Thus far in my 22 years, I have seen and experienced a fair share of what life has to offer. In the last five years alone, I have lived in Pittsburgh, North Carolina, New York and Columbus, visiting countless cities and towns in between — and I am not afraid to admit I have fallen in love with each and every one. And in that time I have learned one thing: If the people represent a city’s heart, the food represents its soul. A city’s food culture defines it, and Columbus is no different. Although I spent a year gallivanting through the Manhattan and Brooklyn food scene, my time eating and drinking in Columbus should hardly go unrecognized. With a local vibe that triumphs anywhere I’ve been in the world, Columbus’s food scene quite literally brings a lot to the table, if you know where to look. And with the weather finally thawing from seemingly endless winter, here are five of my must-visit venues to eat and drink in Columbus this spring.
Hot Chicken Takeover, North Market, Second Floor, 59 Spruce St.
Let me be clear. Hot Chicken Takeover is not your run-of-the-mill, fast-food fried chicken. This chicken brines for 15 hours, is double deep fried, and dry rubbed with a spicy cayenne paste — a procedure that breathes life to this amazing Nashville-inspired cuisine. The four-item menu emphasizes quality over quantity. Choose your meat then choose your heat: cold, hot, warm or holy. And with less than 5 percent of patrons going Holy, I knew I had to do it: challenge accepted. As a proper journalist, how could I possibly review and inform the public of this chicken eatery without properly experiencing each flavor for myself? I never envisioned myself speaking so poetically about fried chicken, but each bite brought perfect juice on the inside and delightful smoke and crisp on the outside — unreal. Check out HCT at North Market, Thursday through Sunday from 11:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m.
Mission Coffee Co., 11 Price Ave.
Let’s face it, given enough coffee we all have the ability take over the world, right? Which is why Mission Coffee Co. hails in my top-five favorite places on earth, producing hand-crafted coffee and local treats in the heart of the Short North. Nestled just off High Street on Price Avenue, this cafe brings the highest quality artisan coffee I’ve encountered west of Brooklyn in a chill atmosphere that’s perfectly conducive to a long day of studying. Featuring an awesome open garage, this coffee shop absolutely deserves a springtime visit. I only drink black coffee, so I am comfortable admitting I am a self-appointed coffee snob who avoids Starbucks at all costs. Thankfully, the saviors at Mission know their coffee, and I am forever grateful. Visit Mission Coffee Co. weekdays from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. and on the weekends from 8 a.m. to 7 p.m.
Seventh Son Brewing Company and Dos Hermanos Food Truck, 1101 No. 4th St.
Seventh Son combines unique craft beer and a modern atmosphere into any beer lover’s paradise. My personal favorite is the Prime Swarm Saison — brewed with tulip poplar and wildflower honey. Not to mention, they partner with local food trucks to bring fresh and delicious eats to the table as well. Check the calendar on their website for the food truck schedule, but be sure to swing by on Saturdays for Dos Hermanos. Dos Hermanos Taco Truck is one of the handful of local food trucks Seventh Son has on-site throughout the week. Their guacamole alone is mind-blowing, but add it to their amazing and authentic dishes and you get my favorite Columbus street tacos. You can find it at Seventh Son on Saturdays from 5 p.m. to 2 a.m.
Bareburger, 463 N. High St.
I’m not a huge red meat fan, but every now and then I crave a juicy burger, and Bareburger never disappoints. I first ate there in Brooklyn and thank God I moved back to Columbus just in time for a location to open on High Street. The menu has countless create-your-own burgers where you choose your meat, your toppings and your bun. My hands down recommendation, though? The bison. That’s right, bison. This incredible hunk of heaven could easily stand alone on delicious merit, but include fresh tomato, lettuce, sprouts and a cilantro lime dressing and forget about it. Plus, the sweet potato fries will change your life. It’s open Monday through Thursday from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m., Friday and Saturday from 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. and Sunday from 11 a.m. to 3:30 p.m.
Cravings Carryout Cafe, 227 E. Third Ave.
Your twenties can be a confusing time, but if there is one thing I know for sure it’s that Sundays are for brunch. I have visited countless eateries in that magical time between breakfast and lunch and it’s safe to say I have likely consumed at least 30 different bacon, egg and cheese sandwiches in at least five cities along the way. But hands down, this sandwich from Cravings takes the prize. The buttery and light brioche roll perfectly complements the savory locally made cheddar. Plus, it has a rosemary aioli that is to die for to tie it all together. Be sure to also grab a fresh baked pastry on your way out. Stop by Tuesday through Sunday from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.