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Order up: 12 diners offer minimum space, maximum taste

J.R. McMillan

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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.

For Breakfast

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.

Stav’s Diner

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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For Lunch

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.

Delaney’s Diner

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.

For Dinner

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.

Westerville Grill

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.

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Food & Drink

Cold Front Incoming: 2 new spots for frozen treats in central Ohio

Mike Thomas

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Fans of frozen treats in central Ohio are in for a double scoop of good news.

Bruster’s Real Ice Cream has announced plans to open its first central Ohio location in 2020 at 1515 Gemini Place, just north of Polaris Fashion Place.

The Pennsylvania-based ice creamery has 150 rotating ice cream flavors, with 24 offered each day. All of Bruster's ice creams are made in-house.

Can't wait for 2020 to get your frozen fix? Check out Chilljoy Frozen Treatery, a new concept slinging Hawaiian shave ice and Johnson’s Real Ice Cream on the go.

Chilljoy's frosty ices are served with traditional and tropical syrups, purees and toppings of your choice. Catch this operation on the go, as all of these treats are served straight from a classic 1959 Chevy delivery van.

To find the Chilljoy van or view its offerings, visit www.chilljoyft.com.

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Food & Drink

Frankly, you’ll love the new hot dog restaurant open now in Graceland

614now

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Hot-diggity-dog, there's a new hot dog stand in central Ohio! Links-N-Lemonade has completed its transition from food truck-only to brick-and-mortar, slinging creatively-topped dogs in the Graceland Shopping Center.

Links-N-Lemonade's menu consists of several hot dogs topped with different sauces and sides like cole slaw, coney sauce, and fries. Customers can opt for the classic all-beef dog or go for the veggie option.

Guests can choose from predetermined loaded hot dogs or customize their own with up to 10 toppings. Fresh-cut fries, both loaded and not, and fresh-squeezed lemonade are also offered.

Owner Damon Owens began serving his all-beef, quarter-pound dogs out of a food cart in 2011 with hopes of opening a restaurant soon thereafter.

Columbus Dispatch reports the recession slowed him down, but income from a coveted spot at Tanger Outlets Columbus off Interstate 71 put him in position to buy a food truck in 2017. From there came the 128 Graceland Blvd. restaurant, which opened in June.

Damon continues to operate his food truck, having just made an appearance at the Columbus Food Truck Festival.

Hours are 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday through Saturday and noon to 6 p.m. Sunday. For more information visit linksnlemonade.com.

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Food & Drink

“Fun, casual joint” coming to Dublin area very soon

614now

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There will be one more "fun, casual joint" in the near future. Roosters Wings will open a new location in the Dublin area on September 3!

This Week News reports the chicken spot will take over the former Logan's Roadhouse at 7110 Sawmill Rd.

Roosters has been the reigning champ in the Best Wings category of ColumBest for years on end.

This will be the 41 Roosters location throughout Ohio, Indiana, Kentucky, and West Virginia.

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