When it comes to emerging LGBT meccas look no further than Columbus, Ohio. The Midwestern town is not only home to an energetic culinary and arts community, but also a thriving LGBT community, containing dozens of entertainment options to satisfy any taste and budget.
One of the most impressive things about the Arch City is the overwhelming friendliness of the people. Wherever we visited during our stay, we were greeted with open arms and a friendly smile.
On this visit, I wanted to focus on Columbus’s much bragged about culinary community. New restaurants are sprouting up around the city and garnering national acclaim for their innovative concepts and menus.
The greatest highlight is an establishment simply called The Kitchen, where guests can participate in the preparation of their dinner from start to finish.
The Kitchen is open to private parties as well as individuals who make reservations in advance of their visit. Guests are encouraged to grab an apron and a sharpened knife and help in the preparation of everything from the appetizers to the entrees and desserts.
On my particular visit, I helped prepare a glorious crab salad made with fresh avocado, lump crab and tossed in a light citrus vinaigrette dressing. The recipes are presented to guests and the ingredients are already portioned out, leaving little room for error for even the most novice chef.
After the hard work is complete, guests can grab a cocktail at the bar and converge around a large table where conversation with friends or strangers is highly encouraged. Just think of it as a large Thanksgiving dinner for about 40.
A quick glance at the bar, and guests may notice a brand of liquor called OYO and the bartender quickly explains that it is a local product and gives us a sampling of their vodka and whiskey. My favorite of the bunch is the OYO Honey Vanilla Bean Vodka which contains aromas of marshmallow and honeycomb.
Middle West Sprits, creator of the OYO brand, opens their distillery to visitors to view their production process and taste all the varieties they produce. For beer lovers, head to North High Brewing, a unique microbrewery which gives customers the chance to become brew masters for the day, using North High’s proprietary brew-on-site equipment.
Brunch is a big deal in Columbus and the top choice amongst the locals is The Pearl. The restaurant offers traditional selections such as Chicken and Waffles with warm blueberry sauce and Ohio honey and Huevos Rancheros with chorizo, guacamole and smoked chili black beans. For a lighter brunch, The Pearl prides themselves in their selection of fresh oysters and seafood.
Columbus is home to a large Italian population with a great assortment of restaurants highlighting the cuisine of various regions of Italy. In the heart of Victorian Village lies Basi Italia, a cozy establishment offering an innovative twist on Mediterranean cuisine.
The eclectic menu offers something for every palate. Starters worth noting include Parmesan Crème Brulee prepared with black pepper focaccia crisps and Crispy Fried Oysters accompanied by a citrus-saffron aioli and fried parsley.
Entrees include a combination of delectable pasta, meat and seafood selections. I recommend trying the Prosciutto Wrapped Scallops with sweet potatoes, spinach and pomegranate blood orange or for meat lovers, the Roasted Beef Short Rib with mashed potatoes, caramelized onions and Italian tomato is to die for.
If you have time in-between your culinary adventure, swing by the Pizzuti Collection, located in the heart of Columbus’ gayborhood. The space offers a presentation of contemporary art from the private collection of Ron and Ann Pizzuti.
Opening in September, the Collection presents NOW-ism: Abstraction Today, a thought-provoking exhibition of twenty-first century painting, sculpture, video and furnishings representing the newest abstract work from today’s best artists. The show will include more than 100 works spanning all three floors of the space.
Columbus is a hidden gem that people should venture to in the next year. Even the biggest New York, Miami, and San Francisco fans will not be disappointed. Columbus offers a big city feel with Midwestern charm.
By Joey Amato