I’m not even sure how to start my recap of my insanely dope trip to Columbus last weekend, because I have to be honest I still can’t believe how awesome it was. I clearly don’t get out enough because I have this big city bias thing goin on because I live in Chicago, but truth be told after my time in Columbus I literally called my wife at the airport on the way home to inform her I’d move there in seriously 2 seconds.
I grew up thinking Columbus was this terrible place because it was home to the Buckeyes and I just happened to be from that state up North and a fan of that school up north… So needless to say I called my dad and told him the rumors were false, because Columbus has got it goin on! Now I’m not saying I’m converting to a Buckeyes fan, but I am a HUGE fan of the city and the food scene.
Where do I begin on such an epic weekend of eating? How about I just take you through from the beginning to the end, sound good? GREAT!
I arrived Friday and got right into it with an amazing International eats tour from Columbus Food Adventures. I mean what a cool experience with these guys, and even though I’m a trained chef I learned a ton about some great ethnic food thanks to the driver and owner of Cbus Food Adventures, Andy. Truth be told, I tried to get into their Taco Truck Tour but it was sold out. Given how awesome my tour was I can imagine that all of their tours, I think there are 10 or 11, are amazing.
The first thing that I was just so taken back by was how diverse the ethnic population is in Columbus. Who knew they had the second highest population of Somali immigrants in the US? With all this beautiful ethnic migration and collaboration, came insanely delicious food.
- We first stopped at Udipi Café, a South Indian restaurant, and tried some super tasty apps. We had a vegetable cutlet and a dosa! To break those down think of eating a fried chickpea fritter (vegetable cutlet) and a super thick crepe loaded with pork and vegetables in a homemade sweeter A1 sauce, which was actually made from tamarind (dosa). I wanted to keep eating but I knew I had to pace myself, as there was so much more to see and eat.
- The next was a Mexican pastry shop, Panaderia Guadalupana and if I had it my way I could have overdosed on food there and been fine. I had a fresh out of the oven vanilla custard stuffed homemade churro rolled in cinnamon and sugar… I mean I’m not sure it gets any better
than that, seriously.
- We headed for a really cool Nigerian restaurant called Intercontinental where we sampled tons of their indigenous food like rice and beans, a black-eyed pea bread called moi moi, and lots of chin chin, which is kind of like an animal cracker only less sweet. None-the-less, what a cool spot, would have loved to have had more there!
- I started to feel full at this point but I knew there were 2 more spots to hit so I sucked in my belly and headed off to an amazing Vietnamese
restaurant, Mi LI Cafe, where we had a delicious sandwich called a Banh MI. The is very common street food found in Vietnam and because there is so much French influence you could definitely see it come through with the baguette bread, which was made from rice flour, chicken pate and homemade mayonnaise. Add on a few other ingredients and you’ve got one tasty sandwich!
- We finished off at Haitian American Restaurant where we had really tasty rice, where the rice is cooked in liquid from local reconstituted mushrooms called Jon-Jon… don’t think we get those here in the U.S. On top of the rice was a delicious slow braised curry stew, which was super tasty. Even though I was literally ready to pop at this point, I finished strong!
The Columbus Food Adventure is probably one of the cooler things I’ve done in a while. From the different foods we got to try, to the history of immigration in Columbus, to the great conversations with everyone on the tour, this is a MUST for locals and tourists. If you do one of their tours be sure to tell me on social media what you think!
From there I headed back to the hotel for some much needed rest only to wake up and go check out one of the coolest places I’ve ever been, The North Market. I don’t even know how to describe this place other than heaven in a warehouse. I mean seriously this place was stacked with about 50 or so vendors ranging from butchers, to local fresh produce, to super tasty ethnic cuisine – The North Market had it all! While I wish I could eat everything, it was early in the a.m. so I was looking for some pastries and some coffee. Well, I got a total of 7 baked goodies and 5 macaroons, shhh don’t tell anyone! 😉 Most of the baked treats came from honestly the best bakery I have ever been to, Omega. This place was better than world renowned Bouchon, and you got to see all the bakers make everything right in front of you.
