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Columbus Diner Guide

Out of the many things I love about Columbus, I’m particularly proud of the unique identity every neighborhood embraces. Everywhere you go, you’ll find homes, shops, and restaurants that are the pride of their neighborhood, loyally patronized and touted by locals as the very best at what they do. They dare you to find a better place. Such is especially true for the neighborhood diner.

If you were to compare, side-by-side, the breakfast and lunch offerings of Columbus’ diners, you wouldn’t find tremendous variety between them. You might even be hard pressed to identify whose eggs are whose, whose stuffed french toast is whose, and whose corned beef hash is whose.

But it’s the owners greeting their customers, the regulars seated at the counter, and the long-time servers bustling back and forth that make these restaurants unique. Even if you don’t live in a neighborhood, you can still become a regular at its diner. And if you’re looking to become a mainstay somewhere, here’s a beginning guide (no, it’s not complete) to some of Columbus’ old-school eateries.

*****

Warehouse Cafe (DOWNTOWN)
243 N. Fifth St. 43215
Warehouse Cafe is a one-room wood-and-brick joint in northern downtown Columbus, owned by an Albanian family. The food is made fresh and dirt cheap. The only hold-back is the highly acidic and highly caffeinated coffee. Enjoy a cheap plate of eggs, bacon, potatoes, and French toast while you take in the exposed brick walls, big viney plants in the windows, and the overall feel of this old converted warehouse. If you’re in a hurry, order your breakfast to go, as you’ll see much of the downtown working crowd do. [Full Review]

Jack’s Sandwich Shop (DOWNTOWN)
52 E. Lynn St. 43215
Jack’s goal is to show everyone that they DO make diners like they used to. This oldest-of-old school diners has been in its current location since the 1970′s, although the business traces its roots back to the 40′s. While you enjoy a breakfast sandwich or plate of pancakes at the counter, take a look at the original grill. Or just enjoy the old diner decorations, including Coke machines, signs, checkered floors, and owner Chris Kowalski’s delightful holiday decor. Jack’s does its best business with the weekday working crowds, so remember that it’s closed on weekends! [Full Review]

German Village Coffee Shop (GERMAN VILLAGE)
193 Thurman Ave. 43206
The GVCS ranks up there with the cheapest and most buttery breakfasts in Columbus. A slender room with low ceilings and the barest hint of lighting houses a busy little kitchen, a long counter, and a handful of booths. Enjoy a plate of eggs for $2.25, three slices of the most butter-laden (read: delicious) French toast for $2.50, or splurge on a huge omelet for $5.25. Saddle up next to the regulars at the counter before you enjoy a day of strolling around German Village. [Full Review]

Starliner Diner (HILLIARD)
5240 Cemetery Rd. 43026
The American diner meets Cuban cuisine in this restaurant often touted as the best breakfast in Columbus. Named after the owner’s 1960 Ford Starliner, this little find outside the 270 loop features a bright color palette, funky decor like a wall of clocks, and a rockin’ menu of all your diner favorites plus Cuban specialties like huevos rancheros, chiliquiles, and Cuban bread French toast. Every dish packs an array of tastes and aromas, and seasoned Starliner veterans will tell you the most difficult choice is between the old favorites and the daily specials. Probably why the clientele is so fiercely loyal: they’re not done discovering the menu yet, and they’ve liked everything they’ve tried so far. [Full Review]

Barnstormers Grill (DUBLIN) **UPDATE: Barnstormers Grill has re-opened as Jack & Benny’s Barnstormer Diner!**
2160 W. Case Rd. #13 43017
Located in the OSU Airport in northwest Columbus, Barnstormers Grill recently came back to life with a modified name, new owners, and a revamped menu. The decor still largely favors Ohio State colors and airplane paraphernalia, but brighter lighting gives the place a more welcoming ambience. Enjoy an omelet, a rich, meaty plate of sausage gravy and biscuits, or sample from the kids menu. As an added bonus, you can get your breakfast to go, then sit up in the old observation tower and watch planes while you eat. [Full Review]

IMG_3664The Diner (POWELL) **UPDATE September 2013: The Diner is under new ownership and renamed the North Liberty Diner**
240 N. Liberty St., 43065
The Diner is the new kid on the block of Columbus diners. It joined the ranks in the spring of 2013 in a strip mall space that previously housed other diners. The Diner is a single room restaurant that’s cranking out diner classics like pancakes, omelets, steak & eggs, biscuits & gravy, and even some deep fried French toast. One of their more unique claims is serving goetta, a Cincinnati specialty made from ground pork, oats, and seasonings that’s sliced and fried. It’s available a la carte or as the meat option for their combo meals. [Full Review]

