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Calling all overeaters: 7 best food challenges in Columbus

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Your boss dropped that report on your desk Thursday afternoon and laughed because he never thought you’d finish.

But guess what, it was bound and ready to go once quitting time rolled around on Friday.

You get stuff done. That’s just the type of person you are.

But when it comes time for lunch, you’re not even trying. We’ve seen you at your desk eating those limp tossed salads with wrinkly cherry tomatoes. We want more out of you. We want to see you champion your meals.

The food challenges we are about to share with you are not for the faint of heart (or stomach), but even though your boss may not, we here at 614NOW have full faith that you can achieve anything you set your mind to.

What are you waiting for? Get out there and make your gut hate you!

The Melt Challenge

Melt Bar & Grilled, 840 N. High St. Columbus, OH

An entire platter of food is yours for the taking. Four luscious pounds of a thirteen cheese medley nestled between two thick slabs of buttered toast—all cuddled up beside heaps of French fries and cole slaw.

Coming in at a hefty 5.02 pounds and $35, this monster of a meal comes with more than a cardiac arrest once completed. Winners receive a t-shirt, a $10 Melt gift card, and, most importantly, their picture on the wall of fame.

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The Thurmanator Challenge

The Thurman’s Café, 183 Thurman Ave. Columbus, OH

The Thurman Café has been a staple in German Village for over 70 years. One of their claims to fame is the Thurmanator. With a name like that, you better step back a couple of feet to make room when it enters.

Two, 3/4-pound beef patties under a half pound of ham and bacon, covered in mozzarella and American cheese, lettuce, tomato, mushrooms, sautéed onions, pickles, jalapeno peppers, and mayo. The condiments alone could suffice as a meal but this is America so why limit yourself?

Mega-Meat-Mega-Challenge

Joseppi’s Pizza, 4767 W. Broad St. Columbus, OH

You + 1 friend + 28”, 13.2-pound mega meat pizza + 1 hour = gluttony stardom. The makers of this challenge must not believe it’s achievable because the prizes are dope.

Any pair to devour the whole pie will receive $100 cash, $150 Joseppi’s Pizza gift certificates, a t-shirt and, of course, their greasy smiles on the wall of fame.

The Mucho Macho Burrito Challenge

Cazuela’s Mexican Grill, 2247 N. High St. Columbus, OH

“IT TASTES LIKE PAIN.  Like pain that makes you want to saw off your tongue while you’re pouring sweat, shaking in your chair and crying. What a huge mistake.”

That was one of the top reviews of the challenge on Yelp.

A 12″ tortilla filled with rice, refried beans, chicken or steak—all topped with hot habanero sauce. Big whoop! Prove those Yelpers wrong and mow down that burrito.

And slap the accomplishment on your resume when you’re done.

8 Pound Omelet Challenge

Hangover Easy, 1646 Neil Ave. Columbus, OH

Photo courtesy of Tony Carter of The Lantern

Although you may not spot it on the menu, we have it on good authority that if you have enough conviction, the General Manager of Hangover Easy will schedule a time with you to dominate a 12 egg, 8-pound omelet.

As if eating a dozen eggs is not enough of a challenge, this omelet is also stuffed with ham, sausage, bacon, potatoes, tomatoes, peppers, onions, mushrooms, cheddar cheese, sausage gravy, and five biscuits.

The beefy guy pictured above succumbed to the challenge but don’t let that intimidate you.

Monolith Sandwich Challenge

Neighborhood’s Deli, 2142 W Henderson Rd, Columbus

The Monolith Sandwich Challenge at Neighbor’s Deli in Columbus has everything you could think to put on 4 pieces of bread; turkey, ham, roast beef, pastrami, bacon, 4 different cheeses, but mayo, mustard, horseradish, slaw, veggies and pickles.

Oh, and don’t forget the mammoth-sized side of potato salad.

Finish under 20:173 and you get it free.

Johnson’s Banana Split Sundae Challenge

Johnson’s Real Ice Cream, 2728 E Main St, Bexley

Hankering for more of a sweets overload? Johnson’s Real Ice Cream in Bexley is dishing up the treat for you!

The Banana Split Sundae Challenge comes with:

  • 3 whole bananas
  • 8 scoops of ice cream (your choice of flavor)
  • Topped with almonds, whipped cream, and cherries
  • 8 additional toppings of your choice

If you can finish the ice cream mountain in less than 4:28 minutes, you get the $19.99 sundae free and your name on the wall of fame.

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Food & Drink

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

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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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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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