Growing up, I lived in a lot of places (California, North Cackalacky, and Virginia to name a few). But in my heart, my home has always been Columbus, Ohio. From sixth grade on, it’s where I spent every summer, kissing boys and swimming at the neighborhood pool. I still go back every Christmas and a few other times each year.
Columbus is also home to some pretty famous food brands, from Jeni’s Ice Cream to Wendy’s and Bob Evan’s. But for all the Frosties and sausage gravy, there’s also a growing number of restaurants with great plant-based options. On a recent trip home, I was excited to see just how many…so excited that this is just part one of two. Here we go!
247 King Avenue • tillfare.com
This place was my dad’s suggestion, and sometimes the dude does know best. As soon as we walked in, I had a weird sense of deja vu. Till’s space was formerly a coffee shop that my friends and I used to hang at when I was a teen. Back in the day, this place was a mecca for hot older babes in bands. Now it’s dark, cozy, and cool – filled with grownup food and owned by James Beard Award Nominees Cristin Austin and Magdiale Wolmark.
I started with the radicchio salad with olives. Simple, fresh, good. But then I ordered the country fried tofu with mac n’ cheese. I was nervous when I read “fried,” because I wasn’t in the mood for something heavy. But the first bite was so light and so right that I yelled “shit” (think Clay Davis in The Wire’s “Shiiiiieeeet”). Loud and long. The “cheese” in the mac n’ cheese is a homemade cashew-pepper puree that was one of the best things I’ve ever tasted. It was an incredible plate of food that I couldn’t stop talking about. Our server even asked if I wanted to take the menu home with me – that’s how weird I was being.
4241 North High Street • thenorthstarcafe.com
Started in 2004, this little gem has three locations. Their focus is on locally grown, organic goodness served in bright, airy spaces. Aside from the food, one of my favorite parts about Northstar is their huge and wondrous wall of glossy magazines. I’m not talking about dated, waiting-room magazines – no old Reader’s Digests from 2002 here. We’re talking about the best food, art, and fashion magazines around, like Lucky Peach, Design Bureau, and Vogue.
And now the food…
You know how sometimes you can order a carrot juice and it tastes like dirty water? Well that’s not how it’s supposed to taste, and Northstar knows that. Their carrot juice is rich, crisp, and clean. And you also know how ordering a veggie burger can sometimes get you a fakey, flat, faux-meat slab? The Northstar Burger was just the opposite. It was a fat patty (grill marks and all) made with brown rice, black beans, and beets paired with a beefy side salad. I skipped the bun and ate it straight up. It was super filling and super good. They’ve got you boozehounds covered too, with a great selection of craft beer and wine. I’ll be back for dinner.
Part two coming at you tomorrow!
Do you have any favorite palaces of plant-based options where you live? Share in the comments.