Happy Birthday, Columbus! Now, go eat breakfast.

February 10, 2012

Over the next week we’re celebrating Columbus’ bicentennial. Two hundred years of living, working, playing, and eating on the banks of the Scioto River. This is a time to revel in everything that makes Columbus great: our food, our libraries, our neighborhoods, our hospitals, our sports, our schools. And, yes. Oh yes. Our breakfast.

In other words, what’s the most historic breakfast or brunch you could eat in Columbus? How can you best celebrate Columbus’ breakfast heritage? I’m sad to say while we don’t have any 200-year-old restaurants (although we do come close), you can still step back in time by having breakfast, brunch, or donuts at some of our oldest breakfast eateries.

Buckeye Donuts
1998 N. High St., campus
Father and son Jimmy and George Barouxis opened Buckeye Donuts in 1969 across the street from The Ohio State University’s campus, which is about as perfect of a location for a donut shop as you can get. In that time, they’ve served countless donuts to generations of Ohio State students 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. Nowadays you’ll find the third generation of the Barouxis family, Jimmy, behind the counter, selling breakfast sandwiches and gyros, and giving students a place to study when they need a break from the library.

(image courtesy chefonette.com)
2090 Tremont Center, Upper Arlington

Chef-O-Nette is one of those places that seriously has not changed since it opened in 1955. Even the ownership hasn’t varied much: after a brief series of owners early on, Maborn Howard bought the diner in 1970 and passed it on to his son Harlan in the early 90’s. The two angled counters, opening directly into the kitchen, are the only ones I’ve seen in Columbus. Sit back in one of the red leather seats to enjoy inexpensive breakfasts of eggs, omelets, pancakes, and French toast. Chef-O-Nette offers another bit of American history: they lay claim to being the country’s first drive-through (not drive-in). You can still take part in the tradition of driving up to the little window and placing your order.

Dan’s Drive-In
1881 S. High St., south side
Dan’s lays claim to being Columbus’ first drive-in, established downtown in the 1950’s. Since that time, the restaurant has moved further down High Street to the south side, where it now stands decorated in classic reds, blacks, and whites. The refurbished interior boasts gleaming chrome, mid-century knick knacks, and red pleather seats. Order from a huge breakfast menu featuring plenty of Greek diner specialties.

Honey Dip Donuts & Diner
4480 Kenny Rd., Upper Arlington
Like many small donut joints around town, Honey Dip began its life as a member of the Jolly Pirate chain. As the chain slowly dissolved over the years, franchise owners renamed their restaurants and continued the tradition of good donuts and cheap coffee. Honey Dip serves all varieties of donuts: cake, glazed, longjohns, frosted. But their specialty is, of course, the light and sweet honey dipped donuts. Renovations over this past summer added the “and Diner” to the name; now you can snag breakfast sandwiches (including one made with donuts), omelets, and home fries all with the baked goods.

 Jack & Benny’s
2563 N. High St., Old North

The Ohio State University has been part of Columbus’ cultural fabric since 1870, and nowadays the two often seem synonymous (for better or worse). So it seems appropriate that you mark Columbus’ birthday with a visit to this old diner in the Old North Columbus. Named after a previous Broad Street eatery, Jack & Benny’s is a favorite amongst the OSU students. Enjoy all the University paraphernalia while you sip strong diner coffee and stock up on calories with a Gutbuster. Keep visiting to see how long it takes before an Urban Meyer bobblehead joins the display case.

Jack’s Sandwich Shop
52 E. Lynn St., downtown
Originally starting as a series of downtown diners in the 1940’s, Jack’s has been at its current location since the early 70’s. It opened the same year as the Rhodes State Office Tower (1972), under whose shadow it stands. Owner Chris creates breakfast favorites like sandwiches, steak and eggs, and pancakes (using Jack’s original recipe). He’s maintained a lot of the original equipment and decorations, and spruces things up with seasonal decor.

Jury Room
22 E. Mound St., downtown
The Jury Room lays claim to being Columbus’ oldest continually operating bar, since 1831. It narrowly beats out the Worthington Inn. This watering hole, a favorite with attorneys and clients from the nearby judicial buildings, has served as a quiet respite amongst a busy downtown for years. Over the past year, it took on new life as a member of the Columbus Food League, adding a weekend brunch of scrambles, sandwiches, burgers, and loads of tasty cocktails.

 Nancy’s Home Cooking
3133 N. High St., Clintonville
Nancy’s demonstrates that Columbus loves traditions. We love it so much, in fact, that we won’t let them die. The little Clintonville diner was opened in 1969 by Nancy, but she quickly sold it to Cindy King, who made it an institution. Cindy cared for everyone who stepped into her restaurant: neighborhood regulars, college students, the business crowd on lunch breaks. She became a beloved icon of the community, and when she was forced to close the restaurant in 2009 due to health and financial concerns, Clintonville stepped up to save it. Contributions of time, resources, and money flowed in, and in early 2010 the diner re-opened under the ownership of Cindy’s niece, Sheila.

Resch’s Bakery
4061 E. Livingston, east side
Talk about a piece of Columbus history! Resch’s is celebrating 100 years of donuts, bread, and granny rolls this year. Out on the east side, a small group of old German ladies serves a continual line of customers every morning. Stop by for a box of glazed twists, chocolate-covered yeast donuts, fruit-filled cake donuts, or any of their delicious cookies and breads. In a nod to their further history, the Resch family has painted one wall with images of their mother’s hometown of Miltenberg, Germany.

Tee Jaye’s Country Place
Six locations around town
Yes, I said TeeJaye’s. I’ve tended to give them a pass in recent years, but after 40+ years in business, it’s hard to argue against TeeJaye’s role in Columbus tradition. These 24-hour family restaurants bring in the crowds craving cornmeal pancakes, fried mush, and Barnyard Busters. Owned by the Sokol family, the restaurant was started by father Jules in 1969. He brought with him a bigger piece of Ohio history: he previously owned a series of drive-ins called Beverlee’s all across the state.

Worthington Inn
649 High St., Worthington
The grand Worthington Inn exemplifies the history and character of Olde Worthington. Since 1831, the building has served variously as a stage coach stop, hotel, restaurant, and condos. Today it serves magnificent meals, many sourced using local ingredients, and their Sunday brunch is famous around town. Feast on a buffet of breakfast goodies, bistro chicken, custom-made omelets, sliced roast beef, and a giant tray of shrimp and smoked salmon.

In a final point of discussion, we need to acknowledge the recent closing of The Clarmont, which had been open since 1947. It takes with it a solid place in Columbus history, and we can only hope the the location is reborn into a new classic.

Whether you want classic drive-in fare, sugary donuts, or a fancy weekend brunch, you can celebrate Columbus’ history this week. Are you surprised to see a lot of diners and old donut shops on the list? I’m not. They have a staying power that flies in the face of fancy eateries and cafes. How do they do it? Low overhead? Cheap ingredients? Sure. It’s also the strong community. That’s what keeps our city going.

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I go by Dr. Breakfast, but in addition to restaurants and recipes, I write about family travel, breweries and distilleries, the arts, outdoor fun, and so much more.

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