Food News: Owner places Jack's Downtown Diner on sale after enduring years of alley construction

Erin Edwards
Jack's Downtown Diner owner Chris Kowalski

Downtown’s "alleygeddon” strikes again. Chris Kowalski, the owner of Jack’s Downtown Diner for more than 15 years, has placed the old-school diner on sale, telling the Dispatch that the negative impact from years of construction in Lynn and Pearl alleys, combined with staffing issues and rising costs, led to his decision.

Starting in March 2016, several businesses that called the alleys home — including Jack’s (52 E. Lynn St.), Arepazo, Si Senor Peruvian Sandwiches & More, Ringside Café and Oliver’s Burgers & Bourbon — endured two years of an “alley beautification” project that was only supposed to take months. That was followed by an onslaught of scaffolding and construction headaches related to the Rhodes State Office Tower modernization project, which started two years ago and is expected to finish in 2021.

Last fall, the Latin American restaurant Arepazo left its longtime space in Pearl Alley. (It has since been replaced by Barroluco.) At the time, Kowalski didn’t mince words when describing the toll that the back-to-back alley construction projects had already taken on his restaurant: “It’s been brutal,” he told the Dispatch.


Dick’s Dive is now open in the basement below Zeno’s at 384 W. Third Ave. in Harrison West. The laid-back bar is a tribute by owner Quinn Allen to his late father, Richard Allen.

The Akron-based burger chain Swensons Drive-In opened a third Central Ohio location on Monday at 4810 Cemetery Rd. in Hilliard.

Last week, Oddfellows Liquor Bar bartender David Yee was crowned the Central Regional Winner of the Bombay Sapphire’s Most Imaginative Bartender (MIB) Competition, beating out bartenders from New Orleans, Chicago, Austin, Houston and other locales. Yee moves on to face 11 other bartenders in the MIB competition finals, which take place next February in Chicago. Yee’s success comes just two years after another local bartender, Annie Williams Pierce (co-owner of the forthcoming Law Bird), won the whole MIB competition, becoming the first woman to do so.

Forbidden Root, the Chicago-based brewery and restaurant coming soon to Easton Town Center, has hired longtime local chef Paul Yow (formerly of Barcelona, Hae Paul’s and Biscuit & Branch) to be its executive chef. Known for its botanical brews, Forbidden Root has also received high marks for its elevated brewpub fare at the flagship location in Chicago’s West Town neighborhood.

Soul at the Joseph (620 N. High St.) hosts its 2nd Annual Fall Cocktail Competition from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. Wednesday, Sept. 25. The competition will feature five area bartenders slinging cocktails from Watershed Distillery’s family of gins. Tickets include a sample of each contender’s cocktail with the chance to vote on your favorite.

A new strolling tour from Columbus Food Adventures will explore the Short North’s wealth of dessert options. The All Dessert Tour is the chance to discover sweets ranging from Italian pastries at Quinci Emporium to house-made pies at The Pearl. The 2.5-hour tour, which will also take in some of the neighborhood’s best public art, starts at 2:30 p.m. on Saturdays. Visit to reserve a spot.