Cultural Experience | Ohio

On the Move

A native Ohioan-turned-world traveler shares her top ten foodie destinations in her hometown of Columbus

I am, once again, sitting in an airport before 6am. I’ve already been through security, eaten a soft pretzel for breakfast (24-hour Auntie Anne’s? Of course I’ll have soft pretzels for breakfast!) and have switched seats three times for a variety of reasons. And yet, I couldn’t be happier. My journey over the next day and a half takes me from Cleveland, Ohio, to Nashville, Tennessee, to Newark, New Jersey and finally to Amsterdam.

When I was growing up, my family’s only real travel was to visit my grandparents at their beach house in the summer, or to drive the two hours between Columbus and Cleveland for big holidays. The first time I was on a plane was my sophomore year in high school, when I traveled with a violin touring group to Florida for a week of connecting with another Suzuki group. This group also took me to New Orleans, a bunch of states between Ohio and Louisiana, Pittsburgh, Florida, and Peru. I went to Andros Island (think Bahamas) when I was fourteen but we drove from Ohio to Ft. Lauderdale and took an itty bitty plane, sitting with our luggage arranged in a way that would even out the weight.

Now in college, I have had the opportunity to fly quite a bit. I attended a student editors conference at the New York Times in April 2013, I spent four months living in Ecuador and traveling around the country there, and now I’m on my way to Europe to cover the 2014 European Coaches Tour and the first two weeks of the World Cup (and yes, I know that the actual cup is being played in Brazil this year). In the next two weeks, I will be traveling in the Netherlands, France, Brussels and Germany to watch (and report on) World Cup games with local crowds, attend (and report on) lectures by big-name soccer coaches and analysts, and see some of Europe’s most well known cities.

To say that I’m excited is an understatement. If it wasn’t 6am, I would be jumping for joy. Literally. I’m spending time on three continents this year, and I couldn’t be more appreciative to everyone who has helped me along the way.

But all of this travel has given me a lot of time to think about what I’m doing. I have lived in Columbus, Ohio, since before I could read, and though I have spent most of the last 20 years trying to leave my cornfield-infused state, my travels this year have helped me realize how lucky I am to have grown up in such a place.

Columbus, Ohio is the 15th largest city in the United States. There are approximately 800,000 people living there, which I find easy to believe. Between little cities within Columbus, the areas that are actually labeled Columbus, and a lot of new apartment development in the downtown area, there are a LOT of people. I grew up in Bexley, a small suburb about a 10-minute drive from the east side of downtown Columbus. Though a lot of people who have heard of Bexley think that everyone who lives there is either rich, Jewish, or both, this stereotype isn’t exactly true. Yes, between 30 and 40 percent of residents in my 2.4 square mile town do practice Judaism, and I had a significant amount of days off (public!) school due to some religious holidays. And yes, there are people in Bexley who live in mansions. I am definitely not one of those people. If I was, my passport probably would have already been filled up multiple times.

Even though different areas of Columbus have their quirks and stereotypes, overall it is a really great place to live and to grow up. Our bus system is somewhat reliable (at least the busses I use), and the city hosts dozens of excellent musical groups every year. Not to mention our summer fests…from ComFest to the Doo-Dah Parade, to Red White and Boom, to the Jazz and Ribs Fest, we party it up all summer long. Getting anywhere in the city can be done within 40 minutes or so, and it only takes about an hour to drive all around the 270 loop (one of our 5 major freeways that basically goes in a big circle around Columbus). As much as I am elated to be moving into a house with my friends at school in a couple months, I’m very happy to be living in Columbus this summer…while I’m not traveling…which brings me to the point of this post:

There are dozens of lists online (via Buzzfeed, HuffPost, etc.) that talk about how great Columbus is – especially when it comes to food. However, there are a few places that tend to be overlooked, or that aren’t mentioned enough – so here is my Columbus Top 10.

