Restaurants fit for every occasion, mood

dminty@ledger-enquirer.comMay 22, 2011 

The seemingly innocuous question “where do you want to go for dinner?” causes spirited debate in our household. It’s mostly a matter of timing. If one of us wants a three-course dinner, the other is inevitably in the mood for fuss-free chicken wings. Luckily the Chattahoochee Valley dining scene caters to both cravings. If you’re new to Columbus, don’t be fooled into thinking you have to go to Atlanta for great food. Columbus chefs serve plenty of delicious and innovative dishes at a fraction of the cost of big-city dining. Here are a few of our favorite restaurants for various occasions:

Taste of Columbus

Country Captain -- a wonderful curry-like blend of chicken, tomato sauce and raisins -- is a staple of Columbus cooking, and the entree at Mark’s City Grill will give you an authentic taste of this Southern favorite. The Scrambled Dog -- a sliced hotdog covered in chili, cheese and onions and topped with oyster crackers -- at Dinglewood Pharmacy is legendary. The fried chicken at Minnie’s Uptown Restaurant and the pork chop sandwich at 13th Street Bar-Be-Que are local favorites.

Date night

The cozy and intimate setting at Lynn’s Cafe is a perfect match to the creative and tasty dishes that come from the kitchen. Hearty portions of cajun and creole specialities at Cafe Le Rue will bring a New Orleans sense of celebration to your meal. Share several appetizers and a bottle of wine at the Ben’s Chophouse bar or check out the fresh fish and seafood specials at The Market. The upstairs Tapitini’s lounge at Meritage offers the Valley’s longest wine list, small plates of food and inventive martinis. The Kobe beef and seafood at Buckhead Grill are truly special-occasion delicacies.

Watch a game

There are several local places in Columbus where you can order a pitcher of beer and watch the big game on TV. Dive into wings at B. Merrell’s, home of the “World Beer Tour” which, if you make it through 130 different beers, could land you in the Hall of Foam. Pickle Barrel Cafe offers plenty of TVs, tons of fried food and sandwich options and a family friendly atmosphere. The Cannon Brew Pub always has a game on and the opportunity to drink locally made beer is a treat. All three spots have outdoor patios perfect for warm nights.

Before a show

Most theater venues in Columbus are downtown. Thankfully, there are a variety of dining options nearby. Try Old Siam for Thai noodle dishes and curries, Black Cow for classic Southern favorites and comfort food, Downstairs@The Loft for modern twists on American classics, martinis, wine and beer and Vintage 222 for an upscale evening in the Historic District with gourmet food and special wines.

Impress a guest

The Fife and Drum at the National Infantry Museum is great for visitors and children. The menu has sophisticated options for adults and special choices for kids. The museum offers a fun and educational experience for kids with hands-on exhibits and games. Adults will be wowed by the level of detail in each exhibit and the equipment on display. Country’s barbecue has three locations in Columbus and is an area tradition. Visitors will enjoy the pulled pork platter, ribs and chicken. Take guests to Wynnton Pit BBQ, another landmark in the Valley, and savor their slow-cooked meats. Give everyone a true taste of southern barbecue by visiting both. River City Grill is a great place to take guests with kids. Entrees cost less than $10, and choices range from burgers and sandwiches to steak and fish. It also has a full bar that’s a perfect spot to relax with friends.

Dinner with friends

Make sure everyone orders a different Northern Italian speciality at Caffe Amici and taste each other’s dishes. Split a wood-fired pizza at Wood Stone Restaurant or take your friends and their kids to longtime pizza hangouts Deorio’s Pizza Inn and Peluso’s Italian Restaurant. Order a variety of sushi at Wasabi or Osaka or try the Thai food at Chili Thai or The Thai House. Don’t be scared to check out the Vietnamese creations at Pho Vy or the Indian food at Taj Mahal. Several Japanese steak houses such as Mikata and Shogun give diners a show while their food is prepared on hibachi grills. The Valley has many Mexican restaurants that are ideal for seating large groups.

Only in the Valley

Luke’s Pub & Steakhouse in Ellerslie is a unique place. How so? Well, would you call an all-you-can-eat quail night unique? Thought so. Everything here is good. Don’t let the location deter you. The fresh catfish at Ezell’s Catfish Cabin is as flaky as the decor. When you can run a successful steak house in the middle of nowhere you are doing something right and the folks at Hunter’s Pub are doing something right. Be sure to try the fried lobster tails.

Whatever food you’re in the mood to eat, we hope we’ve helped you chose a dining destination or at least given you some food for thought.

Dawn Minty can be reached at 706-571-8512 or at dminty@ledger-enquirer.com. Jeff Hendrickson can be reached at 706-571-8523 or jhendrickson@ledger-enquirer.com.

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