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Columbus Gay Guide

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Columbus Ohio Restaurant Guide
Columbus Gay Guide

Colorful (and delicious) macarons at Pistacia Vera, a lovely spot for desserts, breakfast, or a light lunch in German Village

photo by Andrew Collins

Short North Restaurants

The Short North has been the city's hub of sophisticated dining for more than two decades, and it remains a hub of exceptionally good, gay-popular dining options. Several classics have been enhancing the city's culinary reputation for years, including the romantic L'Antibes (772 N. High St., 614-291-1666), with its beautifully plated French-American cooking; and sophisticated Rigsby's Kitchen (698 N. High St., 614-461-7888), where plenty in the GLBT community go to celebrate a special occasion, but you can also dine and drink more casually at the bar. Highlights from the mod Italian menu include the crudo salumi tasting with lemon and chervil, crispy pork belly with braised cannellini beans and salsa verde, and rib eye steak with Gorgonzola butter. Pizzas and pastas are also available. Casual and campy Betty's Fine Food & Spirits (680 N. High St., 614-228-6191) serves mostly comfort-minded American and international cooking, as does the restaurant's lovable sister eatery, Surly Girl Saloon (1126 N. High St., 614-294-4900), with its menu of delectable treats like frito pie and made-from-scratch cupcakes, plus stiff drinks and craft beers. Back a block from High Street, cozy Tasi Cafe (680 N. Pearl St., 614-222-0788) is open for breakfast and lunch, serving fresh, creative, and affordable fare in homey space with both communal and individual tables. Bagels with house-smoked salmon, chevre-roasted pepper sandwiches, pulled-chicken salads are among the offerings.

Festooned with rainbow flags, decked in colorful lights, and pumping out dance music, Level (700 N. High St., 614-754-7111) is part gay cocktail bar, part trendy restaurant. The menu here focuses on American and pub favorites, sometimes spruced up with modern twists, including big salads, calzones, steaks, pastas, and the like. Bernard's Tavern (630 N. High St., 614-223-9601) occupies a warm and inviting space that used to house a gay bar and still attractions quite a few LGBT folks. It's a nice options for casual comfort fare, and there's a good selection of craft beer.

As you head north up High Street, you'll come to a number of hot spots that have opened in recent years. The trendy tapas restaurant Bodega (1044 N. High St., 614-299-9399) has a menu of more than 50 beers as well as a nice mix of creative salads, sandwiches, and internationally inspired small plates, like chicken tikka and portobello tacos. Stylish and urbane Mouton (954 N. High St., 614-732-4660) is a cool bar for fine wines, microbrew beers, and specialty cocktails, with a short but fine menu of charcuterie, cheese, and artisan bread - it may sound snacky, but you could easily cobble together a meal here from the stellar cheese and cured-meats selection. Haiku (800 N. High St., 614-294-8168) is a mod, comfy space that serves terrific sushi and Pan Asian fare, and across the street, you can enjoy sophisticated versions of American South classics (buttermilk fried chicken, Cajun-spiced red snapper, Carolina-style turkey, chocolate-bread pudding) at Hubbard Grille (793 N. High St., 614-291-5000), which occupies a vintage Chevy dealership with exposed-brick walls and huge windows. Head west of High Street a few blocks to reach a farm-to-table eatery that's become a foodie favorite, Till Dynamic Fare (247 King Ave., 614-298-9986) - it's notable for cocktails, artisan coffee, and superb small-plates-oriented food: spicy chicken wings and donuts; pizzas topped with shiitakes, tallegio, and egg; pulled pork and grits with pickles and bacon.

With three locations in the city, Northstar Cafe (951 N. High St., 614-298-9999) has an especially popular and attractive space in the Short North - with tall windows and high ceilings, this sunny spot is a fine option for breakfast and brunch (frittatas, ricotta pancakes, breakfast burritos) as well as creative and relatively healthy lunch and dinner fare at reasonable prices. Flatbread pizzas, burgers, salads, rice bowls, and baked goods are among the specialties, and there's a good beer and wine list. Take a seat on the large patio on sunny days. The Short North has some excellent coffeehouses, with gay-popular Impero Coffee Roasters (849 N. High St., 614-294-2489) producing some of the finest artisan-roasted brews in Ohio - it's an airy, attractive space, too, perfect for chatting with friends or typing away on your laptop. Local chain Cup o Joe has several locations around town, including the Short North, German Village, Downtown, and the University District. The Short North location at 600 North High Street is especially attractive, with a big swatch of patio seating along the street. Also at 600 North High (as well as German Village) is Cup O Joe's sister, MoJoe Lounge, which takes things a bit further by serving booze as well as more substantial meals, but with a similarly affordable and casual style.

