For a taste of the bayou right outside downtown Columbus, Creole Kitchen is the place to be. For starters, there are more than half a dozen Po' Boy sandwiches on their menu, from catfish or oyster to blackened steak and a real Muffuletta, any one of which will leave you full for a week. If that ain't enough, there's a whole list of proper entrees as well, including simple classics like red beans and rice or seafood jambalaya, and the house specialty is crawish etouffe. There's andouille everywhere, and you can even get fried gator! Note that Creole Kitchen is take-out only (save for the Chef's Table which must be reserved in advance), so be ready to truck your order to a nearby park for a picnic. See website for menu, catering info and more.
Just upriver from downtown, Confluence Park Restaurant has a number of things working in its favor. Its location at the confluence of two rivers affords it sweeping views of the Columbus cityscape. Someone in the kitchen has an affinity for Kobe beef, meaning diners are always well fed. Then there's the Sunset Dinner, an early-bird deal of sorts, wherein patrons watch the sunset and wash it down with a multicourse meal for one low price. Call for reservations and hours.
M is home to some of the finest contemporary dining in Columbus. Constantly evolving menus draw from the best practices in American, European and Asian kitchens, resulting in dinners that delight the palate as well as the intellect and the wanderlust muscle. The wine list is robust, holding its own against the exciting entrees coming out of the kitchen. The atmosphere is similarly dramatic, with high ceilings and finely tuned lighting. See website for menu, drink menu, wine list, event announcements, sister-restaurant info and more.
This little eatery/drinkery specializes in taking the old and spicing it up with a dash of the new. It's housed in a positively ancient space, and it's decked out in dark tones and weird old kitsch. But its energy is very modern, thanks in part to the kitchen. The blueprint is classic pub fare, but diners are given some interesting options like subbing eggplant fries for french fries as a side next to your hearty tuna sandwich. The drinks menu is the same story: lots of classics with unique little twists and catchy Columbus-centric names (Route 40 Shorty, anyone? Or maybe a Jungle Jack Hanna). See website for menus, blog, merch and sister-retsaurant info.
Gordon Biersch took off at the height of the microbrewery craze. First launched in California, this high-end chain found a fine formula and stuck to it. By combining craftbrewed German-style lagers with a tempting menu of slightly scaled-up pub grub, the place built a large following. Today, it's a trusted name, and you can find outposts across the United States. The Columbus branch is located in the heart of the Arena District, so it's always full of people and activity. See website for menus, beer details and locations nationwide.
Ruth's Chris Steakhouse welcomes you to a warm and comfortable interior, furnished with rich, dark wood and elegant fixtures. The steaks are fine-aged, corn-fed USDA prime beef, broiled at 1,800 degrees. Enticing seasonal delicacies, such as foie gras, are also available. Take your pick from the extensive list of over 100 domestic and imported wines to compliment your meal, and if you have enough room, try to squeeze in one of the delicious desserts!
This locally owned restaurant features live music throughout the week and stays open late; Gooeyz is a laid back casual eatery with amazing high stacked melt sandwiches. With an entire menu dedicated to gourmet grilled cheese sandwiches, this establishment has garnered a cult like following, with flocks of people coming to enjoy the specials throughout the week. Options for baked potato instead of bread, half size orders, and gooey cheese make this place one of a kind!
Just a few blocks from the Ohio State University campus, there's Rumba Café, a vivacious live-music venue if there ever was one. Some nights, rock bands take the stage, others it's a jazz combo or a Latin ensemble; often there's soul to be heard here, and some funk if you're lucky. Drinks are made stiff, and to eat there's a selection of bocas, a South American variation on the Spanish tapa. The space itself is cozy and lived-in, and that helps make every performance all the more intimate. See website for concert schedule, photos and more.
Right across from a university in central Ohio, one would not expect to find a seafood shack straight outta Ft. Lauderdale, Flordia. Nevertheless, Ugly Tuna Saloona persists. Located right across from the Ohio State University, the place is a double shot of Floridian fun right down your gullet. The menu consists of fish done a ton of ways, from raw shellfish and steamed pots, to grilled mahi and fried crab cakes. The house's namesake swimmer -- tuna -- can be served sandwich-style, taco-style, seared with ginger, or grilled and jerked. A number of non-seafood options are available to appease the squeamish (or allergic), ranging from burgers and sandwiches to steaks and salads. In terms of atmosphere, the Tuna is a party all the time.
Ethiopian cuisine, by virtue of its spicy nature and family-style preparations, makes for some of the best social dining experiences known to mankind. Parties gather round a smallish table, drinking beer and enjoying one another's company. When dinner is served, it is truly an occasion. One colossal dinner plate is placed on the table, on it a patchwork of different curries and stews. Diners use a spongy, pancake-like bread to scoop up bites of goodness, and being that everything's on a communal platter, it's always a race to the finish. Blue Nile is the University area's flagship outpost for Ethiopian, so if an experience like this is what you crave, make your way over. See website for menu and more.