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RIP: 25 Restaurants That Closed This Decade (2010-2019) That We Still Miss

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Any time a restaurant closes its doors, it’s big news in Columbus. Many of our favorite local dining establishments have cultivated fan bases over the years that don’t like seeing a local business calling it quits.

With 2020 looming just weeks away, we thought that it would be a good time to take a look back at the past decade to see which restaurant closures impacted us the most in Columbus.

Click here for the Top 50 to 26 countdown, before moving on to the Top 25, below:

25. Whole World

After nearly 40 years in business, Whole World closed its doors at 3269 N. High St. in 2017. This Clintonville restaurant and bakery was a neighborhood staple that was uniquely reflective of the community — a vegetarian restaurant ahead of its time (since 1992) with made from scratch recipes and a lack of pretentiousness or commercial flare.

Where are they now?

Earlier this year, the owner of Portia’s Cafe announced plans for a vegan diner called Portia’s Diner in the former Whole World space, but it has yet to open.

24. Grass Skirt Tiki Room

When the Grass Skirt opened in 2012, it was the most thematic of the Columbus Food League restaurants from Elizabeth Lessner. The new spot brought a hint of The Kahiki to a sleepy part of Downtown Columbus with decor that included plenty of hula girl prints, Polynesian statues, colored lighting, and of course, George the Monkey.

After a seven-year run, co-owner Carmen Owens announced the intention to close up shop and focus instead on SheCreature, a pop-up cocktail party at Ace of Cups.

Where are they now?

Currently, the restaurant space at 105 N. Grant Ave. is vacant as of the time of publishing.

23. Explorer’s Club

In 2011, the team behind Explorer’s Club launched a brick-and-mortar restaurant at 1586 S. High St. in Merion Village, bringing their quirky Short North restaurant experiences (Lost Planet Pizza, Ricky’s Galaxy) to a new part of town. The restaurant caught on quickly both with neighborhood residents as well as destination diners. Known for an eclectic menu that would change continental focus nearly every month, customers knew they were always in for a surprise.

After four years in business, the owners announced that they were having some financial struggles with the restaurant and decided to close to focus on their food cart, food truck and catering business instead.

Where are they now?

The Explorer’s Club food truck is still going strong, and 1586 S. High St. is now home to Geordie’s Restaurant — an English pub.

22. Ohio Deli

The Ohio Deli was a South Side staple located in an unassuming building at 3444 S. High St. The restaurant was known for its “Dagwood Challenge” where customers had 30 minutes to consume a giant sandwich and win a t-shirt and get a Polaroid photo placed on the wall of fame. The challenge was featured in 2008 of episode of Man vs Food.

Tragically, the building caught fire overnight in December 2014 and was destroyed in the process (thankfully, no one was injured).

Where are they now?

The Ohio Deli did not relocate. The damaged building was torn down and a Hardee’s replaced it.

21. Jack’s Diner

For 77 years, Jack’s Diner served customers from a small alleyway location in Downtown Columbus. The spot was known to many as a hidden gem from yesteryear — a no-frills greasy spoon lunch counter that served as a nice alternative to trendier spots that have come and gone.

In September 2019, rumors began to circulate about an impending closure at Jack’s. Columbus Underground confirmed with the staff there, but continued to hear conflicting reports about a possible reopening or change in management.

Where are they now?

The doors have remained dark at 52 E. Lynn St. for the past two months with no indication of reopening or relocating as of the time of publishing.

20. Bono Pizza

In 2008, Bill Yerkes began selling wood-fired pizzas out of a pop-up spot in the Short North as “bonopizza.” The spot was very low-key, had no seating, and some even questioned whether or not there were proper permits or licensing, but the pizza was so delicious that none of that really mattered.

In 2009, Bono relocated to a pop-up in a parking lot at the corner of Third Avenue and Northwest Boulevard for the summer before opening a brick-and-mortar location at 1717 Northwest Blvd. The business was later sold to Jake Wilch and relocated to 1420 Presidential Drive where it continued to operate through January 2018.

Where are they now?

There was talk of bonopizza going mobile with a food truck, but no details have been posted since the brick-and-mortar closed. 1420 Presidential Drive is now home to 14Twenty Bar & Pizza.

19. Till Dynamic Fare / Dragonfly Neo-V

Restaurant owners Magdiale Wolmark and Cristin Austin were well known locally for pushing the envelope with vegetarian and vegan cuisine, and the duo was pushing the farm-to-table concept before it was even known by that name. Wolmark was recognized twice as a James Beard Award semi-finalist while operating his restaurant Dragonfly Neo-V at 247 King Avenue from 2000 to 2011. That year, he announced that Dragonfly would close to make way for Till Dynamic Fare — a new concept that would add meat to the menu, but only certified biodynamic meats from very specific farmers.

Cristin Austin at Till Dynamic Fare.

Till had a five-year run from 2011 to 2016, until Wolmark and his family relocated to Michigan to pursue other culinary ventures.

Where are they now?

The King Avenue address spent time as the Angry Baker before it closed in 2018, and is now home to farmhouse kitchen restaurant Alqueria.

