Best of Columbus 2021: Editors’ Picks for Food & Drink

A temperance turnaround, a marketing wizard, a reason to eat dirt and more

Columbus Monthly staff
Avishar Barua

Homage to the Buckeye State 

As the first Columbus chef to compete on Bravo’s Top Chef, Avishar Barua made the city proud. The highlight? When Barua won a challenge (and $10,000) by serving a Buckeye Bonbon, a nostalgic nod to his hometown. The layered dessert featured peanut butter gelato, liquid graham cracker, brown butter and a chocolate coating frozen with liquid nitrogen. Barua’s joyous reaction to his win was priceless. He may have cartwheeled his way out of the competition (literally) when he was eliminated in episode 7, but he certainly won our hearts. 

Temperance Turnaround 

Westerville continued its transformation from the Dry Capital of the World to a booze-friendly suburb. In early June, the city debuted its Designated Outdoor Refreshment Area, a roughly four-block strip of North State Street in which people can sip and stroll with alcoholic drinks. Even though drinkers are on the march in Westerville’s historic Uptown district, they still won’t be able to walk by the former headquarters of the Anti-Saloon League, one of the driving forces behind Prohibition. It’s located just south of the DORA. 

Spencer Saylor of The Wizard of ’Za

Marketing Wizard 

In February 2020, Spencer Saylor began baking Detroit-meets-Sicilian pizzas and selling them out of his home, using Instagram to spread the word. Call it good timing or call it sheer genius, but Saylor’s “speakeasy” pizzeria, The Wizard of ’Za, took off like a tornado amid the pandemic, garnering a waitlist in the thousands. The Youngstown native turned that success into a brick-and-mortar that opened last winter at 4214 N. High St. in Clintonville. See you on the yellow brick road. 

More:Columbus Monthly’s Best of Columbus 2021

New Local Podcast for Foodies 

Ray Chmielecki launched his Spoonmob podcast last year and has already built a growing list of interviews with local and national chefs, from BJ Lieberman (Chapman’s Eat Market) to Brian Baxter (Catbird Seat in Nashville). A recruiter in the defense and intelligence space by day, Chmielecki is a self-taught podcaster and restaurant lover who often records interviews from his dining room table. The podcast’s driving ethos is simple: You’re more likely to enjoy a dining experience if you know more about the person making your food. 

We couldn’t agree more.

Log Cabin Skyscraper from Light of the Seven Matchsticks

Reason to Eat Dirt 

Hear us out: The Log Cabin Skyscraper cocktail at Worthington’s Light of Seven Matchsticks is so good, you may want to lick the cinder block it’s served on. Inspired by the woodsy taste of ingredients like Redwood Empire’s Emerald Giant Whiskey and the alpine-flavored Pasubio amaro, bar manager PJ Ford’s take on a Manhattan features a house-made dark chocolate “soil” served on the side. (We don’t recommend eating the pinecone portion of the garnish, however.)