Cap City Fine Diner: Comfort food at its finest in Columbus
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Cap City Fine Diner

Comfort food at its finest in Columbus


We love diners, but we find the experience finer when the owners really care about what they put on the plate. Our go-to spot for elevated comfort food in central Ohio is Cap City Fine Diner – our family-friendly restaurant for January.

Why go?

This Cameron Mitchell classic opened in 1996 in Grandview, and transformed everything we associate with diners – including neon signs, red vinyl and meatloaf – and cranked it up to foodie levels.

Here, meatloaf is artistically served with molded beef stacked upon a slice of thick toast and topped with buttermilk-chive mashed potatoes and chili onion rings.

The three-layer “Seriously Big Chocolate Cake” lives up to its name and is more than suitable for sharing.

What’s missing?

You won’t find weathered waitresses who affectionally call you “Honey,” but you’ll find attentive young professionals who mind their own business when they’re not taking and bringing orders.

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You won’t find bathrooms with rusted plumbing and quarter-operated machines, but you’ll find dimly-lit pamper rooms with complimentary mouthwash.

You also won’t find spatula-flattened grilled-cheese sandwiches with cooked pickles for less than $3. Rather, a pan-seared ribeye with a twice-baked potato cake and steamed broccoli will set you back about $30.

Why take the kids?

This is a rare, finer restaurant where kids seem encouraged to join you on a date – as evidenced by the care that’s gone into the children’s menu titled “Capital Cuisine for Kids.” Pick from complementary baby food to a grilled PB&J, to a kid-sized portion of Cap City’s famous meatloaf.

Cap City is a place where kids go gaga over the giant bubblegum machine, and adults freak out over the bar’s giant container of vodka-soaked pineapple wedges.

Cap City has two locations: Cap City Gahanna and Cap City Grandview. A third location will open in Dublin in the summer of 2017. Our go-to location in Grandview is the original at 1299 Olentangy River Rd. For more information, visit capcityfinediner.com.

Hofbrauhaus Columbus: Monthly 'Family Nights' make this German beer hall a blast for all
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Hofbrauhaus Columbus

Monthly ‘Family Nights’ make this German beer hall a blast for all


hofbrauhaus_secondary2Things are getting festive this time of year, and that’s why our family-friendly restaurant pick for November is Hofbrauhaus Columbus – a lively beer hall that gives kids their all on the second Tuesday of the month.

Visit on “Family Night,” beginning at 6 p.m., and get a free kids meal with a purchased adult entree. The “Kinder Menu” includes Kinder Schnitzel (breaded pork cutlet), Kinder Gegrillter Kase (grilled cheese) and Kinder Makkaroni mit Kase (mac and cheese).

Portions are large, enough to create a lunch for the following day.

Bonuses include live entertainment, face painting and balloon animals made by a young man on stilts wearing lederhosen and a felt fedora.

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The echoey space can be loud, but it’s fun hearing live music. We enjoyed traditional and modern children’s songs played on the accordion – from “Bingo Was His Name-O” to “The Bare Necessities.” The best seats are the picnic tables in the middle, which have a family-style feel.

hofbrauhaus_secondaryPlus, for adults, the beer is really good. It is made from original Bavarian recipes that date back 400 years.

So bring your kids, raise up a stein and enjoy.

Hofbrauhaus Columbus is located at 800 Goodale St., Columbus. For more information, visit hofbrauhauscolumbus.com.

The Smithery: Make memorable, metal trinkets at Grandview shop

The Smithery

Make memorable, metal trinkets at Grandview shop


The Smithery: Make memorable, metal trinkets at Grandview shopI find the most memorable adventures to be hands-on experiences. And, they’re even more memorable when I get to make a keepsake along the way.

Such was the case when I tapped the letters of my family members’ names onto a bronze heart while making a necklace for myself at the Smithery in Grandview Heights. The shop offers metal-smithing classes for adults and children, as well as has a gift shop full of neat handmade creations by local artisans.

The Smithery: Make memorable, metal trinkets at Grandview shopI participated in a “Make and Take” workshop that included choosing a charm, stamping it with decorations and threading it onto a chain. It took about 30 minutes to complete my project, and it cost less than $20.

I chose to embellish a precut heart charm for a necklace. Other options included making a pet tag or a key chain.

