Veritas Tavern maintains the top spot as it departs Delaware, and two newcomers make their 10 Best debuts. Here, we rank our favorites and take a look at the difference-makers that set these restaurants apart from the pack.
#1: Veritas Tavern
Known for its modern approach to chef-driven small plates, Veritas and its team of six served its last meal at 15 E. Winter St. on Nov. 4 before moving Downtown to the Citizens Building. Chef/owner Josh Dalton's new restaurant, Veritas (Tavern has been dropped), will be double the size of the Delaware space and feature not one but two bars, plus Dalton's dream kitchen.
#2: Wolf's Ridge Brewing
You can't blame uninitiated diners for assuming that a restaurant named Wolf's Ridge Brewing might be a beer-first place that serves afterthought food. But as the eye-candy plating of executive chef Seth Lassak's dishes suggests, the output of the kitchen is commensurate with what's drawn from the gleaming fermenters.
#3: The Guild House
Balance is the refrain at The Guild House, and nearly three years into its run, the most interesting of Cameron Mitchell's restaurants has achieved an impressive equilibrium.
#4: G. Michael's Bistro & Bar
G. Michael's virtues never grow old: a terrific chef with a singular vision, an unstuffy setting that's handsome in a timeless fashion (vintage bricks, spiffy wooden bar, white tablecloths) and a warm, personable staff. But seasonality may be the biggest difference-maker here.
#5: Watershed Kitchen & Bar
Most rookies don't make the all-star team, but most new restaurants don't field a strong and consistent kitchen crew like Watershed Kitchen & Bar. Explaining Watershed's embrace of the popular small plates trend, chef Jack Moore says, “Dining doesn't have to be a prim and proper, elbows-off-the-table ritual. Food is fun.”
#6: The Refectory Restaurant & Wine Shop
The death of traditional fine dining has been widely proclaimed, and yet The Refectory Restaurant & Wine Shop has managed to not only persevere but to continue delighting diners. More than two decades into his tenure, chef Richard Blondin continues delicately spinning French classics into clever creations that dazzle on the plate and on the palate.
#7: La Tavola
Sophisticated yet casual, traditional yet contemporary, La Tavola manages a rare feat: It's a fine dining establishment with the soul of a mom-and-pop eatery. Give credit for this aesthetic to chef Rick Lopez and wife/baker Krista, whose creations—from entrées to appetizers, breads to desserts—are made from scratch daily.
#8: Rockmill Tavern
In its first year of operation, Rockmill Tavern did a couple of things really well: It bottled some of the magic from Rockmill Brewery's farmhouse in Lancaster and brought it to the Brewery District, and it captured how we're eating right now. Rockmill owner-brewer Matthew Barbee likes to say his Belgian-style beers were designed with food pairings in mind. He's found a muse in chef Andrew Smith.
#9: Basi Italia
Basi is still one of the best places in town to go if you want an intimate dinner with warm service. “We sort of modeled it on our house. We'd have a dinner party and it got up to where we had 12, 14 or 16 people on Sundays, and it would be loud and fun, but it would still be intimate,” says chef/owner John Dornback.
#10: Gallerie Bar & Bistro
Located inside Hilton Columbus Downtown, Gallerie has expanded beyond the confines of “French bistro,” instead offering an imaginative, Ohio-inspired motif from the minds of executive chef Bill Glover and chef de cuisine Josh Kayser. Boasting a stylish space with eye-popping white banquets and soaring ceilings, Gallerie's risk-taking desserts were an additional highlight this year.