Closing Time: Where Tucci's chef Michael Koenig goes out to eat

Staff Writer
Columbus Monthly

Michael Koenig has a degree in environmental biology and chemistry, but it was a bartending stint in Arizona after college that led to his current gig as a chef. "I always cooked on and off," Koenig says. "After bartending, I got a line-cooking job and never stopped."

Koenig is a recent transplant to Columbus; he arrived in Ohio in 2013 after working 10 years as a chef for Kimpton Hotels & Restaurants in San Francisco. His first Columbus gig was chef at Latitude 41 inside the Renaissance Hotel Downtown. After a year there, he became the executive chef at Tucci's in Dublin.

"My biggest learning curve in Ohio was seasonal variance," Koenig says. "In California, it was generally the same. Here, I learned what works with what season. This fall, we'll do a lot of local produce in our specials."

What sets Tucci's apart from the myriad other restaurants in Columbus? Koenig notes the collection of more than 300 wines (Tucci's also has a retail wine cellar), fresh seafood flown in from Honolulu Fish and outdoor patio as reasons to visit. Some folks, he explains, will wait 90 minutes for a patio seat.

"I just love cooking," Koenig says. "You have to love cooking and the people. When you talk to people about a wedding, they always remember the food. If you're on vacation, you remember the food, whether it's good or bad. It's creating that memory."

What's your favorite thing to eat at Tucci's? The short ribs. We do a boneless rib with a sugar, paprika and Kona coffee rub. It's served with sweet potatoes and Swiss chard. It's a phenomenal dish because you get the coffee and the earthiness.

What do you like to drink at Tucci's? I'm a huge wine drinker. That's the only thing I miss about California: driving to Napa for the day. We have more than 300 wines here. We go everywhere from $30 to $338 to $610. My favorite of all time is a Chateauneuf-du-Pape.

Will you be introducing new menu items this fall? I'll do a braised pork shank. I like doing a roasted butternut squash farro. I want to do butternut or acorn squash ravioli or tortellini. We'll do a lot of squashes.

What dining recommendations did you receive when you moved to Columbus? Dirty Franks. And Little Palace-they do a good job, too. The Top for a good steak. It's the quintessential steakhouse.

What's your favorite neighborhood spot? It's close to Dublin-Kraft House No. 5 in Powell. Their food is phenomenal. The smoked duck salad is to die for. They had a muffuletta that was great, too.

Are there any hidden gems you've found? I like The Table. The menu is small and eclectic. It's hipster but not too hipster. Their mac and cheese with porcini mushrooms and kale is good. When I take my [7-year-old] daughter out, we go to Taco Loco at Bethel and Sawmill. They do good tacos.

Where do you go for a date night? The last time my wife and I went out, it was to G. Michael's. Our other date night was Northstar Cafe. I think the Clintonville one does the food the best.

Michael Koenig, 44

Lives In: Dublin

Occupation: Executive chef at Tucci's

35 N. High St., Dublin, 614-792-3466, tuccisdublin.com

ShortOrders:Where Michael Koenig goes when he's craving something specific

Ethnic: I'll get sushi at Rishi [Sushi]. It's a cool place to hang out. It's good and fresh.

Dessert: Pistacia Vera, of course. The macarons are executed perfectly.

Atmosphere: Wolf's Ridge Brewing. It's a beautiful spot. Seth [Lassak] does an amazing job on food. They're killing it over there. I started going there when they first opened. He's spot-on. The brunch is amazing. Plus, their beer is really good.

Burger: The Pint Room has a good one, and Ted's [Montana Grill] has a good burger. [Latitude 41] has a grass-fed burger that's good. I like a nice meaty burger with caramelized onions, gorgonzola cheese, lettuce and tomato on a brioche bun.

Coffee: I do a cold-pressed coffee myself at home. I'll add a bit of agave nectar to it. It's great in the summer.