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Bristol Republic: Short North’s one-stop shop for country

Mitch Hooper

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Depending on when you stop by the Short North, you’re bound to find two vastly different worlds. During the day, it’s busy with traffic, pedestrians walking the sidewalks and periodically checking out the stores, and plenty of eaters gearing up to chow down on the latest of offerings at one of the many restaurants in the area. For the most part, it’s quiet and peaceful—we won’t talk about the pedal wagons and brunchers starting their days early.

On the other hand, there’s the nightlife side of the Short North. Storefronts close up for the day and bars and nightclubs begin the evening with drink specials, elevated bar food, and the occasional themed night. The cars on the road now are taxis, Ubers, and Lyfts, and the pedestrians on the sidewalks are looking for more than just a cute outfit from a boutique—they are looking for entertainment and drinks.

Bristol Republic Owner Brian Swanson (Photos by Zane Osler)

It’s this growing group in the city that Brian Swanson, owner of Bristol Republic, is hoping to tap into with his latest country-themed restaurant and bar that recently opened in late-April.

And with more than 100 different bourbons to choose from, live entertainment acts slotted Thursday to Sunday, and a kitchen staff smoking meats courtesy of training from Smoked On High, Bristol Republic stands as a safe bet (and shorter drive) as a way to channel all the organized and fun chaos that is Nashville right here in The Bus. 

(614) caught up with Swanson to see what’s going on in Bristol, and just why he decided to throw a country-themed venue in the heart of the Short North.

(614): Nashville seems to play a heavy influence with Bristol. What do you love so much about that city?

BS: It’s just such a fun city to visit. It has that fun and laid-back vibe that a lot of people from this area enjoy. It’s very welcoming and it has a good feel to it.

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It also seems like Nashville is a pretty hot spot for bachelor and bachelorette parties.

Yeah and we’ve already gotten lots and lots and lots of requests for those bachelor and bachelorette parties. I think that that’s already proving that to be correct.

So it sounds like you’re really trying to tap into that wild nightlife side of Nashville?

We want to be more than that, you know. Our food is fantastic. We’re not just a party bar. We teamed up with Max at Smoked On High so we have competition quality barbeque. The food is amazing; we have an amazing culinary team here. We smoke all our meats in house daily, and it’s all made from scratch. As far as bourbon goes, we’ve got some of the rarest bourbons you can get so we have a fantastic bourbon list. And the space is as inviting during happy hour, dinner, brunch as it is for late night too. When our brunch starts, we will have live music on Saturdays and Sundays from noon to 3 p.m. with one-man acoustic shows. We’ve got quality talent, we’ve got fantastic food, and we’ve got a great space, so it’s more than just the wild side of Nashville.

How did the partnership with Smoked On High come about?

[Max] just has great reviews! And then their food is just fantastic. I knew I was going to do this concept a year and half ago so I went to some barbeque around town—because you know, we have a lot of great barbeque around town—and I stopped in Smoked On High, loved the food, met Max and loved his story. He’s a great guy, awesome to work with, tons of energy, so I really just wanted to partner with him. And it’s not only just his great food, he’s a great guy.

Did you source a team from Smoked On High, or did your team go through a training process?

I actually have a great executive chef who’s spent some time at the Cosmopolitan in Vegas and he was most recently executive chef at Jeff Ruby’s so he’s got great quality and experience. I put him with Max and Max trained him on his Smoked On High process. He went out and found our own staff and culinary team, and Max comes in and does quality control, shows them how to carve the meat, and answers any questions they might have about barbecue…. Our menu is a little different than your traditional barbeque restaurant, and even different than Smoked On High where he has his traditional barbeque menu items. We’ve got a very diverse menu with burgers, apps, salads, shareables, and desserts. So we’ve kind of expanded on Max’s menu.

And is it also a team collaboration on sourcing all the bourbon?

It’s a team effort. We have a great bar staff and management here. We all bring a little bourbon knowledge to the table, and I did a partnership with Watershed where we did our own private label, single-barrel bourbon which has sold very, very well for us. We’ve got a few people on our staff who drive all around to stores in Cincinnati, Dayton, and Cleveland to try and get these rare bottles.

That’s quite the local powerhouse with Watershed and Smoked On High inside a local business!

