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Restaurant suggestions for Bulls fans in Columbus

After the University at Buffalo Bulls reached their first ever NCAA Tournament, the school was handed 550 tickets to sell to its basketball fans for the 2:10 p.m. game vs. West Virginia in Nationwide Arena in Columbus, Ohio. Another 300 tickets or so are available on Stubhub.com.

With the five-hour drive feasible as a day-trip, many Bulls backers will still hunt down pregame food or post-game dinner options before hopping back on the I-71.

We checked in with an Ohio State administrator, an Ohio State graduate student, a Columbus native who now works at The Buffalo News and perused the Columbus Dispatch's Dining section for restaurant suggestions and helpful links.

1) The Thurman Cafe; link to menu

Distance from Nationwide Arena: 1.5 miles, 5 minutes by car

Estimated cost: Starters from $5-$10; burgers from $10 to $20

Specializes in: Burgers, with over 20 on the menu

Why you should go: Because if you try the Thurmanator (below), you won't have to eat for three days after.

Most intriguing dish: The Thurmanator ($19.99): The scene: Bottom bun, mayo, lettuce, tomato, pickle, banana peppers, 12-ounce burger, bacon, cheddar, another 12-ounce burger, sautéed mushrooms & onions, ham, mozzarella & American cheese, top bun served with fries and a pickle spear.

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2) Jeni's Splendid Ice Creams; link to flavors

Distance from Nationwide Arena: 367 feet, 2 minutes by car (dude, just walk)

Estimated cost: $4.65 for a small ice cream, ~$7 for a sundae

Specializes in: Dessert

Why you should go: Both Ohio State connections RAVED about it.

Most intriguing flavor: Queen City Cayenne -- Hey! Maybe it's named after Buffalo. It's "velvety, rich, mellow milk chocolate and bright, zippy, back-of-the-throat spice make for a delightfully unusual ice cream. Packs a complex finish that leaves the palate tingly." Yeah, that sounds like Buffalo in a nutshell (or a cone?).

Toasted brioche with butter and raspberry jam. (Jeni's Splendid Ice Cream's Facebook page)

Toasted brioche with butter and raspberry jam is one of the featured winter flavors. (Jeni's Splendid Ice Cream's Facebook page)

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3) Adriatico's Pizza in The Ohio State University; link to menu

Distance from Nationwide Arena: 3.4 miles, 11 minutes by car

Estimated cost: From $5 for a personal pizza to $44 for a Buckeye-sized pizza

Specializes in: I think you already know the answer to this.

Why you should go: The Ohio State University sits only a few miles away from where the Bulls play West Virginia, so since you're already there, it may not be a bad idea to visit if you're keen on stalking Urban Meyer exploring major college campuses.

Most intriguing pizza: The Sicilian pizza has a rather thick, hearty crust. Plenty of topping choices allow you to customize easily.

From the Adriatico's Pizza Facebook page.

From the Adriatico's Pizza Facebook page.

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4) Marcella's Ristorante, Short North; link to menus

Distance from Nationwide Arena: Short North location is just 1.3 miles, ~7 minutes away

Estimated cost: Happy hour prices are half off for select food and drink between 4 and 6 p.m. Monday through Friday. For dinner, you probably should make a reservation right now.

Specializes in: If you're just going to have a beer and a snack for happy hour, the list of draughts is simple yet smart, and the small plates and appetizers look worthwhile.

Why you should go: Cameron Mitchell, who owns 19 restaurants in the Columbus area, seems like a pretty big deal. Plus, we've been told that Marcella's is one of the better happy hour spots in Columbus, and UB's game concludes ~4:10 just as happy hour begins.

Most intriguing dish: Let's pretend that the arancini (fried risotto, mozzarella, $7) is on the happy hour menu (it may be, but we don't know for sure). Runner-up: the braised veal meatball ($9).

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5) North Market, a collection of 35 vendors, including 12 places to dine

Distance from Nationwide Arena: 1.2 miles, ~7 or 8 minutes by car

Estimated cost: Prices vary considerably

Specializes in: A little of everything

Why you should go: Friday's hours run until 7 p.m., giving you plenty of time to browse after the UB game before you head back to Western New York. Polish, Vietnamese and Indian fare is available, plus barbecue, sausage, pasta and sushi in spades.

Most intriguing stop: Apparently the craze now is Hot Chicken Takeover, a pop-up specializing in "perfect" fried chicken [menu]. The truck stops in the North Market between 11 a.m. and 3 p.m. -- plan your trip to include a pregame stop.

A plate of from Hot Chicken Takeover. (via Hot Chicken Takeover's Facebook page).

A plate of from Hot Chicken Takeover. (via Hot Chicken Takeover's Facebook page).

Other suggestions: Northstar Cafe (veg-friendly), Portia's Cafe (veg-friendly), Acre (veg-friendly), Schmidt's Sausage Haus, Katzinger's Deli, Dirty Franks, Skyward Grille, Hudson 29, Cap City Diner

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