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Dine with ghostly guests at these 3 haunted restaurants in Columbus

Linda Lee Baird

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Some of the city’s restaurants are known for more than their meals—they have haunted histories that spook staff to this day. If you’re willing to make room at your table for some of Columbus’ oldest residents, here are three places to try.

The Spaghetti Warehouse | 397 W BROAD ST.

Opened as an icehouse in 1891, the Spaghetti Warehouse is known today as one of Columbus’ most iconic restaurants. But long before it served up family-sized portions of its namesake spaghetti and meatballs, the lower dining room housed some longer-term guests.

Built on the city’s flood plain, early residents of Franklinton suffered high casualties when the river rose. “During these times, there’d be a lot of destruction, a lot of lives lost,” said Bernard Koher, the Spaghetti Warehouse’s Host Staff Coordinator. “They would store the bodies here in cold storage while they were in the process of burying the dead.” On top of that, “You also had injuries and deaths going on because of how dangerous of a place it was to work.”

The workers, however, seem to have mostly gone home. Fitting the restaurant’s family-friendly atmosphere, it’s the ghosts of children that are seen most often. “Some guests, especially on a slower night, they compliment us on the kids in period costumes,” Koher said. “We don’t have kids in period costumes.”

A 28-year veteran of the restaurant, Koher’s described one of the first unexplained phenomenons he witnessed. A new waiter was carrying food to a table when the tray in his hand inexplicably stopped moving, fell to the floor, and spouted lasagna sauce as high as the ceiling. “The dining room gave him a standing ovation,” Koher said.

While Koher has never felt threatened, he said that hasn’t been everyone’s experience. “We had some construction guys that came overnight. They left in the middle of the night, refused to come back, and had to have someone from their company come get their tools. They refused to talk about why they wouldn’t come back in the building.”

Kitchen staff have reported flying silverware and flying bus tubs. In Koher’s words, “We got a spook central pretty much going on here.”

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Schmidt’s Restaurant and Banquet Haus | 240 E KOSSUTH ST.

Best known for its Bahama Mama sausages and cream puffs, Schmidt’s has a ghoulish history that you wouldn’t guess from its folksy German decor and polka tunes. The business began as a packing house in 1886, around the corner from a livery stable where the Schmidt family kept the animals that delivered their meats. In 1967, the family converted the stable into Schmidt’s restaurant.

Matt Schmidt, a fifth-generation member of the Schmidt family and the business’ Brand Ambassador, said that he had grown up hearing ghost stories about the restaurant. All of the stories originate on the second floor, which now holds a banquet hall for private events. It’s also the site where a re sparked in 1983 that nearly destroyed the building. While the official cause was faulty wiring, some of the sightings on the second floor could make one question whether there’s more to the story.

Schmidt said that most stories involve a woman, well-known to staff, cleaning crews, and Schmidt family members. “They would be in the office, hear footsteps walking around up here. They would get up to see who it was, they would open the door, there would be no one here. A few times, they would even get a scent of old […] cheap dime store perfume,” Schmidt said. Sometimes, she’s seen reflected in one of the long mirrors that decorate the space. Once, a customer spotted a red-headed woman on the staircase in old clothing. Feeling something was off, he followed her upstairs, but couldn’t find her. That is, until he looked at the portraits hanging on the wall which had been drawn freehand by Schmidt’s grandfather. He immediately identified one as the woman he’d seen.

It’s common for tables and chairs to mysteriously be out of place, and for things to fall for no reason. Schmidt has experienced unsettling moments while working in the upstairs office, from unexplained noises to the sound of doors shutting. Even the water stain on the ceiling above his desk looks uncannily like an evil clown. “I’ve never felt like I’m in trouble, but I’ve been freaked the hell out up here.”

Elevator Brewery and Draught Haus | 161 N HIGH ST.

Built in 1897, the building that’s now the Elevator Brewery has been home to many different enterprises. First owned by the entrepreneuring Bott Brothers, over the years the building has held the Midwest’s largest pool hall, a barber shop, a boxing ring, and a brothel. The first floor was home to The Clock restaurant for much of that time. Today, many elaborate features remain, including a mahogany bar manufactured for the 1893 Chicago World’s Fair.

According to Will Triplett, Elevator’s Managing Partner and Co-owner and Operator, it’s not only physical objects that remain from the building’s past; at least a couple of The Clock’s regulars are still likely around. “The most famous ghost story is associated with a man named Colonel Pritchard,” Triplett said. Pritchard was a well-known gentleman and womanizer. “He was stabbed in the front of the restaurant … by a scorned woman. He came inside and died on the floor by the bar. And the woman was never found.”

