I haven't done a "best of" in about 2 years, so I thought I'd take some time - while I am on a cooking hiatus and working a lot - and do another one.
Please feel free to leave your own thoughts and favorites in the comments!
*sidenote* I know a lot of you and your website designers don't like to listen to me (on such issues as flash intros and horrible music), but I'll say this: If you have a physical location, it is very nice to have your phone number and address on the front page of your website, and it's even better if it's above the fold. Don't say I never offered you any free advice.
Alana's - The premier user of local and seasonal ingredients in Columbus. Probably the best wine list in the city. The menu changes frequently - sometimes daily. I'm not sure how Alana's got a reputation for being super expensive, because it's pretty easy to eat there for under $100 for 2 people. Newly expanded bar makes it easy to pop in for a glass of wine and an appetizer, which is nice if you're dining solo. info: 2333 N. High St (North Campus) 614.294.6783
Basi Italia - Anyone who can make eggplant taste as good Basi is a winner in my book. I also love the rigatoni and trout. A lovely patio and very reasonably priced wine list. info: 811 Highland St (Vicotrian Village) 614.294.7383
Kihachi - someone commented last year that I was ruining Kihachi. Well, it's still the best restaurant in the city. An unwavering commitment to quality ingredients makes this worth every penny, even if you're just there for a bowl of their great noodles. DO NOT expect a sushi restaurant. Kihachi is a very traditional Japanese restaurant, catering to the Japanese palate. Do not expect concessions to be made for Western tastes.
The Refectory - Flawlessly executed French food. The duck by which I measure all other ducks and am constantly disappointed. Great wine list and special events. info: 1092 Bethel Road (NW side) 614.451.9774
G. Michael's - quite possibly the most underrated restaurant in Columbus. Every time I read some chef bragging about all the local or sustainable ingredients they use, I shoot an email to Chef Tetzloff and tell him he needs a publicist. The specials are not to be missed. Very seasonal cooking with a Southern flair. Don't miss the shrimp & grits. Anything with pork or seafood will be a winner. info: 585 S 3rd St (German Village) 614.464.0575
Best Casual Restaurants
Cafe Corner - really great sandwiches. Favorites are the 3rd & Penn and the one with bacon, avocado, and fig jam. info: 1185 Pennsylvania Ave (Harrison west) 614.294.CAFE
Pita Hut - the best schwarma in Columbus. I have heard 2 people tell me they don't like it, causing me to question their judgment in all else. My Father in Law was in Iraq last year and said it is very similar to the street food there. The traditional falafel, a mix of lamb, beef, and turkey, is quite simply amazing. The falafel is the best I've ever had. The kufteh is delicious (fried, football-shaped meatballs), and the hummus is great as well. info: 4965 N. High St (Graceland area) 614.433.0996
Tensuke - There is a small restaurant inside this Japanese grocery store, and it is always a winner for great carryout sushi. I love the crunchy spicy salmon rolls and pretty much any of the lunches there. Great for a quick meal when you are feeling uninspired and want something healthy at a great price. info: 1167 Old Henderson (NW side) 614.451.6002
Dirty Franks - okay, it's only just opened, but you really can't beat a $3 hot dog in a place where you can also get a draft Frost Top root beer with a shot of bourbon on the side. For lunch or at 1 in the morning. info: 248 S 4th St (downtown) 614.824.4673
MoJoe - one of our regular hangouts. I haven't put it on the list before because it's kind of our bar where no one knows our name. Home to my favorite bartender Pants. The fries are so good we call them "crack fries," and the fish tacos are pretty tasty, too. info: 600 N. High St (Short North/Convention Center) 614.225.1563
Bob's Bar - Well, it is the Cultural Hub of the Midwest, you know. If you can get there on a night when the jukebox isn't being overtaken by someone with the worst taste in music ever, it's a great space. A great neighborhood joint with what might be the best beer selection in Columbus. Friendly, competent bartenders are a big plus, and you can bring in your Pita Hut from next door. info: 4961 N. High St (Graceland area) 614.888.9073
Hyde Park - Kind of outside of my usual hangout, Hyde Park is pretty legendary for their Happy Hour, which includes $4 martinis. Even if lots of the martinis are mixed with juice, they are giant enough to make them a steal. The bartenders at Hyde Park are great all the time, and I never feel out of place, even when Husband and I are the only people there who clearly don't care to dress up for Happy Hour. A great cross-section of people thanks to the friendly staff. Kind of makes up for the abomination of their sister bar, eleven. info: 569 N. High St (Short North/Convention Center) 614.224.2204
The Rossi - Might be Columbus' only true gastropub, even though they don't really bill themselves that way. Some of the best pizza in the city (sausage and hot peppers, please), and the closest to NY style we have - thin crust, big foldable slices, it's great. Also the burger is the best we've found in Columbus so far, and I also love the ham & gruyere sandwich with a fried egg. Bartenders are nice and the music is always great. info: 895 N. High St (Short North) 614.299.2810 Best Ethnic Restaurants