Once I selected my charm, I was instructed to tape it to a metal block to prevent it from slipping. I used a brass hammer to firmly tap the ends of metal pegs that had raised shapes and letters on the opposite ends. Doing so left imprints on my metal heart.

I picked from a variety of metal stamps including letters, numbers, punctuation marks and familiar shapes.

The Smithery: Make memorable, metal trinkets at Grandview shopThe hardest part was deciding what to create. I decided to squeeze three names onto my charm. My first attempt revealed a crooked “m.” But I quickly decided that any imperfection added personality and confirmed that it was handmade.

I finalized my piece by adding a few flowers. I also learned I could quickly make my piece look aged by filling in the indented metal with black, permanent marker. I was pleased with my final product, now one of my favorite pieces of jewelry.

The Smithery is located at 1306 Grandview Ave. For more information on workshops, visit shopthesmithery.com or call 614-867-5780.

Miner 49er: Indoor, miniature-golf course detours rainy-day doldrums
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Miner 49er

Indoor, miniature-golf course detours rainy-day doldrums


If there’s one thing you can count on in Ohio, it’s rain. And finding an uncrowded, indoor facility for family fun on a rainy Saturday can be challenging. Fortunately, though, we struck it rich when we discovered Miner 49er in Grandview.

We found the indoor, miniature-golf course – with an Old West mining-town theme – while searching the Internet for something to do. The 18-hole, black-lit course opened in spring 2015 and filled a void for family-friendly establishments in the area. It’s open year-round and nearly all hours of the day.

We also learned that the indoor course is connected to another golf-related business called Caddy’s Delight. Here, golf enthusiasts can play virtual golf at one of three stations that allow players an opportunity to swing their clubs at dozens of popular courses around the world.

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We decided to concentrate on the miniature-golf course on this outing. The businesses are housed in a windowless building that doesn’t scream “family fun” from the street. Only their respective names inform you that you’ve arrived at the proper place.

Inside it’s dark so the black light effect works. Pop music blares to ratchet up the kid-friendly quotient (if not the adult-friendly quotient). You can tell a lot of time and thought went into the course design. Hand-painted murals adorn the walls and add a realistic, three-dimensional effect. And the course, built of plywood, is cleverly constructed and laid out to fill two rooms.

But if I have one pick axe to grind with Miner 49er, it’s the cost. We paid $32 for two adults and two kids to play a round of golf, which seemed a bit steep considering two of our players ran through the course in 15 minutes.

Determined to get our money’s worth, Mike and I took our time playing each hole – even playing each one a second time to perfect our strokes.

A couple of other families arrived during play, but we never felt rushed to finish. The experience can be slowed down even more by ordering house-made food – including vegetarian options – from the menu or a local craft beer. Prices are higher than it seems like they should be, however.

Miner 49er is located at 1158 W. Third Ave., Columbus. For more information, call 614-725-4219 or visit www.miner49erminigolf.com.

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Central Ohio Farm Markets

Prime picking time for farmers markets


One of the best things about summer in Ohio is the bounty of fruits and vegetables. There’s nothing like a sun-ripened tomato, picked fresh from the vine. Even better is dicing it up and combining it with peeled cucumbers, strips of basil and a freshly made vinaigrette for a tasty summertime salad.

You can find these ingredients and more at the many farm markets sprouting up this time of year in central Ohio. I recently visited the farmers market in the Columbus neighborhood of Clintonville, held each Saturday from April through November.

Vendors from around Ohio set up temporary shops along N. High Street, offering fruits, vegetables, pastries, jams, honey and flowers. The farmers grow their produce within 75 miles of Columbus, so it’s made for flavor — not made to survive long trips on trucks or trains.

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Here is a brief look at some of the many farm markets around central Ohio:

Bexley Farmers Market: 4-7 p.m., Thursdays, May through October, Bexley City Hall, 2111 E. Main St., Bexley. Learn more: www.bexleyfarmersmarket.com.

Canal Winchester Farmers Market: 9 a.m.-noon., Saturdays, May through October, Main Street in downtown Canal Winchester. Learn more: www.thecwfm.com.

Clintonville Farmers Market: 9 a.m.-noon, Saturdays, April through November; and 4-7 p.m., Wednesdays, June through August, west side of N. High Street between Orchard Lane and W. Dunedin Road, Columbus. Learn more: www.clintonvillefarmersmarket.org.

