In the artsy Short North district, this vegetarian café offers a peaceful sanctuary from the bustle of city life. The premise is simple-healthy food made from scratch daily and served on rustic community tables. But the hearty soups such as Gypsy vegetable, dense homemade breads such as Grains of the Goddess, and heaping salad plates ensure that simplicity won't leave you hungry for flavor. Top it all off with some of the best cookies, cakes and cinnamon rolls in the city.
Housed in an historic townhouse in German Village, the award-winning G. Michael's is one of Columbus's favorite restaurants. Elegant touches abound in the brick-lined dining room. Feast on seasonal appetizers and entrees that might include steak Tartare with arugula salad and kettle chips, seared jumbo scallops with spicy mashed sweet potatoes, parmesan-breaded fried chicken with polenta. A winner of Wine Spectator's Award of Excellence, their wine list covers it all from the lightest pinot noir to full-bodies cabs to pair with everything.
One of the top draws in charming German Village, Lindey's serves steak and pasta dishes in an elegant atmosphere with views of tree-lined cobblestone streets. Start with calamari and shrimp fritto misto and follow with veal saltimbocca, mushroom risotto, or extra-thick New York strip with garlic mashed potatoes. An extensive wine list and an ever-changing selection of classic desserts such as bananas Foster round out the menu.
Down a narrow street surrounded by private homes, this off-the-beaten-path Italian restaurant lives up to its location by serving creative takes on classic dishes. You won't find red sauce here, instead the husband and wife team of John Dornback & Trish Gentile offer sensational seasonal fare such as a roasted beet carpaccio, Tuscan onion soup, or a grilled ostrich fillet with butternut squash purée in a fig-balsamic reduction.
Rigsby's describes itself as "Venice meets Columbus in the heart of the Short North" and indeed this is the place to go for an ever-changing menu of seasonal fare inspired by the cuisine of Italy and the Mediterranean. Sip an aperitif or martini, nibble a small plate of empanadas or spicy shrimp bruschetta or go for the full meal and add a cheese course with artisan fromages both imported and local. Each choice is well complemented by the upscale, metropolitan bistro stmosphere and attentive service.
For formal dining in Columbus, the top choice is the Refectory, named to the Columbus Dispatch Best Fine Dining list yearly since 1982. In this refurbished, 19th-century country church, French chef Richard Blondin, who studied with Paul Bocuse, presents superb classic and contemporary French cuisine with flawless service and a well-stocked wine cellar that recently received the Wine Spectator Award for Outstanding Wine Cellars. Begin with pheasant terrine or escargot, proceed to duck magret or beef onglet, and top it off with black forest torte or one of the signature crème brulées.
Another popular restaurant run by Cameron Mitchell, here he offers lobster, chops, crab cakes, and heavenly mashed potatoes, but perhaps is best known for the dry-aged steak. Ornate high ceilings, soaring wood post and beam architectural detals, wrought iron arches and dramatic lighting add a sophisticated backdrop. The wine list is one of the best in town.