Ohio does food. Ohio does food very, very well.
Throughout the years, several restaurants in Ohio have developed culinary legacies that continue to delight locals and visitors alike over and over again. You know what restaurants I’m talking about. The ones you keep coming back to. The ones who have (literally) gone down in history as iconic Ohio eateries you simply have to experience. The irresistible restaurants that define Ohio. Here are 17 of our favorites:
1. Melt Bar and Grilled (Various locations)
With an array of specialty sandwiches and several shop locations in Columbus and Cleveland, this sandwich joint has made quite an impression on locals. The Melt Bar and Grilled won "Best Sandwich of 2015" in both the Columbus Alive Magazine and Cleveland Scene Magazine. In addition to mouthwatering sandwiches, this shop is known for its "Melt Challenge," which features more than 5 lbs. of food; composed of 13 different cheeses, three slices of grilled bread and a pile of hand-cut fries and slaw. (Pictured: "The Big Popper.")
2. Schmidt’s Sausage Haus und Restaurant (Columbus)
For the best German cuisine in Ohio (and a friendly ghost sighting or two), go to 240 E Kossuth St., Columbus, OH 43206. This popular German Village eatery has been a well-known sausage haus in central Ohio since 1886.
3. Buckeye Express Diner (Bellville)
If you take exit 165 off of Interstate 71, you'll find this iconic not-your-average diner. (Note: Michigan fans must park across the street.) Buckeye Express Diner is located at 810 State Rt. 97 W., Bellville, OH 44813.
4. Tony Packo’s (Toledo)
For a truly epic chili dog, check out this iconic hotdog joint, with multiple locations in Toledo. A strange tradition of displaying autographed hotdog buns began here in 1972 when Jamie Farr of M*A*S*H signed a bun. While that bun is no longer in existence, today the cafe proudly showcases Styrofoam bun look-alikes signed by various celebrities, including five U.S. presidents. The original Tony Packo's is located at 1902 Front St., Toledo, OH 43605.
5. Slyman’s Restaurant (Cleveland)
This downtown Cleveland eatery is home to the best corned beef you can find in Ohio. (Fun fact: This beloved breakfast and sandwich joint appeared on Rachael Ray's "$40 a Day.") An early lunch around 11 a.m. is recommended here to avoid the lunch rush. Slyman's is open Monday - Friday from 6 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. and on Saturdays from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. It is located at 3106 St Clair Ave. NE, Cleveland, OH 44114.
6. The Thurman Cafe (Columbus)
Tucked away in Columbus’ historic and charming German Village at The Thurman Cafe are mouthwatering, overloaded burgers just waiting for a contender to take on the joint’s specialty: The Thurmanator. This beloved Columbus burger and restaurant first appeared on the Travel Channel in 2008 via “Man vs. Food,” and has since then been featured on multiple other shows. The Thurman Cafe is located at 183 Thurman Ave., Columbus, OH, 43206.
7. The Scioto Ribber (Portsmouth)
At this local favorite steakhouse you can watch your steak cook on one of the five wood-fired grills out back. (FYI: A "small" steak is 16 oz. and a "large" steak is 32 oz.) The Scioto Ribber is located at 1024 Gallia St., Portsmouth, OH 45662.
8. Pier W (Lakewood)
This landmark Cleveland area restaurant is suspended over Lake Erie to give customers a cruise-like dining experience. The unique waterfront restaurant serves up exceptional seafood and offers lunch, dinner and Sunday brunch. Pier W is located at 12700 Lake Avenue (Winton Place) Lakewood, OH 44107.
9. Mrs. Yoder's Kitchen (Mt Hope)
For some of the best old-fashioned cooking in Ohio, be sure to check out this Amish Country gem. Mrs. Yoder's Kitchen features a hearty buffet, delicious homemade pies and an at-home atmosphere we know you'll love. It is located at 8101 State Route 241, Mt. Hope, OH 44660.
10. Mike's Place (Kent)
Out of all the unique places to eat in Ohio, Mike’s Place is undeniably Ohio’s quirkiest. From palm trees and tiki bars to Star Wars memorabilia and castles, it’s hard to pinpoint the overall theme of this unforgettable restaurant that truly marches to the beat of its own drum. (When it comes to the food, you'll find a wide variety of hefty American cuisine, appetizers and breakfast served all day.) Mike's Place is located at 1700 S Water St., Kent, OH 44240.
11. Guggisberg's Chalet in the Valley (Millersburg)
Enjoy authentic Swiss, Austrian and American cuisine in the heart of Holmes County at Guggisberg's Chalet in the Valley. It's off the beaten path somewhat, but it's so worth the journey. You'll find it at 5060 OH-557, Millersburg, OH 44654.
12. The Spot To Eat (Sidney)
Both literally and figuratively, this is the spot to go to for a tasty, classic cheeseburger in Sidney. What started out as a chuck wagon more than 100 years ago is now a stationary old fashioned eatery that will make you feel like you've temporarily stepped foot into a Happy Day's episode. The Spot To Eat is located at 201 S Ohio Ave., Sidney, OH 45365.
13. The Golden Lamb (Lebanon)
Ohio’s oldest continuously operated hotel was established in 1803 and holds a unique dining experience, complete with antique furnishings, themed dining rooms and historic rooms upstairs where famous individuals such as Harriet Beecher Stowe and several U.S. Presidents have stayed. Visitors can either dine in The Lebanon Room (pictured,) The Dickens Room, Buckeye Dining Room or The Shaker Room. The Golden Lamb is located at 27 S Broadway St., Lebanon, OH 45036.
14. Berardi’s Family Kitchen (Sandusky)
The unbelievably delicious family-made french fries here have been around since 1939, when they were first served at Cedar Point Amusement Park. Make a trip to 1019 W. Perkins Ave. in Sandusky to try out these iconic fries.
15. The Maid-Rite Sandwich Shoppe (Greenville)
"Home of the famous Maid-Rite, Cheese-Rite and Big Jim," this unsuspecting sandwich shop upholds a strange tradition. Visitors stick their chewing gum outside along the "Wall of Gum" and come inside for what is arguably Ohio's best loose meat sandwich. (Pictured: Big Jim.) This unusual eatery is located at 125 N Broadway St., Greenville, OH 45331.
16. Tom's Ice Cream Bowl (Zanesville)
April Dray/Only In Your State
April Dray/Only In Your State
Since 1950, Tom's Ice Cream Bowl has served up the area's best homemade ice cream. Its homey, 1950s style makes it a nostalgic stop for many. (You can't go wrong with any flavor here but if you like nuts on your sundae, definitely get them. Their nuts are roasted fresh daily and all of their toppings are processed in-house.) Tom’s Ice Cream Bowl is located at 532 McIntire Ave., Zanesville, OH 43701.
17. Swenson's (Akron area)
If something has been around for more than 80 years, there's a reason why. This popular fast food joint features the world famous Galleyboy, milkshakes and fries. There are three Swenson's locations, with one in West Akron, North Akron and Stow/Kent.
What other irresistible restaurants are there in our state that define Ohio? Share your thoughts, experiences and recommendations with us!