Delaware Farmers Market: 9:30 a.m.-12:30 p.m., Saturdays; 3-6 p.m., Wednesdays, May through October, Sandusky Street, downtown Delaware. Learn more: www.mainstreetdelaware.com/farmers-market.

Dublin Farmers Market: 3:30-6:30 p.m.., Wednesdays, May through September, Oakland Nursery, 4261 W. Dublin-Granville Rd., Dublin. Learn more: www.dublinfarmersmarket.com.

Franklinton’s Market at 400: 11 a.m.-2 p.m., Saturdays (biweekly), year round, 400 W. Rich St., Columbus. Learn more: 400westrich.com.

Grandview Avenue Farmers Market: 10 a.m.-1 p.m., Saturdays, July through October, 1371 Grandview Ave., Grandview Heights.

Grove City Farmers Market: 8 a.m.-noon, Saturdays, April through October, Grove City Town Center, at the corners of Park Street and Broadway.

Hilliard Farm Market: 4-7 p.m., Tuesdays, June through September, parking lots at the corner of Wayne and Center streets, Hilliard. Learn more: hilliardfarmmarket.com.

Jefferson Township Farmers Market: 9 a.m.-noon, Saturdays, June through September, Jefferson Community Park, 7494 Clark State Rd., Blacklick.

Lancaster Farmers Market: 8 a.m.-noon, Saturdays, May through October, Government Services parking lot, 239 W. Main St., Lancaster. Learn more: www.lancasterohfarmersmarket.org.

Pearl Market: 10:30 a.m.-2 p.m., Tuesdays and Fridays, May through October, Pearl Alley, one block north of the Ohio Statehouse, downtown Columbus. Learn more: downtowncolumbus.com/pearlmarket.

Powell Farmers Market: 9 a.m.-noon, Saturdays, May through October, City of Powell Municipal Building, 47 Hall St., Powell.

Reynoldsburg Farmers Market: 3-6 p.m., Thursdays, June through August, Huber Park, 7300 E. Livingston Ave., Reynoldsburg.

Worthington Farmers Market: 8 a.m.-noon, Saturdays, May through October; 9 a.m.-noon, Saturdays, November through April (indoors), downtown Olde Worthington. Learn more: worthingtonfarmersmarket.blogspot.com.

Upper Arlington Farmers Market: 3-6 p.m., Wednesdays, May through September, Upper Arlington Senior Center, 1945 Ridgeview Rd.

Uptown Westerville Farmers Market: 3-6 p.m., Wednesdays, May through October, N. State and E. Home roads, Westerville. Learn more: www.marketwednesday.com.

Star Beacon

Shop where teachers get wholesale supplies


I recently discovered the source of the whimsical materials used to construct one of my favorite works of art.

The white canvas, which hangs in my cubicle at work, is smeared with teal glitter paint and accented with glued-on feathers and plastic gems. My 4-year-old daughter made the masterpiece at her preschool.

The teachers purchase their cheerful supplies, including bags of glimmering gems and jars of glitter, at wholesale prices from the Star Beacon Product Co. in Grandview Heights.

Founded in 1936 in Columbus, the business sells arts, crafts and office supplies to local schools and daycare centers. Customers also can visit the store at 1104 W. Goodale Blvd. to get the same deals from the second-generation, family-owned business.

I made my first visit to Star Beacon during my lunch hour to see if I could find an educational toy for one of my daughter’s classmates. Entering the store felt like returning to the now defunct Yankee Trader, a landmark party and novelty store that closed in 2010 after 44 years of business in downtown Columbus.

Although smaller, Star Beacon offers the same type of warehouse environment, with bulk items stocked on shelves in a dizzying array of strange, but wonderful merchandise.

I found bags of plastic googly eyes, pipe cleaners and yarn pompons, just like the stuff I’ve seen at Rosie’s preschool.

I also found items that brought back memories of my childhood art classes – reams of colorful construction paper, sheets of felt, boxes of popsicle sticks and bags of Styrofoam balls.

In addition to bulk items, Star Beacon carries a small selection of gift items, such as a line of Melissa & Doug products, making my gift-seeking outing a success with an extra helping of nostalgia.

For more information, visit www.starbeaconproducts.net.

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Clay Café Pottery Studio

Connect with your children while creating works of art


For some time now I’ve been wanting to take my two young children to a paint-your-own pottery studio so they could create whimsical keepsakes with their mommy and daddy.

