants visitors to taste, to tour, to even take matters — and making into their own hands.
Experience Columbus’ Capital City Cuisine itinerary outlines three days’ worth of culinary options. Here is a quick look at some of its suggested stops. To see the itinerary, visit: www.experiencecolumbus.com/tour-planners/itineraries/
Fun is in the making
Whip up dinner together
Fun adds spice to what The Kitchen calls “participatory” events, where everyone pitches in to make a multi-course meal. The end result is a generous dinner shared at a long, communal table in The Kitchen’s handsome restored brick storefront. An Italian-themed dinner, with salad, pasta and dessert, is a favorite.
Oh yes, you can can
Through its group classes, the Glass Rooster Cannery and Art Barns preserves culinary arts like canning and fermenting. Its Art Barns sell local products, many made from recycled or upcycled materials, another form of preservation. In addition to classes and shopping, groups can arrange farm-to-fork buffet lunches on the patio or in a barn at the 120-acre farm.
Cup of herbal tea, anyone?
Want to make herbal beauty products or household cleaners? Or blend herbs for teas on a cold day? Those are among the classes taught year round at the Ohio Herb Education Center in Gahanna, Ohio’s Herb Capital. Just 15 minutes from downtown Columbus, the center demonstrates how herbs’ have value in the kitchen and beyond. Essential oils, books, candles, soup and spice/herb mixes are some of the items sold in its gift shop.
Sweet treats and a tour
Take home a basket of Buckeyes
Anthony Zanetos, an energetic Greek immigrant, ran a dairy and a soda fountain before he realized his future was in candy making. The company he founded in the mid-1900s, Anthony-Thomas Candy Company, churns out 30,000 pounds of chocolates a day at its modern factory in Columbus. During hour-long tours, arranged by appointment, visitors walk along a glass-enclosed catwalk and watch the action on nine productions lines below. Tours end in a retail shop; souvenir recommendations include peanut butter and chocolate Buckeyes, sold in gift baskets shaped like the state of Ohio and in Ohio State ceramic bowls.
Ah nuts! Krema crushes it
Krema Nut Co. is a must-stop for peanut butter purists. Since 1878, it has made nut butters with no added sugars or oils. The rise of peanut allergies caused it to discontinue tours, but visitors can still see the plant in operation through glass windows from a gift shop stocked with nut mixes and nut butters. Come hungry. A small ice cream shop has $5 gourmet peanut butter sandwiches including the Classic Old Timer, with crunchy peanut butter, strawberry jam and a layer of fresh strawberries; The Kicker, a combo of Krema’s Hot and Spicy Peanut Butter with spicy raspberry preserves; and the Buckeye, fresh ground peanut butter and Nutella.
Not your typical double dip
Jeni Britton Bauer was ahead of the game when she started making ice cream professionally 20 years ago. Her Jeni’s Splendid Ice Creams began in Columbus, but now has locations in nine additional cities, including Los Angeles, Nashville and Atlanta. Jeni’s ice creams are all about local and organic; her company celebrates diversity through its hiring practices. Visitors can get a taste of what has made Jeni’s so celebrated in Columbus and beyond at one of her dozen area shops, including locations in German Village, North Market and the Short North Arts District. Try Lemon Buttermilk Frozen Yogurt, customers’ all-time favorite, or look for seasonals like Ohio Sweet Corn. Ask for a buttercrisp waffle cone, a new product introduced in 2017.
Historic stops to savor
Red brick streets and jumbo cream puffs
In the mid-1800s, German immigrants began building red brick homes and businesses along red brick streets in what became known as German Village. Thanks to efforts that began in the 1950s, it is one of Columbus’ best-preserved and oldest neighborhoods. Old certainly doesn’t mean fusty though; German Village recently ranked as the city’s most popular neighborhood, due, in part to an influx of new restaurants. Visitors still count on reliables like Schmidt’s Restaurant und Sausage Haus, an authentic, fifth-generation German restaurant known for sausages and jumbo cream puffs. A stop there can be the reward after a guided walk or driving tour with a step-on guide past handsome homes and interesting shops.
Nibble and nosh at North Market
North Market is one of Columbus oldest food traditions, the last public market standing in a city that once boasted four. It’s easy to spend an hour or more there, visiting with butchers, bakers, fishmongers, cheese makers, spice sellers and others who operate the market’s 35 indoor stalls, followed by lunch or early dinner in the mezzanine with dishes from Hot Chicken Takeover, Flavors of India, Nida’s Sushi and Thai and other restaurant operators. North Market staff can lead a tour, or a group can have Columbus Food Adventures tailor a tour that takes in the North Market and other stops.
Drink it all in
You need to try the mead
Craft beer and distilling is booming in Columbus, with Watershed, Elevator, Land-Grant Brewing and Middle West Spirits among the lineup of breweries and distilleries. Columbus also is home to one of the country’s first meaderies, Brothers Drake Meadery.
Mead is the latest adult beverage trend, with a new meadery opening every few days. Back when Brothers Drake Meadery opened in 2007, it was one of about 40 in the U.S.
During hourlong tours (scheduled in advance), tastes of finished meads, meads in progress and the Ohio honey that is the foundation of this fermented beverage are offered. The meadery makes 10,000 gallons each year and its bar serves interesting flavors like Freestone (peach, apricot, honey and hops) and Blueberry Chai (blueberry, honey and chai spices) on tap and in bottles to take home. A trip to Brothers Drake Meadery also brings visitors to the popular Short North Arts District, known for its art galleries and interesting local restaurants including The Pearl and Lemongrass Fusion Bistro.
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