Bexley Farmers Market Kate Hiller image

At the Bexley Farmers Market, you can taste samples of products before buying them. This jam is my favorite ever – and it is sold year round in about 20 different locations, so I don’t have to wait for the summer farmers market in Bexley! | Kate Hiller 2014

Columbus Top 10
10. The Bexley Farmers Market

(and other farmers markets in Columbus) – There is a woman at the Bexley Farmers Market who makes homemade jam in jar-size quantities. This is her full time job, and she comes up with new flavors every once in a while. My favorite flavor is the raspberry champagne, but there are dozens of other delicious flavors. This jam is sold at about 20 other retailers in the Columbus area.

9. Pistacia Vera –

This shop in German Village has the BEST desserts ever. From macaroons to a chocolate bomb (a lot of mousse and other chocolatey goodness), almost all desert needs can be met here. Though it is somewhat expensive, it is 100 percent worth it.

8. Rubino’s Pizza –

My favorite pizza place in the city is only a couple blocks from my house. A super thin crust and sweet sauce (not to mention an old pinball machine and a dining room that probably hasn’t been changed since the place was set up several dozen years ago) make Rubinos a go-to spot for me. But if you don’t like sweet sauce (or super thin crust, etc.) then you can just head next door to Bexley Pizza Plus, another great place.

7. Jeni’s Ice Cream –

If you are an Ohioan and you haven’t ever tasted Jeni’s Brown Butter Almond Brittle ice cream, drop whatever it is you’re doing and go buy some. This place is super expensive ($5 or so for a small scoop of ice cream) but the flavors are stupendous and the variety is vast.

6. Spaghetti Warehouse –

Built in an old warehouse, any type of spaghetti you could ever want can be found here. To make it even cooler, you can dine in an old trolley, in a booth that looks like a bed, or if you’re really lucky/ask nicely, in an old elevator.

5. The Book Loft –

Located in German Village, this bookstore is basically heaven on Earth. Any book you could ever want to find is housed in this wonderful place.

4. The North Market –

…also known as Mecca of food. Almost everything you could want is there, from pizza, to colorful ravioli (green and white striped is my favorite), to Polish cuisine and chocolate truffles, anyone can find something to eat here. There is also a coffee shop, a butcher’s shop, and a grocery area. So much goodness.

3. YellowBrick Pizza –

I am a very big pizza fan, and YellowBrick is another one of my favorites. Located on the lower east side of the city, this place has great beer and a lot of creative pizza options. You could go in, close your eyes and point at something on the menu and it would be amazing.

2. Johnson’s Real Ice Cream –

A Bexley-native place. All ice cream is made on the premises, in the back, and they can also make ice cream cakes. My favorite things to order are chocolate malt milkshakes or chocolate ice cream with rainbow sprinkles (because I am secretly a four-year-old). Every time I go home, even if it is just for a weekend, I stop by Johnson’s at least once, for ice cream or even for lunch – their pickles are absolutely delicious (as is everything else on the menu).

1. The Bexley Coffee Shop –

Bexlites love their coffee, but the Bexley Coffee Shop in North Bexley (near the train tracks on Cassady Ave.), in my opinion, tops Starbucks (Cup O Joe, next to Starbucks, is a regular study hang out for basically everyone). A simple menu, and gift cards that get the amount written and crossed out on them make this place very home-y. Everyone is very friendly there, and if you’re a regular you might even get a nickname.

Though there are many more eateries, coffee shops, and other activities that are very “Columbus,” these are my top 10 foodie places to go. Some of them are regularly mentioned on lists (as I mentioned earlier), but they are all special to me and where I grew up. Though I don’t really live in Columbus anymore (woo Athens!), and I travel almost constantly, the 614 will always be home and I will always have somewhere to go when I’m in town.

Kate Hiller

Ohio University | 21 stories

Kate Hiller is a Dec. 2015 graduate from Ohio University, where she earned a B.S. in Journalism and a B.A. in Spanish. Over the last two years, Kate has lived and studied in Ecuador, covered the World Cup in the Netherlands, France, Germany and Belgium, worked with the Young African Leaders' Initiative Connect Camps in Namibia and Rwanda, spent time doing radio production with students from the University of Leipzig in Germany, visited family friends in Norway, and spent 10 days on a research exchange in Hong Kong. When she isn't planning her next adventure, you can find her taking photos, getting lost, pretending to be athletic, or cooking something that usually includes noodles. Follow Kate on Instagram @kmhiller527.

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