What items seem to be all over Columbus menus these days? What can we look forward to in 2019?
Hot Menu Items
All the plants
Plant-based fare went mainstream in 2018 and may hit its stride this year in Columbus. We hope the days when vegetarian options meant salads and sad hummus plates are gone. If Comune, Eden Burger and Service Bar's vegetarian menu and Jeni's Splendid Ice Creams' vegan ice cream are harbingers of things to come, bring it on.
Raclette is suddenly a go-to cheese.
This semi-hard cheese originating in Switzerland has been showing up all over Columbus. Black Radish Creamery's North Market shop offers a traditional raclette preparation over bread from Omega Artisan Baking. Service Bar has been known to use raclette instead of Gruyere on its French onion soup; the new Alpine Restaurant & Bar serves the melted cheese tableside; and Ambrose and Eve chooses raclette over, say, cheddar for its breakfast sandwich.
Everything bagel on everything
Bagels are having a comeback thanks to The Lox Bagel Shop and Harvey & Ed's in the Short North, and everything bagel spice blend—poppy and sesame seeds, garlic, dried onion and salt—is everywhere right now. Biscuits topped with everything spice at Kitty's Café. Everything scones at Bake Me Happy. Everything pretzels at Brezel. You can even find everything bagel in spice form at Trader Joe's and mixed in a Boar's Head hummus. Where will the spice blend end up next?
Tortas deserve their day.
Columbus' taco craze continues unabated, but the Mexican sandwich, or torta, demands attention. Look for these sizable handhelds on menus as diverse as Cosecha Cocina, Comune, Dos Sabores Taqueria and Mexican Grill, Iguana's Fresh Mexican Grill and, of course, La Super Torta.
What veggie will win our hearts in 2019?
Heritage carrots were our undeniable vegetable of the year in 2018. Comune chef Ben Kanavel guesses “other root veggies such as turnips, celery root and rutabagas” will gain traction on menus this year. In sum: Don't sleep on jicama.
Will CBD cocktails take off?
Although we've seen at least one cocktail in town featuring cannabidiol (CBD) oil, Denmark on High owner Garry White says Ohio could be in for a wait before this nonpsychoactive cannabinoid becomes a common ingredient behind the bar. Ohio Board of Pharmacy ruled in September that CBD oil can only be sold at a licensed dispensary—in other words, not at your favorite bar. If the rules change, White says his team at Denmark is “ready to roll” (pun intended?) with a cocktail menu featuring THC, CBD and terpenes.
Will the burger scene stay hot?
Burgers never go out of style, but right now they seem to be having a moment in Central Ohio, as dynamic Columbus startups and popular regional and national chains keep opening up. In the past year, Preston's: A Burger Joint, brought to us by chefs Catie Randazzo and Matthew Heaggans, won legions of fans through their food truck and pop-ups in Woodlands Tavern and Woodland's Backyard. No need to get out of your car to enjoy a Galley Boy and peanut butter fudge sundae at Swensons Drive-In, an Akron institution that last year opened its first of presumably many Central Ohio locations. Another Akron-based burger spot, The Rail, brought towering Angus beef burgers and frosty pints of beer to Dublin last February. After leaving the market in 1991, G.D. Ritzy's recently returned to Columbus as Ritzy's, once again serving thin-pattied burgers, shoestring fries and ice cream. And this year, restaurateur Danny Meyer's Shake Shack will make its Columbus debut at Easton. Also, look for Columbus Monthly's Burger Bracket in the March issue, in which the magazine crowns a Columbus burger champion. —Nicholas Dekker
What restaurant openings are we eagerly watching?
Alqueria Farmhouse Restaurant in the University District (now open). Ampersand in the Short North. Cleveland's TownHall in the Short North. Shake Shack in Easton Town Center. Speck in Delaware. Woodhouse Vegan Café in Italian Village. Philco Bar + Diner in German Village. Budd Dairy Food Hall in Italian Village. And (at least) two new Cameron Mitchell concepts in the Short North.
Is the great brewery wave subsiding?
Although there's been a bevy of brewery openings of late—Olentangy River Brewing Co., Antiques on High, Parsons North Brewing Co., to name a few—last year saw several brewery closures, none bigger than Four String Brewing Co., which virtually shuttered overnight. Washington state transplant RAM Restaurant & Brewery closed after just a year and a half in the Short North, and Arizona-based Blasted Barley Beer Co.—which was expected to open Downtown last year—is missing in action.
Thanks for the memories, Kihachi.
In December, Kihachi chef-owner Ryuji “Mike” Kimura served Columbus diners for the final time. For this local writer, the Japanese mainstay that opened its doors in 1993 was a place of firsts. The first time I let a chef decide everything I would eat. The first place I dined sans shoes. The first time I tried Japanese mountain yams. The first time I understood how good sushi could be. The first time I enjoyed a $90 meal. And it wasn't—and won't be—the last for any of those things.
As a city, we appreciated what we had in Kihachi, in chef Mike's intricate omakase menus, in his box sushi, his Berkshire pork, his stuffed shiitakes and his clay pot soups. We delighted in the surprise that came with each new course. And we flocked there, for birthdays and anniversaries and successes. Kihachi was a destination.
But Kihachi was also a launching point. The Sawmill Plaza restaurant was the gold standard of food experiences—one that opened our eyes to an entire city of culinary options. With Kihachi leading the way, Columbus came of age as an international food city. Its fame (among locals and international food-lovers alike) shone a light on all of the world fare that this city has to offer. Kihachi was the catalyst that introduced me to parts—of this city—previously unknown. —Jill Moorhead