S'mortado from Roosevelt Coffeehouse in Columbus (photo by Madeleine Snare)
Food + Drink

5 Columbus Restaurants to Visit This Fall

Visit one of these spots where you can sample autumn-inspired fare, from pumpkin pancakes to artfully prepared seasonal produce to a campfire classic in drink form.

Roosevelt Coffeehouse

Kenny Sipes founded Roosevelt Coffeehouse in 2015 as a nonprofit dedicated to fighting the injustices of hunger, lack of clean drinking water and human trafficking. Sipes estimates that the business has contributed $200,000 since its inception, positively affecting over 70,000 people.

Roosevelt Coffeehouse features two locations, one downtown and one in Franklinton. (There is as a third shop inside Olentangy River Brewing Co., which licenses the name.) The shops serve a full slate of brewed coffee, espresso and seasonal creations to go with locally made snacks.

One of the most popular fall drinks — what Sipes calls “the most Instagram-friendly drink we’ve ever made” — appears from late September through Thanksgiving: the S’mortado. The drink is a play on the cortado, a shot of espresso cut with a little warmed milk. Frank Wright, one of Roosevelt’s original startup employees, came up with the idea.

“He was the dreamer of drinks,” Sipes says. “There was a little bartender in the back of his mind.”

To create the S’mortado, baristas line the rim of the glass in melted chocolate, then — just like salting a margarita glass — they dip it in graham cracker crumbs. After a pump of chocolate, a shot of espresso made with raw sugar is added. Finally, the drink is garnished with a skewer of tiny toasted marshmallows.

“We get a flamethrower and put those babies on top,” Sipes jokes. “The whole S’mortado is beautiful.” 300 E. Long St., Columbus 43215, 614/670-5228, rooseveltcoffee.org
 
Crispy Brussels sprouts at Alqueria restaurant in Columbus (photo by Nicole Steffen)
Alqueria

Jacob Hough and Patrick Marker were both longtime employees at Columbus’ beloved Barcelona restaurant before venturing out on their own to open Alqueria in 2019. Located in the city’s historic Victorian Village, the restaurant borrows its name from the Spanish word for “farmhouse.”

“We’re rustic but slightly refined,” Marker says. “We take traditional staples and do them as well as we can.”

Popular menu items include the farmhouse burger with pimento cheese, bacon and horseradish pickles, as well as the tender and well-seasoned buttermilk fried chicken.

“We try to source as much produce as we can from Ohio, same with our meat suppliers,” Marker adds. “In the fall, we get more into winter squash, broccoli, the cold weather crops, the hearty greens.”

Hough notes that hearty dishes like short rib and cassoulet often appear during autumn alongside warming cocktails like boozy hot apple cider or the Old Pal, made with house-infused Old Forester 86, Lillet Blanc, Averna Amaro and a brandied cherry.

As if all of this wasn’t reason enough to visit, Alqueria offers deals on fried chicken and special bourbon pours every Monday, and bottles of wine are half off on Tuesdays. Hough and Marker have also extended their efforts with a second restaurant, Subourbon Southern Kitchen & Spirits, on Columbus’ north side. 247 King Ave., Columbus 43201, 614/824-5579, alqueriacolumbus.com

Strawberry pancakes with whipped cream at Jack & Benny’s in Columbus (photo by Hilda Garcia)
Jack & Benny’s

A long-running diner favorite, Jack & Benny’s has two locations: one north of The Ohio State University campus and a second at the college’s airport, both operated by Geno and Hilda Garcia. Geno’s father started the business after immigrating to the United States in 1970 and working for Columbus restaurateurs Jack Sher and Benny Klein, who owned a downtown steakhouse and diner called Jack & Benny’s.

In 1977, Geno Sr. opened Garcia’s, a Latin American restaurant in Columbus’ Old North neighborhood. Then, in 1994, he opened the diner next door, borrowing the name of the bygone diner where he formerly worked.