DK Diner (GRANDVIEW)
1715 West Third Ave. 43212
The “DK” stands for Donut Kitchen, so even if you’re not in the mood for a full breakfast when you visit – which you should be – you can still pick up some of the best donuts in Columbus. Clearly handmade, in small batches, these donuts go fast. But don’t just pick up some pastries to go, stay and try any of the diner favorites, including the DK All the Way – their version of the everything’s-included breakfast platter. Covered in chunky gravy, that is. Enjoy the Grandview schools paraphernalia coating the walls, join the conversation with the group of retirees who have been sitting at the same table for decades, and then snag a dozen donuts on your way out the door. [Full Review]

IMG_2398

Chef-O-Nette (UPPER ARLINGTON)
2090 Tremont Center 43221
No one knows the origin of name Chef-O-Nette, but regardless this little diner has served as Upper Arlington’s gathering place since 1955. Take in some lovingly dated decor as you sit at one of the U-shaped counters and enjoy a simple breakfast of eggs, toast, hotcakes, waffles, and French toast. Banter with the servers who are nearly as old as the restaurant itself. Or, if you don’t have time, call in your order and pick it up at the drive-through window. Chef-O-Nette brags on being America’s very first drive-through! [Full Review]

img_0296

HoneyDip Donuts & Diner (UPPER ARLINGTON) **NEW**
4480 Kenny Road 43220
HoneyDip has long been loved as a donut shop, and in 2011 they renovated to add a full kitchen, more seating, and a diner menu for breakfast and lunch. Pre-game your breakfast with a glazed yeast donut or a cream-filled longjohn, then order a bowl of sausage gravy and biscuits, an omelet, or eggs benedict. Or you can go big with one of their breakfast sandwiches, assembled using two donuts instead of bread. [Full Review]

 

Nancy’s Home Cooking (CLINTONVILLE)
3313 N. High St. 43202
Nancy’s has the distinction of closing up shop in June 2009 and then coming back to life, with the help of the Clintonville community, in February 2010. The new incarnation looks, feels, and tastes mostly like the original diner of forty years, although hardcore enthusiasts can tell the difference. Although Nancy’s changed hands within the family, the customers still return for eggs, potatoes, garbage omelets, and chicken and noodles. It’s a bustling diner with a colorful history, and it still offers your greasy spoon favorites if you’re in the mood and in the area. [Full Review]

Beechwold Diner (BEECHWOLD)
4408 Indianola Ave. 43214
Rising out of the ashes of the former Rube’s Diner – a hole-in-the-wall greasy spoon if there every was one – the Beechwold Diner joined the ranks of Columbus diners in January 2010. Clearly it fills a niche, as almost instantly the place was packed with regulars. Bland colors give way to new stainless steel everything, with plenty of seating at the new counter. The menu features the diner favorites, all made by one of the cooks from Rube’s. [Full Review]

Jack & Benny’s (OSU CAMPUS/OLD NORTH COLUMBUS)
2563 N. High St. 43202
Jack and Benny’s is on the list of the ten things every Ohio State student needs to do before graduating. Breakfast at J&B’s (perhaps hungover) may be required noshing for every college student, but it’s also a must-visit for any Columbusite, at least once. Sidle up in the old corner space on Hudson and High Streets, with a row of booths and old counter stools that are almost too small for anyone over 5’5″. One wall is plastered with pictures of Jim Tressel, Woody Hayes, and other OSU sports celebrities. Try the Buckeye pancakes, with peanut butter and chocolate chips, or soak up last night’s party with a Gutbuster: eggs, meat, potatoes, and cheese in various forms, stacked together and drowned in gravy. [Full Review]

img_73951Sloopy’s Diner (OSU CAMPUS)
1739 N. High St., 43210 (in the Ohio Union)
With the recent rebuilding of the Ohio Union, the old basement food court was revamped into a coffee shop, market, and a Buckeye-themed diner: Sloopy’s. The decor screams Ohio State (as you’d expect): scarlet and gray cups, tables, stools, tiles, lighting, and on and on. The diner is ideal for the student population and visitors alike. Returning alumni and guests can marvel at the new building’s design and enjoy a comfortable meal in a spacious diner; students get a late-night restaurant serving huge portions of breakfast all day. Favorites include the pancakes, omelets, skillets, smothered burritos, and breakfast sliders. [Full Review]

Hang Over Easy (OSU CAMPUS)
1646 Neil Ave. 43201
It’s easy to dismiss Hang Over Easy as a place just for college students to recover from last night’s partying, especially when dish names include Struggling to Get Up, the Ultimate Hangover Cure, Menage a Trois, or Morning Wood. But a quick look around reveals the appeal to a broader clientele: students, university employees, and neighborhood locals alike gather for breakfast served all day. The menu appeals to nearly everyone by loading plates with breakfast favorites like omelets, skillets, stuffed French toast, and house made corned beef hash. [Full Review]

Buckeye Donuts (OSU CAMPUS)
1998 N. High St. 43201
Okay, so yes, Buckeye Donuts is not strictly a diner. Half its business comes from selling trays of buttermilk donuts, Bismarcks, and jelly-filled goodness. But the key markers of a diner are there: small counter with swiveling stools, kitschy paraphernalia like Ohio State gear, pictures of James Dean, and black and white photos of the eatery’s early days. The breakfast menu, while not extensive, offers you a range of breakfast sandwiches, French toast, or a platter of eggs, bacon, hash browns, and toast. Like Jack & Benny’s, Buckeye Donuts is an institution, keeping Ohio State students and alumni fed for over forty years, twenty-four hours a day, 365 days a year. [Full Review]

