The List: 85+ Central Ohio Bars & Restaurants that Opened in 2020
What a year for bars and restaurants. 2020 has brought some…challenges to the industry, but that hasn’t kept new spots from opening in nearly every corner of the city.
Whether plans were in motion pre-pandemic, or the environment gave rise to new opportunities, these (80 plus) spots found a way to make it work, saying hello to the dining world in 2020.
What are your new favorites? What are you excited to try? Don’t forget to let us know what we might have missed in the comments below!
Now let’s begin our culinary journey with a few trends we noticed this year, followed by what’s new across Columbus’ many neighborhoods.
It’s a Great Time to be a Vegan
Vegan and vegetarian joints had a moment in 2020, with nary an animal product to be found at several new eateries. Lifestyle Cafe opened in Olde Towne East, taking over Angry Baker’s space, while Village Taco brought vegan eats back to the South Side on Parsons Avenue in the former home of Hal & Al’s. Nile Vegan expanded, opening its second location in Grandview. Former food truck Seitan’s Realm made things permanent in Clintonville. Fifth by Northwest welcomed a pair of vegan joints: Vida’s Plant Based Butcher and the first U.S. location of Aussie-based Greenhouse Canteen. Rounding out the vegan eats is a delivery-only concept from The Kitchen dubbed Roasted Rainbowls.
Speaking of delivery…
Delivery Only / Pop-Ups / Let’s Move in Together
Formats got a little creative for new restaurants in 2020. Delivery-only was a common theme. In addition to Roasted Rainbowls, The Kitchen launched another delivery-only concept in Festa Cucina, offering Italian comfort food. Delivery-only Wing Squad landed in Central Ohio, utilizing the kitchen space of various restaurants. 2020 also saw the rise of the ghost kitchen – of which tracking all the various concepts would be a monumental feat…
Pop-ups were also a popular form for the year. 36Bistro spent time at Old Skool in Clintonville, while Alberta’s started serving pies at Hey Hey Bar & Grill in Merion Village. Parsons Avenue’s comune welcomed Parable Coffee. Sunny Street Cafe serves as the nighttime kitchen for fried chicken pop-up Fried Chicka Bang, which has more locations on the way.
Blackbird Kitchen became the resident eatery at Woodlands Tavern in Grandview. And finally rounding out the unique format realm is MMELO’s comeback as a Polaris-area curbside pickup and delivery operation.
There’s Never Too Much Pizza…
There can never be enough pizza, right?! A food seemingly pandemic-immune, a number of pizza joints started slinging pies across the city. Fibonacci’s Pizzeria (inside Studio 35) and Romeo’s opened in Clintonville. Harvest opened the doors to its fourth Central Ohio location in the Brewery District. Mid City Garage is serving pies in Merion Village, and Shots & Slices has things covered in Southern Orchards. Yellow Brick Pizza made its long-awaited debut in Franklinton. (Pizza is also the star of the menu at Saucy Brew Works, but more coming on that…)
…Or Enough Beer
Columbus continued to add to its vibrant craft brewery scene. Three new breweries made their way from other cities to Central Ohio. Crooked Can opened in Hilliard, hailing from Florida; Saucy Brew Works came down from Cleveland to settle in Harrison West; Jackie O’s came up from Athens to open for curbside carryout Downtown (with more to come in 2021). North High Brewing expanded to Dublin, appropriately enough on another High Street. Finally, after brewing since 2017, 1487 Brewery opened its first taproom in Plain City.
Easton: Six Spots, Two Blocks
Easton had a busy year of openings, all concentrated within the shopping center’s latest expansion. (Fun fact: stand on Worth Avenue near the south end of The Yard and you can see them all at once!) In order of appearance: burger joint slash burlesque club Ivan Kane’s Forty Deuce, bar Beeline, healthy, casual eatery True Food Kitchen, Crimson Cup’s flagship coffee shop Crimson, the third Central Ohio location of Dragon Donuts, and Michigan-based ramen and sushi joint Slurping Turtle.
Central Ohio welcomed two new markets in 2020: Center Street Market in Hilliard and North Market Bridge Park in Dublin. Together, the markets create space for nearly 30 vendors (though not all of them food based).
Offering eats at Center Street Market are: Dumplings of Fury, Bakes by Lo, The Cheesecake Girl, Rime Time, Al’s Delicious Popcorn, Meatball Mafia, Coffee Connections, Pitabilities and Two Step Tacos. There’s just one spot left – likely reserved for a yet-to-be named burger concept.
After several changes in the lineup in the face of the pandemic, the first vendors have opened at North Market Bridge Park, operating under a limited preview as construction wraps up. Now serving at Bridge Park are: Bake Me Happy, Bubbles Tea & Juice Co., Coastal Local Seafood, Dos Hermanos Tacos, Lan Viet, Market Bar and Pasta DiToni’s. Seven previously announced vendors have yet to open, with a few spots left to be filled.
