Nothing to do Downtown? Bite this!
Posted by cmh gourmand on February 25, 2010
There is a trio of hysteric flawed beliefs about Columbus. These mistaken concepts are: Society ends when there are three or more inches of snow on the streets of our fair city, Columbus restaurants can’t compete on a national or world level and there is nothing to do downtown. These core beliefs are misleading propaganda that serve to diminish our civic pride. Today I debunk the third myth by sharing some downtown discoveries.
I took the day a day off from working for the man to attend to some BeerCamp administrative business with the Dispatch and the Division of Police (note: parades are expensive). In between appointments, I found I had two hours to kill on the block bordered by High Street, Broad Street, 3rd and Gay. Nothing to do…..indeed. This is what I did.
Fridays mean the Pearl Alley Market. During this time of year, the market moves inside. Granted there is a limited selection of vegetables: potatoes, potatoes and potatoes but there is plenty of locally produced goodness to buy and sample. Vendors sell meats (fresh, frozen and canned), bread, canned goods, baked goods and sundries. The space also features local art. A few photos below with give you a taste of the place, so check it out winter or summer.
A short stroll away on High Street, I spied Mr. Peanut so I decided to pay my first visit to the The Peanut Shoppe. The store sells a wide variety of nuts as well as candy and other goodies. The staff are friendly and made sure I had the best deals possible (for nut clusters buy by the pound not by the piece). The walls have several faded clippings about the history of the Peanut Shoppe past and present. The big surprise for me was the mini Mr. Peanut museum with items from one hundred plus years of Mr. Peanut product marketing.
After an hour of browsing and grazing it was time for lunch. I met one of my BeerCamp co-conspirators, the Amazing Amanda Anderson, at the equally amazing El Arepazo Latin Grill. Although this is one of my favorite places to eat, I rarely dine here due to my non downtown weekday work life and the restaurants exclusive lunchtime hours. Amanda and I were the first through the door at the 11 AM – opening time. We both relished that we would have 10-15 non crowded minutes to enjoy our excellent entrees. Everything El Arepazo offers is wonderful. I typically go with the Columbian platter (plato typical) which is a mix of most of the menu with a fried egg to boot. I was giddy from an already excellent morning so I opted out of my usual and ordered the Cuban sandwich (seen below).
In 2006 I spent a three day weekend researching the best Cuban sandwiches and Media Noche’s on Miami’s Calle Ocho. My Miami munching made my baseline for the Cuban sandwich scale of amazing. I can say that the EL Arepazo edition earned a 9.99 out of 10.
I am now going to meander a bit with a shout out for Amanda Anderson. I have hosted Pizza Grand Prix’s at Wild Goose Creative and I have attended, judged or spoken at many events there. Amanda serves as an air traffic controller for the multitude of things taking off and landing at the space and she has not yet learned to say no so while it keeps her pace a hyper version of hectic, the end result is a track record of fun food festivities that have no peer in the Midwest.
After lunch, I headed across Broad Street to Ohio State House Gift Shop for a bottle of Kinkead Ridge wine (in my opinion the best Ohio produced wine and one of the better wines in the country for the price). You can learn more about the Statehouse gift shop in my June 2009 post. This small shop buried in the basement has a great selection of Ohio wines as well as other hard to find (in Columbus) Ohio foodstuffs including the much ballyhooed Ballreich’s Potato Chips from Tiffin. The staff are knowledgeable about their products – especially the wine. In the non food category, there is a good selection of books about Ohio, many of them are hard to find autographed copies.
That is my story of two unexpected hours of leisure in downtown Columbus. I enjoyed some old favorites and made new discoveries. There were plenty of easy to find parking spaces and everything was reasonably priced. If I had been able to stay longer I could have gone to Tip Top Kitchen and Cocktails for a drink or several other great restaurants such as Due Amici, Plaintain Cafe, Latitude 41………..
If you believe there is nothing to do, I have nothing more to say to you.