Let’s Go to Licking County! (Part One)

August 7, 2019

We love that, living in Columbus, we have plentiful quick trips within easy reach, whether it’s a day trip to a smaller town like Yellow Springs or a weekend in a bigger city Indianapolis or Cincinnati.

Now we can add Licking County to that list. Licking is the county directly east (and slightly north) of Franklin County. We’ve been many times – visits to downtown Granville, Pigeon Roost Farm in Hebron, The Works in Newark, breakfast in Pataskala – but there are plenty of undiscovered corners, so we were delighted when Explore Licking County invited Beth and I to visit for a couple days.

We started in Newark, the county seat, visiting Explore Licking County’s offices, then walking over to Elliot’s Wood Fired Pizza & Tap, located in a long and narrow space a block away from the courthouse.

Even at lunchtime, Elliot’s seemed to be a popular spot. Folks were lined up at the bar, and most of the booths and tables were filled. Our server convinced us to try The Downtowner from their cocktail menu, a curious mix of Jim Beam, pinot noir, simple syrup, sour mix, and Sprite. It sounds like it would be too sweet, but as a refreshing summer drink – it worked.

The menu includes all the usual bar food suspects, with an emphasis on the pizzas, of course. We were impressed with the marinara cheese: toasted bread served with a rich (albeit a little soupy) marinara mixed with goat cheese. The fried mushrooms featured big slices of portobello – very tender, nicely breaded, not at all greasy.

As far as pizza goes, Elliot’s seems to know what they’re doing. Props to the brightly colored pesto chicken pizza, crisp and layered with pesto and caramelized onions and bleu cheese.

Following lunch we drove about 10 minutes south to the Dawes Arboretum. Dawes has long been on our list to visit, but we’ve never made it that way.

Until this past April, the arboretum was free for visitors. In order to better support their development, operations, and education initiatives, they implemented admission fees of $10 for adults, $5 for children 5-15, free for under 5. Annual memberships are $60 for a family.

You can experience the 2000-acre park in several different ways, from simply hiking your way through it, to focusing on select trails, to driving the perimeter and stopping to see highlights. We did a bit of both, first parking our car near the visitors center and hiking south toward the Japanese Garden.

The paths are a mix of paved, gravel, or simply stretches of close-cropped grass, and the arboretum covers mixed geography: open meadows, wetlands, hills, woods.

After hiking around the Japanese Gardens (which we recommend), we hopped back in the car and circled the perimeter counter-clockwise.

At the southern end of the arboretum are dense hedges manicured to spell out “Dawes Arboretum.” They were originally planted in 1942, then re-planted in 1990-91. Near the southeast corner of the property is a (somewhat rickety) three-story observation tower that gives you a better view of the lettering.

Following our hike, we drove to Heath to visit Homestead Beer Co.‘s taproom and production facility.

I’ve been enjoying Homestead’s beers for many years. They’re distributed widely in bottles and kegs around central Ohio. But it’s always nice to go to the source.

The one-room taproom features a simple setup: a bar in one corner and tables spread throughout. Additional tables (and restrooms) are located in the brewery itself.

Because we’re in the throes of summer, the roster featured lighter, easier-drinking beers. So we sipped on their White Elephant pilsner, Galactic Heroes IPA, Snake Oil pale ale, Tenpenny amber ale.

Homestead is also featuring a double IPA called Gangwarriors, brewed in collaboration with Three Tigers Brewing. Three Tigers recently lost their head brewer, Patrick Gangwer, to cancer, and the beer community has rallied around his family. Gangwarriors was brewed and bottle to raise funds for them.

Our visit to Homestead allowed me to collect another Columbus Ale Trail stamp. Bonus: I doubled up and grabbed a stamp in my Licking County Beer Trail book. The county trail takes you to its 10 breweries, ordering beers, getting your book stamped, and earning a T-shirt.

Next was a visit to the Canal Market District in downtown Newark. The market project was spear-headed by the Reese family, who helped fund it and rally the community around it.

Now the bustling covered market operates Tuesdays and Fridays from 4-7 p.m. It’s a really beautiful stop, a block away from the town square in Newark, loaded with local vendors, live music, and a food truck. I think it’s an important asset to the community.

Just steps away, Market Street Soda Works holds hours coinciding with the farmer’s market (Tues & Fri, 3-8 p.m.). The narrow, brick-walled space is perfectly family friendly, with a wide selection of root beers and sodas on tap and in the bottle.

We kicked back at the counter and sipped a root beer float. Other customers gathered at the bar or purchased bottles and snacks to take with them.

After the market, we spent some time walking around the courthouse square. It’s impressive to see a number of well-maintained historic properties and plenty of modern businesses lining the district. We looked in at the courthouse, Midland Theatre, Thirty One West (a music venue), some public murals, and the Licking County Historical Jail.

Then it was over to Granville to check in at the historic Buxton Inn, our accommodations for the night.

The Inn is a full-service hotel and restaurant, located right on East Broadway, the main drag of Granville. It first opened in 1812, and has hosted a number of significant figures over the past 200+ years.

The main building is delightfully quaint and creaky, with old wooden floors, lower ceilings, and a cozy lounge. Our room was located in a separate building next door; the Inn spans a couple properties all huddled together.

For dinner that evening, our hosts suggested we visit Snapshots Lounge in Granville. We didn’t know quite what to expect when we pulled up to the renovated house, crowded with cars around it, but we were delighted with the find. Owner Lucas Atwood and his team provided a warm welcome.

He’s taken this home on Weaver Drive in Granville and turned it into a true community gathering place: a bar crowded with regulars, dining room walls covered with photos (Atwood is a professional photographer, hence “Snapshots”), a backyard and garage turned into patios and supplemental dining rooms. And most importantly, a creative and homey menu with a couple surprises.

Now you can:

Disclaimer: overnight accommodations, admissions, and some meals were provided by Explore Licking County. Photos and opinions are our own.

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FOOD + TRAVEL WRITER

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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