The Fantabulous 50s Weekend, Part 8: The Columbus Cuisine Collection

Paella Barcelona!

Paella Barcelona: a party for the palate containing chicken, shrimp, chorizo, calamari, clams, mussels, and more, more, more.

Previously on Midlife Crisis Crossover:

In addition to our annual road trips, my wife Anne and I have a twice-yearly tradition of spending our respective birthdays together traveling to some new place or attraction as a short-term road trip — partly as an excuse to spend time together on those most wondrous days, partly to explore areas we’ve never experienced before. We’re the Goldens. It’s who we are and what we do.

I’ve just now lived to see 50, and after weeks of research and indecision, we planned an overnight journey to the next state over, to the capital city of Columbus, Ohio, which had cool stuff that this now-fiftysomething geek wanted to see. Columbus, then, would be the setting for our first outing together as quintagenarians…

As with all our road trips, mention must inevitably be made of the culinary experiences. We don’t use the “foodie” label explicitly, whose baggage includes an implication of a lifestyle chic enough to afford and live on 21 fancy dishes a week. We tend to suppress our desires to try Something Different — fueled in part by our longtime Chopped viewership — until special occasions come up, such as this very two-day birthday outing. Columbus had no shortage of options waiting for us.

Because we are old now and no one can stop us, lunch on Friday was mostly sugar. From the Center of Science and Industry we took a short hop south to German Village, a historic neighborhood with quite a few small businesses clustered within, as previously noted. Our first stop was a not-exactly-German bakery called Pistacia Vera, purveyor of sweets and more sweets since 2004. Table space was limited, but fortunately in the late afternoon attendance was also limited.

Pistacia Vera!

Right on the corner, with ample neighborhood parallel parking all around. Well, on Friday afternoons, anyway.

Pistacia Vera macaroons!

So. Many. MACAROONS. For starters.

Standing Pistachio!

Decor included a 1990 sculpture called “Standing Pistachio”. I failed to note the art credits.

Pistacia Vera pastries!

Our takeaway: raspberry custard tart, pistachio eclair, creme brulee eclair, macaroons, and cookie.

(One relatively healthier treat not pictured: a garlic and artichoke croissant.)

After some light shopping (more about that in the next chapter) and our Schiller Park interlude, we enjoyed an early dinner on the opposite end of German Village at a fine-dinning tapas establishment called Barcelona, now celebrating their 25th year of service. Around 3:30 I’d nabbed us an online reservation for 4:00 when the doors were scheduled to open. We walked over a few minutes early and soon found ourselves at the head of a line waiting to enter. Apparently we weren’t alone in our eager anticipation, or our delight when they ushered everyone in exactly on time.


Their century-old building — which at various times has housed a rec center, a bowling alley, a pharmacy, and a German social hall — is a mere block from the northeast corner of Schiller Park.

Anne in mirror!

Anne says hi from a nearby mirror.

Escabeche de Sardinia!

The paella in our lead photo was my main dish, but as a starter I ordered one small plate, Escabeche de Sardinia – a sardine with asparagus, shallots, red pepper and garlic.

garbanzo hummus!

Anne went entirely with small plates, starting with some garbanzo hummus with chili peppers, plus rabbit snacks for dippin’, a spot of relief from our earlier sugar intake.

Manchego en Escabeche!

Manchego en Escabeche (cheese, aged three months) and Almendras Marcona (roasted almonds with sea salt).


Her main small plate: Costillas – braised beef short ribs with mushrooms, chimichurri, and cilantro.


We were stuffed, but skipping dessert felt gauche. Hence a restrained epilogue of raspberry and lemon gelato.

Saturday morning of course began with still more sugar, because weekend. It’s good to be the birthday guy! Up the road from our hotel in Dublin (a Columbus suburb on their northwest side) was Duck Donuts, a chain that began in North Carolina in 2007 and as of this writing has 110 locations, including stops in Ontario, Puerto Rico, and Saudi Arabia…though none back home in Indiana. They’re not the first place we’ve seen deal exclusively in fried-to-order cake donuts (see also: Ohana Donuts and Ice Cream in Fishers, IN), but we were curious to see their take on the idea.

Duck Donuts!

Trapped inside a business-park labyrinth that took two full laps to penetrate.

Ollie the Duck!

Their mascot Ollie, who loves donuts and speaks “Ducklish”.

duck art!

More duck trimmings.

Johnny Depp Amber Heard tip jars!

For readers who wish I’d feature more stories ripped from today’s headlines, here’s a look at Duck Donuts’ two competitive and ultimately prescient tip jars.

Duck Donuts donuts!

Our donuts, clockwise from top left: Maple Bacon; Coffee Cake; Sunrise (lemon with raspberry drizzle); cinnamon sugar and vanilla drizzle; Peach Pie; and S’mores.

Full disclosure: I’m not sure they were cooked all the way. Normally I’d considered warm and gooey to be assets, but these felt a tad too gooey, as if someone yanked them out of the oil maybe 15-20 seconds too soon, or perhaps the vat temperature was too low. Either way, the texture was so off-putting that I set my leftovers aside and donated them to my son when we came home later that evening.

Our final meal in Columbus before leaving town was lunch at the Columbus Museum of Art. More so than most other kinds of museums, some art museums take pride in upping their cafe game to entice further spending from the sorts of patrons who frequent art museums more than once per lifetime. Some have upped their game perhaps a bit too haughtily: once upon a time in 2019 we’d made plans to try lunch at the Art Institute of Chicago‘s eminently refined eatery, only to cancel our reservation after I read the fine print and realized they had a dress code, cloaked under a bespoke euphemism that the internet translated for us as “magazine-cover fashion only”.

To our relief the CMA had no such velvet rope posted or implied. Or perhaps we overlooked it and their genteel Midwest manners prohibited flagrant enforcement that might clash with the aesthetics of the numerous artists featured on their walls. Thus we in our weekend gear were welcome at Schokko Cafe, which took orders at the counter in lieu of roving waitstaff, but served fare above and beyond the cut-rate burgers and prepackaged deli sandwiches one normally has to settle for at auxiliary cafes.

steak quiche!

Admittedly my steak quiche was less than wowing. The coleslaw was fine, a nice acidic kick to offset all that egginess.

lamb chops with apple jam!

Anne scored higher with her lamb chops served with apple jam, roasted potatoes and baby arugula.

blueberry BBQ duck wings!

For me the winning bite was our appetizer, a plate of blueberry BBQ duck wings. ‘Sup, Ollie?

To be continued! Other chapters in this very special MCC miniseries:

Part 1: The Merry Marvel Museum Menagerie
Part 2: Mighty Marvel Cinemania
Part 3: How to Draw Comics the Marvel Way
Part 4: COSI All Around
Part 5: Schiller Park Intermezzo
Part 6: Lichtenstein Pre-Pop
Part 7: All Around the CMA
Part 9: Arts in Columbus
Part 10: Sir, This is a Wendy’s
Coda: Happy Birthday, Captain Janeway

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