Comfort in Columbus
An Interview with Dan Varga

I walked down High Street in the Short North; restaurants, bars, people, and the lively energy of the city surrounded me. I was on my way to meet with Executive Chef Dan Varga of Double Comfort for an interview. I met Dan a few months back when I first dined at the restaurant and enjoyed their signature take on Southern cuisine. In doing research I learned that he impacts more than the comfort food cravings of countless people; he is a community driven individual, passionate about Columbus and all things local.

I was greeted by a very friendly staff member, and I could feel the excitement in the room as the team prepared the restaurant, bar, and kitchen for the night ahead. Dan and I made our way to a corner table to discuss his life in Columbus, both professionally and personally. It quickly became apparent that Dan has geared his life towards giving back to people and the communities he serves, and lives in. Double Comfort donates a meal to a local pantry every time a fried chicken meal is purchased; he chose to live in Hungarian Village to honor his heritage. He’s combined his impact on both neighborhoods to keep the spotlight on Columbus and its urban neighborhoods. To learn more about Double Comfort, Dan, and urban living in Columbus check out his interview below.

Where are you from originally?

Well I was born in Parma, Ohio; and then I went out west for a while, until I was 12. I lived in Arizona and California.

What brought you to Columbus?

I came here in 1990. My dad was a journalist, and he was working for the Plain Dealer and was stationed here.

What is your role with Double Comfort?

I’m the Executive Chef

How did you get into the restaurant business?

I got started in the kitchen with my mom and my grandmother. My grandma is off the boat from Hungry. I grew up and started cooking.

What experiences from the kitchen early on have you carried over to Double Comfort?

I learned a lot of stuff as far as local ingredients and making sure that I know the farmers, and where everything is coming from.

Where do you pull the inspiration from the menu items?

Some of them came from Mary, the owner; she wanted to recreate something that she was fond of in Memphis called Gus’s. You’ve got that influence for some items. I have a Cajun background as far as one of my first jobs; I worked for a little Cajun restaurant.

When I first ate at Double Comfort, we ordered the Johnny Cakes; everyone needs to try them, can you talk about how those are made?

Johnny Cakes are basically cornbread pancakes, you take cornbread batter and make pancakes out of it, then its pulled chicken with Carolina style barbeque sauce. It’s served with our house slaw.

If I were to ask one of your regulars why they keep coming back, what do you think they’d tell me?

Because the food is really good. Anything they get is going to be delicious.

Giving back is a huge staple in the business plan here. Can you tell me more about how you guys live up to that?

Our mantra is “buy a meal, give a meal.” For every fried chicken dinner that we sell, we give proceeds to a local food pantry…I know we’ve donated over 15,000 dinners in the 9 months that we’ve been open.

What is the scene like here on the weekends?

People come in and have a good time. It’s really nice; we have music and the ambiance is fun.

What kind of cocktails can folks come and enjoy at the bar?

We’re trying to build our reputation as a bourbon bar. We have really good mixed cocktails. We have cucumber jalapeño lemonade that we’re doing…we try to change the bar menu up seasonally.

What neighborhood do you live in?

I live in Hungarian Village…I found a house there and have been there for six years.

How did you choose Hungarian Village?

It was more or less me trying to reconnect with my Hungarian roots…

What sort of things do you do for fun?

I like to garden; I work in my yard as much as I can. I try to plan stuff so that I can use it here in the restaurant…Also; I make sausage and sell it all over the city.

You are passionate about helping other entrepreneurs grow their business; can you tell me more about that?

People call me up, and say “I’m opening a restaurant, can you help me out?” If I have the time, I usually do, but half the time I’m already involved in projects…I want to see people succeed, especially if they’re from the South End.

What kind of people make up the community here in the Short North?

In the Short North it’s a good mix; we have a lot of retirees, and then the 30 somethings…because we’re right across the street from the convention center we get a lot of families.

What is this “South Side Pride” I keep hearing about?

We all take pride in everything. We look out for everything. My neighbors know me, and I know everybody. When I go outside it's “hey Bob, hey Tony.”

Is it the South Side or South End?

It’s both to me; I call it more the South Side, but it depends who I’m talking to.

You have a block of free time, you can only travel by foot, and you cannot stay at home…what do you do?

I like to walk to Audubon Park with my dog. If it’s a nice day out, I just like to walk around; usually towards German Village…there is an antique shop that I like to go to called Dina’s. I like German Village Coffee Shop; I was just there yesterday for lunch. I like to visit Thurman’s once a month…

Since you’ve moved to the area, what are some of the major changes you’ve seen?

The crime has gone down…I’m excited about the Market that’s going in, it’ll be like a Farmer’s Market.

Crime is a perception often associated with urban neighborhoods, what’s yours?

It’s not all crime any more. A lot of the people have moved out, and we moved the right people in…they help bring up the community. It’s nice, it’s safe; you can walk around and not worry about it.

What does gentrification mean to you?

Rebuilding the neighborhood and bringing it back to what it was.

Are you involved in any local organizations that you think people should be aware of?

The Hungarian Village Society, I’m part of that.

If someone was on the verge of moving to Hungarian Village, and you’re the last person they get to talk to…what would you say to them?

I would say to get in at the beginning and help build it up. We’re in the beginning stages of gentrification. If you can get in now, buy a house; buy a business, it’s totally going to help [the community].

Let’s wrap up with Columbus word association; I say a topic, you say the first thing that comes to your mind:

Breakfast- Here, actually, Double Comfort

Coffee- Stauff’s

Happy Hour- World of Beers

Parks- Audubon Park

Sports- Buckeyes

Entertainment- LC Pavilion and the Newport [Music Hall]…they always have good shows.

At the end of our interview I felt as though I learned a lot from Dan. I will surely be coming back to get my hands on the amazing food at Double Comfort, and to take advantage of the weekday blue plate specials. In just a short 9 months, Double Comfort is becoming a staple member of the Columbus food scene, recently serving at the annual Short North Gala. We can all look forward to their 1 year anniversary craw fish broil coming up this July. I am grateful to Dan for sharing his knowledge about Columbus, food, and what can happen when you combine the passion for both. Visit the following link to learn more about Double Comfort. Stop by 505 N High Street to visit Dan, bite into delicious Southern food, and sip on their expanding bourbon menu. Also, visit to explore living options in the South Side.











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