My Neighborhood: What the Columbus Symphony's Rossen Milanov Loves in the Arena District

The CSO music director shares his top picks, from events to food to sports.

Steve Wartenberg
Columbus Monthly
Avid soccer fan Rossen Milanov is the music director for the Columbus Symphony Orchestra. (Photo by Tim Johnson)

Rossen Milanov has conducted orchestras in many countries. The Bulgaria-born music director of the Columbus Symphony Orchestra divides his time among homes in Costa Blanca (Spain), Philadelphia and the Arena District neighborhood of Columbus. “It’s spectacular, and I have a great view of Downtown,” says Milanov, who often walks to his Downtown office from his high-rise condominium.

Cycling Centric

Milanov and his husband, Robert Gardler, are avid cyclists. “The most important thing for me: We just have to cross the street, and I’m right on the bike path [along the Scioto River], and we can go in any direction for miles,” he says.

Sports Centric

There’s a reason it’s called the Arena District, and Milanov, a huge soccer fan, attends Crew games at Lower.com Field. But the neighborhood’s multiple venues can cause a problem: traffic. It’s especially noticeable when sporting or entertainment events happen simultaneously, filling the streets with cars. “I can’t get home until I find a friendly [police] officer who will let me enter my own garage,” Milanov says.

The Spice of Life

Milanov and Gardler often walk to North Market. An excellent chef, Milanov loves cooking for guests, and North Market Spices is a favorite stop. “They have everything you need, even the more exotic spices, like Iranian saffron,” Milanov says. Another favorite is the moussaka at Firdous Express that’s “even better than the moussaka my mother makes.” Milanov doesn’t usually stop at Jeni’s Splendid Ice Creams, because “I bought her book, and we make it at home from her recipes. My favorite is the honey lavender, and I use the lavender I bring home from Bulgaria; the quality is incredible.”

Red, White & Boom

“Everyone wants to come to our building because it has the best view,” Milanov says.

The River Runs Through It

North Bank Park is steps away. Milanov and the orchestra have used the pavilion there for special events. “It has a wonderful terrace, and the views are superb,” he says, adding that during the pandemic, he and Gardler “invited our friends and their kids, and we’d set up a picnic on the grass in the park.”

This story is from the March 2023 issue of Columbus Monthly.