32 N. 4th St.
Columbus, Ohio 43215
A labyrinthine, historic structure right in the middle of downtown Columbus, the Athenaeum is a one-time Freemason’s temple converted into an event space with a theme that notes its Greek architecture. While most of its business ends up being private events like weddings, corporate events, and more, it does in fact have a lunch hour when it’s open to the public with a lunch menu. The food here is eclectic, and indeed you have a wide variety of comfort foods to pick from here. But what you’ll sample while you’re eating at the Athenaeum is very memorable to be sure.
This shop has a more limited menu that is available to the public, but for events there’s a much larger variety of options. Some of the things I liked:
- Loaded mashed potatoes: A neat idea here, these potatoes are served in a cocktail glass and you load them up per your taste with scallions, cheese, and bacon bits. Cool.
- Italian Wedding Soup: One of the best things on the menu, and a low-key home run at that, because the proportion of pasta and meatballs to veggies is just perfect.
- Potstickers: Very greasy but served with a great sweet sauce and lots of scallions.
- Sweet potato casserole: Not too sweet but with a wonderful crust of pecans and marshmallow.
- Quesadilla: Served as cones instead of squares. Stuffed with plenty of cheese, tomatoes and onions.
- Prime rib: Served wonderfully rare; this prime rib comes in giant, generous cuts without much fuss. Let the meat speak for itself.
- Tuscan chicken: Topped with a creamy sauce and sun-dried tomatoes that pull a lot of flavor to these cuts of chicken. So much of the flavor is delivered by the chicken being moist and just cooked perfectly.
- Caesar salad: Lots of lemon and salty cheese is the key to make this salad sing.
The venue is, of course, taking advantage of a space that was designed for other things, so in some ways it’s a bit of a creative twist. The largest dining area is the old gymnasium, which while the stadium seating around you seems a bit disconcerting, that giant, beautiful stage and boxes host bands, events and many other things.
While it’s mostly an event venue, this place does open to the public for certain events and lunches, and when it does, it’s an interesting chance to explore one of the city’s historic spaces for something a little more interesting. When you can get a chance to step into these doors, I do think it’s worthwhile to do.
- The spot is open to the public for lunches if you’re looking for that kind of an experience.
- Events would be a more popular option here, in particular weddings.
- Parking is sticky in this part of downtown, consider some kind of alternative transit.