Arepazo Gahanna Tapas & Wine

patacon

Overall: [xrr rating=4/5] El Arepazo has been a popular lunch spot in downtown for years and I am thrilled they have expanded to Gahanna with Arepazo Tapas and Wine. Great Latin food and wine in a cozy atmosphere is just the type of restaurant the downtown Gahanna area needed. If you live in or near Gahanna and are tired of always going to the Wine Guy (which I also love), then you owe it to yourself to try Arepazo.

Appearance/Atmosphere: [xrr rating=3/5] The atmosphere at Arepazo is quite different from the downtown El Arepazo location, which is focused more on the lunch crowd as opposed to the casual dinner crowd. The intimate setting will leave you feeling like you are dining at a neighborhood favorite spot, which this place will soon be. The atmosphere and appearance reminds me of the places I eat at when I hang out in the neighborhoods north of Chicago. The restaurant gets pretty full on Friday and Saturday evenings, so there is that fun background chatter of excited dinners enjoying their meal.

The Food: [xrr rating=4/5] The food is by far the number one reason to visit. In general, I love wine and tapas and Arepazo has some great options. For me, the best part about Latin food is all the ways they combine fruit, seafood and spicy flavors. We started with a pitcher of Sangria to “wet the whistle”. Then we ordered the Petacon, which you can get with chicken, beef, baked tilapia, vegetarian or pork. I loved this dish and wish I would have been hungrier because I wanted to order one of everything on the menu.

Service: [xrr rating=5/5] I always try to sit at the bar regardless of where I dine and this place is no exception. I enjoy watching the bartenders mix drinks and they always seem to have a great perspective on the menu options. The bartenders at Arepazo are no exception to that rule. Our bartender/waiter was very informative, funny and provided great service.

Location: [xrr rating=4/5] One block away from the Creekside area is a great location for those who live in the eastside suburbs. While this restaurant feels like it is part of the neighborhood, the beautiful Creekside area is a short walk.

http://www.facebook.com/ArepazoGahannaTapasWine
93 North High Street
Gahanna, OH 43230

Flip Side at Easton

One Red Door Burger

I just had one of the top 5 burgers ever at the new Flip Side at Easton. These guys are well known in Northeast Ohio, but are new to Columbus and I could not be happier to have them here. There are so many great burger options on their menu, but I started with the ONE RED DOOR BURGER, which had crispy shallots, melted brie cheese and a date applewood bacon aloi. Pleasure on a bun! Even though the burgers are grass fed, which is a little healthier than usual, I still felt like I waddled out of the place. Maybe next time I’ll try something a little healthier like the turkey burger, which is comprised of ground turkey, Sonoma County pepperjack cheese, avocado, roasted pepper vinaigrette and sprouts.

If you love burgers, you owe it to yourself to try Flip Side.
http://www.flipsideburger.com/locationeaston.html

Detailed review coming soon.

Chi Thai

Website

Overall: [xrr rating=4/5] I have had the biggest cravings for Thai food recently. The cravings started a couple years ago after I tried Pad Thai for the first time at J. Liu’s. My love of Thai food has only grown since I’ve found more great places around town like Nida’s Thai on High. Most recently, I have found a restaurant in the suburbs to satiate my desire for Thai food at Chi Thai in New Albany.

Appearance/Atmosphere: [xrr rating=4/5]Don’t let the strip mall location fool you. This restaurant is the real deal. It was even named one of the “Best New Restaurants” by Columbus Monthly magazine back in 2008. I have to admit, I was very skeptical as I walked through the dingy parking lot to the somewhat shady entrance. However, all of my trepidations disappeared by the time I was seated. The internal atmosphere was closer to what you’d expect of a 3 to 4-star restaurant in downtown/short-north than of a strip mall in the suburbs.

The Food: [xrr rating=4/5]The menu has a wide variety of Asian cuisine from Pad Thai, to Sushi, to the traditional Chinese fair like Orange Chicken. I started my meal with the Crab Rangoon appetizer because I never pass up the chance to eat, crab and cream cheese fried in a wonton shell. And it kept getting better from there. For my main entrée, I chose the Spicy Peanut Chicken, because I seem to love everything spicy. Overall, I would say the food quality at Chi Thai is on par with Nida’s Thai on High.

Service: [xrr rating=4/5]The service was top notch and from the moment I walked through the door, I felt like they really appreciated my business, which is more than I can say for many chain restaurants whose staff seem irritated just to put my name on their wait list.

Location: [xrr rating=3/5]Chi Tai is very convenient for those living in the Gahanna/New Albany/Westerville area. So if you can suck it up long enough to walk into strip mall restaurant, you will probably find a new neighborhood favorite. I know I have.

New Years Eve Menus

Below are a few of the New Years Eve menus from some of the best restaurants in Columbus. Where are you going for NYE dinner?