Daybreak Diner (LINDEN)
1168 E. Weber Rd. 43211
Daybreak is one of the new kids on the block in the Columbus diner scene. Owner Bill Kinniard is fulfilling his dream of running his own diner, and he’s already drawn a crowd of regulars. He cooks up a solid menu of breakfast mainstays – including some very good hash browns – but he also surprises with more unique fare like breakfast fried rice, cheeseburger omelets, and Captain Crunch French toast. [Full Review]

Fitzy’s Old Fashioned Diner (WORTHINGTON)
1487 Schrock Rd. 43229
One of Columbus’ few 24-hour diners, Fitzy’s lies off the beaten path up in Worthington. It serves a mixed clientele of the late-night bar-goers, local college students, and the old folks who gather for a quiet breakfast in the morning. The diner is both welcoming and a little rough around the edges. It’s single-page breakfast menu covers all of your favorites, plus a couple unusual dishes (bologna and eggs, anyone?). Expect to be well-fed: a typical breakfast takes 2-3 plates to carry all of your food. [Full Review]

The Best Breakfast & Sandwiches (WESTERVILLE)
5916 Westerville Rd. 43081
Like all good diners, Best Breakfast & Sandwiches is a little hard to find, tucked in the back section of a strip mall off Westerville Road. This little diner serves up made-from-scratch breakfasts and lunches, fresh-baked breads, and house-made cinnamon buns. But the biggest selling points? The welcoming service and Cheers-like camaraderie you’ll find in their clientele. [Full Review]

Gena’s Restaurant (WESTERVILLE)
5947 S. Sunbury Rd. 43081
It’s the little diner that could! A small, one-room diner in Westerville, just east of the 270 loop, that makes all the standards, but boasts the “Greatest American Pecan Roll” and a three-pancake challenge that only fourteen people have conquered over the years. It’s a great place to be if you’re hungry for a monstrous breakfast. [Full Review]

Tommy’s Diner (FRANKLINTON)
914 W. Broad St. 43222
Tommy’s is another classic with a loyal clientele, serving customers for over twenty years in Franklinton, just west of downtown Columbus. Go to Tommy’s to see what diners should look like: neon signs, black and white checkered floor, vinyl booth seats, swivelly stools around the counter, and local knick-knacks flung around. Say hi to Tommy at the register. Try some of the Greek specialties on the menu, in homage to his heritage. Then become famous enough to get Tommy to put a picture of you and him on the wall near the front door. [Full Review]

Dan’s Drive-In (SOUTH SIDE)
1881 S. High St. 43207
Dan’s Drive-In is an old school diner… made to look like an old-school diner. It’s been around since the 1950′s – and claims to be Columbus’ first drive-in – but recent owners repaired and refurbished it to look as it once did. The result is a glossy take on the old American diner, but their food, service, and overall look still make it a worthy stop on any Columbus diner tour. [Full Review]

IMG_6462Lilly’s Kitchen Table (GROVE CITY)
4008 Broadway 43123
Lilly’s is set up in the center of downtown Grove City, serving all the breakfast standards for years. Regulars gather every day at 7 a.m. for platters like the Lilly’s Big Breakfast or Lilly’s Original, which include everything you want for breakfast: eggs, hash browns, bacon, sausage, pancakes, French toast, or even biscuits and gravy. [Full Review]

Hamburger Inn (DELAWARE)
16 N. Sandusky St. 43015
This diner counts as being part of Greater Columbus. The Hamburger Inn dates back to the early 1930′s in downtown Delaware, just north of Columbus. Look for all of the old diner standards: polished wooden counters, old faded signage, cramped quarters, and plates of comfort food. Regulars head in for daily specials, as well as their fabled cinnamon rolls. [Full Review]

*****

There’s your starting point for a Columbus diner tour. Of course, there are some missing from the list. Diners are hidden treasures, and undoubtedly I’ve missed a few (or just haven’t written about them yet), so check in for updates!

5 responses »

  1. I highly recommend:

    Frank’s Restaurant
    2932 East Broad Street, Columbus, OH 43209
    (614) 236-1959 ‎

    A classic diner, great for breakfast! Delicious, reasonably priced food, strong hot coffee, terrific friendly staff. I’ve never been disappointed!

    Ironically…Frank’s is right next door to a Panera, the biggest culprit in the dumbing down of American breakfast!

    Reply
  2. Pingback: Events January 26 – 31 | Tania Explores Columbus

  3. Where was the picture of the eggs, bacon and toast taken from?

    Reply
  4. Not a “Diner” but Kathleen’s Cafe on Bethel Rd has great quiche and good cookies too.

    Reply

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