Soul food, kitchen tools, entrepreneurial gumption, more

Dining Trend, International Edition
Columbus is home to the largest Bhutanese-Nepali population in the country, so it's no wonder that the city is starting to offer more Himalayan cuisine. You probably know the well-established restaurants Momo Ghar, Himalayan Grille and Namaste. Newer Nepalese restaurants (which often serve Indian as well) include Everest Cuisine in Worthington, All India Café and Sargam Restaurant & Bar in Reynoldsburg as well as Phuyel Bro's Kitchen in Blacklick.

Dining Trend, Soul Food Edition
Southern-inspired food is everywhere (can we stop putting pimento cheese on everything?), but this year we're excited to see a new trio of family-run establishments dishing up real-deal Southern fare. Good Food 614 (1485 Sunbury Road) opened this year, offering carryout for classics like pork chops in gravy, collard greens and mac 'n' cheese. In May, Way Down Yonder New Orleans Finest Restaurant (3847 S. High St.) opened on the South Side with traditional Creole and Cajun specialties like gumbo and crawfish étouffée. Finally, Modern Southern Table will introduce diners to its Gullah crab rice and Alabama fried chicken when Budd Dairy Food Hall (1086 N. Fourth St.) opens later this year.

Machines
Ohio State launched two convenient but unconventional dining options this year. The university introduced a pizza ATM, which dispenses 10-inch pies in just three minutes, and a limited-time bacon vending machine for December finals. Between these new additions, theJeni's ice cream machines at John Glenn airport and Columbus startup PopCom's vending machines that could soon dispense cannabis, it seems all the essentials are now available at the press of a button.

Like what you’re reading? Subscribe to our weekly newsletters.

Kitchen Tool
Columbus City Schools purchased a $100,000 apple slicer last September after studies showed kids eat more apples when they're sliced. Before the purchase, the district was already serving more than 3 million Ohio-grown apples each year to its students, but school officials hope to increase their numbers. All 110 Columbus City Schools cafeterias hosted “Great Apple Crunch Day” in October to celebrate and promote their partnership with local growers.

Restaurant Bathroom
Comune has been turning heads on the dining scene since opening last year at 677 Parsons Ave., but the South Side restaurant's plant-based fare isn't the only reason. Comune's gender-neutral bathrooms—one black, one white—are a must-see and a must-hear. Along with infinity mirrors and red-orange lighting, the bathrooms feature Sonos speakers playing unconventional sounds ranging from whale vocalizations and thunderstorms to speeches by Martin Luther King Jr. and recitations by Henry Miller. The most inquired-about recording, according to co-owner Brook Maikut, is a reading of “Smile at Fear,” a book of Buddhist teachings by Chögyam Trungpa.

Entrepreneurial Gumption
It takes guts to open a restaurant, a notoriously risky venture. But what does it take to launch four establishments—a taproom and three eateries—in the same small town in just 10 months? Starting in March 2018, David Stein, a Columbus native, opened his first restaurant in Mount Vernon—The Joint, a 1950s-style diner. Then came a sub shop, a taproom and a brewpub, the latter two located inside the renovated Woodward Opera House. “I do tell people I'm clinically insane,” Stein told the Dispatch in January.

Runaway-Turned-Restaurateur Story
Last fall, Columbus dining titan Cameron Mitchell released his memoir timed with the 25th anniversary of the business he founded, Cameron Mitchell Restaurants. Titled “Yes is the Answer. What is the Question?” the tell-all book recounts Mitchell's climb from troubled teen (he was homeless for a time) to Culinary Institute of America student to successful restaurateur. It's a remarkable journey, and Mitchell's “chocolate milkshake story”—if a customer asks for a milkshake but you don't sell milkshakes, make it happen—does well to illustrate his philosophy on hospitality.