I think this lends itself to that Nashville vibe where everyone is just about community, being local, and teaming up to do cool stuff. That’s what I wanted to do here. I wanted everyone to be involved in this and it to feel like a community spot.

Bristol Republic is located on 1124 N High St. For hours, the menu, and upcoming performers, check out bristolrepublic.com. 

millennial | writer | human

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Food & Drink

Restaurant Review: El Lugar and Alpine bring Spanish, German tapas to German Village

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Displayed proudly along the wall behind El Lugar’s bar are rows and rows of canned seafood—not the ingredient of choice one might expect from an upscale tapas and pinchos restaurant, located in a city with a culinary scene that typically fawns over either traditional American, or fresh and local food. Nevertheless, the Espinaler cans of tuna, razor shells, and cockles reside there like a dare for those with adventurous enough appetites to try some of the finest seafood in the world. 

Photos by Julian Foglietti

El Lugar is a shared effort by co-owners Enis and A.J. Ndreu and Elidon Hizmo to bring new and authentic European flavors to Columbus. Their two new restaurants, El Lugar and Alpine, sit next door to one another and provide different, yet complementary experiences of Spanish and German cuisines. One side boasts a more family-friendly selection of meats, cheeses and hearty vegetables, while the other is fresh Mediterranean flavors of citrus and seafood. Both share an intriguing selection of signature cocktails. 

In contrast to El Lugar, Alpine features cuisine that showcases flavors from across Germany. Nicholas Paxton, the executive chef at both restaurants who was tasked with transforming the owners’ vision into menus, is neither German nor originally familiar with German food, so he brought in consultants more familiar with the region to help develop the recipes. “I love the authenticity that we provide here on the Alpine side,” Paxton said. “There’s a broad spectrum of what German food can be.”

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Alpine is continuing the tradition of authentic regional food that has helped characterize German Village, where it and El Lugar are located. The two restaurants replaced Juergen’s Bakery, a community staple that provided Columbus with Bavarian-style fare for 50 years. Co-owner A.J. Ndreu said they’d been looking for a spot in the area to open up another German restaurant (they also own Wurst und Bier in Worthington), so when the opportunity presented itself, they jumped.

“I used to buy all my pastries from Rosemarie [Keidel, Juergen’s Bakery’s owner],” A.J. Ndreu said. 

“We just connected and she’s like, ‘I’d love for you to take over and make a German restaurant out of it.’ ”

With that, he and his cousin launched into bringing to life their concepts for German and tapas restaurants, which they’d been developing for a decade.

One of the most instrumental sources of inspiration for A.J. has been traveling around Europe. He lived in France, where he fell in love with French food. But once he experienced all the different ways Spanish cuisine used seafood, beef and pork, he was convinced otherwise. “I thought French food was the best cuisine in the world until I started going to Spain.”

The simplicity of Spanish food is a challenge for Paxton, who says his tendency when developing a recipe is to mess with its components. Spanish cuisine, in contrast, consists of ingredients that can speak for themselves; all Paxton has to do, he says, is figure out how they work together and wait for inspiration to hit.

Back in 2008, Anthony Bourdain traveled to Catalonia for his show “No Reservations” to explore the same flavors that intrigued Ndreu and Paxton. At a little bar about half an hour outside of Barcelona, Bourdain tried Espinaler’s canned seafood, and asked, “How can any chef do better for you than that?” Ndreu was captivated.

“I was like, ‘What the hell is he talking about? It’s canned,’ ” Ndreu puzzled. “So […] I went, and I was amazed. It’s unbelievable. It’s some of the best seafood I ever ate.”

After that, A.J. spent years trying to find a way to bring Espinaler’s products to Ohio, and he finally uncovered an opportunity in El Lugar. But besides the seafood, El Lugar also features Vermut Lacuesta—not the vermouth used for lining a martini glass, but a wine-like drink to be enjoyed on its own or in a cocktail. It also offers the Spanish serrano and ibérico hams, which can be cured for years. The more expensive of the two, ibérico ham comes from black pigs fed an acorn diet and can take up to five years to reach peak flavor.

Next door, Alpine’s menu describes dishes like leberkäse (a meatloaf) and wurstteller (a selection of sausages). Diners can also order raclette, available by the scrape, over any meal. But not forgetting that it’s still in the United States, Alpine offers a handful of American classics during happy hour. These include mini cheeseburger sliders, tater tots with beer cheese dip, and fried chicken wings, among others. 

