How to Do Winter Well: Staying Cozy With Columbus Restaurants, Bars and Cafés

Warm up in an igloo, eating a steaming bowl of soup, washing it down with a hot chocolate.

Nicholas Dekker, Erin Edwards and Emma Frankart Henterly
An igloo at Easton Town Center

Last winter, with the pandemic raging and vaccine rollout just beginning for frontline workers, we learned a lot about dining and imbibing alfresco in spite of the cold. The pandemic is lingering, and it’s time to embrace the dead of winter once again with all we’ve got. Here’s how we suggest you make the most of it.

Get Cozy in an Igloo

Dining igloos have sprouted like gossamer mushrooms all over Central Ohio this winter. Here’s how they usually work: Diners may reserve a block of time that can range from 90 minutes to three hours, and there are typically food and drink minimums. The transparent bubbles are usually heated, with some decked out in blankets, décor and air filters. Grab your vaxxed friends and check out these five igloo spots:

The rooftop bar Vaso, located atop the AC Hotel Columbus Dublin, was an early adopter of cozy dining bubbles, and the amenities are back again this year. Each igloo seats up to eight and features full service, blankets, an adjustable space heater and views overlooking the Scioto River. Food and beverage minimums start at $300 for a two-hour block Sunday through Thursday and increase to $500 for two hours Friday and Saturday.

The Royce Gastropub in Polaris has cozy igloos for up to six people and up to 90 minutes. After 4 p.m., there is a $150 food and drink minimum for four people or fewer and a $200 minimum for parties of six. There are no minimums at lunchtime.

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Lumin Sky Bar & Kitchen, the new rooftop bar at the AC Hotel Columbus Downtown, added two heated igloos this season so guests can continue to enjoy Spanish-style tapas, craft cocktails and city views from the patio. The igloos can seat up to eight people, with a $350 food and beverage minimum for two hours (minimum booking) Sunday through Thursday; each additional hour is $175. On Friday and Saturday, igloos are $500 for a minimum of two hours, and each additional hour is $275.

Easton Town Center’s new dining district on the north side is a go-to spot for alfresco enjoyment in the colder months. Several “Egloos” will be located around the Easton campus at the following establishments: Forbidden Root, The Beeline Bar, Ivan Kane’s Forty Deuce and Smith & Wollensky. Pricing information was not available at press time.

Land-Grant Brewing Co.’s large beer garden has become a big draw in the warmer months, and the Franklinton brewery hopes to keep the party going this winter. Land-Grant added 14 igloos to the beer garden this year along with—wait for it—an ice rink imported from Maine. There’s no open skating allowed on the rink, but you can try your hand at the Winter Olympics sport of curling. Reservations and $50 get you 90 minutes of curling, plus a heated igloo that seats up to eight people.

Columbus Restaurants & Bars With Heated Patios

Prefer the open air? Bundle up and check out these winterized patios:

  • Basi Italia (enclosed patio)
  • Emmett’s Café
  • Gemüt Biergarten
  • Goodale Station
  • Lindey’s
  • The Pearl Dublin
  • The Top Steak House (enclosed patio)

Explore Local Stouts

The deeper we get into the winter season, the darker our beers get. You might already be familiar with standout stouts such as Dire Wolf from Wolf’s Ridge or Jackie O’s Dark Apparition, so here are six other opaque suds to seek out from local craft breweries.

Fox in the Stout

Salted chocolate imperial stout, Seventh Son Brewing Co.

ABV: 9.7%

Though “pastry stouts” have their haters, these dessertlike beers are all about fun, with notes such as vanilla, cinnamon and caramel. We enjoy this chocolatey homage to the salted brownies from neighboring Fox in the Snow Café, brewed with cocoa nibs and fresh vanilla beans. 

House Pressed

Coffee stout, DankHouse Brewing Co.

ABV: 7%

Light and mellow, this offering out of Newark is equally suited for a weekend brunch or settling in after dinner. It’s full-bodied and aromatic, brewed with the flagship coffee from Cincinnati-based Deeper Roots Coffee. The smooth finish is slightly roasty, making this an ideal option even for those who don’t love java. 

I Can't Feel My Pants from Olentangy River Brewing Co.

I Can’t Feel My Pants

Russian imperial stout, Olentangy River Brewing Co.