Since then, Jack & Benny’s has become a favorite of Ohio State students, alumni and any fan of rustic diners. One of its signatures is The Gutbuster, an all-inclusive breakfast that layers eggs, sausage, ham, bacon, cheese, hash browns, potato pancake and peppery gravy. Garcia also recommends the chorizo hash tossed with eggs, peppers and onions. While the buckeye and apple-cinnamon pancakes are available year-round, the diner’s delightful pumpkin pancakes arrive in October and November. Garcia is proud of his throwback diner and the comforting nostalgia it offers.

“Every neighborhood deserves a nice place like that,” he says. “I was sitting at the airport location listening to people come in recently. A lady was looking at the bologna sandwich and said, ‘I feel like I’m back at home.’ ” 2563 N. High St., Columbus 43202, 614/263-0242, jackandbennys.com

Yakima Fresh Wet Hop India Pale Ale from Columbus Brewing Co. (photo by Bre Severns)
Columbus Brewing Co.

Columbus Brewing Co. is one of the city’s longest-running craft beer-makers, scoring national attention for its roster of IPAs specifically. In 2019, the brewery finally added its own taproom in a light-industrial neighborhood on Columbus’ west side.

The taproom quickly became a destination for eager beer drinkers to sample more of the brewery’s offerings, from signature IPAs and lagers to barrel-aged stouts and sours. The brews are complemented by an excellent menu of wings, Detroit-style pizzas, burgers and other bar snacks, produced by a food truck on-site.

“We want the food to be fun and memorable,” owner Eric Bean says. “The idea was to have a little bit for everybody. You could have a light meal or just a snack.”

In the autumn, the brewery features the malty and smooth Oktoberfest-style Festbier. More fall seasonals include the Yakima Fresh and Soaked in Simcoe wet-hopped beers. These styles are made using undried hops that are fresh from the fall harvest.

“Our big focus for September and October are wet hops,” Bean says. “Our plan is to celebrate the hop harvest and to get as many wet-hopped beers as we can on tap. This year we’re going to have an Ohio wet hop that’s brewed with origin malts, plus a couple new surprises.” 2555 Harrison Rd., Columbus 43204, 614/224-3626, columbusbrewing.com

Hushpuppies at Watershed Kitchen + Bar in Columbus (photo by Megan Leigh Barnard)
Watershed Kitchen + Bar

In 2017, the award-winning Watershed Distillery added its own restaurant, Watershed Kitchen + Bar. The eatery quickly earned accolades for its thoughtfully produced cocktails and scratch-made food lineup. The culinary team, headed up by executive chef Aaron Mercier and executive sous chef Matt Howes, produces an expert and approachable menu that plays on Midwestern classics.

“I want to do food that is fun to eat” Mercier says.

“We have our perennial favorites like sprouts and fingerlings,” Howes adds. “But it’s still exciting for people. We play with different techniques that are still visually fun.”

Watershed Kitchen + Bar’s menu ranges from wings and hush puppies to smash burgers and bone-in pork chops. The cocktails are equally exciting. The beautifully designed lineups rotate seasonally, but hits like the aged Manhattan (drawn from a barrel in the dining room) are always popular. Mercier and Howes rely on seasonal produce.

“We’re always excited to see fresh local greens,” says Mercier. “We love the big, powerful root vegetables. October is still high summer in Ohio. Expect to see a lot of eggplant, peppers, ground cherries, tomatoes.”

Howes adds that the restaurant is even beginning to bake its own breads, often mimicking the mix of grains of the house bourbon.

“One of the misconceptions is that we’re a cocktail bar attached to a distillery, and the restaurant is secondary, when that’s not the case,” Mercier says. “Or that we’re fancy or inaccessible. Our bestselling dishes are burgers, steaks and short rib — that’s a polite way of saying pot roast.” 1145 Chesapeake Ave. Suite D, Columbus 43212, 614/357-1936, watersheddistillery.com/kitchenandbar