- Josh Tuck
- Danielle Tuck
Even with a bad case of the flu, or possibly a sinus infection, Columbus, Ohio was a difficult place not to like. The heat was staggering and the road construction was a challenge, but with very little planning on our part, we still managed to have a great time. It wasn’t exactly what we were expecting from a capital city with a major university. A “college town vibe” was all but nonexistent and the art museum was a mild disappointment, but Columbus held a quite charming neighborhood - German Village. In it’s narrow streets we discovered excellent desserts, espresso, Bavarian food, chocolates, and tapas.
German Village is in central Columbus just south of downtown. As you exit any of the interstate highways weaving through the city, you enter a warren of carefully preserved brick houses. Most of them are modest, one-story affairs which inhabit narrow brick lanes and alleys. Some of them have been restored to include real gas lamps perched on either side of their historic doorways and Dwell magazine-worthy modern interiors. The majority seemed to retain more humble interiors and are lovingly tended to by their owners.
Exploring the neighborhood felt like a walk back in time. Thanks to the gently undulating brick streets, the speed limits are low, which makes for wonderfully quiet sidewalks. Being lined with tall old trees made a walk, even in the 95° heat, bearable. As night fell, and thunderstorms rumbled and flashed in the distance, warm interior lights lit the homes and made the entire neighborhood feel extra cozy. The sense that you were in a large midwest American city was gone. It felt more like we were actually wandering the streets of a real German town.
Strict building codes mean that businesses and restaurants are all but completely camouflaged from view. While there was a Starbucks and a Max & Erma’s, they were difficult to spot until you were right on top of them. They were the least of our concern though as we had received a tip from a local about Pistacia Vera, the local dessert boutique and coffee bar. Outside were the neon green chairs and tables we had been told to look for, and inside was a clean modern case filled with some of the most amazing looking European-style desserts we had seen. I had a very tidy espresso and a lemon cookie with just the right amount of lemon. Danielle almost couldn’t finish her chocolate Fudgie due it’s density and tremendously rich flavor. We both had flashbacks to Fort Wayne’s own Madeleine’s Bakehouse.
In the heart of German village is Schmidt’s Sausage House. All innuendo aside, it’s a respectable German restaurant with a menu heavy on home made sausages and desserts. We tried their buffet to get a sample of their specialties, and while we were reasonably impressed, it was nevertheless a heavy, greasy meal in the middle of a very hot day. As we stepped back out into the heat, we wished we had eaten something a little less Bavarian.
The next evening, we found something in German Village about as “less Bavarian” as it gets inside the walls of Barcelona Restaurant & Bar. Food blogger-proof lighting prevented any sneaky photography but we were treated to some truly inspired Spanish food. We started with a beautiful plate of sautéed shrimp, clams and mussels in a garlic butter sauce. Next, were the Vieiras; lightly seared scallops with Crimini mushrooms, Lima beans, dates, dried chili flakes and a drizzle of cream. It didn’t look like a lot of food, especially since we split everything, but we left pleasantly full.
Even though we spent about eight combined hours in German Village, we felt we had just scratched the surface and only ferreted out a few of it’s many treasures. We also found a very good chocolate shop, Winan’s, and the utterly amazing Book Loft bookstore which trumps Hyde Brothers in size and number of cramped aisles overflowing with books. On the other hand, we missed a stop at the renowned Jeni’s Splendid Ice Creams and all of the taco trucks we were urged to seek out. Needless to say, we are excited at the prospect of a return trip to sample these treasures, revisit a few now familiar spots, and discover more hidden gems in the heart of Ohio.