But it wasn’t until a friend of mine gave me a gift certificate to the Clay Café Pottery Studio in Grandview that I finally made the time to give it a try.

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I’d heard enough about these kinds of places to know what to expect. Basically, you select an unfinished ceramic object off a shelf and paint it to your liking. Then you turn it over to the shopkeeper to have it fired – or baked – in a kiln. A few days later your artwork is ready for pickup.

But little did I know what a bonding experience making artwork would be for our family. It took only an hour to complete our two projects, but seeing 4-year-old Rosie and 2-year-old Max delight in painting, while getting full attention from their parents, was time and money well spent.

Our experience started with little Maxie choosing a race car-shaped bank to paint. It sat on a shelf alongside other ghostly white objects called “greenware.” I was glad Max chose quickly because having him mill around the delicate ceramic pieces made me nervous for fear he’d grab and smash them. And, at roughly $16 apiece, that would be a costly accident.

Rosie had a tougher time picking her object from a decent-sized selection of all-age appropriate items including butterflies, ballerinas and blossoms. She ultimately settled upon a cute, two-piece cupcake trinket holder. A cherry-topped lid adjoins with the cupcake’s base, and now serves as a great place for Rosie to stash her collection of plastic gems.

Our family sat at a ceramic-topped table beside a window overlooking an outside garden of pretty zinnias. The space looks like a cafe, with mix-matched tables and chairs upon a black-and-while checkerboard tile floor.

Daddy teamed with Rosie to paint the cupcake purple and pink, while I helped Max slap blue, orange and yellow paint onto his race car. We all added “sprinkles,” or tiny dabs of paint, to our finished creations. Then I penciled the kids’ names onto the bottoms of their artwork.

The end result lacked luster, but Mike and I knew that after the baking process, the paint would become more vibrant and glossy.

Five days later we returned to retrieve our creations from a shelf of finished projects. They looked fantastic! Now the trick will be keeping them safe and in one piece at home.

“We can always make them again if they break,” Rosie says.

The Clay Café is located at 1644 W. 5th Ave. in Grandview. Hours are noon-9 p.m., Tuesday-Friday; 11 a.m.-6 p.m., Saturday; and noon-5 p.m., Sunday.

For more information, visit claycafecolumbus.com.

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Krema Nut

Satisfy your PB&J craving at small nut company


A peanut butter and jelly sandwich seems to taste better when somebody else makes it. You can find one of the best around central Ohio at the Krema Nut Co. in the Columbus suburb of Grandview Heights.

“Welcome to the Nut House,” reads a sign outside Krema Nut, a peanut-butter manufacturer and retail shop at 1000 W. Goodale Blvd. The small company has been producing and selling the creamy (and crunchy) delight since 1898, making it the oldest continuously operating peanut butter producer in the United States.

It’s a fun place for families to visit because they can tour the small factory and later enjoy a great sandwich.

When I recently visited Krema Nut with my brother-in-law, David, and my 2-year-old daughter, Rosie, we sampled a $5 treat they call the Classic Old Timer. They started with two thick slices of fresh bread from the Great Harvest Bread Co. One slice was smothered in Krema’s crunchy peanut butter, made simply of roasted Spanish nuts that have been slowly ground.

Next came a layer of strawberry preserves supplied by Urbana, Ohio-based gourmet producer Robert Rothschild Farm. The fixings were topped with fresh, sliced strawberries. Our sandwich was diagonally sliced and neatly wrapped in wax paper.

Delicious.

“We work hard to make certain that all the ingredients are always the freshest and best they can be,” says Brian Giunta, Krema Nut’s senior vice president.

Even though Krema Nut is located in primarily an industrial corridor of Grandview Heights, walk-in traffic for the sandwiches typically is brisk.

“The lunch hour from 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m., is quite busy,” Giunta says. “It makes for a quick, reasonably priced, healthy alternative.”

Krema’s peanut butter comes creamy or crunchy. They also sell other nut butters, including almond and cashew. Daring types might want to try the Hot and Spicy Peanut Butter. It doesn’t seem hot at first, but the spices kick in soon after the butter brushes your taste buds.

Giunta told me that he sometimes gets unusual requests, such as the addition of pickles, bacon, mayonnaise, potato chips and pretzels to a P&B sandwich.

“Most people, though, just want a standard PB&J,” he said.

For more information, visit www.krema.com.