Home of The Ohio State Buckeyes, and my home for almost four years. The capital of Ohio, and the fourteenth largest city in the United States. Likely not your first vacation destination, but I’m looking to change that. I’ve had a whole bachelor’s degree worth of time to hunt down the city’s safest and most satisfying allergy-friendly stops, so before you know it, you’ll be saying “Go Bucks!” too.
My guilty pleasure and go-spot for Taco Tuesday. Originating in Columbus in 2014, Condado has rightfully expanded to over a dozen locations across the Midwest – Including Michigan, Indiana, and Pennsylvania. Their funky storefronts are hand painted by local artists and sure to transport you into the world of Mexican street art. Their build-your-own-taco concept is jokingly considered ‘the only multiple choice test you cannot fail’ for the endless combinations of proteins, salsas, cheeses, and sauces compliment each other without fail. Most importantly, Condado has an accessible and informational allergen menu on their website that precisely details which of their menu items contain a top eight allergen. Why is Condado always my first stop back in town? Their 100% peanut and tree nut free kitchen – and the pomegranate margaritas of course.
Message me to find out the taco order I swear by: http://www.condadotacos.com/menu/
Short North Goody Boy
This renovated and reinvented retro diner from Corso Ventures puts a fun spin on classic comfort food in the heart of the Short North Arts District. Reimagined favorites like the Goody Boy Burger and Grilled Cheese Bites accompany more unique dishes like Waffly Fry Nachos and Stuffed Avocados. Their cocktail menu shines during Thursday and Friday happy hour, offering half off drinks such as the Spicy Blackberry Margarita, Yuzu Collins, or the restaurant staple, spiked strawberry lemonade Goody Bags (pictured left). On my first outing to Goody Boy two summers ago, the waitstaff informed me of their entirely nut free kitchen, including desserts. Vegan, vegetarian, and gluten free items are also indicated directly on the menu. The casual family-friendly daytime hangout turns into a local hotspot by nightfall with rotating DJs, lemon wedge Jello-O shots, and patio punch pitchers for the table.
Joining friends for brunch? Check out their mimosa packages that include donut holes: https://shortnorthgoodyboy.com
Originating right here in Ohio, Brassica honors the owners’ grandfather who immigrated to America from Lebanon in 1920. Today, Brassica welcomes guests to a build-your-own sandwich and salad experience of wholesome, organic, and healthy local ingredients. Their service may be quick, but they never skip out on quality or flavor. Easily located on their website, Brassica’s accessible allergen guide labels menu items containing common allergens including corn, sesame, egg, and soybeans. This completely nut free kitchen does prepare hummus and falafel, so proceed with caution if you are sensitive to chickpea products. Their bold flavors, bright veggies, and handcrafted ingredients have easily made Brassica one of mine and my friends’ favorite dining locations in Columbus.
Do yourself a favor and order an extra side of Special Sauce with your Brassica Fries: https://brassicas.com/wp-content/themes/brassica/pdfs/Menu%20Allergen%20FA.pdf
Forno Kitchen + Bar
Every twenty first birthday, work promotion, new school year or weekly happy hour throughout my years at Ohio State was celebrated at Forno – And for good reason. The most polished destination crafted by Corso Ventures, this modern American location in Short North is known for its stone fired pizzas, decadent appetizers, and elevated entrees. Although not a dedicated free kitchen of any allergen, Forno Kitchen and Bar has a knowledgable waitstaff and attentive kitchen that pay special attention to dietary restrictions. Allergen tabs are proudly served atop your dish, vegan and vegetarian options are indicated directly on the menu, and gluten free pasta and pizza crusts are also available upon request. Guaranteed to be packed on a Friday night or Sunday brunch, make your reservation in advance for the place I miss most when away from Columbus.
No dinner is complete without an order of Strawberry Shots: https://fornoshortnorth.com
Feeling defeated from fried chicken restaurant after fried chicken restaurant using peanut oil, I almost gave up before finding The Eagle. Originating southwest of the capital in Cincinnati, Columbus is home to the only other Ohio location. Both its demand and its delectable Southern style dishes have sparked the opening of four more storefronts across the Midwest. Their cage-free chicken, lengthy list of local craft beers, and picnic table-style outdoor patio makes The Eagle a perfect spot for an elevated football Sunday or well deserved cheat meal. Although not allergy friendly for those with other top eight allergens, with only one nut product on the menu (pecans on two salads), this Short North staple has been sweet, savory, and safe for me and my family.
