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Level Up: Everything you need to know about rooftop bars

614now Staff

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You may not know it, but we are in the midst of a very exciting week for rooftop patios!

For starters, Dublin’s winter wonderland rooftop at VASO will be changing out it’s Instagram-worthy igloos for patio furniture for the first time this season. On May 1, the tapas restaurant in Bridge Park will invite guests out onto the patio for entertainment by DJ Anthony and spectacular sunset views.

Seats are limited and outside tables are first come, first serve. Visit VASODublin.com to reserve your spot.

Also this week, we have a new rooftop bar player entering the game: Lincoln Social. With a retractable roof and a fire pit, Lincoln Social Rooftop guest can experience a superb bar program, carefully crafted bites, Instagrammable features, and a beautiful view of the Columbus skyline year-round.

With an expectation like Cameron Mitchell’s this grand opening celebration on April 30 is sure to draw a crowd. Visit cameronmitchell.com for more info.

Scroll down for a look at 8 of our favorite rooftop bars in Columbus!

VASO • 6540 Riverside Dr.

Look, we know that it gets cliche to say something, or someplace provides a whole new view of the city, but atop VASO doesn’t feel Dublin, and it certainly doesn’t feel like Columbus. One of the more exciting facets of the suburb’s new Bridge Park development, it’s upscale rooftop space is cozy and contemporary at once, and it’s see-for-miles perspective of the county is as impressive as they come. (Plus, you can see all the Wendy’s from there!) there is this thing

Novak’s Tavern & Patio • 474 N High St.

The OG of the OT (on top) drinking space. Back in the day, there tiny square of fire-escape-adjacent was what sufficed for legal rooftop revelry, and when the new owners took over a few years back they made sure to put dollars and thought into the space. It’s really just a bar—but that’s part of its charm. No dance parties; no Jenga, just a place to belly up the bar—where you can turn your back to the world and get a little sun on your neck.

Callahan’s • 520 Park St.

One of old-school rooftop spaces, Callahan’s is one of the few bars that may be better known for their second floor than their ground floor space. After recently renovating their space, it’s alive again with a good old-fashioned bump-and-grind dance floor, something we could all use a little of every once in awhile.

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Juniper • 580 N Fourth St.

You’re not really doing Columbus right now if you haven’t made at least one visit to Juniper. Doubling as the best wedding view and patio, this venue on the weekends, bar/restaurant during the week has made quite the splash atop the Smith Brothers building since its opening last year. Mind the calendar, though: it’s only open to the public Tuesday-Friday, and could be booked for a private event.

Platform Beer Co. • 408 N Sixth St.

Just like their Cleveland birthplace, Platform is the blue-collar lunch pale patio of the capital city. Come by on Tuesdays to drink for a good, rotating cause and take a pint up-top where you can once say you saw the city before it developed into what it is today (tomorrow).

Little Rock Bar • 944 N Fourth St.

One of the first new bars to kick-start the rooftop rally, Little Rock is on their second summer of secondary space—a small L-shaped outdoor lounger that complements the main floor’s beer-and-shot simplicity. No smoking, no cover, and no worries overlooking Fourth Street’s busy buzz.

BrewDog Franklinton • 463 W Town St.

The rakish lads from Scotland never do anything without fanfare, and the second of their two new brewpubs is no exception. It’s open-air, two-story concept is imposing addition the Town Street block of Franklinton, the literal crowning achievement being the second floor patio. One of the best, and perhaps the only patio view of the city from the westside, you can easily gather the crowd in front of the corrugated steel covered container bar from street level. Extra points for massive bean bag chairs and access from indoors and out, having a Friday night surrounded from a fun standpoint.

Seventh Son • 1101 N Fourth St.

It was a 4/20 miracle when Seventh Son pulled off a last-minute open of their new second floor space just in time for Willie Nelson’s birthday (needs fact-checking). Never afraid to do their own thing, Seventh Son’s next-level expansion isn’t open to all of Columbus—but to all people, of course. Retractable roof tiles give them the advantage year-round use, giving it adaptability for all seasons. It’s not the old Seventh Son, but it’s same vibe—even if it feels transporting taking an astroturfed elevator to get to it.

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Food & Drink

I had a Baja Blast at High St’s recently-opened Taco Bell Cantina

Asa Herron

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Once again, Taco Bell has surprised us all by adding alcohol to their drink menu. Upon hearing that the Taco Bell Cantina at 1525 N. High St. obtained its liquor license, my expectations were very ambivalent. Am I going to walk in and see a full bar with a separate area to order food, a la Plaza? Or are they going for something like Chipotle with bottles of beer and fresh margaritas available to order at the register?

