Columbus, home of the Ohio State University and birthplace of the legendary golfer Jack Nicklaus, has long been a sports-and-beer town. But impressive economic growth, buoyed by a booming fashion industry, has stimulated its food and drink scene. Indie wine shops, craft breweries, distilleries and even a local meadery have proliferated across the city’s neighborhoods, from the art galleries of the Short North to the historic enclave of German Village.
Where to Sip
The Short North neighborhood, initially an art hub, has evolved into a lively drag at night. Don’t miss Wine on High, which has been recognized as the area’s best retail shop/wine bar. Nearby, Tastings Wine Bar & Bistro teaches guests about wine through flights at various tastings stations. The older neighborhoods of Bexley and Worthington feature outposts of House Wine shop and bar, which pours from 16–24 Enomatic taps. Don’t see what you like by the glass? Buy a bottle and enjoy it on-premise for a $5 corkage fee. Those curious about honey-based mead can stop by Brothers Drake Meadery to try an array of flavors. Over in Grandview, The Twisted Vine is a traditional wine shop that’s located a stone’s throw from Spagio Wine Lounge. The latter hosts themed tastings, like Rosé the Riveter or sustainably farmed wines.
For spirits aficionados, a newer local law allows distilleries to serve cocktails if they also sell food. The best of the bunch: Middle West Spirits, home to Service Bar, and Watershed Distillery, with its accompanying Watershed Kitchen & Bar.
Embrace the Sporting Spirit
Ohio State athletics engender more allegiance, arguably, than most professional sports teams. For post-game tipples after Buckeyes football games, head to Trillium Kitchen & Patio for wines like Heitz Cabernet in three- or six-ounce pours via Coravin.
Join fans of the NHL’s Columbus Blue Jackets, who play at the Nationwide Arena, for drams at Euro-centric cocktail den Denmark, or hang with devotees of Major League Soccer’s Columbus Crew Soccer Club at Growl!, which offers a slew of wines, craft beers and Middle Eastern/Mediterranean bites. Dublin, about 20 minutes from Columbus, hosts The Memorial Tournament, an annual PGA Tour event, at Muirfield Village Golf Club. Its course was designed by golf pro and Upper Arlington native Jack Nicklaus. After the 18th hole, leave the green and go for bottles and Mediterranean bites at Napa Kitchen + Bar.
Out for Grub
At Service Bar, Chef Avishar Barua updates familiar comfort foods like a fish sandwich made with thick, triple-breaded, flaky sea bass served with cocktails made from the house spirits. Ambrose and Eve has a similar vibe, with Chefs Matthew Heaggans and Catie Randazzo slinging jumbo plates of cereal-milk pancakes and meatloaf made for two. Get to Katalina’s early for platters of breakfast tacos or sweet stuffed pancake balls.
You might not expect it, but Columbus has great pizza. Tommy’s Pizza, near the Ohio State University campus in Upper Arlington, is an institution. Try a pie with pepperoni and banana peppers. Paulie Gee’s, from Brooklyn, New York, also opened an outpost in the Short North.
For fine dining, Veritas delivers an indulgent evening of food and wine pairings from Chef Joshua Dalton and Sommelier/Manager Greg Stokes. The Refectory & Bistro, almost 40 years old, remains the grand dame of French food and has a killer wine program, to boot.
Shop the Short North and Downtown
This buzzy swath hosts a burst of independent shops. Quinci Emporium stands out for wine-related paraphernalia from glasses to decanters. The owner, Antonietta Deborah Qunici, also offers Italian cooking and wine-pairing classes. Stroll toward downtown for North Market, a food and artisan vendor hall. Grab chili spice blends and other seasonings at North Market Spices LTD or small-producer wine selections at The Barrel and Bottle. Don’t miss a scoop of quirky ice cream flavors like goat cheese with cherries at beloved Jeni’s Splendid Ice Creams.