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8 local seafood dishes to send your palate on a vacation

Kevin J. Elliott

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“You can’t get good seafood in this town…”

Yeah, yeah, we’ve heard it all before. But, these eight dishes prove that Columbus is trying to buck the trend with inventive dishes that prove that theory all wet.

Make the most of no-coast Columbus with these seafood standouts.

Paella Mariscos | Barcelona, 263 E Whittier St, Columbus

The menu of Barcelona has stood the test of time and weathered Columbus’s ever-shifting palettes. If you’re craving a bounty of seafood, there’s no better refuge than the German Village mainstay. Especially considering their Paella Mariscos as the be-all, end-all feast. Their take on the Spanish rice tradition features fried soft shell crabs, lobster, shrimp, squid, clams, mussels, and plenty of spice. If you’re in search of seafood, this should have all of your bases covered.

Mussel Escabeche | Lupo on Arlington, 2124 Arlington Ave, Columbus

Lupo has quickly become a new gem in Columbus’s dining scene, and fans of seafood and Spanish-inspired tapas should take particular note. In addition to frequently having a variety of oysters on the half-shell, their menu is packed with fresh, delicate, seafood dishes. The mussel escabeche is relatively foreign to Columbus menus, but here it’s done to perfection. Served cold, the mussels are first cooked in a citrus and vinegar marinade, before being presented with saffron, white wine, and garlic. It’s a perfect summer delicacy, best enjoyed on Lupo’s scenic patio.

Grumpy’s Gumbo | Frank’s Seafood, 5249 Trabue Rd, Columbus

We’ve spotlighted this Hilliard fish market and their subsequent restaurant in the magazine before, but we wanted to highlight them once again. Beyond the fresh fish and shellfish you can order to-go, or their expert boils, Wil Mendez’s award-winning gumbo—chocked full of shrimp, crab, and andouille sausage—is a genuine crowd-pleaser and the only gumbo you should order outside of New Orleans. Frank’s has a definite seaside vibe, even within is confines among a west side industrial park.

Lobster Bisque | Lindey’s, 169 E Beck St, Columbus

Lindey’s and lobster bisque are basically synonymous. This menu mainstay is a creamy concoction of sherry chantilly, chives, and diced shrimp. It would be irresponsible to start your meal any other way. And speaking of your meal, Lindey’s is a sanctuary for seafood. Market fresh fish, crab cakes, trout, Australian sea bass, sixty south salmon and more swim through the menu daily.

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Coquilles St. Jacques | Windward Passage, 4739 Reed Rd, Columbus

For the ultimate seafood dining experience, there’s no better place to visit than the timespun Windward Passage. Eating in the windowless, scrimshaw filled Henderson Road fixture is akin to eating on the stern of a pirate ship. Among their staples is the Coquilles St. Jacques, served in a colossal shell, it’s a French-inspired recipe that bakes scallops into a decadent casserole of mushrooms, breadcrumbs, and cheese. Save room for all the oyster crackers between courses.

Read Gary F.‘s review of Windward Passage Restaurant on Yelp

Charred Octopus | Cosecha Cocina, 987 N 4th St, Columbus

Perhaps seafood’s trendiest dish, octopus has been spotted on menus all over town as of late. But the charred octopus starter at Cosecha is a simple dish accenting the texture and bubblegum-of-the-sea flavors of the centerpiece. Over a bed of tomatoes, pepitas, olives, and potatoes, the charred octopus is a must-order on your next visit to the Cocina.

Oysters | The Guild House, 624 N High St, Columbus

We know that Cameron Mitchell gets most of his oyster press from The Pearl across the street, but you’d be wise not to overlook the Guild House’s version, served with champagne mignonette, grape granita, black pepper, and shaved grapes. It’s somehow simple and decadent at once, and tastes twice as good as it looks—which is crazy, because it’s one of the best-looking dishes you’ll see.

Gouda Grits and Shrimp | Momma Can Cook

Try to track down Momma Can Cook and you’ll get hip to their most popular menu item with a couple rudimentary scans of their reviews. While the culinary crowd is lighter in the seafood sea, there are food trucks everywhere, so when people are dropping lines like “one of the best meals I’ve ever gotten from a food truck,” we’re lining up to taste that gouda, tomatoes, bacon, scallions, and of course … shrimp!

