Places like Portland, Vancouver or Copenhagen may be the first that pop to mind when thinking about cities whose residents successfully combine a progressive attitude with a laid back approach to life. But slowly sneaking onto the scene is Columbus—Ohio's industrious state capital and one of the world's smartest cities, according to Canada's Intelligent Communities Forum. Home to one of the largest Pride Festivals as well as an array of pioneering companies, from the high-tech innovators at Battelle to the masterminds of casual threads at Abercrombie & Fitch, not to mention students from around the world mastering in engineering, medical and agriculture sciences at Ohio State University, the diversity is as huge as the level of talent comprising its impressively clean streets. One of our favorite "C-Bus" upstarts now making it big is Jeni's Splendid Ice Creams. Sold in over 700 stores across North America, Jeni's continues to keep it local, with both their ingredients and inspiration firmly rooted in Columbus.
Jeni's Splendid was founded a decade ago by Ohio native Jeni Britton Bauer, who, while studying fine art at OSU, decided to follow her passion for making ice cream instead. Her multi-faceted approach—which actually stems from her interest in olfaction—has maintained her position as a community leader in both the food and arts industries. With incredible taste (literally and figuratively), we asked Bauer to tell us her top five places to go in the Buckeye city. As she explains, it's as simple as hopping on the bus and traveling along the five-mile stretch of neighborhoods stemming off High Street, the heart of this budding metropolis.
Wexner Center For The Arts
"If there is something going on there, go. It will be thought-provoking, convo-inducing, inspiring, sexy." For example, the Wexner Center's current exhibition is Christian Marclay's "The Clock"—a cinematic art installation that had a never-ending line during its time at MoMA earlier this year. Bauer, who is on the board, told us the museum-like space eschews a permanent collection in favor of obtaining highly intellectual and sought after works on a regular basis.
Take advantage of the lush farmland surrounding greater Columbus with a stop at North Market, just a stone's throw from the convention center and Arena District. "Don’t skip the crab cake sandwich at The Fish Guys (go for the most expensive one), the poultry place for killer prepared foods (if it’s winter, try the cassoulet), Omega Baking for the cinnamon roll and ham croissant (made from scratch right there), the best cheese shop in the city, and many more indulgences. It’s a whole morning. You’ll leave inspired, and full."
Harvest and Curio
Serving up pies that could easily stand up to Brooklyn's Roberta's pizzeria, Harvest—and its outstanding cocktail bar Curio next door—is located in downtown Columbus' equally distinct German Village, complete with cobblestone streets. The casual atmosphere lends to relaxing among friends with several of their pizzas (including a gluten-free option), which are always topped with locally-sourced, organic ingredients. Wash it down with a can of Burger Pilsner from Cincinnati or a house draft brewed up the road. As Bauer explains, Harvest "feels like you know everyone at every table (because you probably do, or if you don’t, you will soon, 'cause that’s how we are in CBus)."
"A spunky store with lots of great stuff that hits all price points." Tigertree is exactly that and more, mixing objects you would find at design shops like NYC's The Future Perfect with a dose of vintage goods sourced from all over Ohio. The two-story store in the Short North stocks everything from Baggu bags and Harry Allen piggy banks to original Pendleton blankets and old-school glass beakers you likely used in chemistry class, as well as men's and women's clothing. Tigertree is the brainchild of owners Josh and Niki Quinn, who stopped in Columbus on their move from LA to the East Coast and fell so hard for the city they stayed and set up shop.
A stone's throw from OSU's South Campus, Till is a real reflection of Columbus in the form of food and drink. Previously a strictly vegan restaurant, the biodynamic restaurant now proudly serves up one of the meanest burgers in Columbus (if not beyond) alongside vegan dishes that are so fresh and intriguing they will likely lure even a steadfast carnivore. Additionally, they have Luna Kombucha made in Clintonville and Shrubs, a 17th-century fruit liqueur. The owners, who Bauer says "go their own way, no compromises," are soon to open a Izzy & Mo next door, an authentic Jewish deli and artisanal donut shop.
Images by Karen Day and special thanks to Christa Luft