Let’s Get Caffeinated
The year brought a number of ways to get caffeinated, with a wave of new coffee and tea shops. Florin Coffee opened a shop at its roasting facility in North Linden. One Line opened an expanded concept in Franklinton, adding booze and a more robust food menu. Sweetwaters Coffee & Tea made a delayed debut at Hamilton Quarter.
Falling in the more than just a coffee shop department is Emmett’s Cafe in the Brewery District, sporting a solid lineup of coffee drinks and breakfast and lunch cafe fare. Fifth by Northwest newcomer Rye River Social also made coffee a core component of its lineup.
Previously mentioned Saucy Brew Works hitched a coffee shop to its brewery. (More previously-mentioned shoutouts: pop-up Parable, Crimson and Center Street Market’s Coffee Connections.)
And lastly, one hello and goodbye for the coffee world: Downtown’s Just Love Coffee Cafe both opened and closed within the calendar year.
Oh, there’s more! Plenty was happening in the dining and drinking scene outside of coffee, booze and pizza. Get a rundown of what else opened in Central Ohio, organized by neighborhood!
Brewery District / German Village
What’s becoming a bustling stretch of South High Street, in addition to Emmett’s Cafe, the Brewery District area re-welcomed Kolache Republic (inside The Daily Growler) and CU’s Best New Restaurant of 2020, Dough Mama. Off of High Street Chapman’s Eat Market is serving up a tantalizing menu of eclectic, seasonal eats – and ice cream! – from the OG Max & Erma’s.
Palmas Tropical Escape (something we could all use right about now) made its debut on High Street. Pierogi Mountain found a new, permanent home post Wunderbar departure, giving new life to the shuttered Grass Skirt Tiki Room.
And beloved Clintonville spot Nancy’s Home Cooking made its move to and swift departure from Downtown, but lives on in ghost kitchen form.
The third Central Ohio location of fast-casual chain CoreLife Eatery opened its doors in Dublin. Bridge Park saw a duo of openings: sandwich shop Frank & Carl’s and the second area location for Cameron Mitchell Restaurants concept, The Pearl.
Fifth by Northwest / Grandview
Fifth by Northwest had a flurry of restaurant openings on the year. Dragon Donuts opened its second Central Ohio location (with Easton being third). Uncle Nick’s Greek Fried Chicken moved up the street and became The Crispy Coop. Cleveland’s build-your-own taco joint Barrio opened its first Columbus-area location. Also on Fifth Avenue, Rudy’s moved into the former home of Palle, adding a sports bar to the lineup, while Rye River Social took over Sammys on 5th, with offerings that span morning to night (coffee, eats, and plenty of whiskey). Local distiller Echo Spirits Distilling not only introduced a unique spirit to the local lineup (Genever), but opened its bar.
Franklin Park, King-Lincoln District & Parsons Avenue
Near east and south side neighborhoods welcomed a handful of new spots. In the King-Lincoln District, the long-awaited What the Waffle made its debut, while long-standing food truck Los Potosinos changed hands to become Alebrijes.
Over in Franklin Park, Addella’s opened its doors, offering comfort food focused sandwiches, bowls and more in a neighborhood bar atmosphere.
Two new, local eateries established roots in the Polaris area: family-owned gastropub The Royce and Nomad, which showcases a Josper oven that features a charcoal-fired box that can reach incredibly high temperatures. Inside the mall, Sammy’s Halal started serving its South Asian inspired cuisine to hungry shoppers.
It was a quieter year in terms of openings for the Short North. C. Krueger’s moved her cookies over to High Street, but the bakery has already vacated the new address.
There were drinks to be had at Pocket Bar (formerly Eugene’s Canteen) and DeVine Tastings & Dining (formerly Tastings). In the drinks and activities category, Pinot’s Palette opened, offering booze plus painting.
Dulce Vida Ice Cream Factory opened its third Columbus location, sweetening up the scene with its 52 flavors of ice cream and nearly 60 flavors of paletas. Brown Bag Deli launched its second Central Ohio spot, moving in with BrewDog.
Westerville welcomed additional locations of existing Central Ohio eateries. It’s home to the second local franchise of Oregon-based The Original Pancake House. Hot Chicken Takeover also opened its fourth Central Ohio location in the neighborhood.
A Restaurant Here, A Bar or Bakery There
Alas a final category of neighborhood one-offs! Another in the alcohol and activities category, Makers Social brought fun to Franklinton. Bar and restaurant Stadium said hello to Gahanna. Afra Grill started serving fast-casual African fare on Morse Road. Also in the fast-casual realm, Gogibop put an Asian-fusion spin on the build-your-own-bowl concept in Pickerington. Local Cantina continued its march across Central Ohio, opening its 10th area location in New Albany. Grilled cheese and anarchy are on deck at Old North Columbus’ Punk Pigs. Powell’s Nocterra Brewing laid claim to a Ray Ray’s food truck, marking its fourth Central Ohio spot. And to end things on a sweet note, Sugar Rush brought crazy shakes, dessert tacos, cakes and a whole lot more to Reynoldsburg.
Editor’s Note: Some restaurants have chosen to temporarily close due to circumstances surrounding the pandemic and as those situations continually change, that information is not reflected on this list.