ColumbusFood & Drink

Restaurants that Rival the Starchitect Sites of Columbus, Indiana

By December 21, 2016 No Comments
Photo credit; JoAnn Greco

Photo credit: JoAnn Greco


It’s no secret that the main attraction in Columbus, Indiana, is its unparalleled collection of mid-century modern civic, office and residential buildings. The result of a visionary and ambitious program by local industrialist and philanthropist J. Irwin Miller to step up the small town’s architecture game, the assemblage has turned Columbus into a must-see for design buffs worldwide.

While such a visit might feed the soul, eventually one’s stomach cries out for nourishment. Here are three stops to satisfy your hunger in equally stylized settings:

Fresh Brews by the River
Upland Brewing Co. of Bloomington recently transformed a former city water pumping station into a popular new brewpub, Upland Columbus Pump House.

Designed by Harrison Albright in 1903, this historic landmark rests along the White River, offering a picture-perfect setting to enjoy burgers, sandwiches and other pub fare. In temperate weather, opt for a table on the generously sized patio. When the weather cools down, enjoy the industrial aesthetic inside — exposed copper duct work, soaring brick-arched windows and warm finishes.

Thirsty travelers can choose from 14 beers on tap, including Campside (IPA), Stoked (Belgian-style) and Easy Chair (amber). When analysis paralysis grabs hold, beer flights are a handy option. Lunch or dinner options are crammed into a seasonally inspired menu that can be counted on to include favorites like stone-fired pizzas, macaroni and cheese, and a non-meat “tenderloin” sandwich made with seitan that was recently named “Best Vegetarian Sandwich In Indy” by Indianapolis Monthly magazine.

Classic Ice Cream Treats
The same developer team responsible for bringing the pump house back to life also led the glorious restoration of Zaharakos, the town’s classic ice cream parlor, a few years back. Dating to the early 20th-century, this space on Washington Street has been tricked up with onyx soda fountains and marble counters from the 1904 World’s Fair, Tiffany-style lamps and a 1908 self-playing pipe organ that emits a rousing bit of music every now and then. There’s also a world-class museum of antique — and spectacularly ornate — soda fountains and syrup dispensers next door.

At Zaharakos, you can order savory foods, like the “Gom” (a Midwestern sloppy joe on thick white bread), grilled chicken salad or a bowl of chili, but of course the reason everyone comes is the myriad of ice cream sodas, sundaes and splits. Go local with “The Big Z,” which comes with five scoops of ice cream and three toppings, or a slice of fresh-baked pie — a la mode, of course.

Pig Out at the Swine
Across the street, The Savory Swine, a charming eat-in, take-out butcher shop, presents customizable charcuterie boards groaning with anything from Italian proscuitto to Spanish jamon Serrano to locally made salami, along with “swinewiches” featuring its signature toasted ciabatta. One new favorite: a Reuben served with heaping scads of freshly made coleslaw slathered on top.

The eatery also regularly partners with local sommelier Joshua Ratliff to host wine tastings crafted to expose people to affordable, but uncommon wines they might not otherwise have the opportunity to try. Before leaving town, stock up on goodies for souvenirs or munchies on the road: There’s a nice selection of olives, roasted almonds, stuffed peppers, cured meats and fresh cheeses.