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Restaurant Review: El Lugar and Alpine bring Spanish, German tapas to German Village

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Displayed proudly along the wall behind El Lugar’s bar are rows and rows of canned seafood—not the ingredient of choice one might expect from an upscale tapas and pinchos restaurant, located in a city with a culinary scene that typically fawns over either traditional American, or fresh and local food. Nevertheless, the Espinaler cans of tuna, razor shells, and cockles reside there like a dare for those with adventurous enough appetites to try some of the finest seafood in the world. 

Photos by Julian Foglietti

El Lugar is a shared effort by co-owners Enis and A.J. Ndreu and Elidon Hizmo to bring new and authentic European flavors to Columbus. Their two new restaurants, El Lugar and Alpine, sit next door to one another and provide different, yet complementary experiences of Spanish and German cuisines. One side boasts a more family-friendly selection of meats, cheeses and hearty vegetables, while the other is fresh Mediterranean flavors of citrus and seafood. Both share an intriguing selection of signature cocktails. 

In contrast to El Lugar, Alpine features cuisine that showcases flavors from across Germany. Nicholas Paxton, the executive chef at both restaurants who was tasked with transforming the owners’ vision into menus, is neither German nor originally familiar with German food, so he brought in consultants more familiar with the region to help develop the recipes. “I love the authenticity that we provide here on the Alpine side,” Paxton said. “There’s a broad spectrum of what German food can be.”

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Alpine is continuing the tradition of authentic regional food that has helped characterize German Village, where it and El Lugar are located. The two restaurants replaced Juergen’s Bakery, a community staple that provided Columbus with Bavarian-style fare for 50 years. Co-owner A.J. Ndreu said they’d been looking for a spot in the area to open up another German restaurant (they also own Wurst und Bier in Worthington), so when the opportunity presented itself, they jumped.

“I used to buy all my pastries from Rosemarie [Keidel, Juergen’s Bakery’s owner],” A.J. Ndreu said. 

“We just connected and she’s like, ‘I’d love for you to take over and make a German restaurant out of it.’ ”

With that, he and his cousin launched into bringing to life their concepts for German and tapas restaurants, which they’d been developing for a decade.

One of the most instrumental sources of inspiration for A.J. has been traveling around Europe. He lived in France, where he fell in love with French food. But once he experienced all the different ways Spanish cuisine used seafood, beef and pork, he was convinced otherwise. “I thought French food was the best cuisine in the world until I started going to Spain.”

The simplicity of Spanish food is a challenge for Paxton, who says his tendency when developing a recipe is to mess with its components. Spanish cuisine, in contrast, consists of ingredients that can speak for themselves; all Paxton has to do, he says, is figure out how they work together and wait for inspiration to hit.

Back in 2008, Anthony Bourdain traveled to Catalonia for his show “No Reservations” to explore the same flavors that intrigued Ndreu and Paxton. At a little bar about half an hour outside of Barcelona, Bourdain tried Espinaler’s canned seafood, and asked, “How can any chef do better for you than that?” Ndreu was captivated.

“I was like, ‘What the hell is he talking about? It’s canned,’ ” Ndreu puzzled. “So […] I went, and I was amazed. It’s unbelievable. It’s some of the best seafood I ever ate.”

After that, A.J. spent years trying to find a way to bring Espinaler’s products to Ohio, and he finally uncovered an opportunity in El Lugar. But besides the seafood, El Lugar also features Vermut Lacuesta—not the vermouth used for lining a martini glass, but a wine-like drink to be enjoyed on its own or in a cocktail. It also offers the Spanish serrano and ibérico hams, which can be cured for years. The more expensive of the two, ibérico ham comes from black pigs fed an acorn diet and can take up to five years to reach peak flavor.

Next door, Alpine’s menu describes dishes like leberkäse (a meatloaf) and wurstteller (a selection of sausages). Diners can also order raclette, available by the scrape, over any meal. But not forgetting that it’s still in the United States, Alpine offers a handful of American classics during happy hour. These include mini cheeseburger sliders, tater tots with beer cheese dip, and fried chicken wings, among others. 

