I worked at the Ohio State Fair every summer growing up. Some of my favorite childhood memories are tied to the indulgent, deep-fried goodies found up and down the midway. From buckeyes to donut burgers, the deep-frying possibilities are endless. Lucky for Columbus, we have over-the-top, deep-fried deliciousness served year-round.
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•Melt is Cleveland royalty, and I was ecstatic when they brought their unconventional grilled cheese concept to Columbus (Easton & Short North). Walking into Melt is like going into your whacky neighbor’s garage—a mashup of colorful murals and vintage holiday light-up decorations. Owner Matt Fish developed Melt’s grown-up grilled cheese persona over 15 years ago, and the Monte Cristo has been on the menu since day one. This monster creation sandwiches honey ham, smoked turkey, and Swiss and American cheeses between two slices of Melt’s proprietary bread. Then, this sweet and savory must-share is dipped in batter, deep-fried, and finished with Powder sugar and house-macerated multi-berry compote.
Special Mention: from-scratch Fried Mozzarella Wedges
•Hank’s Texas BBQ requires a Lone Star-sized appetite. Inspired by Texas’ luxury of great BBQ on every corner, this comfort-filled menu pays homage to the owner’s home state. Hank’s Poutine starts with a sheet pan covered in golden-brown house-cut fries layered with gooey, locally sourced cheese curds and slathered in house-made brisket gravy. Add a generous sprinkle of fresh-cut scallions, and you have a gratifying bite that will leave the table fighting for scraps. The melted curds cling to the crispy, salty fries that soak up the rich brown gravy, which is cut through by sharp onion.
•OH Pizza and Brew operates four locations throughout Columbus—and they deliver! Owner Luke Edwards attributes OH’s addictive dessert offerings to his time spent playing festivals with his band Seventh Echo (Warped Tour 05’). OH is giving us pure fair joy through deep-fried Oreos and powder-sugar dusted funnel cake (my personal favorite). The batter used for both was beautifully golden and pillowy inside with hints of vanilla. These shareable desserts encompass Edwards’ Bourdain approach believing food doesn’t need to be fussy; it just needs to be approachable and delicious.
Special Mention: the treats keep coming—fair-style apples and deep-fried brownie bites
The Ohio State Fair is not operating traditionally this year, so if you are looking to indulge in more fried food favorites, the Franklin County Fair is running through July 25.
If you like this, read: The Weekender: Three places for beef birria