Columbus, Ohio is a huge test market for several chain restaurants due to demographics and politics that represent the population of America fairly well at this point in time. It is also the birthplace or headquarters of multiple well-known chains such as Max & Erma’s, Donatos, Bravo/Brio, Charley’s Subs, White Castle, Bob Evans, and Wendy’s. However, Columbus is much more than fast-food and casual restaurants. The capital city of Ohio has plenty of amazing cuisine options that make it an extremely underrated town when it comes to its food scene. One restaurant group that has been integral in the Columbus food scene is Cameron Mitchell Restaurants.
Founded by Cameron Mitchell in 1993, the restaurant group now has a large array of restaurants in Columbus, Ohio with varied concepts, from upscale to casual. Currently, Cameron Mitchell Restaurants features 12 concepts with 31 restaurants, along with future additions in the works. These restaurants include Marcella’s, The Pearl, Molly Woo’s, and M. One of my favorites is Cap City Fine Diner and Bar, which is a slightly more upscale and hip diner than your average joint that has multiple locations throughout the Columbus area.
Cap City Fine Diner and Bar has locations in Grandview and Gahanna, and soon will open in Dublin. All the interiors have a retro feel to it, complete with large red colored booths, flying saucer-looking lights, mini jukeboxes, and giant gum ball machines. Modern twists to the restaurants make Cap City feel more sleek and cool then a regular 50’s diner though. Its locations are large and include a patio for patrons to enjoy their food in the sun. Overall the atmosphere is fun and slightly sophisticated, yet comfortable.
Not only is the interior of Cap City Diner phenomenal, but so is the food! Everything from appetizers to entrees to drinks to desserts are well done at this diner. Cap City is open for lunch and diner every night, with brunch offered on the weekend. Along with mainstays on their menu they have rotating specials each day of the week and have a great selection of beers and cocktails. Some of my favorite cocktails I’ve tried there include the Bourbon Apple Punch (apple & spice infused cider, Bulleit Rye and fresh lemon) and the Pineapple Highball (pineapple infused Finlandia vodka, Tuaca, fresh lime juice, cardamom bitters).
If you are ever to dine in the halls of a Cap City Diner then you will want to first start out with an appetizer, and as long as you like blue cheese then your choice should be the Blue Cheese Potato Chips, which are homemade chips covered in blue cheese, scallions, and Alfredo sauce. The crunchy warm chips along with the rich blue cheese and Alfredo is a stellar pairing. Other great appetizers include the warm pretzel and cheese (beer cheese fondue, honey mustard) and the pepperoni flatbread (zesty Italian tomato sauce, mozzarella cheese).
For brunch Cap City Fine Diner and Bar has similar appetizer options, but has your standard Mimosa and Chipotle Bloody Mary cocktails available. One great brunch entree is the Classic Eggs Benedict which includes poached eggs over thick-cut rosemary ham, toasted English muffin, scallion hollandaise, and home-fried red potatoes. Another one of my favorites is Cap City’s French Toast which comes with seasonal berries, lemon curd, candied bacon, and warm maple syrup that make for a truly indulgent breakfast experience.
While Cap City Diner’s brunch is good, it’s nothing compared to the wonderful entrees they serve for lunch and dinner. Sandwiches such as their Philly Cheesesteak, All American Cheeseburger, and Dinner Meatloaf sandwich are all incredibly tasty. Another one of their best sandwiches is Jake’s Famous Rueben which is on marble rye made with house made pulled corned beef, swiss cheese, sauerkraut, and 1000 Island dressing.
In the end, it is Cap City Diner’s famous large plates that set it apart and leave other diners in the dust. Standouts include the Romano Crusted Chicken and Pecan Crusted Pork Chops. Their Romano Crusted Chicken is crispy fried chicken with garlic buttered noodles and roasted tomato cream sauce. The chicken is cooked perfectly with a savory and crunchy breading that goes well with the rich tomato cream sauce and pasta. Cap City’s Pecan Crusted Pork Chops are encrusted with candied pecans and toped with an apple cider glaze. It’s served with cheddar-chipotle mashed potatoes, spinach, and shallots. The sweet and savory flavors delivered from the glaze, candied pecans, and tender meat make this dish outstanding.
The dish at Cap City that my friends and I cannot stop ordering is of all things their meatloaf. Meatloaf may remind you of the nasty and burnt mystery meat drenched in old ketchup they served you at school lunches. Maybe you think of the singer Meatloaf instead and wonder if he really loves meatloaf. Or perhaps you shutter at the thought of meatloaf because of the Meatloaf Crunch skit in Nickelodeon’s The Amanda Show (see YouTube video below for a blast to the past). I’m here to tell you that Cap City Diner’s meatloaf is not your mother’s meatloaf, it isn’t your nasty cafeteria meatloaf, and it sure as hell ain’t some crunchy and meaty cereal. It is an amazing dish that is addictive like crack, because once you have it you are extremely likely to order it again when you are back. It’s the best dish on Cap City’s menu and no doubt the best meatloaf I’ve ever had!
The Cap City Diner’s meatloaf is tender and juicy, topped with a delicious buttermilk-chive mashed potatoes, sweet BBQ gravy, and some crunchy chili onion rings. It is served on top of a piece of bread with wild mushrooms and broccoli on the side. Everything from the texture to the flavors and combination of ingredients works to make it a stellar entree. This dish made me believe in meatloaf again, and now if I see meatloaf at another restaurant I at least consider getting it to compare with Cap City’s masterpiece. So far no one has topped this beautiful and marvelous loaf of meat.
This upscale diner also serves a different blue plate feature depending on the day of the week. While all the dishes look amazing, the two that I have had have not let me down. On Saturday they serve the Braised Beef Short Rib (roasted brussels sprouts and glazed root crop, cauliflower whipped potatoes, and natural jus) and Sunday they offer the Beef Stroganoff (braised beef short rib, forest mushrooms, caramelized onions, spinach, sour cream, fresh egg noodles, cracked pepper). Both dishes are very excellent options that I wish were on the menu all week.
If you somehow save some room for dessert Cap City Fine Diner and Bar has several delectable options. Great desserts that I have had or tried include their Warm Brownie Sundae, Deep Dish Apple Pie, and Chocolate Covered Peanut Butter Pie. A standout for me is the Warm Banana Bread Pudding made with caramelized banana, bourbon sauce, candied pecans and fresh whipped cream. Cap City is also known for its Seriously Big Chocolate Cake which is a three-layer chocolate cake that is arge as the name suggests. The cake is extremely rich, so I recommend splitting with a friend or two.
The fun interior, excellent service, and large selection of fantastic cocktails, appetizers, entrees, and desserts makes Cap City Diner a go-to place in Columbus. While it has many standout dishes, the plate to rule them all at Cap City is, perhaps surprisingly to people who haven’t yet had it, their meatloaf. I’ll be back in Columbus soon and there is no doubt in mind I will go to Cap City and order the meatloaf. I suggest you do the same and “meat the loaf” that will change your views on meatloaf if in the great city of Columbus.
-Michael Averbook, Foodie Extraordinaire