Brunch: Worthington Inn
Brunch at the Worthington Inn is a Columbus institution, the place to go on occasions like Easter or Mother's Day.
In fact, those multigenerational meals demand a place like this: The serve-yourself buffet setup makes it just casual enough to bring the kids, the linen-and-silver table settings are nice enough to impress Grandma, and the meal's good enough to satisfy the family foodie.
Yes, the Inn dishes out some of the best fare you could hope to find at a brunch buffet, and diners get to enjoy it in one of the most charming, cozy and real-deal historic settings in Columbus.
The building itself dates back to 1833. It was first constructed as a private residence, then transformed into a traveler's inn in the 1850s to serve Route 161, one of the area's busiest thoroughfares. The Victorian facade the place is known for today -- with its mansard roof, vast porches and gabled windows -- was added in 1901 after a fire destroyed the roof and second floor.
The Inn was an actual inn until 2005, when the owners turned the hotel portion into condos and rebranded the establishment as a restaurant and pub with a lavish banquet hall. These days, the ambience is both elegant and comfortable, with ornate wallpapers set off by bright painted trim and period details.
What to eat:
Any other time of day, chef Thomas Smith's menu can be described as ambitious and innovative. But for brunch, the Inn wisely sticks to back-to-basics, meat-and-potatoes breakfast and lunch favorites. The spread is laid out in all its grandeur in the pub area. Options change a bit each week, and they're generally fancier for special occasions, but you can always count on a few stalwarts.
For starters, there's a nice tray of smoked salmon and various accompaniments, like capers, red onions and chopped hard-boiled egg. It's all the appetizer you'll need before diving into the rest of the meal.
On the main buffet table, there's an assortment of sides and entrees like eggs Benedict and pork and chicken dishes. They're all good, but you'll want to make friends with the cook who churns out made-to-order omelets and a never-ending supply of fresh waffles. (I went back for a second perfectly cooked veggie-and-cheese omelet and another fluffy waffle -- decadent and delicious after it's spread with whipped butter and excellent raspberry jam.)
Just be sure to save room for a slice of freshly carved prime rib. It's so tender, juicy and flavorful, it'll have you questioning the sanity of vegetarians.
What to drink:
The bartenders behind the massive, marble-topped, 1880s-era bar mix up excellent old-school cocktails, so you can bet they make a first-rate Bloody Mary or mimosa. Or try one of the boozy coffee drinks from the dessert menu, like the Spanish Coffee made with Kahlua and brandy.
The dessert table is loaded with prettily plated slices of seasonal cakes, pies, danishes and mousses -- so tempting it's hard not to snag a serving at every pass through the buffet. And why not? Brunch is always a special occasion, and the Worthington Inn is famous for its tantalizing treats. Don't miss the carrot cake.
649 High St., Worthington