As someone who has lived in several parts of the Midwest for several years, I get it: there’s no good food here! Right? Wrong! During his travels, Anthony Bourdain visited many Midwest cities, often as part of book tours. During these, he always tried to squeeze in a meal or two that helped prove that you can find good food in this region.
Such was the case when Anthony Bourdain visited Columbus once, in Season 6, Episode 15 (filmed ~2009) of No Reservations. This was the only time he featured Columbus on any of his shows.
I made my first visit to Columbus in 2019, and was pleasantly surprised. Even a decade after his visit, I would not have guessed that Columbus had such an impressive culinary scene – and I didn’t visit any of the places he ate. Instead, I saw a widespread commitment to the craft of food and drink, which you can certainly still find across the city today.
In this post, you’ll learn about the two places visited by Anthony Bourdain in Columbus; unfortunately, neither is in operation today. Instead, we’ll need to get creative in the comments to recommend modern and better places instead – and continue proving that cities across the U.S. Heartland have food worth visiting to enjoy.
In this post, I promote travel to a destination that is the traditional lands of the Myaamia, Shawandasse Tula (Shawanwaki/Shawnee), Kaskaskia, and Hopewell Culture peoples, among others. With respect, I make a formal land acknowledgment, extending my appreciation and respect to the past and present people of these lands. To learn more about the peoples who call these lands home, I invite you to explore Native Land.
This post was originally published in September 2021, and was updated most recently in April 2023.
Where Anthony Bourdain Ate in Columbus
In the case of some of Tony’s earlier shows and seasons, the culinary landscape looks much different today than it did in the first decade of the 2000s when he visited. Such is the case for Columbus, where both of the resaturants Bourdain featured are no longer open.
Undoubtedly, they’ve been replaced by more – and more delicious – options as the culinary renaissance has lifted many Midwest cities and challenged Bourdain’s initial assumptions about what you could find in cities like Columbus, Minneapolis, and Milwaukee (all of which were featured in the same episode focusing on this theme about bad food in the American Heartland).
In any case, here are the two restaurants initially featured in Columbus, but I’d invite you to share your recommendations for contemporary alternatives in the comments.
1. Kihachi (CLOSED)
Anthony Bourdain’s first dining experience in Columbus challenges expectations for where you can find true culinary masters in America – it’s not just on the coast.
He sits down with a Columbus-based food critic Michael Ruhlman at Kihachi, an unassuming sushi restaurant where the chef estimates at least 50% of patrons are Japanase. There, Bourdain and Ruhlman enjoy a series of incredible dishes, including boiled Taiwainese Spinash with sake- and soy-marinated herring roe with dried bonito; Abalone with ponzu and steamed abalone liver; Sea squirt with cucumber, vinegar, and soy sauce; Japanese horse mackerel sashimi; Fried mackerel carcass; Tuna collar; and many more dishes too.
I was sat to learn in my research that Kihachi closed at the end of 2018; it looks like an incredible dining experience I would gladly have driven from my home in Cleveland to experienc. Unfortunately, executive chef Ryuji “Mike” Kimura has not been active in any other projects since then.
2. Clever Crow (CLOSED)
The only other place Bourdain visited in Columbus is also closed: Clever Crow, which used to operate its pizza kitchen out of Circus Bar before moving to North Market and ultimately closing in late 2012.
Severral pizzas are featured in the segment about Clever Crow*, including one topped with cashew and red pepper puree with cayenne, peaches, and porkchops and another with mozzarella, provalone, sweet corn, balsalmic red onion, and pork sausage.
*It’s worth noting that we never actually see Bourdain at Clever Crow or eating pizza there. It’s entirely possible he didn’t eat there, but I wanted to include it because it was worthy of being in the show and thus of mentioning – and would have been worth visiting if it were still open because damn those pizzas looked good!
Unfortunately too, I can’t find any evidence of what former Gary Robinette is now doing in the culinary space.
Since I don’t have many suggestions based on the places visited by Anthony Bourdain in Columbus, I’ll open up the mic. Share in the comments those places you think Tony should have visited – or where you’d recommend to him now!