Lindey’s

Refectory

Hyde Park

Deepwood

Betty’s and Jury Room

Overall: Betty’s [xrr rating=4.5/5] Jury Room [xrr rating=4/5]
Now that the warm weather is gone along with the days of dining al fresco, I start to crave hearty comfort food to get me through the winter. Two of my favorite comfort food spots around town are Jury Room and Betty’s Fine Food & Spirits, which coincidentally are in the same family of ownership.

Location: Betty’s [xrr rating=5/5] Jury Room [xrr rating=4/5]
The restaurants almost straddle downtown with Betty’s in the Short North and Jury Room on the south side of downtown. Historically, we spend most of our evenings in the Short North, which makes Betty’s a perfect location. However, I have found myself more frequently visiting the Brewery District now that I’m attempting to try all 500 beers at World of Beers (WOB). Since WOB does not serve food, I always leave there hungry and Jury Room is right around the corner. Now that I think of it, Jury Room should somehow partner with WOB, but I digress.

Atmosphere: Betty’s [xrr rating=4/5] Jury Room [xrr rating=4/5]
The atmospheres are similar at both restaurants, and I feel like I’m entering a neighborhood pub each time I walk through their doors. I have an odd fascination with wood and woodwork, and both restaurants have beautiful wood floors and bars. Both spaces could be described as small, but I prefer the term “intimate.” I actually enjoy being in a semi-crowded bar with the noise of multiple conversations going on all around me. It makes me feel part of the cool crowd. Plus, the other patrons have been friendly and it is not unusual to get into enjoyable conversations with those sitting around you.

Food: Betty’s [xrr rating=4/5] Jury Room [xrr rating=4/5]
While the location and atmospheres are great, the beer selections and comfort food options are why we go back. At Betty’s, my favorites are their Fried Chicken Dinner and their Beer Brats. The fried chicken is boneless and has a great crust, but the kicker is the cayenne honey sauce they pour over the top. I love that combination of sweet and spicy. At Jury Room, you can’t go wrong with any of their sandwiches. But my favorite item on their menu is the Spaghetti Alfredo Fritters, which is fresh spaghetti tossed & rolled in Alfredo, then crusted in Italian breadcrumbs and deep fried and served over marinara. SO GOOD!

Nida’s Thai

Drinks

Overall: [xrr rating=4/5]Nida has been a staple in the North Market for years, but they recently opened a quaint restaurant in the Short North. The restaurant has a great atmosphere and delicious food in a prime location. A friend-of-a-friend recommended this place, and we can definitely see why. I have no doubt that Nida ‘s Thai will show up on all the “best new restaurants” lists when they come out this year.

Appearance/Atmosphere:[xrr rating=5/5]The long narrow restaurant with exposed brick walls gives the restaurant character and a sense of history. But the Asian décor lightens the setting. The intimate atmosphere can lead to the place getting pretty loud and crowded during high times, but I personally like that.

The Food: [xrr rating=4/5]The menu is comprised of several Thai and Japanese options, though it seemed many of the options were just slight variations from previous option. Everything on the menu sounded really good and I struggled to decide. Luckily I had some great drinks from the bar to sip on while contemplating my selections. It also helped that I had several friends with me who agreed to get something different and share so we could taste more items. We ended up getting several appetizer and a couple entrees. The appetizers I recommend are Krathong Thong, Crab Rangoon and the Gyoza. I ordered the Salmon Lad Prik for my main entrée and some sushi. Even though all the food tasted great, I liked the Krathong Thong best (which made us think of Sisqo’s “Thong Song”). Just thinking about the food gives me cravings to go be back soon.

Service: [xrr rating=4/5]The service was very good overall. We had a slight wait, but they took good care of us at the bar. The waitress was very helpful throughout the meal. The food came fast, but not too fast, and our glasses were never empty.

Location: [xrr rating=4/5]Nida’s is on High Street toward the northern end of the Short North across from the White Castle. Parking can potentially be a challenge since there is only street parking and no valet option.

Website: www.thaionhigh.com

Knead

Interior

Overall:[xrr rating=4/5]
The owners of Knead describe the restaurant as an Urban Dinner, which seems accurate to me. This place reminds me of the restaurants that are featured on the Food Network show Diners, Drive-ins and Dives because the owner is the head chef and everything is made from scratch. Overall, I was thrilled by the uniqueness of the menu and the quality of the food. I highly recommend giving this place a try.

Appearance/Atmosphere:[xrr rating=4/5]
The atmosphere does remind me of a diner, but not so much that I feel weird eating there after breakfast. There are many seating options including booths, high-top, traditional tables and even bar area, which would be the ideal place to sit after 8pm. I also appreciated being able to see into the kitchen to watch the chefs work their magic.

The Food:[xrr rating=4/5]
I was pleasantly surprised by the sophistication of the menu. Based on the name Knead and the description as an urban dinner, I was afraid the only options would be breakfast options featuring different types of bread. In reality, the menu is quite diverse and has equally strong options for breakfast, lunch or dinner. For our dinner, we ate the Organic Ohio Mushroom Quesadilla, French Fries and Gravy, and the Homemade Pierogies and Brats. The brat was hand cured by the chef/owner and I could definitely taste the difference. However, my favorite dish was the quesadilla because I love rich food.