ABV: 9%

Stern and dark but not too bold, this high-ABV offering out of Lewis Center has just a hint of dark chocolate bitterness and a smooth, almost crisp finish. It’s aged in Woodford Reserve barrels and is billed as tasting “so good, it will knock your socks off, and then some.” We’re inclined to agree.

Stuck on a Staircase

Imperial white stout, Derive Brewing Co.

ABV: 10%

The dark horse of our stout list is actually an amber-hued white stout. Slightly more effervescent than your average stout, this brew is made with brown sugar, biscuit malt, rye and oats and aged eight months in rye barrels. It’s sweet on the palate without being overly cloying, with a buttery finish that belies the high ABV. 

Nitro American Stout and Bourbon Barrel Imperial Stout

Parsons North Brewing Co.

ABV: 6.5% and 11%, respectively

Looking to linger awhile? The lower-ABV American Stout at Parsons is malty, creamy—thanks to its nitro treatment—and finishes clean: a non-Guinness version of a Guinness. Looking for a stout with a little more edge? The Bourbon Barrel Imperial Stout from Parsons is a fine example of the boozy style, aged in Middle West Spirits barrels. (Only the first batch in a new barrel gets the Bourbon Barrel Imperial Stout moniker, while refills are often a flavored stout variant.) It’s a complex beer that both excites the tastebuds and the noggin. 

Gather In The Outpost

The Outpost outside of Coast Wine House on High Street in Dublin.

Imagine you’re on a wine safari at The Outpost, a unique outdoor experience from Dublin’s Coast Wine House. Up to six guests can reserve the heated and ventilated canvas tent for two hours on Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays. There is a $150 minimum spend that can be applied toward food, beverages and to-go wine purchases.

Eat These Soups and Stews

Riziki Swahili Grill

Want a taste of the sunny Southern Hemisphere in January? Head to Riziki Swahili Grill on Tamarak Circle, where owner Riziki Yussuf serves authentic fare from Tanzania. On Sundays, Yussuf offers urojo (aka Zanzibar mix), a bright-yellow turmeric-potato soup made even livelier with lemon juice. Nicknamed Sunday Fun Day on the menu, this wonderful soup is served pleasantly hot and accompanied by sambusa, bajia (chickpea flour fritters), mishkaki (flavorful beef kebabs) and fried cassava shavings—all of which are meant to be mixed into the soup.

More:Riziki Swahili Grill Welcomes You to the Spice Islands

La Chatelaine French Bakery & Bistro

There’s nothing like an old-school boeuf bourguignon in wintertime, and La Chatelaine French Bakery & Bistro delivers a version that’s appropriately dense with perfectly cooked beef, rich with red wine and accompanied by mashed potatoes. It’s all served on a square of puff pastry. If you order it to go, the stew is packaged separately to prevent a soggy-bottomed pastry.

NE Chinese Restaurant

Specializing in Dongbei cuisine from Northeastern China, the Old North’s NE Chinese Restaurant features some dishes you won’t find anywhere else locally, such as spicy-and-slippery fern root noodles, excellent cumin potatoes and the house specialty: a massive stew of short rib, potatoes and green beans. Enough for two or more, the dish arrives covered with a pancake that soaks up juices from the stew. 

Modern Southern Table

We’ll have more to say about Modern Southern Table in our February issue (hint, hint), but take our word for it and head to Budd Dairy Food Hall to try chef-owner Sadaya Lewis’ cooking. Her magical chicken-and-sausage gumbo is just one highlight, thick with flavor and accompanied by a side of rice. Wash it down with Kool-Aid punch. 

Soondubu jjigae at SoGong-Dong Tofu & BBQ

SoGong-Dong Tofu & BBQ

SoGong-Dong Tofu & BBQ, tucked away in a Hayden Run strip mall, specializes in the comforting, spicy Korean soup called soondubu jjigae. Silky tofu and noodles float in a bright red broth fortified with chile oil. The soup arrives at the table bubbling hot and accompanied by an enjoyable mix of complimentary banchan (Korean side dishes) and, hopefully, whatever soju you ordered for the table. 

Find Some Good Pho in Columbus

Columbus lost one of its best pho spots last year when Indochine announced it was becoming a bubble tea spot. There’s still plenty of solid pho to be had—the kind that arrives to your table steaming hot with a plate full of fresh herbs and limes—at Mi Li Café and Huong Vietnamese Restaurant. Three newcomers worth checking out include Pho Social at Easton, Hilliard’s Pho Thanh and Lan Viet in North Market Bridge Park, where owner Khanh Le (the son of Lan Viet’s owners at the historic North Market) is serving an excellent flash-fried beef pho. And finally, there’s sneaky-good pho at—surprise!—Westerview Plaza Pizza, a strip-mall pizzeria whose new owners have added the restorative soup, as well as banh mi and Vietnamese coffee, to the restaurant’s offerings.