Without question – the BEST Mac and Cheese I have ever tasted: https://www.eaglerestaurant.com
As a Cameron Mitchell Restaurant, you can guarantee the staff at Marcella’s will go above and beyond to accommodate your needs. Although not dedicated free of any allergens, Marcella’s just gets it. As an undergraduate student, I attended a presentation by Cameron Mitchell himself, explaining his “Milkshake Method” to restaurant customer service. To summarize his analogy, if you order a milkshake at a Cameron Mitchell restaurant, despite it not being on the menu, you will get a milkshake if they have the necessary ingredients in the back! To make a long story short, Cameron Mitchell works hard to keep its customers happy and healthy.
I have safely eaten at Marcella’s dozens of times. Their Italian dishes are delightful, and the ambience and atmosphere is warm and inviting. During the COVID-19 pandemic, I was even able to get safe curbside pickup from one of their locations, and was pleasantly surprised to see my takeout boxes labeled with customizable allergy warning stickers. Whether you’re stopping by after shopping at Polaris Mall, or stepping in from High Street in Short North, welcome to you new favorite Italian restaurant.
Trust me… You need TWO orders of the Risotto Balls: https://marcellasrestaurant.com
Hot Chicken Takeover
Nashville Hot Chicken originating right here in Columbus, Ohio. Growing from a small pop-up shop to four brand new storefront locations around Ohio, Hot Chicken Takeover has done just that – Takeover. With a handy allergen menu located centrally on their website, identifying menu items with eggs, milk, nuts, gluten, and soy, is made simple. Hot Chicken Takeover even offers a Gluten-Free Boneless Tuesday special for patrons with dietary restrictions, and the Waffles (labeled “May Contain Nuts”) are only served for weekend brunch. I upgrade my warm boneless chicken sandwich to having double the Mac and Cheese because sweet tea and house ranch is always free! And of course – Never forget Banana Pudding for dessert. Whether you’re driving through, dining in, or taking out, Hot Chicken Takeover will certainly have you crawling back for more.
Scroll to the bottom under “Allergic Eaters”: https://hotchickentakeover.com/menu/
And for dessert….
A close suburb of the city, Bexley, Ohio is home to Cherbourg Bakery – An entirely gluten, nut, and dye free bakery. Every pastry, baked good, and dessert is baked fresh daily in their dedicated free kitchen using simple, local, and minimally processed ingredients. You can feel the love and family tradition right as you walk into the bakery, just as you can taste it with every bite. A favorite of all my friends and family, it is truly undetectably gluten free. Pictured above, my last run to Cherbourg included strawberry glazed cinnamon sugar donuts, white chocolate chip coffee cake, a blueberry monster muffin, strawberry scones, and my first ever apple pie bar. And equally as exciting for me, Cherboug’s nut free policy made my morning iced coffee cross-contamination free from hazelnut creamer or almond milk. The bright, clean, and welcoming storefront proudly displays a hanging chalkboard repeating “We will never bake with gluten, nuts or dyes… We will never bake with gluten, nuts or dyes.” And you wonder why I cannot stop coming back! Next visit, I’m hoping to try the espresso brownies, vanilla madeleines, and lemon ricotta quiche.
My best find in the city: https://cherbourgbakery.com
Nut Free Sweets
Owned and operated by an allergy family, Nut Free Sweets is a Columbus bakery producing custom desserts out of their dedicated-free-from home kitchen. The inspiration behind Nut Free Sweets was to ensure no child was left out of birthday parties, holidays, or other celebrations because of their allergy. Using the slogan “Good Eats – Safe Treats,” Nut Free Sweets does extensive research into the ingredients and manufacturers they bake with, and are very transparent with customers about the products used in their baked goods. Although not an egg or dairy free kitchen, Nut Free Sweets can accommodate those allergies with their white and chocolate cakes, too.
Nut Free Sweets created this beautiful chocolate layer cake for my college graduation, accompanied by these individually wrapped custom sugar cookies. We could not have been happier with the precaution, attention to detail, and superior customer service we received from Nut Free Sweets. Not to mention, the sweets were DELICIOUS too!
Order your custom creation today!: http://www.nutfreesweets.com
A natural, organic, from scratch, and dedicated vegan kitchen in Clintonville, Ohio. Not only safe for those with egg and dairy allergies, but PattyCake actively works to limit their environmental impact by purchasing ingredients from local farmers, using biodegradable or recyclable packaging, and doing bicycle-only delivery. Although not safe for my specific allergens, my close family members with gluten and dairy allergies always make PattyCake their first stop in Columbus. With baked goods like pumpkin whoopie pies, cherry chocolate chip bars, and cranberry orange muffins… Can you blame her?
