If you're among the hundreds of Portlanders headed for Columbus, Ohio for this Sunday's MLS Cup Final, the match between our Timbers and the Ohio capital's Crew SC is both a chance to witness sports history in person and a surprisingly hip impromptu weekend in the Midwest.
Though Ohio State football is still alive and well, the days of Columbus being known as “a drinking town with a football problem” have given way to a vibrant restaurant and entertainment scene that ‘s perfect for the 48-hour tourist. Like Portland, Columbus’ many thriving pockets are interconnected via a main thoroughfare—High Street—that makes it a breeze to enjoy one after the other in succession via foot, bus, or Uber. Tack on an extra day to your flight itinerary, because you’ve got a packed weekend ahead of you!
The Short North Arts District
This formerly neglected stretch of bohemia between downtown and Ohio State’s campus used to be the kind of place where you’d find an indie rock club, an art gallery, and a plasma clinic on the same block, but the popularity of Short North’s Gallery Hop event (happening this Saturday) set the neighborhood on the fast track to Pearl District-ish status in the early 2000’s. The fruits of its conversion are bountiful, however, and it’s undoubtedly the most walkable district in the city. Northstar Café brings wholesome farm to table fare to a bright, cheery eco-chic space. Philco Bar + Diner offers a modern spin on comfort favorites like grits, cheese curds and fish sticks—the latter served by way of taco. Check out third-wave coffee spots like Mission and One Line for a morning pick-me-up, and the cozy SoCal-via-Midwest bottle shop House Beer for a hoppy nightcap. Wander a few blocks north of High and you’ll find one of the city’s hottest new breweries in Seventh Son Brewing, as well as is most venerable dives in St. James Tavern.
The strip of S. 4th St. between Rich and Main is small, but mighty: Dirty Frank Hot Dog Palace tops their weiners with bacon, potato chips and hefty doses of kitsch; El Camino Inn serves up authentic late-night Mexican fare while Hall and Oates crackles on the record player; Little Palace provides a proper stopover for your inner Don Draper to sip an Old Fashioned in style; and 16 Bit Bar + Arcade is the closest approximation of Ground Control we’ve seen east of the Cascades.
German Village/Brewery District
Though the stately Victorians of Short North are nothing to scoff at, the real gem of Columbus’ architectural landscape is this dense German-inspired residential neighborhood located just south of downtown. Wobbly roads and narrow brick walkways provide a true village feel to the historical character of the neighborhood, which has retained much its character since being founded by German immigrants in the mid 19th century. Take a stroll down S. 3rd St and enjoy a knish and a ruben at Katzinger’s Deli, a fresh cup of Highlander Grog at Stauf’s, and a decadent European desert with a shot of espresso at Pistacia Vera. The Village is a tad quieter at night than its neighbors up north, but you’ll still bump elbows with young professionals and service industry folks alike at popular spots like the laid-back mid-century modern Club 185, the neighborhood dive of choice High Beck, and the award-winning brews of Columbus Brewing Company. No burger snob is allowed to leave Columbus without paying respects at Thurman Cafe and wrestling a Thurman Burger- a sandwich consising of a ¾ lb burger covered in Bavarian ham and al the fixins that ‘s epic enough to have been featured on a 2009 episode of Man Vs. Food.