Though I’m originally from Ohio, since moving to Columbus last year I find myself realizing I don’t know much about this state. Outside of the major cities, there are a surprising number of nooks and crannies to explore. This is great news because traveling locally is budget-friendly, and we all know how I feel about budgets. We knocked one cranny off the list a few weekends back when we ventured down to Butler County. It’s less than a two hour drive from Columbus, a bit outside of Cincinnati. Butler County includes several communities that are worth checking out, including West Chester, Hamilton, Oxford, and Liberty Township. A great way to get a lay of the land is to follow the Donut Trail, which features ten local donut shops (only one of which spells it “DOUGHNUT”). If you’re interested in hitting up the trail, you can download a trail passport here.
I like to eat my doughnuts for dessert, so we took a more savory breakfast route. Our first stop was Hyde’s. If you’re looking for a homey, locals-approved breakfast joint, this is your place. Established back in 1946, Hyde’s has the feel of both a diner and a cafeteria, complete with colorful booths and swarms of senior citizens. Hyde’s isn’t fancy, and they are proud of that fact. Their website boasts that most of their customers are regulars, many of whom eat at the restaurant once or twice each day.
The breakfast menu has all the basics covered: eggs, omelets, hotcakes, biscuits and gravy, and even freshly fried bologna. They also make cream pies in-house with flavors changing daily. Pie for breakfast is encouraged at Hyde’s. Overall, homey, comfort food at a great price gets my two thumbs up.
If you’re looking for something a little on the fancier side, you can’t go wrong with Northstar Cafe. Though we have a few Northstar Cafes in Columbus, I’d never had their breakfast! The Liberty Center location is beautiful, with a large bar, gorgeous open kitchen, and a sweeping wooden ceiling. Liberty Center is a a cross between a town center and an outdoor shopping area; this area of the county looks particularly modern and new.
The format at this Northstar is the same as the Columbus locations–guests order at the counter and dishes are brought to the table by servers. I was stoked to see Counter Culture coffee brewing (one of my favorites from NC)! For breakfast, I had the mushroom frittata, which has hearth baked roasted mushrooms, sweet onions, and loads of Gruyère plus crispy breakfast potatoes. I definitely recommend this dish.
For lunch or dinner, you cannot go wrong with Aladdin’s, which has been one of my favorite Middle Eastern restaurants since I lived in Highland Square in Akron. It’s one of those perfect go-to restaurants–great for a nice dinner and glass of wine or great for takeout! Some of my favorite Aladdin’s dishes are the hummus, fattoush, vegetarian sampler, lentil soup, and Mujadara Power Salad (topped with fried onions!).
For dinner (or brunch, really) definitely check out Cozy’s Cafe. Cozy’s seems like three restaurants mashed onto one plot of land. There’s a cozy, farmhouse style restaurant in front, a large industrial bar tacked on back, plus a beautiful outdoor dining area surrounded by trellises and lights.
The menu has a farm-to-fork flair, and includes southern favorites such as deviled eggs, hush puppies, fried chicken, and braised short ribs. There are a few surprising dishes on the menu, like this delightful charred caesar with grilled romaine.
The mussels (when they’re in season) are also a great choice.
Cozy’s is known for their massive cakes, which by my estimation are at least 10 inches tall. We opted for a smaller, gluten-free cupcake instead and were not disappointed!
Just on the edge of Butler County is The Wildflower Cafe. While not technically in the Butler County limits, it’s a great spot on your way to or from Columbus. It was here that I reconfirmed I have a thing for restaurants in old houses. So welcoming! So quaint!
The Wildflower Cafe focuses on seasonal, locally sourced food. The building only seats 49 people at a time, so you’ll definitely want to make a reservation for dinner. We were lucky enough to score the last two seats at the bar by calling ahead.
The menu changes seasonally and showcases both locally sourced ingredients and ingredients grown at the restaurant itself. During our visit, I enjoyed the Wildflower Salad, which came with lemon Riesling crème fraiche and salted nuts. Rick gave the beef tenderloin five stars, and I loved the lobster toast.
Stay tuned for some ideas on fun things to do in Butler County!
A big thanks to the Butler County Visitors Bureau for inviting us to spend the weekend in Butler County. A portion of the above meals were provided by the BCVB. All thoughts and opinions are, as always, my own.