Somewhere between East Coast delicatessens and West Coast cafés is the culinary intersection of utility and community. Though the Midwest didn’t exactly invent the diner, it has arguably perfected it. But defining a diner isn’t as easy as it seems.
Tommy’s urban appeal and Nancy’s down-home feel are two sides of the same coin. Cap City and Starliner both push the envelope with avant-garde offerings, while Hang Over Easy and Chef-O-Nette certainly deserve a nod. But none really meet the standard for tiny diners, the neighborhood haunts only the locals seem to know.
Despite our critically-acclaimed restaurant scene, the classic diner is working class by design. Most offer open kitchens and open seating without a sous chef or sommelier in sight. Better still if there’s a guy with a gallery of tattoos behind the grill and the coffee is strong enough to stand up a spoon. Breakfast hours are essential; breakfast anytime is understood.
There’s an implicit social compact to rubbing elbows with strangers at tightly-grouped tables or a crowded counter. Enough original or inspired decor with knickknacks and nostalgia so that even regulars find something new every time combined with off-the-menu specials and predictable patrons the staff know by name are all part of the charm.
Unfortunately, that social scene is also what may make these esoteric eateries intimidating for the uninitiated. So here’s an insider’s guide to some of the city’s best tiny diners and the plates that make them great.
George’s Beechwold Diner
4408 Indianola Ave., North Clintonville
Dinky diner meets neighborhood dive on the edge of Clintonville. The steak and eggs and biscuits and gravy are both solid. If you can’t decide, you can’t go wrong with the garbage omelet, which varies from visit to visit, but includes every meat, cheese, and veggie on the menu.
Jack & Benny’s Barnstormer
2160 W Case Rd., Dublin
Hidden gem is an understatement for a joint tucked away in the back of a hanger at the recently remodeled OSU Airport. Try the legendary Gut Buster at least once—layers of egg, cheese, sausage, bacon, ham, and hash browns with a potato pancake and peppered gravy for good measure.
2932 E. Broad St., Bexley
Skip the standard French toast and substitute challah bread instead for something unexpected. Buttery pancakes with fresh blueberries are always in season. Don’t be afraid to get creative. Order the gyro omelet with feta, but add spinach and tomato for even more Mediterranean flavors.
Louie’s Daybreak Diner
1168 E Weber Rd., Linden
This Linden destination offers all the standard breakfast fare with some signature standouts, like their famous Panhandler, or a personal favorite, the Philly Omelet. Sliced roast beef and Swiss with mushrooms, peppers and onions is like a cheesesteak wrapped in an egg instead of a bun.
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German Village Coffee Shop
193 Thurman Ave., German Village
Don’t let the name fool you. The patty melt is superb, covered in grilled onions, Swiss and American cheese, and Thousand Island on rye—as is the Monte Christa, the comfort food cousin of the classic club sandwich with egg-battered bread stuffed with hot turkey, ham and cheese.
5916 Westerville Rd., Westerville
With a new name, more tables, and a few menu holdovers, you’ll still find the best corned beef hash in Columbus, carved into huge chunks, served with grilled red potatoes and onions, and eggs to order. Crispy country fried steak smothered in sausage gravy also remains a reliable staple.
Jack’s Downtown Diner
52 E Lynn St., Downtown
Hard to find, even in the heart of downtown, is a time capsule of the prototypical American diner. You could shoot a period picture at Jack’s and not have to change a thing. It’s already perfect. Order the meatloaf sandwich on sourdough with a side of hash browns, just to mix it up.
Grill & Skillet
2924 E Main St., Bexley
Nothing says nostalgia like grilled liver and onions with homemade mashed potatoes, or a thick-sliced, fried bologna sandwich—not even the checkerboard floors. But don’t overlook the weekend specials, like peanut butter and banana French toast, salmon patties with Hollandaise, or their killer kielbasa and eggs.
3 Brothers Diner
3090 Southwest Blvd., Grove City
The three brothers from Oaxaca helped establish the style of another local diner before opening their own. Try their namesake omelet, with bacon, ham, plantains, and Monterey Jack covered in chili sauce and sour cream—or their signature scramble with poblanos, onions, corn, and zucchini, topped with Jack and queso fresco.
59 S State St., Westerville
On the south end of Uptown, evening hours are often the exception when it comes to diners. Don’t miss the smothered chicken, grilled with peppers, onions, mushrooms, and melted cheddar with a side of mashed potatoes, or the weekend-only prime rib, slow-roasted and served with au jus.
Philco Diner + Bar
747 N High Street, Short North
The only entry on the list where all-day breakfast meets beer and cocktails, this upscale Short North pit stop offers a modern twist on every recipe. Seriously consider the coffee-braised pot roast, served with butternut squash, red potatoes, poblanos, and goat cheese, with rosemary onion rings.
Fitzy’s Old Fashioned Diner
1487 Schrock Rd., Worthington
It’s never too late or too early at Fitzy’s, the only 24-hour diner on our list. Go for the breaded and fried, sliced pork tenderloin, served as an entrée, on a sandwich, or with your eggs—or keep it simple with the Fitzer: eggs your way, home fries, and a biscuit all covered in sausage gravy.
