Who’s up for a day out in the Arena District? We were! Recently, I had the opportunity to take my wife Beth and our two boys on a lazy Sunday to Columbus’ Arena District. Our boys Will (aged three-and-a-half) and Owen (nine months) had never been to a baseball game, and it had been too long since we had seen the Clippers play.
Of course, me being me, we had to start with breakfast, which landed us at the Arena District location of Sunny Street Café. Sunny Street is a smaller chain of casual cafes. Prior to this outing, I had only visited once, when the chain was formerly titled Rise & Dine. There are five scattered around greater Columbus, and this location is the most central, which makes it the most walkable and the best connected to area attractions.
The Arena District location can be found right on Nationwide Boulevard, across from the Arena itself and close to the corner at Neil Avenue.
The restaurant itself is decorated in soft, bright colors: creams and greens and yellows, with punches of Ohio State scarlet and Columbus Clippers blue. The long, thin space is well lit from a wall of windows. There are big rows of booths along both sides and the center of the space, plus a couple separate rooms for private parties. These rooms were wide open and full when we ate there, the place was so busy.
Near the kitchen there’s also a small counter with some stools, so if you’re looking for that diner experience, where you can casually eat and watch the kitchen at work, you can still get it here.
Along the alley outside is a series of tables with umbrellas, so there are outdoor seating options, too.
We started out with basic drinks. I was already heavily caffeinated (the bonus of being an early riser/early coffee drinker), so I ordered up a glass of orange juice.
My wife chose an iced latte drink, topped with whipped cream. It was very sweet. We had to swat Will from it; he’s got enough energy as it is.
Kudos to Sunny Street for keeping a three-and-a-half-year-old entertained, what with the dinosaur-themed, color-in menu and the pack of crayons. A manager later came by passing out balloons to all of the kids in the restaurant: clearly the highlight of the kids’ week. If you’ve never watched a nine-month-old gaze in awe at a helium balloon, you’re missing out on hours of cheap entertainment.
Will is a pancake person (makes his father proud), especially when promised chocolate chips on them, so he naturally asked for Dinosaur Pancakes. Impressive detail in the triceratops shape.
I had been eyeing their Stuffed Biscuits and Gravy or the Chicken Fried Steak, but my sweet tooth won out and I tried the One-of-a-Kind French Toast Crunch. I’ve had a few different versions of crunchy French toast, including some with Captain Crunch cereal. The crunch from this variation comes from a mix of granola, coconut, and brown sugar. Combined with syrup and butter, it’s a very sweet dish, but it makes good use of both the crispy grilled topping and the softer toast interior. Fortunately, the dish isn’t overwhelming huge. Any larger and it would have been too sugary to handle, but this portion is sized appropriately.
Still, I planned ahead by ordering a plate of scrambled eggs on the side.
Let’s take one more look at the French toast. Because you know you want to see it.
Beth ordered the Buffalo Chicken Salad with the fried chicken. Nice, cool greens to offset the Frank’s hot sauce in the batter.
We also ordered a side of good, crispy fries.
When we had finished chowing down, it was time to walk over to Huntington Park for the ballgame. From Sunny Street, the stadium is literally one block away, so we could casually stroll over to it.
That day, the weather was about as perfect as it can get for a baseball game: around 70 degrees, sunny, bright blue sky. Much of Columbus had the same idea, so the park was pretty full.
I grew up loving baseball. My older brother and I collected baseball cards (I still have some goodies stashed away), we followed the Detroit Tigers (I grew up in Michigan), and kept track of all of our favorite players. While I love major league baseball stadiums, there’s something even more engaging and intimate about minor league clubs. The stadiums are smaller, easier to navigate, and the whole experience is really focused on celebrating your town and your team.
I always liked the old Cooper Stadium, but the newer Huntington Park is such a treat. They’ve integrated it well into the landscape of the Arena District, so that it’s easily accessible and gives you great views of Columbus’ downtown.
Our seats were just a few rows back behind home plate, so our boys got the full experience for their first ballgame.
We did everything you should do at a baseball game, including eating Cracker Jacks and cotton candy and playing in the bouncy house.
We even got to see a home run by the Clippers! This is the pitch.
As the game progressed, we had to explain the rules to Will. Why is this guy hitting now? Why is everyone cheering? What is the umpire saying? It brought back a lot of memories of playing and watching baseball as kid.
One of the mascots, Lou Seal, came through our area, but Will declined to say hi.
All in all, it was a beautiful day with the family. It’s nice to be able to park close by and just walk from breakfast to the stadium. I like that there’s a solid breakfast option close to the ballpark; it’s ideally situated for those Sunday afternoon games.
Nick Dekker is the voice behind Breakfast with Nick, a food blog highlighting the best of breakfast and brunch in the Columbus area, and the author of Breakfast with Nick: The Book. He teaches theatre history and dramatic literature at The Ohio State University and is also a co-founder of Wild Goose Creative.