Having drawn national acclaim for crafting superb, creatively flavored, small-batch ice cream, Jeni's Splendid Ice Creams (714 N. High St., 614-294-5394; plus locations in North Market, Grandview Heights, Bexley, Dublin, Clintonville, German Village, and elsewhere) needs almost no introduction. This sensational ice-cream purveyor frequently changes flavors, but you can usually find signature concoctions like Bangkok peanut, cherry Lambic sorbet, salty caramel, pistachio-and-honey, and whiskey-and-pecans. Also check out the selection of Parisian macaroon-inspired ice cream sandwiches (like Ugandan Vanilla ice cream and black currant jam, smooshed between almond macaroons. Jeni's began life at the famed, and historic, North Market (59 Spruce St.), a long-running daily community market with dozens of stalls selling fresh produce, specialty meats and foods, and prepared foods - everything from sushi to pizza to barbecue. It's at the downtown end of the Short North.

German Village Restaurants

In this historic, romantic neighborhood, Barcelona (263 Whittier St., 614-443-3699) is a longtime gay favorite for romantic meals of exceptionally well-crafted tapas (corn flan with roasted poblano peppers, balsamic blackberries, and pistachios), braised lamb shank with Manchego, and Spanish cheeses and charcuterie. Other good bets in the neighborhood include elegant and romantic G. Michael's (595 S. 3rd St., 614-464-0575), which serves deftly crafted contemporary Italian and American food, with an emphasis on local ingredients; and trendy Harvest (495 S. 4th St., 614-824-1769), a dapper pizzeria that produces creatively topped, wood-fired, thin-crust pies (try the one with fennel sausage, local Gouda, smoked provolone, onions, and fennel pollen), a nice mix of salads and small plates, and well-curated cocktails and wines. The butterscotch budino here is terrific, and on warm nights, you can dine on an airy patio.

An absolute must in German Village is the sleek little pastry shop and cafe Pistacia Vera (541 S. 3rd St., 614-220-9070), which is perhaps most famous for its dazzling variety of artful, pastel-hued Parisian-style macarons, which come in such unexpected flavors as yuzu pink guava, Ohio buckeye, coconut creme, and chocolate cherry cordial. This lovely spot with a bright patio also serves strong artisan coffee, a variety of tarts and tortes, house-made preserves, flaky-good breakfast pastries, and a handful of delicious brunch items - tomato Provencal baked eggs are particularly good. Nearby Katzinger's Delicatessen (475 S. 3rd St., 614-228-7297) is a German Village institution, renowned for huge sandwiches, filling breakfasts, and such Jewish traditional bites as potato knishes and marinated herring. Another old-school neighborhood favorite, Schmidt's Sausage Haus (240 E. Kossuth St., 614-444-6808) has been a fixture in German Village since 1886 - the staff dresses in authentic German garb, and the traditional German cooking is stick-to-your-ribs tasty.

OSU and Clintonville Restaurants

Just north of OSU campus, you'll find the fantastic neighborhood restaurant and bar Sage American Bistro (2653 N. High St., 614-267-7243), which presents an outstanding Sunday brunch as well as dinner nightly except Monday. The focus here is on farm-to-fork regional U.S. cooking: crispy pig ears with curried mango puree, pan-roasted bone marrow with red cabbage marmalade, Ohio pork cheeks with sage dumplings, rosemary lamb shank with Yukon-asparagus hash. It's the sort of food that warms the soul on a winter day but is still light and fresh enough to satisfy on a summer evening. Some of the most creative cocktails in town, too. Not far away, talented and charismatic chef Alana Shock sources locally to create delicious mod American fare at Alana's Food & Wine (2333 N. High St., 614-294-6783), an local-art-filled space with a shaded patio in front.

Downtown Columbus Restaurants

Close to downtown theaters and Columbus Commons park, de Novo Bistro (201 S. High St., 614-222-8830) is a terrific spot for drinks or dinner before or after a show. It's noted for creative American fare, from sandwiches and tapas to more substantial steaks and seafood grills, and good breakfasts are served, too. Another interesting spot near the theaters, the Brewery District, and German Village is T. Murray's Bar and Kitchen (560 S. High St., 614-824-2301), which occupies a courtly redbrick building and is known for well-crafted regional Midwest-inspired cuisine, such as flatiron steak salad, "pot roast" nachos, and chile-marinated center-cut pork chops. Popular with the GLBT community and not far from German Village, Sidebar 122 (122 E. Main St., 614-228-9041) has a lively happy hour scene, and serves tasty global-inspired food: tilapia fritters with cilantro-yogurt sauce, lamb shank roasted in malbec.

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