18. Deepwood

Deepwood opened its doors at 511 N. High St. in 2008, bringing a new upscale dining option to Downtown Columbus, adjacent to the Convention Center. Immediately, the restaurant was faced with the national economic recession, which hit higher-priced restaurants particularly hard. Despite those challenges, Deepwood managed a seven-year run until its closure in 2015.

Where are they now?

511 N. High St. is now home to Ruth’s Chris Steak House, which also expanded into the former Double Comfort / Knead space next door.

17. Black Creek Bistro

Black Creek Bistro was an early adopter for the current trajectory of Olde Towne East. The restaurant launched at the corner of Oak Street and Parsons Avenue in 2007 from Chef and Owner Kent Peters, and quickly became a dining destination in the same way that early adopters like Rigsby’s served the Short North.

In 2008, Peters announced plans to convert the nearby Engine House #12 into a new home for the restaurant, greatly expanding the footprint for the eatery and adding private event space. Those plans never came to fruition, and after a 10-year run, Black Creek quietly closed in late 2017.

Where are they now?

51 Parsons Ave. is now home to a Hangover Easy location, while the old Engine House was converted to Gemüt Biergarten.

16. Bexley’s Monk

Bexley’s Monk was a long-time dining destination for the suburb, boasting 26 years in business when it closed in the summer of 2010. The restaurant was well known for its extensive wine selection, scotch selection and live jazz entertainment. The restaurant changed ownership hands a few times during its run, after enduring some financial struggles in 2004.

Where are they now?

The retail plaza where Bexley’s Monk was located was renovated in 2014 and converted into office space for the relocation of City Hall for the City of Bexley.

15. Columbus Brewing Company Restaurant

The Columbus Brewing Company has a very long history as far as local craft breweries go, having launched way back in 1988. The restaurant portion of the business launched much later — in 1997 — through an ownership partnership with Cameron Mitchell Restaurants. Both the ownership of the restaurant and the brewery changed hands over the years, but the quality of both the food and drink remained the same, and fans went out of their way to seek it out as an off-the-beaten-path destination at 525 Short St. in the Brewery District.

The brewing operations relocated to a much larger production facility on the west side of Columbus in 2015, but some confusion lingered over the two businesses that shared a name but no longer shared owners. In 2018, CBC Restaurant announced that it would be relaunching as “Oxbow on Short,” but a month later those plans were cancelled and the restaurant shuttered for good.

Where are they now?

525 Short St. is now home to Matt & Tony’s Wood Fired Kitchen.

14. The Burgundy Room

Throughout the 2000s, The Burgundy Room served as a popular culinary and nightlife destination that focused on an extensive wine list and tapas. The location at 641 N. High St. was in the epicenter of the Short North, but ahead of the trend that would follow with an influx of new restaurants to come.

In late 2010, rumors began to swirl that The Burgundy Room might change hands and in 2011 the restaurant abruptly closed.

Where are they now?

641 N. High St. is now home to Cameron Mitchell Restaurants concept The Pearl.

13. The Florentine

One of the longest-running businesses to close over the past decade was The Florentine. This Italian restaurant opened in 1945, serving a traditional menu of pasta dishes for 71 years before their closure in 2016.

Housed at 907 W. Broad St., the business had a front-row view of the decline of the Franklinton neighborhood during the 20th century, but did not hang on quite long enough to see new customers come back in the wave of new office and residential development occurring today.

Where are they now?

907 W. Broad St. is slated to re-open as a nightclub and music venue by the owner of Park Street Cantina and Julep, but it has not yet launched as of the time of publishing.

12. Max & Erma’s (Original)

The first-ever Max & Erma’s was launched by Max and Erma Visocnik in German Village in 1958, and later became a national chain under new owners that acquired the business in 1972. Locals continued to support the original location for decades at 739 S. Third St. as a bit of a unique destination compared to newer suburban locales.

The chain’s ownership changed hands in 2008, 2010 and 2016, and even saw a chapter 11 bankruptcy filing in 2009. Current owner Glacier Restaurant Group announced in 2017 that the original location would close because it “could no longer maintain the standards customers deserve.”

Where are they now?

The old Max & Erma’s spot in German Village is now home to Wunderbar.

11. Otani

Today, sushi is an American food staple, just like pizza and hamburgers and tacos. It can be found in hundreds of restaurants and at almost every grocery store. But back in 1978, Otani was the first restaurant to bring the Japanese dish to Columbus diners, making it a noteworthy destination for those seeking something entirely unique.

In addition to sushi, Otani was a great spot for sake and karaoke, making an evening there more entertaining than your average restaurant. Throughout the 1980s, the 161 corridor adjacent to The Continent was a destination unlike any other in Columbus with plenty of customers cycling through area restaurants and bars like Otani. As the shopping center declined in the 1990s and early 2000s, customers flocked elsewhere for dining and entertainment — like City Center, The Brewery District, Short North and Easton Town Center.

In September 2013, the owners of Otani put out a call to action on Facebook for customers to come and support the restaurant, announcing that it would otherwise be closing. Customers returned to show their support, but it ended up only delaying the inevitable and Otani closed for good in May 2014.

Where are they now?

To the best of our knowledge, the former restaurant space at 5900 Roche Drive is still sitting unused as of the time of publishing this article.


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