The once-conservative Ohio capital has blossomed into a certified food lovers' town, with serious cocktails and microbrews, pastries worthy of Paris, fantastical ice cream flavors - think peanut with toasted coconut and chili - and extraordinary food shopping. In November, food guru Michael Ruhlman, who had dismissed Columbus as "Applebee's country" on an episode of the TV show "No Reservations," very publicly revised his judgment, calling the city a worthier food destination than his beloved home town of Cleveland.
A case in point is North Market, the city's food hub. Open year-round, the airy converted warehouse hosts 35 vendors: butchers, bakers and ice cream makers. Local food gets lots of shelf space - we found Ohio-milled grain, grass-fed beef and Lake Erie-caught walleye - but so do international delicacies such as imported cheese, wine and spices.