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Carb Load With Scratch Pasta

Handmade pasta at La Tavola

La Tavola

Rick Lopez’s quintessential neighborhood spot in Grandview, La Tavola, specializes in rustic Italian dishes that celebrate seasonal ingredients. The menu changes nightly, but excellent handmade pastas are always a highlight. You can’t miss with the gnocchi al forno, a comfort food classic.


Chef Nicola Bedalli’s Upper Arlington restaurant, Nicola, has become a standard-bearer for neighborly service and fine Tuscan fare, such as handmade raviolo con nido, filled with egg, Tuscan kale, lemon-zested ricotta and Parmesan. 

Novella Osteria

Novella Osteria, named one of last year’s Best New Restaurants by this magazine, is a Powell gem where chef Matthew Phelan crafts pastas such as chitarra and clams, bucatini cacio e pepe, and beet and ricotta ravioli. 

Pelino’s Pasta

Inside the intimate dining room at Pelino’s Pasta, one of 2021’s most talked-about openings, scratch-made pasta is the star attraction. Customers can opt for three- or four-course menus that include a choice of antipasti, one or two pastas (varieties change monthly) and a dessert.

Enjoy Beer By The Fire

Two taprooms make our nice-and-cozy list: the Brewery District’s Antiques on High and newcomer Henmick Farm & Brewery in Delaware. At Antiques, a solid destination for sour beers and draft cocktails, the two-story taproom features two fireplaces, one on the first floor within steps of the bar and a charcuterie vending machine. A second fireplace can be found on the rooftop, a lovely gathering space that is enclosed during the winter and oozes Scandinavian hygge. For a completely different vibe, head to the farm at Henmick. The new brewery’s expansive taproom, which seats 240 indoors, features an imposing fireplace and conjures an après ski atmosphere, minus the mountains. The outdoor beer garden’s fire pits will be available all winter.

More:Five New Taprooms in the Columbus Suburbs to Try

The Blue Turtle at Uptown on Main in Westerville.

Stock Up on Tea

Located in a baby blue house just a couple blocks from Uptown Westerville’s main drag is one of Central Ohio’s best resources for loose-leaf teas: Uptown on Main featuring Blue Turtle Teas & Spices. There, owner Elaine Reid (“Tea Goddess” on her business card) educates visitors about the many tea varieties she carries—from English breakfast to Cold Remedy herbal tea to a cinnamon-y Rooibos reminiscent of Red Hots—and then leaves them alone to sniff teas and browse the shelves, which are organized alphabetically. Blue Turtle also carries tea infusers, gift sets, mugs, mulling spices, honey, culinary spices and more. Online ordering for pickup or delivery is available.

More:Three Boutiques in Columbus to Find Apparel, Jewelry, Art and Décor

Warm Up With Hot Chocolate

Hot chocolate from Chocolate Café

Chocolate Café

With a name like Chocolate Café, you better believe that hot chocolate takes center stage. Now with two locations—Upper Arlington and the Brewery District—the café offers classic milk, white or dark chocolate beverages, with real chocolate melted into steamed milk. Guests can also order flavored versions like caramel, mint, butterscotch or cherry. 

Northstar Café

Northstar Café’s signature hot chocolate is a rich blend of organic milk, dark chocolate and a touch of spice. It’s served in a picture-perfect colorful mug, frothy and heaping, with chocolate shavings dusting the top. 

Pistacia Vera

A warm drink and pastry from the German Village institution Pistacia Vera are hard to beat. The café uses chocolate by Valrhona, a French company that’s been crafting cocoa for nearly a century. It’s blended with your choice of milk and pairs perfectly with a pain au chocolat. 

Winans Chocolates + Coffees

Piqua-based Winans Chocolates + Coffees is a longtime go-to for beautifully crafted chocolates around Central Ohio, and many of its retail shops serve hot beverages as well, including a rich, traditional milk chocolate or a white chocolate version. The confectioner also sells “hot chocolate bombs” in packs of six: Just pour hot milk over the chocolate orbs and watch magic unfold in your cup. 

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