Alpine and El Lugar present their guests with foreign foods that encourage diners to explore the culinary diversity of Europe. Portion sizes, particularly at El Lugar, may be a bit smaller, but Paxton hopes Columbus diners will recognize the value in great, unique-tasting food and finding excellence in unexpected places.

“We don’t want you to fill up on it. We want you to taste some amazing flavors that nobody else is doing,” Paxton said.

Alpine and El Lugar are located at 525 S 4th St. in German Village. Find out about Alpine at alpine614.com and El Lugar at ellugar614.com.

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Food & Drink

They’ll be nothing to wine about at these 9 local wineries

614now

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Everyone knows that Columbus is a craft beer city, but fortunately for those who never got acclimated to the yeasty drink, there’s wine. We may not have the best climate for grape growing, but these nine wineries around Columbus are breaking down barriers and serving up delicious bottles to vino lovers.

Camelot Cellars Winery | 901 Oak St, Columbus

Camelot Cellars, an award-winning Urban Boutique Winery, handcrafts all their own wines sourcing premier juices from vineyards all over the world. Offerings include retail wines by the bottle, wine tastings, flights, and event spaces.

Via Vecchia Winery | 2050 S High St, Columbus

This family-owned, urban winery is tucked away off a private lane and hosts 7700 square feet of exclusive venue space. With original exposed brick archways, wood ceiling beams and limestone walls, every experience is sure to be unforgettable.

Wyandotte Winery | 4640 Wyandotte Dr, Columbus

Wyandotte Winery is the first and oldest winery in Central Ohio, conveniently located just miles from Easton Town Center. With wines made from Ohio grapes and a beautiful patio to enjoy them on, you’re sure to enjoy your experience at Wyandotte Winery.

Signature Wines | 3816 April Ln, Columbus

Unlike many urban wineries, Signature Wines makes wines predominantly from whole grapes  and juices brought into Columbus from predominately California and Ohio using traditional, small scale winemaking techniques.  Stop into the Winery to enjoy a glass of wine in a comfortable atmosphere.

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Hidden Lakes Winery | 650 Winchester Pike, Canal Winchester

Hidden Lakes offers a delightful selection of house-made, award-winning wines and unique craft beers. Along with beverages, enjoy food from the newly-updated kitchen while taking in the scenic lakeside view.

Cooper’s Hawk Winery & Restaurant | 4230 The Strand, Columbus

Cooper’s Hawk Winery & Restaurants celebrates moments that matter with chef-crafted food, award-winning wines, and life-long friendships. Outstanding wine, modern fare, Napa-inspiring tasting room: Cooper’s Hawk.

Good Vibes Winery | 2 S State St, Westerville

Good Vibes Winery is an urban winery located in Uptown Westerville, offering guests a wine experience, bistro samplings, and a beautiful environment to be enjoyed by friends and family.

Plum Run Winery | 3946 Broadway, Grove City

Plum Run Winery is a family-owned winery focusing on small batches of quality wines made from locally sourced fruit. A 3-acre vineyard located five miles south of the winery provides many of the grapes for the estate wines. Stop by and enjoy the wine and hospitality!

Powell Village Winery | 50 Liberty St, Powell

As one of the first wine négociants in Ohio, Powell Village Winery sources, blends, and produces small lots of high quality vinifera wines from America’s notable grape-growing regions. From bold & dry to sweet & fruity, they strive to create a diverse range of distinct wines for every taste.

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Food & Drink

Tuttle Mall getting a lot sweeter thanks to 2 newcomers

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Malls have changed a lot over the years. Remember Waldenbooks? Was KB Toys your go-to as a kid? Heck, even Sears will soon be nothing more than a memory.

While mall establishments are frequently lost to the sands of time, it’s rare that you see a former retailer return to a mall it’s already vacated once. Well brace yourselves, sweets fans, because a gooey, sugar-frosted favorite is making a comeback at Tuttle Mall.

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Of course we’re talking Cinnabon, which was last in operation at Tuttle some years ago, and is now listed as “coming soon” on the mall’s directory. But wait! As tempting as it will be to fill up on cinnamon rolls after this long absence, you’ll want to save room for this other coming attraction: it seems Duck Donuts is also setting up shop in Tuttle.

Hop on the treadmill and give your dentist a heads-up, mall lovers—sweets are back at Tuttle in a big way!

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