Taco Bell’s drink menu turns out to be a similar, cheaper version of Chipotle’s drink menu. Instead of bottled Coronas and Patron margaritas, Taco Bell offers beers on tap and the option to add rum, vodka, or tequila to your freeze. All of the freeze flavors are available to make alcoholic––including the holy grail of Taco Bell beverages, the Baja Blast.

Photos: Amal Saeed

In keeping with Taco Bell tradition, the prices for the drinks are fairly cheap. You can get a 16-ounce Bud Light for $3, Corona for $4, and Thirsty Dog or Lost Coast for $5. However, the real treat here is the alcoholic freeze, which is only $5. The key to enjoying one of these boozy Baja Blast freezes is to keep mixing it and drink it fast. Otherwise, the alcohol you have mixed in will all go to the bottom.

The numerous televisions on the wall and high-top tables with stools to sit at create an atmosphere that could loosely pass as a casual bar. The real potential of this Taco Bell drink menu lies in its ability to transform your pre- gaming on your way to Short North bars. It’s a great quick stop before the rest of the night, or a way to bring it to a close with one last drink.

I’m not so confident that this new drink menu will go well in hours just before the south campus hotspot closes at 4am, but I can only imagine the level of intoxication that will be reached by some individuals. It’s no secret that Taco Bell is caviar to anyone under the influence. As long as the one security guard on duty can handle his own, you can bet we’ll be back for drinks at Taco Bell Cantina.

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Columbus is nuts for Krema Nut Company

Laura Dachenbach

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I remember the smell of Wonder Bread being voted one of the best aromas in Columbus in some sort of poll. Obviously, these responders had never been to the Krema Nut Company. When I enter the Krema retail space and headquarters on West Goodale in Grandview Heights, the irresistible aroma of roasted nuts and popcorn hits me like a circus and movie theater rolled into one. I know I’m not going to leave here without something in my hand.

The Krema Nut Company was founded in 1898 by Benton Black. The building was located at Second and High Streets, and primarily ground spices. However, Black also discovered the practicality and marketability of grinding peanuts into a paste, creating a protein supplement for people who were unable to chew other types of food. (Adequate dentistry was still in development.) The company moved to its present location in the mid 1920s, and while it started roasting the peanut butter, the product is still decidedly “old-school.”

“We do it all natural, so there’s no sugar, no salt, no hydrogenated oils. We use the number one fancy-grade Spanish peanut, dry roast it, take the skin off, take the heart out [the bitter part of the nut] and grind it. So
it’s real simple,” explains Brian Giunta, Krema’s Senior Vice President. 

Roasted nuts led to candies in the 1990s. Krema’s signature confections include Cashew Crunch, a handmade toffee; Buckeye Crunch, a caramel corn coated in peanut butter and chocolate; and Pecan Turtles—as well as chocolate-coated nuts, pretzels, and raisins. 

Giunta’s family bought Krema Nut in 1991, when he was a teenager. He knew he enjoyed business, but didn’t know where to channel that interest, and began discussing his plans with with his parents and others. “That was right when the internet was starting to really kind of pop.” 

Guinta recalls his father being interviewed by Business First about the company’s website, one of the first in Columbus. “There’s a picture of my dad holding a big scoop of nuts out front talking about the internet, if it was going to take off.” 

Inspired, Giunta joined the Krema team after college, and has played a role in preserving its traditions, but also carrying the company forward as his parents work towards full retirement.

“I came on in 2000, and so I started from the bottom and worked my way up. Every single job in this place, I’ve done,” Giunta says. “[Taking over the company] is awesome, but it’s a lot of weight on the shoulders.” 

As he moves around the space, it doesn’t seem there isn’t a job that Giunta can’t or won’t do, from taking calls to running equipment to helping behind the register. Today’s task is to make Hot and Spicy Peanut Butter, a natural peanut butter with a bit of cayenne pepper, a perfect addition to a cheese and cracker platter. (Giunta especially enjoys this treat with saltines.)

Giunta takes me back into Krema’s production area, occupied by old but well-built machinery, and the simplicity of the process becomes clear.

