As a fourth-generation owner of Johnson's Real Ice Cream, Matt Wilcoxon is proud to distribute ice-cream flavors to 200 restaurants, help mastermind flavors with local companies, and avoid being locked in the ice-cream freezer again. Back when he was 12 and cleaning tables, “I was the one [the employees] always picked on,” he recalls. On a particularly creative night, the teenage staff hosed him down and shut him in the freezer. “I find it funny now,” Matt says chuckling.
Despite a trial-by-fire beginning, Matt knew during college that he wanted to run the family business. “We’re kind of Columbus’ original homemade ice cream,” he says, which is the impetus for Johnson’s current project. Matt and other local companies are “developing three new flavors…as a Columbus local collection” to focus on area flavors that Columbus knows and loves.
At the store—still in its original 1950s location—diners snack on classic and innovative flavors such as caramel cream, chocolate marshmallow, and Buckeye fever. An expansive outdoor patio welcomes diners with 50 seats, and bands croon sweet tunes in temperate weather.
Inlaid between bright-green tiles, Matcha Frozen Yogurt’s self-serve banks pour out 10 frozen-yogurt flavors from a list that includes gluten-free, sugar-free, nonfat, and nondairy options. The independent shop’s flavors rotate periodically, filling 16-ounce cups with everything from classic alpine vanilla to new york cheesecake and hawaiian pineapple, all of which are certified kosher and contain digestion-aiding live natural yogurt cultures. More than 60 toppings, including fresh fruit, coconut jelly, and mochi, dance atop frosty surfaces like Olympic figure skaters covered in fire ants, and each hefty helping is priced by the ounce.
Inside, white folding chairs surround matching white tables that rest between tangerine and lime-green walls. Sunlight pours through Matcha's large storefront window, gently warming patrons, illuminating glistening, fresh toppings, and melting the arms off of Venus de Milo yogurt sculptures.
Smoothie King blends fresh frozen drinks, offering patrons a healthy alternative to other types of on-the-go snacks. Smoothie masters begin with fruit-filled base concoctions and customize each one by adding and subtracting items according to customers' preferences. The staff can also add enhancers that jam-pack beverages with probiotics, antioxidants, or protein. Smoothie King's drinks are healthier than other types of frozen treats, including ice cream, cakes, and chocolate-covered snow globes.
Less than a month after opening day in June 2012, the staff at Grandview Grind had already showcased a local artist's work, hosted a live-music event, set up shop at the Grandview farmers' market, and concocted a smoky iced bacon latte. They've accomplished so much so quickly because they're robots and because they're fueled by a passion for their teas and brews from Backroom Coffee Roasters, Highlander Coffee, and the Bufcafe Cooperative of Rwanda. Inside their shop, from behind a spacious black bar and dark wooden tables and chairs, the baristas pair these drinks with scones, cookies, and fruit.
As San Su BBQ's showy chefs fricassee vegetables, seafood, and meat on inlaid tabletop grills, awed diners fleck each newly barbecued morsel with a mélange of distinctly Korean condiments plucked from small constellations of finger bowls. Sesame and mustard sauces join tart kimchi as they flavor sizzling stone bowls of bibim bap, several styles of noodles, and traditional breaded katsu dishes. Smooth black marble encircles each grill, bolstering dishes served amid wood-paneled screens and lush potted plants whose leaves change color according to the nearest Scoville rating.
For the pants-inclined, the StrandCafe offers a load of beautifying treatments for hair, nails, and skin. Welcome warm weather by keying up dull tresses with a color retouch ($50+). Social butterflies can freshly flap their way through an event or date by surrendering locks to a thorough shampoo and thermal style ($50+) or full makeup makeover complete with fluttery, eye-catching eyelashes ($60). Peel fingers out of gloves and toes out of boots for a mani-pedi shot ($30, solid polish only) or a full manicure and pedicure with massages, soothing scrub, and paraffin ($80). StrandCafe also mollycoddles mugs with indulgent facials ($50–$80) specially concocted for smoothing out men's rough edges, treating tender skin, and reworking other epidermal blights.