All Signs Point to High (Pt. 1) - Diners, Drive-Ins and Drives

This photo of the neon Dairy Queen sign on the north end of the metro's
High Street inspired me to take a little road trip
Growing up, Dairy Queen has never been one of my favorite fast food joints - in fact, I always like to joke that the worst burgers I ever had were from a DQ (they were so bad, it made me crave the elementary school cafeteria burgers with the "Hot 'N Tasty" adorned foil wrappers.) However, an old-school neon sign can induce anyone to warm up to a place, and the one that adorns the front of Worthington's location (the building itself dates back to 1955) certainly does the trick.

When I posted a picture of the sign, I asked folks if they could remember other memorable signs along this main thoroughfare of Columbus. A few folks chimed in, and I was a bit flummoxed that I couldn't think of many more than I did during my post. I really haven't stopped thinking about it since, so on a recent slow, nothing-better-to-do day, I drove the roughly 16-mile-stretch of north-south aligned High Street from one end of the I-270 Beltway to the other to see what I could find.

A Sampler: Last Bites for The Nearly Departed

I do not have a long history in Central Ohio, but I have come to appreciate many aspects of the area's history. As a food blogger, this appreciation naturally extends to the area's restaurants, and it came to the forefront during a recent visit to the indoor version of the Worthington Farmers Market. Here, I spied a table selling sauces and other products related to the Florentine Restaurant, an eatery whose 70+ year run as an area institution ended somewhat unexpectedly in December 2016.

Sadly, we never did stop by the Florentine before its demise, but the sighting of the table (we did pick up a bottle of salad dressing we're eager to try) did remind me that it was time to clean up my photo holdings to send some eateries I've visited over the years but never blogged about to the "Nearly Departed" category.  As I performed the archiving, I thought it might be fun to take a peek at some of these places.

Bonchon - this Korean-based chain had a bit of a weird history here in Columbus, arriving with some manner of anticipation with their vaunted Korean Fried Chicken in 2015. However, food safety issues plagued the Sawmill area location, and their second Clintonville location (pictured above) never seemed overly packed whenever we visited.

The Fifty and The Familiar

Theoretically, buzzy and busy places with communal seating like the area's
Fox in the Snow locations will fall off the radar for me soon
My quest to expand my food horizons came relatively late in my life.  I can't do much nowadays about several dozen too many pursuits of Mickey D's Big Mac combo meals and other items I chose for frugality and convenience (but not necessarily taste) in my younger days, but I'm still firmly in "making up for lost time" mode.

However, like someone who's just pulled his fifth beer from the lone six-pack in the fridge, I've realized my time in this mode might be limited. As much as I'd like to be like a Simon Majumdar (who just celebrated his 55th birthday and is still going strong exploring the world and its cuisines), my body has sent signs it's ready to slow down a bit. Big portions, while nice, haven't been mandatory for my culinary pleasure for awhile.  Eventually, the doc will tell me that caffeine from my 1-2 cups of caffeinated coffee must go the way of the dodo bird, and my insides will eventually convince me that capsaicin and all its blazing, sweat-inducing glory isn't a good idea.

Interestingly, a recent opinion piece in the New York Times by Frank Bruni encapsulated this feeling quite well, saying that reaching the age of fifty has changed his perspective on dining.

It's Easy To Trace The Trucks of My Cheers

The meat smoker located next to the usual location of Ray Ray's Hog Pit,
named "Best Food Truck" in Columbus Alive's 2019 "Best Of" poll
Last July, I wrote a series of blogposts examining Columbus's tendency to vote national restaurant chains in at the top in various local-media-sponsored "Best Of" polling events. One of the earlier polls in the cycle is the version hosted by Columbus Alive, which I found fared well in terms of local restaurant representation compared to other local media brethren. I thought it would be worth a look to see how the recently released 2019 edition fared compared to 2018.

The two outsider chains (Five Guys and Cooper's Hawk) which earned top spots last year held serve in "Best Fries" and "Best Wine List", respectively. However, local representation actually went up via a few simple and welcome tweaks, namely to the "Ethnic Eats" categories. The best tweak in my opinion banished the outdated "Best Asian" category: separate categories for Korean, Thai, Chinese, Vietnamese and Ramen join Sushi to offer a more comprehensive view at this aspect of the area's culinary scene.

Similarly, the splitting of the Indian/Nepalese category into two separate categories (a reflection of the continued growth of the latter) proved to be a positive change, as well as the addition of the African Restaurant category. The promotion of this latter, very under-the-radar segment I feel is vital in lifting Columbus's culinary profile to never-before-seen heights.