“Our grinder is very small. It’s low output. We do small batches. We make peanut butter every week. It would probably make much more sense to do a month’s worth, put it on a skid and put it in a warehouse and let it be. But that’s not us. We want it to always be fresh. Same thing with the oil roasting. We do it every week. So again, it would make more sense to just roast for a couple days and fill up all of our inventory. But that’s not us. So it’s like Groundhog Day every week.”

And there’s no fooling around. After master roaster Doug Vorhies loads the spicy peanuts (yes, just peanuts) into the grinder, he sits down to collect the thick, smooth butter in pre-labeled glass jars and hands it
off to to be immediately (yes, immediately) sealed, locking in the freshness as promised. 

“I can burn 300 pounds in a matter of seconds if I don’t pay attention to what I’m doing,” said Vorhies, who has been roasting and grinding peanuts at Krema for a decade. “When I get the peanuts in, I look at the lot number and see if that’s changed. Or you feel the weight of the bag and sometimes they’re a little bit looser because the moisture has evaporated out so the nut would tend to shrink down.”

Although visitors aren’t allowed in the production area, much of the process is still visible through the retail store windows. Krema’s retail space is split between its store, which carries its nut, popcorn, and candy products, and its cafe, which offers a dozen gourmet nut butter sandwiches. The Krema Special, an upgraded PB and J, is a top favorite. The Classic Old Timer, a sandwich of crunchy peanut butter, strawberry preserves, and sliced strawberries, is a close second. Ice cream and milkshakes are available, care of Johnson’s Old-Fashioned Ice Cream in Bexley.

“We have a nice relationship with them where they’ll use our peanut butter […] and we’ll use their ice cream for our milkshakes and sundaes,” said Giunta. “They do a great job over there.”

I give into the sensory overload and my undeniable hunger and try a Peanut Butter Apple Cheesecake sandwich, an absolute tribute to the comfort childhood with a grown-up taste. There’s hardly a way to not get sticky eating this treat, but I don’t really mind. Peanut butter always seems to hit the spot. 

As I’m leaving, Giunta notices a stray nut on the floor. It would be easy to leave it and let it be swept up later during a dedicated cleaning time. But instead, Giunta picks it up and discards it, lest it be crushed underfoot. It seems to be exemplary of his sense of pride and drive for quality and customer satisfaction that’s summed up in a simple mantra.

“I just want everything to be perfect.”

The Krema Nut Company is located at 1000 W Goodale Ave.
For product information and to order online, visit krema.com.

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Food & Drink

Review + virtual tour of stunning new Columbus brewery

Regina Fox

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On an unusually warm September day, a few of us (614) staffers made the journey over to Olde Towne East to pay Columbus' newest brewery a visit.

Gemüt Biergarten, located at 734 Oak St., opened to the public on August 22 and offers guests a cultural drinking and dining experience in a setting just as unique.

The Firehouse, formerly known as the Columbus Music Hall, is a grand and beautiful structure, one that owners Kyle Hofmeister, Rob Camstra, Nick Guyton, and Chelsea Rennie were careful to maintain during the renovation process. The original brick walls remain throughout the brewery and beerhall, but new and stunningly beautiful stain glass windows were installed behind the bar to greet customers upon arrival and illustrate the different Gemüt brews.

Speaking of beers, I went with the Alfheim Hefeweizen which was bright and, much to my delight, not too fruit forward. The dark and toasty Woden’s Hunt Dunkel and the crisp Helheim Helles are also debut beers at Gemüt with a couple kolschs, a marzen, and a pilsner hitting taps soon.

Inspired by European cuisine, the food menu offers a variety of German sausages, Schnitzel, along with several appetizers and large plates. Sunday brunch specials are also offered—keep an eye on Gemüt's Facebook for updates.

With our beers in hand and our minds on the amazing Gemüt grub, we made our way out of the biergarten. The path to the patio took us past the pristine brewery where we got an up-close-and-personal look at the magic behind the malts.

We emerged onto a stone and brick plaza covered in picnic tables and partially covered by an upscale pergola. In the far corner, a fun-sized tables and chairs sit next to a Little Free Library—the perfect place for the tots to hang while the adults have their fun. A cute wooden gazebo populates another corner of the biergarten next to the al fresco bar.

As a resident of the Olde Towne East neighborhood, I've driven by Gemüt Biergarten in the evening many times to see the patio illuminated by dozens of Edison bulb string lights and wished I was there. And now that I finally got a chance to patronize the place, I wish I never would've left.

Take a virtual tour of Nosh in the gallery below! 
Note: use the left/right arrows in the upper-left corner to navigate between images.

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