Explorers Club's cozy, 100-year-old brick exterior lends a deceptively comfortable face to the restaurant's constantly experimenting kitchen. Owner Tracy Studer and Chef Dan Varga—both veterans of the late Harold Smith's Gloria Café—root their eatery's fare in playfully updated Latin American food such as chorizo sliders and plantain-topped burgers. Yet, Varga constantly flexes his culinary muscles with unusual menu additions such as his chili-citrus-flavored vegetable lo mein. Monthly menus jet around the globe—614 Magazine notes that after deciding on "a country or cuisine, [Varga] spends months researching the ingredients, history, and flavor profiles, and then experimenting in the kitchen," turning out tributes to Germany, Spain, and his ancestral Hungary. An impressive range of vegan and vegetarian options makes use of soy-based tempeh and tofu, catering to animal-loving humans and self-hating venus flytraps.
Like the secret undersea tunnel that links Athens to New Jersey, Easy Street Cafe binds America together with the sunny Mediterranean. The cafe is the brainchild of George Stefanidis. Back in 1983, he envisioned a place that would honor his family's oldest recipes?but he also wanted to serve up killer burgers. Today, his eclectic menu of Greek and American cuisine promises burgers and pizzas alongside savory gyros and flaming saganaki cheese. Craft cocktails and wines pair with Greco-American dinners. For brunch, choose from a selection of breakfast-influenced dishes, including The Hercules?three lollipop lamb chops with a side of eggs, pig sticks, and home fries.
Given how much food emerges nightly from Red Brick Tap & Grill's kitchen, it's a minor miracle everything fits onto two menu pages. Specializing in classic diner food, the cooks put tastebud-surprising flourishes on each dish. Bacon-wrapped brats are topped with garlic-herb aioli and fried eggs while the Cuban sandwiches get a zest of Guinness mustard atop a pile-up of smoked pork butt, ham, and chipotle mayo. Matching the feasts in sheer abundance, Red Brick stocks more than 30 draft brews and 70 bottled beers that mostly hail from domestic craft breweries like Stone and Lagunitas.
According to Columbus Crave, stone-cooked pizzas "are where this eatery shines." Guests can make their own or choose from specialty combinations, such as the Porky's Revenge?a pie crowned with chipotle ranch, smoked pork belly, fried jalape?os, and smoked gouda?or the Lisa Simpson, scattered with smoked tofu and optional vegan cheese. But whether it's pizza, burgers, or hot dogs, Red Brick's culinary team can sprinkle more than 45 custom ingredients, including brisket, corn salsa, and sweet-honey goat cheese.
The pizzas (along with the drinks) are available by the slice until 2 a.m. every night, giving diners ample time to savor Red Brick's sunny outdoor patio or the black-and-red dining room adorned with comic books along the back wall. Red Brick also delivers throughout nearby neighborhoods and parallel universes within two points of divergence.
Inside Tony's Italian Ristorante, stucco archways curve over plush red sofas and teardrop-shaped light fixtures cast a warm glow on a wraparound bar. Outside, flower baskets hang from the patio's trellised ceiling, helping to pollinate the tops of diners' heads. Presiding over this elegant spread is owner Tony Scartz who has greeted guests from the front of the house since 1982. The menu complements the stately ambiance with traditional, hearty Italian fare. Chefs roll out fresh pasta dough and hand-trim steaks, and then enhance dishes with flourishes such as marsala wine sauce and fresh herbs. Servers are happy to suggest suitable wines to pair with each meal.
American Bistro Fare | Critically Acclaimed Patio | Gluten-Free Menu | Weekend Brunch
Where to Sit: Though it fills up quickly, try snagging a spot on the patio, which Columbus Alive described as "a casually elegant and breezily fabulous food- and drink-fueled playground" and Columbus magazine simply called "breathtaking."
When to Go: Lindey's really gets hopping during its weekend brunch—held on Saturday and Sunday from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. During this time, regulars clamor for indulgent, yet affordable dishes, such as french toast stuffed with banana and cream cheese and crab cakes with eggs.
While You're Waiting
While You're in the Neighborhood
Before: Explore 32 rooms filled with bargain-priced books at The Book Loft of German Village (631 South Third Street), which is located in a pre–Civil War era building.
After: Settle in for a pint at The Old Mohawk (819 Mohawk Street), a historic pub that's been in the neighborhood since 1933.
By Columbus CEO's count, Kevin and Lori Ames have graced the city with nearly 20 restaurants, including the Press Grill and Cafe Lola. These days, they own and operate Front Street Bar & Grill, which elevates classic pub and comfort foods to gourmet stat. Case in point: the aptly named "fancy grilled cheese," whose muenster, provolone, and aged cheddar trio joins oven-roasted tomatoes, basil pesto, and bacon between its locally-made slices of bread. Housemade chips, meanwhile, complement homemade salsa or guacamole, and braised short ribs lend some upscale flavor to poutine topped with fried egg and white cheddar cheese curds. Guests can, of course, pair these edibles with refreshments from Front Street's bar, which is lined with wine, craft beer, and fixings for cocktails such as ginger mojitos and various margaritas.
Feasts unfold amid the eatery's exposed brick walls or on its covered outdoor terrace, Lola's Backdoor Cantina, which offers modern Mexican fare. In between bites and sips, visitors can play rounds of pool and ski ball, or pick a tune on the jukebox, which is a preferable alternative to begging the bartender for a serenade.