Picnic Pairings: Columbus Commons + The Hills Downtown

G.A. Benton, Columbus Alive

Columbus Commons

Overlooking seven spectacularly lush green acres amid vintage Downtown buildings, a hand-carved carousel, like a specially calibrated clock, sweeps out the gentle pace of summer at Columbus Commons. Here, time confronts you everywhere.

You're standing on the remnants of past ideas (City Center Mall), and the $50 million residential construction project to the west ambitiously portends a richly renewed future Downtown. What's most evident, though, is that throughout this transporting and verdant park, present day Columbus looks wonderful.

There's zeitgeist-y Jeni's Splendid and Late Night Slice shops; a dramatic modern pavilion that hosts concert series and free movies; and a park-scheduled slew of other contemporary activities that includes food truck festivals, kickball games, plus local craft beer-tapping happy hours. What a place for a picnic!

You might perch yourself at an umbrellaed, south-end table during the shade-challenged daytime. Then again, you could leisurely stretch out during an evening-on-the-lawn "Pops" concert, when, with a ticket, you can - legally! - bring booze into the park.

The Hills Downtown

Tucking its name inside of Ohio's silhouette makes for a logo the new Hills Market Downtown takes seriously. So after stopping in its smart wine shop, take advantage of The Hills' overflowing Buckeye bounty. A fun way to go about this is to grab a bunch of Hills Own dips and no-lettuce salads (in the store's rear), then scoop 'em up with Athens' game-changing organic Shagbark "Corn Cracker Minis."

Those multi-textured, nutty and crispy small-batch chips work deliciously with: intense and addictive Buffalo Blue dip; citrusy-bright, red pepper-and-jalapeno-spiked Black Beans; Southwest-via-NOLA Red Beans and Rice; orange marmalade and scallion-flavored chunky chicken salad; and a relish-y ham salad that's deservedly popular and actually tastes like ham.

Elsewhere in the store, procure a super-healthy and delicious kale and spelt berry salad from Little Eater (a Columbus pop-up specialist) and counter that with a caramel-laced and over-the-top, splurge-time Dorothy Lane Brownie baked in Dayton.

• North Market + Goodale Park

• Katzinger's Delicatessen + Schiller Park

• Vincenzo's Convenient Elegance + Field of Corn

Photos by Meghan Ralston

Shagbark Corn Crackers: $5

Buffalo Blue Dip: $8/pound

Black Bean salad: $8/pound

Red Beans & Rice: $7/pound

Hills Own Chicken Salad: $9/pound

Hills Own Ham Salad: $7/pound

Little Eater Salads: $5.50

Dorothy Lane Killer Brownie: $3

Hills Downtown + Columbus Commons

Distance: .8 mile

Drive time: 4 minutes

Walk time: 20 minutes