So I now I had about 4 things in a brown bag, but as I moved on an insanely delicious doughnut place, Destination Donuts, caught my eye. They had some killer flavors so I got 2 doughnuts, a plain vanilla and a raspberry hibiscus. I’m guessing at this point if someone’s following me they are thinking I’ve got a problem with all the pastries I’ve got on me, but on the way out I got a homemade pretzel from Brezel and 6 assorted macarons from Pistacia Vera. I made my way to the benches outside and began to eat the raspberry hibiscus doughnut, and while I only intended to eat 1 bite of everything I couldn’t stop, I ate the whole dang thing!
Honestly I would‘ve eaten another one if I had it, but I moved on to take a bite of everything else. I could’ve spent all day at the North Market because everything was so delicious, but I knew I still had 2 other places to visit. If you’re ever in Columbus this place is a sure thing, I mean probably the best doughnut and pretzel I’ve ever eaten – not-to-mention – the best bakery I’ve ever been to, and I’ve been to some dang good ones. I would put up my house to get a place like this in Chicago, no joke!
I tried to hold off as long as I could before making sure I hit every place on my Columbus hit list so Harvest Pizzeria was the next stop. I know I originally was going to go to Harvest Kitchen + Bar but after talking to some locals they persuaded me to go to the first of 2 restaurants, which was the pizzeria. I had one of the coolest pizzas ever called the Spicy Yuma, which had chipotle spiked tomato sauce, Havarti cheese, jalapeños, corn, and roasted peppers. This puppy had some heat on it, but it was comfortably spicy and had a dang tasty homemade crust thanks to Chef Taylor! Awesome place, great staff with an even better pizza, if that’s possible. For lunch, dinner or late night, creep on by for a killer pie!
After the pizza I could’ve gone back to the hotel and gone into a food coma but instead I tried to walk off everything I’d eaten to this point so I went over to Easton Town Center. I had no intentions of shopping, but dang this place had everything. Literally felt like I had Michigan Ave. right here in Columbus – they had that many great stores. So I walked for about 2 hours just shopping and trying to shed a few pounds before dinner. Kind of felt like a high school wrestler trying to shed some pounds to make the weigh-in cut.
From Easton Way I ventured up a little further north to Powell, which is right outside the north side of Columbus, and went to Kraft House No 5. I read some amazing things online and on Twitter that this place was a must stop before I left and they were right. If I ever owned a restaurant I would want it to be exactly like this place. From the décor, to the staff attire, to the fare, to the brew selection, I want this restaurant for my own. Unfortunately I’ll probably never own a restaurant so for now I’ll just eat at them. I went all in at the Kraft House and got 4 different entrees. Michael the owner was cool enough to make me ½ orders of 2 of the entrees so I didn’t OD on food. The worst part was that I couldn’t try more dishes, because everything on the menu sounded so amazing. I got the shrimp and grits, mussels and fries, Kraft House Burger and the Porketta sandwich. All I can say is DUDE! If I lived in Cbus I’d be at this place at least once a week to enjoy some of Chef Meach’s creations. Everything was seasoned perfectly, balanced with flavor, and overall creative. Good food can be found anywhere so after leaving I put Kraft House into my top 10 favorite restaurants! A huge thanks to Michael and the staff – I had a great night; now time to sleep!
When I woke up I literally had no clue how I was going to eat anything, considering I‘d never eaten as much food in my life as I did the day before. So I packed up, got dressed and rolled myself over to Skillet. Now I had heard from everyone – chef, restaurant owner, and locals – leading up to this day that Skillet was the best restaurant in Columbus, and after my breakfast – they weren’t kidding. Somehow some way I ordered and ate Skillet’s version of Huevos Rancheros in its entirety. Half way through I was so full but couldn’t get myself to stop eating it. It may have been the most balanced and flavorful dish I’ve ever tasted and dang sure was the best Huevos Ranchers I’ve ever had. I don’t know who the chef is of Skillet, but that man’s got skills! I even heard he buys everything from local markets on Monday and Tuesday and changes the menu every week. If that’s true then huge props to my favorite restaurant in Cbus, Skillet! Since I’ve been home my breakfasts seem so empty, man I need to get back there!
What a trip, what a culinary journey and most of all what a shock to find some of the best food I’ve ever eaten in the middle of Ohio.. I told my wife that we are going back soon, and maybe even make it a yearly trip because I know I’ve only scratched the surface on all the great eats Cbus has to offer. I’ll leave with a huge THANK YOU to Columbus for an absolutely epic food weekend, I’ll see you soon!