What's in the Columbus dining scene crystal ball?

Kristen Schmidt, Columbus Alive

The bar is raised ever higher for Columbus restaurants and drinking establishments, and we expect 2016 to be another year of change for the better for the city's dining and imbibing experiences.

Emerging neighborhoods

As the Short North edges toward being exclusively the playground of chains, chainlets (Melt, Bakersfield, Bareburger) and big-time players (Cameron Mitchell, Hyde Park Restaurant Group), look for scrappy upstarts on the South Side, especially along Parsons Avenue and High Street, where more creative types are living and working. That's not to say development in Franklinton or Italian Village is over, but the South Side just might be the new neighborhood to watch.

Sawyer invasion

Cleveland chef Jonathon Sawyer has been eyeing Columbus for several years, and earlier this year he went on the record saying he'll bring a location of his Noodlecat concept to the city, as well as another restaurant, said to be a second Greenhouse Tavern, to Italian Village. We're betting (hoping!) this will be the year when all the chips fall into place.

Hanging up their toques

Could Rigsby's be the tip of the iceberg? Veteran chef Kent Rigsby closed his eponymous restaurant in 2015 and took on the executive chef gig at the New Albany Country Club. With little more than a hunch and some grinding of the rumor mill, we think 2016 could be the year that sees the retirement or reinvention of a few other Columbus stalwarts.

The new guard

With Andrew Smith (Rossi, Philco) and Silas Caeton (Rigsby's, Veritas Tavern) installed at Salt & Pine and Avishar Barua (Veritas Tavern) poised to open a restaurant at Middle West Spirits, a new guard of Columbus chefs is making its presence known in Columbus and beyond. Gallerie's Bill Glover seems to relish the role of ringleader of this crew. He's cultivated ties to the James Beard Foundation and works steadily to raise the profile of the city's chefs and restaurants.

A permanently changed Jeni's

Having weathered the crises of 2015, Jeni's Splendid Ice Creams has emerged a different company, with a distinctly less Columbus-specific vibe. This will always be where it all started, but the brand is pursuing a much larger vision and national presence.

Local beer gets better

The wild spate of new microbrewery openings seems to have slowed somewhat. They're here to stay, but now it's time to focus on quality, and that's exactly what we see happening in 2016. With a player like BrewDog entering the market and veteran and newcomer brewers alike honing their craft, mediocre beer will get squeezed out.