Gluten-Free options available too: http://www.pattycakeveganbakery.com/index.htm
Jeni’s Ice Cream
Jeni’s is the first and only ice cream shop I have tried since my allergic reaction that is not a dedicated nut free facility. Other allergy advocacy sites rated Jeni’s as having good protocols for handling dietary restrictions, so after becoming frustrated with turning down yet another summertime ice cream date with friends, I decided to give it a try. All Jeni’s locations have their individual flavors visibly labeled for allergens, including eggs, dairy, gluten and nuts, which highlights their allergy consciousness. Their website also details their production process, which saves the ice creams containing the most allergens for last to minimize cross contamination risk. Employees at the store are always happy to wash their hands, use a clean scooper, and open up a fresh container of ice cream for you. Come see just what you’re missing from this Columbus native company!
Allergen Information Provided Here: https://jenis.com/customer-service/product-info/ and https://jenis.com/customer-service/faqs/#product
Peace, Love & Little Donuts – Worthington
Family-owned business, Peace Love & Little Donuts, has expanded across fourteen states in the US since opening in 2008, thanks to their “groovy, far out, and funkadelic” build-your-own-donuts. Saving the Buttafinga and Almond Brothers donuts for their other locations, Peace, Love & Little Donuts has kept their Worthington, Ohio storefront nut free. Their online menu clearly distinguishes which donuts contain nut ingredients, and reiterates that not all PL&LD locations have these “nutty” options available. Bite-sized so you can taste test all of your creations, what’s the wildest half dozen you can come up with?
Enjoy the Worthington Farmer’s Market on Saturday mornings while you snack on your donuts! https://www.peaceloveandlittledonuts.com/checkout-system/donut-menu
Soodles Bake Shop
Bob, allergic to both gluten and eggs himself, bought Soodles Bake Shop with his wife in 2016. Slightly north of the city, Soodles operates as a top eight free bakery, specializing in custom cakes, pies, breads, and their best-selling cinnamon coffee cake. This family knows first hand the positive impact that having safe, worry-free and delicious baked goods can have on the well being of the allergy community, and that principle is the foundation of Soodles Bake Shop to this day. Support this family-owned small business by placing a pick-up order at their storefront, or ordering online for shipping beyond Ohio!
Without regular store hours, be sure to call before stopping by: https://soodlesbakeshop.com
Graeter’s Ice Cream
This predominant brand was founded in Cincinnati, Ohio, so their storefronts are sprinkled all over the Columbus area. Although I do not recommend that my fellow nut allergy followers get hard scooped ice cream at one of their locations, Graeter’s does follow an extensive allergy protocol that makes their pre-packaged products safe for my consumption. Each nut-free carton states “We use good manufacturing practices to segregate allergens and avoid cross-contact with flavors that contain peanuts and tree nuts” after the allergen warning label. Graeter’s is famous for having giant chunks of goodies in their ice creams, so you are never cheated out of big helpings of chocolate chips or cookie dough bites. So whether you’re picking up a pint from the freezer section inside their store, or at the local Giant Eagle grocery store, you won’t be disappointed.
My favorite store bought ice cream brand: https://www.graeters.com/nutritional-information
While you’re visiting…
Art and Science
The Center of Science and Industry (COSI) is educational fun for the whole family. Home of the Columbus Symphony Orchestra, the historic Ohio Theater is a performing arts center that offers everything from Broadway productions to Disney Live. The Short North’s art district hosts a Gallery Hop the first Saturday night of every month, celebrating local artists through food and drink.
Adventure out to the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium for an interactive day of giraffe feeding and elephant baths. Need to cool off? Have the kids take a dip into the wave pool and water slides while you enjoy the boozy lazy river at the zoo’s partnering property, Zoombezi Bay. Just an hour outside of the city but a world away, Hocking Hills State Park offers miles of hiking trails, plenty of camping grounds, and rushing rivers complete with water falls and canoeing liveries. See the 88 acres of the Franklin Park Conservatory and Botanical Gardens bloom through butterfly gardens and cocktail evenings.
Just north of the city center, help The Ohio State University cheer on their national championship winning Buckeyes on a home game Saturday alongside the Olentangy River. For those comfortable around peanut shells (Unfortunately, not me), Dime-A-Dog night at the minor league Columbus Clippers game is a fun way to spend an evening in the city. Just up the street, home of the Columbus Blue Jackets, Nationwide Arena offers an inviting atmosphere for major league hockey fans.
Another Cameron Mitchell establishment, dazzling views of downtown and an Instagram-worthy flower wall are waiting for you at rooftop bar, Lincoln Social. Rumor has it, you have to knock on a basement freezer door to enter this underground speakeasy, Sacred Palm. Take a private tour of the Columbus brewery, High Bank Distillery, and enjoy handcrafted spirits where the Olentangy and Scioto rivers meet. Sing along to live country music at the lively Bristol Republic. See the city from new heights at newly opened Goodale Station.
DISCLAIMER: These restaurants have been safe for me and my allergies, but these recommendations should only serve as a starting point for your dining experience. Please do your own research before enjoying.