La Michoacana - This Morse road Mexican grocery and restaurant has really great tacos, tamales, and best of all, Al Pastor (a highly seasoned pork dish with pineapple). I was there waiting for carryout the other day and noticed how interesting the bar was - not a bottle of vodka inside, in complete contradiction to American bars. Also a great place to buy items for Latin cooking, also good for buying sodas sweetened with real sugar info: 2175 Morse Road (Northland) 614.471.4500
El Arepzo - A longtime favorite of Restaurant Widow. The base of the cuisine is an arepa, a grilled cornmeal cake which serves as a vehicle for delivering amazing meat. Empanadas are tasty as well, and there are lots of great dishes topped with fried eggs. Husband loves the Big Mexican burrito. And then, of course, there's the cilantro sauce. Even a cilantro-hater like me could drink it on the side. info: 47 N. Pearl St (downtown) 614.228.4830
Bay Leaf Indian - I have only been there for the lunch buffet, but every time it has been great. Very large selection which rotates on a daily basis. Good goat curry, great Naan and pickles. Although they serve meat, there are lots of amazing vegetarian options as well. info: 1025 Polaris Parkway (Polaris) 614.825.1023
La Plaza Tapatia - It's worth the drive through the Mad Max wasteland of the West side to get to this large Mexican grocery store and restaurant. Sunday afternoons feature live music. Tacos are very good, as is the Al Pastor and fish stew. info: 4233 Shoppers Lane (far West side) 614.276.0333
CoCo's Grille - Great Western and Eastern style Asian items. Ask for "Chinese Style" to get things extra spicy and tasty. Reexaminations: green beans in black bean sauce (Husband's favorite), Singapore rice noodles, and crispy Thai Spiced Shrimp info: 845 W 5th Ave (Grandview-ish) 614.429.0790
Best Places to Shop for Food
The North Market - Of course, it's foodie paradise for the gourmands of the capital city. Great for lunch or shopping for the week's dinners. Great Saturday farmer's market. Also good for cooking classes (and the occasional RW dinner!) info: 59 Spruce St (Convention Center/Arena District)
The Hills Market - The Hills could be a case study in effective use of social media. I didn't frequent the HIlls, mainly because of the distance, but after they asked me to do a cooking class and offered their space for a dinner, I became a convert. Their use of blogging and Twitter to keep up with their customers should be a case study for would-be new media savvy businesses. The Hills was the first grocery store to carry Snowville Creamery milk, carried Ohio beef before Whole Foods did, and was the first local outlet for Jeni's Ice cream outside of their shops. Also great events like beer and wine tastings and cooking classes. Don't miss their $5 premade subs. Great wine selection and full liquor store. 7860 Olentangy River Road/315 614.846.3220
Weiland's - My neighborhood grocery store. I love the traditional butcher shop; the guys there are great. The deli is also good, full of Boar's head and Thuman's meats. A great wine department and a fully-functional liquor store. Good seafood department and amazing house-smoked items. The brisket, usually available Saturdays and Sundays, could make a grown man cry it's so good. info: 3600 Indianola Ave (Clintonville) 614.267.9878
Carfagna's - This packed NE side Italian grocery store is one of my favorite places to buy quick dinner solutions. Their frozen fresh pastas a good, and their jarred housebrand sauces are a savior for picky eaters with time constraints. The last time I was there, the bag boy reminded me to get my free pound of pasta (one with every jar of sauce), and he carried my groceries to the car. That's service like we rarely see anymore. And yes, I tipped him. No one has ever carried my groceries to my car before. info: 1405 E Dublin-Granville road (NE side) 614.846.6340
Mediterrainean Imports - The best place to buy beans, olive oil, and amazingly delicious varieties of olives and dates. I never knew dates as tasty as King Solomon dates existed before! The staff is friendly and will help you find things if you need help. Don't miss their premade frozen savory pastries, which are made in house. 2647 N. High St (Olde North, aka North Campus, aka Washington Beach, aka Baja Clintonville) 614.263.9400
Other Favorite Places to Shop
Tigertree - they sell cool fashions at Tigertree, but I am currently on leave from fashion until I lose a little weight. I love Tigertree for their trinkets and tote bags. They sell the occasional bento box, and are the only store I know of in Central Ohio where one an buy new Lomo cameras. info: 775 N. High St (Short North) 614.299.2660
Rivet - I can't explain the fascination I have with the toys and creepy artwork at Rivet. There something about buying a blind box; it's like being a child again. I love it. I wish I could afford more of the artwork they have on display. The lower-priced works sell out almost immediately when they debut the first Saturday of each month. info: 1200 N. High St (Short North) 614.294.TOYS
On Paper - I love paper. and I spend a lot of money on it. I have a bit of a paper problem. Which is why I love On Paper. Husband always buys me cool things when he goes there (which I've taught him to do for all of his greeting card needs) and it's great for boys because your girlie will love anything you buy her from there. info: 737 N. High St (Short North) 614.424.6617