All The Way Up: My experience at Lincoln Social rooftop
It was 3:35 p.m. on a Tuesday when people began lining up beside the velvet rope at 711 N High Street. A smartly-dressed concierge escorted me to the elevator and hailed me a ride with a swift wave of his hand over a small screen. I rode the elevator up nine stories and was welcomed into Columbus’ newest rooftop bar by a floral wall with neon cursive writing that read, “Lincoln Social.”
Cameron Mitchell really outdid himself with this one, I thought as the fresh air swept me into the lounge. Where walls would normally be found, huge open windows revealed stunning views of the Short North and beyond. Foliage hung from beams of the translucent retractable ceiling that allowed sun to spill onto the ornamental rugs below. The room is anchored by a bright, white bar in the middle.
Beyond the bar are several half-circle booths covered in white fabric and textured pillows. An ivy wall runs the length of the booth area, giving guests an opportunity to “grab the perfect Instagram picture,” according to the Lincoln Social website. It’s in these booths where customers really bring Lincoln Social’s upscale lounge experience to life. Parties have been booking these booths since the bar’s opening and patronizing the sections of Lincoln’s menu meant for parties: bottle service and shareable cocktails. Booth guests are often frequent flyers to another portion of the menu entitled “All the Way Up,” which is a hat tip to the bar’s lofty location, and also the prices—these specific bottles of bubbly and wine start at $160 and end at an
And past the booths is the true al fresco experience. The completely roof-less terrace is home to a fire pit, wrap-around flower beds, plenty of comfortable seating, and, most importantly, one of the most spectacular views of downtown Columbus.
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At this point in my exploration, the clock had struck 4 p.m. and the downstairs floodgates opened. A steady stream of people excitedly poured through the doorway. Some went straight to the bar for a cocktail, others took seats at the long community table or at high tops, but most rushed to the terrace to take in the vista. I sat at the bar and watched the iPhones pan, tilt, and flash at every nook and cranny of the bar. Cameron Mitchell was going for Instagrammable and social media, and I’d be damned if he didn’t nail it. But, the photogenic nature doesn’t stop with the aesthetic.
Nearly every one of Lincoln Social’s cocktails come in their own uniquely beautiful glass. “When Mary Met Arnold,” Lincoln’s take on a boozy Arnold Palmer tea, is served in a dainty blue and white teapot and poured into a matching teacup over dry ice (say hello to the perfect smokey Boomerang). “You Had Me At Hello” is made from Lillet Blanc, aloe, peach-chile, citrus, and served in stemware with a red lipstick kiss on the side, which is actually a scented stamp bartenders press on the glass—a play on the classic service industry faux pas. And “Luke Skywalker,” my personal favorite, is sipped out of a fancy etched rocks glass and garnished with colorful flowers (shoutout to Chloe Emmons at Potion Matcha Bar for hooking up the tea in this tasty drink!). “Tokyo Drift” gets an honorable mention because of its fresh and spicy taste, and its patronization of Watershed’s award-winning Guild Series Gin.
You’re probably feeling pretty hungry after all that booze talk, huh? Lincoln Social kept their menu short, swimming, and even a little bit sweet. I highly recommend Lincoln Social’s Wagyu Beef Sliders. At only $4 a pop, these tasty little beefy buns are worth their weight in gold. But, there are also some standout seafood options, too, like the Lobster Corn Dogs, Shrimp Ceviche, Tuna Poke, and Peeky Toe Crab—all under $15! You just have to promise me you’ll end your Lincoln dining experience with the Birthday Cake Cone, okay? It’s the cutest thing this side of Fiona.
I could spend a few hundred more words describing the knowledgeable and well-groomed staff, the attractive lighting, or how the two modestly-sized TVs above the bar satisfy sporto customers, yet do not distract from the overall ambiance, but I think seven little words will do the trick: people of Columbus absolutely adore Lincoln Social. It’s fresh. It’s unique. It’s the high-end, crowd-pleasing Short North experience you can only get when a rooftop concept and Cameron Mitchell collide. So, get in line Columbus—you’re going to want to see this for yourself.
Lincoln Social is located on 711 N High St.
For more information on the menu and offerings,
Coming Soon: New High St restaurant to focus on tapas, cocktails, wine
There will soon be a new place to nosh on High Street. Nosh on High, a chef-driven restaurant focused on American tapas and shareables, craft cocktails, and wine will open at 149 S. High St. this summer.
The restaurant, opening in the space previously occupied by Cup O Joe across from the Columbus Commons, is brought to you by Mike Campbell and Kevin Jones, formerly of Milestone 229.
“We really want to appeal to the businesses around us for lunch meetings and private events, and also the people that live and visit downtown who want a fun night out,” stated Jones. “Nosh on High is a place where you can enjoy really good food and drinks and even better conversations together.”
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The restaurant will focus largely on lunch and dinner service with most menu items under $25. Guest can book the private dining room for parties of up to 30 people.
“We spent a lot of time traveling around the midwest to different restaurants and we found that more and more people were sharing plates and enjoying smaller bites together, ” stated Rusty Scarberry, General Manager of Nosh on High. “We have created a special menu that emphasizes American tapas, and our chef, Benjamin Kershaw, has really used his experience and expertise to create an exceptional menu.”
Nosh on High will be open Monday-Friday for lunch and dinner service beginning at 11am, and for dinner on Saturdays. For more information, please visit www.noshonhigh.com.
8 local seafood dishes to send your palate on a vacation
“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.
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!