Landmark eatery serves authentic German cuisine in historic neighborhood


Schmidt's Cream Puff

Schmidt’s Sausage Haus und Restaurant is a landmark eatery in central Ohio, drawing large crowds daily. Alongside the schnitzel, cabbage rolls and potato salad, you’ll find decadent, half-pound cream puffs and Schmidt’s signature Bahama Mamas – hickory-smoked sausage served on a bed of sauerkraut.

Located in a nationally registered historic site and tucked along a brick-laden street in Columbus’ neighborhood of German Village, Schmidt’s has been the go-to spot for authentic German cuisine for more than 120 years.

My family and I visited on a Sunday, when the line to get your name on a seating list went out the door. We passed a half hour’s time by posing for pictures behind wooden cutouts of a German couple – the male figure wearing lederhosen and holding a beer. We also had time to visit the nearby Schmidt’s Fudge Haus, offering handmade chocolates such as “Schmurtles” with chocolate, carmel, peanut butter and pecans.

  • Schmidt’s Sausage Haus und Restaurant is a landmark eatery in German Village, drawing large crowds daily. Alongside the schnitzel, cabbage rolls and potato salad, you’ll find decadent, half-pound cream puffs and Schmidt’s signature Bahama Mamas.
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When we finally got seated we were greeted by a female server wearing cheery German garb, who made the great suggestion of seating our children in their own double booth, allowing Mike and me and sister-in-law, Mary Jean, to dine comfortably beside them.

Schmidt's serverFor those unfamiliar with German food, I’d suggest ordering the all-you-can-eat buffet, which allows guests to sample a variety of delicacies. The buffet also is offered on the children’s menu, along with grilled cheese without crust and Germany’s version of the hotdog called a frankfurter served on a split-top bun with chunky applesauce.

Schmidt’s has been operated by five generations of the Schmidt family since 1886, when patriarch J. Fred Schmidt ventured to America from Frankfurt, Germany, to open a meat-packing house. The restaurant opened nearby in 1967, serving passed-down family recipes by traditionally dressed servers.

Guests can experience an Oktoberfest atmosphere every Thursday and Friday as the energetic duo Schnickelfritz takes stage, performing German oom-pah-pah tunes on a horn and accordion.

Schmidt’s is located at 240 East Kossuth St., and is open seven days a week. No reservations are accepted.

For more information, call 614-444-6808 or visit www.schmidthaus.com.

Schmidt’s also sponsors Columbus’ annual Oktoberfest in late September at the Ohio State Fairgrounds. Admission is free. Learn more at www.columbusoktoberfest.com.

Explore caves and mine for gems at nostalgic roadside attraction in Delaware


One of the beloved aspects of traveling across America by automobile is the unexpected roadside attractions you see advertised on billboards and barns along your journey.

One such tourist spot I’ve seen promoted for many years in central Ohio is Olentangy Indian Caverns, located 20 minutes north of Columbus in Delaware. It took me more than 20 years to finally visit the roadside caves that I knew nothing about and expected about the same.

Happily, I was wrong.

  • Explore caves, mine for gems at Olentangy Indian Caverns in Delaware.
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My family had a great time exploring an underground maze of passages, mining for gems and striding through the woods. Visitors also can play a round of miniature golf, romp on a playground, shop for souvenirs and learn about the history of Native Americans in Ohio.

The caverns were formed millions of years ago by the force of an underground river cutting through limestone strata. This was Columbus white and Delaware blue limestone, if you want to get technical.

What’s really interesting is that how the holes in the ground were used by the Wyandotte Indians for refuge and by lots of others as hiding places.

Narrated tours and self-guided tours are available depending on the time of year.

We took a self-guided tour, using a map to plot our way through underground passages that lead into open spaces. Some spots have audio.

An explorer by the name of J.M. Adams discovered the caverns in 1821. You can even view his engraving in the rock. As you wind your way underground, you’ll see the echo chamber, a natural air shaft that circulates air every half hour; the Crystal Room, with an impressive “beehive stalagmite” looming overhead; and Cathedral Hall, a 500-foot passage that features fossils on the walls and a 50-foot tower that once was a waterfall.

Evidence shows that Wyandotte Indians used the caverns as shelter from the weather and protection from their enemies – the Delaware Indians. Native Americans used the caverns until the early 1800s, and hundreds of arrowheads and stone tools were found.

My husband liked learning about the culture of Ohio’s Native Americans in the Cave House Museum. The kids really liked romping around the meadow and mining for stones we purchased, complete with silt, in the gift shop. They placed them in a sluice with running water and “panned” for the colorful stones through the muck.

Olentangy Indian Caverns is located at 1779 Home Rd., Delaware.

The cavern is open daily from April through October and on weekends in November. Cost to tour the caverns is $9.50 for adults and $6.95 for children. Children ages 6 and younger are free. Cost of gem mining starts at $4.50 for a small bag of unpolished gems. Golf costs $5.

Be sure to wear sturdy, closed-toe shoes and a jacket, as the caves remain a constant 50-degree temperature. Bottled water is permitted.

For more information, visit www.olentangyindiancaverns.com or call 740-548-7917.

View the cave map here: www.olentangyindiancaverns.com/cave-map.

Walk through a work of art in downtown Columbus


There’s a magical place in downtown Columbus that gets better with age.

The Topiary Park, a 7-acre landscape with 54 figures made of bronze frames overgrown by yew trees, has nicely taken shape since the attraction opened in 1992.

Figures of women with parasols and men with top hats have become pleasantly plump with greenery, and sculptures of dogs, a monkey and a cat have fattened since I’ve last seen them. The attraction, located at the Old Deaf School Park at 480 E. Town St., is a great place for quiet reflection or a fine backdrop for family photos.

  • A visit to the Topiary Park
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My family and I visited the park on a cloudy day, the perfect kind of weather for taking pictures of flowers and landscaping. We began our adventures by stopping at the nearby visitor’s center, where we picked up an information sheet before taking our self-guided tour.

The park is a sculptural interpretation of Georges Seurat’s Post-Impressionist painting, “A Sunday Afternoon on the Isle of La Grande Jatte.” It’s the only known topiary representation of a painting.

I remember the large artwork composed of tiny brush stroke dots from the film “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off.” As a teenager I relished seeing the oil painting at the Art Institute of Chicago.

Visitors can see the work from the artist’s view by standing on a hill near a bronze plaque. The tallest figures, measuring 12 feet, were placed in the foreground, giving the scene depth of field.

A local sculptor named James T. Mason envisioned the attraction. The project took shape in 1988 as James built bronze frames and planted the shrubs. His wife, Elaine, sculpted the topiaries and trained other gardeners to help with trimming. Hills were added later, along with a pond representing the Seine river in Paris, with boats and water lilies.

The park is maintained by Columbus Recreation and Parks and the Friends of the Topiary Park.

The visitor’s center, gift shop and restrooms are located in a nearby chateau-style gatehouse.

The park is the site of a family concert series called PBJ & Jazz, which occurs from noon-1 p.m. on the second Saturday of each month from June through September. Outdoor movies also are shown on select dates from July through September.

(Be advised, though, that the park also is a resting spot for a variety of downtown’s denizens.)

Admission is free. Hours are from sunrise to sunset. On-street parking is available. For more information, visit www.topiarygarden.org or call 614-645-0197.