Columbus: Tasting My Way Through German Village
When I entered the neighborhood known as German Village just south of downtown Columbus, the first thing I noticed was the colonial feel, the abundance of brick that made up the houses and sidewalks.
There's no grass, but small green trees separate the red-brick sidewalks from the cast-iron fences on one side and the gray-brick street on the other. On the sides of the streets I could see white-rock carriage steps, a reminder of early days when the houses would all have horses tied out in front.
The name results from its settlement by German immigrants during the 19th century, very much in the same way they settled the Over-the-Rhine neighborhood in Cincinnati. It's a great part of the city to walk in, very peaceful and very suburban, with an average home price of $377,000, several of which are over $1 million. No surprise, the clientele of this area has drawn some of Columbus' best restaurants to the neighborhood. Here are a few places I would recommend, all of which are on board with the farm-to-fork movement:
Harvest Pizzeria and Curio: There is so much mediocre pizza out there, but most of us don't care because pizza is pizza, and even when it isn't great, it's still good. Many of the gems you'll find in big cities don't offer comfortable seating, and the suburban establishments are typically more focused on delivery and high-quantity production than detailed construction. Harvest Pizza excels in both areas: They made great thin-crust pizza, and they recently unveiled an old-fashioned cocktail bar called Curio.
There aren't many places you can eat pizza and sip speakeasy cocktails - I sampled pieces of Margarita, mushroom, and double-bacon pizza while enjoying a Hickory Stick Bourbon drink with Fernet Branca, vermouth, bitters, and liquid smoke. Decorated with throwback items such as a large, gold and old cash register, suspended top hats, and bartenders who meticulously mix drinks, this is easily the most unique pizza joint I've stumbled upon in recent memory. Be sure to check it out for a happy hour that leads into dinner, and save room for the dessert. Two recommendations: The Butterscotch Budino (it's like a butterscotch pudding with caramel sauce, creme fraiche, toasted hazelnuts, vanilla-scented Maldon sea salt) or the pie of the day, made by none other than the owner's mother (seriously, see photo).
G. Michaels: It's "restaurant week" every week at G. Michaels in German Village, the chef offering a 3-course meal every Monday for $30. We were treated to a five-course tasting menu paired with the beers from Rockmill Brewery, sampling the scallops with wilted arugula, corn, and mushrooms, salmon with blue-cheese potato gratin and a caramelized-onion sauce, shrimp and grits, bacon-wrapped venison, and a vanilla-infused Panna Cotta with melons and gorgonzola.
I'm a big fan of tasting menus as they give a good perspective and overview of what the chef and the restaurant have to offer. It puts the pressure on to exceed over the "course" of the meal - not just one dish - and G. Michaels impressed with its wide range of well-executed concepts. I thought the blue-cheese potato gratin was a delicious twist and perfect compliment to the sweetness of the caramelized onions, and the gorgonzola with the melons and Panna Cotta was a sneaky/brilliant way to construct the sweet/salt/savory combo that we all crave in a fruit/cheese pairing.
Skillet: The menu is constantly changing at this popular weekend brunch spot, always seasonally driven and dependent upon "what comes through the door that morning," Chef Kevin Caskey explained. Do not hesitate if you see the blackberry pancakes on the menu - I found the fruit to be sweet enough that many bites did not need syrup. Next time I think I'm going to try the Smoked Duck Quesadilla if they have it: Shredded smoked duck and blistered sweet vidalias folded into a grilled tortilla with queso chihuahua, chile verde, and toasted pepitas served with charro beans.
They don't take reservations, so get there early on Saturday or Sunday (open 8 a.m. to 2 p.m.) for large portions of "rustic urban food" served up in a small venue. Caskey describes his food as ingredient driven, simple, and never complicated, and I found a quote that I love about the food at Skillet: It is deceptively simple, like the painting on the wall that everyone thinks they can paint... until they try.