Despite it being a snowy February night, the woman was barefoot. Legend has it that when it snows on the anniversary of the murder, her footprints are visible in the snow. And, as if to mark the occasion, the clock in front of the restaurant stopped at the time of Pritchard’s death. It remained frozen at 10:05 for a century before it was finally removed about 10 years ago.

Triplett has had his own unsettling experiences in the restaurant. While locking up one night, he went to shut a steel door in the basement when “all of a sudden this gust of wind came through that door … where literally I had to put my body up against it to close it,” he said. “There’s no HVAC, there’s no heating and cooling down there that forces air to move at all.” Other staff have reported doors that swing open and closed on their own, and hanging pots and pans banging together with nothing to move them. One time, a sous-chef witnessed the hands on the kitchen clock moving backwards.

While Triplett has been unnerved from time to time, he accepts the ghosts that come with the restaurant he owns. “I don’t doubt that this place is haunted. But I think that they’re friendly spirits.”

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Food & Drink

Riesling and Relaxation: Dublin’s new wine bar puts hospitality first

Mike Thomas

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While a spontaneous trip to the Napa Valley might be out of your budget, fans of wine in Central Ohio can experience a taste of the California lifestyle right in the heart of Dublin.

“I spent a lot of time on the west coast in my previous professional life, and it has just become the inspiration for the vibe in the space,” explains Coast Wine House owner Dustin Snow, who recently opened shop after pivoting out of a career in corporate retail. “We want to transport you to a different place, and the kind of optimism and pace of life in California is something that we wanted to bring here as much as we could.”

Since opening their doors in late 2019, Snow and his wife and business partner Molly had a clear vision for their business. Turned off by the decidedly highbrow atmosphere of the traditional wine bar, the two hoped to create a relaxing, unpretentious environment for their guests to enjoy.

Photos: Olivia K. James

“People are drinking wine a lot. They’re drinking it at home, they are drinking it [while] out to dinner, but it didn’t seem like they were really going to wine bars,” Snow says of the research that he and his team undertook before opening Coast. “Through that research, we developed a space that was just as much about the wine as it was about creating a really approachable, relaxed, comfortable environment.”

Even from the street, the homey, welcoming nature of Coast Wine House is immediately obvious. Converted from an old residential home near the heart of Old Dublin, the interior of the space charms with its rustic hardwood floors, dinner table-style seating, and inviting hearth.

“Our number one thing is that we want you to feel like you’re coming into our home and sharing a glass of wine with us, as opposed to bellying up to a crowded bar,” Snow says of the wine house’s laid-back vibes.

Not exactly a wine connoisseur? No problem. You won’t find the words “fine wines” used anywhere at Coast, nor will a sommelier try to drill you with hard science about tannins and terroir. Instead, Snow’s hospitality-first approach focuses on the stories surrounding individual winemakers, helping the drinker understand the unique values behind each product.

Above all, Coast Wine House explores the potential of wine to serve as the centerpiece to meaningful social interaction. To that end, Snow knew that the modern, resurgent Dublin would serve as the perfect home for his business.

“Dublin is doing everything right to get people to live here, to play here, and to work here. Bridge Park is evidence of that,” he says. “There are a lot of young families moving outside the outer belt, and [Dublin] is becoming a model for this sort of post-suburban community that I think a lot of other communities from around the country are going to look at Dublin and say, ‘OK, what are they doing and how can we replicate that?’”

To help promote exploration, the menu at Coast typically features 15–20 wine-by-the- glass options. Visitors can also sample 2 oz. pours, either just to taste, or for a “make your own flight” experience. For the casual wine drinker, there are plenty of familiar favorites (Cabernet, Chardonnay) with plenty more that might be less commonly known—a Kerner from Northern Italy, Aglianico from Southern Italy, or the Carignon from Santa Barbara, to name just a few.

With apologies to the TGIF set, you won’t find margaritas or cheap happy hour deals here. What Coast does offer is a lineup of classic cocktails that speak to the winemaking tradition, highlighting ingredients like sherry and vermouth—both of which are actually fortified wines. For the ardent hop heads, Coast keeps a selection of locally- produced brews on-hand as well.

A menu of light shareables joins the mix, currently featuring such classic, wine-friendly staples as cheese, olives, and hummus. Snow plans to grow this portion of the menu in time, but emphasizes that the fare on display will never amount to full-size entrees.