New Bites and Drinks
What dishes and drinks made a fine first impression on us this year? Start off with a Schiller Swizzle cocktail or Impure Guava sour beer at Antiques on High, followed by the Red Oil Tartare or Mushroom Bordelaise with grits at Ambrose and Eve next door. Speaking of sour beer, Cherry Pie Sybarite at the East Side's Pretentious Barrel House is very, very right. On the South Side, Comune has impressed early on with its stir-fried spaghetti squash and sweet potato torta. Other sandwiches that stood out this year were the Swiss'shroom Melt from Newfangled Kitchen, The Lox Bagel Shop's pastrami on wood-fired everything bagel and the El Cubano sandwich at Pablo's Havana Café in Powell. Near OSU, there's lots to love about newcomer Alqueria Farmhouse Restaurant, including the Crispy Braised Pork Shank. Cosecha Cocina added brunch this year, which introduced us to the delicious Masa Waffle con Pollo Frito. Further afield in teeny Alexandria, the Instagram-worthy vegan enchiladas at Village Taco are worth the drive. And for fancier fare, we've been delighted by the Duck Duck Rice at Service Bar, the Celeriac + Frisee + Black Garlic course at Veritas, the chickpea tagine (and every stinkin' cocktail) at Watershed Kitchen & Bar, the foie gras torchon at Wolf's Ridge Brewing and the PB&J Torte from Gallerie Bar & Bistro.

Dining Experiences You Need to Try at Least Once

Schmidt's German Autobahn Buffet

Dinner and Ethiopian coffee ceremony at Lalibela Restaurant

Kamayan feast at Bonifacio

Dim sum brunch at Ty Ginger Asian Bistro or Sunflower Chinese Restaurant

Al fresco dining at Basi Italia

Dinner Music Series at The Refectory

Open-kitchen dining at The Keep Liquor Bar

Columbus Food Adventures' Taco Truck Tour

Participatory dinner party at The Kitchen

James Beard Celebrity Chef Tour Dinner at Gallerie Bar & Bistro

Igloo dining at Vaso

Chef's tasting menu with wine pairings at Veritas

View our graphic to find out where these dining experiences land, from casual to lavish and traditional to innovative.

Taste Test: Hazy IPAs

Clarity has traditionally been a desired trait in beer. But the rising popularity of hazy IPAs and New England IPAs (both hazy but not exactly the same thing) caused the national Brewers Association last year to update its beer style guidelines to include “juicy or hazy” ales.

“Hazy IPAs and New England IPAs are the hot thing right now,” says Brady Glick, beer buyer for Grandview's Giant Eagle Market District, about the murky, citrus-forward style. The Columbus Monthly staff decided to help beer consumers pierce the fog by blind taste-testing eight locally brewed hazy and New England-style IPAs. Judging the beers on aroma, taste, drinkability and aftertaste, we looked for super-juicy beers that were smooth going down and surpressed the bitter bite found in other IPA styles. Here are our three favorite brews of the bunch:

1st Place: 1-800-DoubleDouble-ExtraExtra-FrootieFrootie-BiggieBiggie-JuicyJuicy (10% ABV)
Hoof Hearted Brewery & Kitchen, 850 N. Fourth St., Italian Village, 614-401-4033
Hazy beers are Hoof Hearted's bread and butter, so this is no surprise. The tough part was choosing one representative beer, so a bartender recommended this new triple IPA. It was the highest ABV beer we tasted, but sneakily so. Said one staffer: “Beer me a glass and point me toward the pool.” (Hope he's wearing water wings.)

2nd Place: New England IPA (9% ABV)
Parsons North Brewing Co., 685 Parsons Ave., South Side, 614-824-4208
One of the city's newest breweries had one of our favorites (and its outdoorsy crowler is super cool). Parsons' “wonderfully floral, smooth and citrusy” NE IPA is dry-hopped but well-balanced.

3rd Place: Space Punch Double Hazy IPA (9% ABV)
2 Tones Brewing Co., 4539 E. Broad St., Whitehall, 614-762-6281
2 Tones' fairly boozy, almost Belgian-style entry was described as “a tropical party in my mouth” by one staffer. We assume that's a good thing.

***

Like what you're reading? Subscribe to Columbus Monthly magazine so that you keep abreast of the most exciting and interesting events and destinations to explore, as well as the most talked-about newsmakers shaping life in Columbus.