Being the 14th largest city in the US and home to the 3rd largest university in the nation (Ohio State), Columbus has developed quite the culinary scene! And while there are plenty of fine dining options in the city, for the purposes of this blog, we’re not concerning ourselves with those. So, if you’re looking for the best place to celebrate your next anniversary, you should probably move along. Instead, we’re going to be covering the top 10 foodie spots in Columbus! The places where you can get a steak sandwich as big as your face, a hot dog rolled up in a slice of pizza, or a grilled cheese sandwich that has an entire chicken and waffle dinner on it! Are you hungry yet? ‘Cause I am! Let’s dive in...
Check out our video experience below!
*This list is in no particular order
1. Hot Chicken Takeover
Being from Nashville, I tend to be a little skeptical when I see a restaurant selling hot chicken, banana pudding, and sweet tea… especially when it’s not in the south! And most times, my skepticism is founded! But let me tell you… Hot Chicken Takeover is the real deal! And with 4 (going on 5) locations, they’re not going anywhere! The thing that makes them so good is that they’re not trying to be Hattie B’s or Prince’s. Yes, they took inspiration from these iconic restaurants, but they took the idea and made it their own! As one of their employees quickly reminded me when I called it “Nashville Hot Chicken”, “It’s Ohio Hot Chicken!”. And I can respect that… especially when it’s done right! And they are doing it right! The chicken is cooked perfectly with just the right amount of spice (we got warm, but you can order Cold, Warm, Hot, or Holy), the pickles are so fresh and delicious, the mac and cheese makes you feel like your grandmother helped cook the meal, and the banana pudding is like no other. And did we mention that they have sweet tea?! I could go on, but really all you need to know is that it is amazing and you need to head there now! So good!
2. The Thurman Cafe
Thurman Cafe is one of those places that’s just a part of the culture. It’s been a family owned staple in the German Village neighborhood since 1942, and has been serving up some of the best burgers in the country ever since! You really can’t go wrong with anything on the menu, but if you think you’re up for the challenge, you can try and tackle the Thurmanator. The Thurmanator consists of a bun, lettuce, tomato, mayo, American cheese, provolone cheese, ham, sautéed onions, mushrooms, a 12-ounce burger, bacon, cheddar cheese, hot peppers, and another 12 ounce burger. It also comes with house-made kettle chips and a pickle spear. That sounds like a death wish to me… a delicious death wish.
3. Wario’s Beef & Pork
Hailing as one of Columbus’ newest establishments, Wario’s has wasted no time picking up an underground following through murmurs of their delicious sandwiches on social media. It's so new, in fact, that they still sport the previous tenants branded red awning over their walk-up, carry-out window! They opened in the October of 2020 with chef Stephan Madias at the helm and never looked back. The menu is simple, offering 5 sandwiches (The Steak, The Cold Cut, Chicken Cutlet, Roasted Pork, and Falafel) and 2(ish) sides (House Spuds and Wario Spuds). I’ve personally had The Steak, The Cold Cut, Chicken Cutlet, and House Spuds, and I can tell you that these sandwiches are worth the $11-17 price tag. Yes, you heard me right… $11-17 for a sandwich, but these sandwiches can EASILY serve two, if not three people! On top of the massive serving size, these sandwiches are made with the freshest ingredients and served on a local made seeded roll from Matija Breads. The Steak sandwich rivals, or dare I say, beats any Philly Cheesesteak I've ever had in Philadelphia, the Chicken Cutlet is what the creators of the chicken parmesan wished they had created, and The Cold Cut is the Italian sub that we’ve all dreamed of! And the unsung here are the spuds… smashed mini potatoes cooked to crispy perfection! And then when you dip them in the Wario sauce… game over!
4. Mikey’s Late Night Slice
Serving up a half dozen or more classic slices, plus another handful of greasy perfection appetizers, and the ever popular “Sacraments” as they call it, there’s no other way to put it… Mikey’s Late Night Slice is a stoner’s paradise! One of my favorites is The Pizza Dawg… A hot dog stuffed with pepperoni and cheese, served in a slice of pizza as the bun! It doesn’t get much munchie-er than that! As they say, “A healthy alternative to a cup of melted butter!”.