Coast’s in-house bottle shop has around 130 wines from around the world in stock. Whether you take one to go, or open it right there, Snow and his team will help you select the right bottle for any taste or occasion. Right now, a Piquepoul de Pinet is one of his favorites.

“Piquepoul is a dry white wine out of Southern France. It is bright, it’s refreshing, it’s got a good balance of citrus and minerality, and it’s really, really well-priced,” he explains. “It’s very approachable—one that we would call a ‘porch pounder’ around these parts.”

For a sample of Coast’s wine-centered social environment, check out one of its special events. Past events have included an exclusive 12 seat dinner highlighting four to five wines of a particular winemaker, or an engagement featuring $10 flights showcasing wine-producing regions from around the globe.

Looking for a place to enjoy a glass of wine without the pretensions of many wine bars and specialty shops? Just head for the Coast.

To learn more, visit Facebook, and be sure to check coastwinehouse.com.

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Lent Lowdown: 5 of our favorite Friday fish spots

Mike Thomas

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Not having grown up in the Catholic tradition, I have little firsthand experience of Lent. To me, a consummate junk food junkie, this time of year has meant a chance to snag a discounted filet-o-fish from McD's and not much else.

Not content to wallow in ignorance through another season of Lent, I took to Google to learn the meaning behind this religious observance. While I'm still a few credits shy of a degree in theology, good old Wikipedia managed to shed some light on the history and tradition behind this time of prayer, penance, and self-denial.

Even if some basic research yields a wealth of knowledge on the subject, the widely known facts remain essential to the experience of Lent. If you're observing tradition, you're probably giving something up for 40 days. You might be fasting, or spending more time in prayer. But for all the faithful, a big unifying factor is the "no meat on Friday" rule that typically leads to an uptick in fish consumption.

Looking for the best places to score the goods on these meatless Fridays? 614NOW has you covered. Refer to this list of favorite local establishments that are ready to serve your Lenten needs.

Old Bag of Nails | Multiple Locations

https://www.instagram.com/p/BkbCLjYn9kF/

This popular central Ohio chain stocks plenty of seafood favorites year round, but Lent is truly their time to shine. Dinners, platters, or po' boys - blackened, Cajun, or fried. This menu is overflowing with the sea's bounty, but the star of the show is the British Style Fish & Chips ($13.99).

Queen's Table | Find the truck

The official meal of Comfest—The Fish Boat—is actually available year-round, but it's not the easiest to come by. Queen's Table operates as a food truck throughout the year, so be on the lookout for the Columbus seafood classic next time you need a lent-friendly lunch. (Sites like street food finder are a big help in tracking down your favorite mobile eats.)

Mitchell's Fish Market | 1245 Olentangy River Rd, Columbus

https://www.instagram.com/p/BtoboFwAQUF/

Need I say more? For a high-end Friday night out, you really can't go wrong with this campus-adjacent seafood joint from Columbus' culinary king.

City BBQ | Multiple Locations

Each year on honor of Lent, Columbus' BBQ favorite adds fish to their normally red-meat centered menu. Now through April 4, dishes featuring southern-fried catfish and Atlantic smoked salmon join the party. City BBQ's catfish is some of the best around, and is definitely worth seeking out at least once during this limited annual appearance.

Rooster's | Multiple Locations

https://www.instagram.com/p/BurXnaJgR_e/

We all know it's a fun casual joint, but did you know they have fish on the menu? Easily lost in the shuffle between dumpster fries and the biggest wings around, Rooster's generously-sized battered fish sandwich comes in at a very wallet friendly $7.59. And after all, cheese-covered tots are Lent friendly, aren't they?

Of course, fish fries will be going down across numerous churches throughout the season. This handy list from WBNS will help you find one close to you.

What are your go-to places to eat during Lent? Let us know in the comments.

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2 Columbus chefs in the running for top culinary award

614now Staff

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For the first time in eight years, Columbus chefs will vie for coveted honors from the James Beard Foundation according to Columbus Monthly.

Celebrating its 30th year in 2020, the James Beard Award is considered one of the culinary field's highest honors. Ray Rays Hog Pit owner James Anderson has been named as a semifinalist for the honor of "Best Chef: Great Lakes," while Spencer Budros, co-owner of Pistacia Vera, was nominated for Outstanding Baker.

The last time Columbus chefs were considered for an award from the foundation was 2012, when chefs Richard Blondin and Kent Rigsby were named semifinalists.

Finalists for the awards will be announced on March 25.

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