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An NCAA Tournament visitor’s guide on what to do in Columbus

You’ve come to the right spot if you were looking for a guide on where to eat and drink downtown this weekend for the NCAA Tournament

NCAA Basketball: NCAA Tournament-3rd Round-Oklahoma vs Dayton Joe Maiorana-USA TODAY Sports

While on Friday most of the eyes in Columbus will be on No. 11 Ohio State as they take on No. 5 Iowa State in the First Round of the NCAA Tournament in Tulsa, Okla., there will be plenty of basketball going down in Columbus at Nationwide Arena as well. For fans of teams not named Cincinnati, this will likely be their first trip to Ohio’s capital city. If you are headed to Cbus this weekend, we here at Land-Grant Holy Land want to help make sure that your time here is as enjoyable as possible. So, I’ve put together a list of some places to eat and drink in our fine city that would definitely be worthy of your time.

Arena District

Since this is the area where incoming fans will be spending the bulk of their time, I figured I’d start with the bars closest to Nationwide Arena. The absolute closest bars to Nationwide is The Three-Legged Mare, which is your traditional Irish pub, along with Gordon Biersch Brewery, which is just a stone’s throw north. For any fans coming into town who are also hockey fans, R Bar is very close to the arena and definitely should be a stop at some point during your time in town.

Continuing north from Nationwide Arena are a number of bars that serve their purpose as a stop for food or drinks heading to and from events downtown. Brothers and Gaswerks have more of a college bar feel, but both not only have plenty of seating inside, but big outdoor patios if the weather cooperates this weekend. BBR is also in the same area, and also sports a tasty food menu. Novak’s and Callahan’s are both popular stops as well, as they both offer rooftop patios.

My personal favorite bar in the Arena District area is a little bit of a walk, but nothing too far. Just down Nationwide Boulevard near Huntington Park is Betty’s Bar. If you are looking for a dive bar, Betty’s is definitely for you. With cheap drinks and not a lot of lighting, Betty’s would be the perfect spot to drown your sorrows if your team loses this weekend.

Downtown Games and Grub

16-Bit Bar & Arcade is about a mile and a half from Nationwide Arena, but is perfect for those who love a barcade. With over 40 games, which are free to play when drinking, it’s pretty much impossible to not have a good time at 16-Bit.

While 16-Bit doesn’t have any food options, but don’t let that stop you from making your way over there as just next door is Dirty Frank’s Hot Dog Palace, which features over 40 speciality hot dogs. If hot dogs aren’t your thing, Mikey’s Late Night Slice is just a couple doors down from 16-Bit for pizza lovers.

Just a few blocks north on 4th Street is Pins Mechanical Co., which features some other bar games. Foosball, pinball, and duckpin bowling are all options at Pins, and much like 16-Bit, you can down a few tasty beverages while there.

Short North

If you are looking to venture out a little bit from the Arena District, but still not be too far from downtown, I’d recommend hitting up the Short North. Take a walk up High Street, as not only is there plenty of bars and restaurants, but there are a lot of local shopping options that are fun to check out.

If you can’t go too long without tacos, don’t worry, because the Short North has a number of options. Local Cantina just opened a location near High Street and Goodale Street. Just a few blocks north is Bakersfield, which is a place I’ve enjoyed on many occasions.

As you make your way north on High Street, two more great options are Melt and Bodega. If you are going to Melt, be sure to schedule a nap for afterwards, because their incredibly rich food will have you moving considerably slower following your meal. Bodega not only has 40+ beers on draft, but they also have a very tasty menu.

Finally, if your group can’t agree on what to eat, the Short North Food Hall features not only a bar, but three different menus under one roof. El Hefe is a taqueria, Vinny’s Italian slings pizzas, and Burger Bar features burgers (shocker, I know), hot dogs, and brats. This could be a good option for Sunday brunch before heading down to Nationwide, as all three feature specialty brunch items.

Best of Columbus

Are you feeling a little more adventurous and want to check out some of the eats that Columbus is most famous for? The first two stops that come to mind are south of downtown in the German Village area. Schmidt’s Sausage Haus has been in business since 1886. The Autobahn buffet features a number of sausages, along with other German delicacies to feast on. Just be sure to save room for a cream puff for dessert.

Looking to really test your limits? Head to the Thurman Cafe. Beware because there isn’t a ton of seating and there can be a bit of a wait, but it is worth it. “The Thurmanator” is two 12 ounce burgers stacked on top of each other with a massive amount of other toppings, and will push even the most experienced eaters to the limit. Luckily there are other “lighter” options, with burgers that clock in at just 34 of a pound.

I feel like we’ve forgotten about breakfast so far, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t plenty of high quality spots here in town. To get to my favorite you’ll have to head north of campus to Clintonville. Nancy’s Home Cooking is your true breakfast spot. Not much seating, only open until 2:30 p.m. Much like Thurman’s the wait can be lengthy at time, but it is worth it. Nancy’s would definitely be described as the greasiest of spoons when it comes to the food, and it is beyond delicious.

Jack & Benny’s is another Ohio State favorite when it comes to breakfast. The original Jack & Benny’s opened at High & Hudson back in 1994, but those staying downtown this weekend don’t have to trek up to campus to check it out. A couple years ago Jack & Benny’s expanded and opened up a location at Broad & High. If you can’t find something you like when it comes to breakfast at Jack & Benny’s, you won’t find it anywhere.

Columbus Breweries

One of the benefits of living in Columbus is the growing number of breweries that are calling Ohio’s capital city home. Within walking distance to Nationwide Arena are four breweries to wet your whistle at. Gordon Biersch, Barley’s, Elevator, and Wolf’s Ridge all have a fine selection of beers brewed in-house. Wolf’s Ridge is the farthest to walk to of the group, but they’d be my pick if I could only choose one out of this group to go to.

A power move would be to head across the Scioto River to Brewdog and Land-Grant Brewing. Brewdog also has a location in the Short North, so really this is all about checking out Land-Grant. We aren’t affiliated with Land-Grant Brewing, even though we share a name, but they are my favorite out of all the Columbus breweries.

Family Activities

Heading to Columbus with the kids for the weekend and looking to find some family-friendly activities to take part in when you aren’t at Nationwide? Your first stop should be COSI. The science museum and research center is fun for all ages. For more information on what is currently being featured at COSI, check out their website.

A relatively new attraction in the Columbus area is the LEGOLAND Discovery Center at Easton. It is about a 20-30 minute drive out to Easton from downtown, but worth it for all that LEGOLAND has to offer. Plus, there is plenty of other shopping and activities at Easton, so it’s easy to spend the whole day out there if you’re not careful.

If all else fails, just take the kids to Jeni’s or Graeter’s since ice cream fixes everything.

Hopefully these recommendations come in handy and help you enjoy Columbus during your time here. If you have any other questions about Columbus, feel free hit me up on Twitter @BLeez17, and I’ll do my best to point you in the right direction. Also, feel free to tweet at me if your team loses on Friday and you are looking to offload your Sunday tickets for cheap. I might just have the answer you’re looking for when it comes to that too.