Best of Columbus 2022: Open Air, Veritas and Other Culinary Stars

A Nordic-themed culinary excursion, a unique dish name, cafés with a cause, bizarre bathrooms and more food and drink highlights

Erin Edwards
Columbus Monthly
The Understory lounge is one of the new venues in the renovated Open Air School in Old North Columbus, near the Olentangy Trail.

Best Reimagined Historic Building 

Developer siblings Ben and Michael Kelley recently unveiled one of their most ambitious projects: The renovation of the historic Open Air School building in Old North Columbus, near the Olentangy Trail. The handsome building features five big draws, starting with an expansion of Emmett’s Café. The Kelleys courted Wolf’s Ridge Brewing to oversee the other four areas: an events space, the Understory lounge, The Commons eatery and a patio that already ranks among the city’s best.

Best Cafés with a Cause

Café OverlookFreedom a la Cart Café + Bakery and the forthcoming South End Café are each examples of a promising trend: restaurants serving a higher purpose beyond good eats. Freedom a la Cart’s year-old nonprofit café offers support and job training to survivors of human trafficking. Newly opened Café Overlook, located at the Franklin County Courthouse, seeks to train a new generation of hospitality industry workers. Meanwhile, South End Café, a social enterprise coffee shop, will offer training and worker placement at its partner organizations.

Best Culinary Excursion

When Veritas reopened after the restaurant shutdown of 2020, executive chef Josh Dalton adopted a “supper club” model, with themed tasting menus. The five-course Nordic Supper Club menu showcased some of Veritas’ most interesting work to date—it’s rare to encounter words like rugbrod and gjetost on local menus—and was a personal favorite of the chef’s as well. “I was inspired to incorporate a Nordic-themed menu based on my travels to Copenhagen in 2019,” Dalton says. “We really adopted the Nordic philosophy … which centralizes on using everything that is available to you and limiting waste.”

The Crazy Squid Hair appetizer at Don Pocha Korean BBQ

Best Dish Name 

What’s funnier than the image of a cephalopod sporting bottle-blonde, spiked hair à la Guy Fieri? We’ll wait. Three cheers to Upper Arlington’s Don Pocha Korean BBQ for giving us a chuckle with Crazy Squid Hair, the oddly apt appetizer name for what is essentially calamari sprinkled with Parmesan cheese and a side of Sriracha mayo.

Dining News to Look Forward to

  • The chef-owners behind Alqueria Farmhouse Kitchen recently opened Subourbon Southern Kitchen and Spirits in Linworth.
  • Joya’s, chef Avishar Barua’s hard-to-define global eats café, is currently under construction in Old Worthington.
  • Fyr, a new live-fire restaurant led by executive chef Sebastian La Rocca, is set to open this fall in the Hilton Columbus Downtown’s new expansion on High Street. The hotel’s rooftop lounge, Stories on High, will be the tallest in Columbus to date.
  • The Downtown opening of Josh Dalton’s Speck Italian Eatery is getting closer. Meanwhile, the chef has already unveiled Speck's successor, Cove, a Seafood Joint, in what has become Dalton's Delaware incubator.
  • We’re looking forward to the eventual debut of several Dave’s Hot Chicken locations in Central Ohio.
  • Will Service Bar ever reopen? Fingers crossed.
A bathroom at Law Bird in the Brewery District

Décor Trend: Bizarre Bathrooms

Columbus foodies and bar-goers are discovering a consistent characteristic at Central Ohio’s top-flight restaurants and watering holes: the more bizarre the bathroom, the better. Here are three restroom rock stars.

  • Comune: This plant-based Parsons Avenue restaurant is known for its calming, minimalistic dining room—a stark contrast to its bathrooms, which are some of the most talked-about in town. They feature red lighting, infinity mirrors and wacky soundtracks such as whale sounds, music from Twin Peaks and even historic speeches.
  • The Market: Previously known as The Market Italian Village, The Market’s excellent pandemic-era renovation also saw an overhaul of the bathrooms. In one, four walls of mirrors conjure The Weeknd’s disorienting Super Bowl show, but with a potty and sink.
  • Law Bird: The Brewery District bar is known for its tongue-in-cheek vibe and boasts a pair of far-out restrooms. In one, the wallpaper features Prince riding Falkor, the Luck Dragon from the 1984 flick “The NeverEnding Story.” Why not? In the other, bargoers find themselves in a “banana bathroom” featuring wallpaper dotted with the yellow fruit and headshots of the Cincinnati Zoo’s one-time resident Harambe (RIP). 

This story is from the July 2022 issue of Columbus Monthly.