Our annual look at the essential restaurants illuminating the city's dining scene

A few years ago, Gallerie Bar & Bistro executive chef Bill Glover was sitting in his office at the Hilton Columbus Downtown when the restaurant's host knocked on the door. “There's, like, a cowboy here to see you,” the host announced. Today, Glover and that cowboy, Rob Phillips of RL Valley Ranch in Athens, Ohio, have a great thing going. Once a week, Gallerie receives a whole, grass-fed cow from RL Valley, which gets butchered into a variety of steak cuts and ground beef for Gallerie's outstanding burger. Glover could easily find excuses not to use Ohio farmers like Phillips. It would be cheaper and less of a hassle. But Glover believes in going the extra mile to highlight Ohio's strength: its abundant agriculture.

Gallerie Bar & Bistro started out as a French restaurant, a concept Glover could easily explain to his new bosses at Hilton and to new customers. Now, six years later, Glover and his chef de cuisine Josh Kayser still employ classic cooking techniques with eye-catching presentations—but Gallerie's kitchen has drifted far closer to home in philosophy and practice. It's now the kind of hotel restaurant that celebrates Ohio while managing to flex creativity and technique; the kind of collaborative space where a cowboy from Athens might saunter in and ask to see the chef.

How can Gallerie climb the list? First, the restaurant's hotel atrium setting can be vexing—equal parts elegant and cavernous. There's the chance that conference attendees will flood the place or, alternatively, that you'll see tumbleweeds. When the restaurant is at its best, servers deftly relay the story behind each dish and anticipate your next wish. Other times, your picked-over salad plate will sit on the table until the dessert course. Gallerie also does a good job highlighting local craft beers and spirits, but don't expect to find the same level of cocktail craftsmanship here as, say, Service Bar.

The future may have exciting things in store for Gallerie, as a planned expansion of the Hilton (which will add nearly 500 more rooms) could mean a new restaurant space with street-level dining and a rooftop bar. Stay tuned.

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Did you know?

For the past four years, excecutive chef Bill Glover and Gallerie Bar & Bistro have hosted one of the must-attend culinary events of the year: the James Beard Foundation's Celebrity Chef Tour Dinner. The multicourse event swept through Columbus again this year on Thursday, Oct. 18. James Beard Foundation Award winner Michael Ginor of Lola in Great Neck, New York, participated, as well as local chefs Sangeeta Lakhani of The Table and Jack Moore of Watershed Kitchen & Bar, to name a few.