Alpine and El Lugar present their guests with foreign foods that encourage diners to explore the culinary diversity of Europe. Portion sizes, particularly at El Lugar, may be a bit smaller, but Paxton hopes Columbus diners will recognize the value in great, unique-tasting food and finding excellence in unexpected places.

“We don’t want you to fill up on it. We want you to taste some amazing flavors that nobody else is doing,” Paxton said.

Alpine and El Lugar are located at 525 S 4th St. in German Village. Find out about Alpine at alpine614.com and El Lugar at ellugar614.com.

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They’ll be nothing to wine about at these 9 local wineries

614now

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Everyone knows that Columbus is a craft beer city, but fortunately for those who never got acclimated to the yeasty drink, there’s wine. We may not have the best climate for grape growing, but these nine wineries around Columbus are breaking down barriers and serving up delicious bottles to vino lovers.

Camelot Cellars Winery | 901 Oak St, Columbus

Camelot Cellars, an award-winning Urban Boutique Winery, handcrafts all their own wines sourcing premier juices from vineyards all over the world. Offerings include retail wines by the bottle, wine tastings, flights, and event spaces.

Via Vecchia Winery | 2050 S High St, Columbus

This family-owned, urban winery is tucked away off a private lane and hosts 7700 square feet of exclusive venue space. With original exposed brick archways, wood ceiling beams and limestone walls, every experience is sure to be unforgettable.

Wyandotte Winery | 4640 Wyandotte Dr, Columbus

Wyandotte Winery is the first and oldest winery in Central Ohio, conveniently located just miles from Easton Town Center. With wines made from Ohio grapes and a beautiful patio to enjoy them on, you’re sure to enjoy your experience at Wyandotte Winery.

Signature Wines | 3816 April Ln, Columbus

Unlike many urban wineries, Signature Wines makes wines predominantly from whole grapes  and juices brought into Columbus from predominately California and Ohio using traditional, small scale winemaking techniques.  Stop into the Winery to enjoy a glass of wine in a comfortable atmosphere.

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Hidden Lakes Winery | 650 Winchester Pike, Canal Winchester

Hidden Lakes offers a delightful selection of house-made, award-winning wines and unique craft beers. Along with beverages, enjoy food from the newly-updated kitchen while taking in the scenic lakeside view.

Cooper’s Hawk Winery & Restaurant | 4230 The Strand, Columbus

Cooper’s Hawk Winery & Restaurants celebrates moments that matter with chef-crafted food, award-winning wines, and life-long friendships. Outstanding wine, modern fare, Napa-inspiring tasting room: Cooper’s Hawk.

Good Vibes Winery | 2 S State St, Westerville

Good Vibes Winery is an urban winery located in Uptown Westerville, offering guests a wine experience, bistro samplings, and a beautiful environment to be enjoyed by friends and family.

Plum Run Winery | 3946 Broadway, Grove City

Plum Run Winery is a family-owned winery focusing on small batches of quality wines made from locally sourced fruit. A 3-acre vineyard located five miles south of the winery provides many of the grapes for the estate wines. Stop by and enjoy the wine and hospitality!

Powell Village Winery | 50 Liberty St, Powell

As one of the first wine négociants in Ohio, Powell Village Winery sources, blends, and produces small lots of high quality vinifera wines from America’s notable grape-growing regions. From bold & dry to sweet & fruity, they strive to create a diverse range of distinct wines for every taste.

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Tuttle Mall getting a lot sweeter thanks to 2 newcomers

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Malls have changed a lot over the years. Remember Waldenbooks? Was KB Toys your go-to as a kid? Heck, even Sears will soon be nothing more than a memory.

While mall establishments are frequently lost to the sands of time, it’s rare that you see a former retailer return to a mall it’s already vacated once. Well brace yourselves, sweets fans, because a gooey, sugar-frosted favorite is making a comeback at Tuttle Mall.

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Of course we’re talking Cinnabon, which was last in operation at Tuttle some years ago, and is now listed as “coming soon” on the mall’s directory. But wait! As tempting as it will be to fill up on cinnamon rolls after this long absence, you’ll want to save room for this other coming attraction: it seems Duck Donuts is also setting up shop in Tuttle.

Hop on the treadmill and give your dentist a heads-up, mall lovers—sweets are back at Tuttle in a big way!

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