5. Melt Bar & Grilled
I can’t deny it, Melt Bar & Grilled is undeniable… me! Everything about it screams my name. Natalie is forever laughing at me because I will turn any meal into a sandwich if possible, and that is exactly what Melt does! The fact that you can order a Chicken & Waffles grilled cheese sandwich is like heaven to me! I’ve had a few of their sandwiches, but the General Tso’s Delicious Manchu Dynasty Melt and The Cowabunga (TMNT) are probably my favorites. The General Tso’s consists of crispy fried chicken slathered in General Tso’s own sweet & spicy sauce, crisp broccoli egg foo yung, rangoon-style cream cheese, muenster cheese, sesame seed garnish. And the Cowabunga is made up of real cheese pizza rolls deep fried until extra crispy and atomic hot, rich basil marinara, basil pesto, herb cream cheese, provolone & romano. It tastes like middle school between two slices of bread! In all seriousness, these sandwiches are so good, so next time you’re in Columbus, make sure you swing by for a taste!
6. The Wizard of Za
Another new establishment born in the midst of the pandemic, The Wizard of Za is a fairytale story of a musician out of work who turned his efforts toward another passion to get through the hard times. Owner/Chef Spencer Saylor started the Sicilian style pizza joint in his home kitchen in early 2020, serving up pies to his friends and family. Once word started to get out, he realized this was bigger than anticipated. Since then, Spencer and his team have moved to an industrial size, brick and mortar location just north of Downtown Columbus and Ohio State University and this underground pizza joint has turned into the best in town! But before you go jump in your car and head pick up your cheesy, melty pie, you’ve got to know… The Wizard of Za is SO POPULAR that they are operating on a reservation only basis. You can’t just pick up the phone and call in your order and pick it up in a half hour. Due to the fact that each pie is hand crafted and made from scratch, you have to reserve your order ahead of time… and get this… they’re also on a wait list for reservations! This pizza is THAT GOOD! The good news is that you can head over to thewizardofza.com and get notified when openings are available. So get to it! You can thank me later!
7. Preston’s: A Burger Joint
Started as a pop-up operation between owner Matthew Heaggans and former business partner Catie Randazzo, Preston’s quickly became a favorite among Columbus locals! Thanks to the difficulties brought on by the pandemic, Heaggans’ plan to open the restaurant's first permanent location Downtown came to a screeching halt. Thankfully, it didn’t take long for the Preston’s team to re-group and decide to open it's first brick-and-mortar location inside the Downtown North Market, and we couldn’t be happier! Preston’s is dishing out some of the best smash burgers and fries that you can find and if you’re not a beef eater, that’s ok, because they’ve got some excellent chicken options as well! The Spicy Boi burger is a favorite of mine and the Crispy Pimento Cheese Dumplings are AMAZING, but you really can’t go wrong with anything from the menu!
8. Amy’s Donuts
While Amy’s may not be a true local-to-Columbus establishment, it may as well be! With only 6 location nationwide, Columbus was location #2 for the Colorado born donut shop, and it was welcomed with open arms! Housed in an old Taco Bell building, Amy’s has an unassuming appearance, but they have some of the best donuts in Ohio and beyond! I was blown away with just how many different types of donuts they offer, so if you’re going for the first time, be prepared to be overwhelmed… in the best way possible! From Maple Bacon to Butterfinger Glaze to Chocolate Cookie Butter, you’re sure to find something you’ll love out of their 120+ varieties! If you can’t decide on just one type of donut, you can always order a half dozen or dozen and get a sampling! I thought they were reasonably priced at $10 for a dozen plain glazed, $13 for a dozen frosted, and $17 for a dozen assorted, so just order a dozen and share with friends!
9. Jeni’s Splendid Ice Creams
Yes, Jeni’s Splendid Ice Creams is an ice cream chain that can be found in major cities around the country, but why not try it in its home city! Long before Jeni’s was a household name, in 2002, it was a lone ice cream stall in the North Market. Jeni’s is known for their unique and experimental flavors, and if you’re a first time patron of Jeni’s, you can’t go wrong with the Brambleberry Crisp, a an oven-toasted oat streusel and sweet-tart “brambleberry” jam of blackberries and blackcurrants layered through vanilla ice cream. And if that just sounded like a bunch of gibberish to you, let me paraphrase… it’s delicious!
10. Graeter’s Ice Cream
Another Ohio born ice cream shop that lives up to the hype is Graeter’s! Getting its start in Cincinnati in 1870, Graeter’s has deep ties to the heart of the Ohio people. The fact that they are still family owned after 150+ years of operation speaks to the care that Graeter’s puts into its product. They are known for their famous chocolate chip ice creams, but I personally love their S’mores flavor. Don’t take my word for it though, go try one of the 25 offered varieties for yourself! You won’t be disappointed!