Service:[xrr rating=5/5]
The service was some of the best I’ve ever received. The waiter made me feel like he was a friend who had invited me into his home for dinner. Since we were new, he gave us a brief history of the restaurant then walked us through the menu and discussed the most popular items. As we started ordering, he did the Amazon.com thing and started giving us recommendations on what else to order based on our current order.

Location: [xrr rating=5/5]
The restaurant is located on High St. directly across from the Columbus Convention Center. I love being in the Short North/Arena area so this location is perfect for me. Just plan on paying for $5 valet parking and make things easy on yourself.

Press Grill

Burger and Mac & Cheese

Overall:[xrr rating=4/5]
Press Grill has been a High Street staple for decades, and it is my favorite place for comfort food. For me, Press Grill is the perfect place to have a beer and a burger on a cold winter evening or a wet spring afternoon. Like the other restaurants from the same owner, 185 and Rossi, the Press Grill offers high quality food at an affordable price. Even the great Cameron Mitchell once mentioned in an article that Press Grill is one of his favorite places to grab a burger.

Appearance/Atmosphere:[xrr rating=4/5]
This restaurant has the classic American pub look and feel with a large bar running almost the length of the building and high top tables slotted where room permits. For my fellow OU alumni, the place reminds me of an upscale version of The Pub. Real estate agents would describe the Press Grill as cozy, which we all know means small. While I personally favor the “intimate” setting, a group larger than 6 might have trouble finding a place to sit together.

The Food:[xrr rating=4/5]
As with 185 and Rossi, Press Grill has a great burger, which is on par with its sibling restaurants and only $2.99. Steak & Shake would have trouble competing with that price and their burger is nowhere near as good. I always look at the chalk board above the kitchen to see what the special is because it usually sounds amazing. Recently, I’ve fallen in love with their Cajun Shrimp Po’ Boy. One of these days, I’ll build up the courage to try their Thanksgiving special, which they have every Thursday.

Service:[xrr rating=4/5]
The service is the best I would expect from a pub. The staff is friendly, I never had an empty glass of beer or water, and the food came quickly and hot.

Location:[xrr rating=5/5]
I’m sure most of you have passed it while walking around the Short North. I personally think Press Grill is the ideal launching pad for the Gallery Hops. Street parking can be a slight pain to find, but I suggest using the valet at Black Olive next door.

Barcelona

PAELLA de MARISCOS

Overall: [xrr rating=5/5]
If you like good food and have never dined at Barcelona, then you need to go ASAP. For those who have been to Barcelona, you already know why I believe it is one of the best overall restaurants in Columbus. This German Village staple has a great atmosphere to compliment their tremendous food. The best way to enjoy Barcelona is a warm summer afternoon on their patio.

Appearance/Atmosphere: [xrr rating=5/5]
The outside of the building is rustic in appearance. In keeping with the German Village neighborhood, the old brick building has a sense of charm and history to it. The inside, however, is modern and trendy, which subtly alludes to the type of cuisine that is offered. While the inside is fantastic, nothing competes with the ambiance that is offered by their patio, which was recently voted best patio dining by The Columbus Dispatch.

The Food: [xrr rating=5/5]
The menu has select options, most of which are inspired by traditional Spanish dishes. I love when a restaurant’s menu is not very large, because that means the chef takes the time to focus on what he or she does well. Restaurants with large and diverse menus try to be all things for all people and usually end up being mediocre at best. I have tried many entrees over the years, but most recently we had the Paella de Mariscos and the Pollo. I could eat their paella every day. The saffron flavored rice is a perfect way to compliment the fresh shrimp, clams and mussels. They offer a fantastic wine selection with several great Spanish options. However, I recommend the sangria, especially if you are dining al fresco.

Service: [xrr rating=5/5]
As one would expect of a fine restaurant, the service is impeccable. We were seated exactly at the time of our reservation and our host even took a few minutes to talk to us when we arrived at our table to ensure we felt comfortable. The waiter was at our table immediately taking drink orders and pouring water. The food arrived in a timely manner and was hot. Also, our drinks were never empty and we never had to look for the waiter to ask for something.

Location: [xrr rating=4.5/5]
While German Village has a quaint charm, it is also close to a not-so-nice area of town. For those who like that neighborhood, you will love the location. However, if you love the convenience that comes from a typical chain restaurant in the suburbs, then you might not appreciate Barcelona’s location.

Brunch Tour Columbus

I love brunch, yet I rarely go despite frequently meaning to. That all changes in March. I am going to force myself to try some of Columbus’ highest rated and most popular brunch spots each Sunday. My goal is to then provide experienced and insightful recommendations for where you should take your family for Easter brunch.

So here is the plan;
– March 6 : Skillet
– March 13: Sage
– March 20: Betty’s

Please stay tuned and I look forward to maybe seeing you there.

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