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Tastebud Trip: Out of this world empanadas at Andes

Mike Thomas

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Welcome to our ongoing feature highlighting the best international cuisine in Columbus, “Around the ‘Bus in 80 Plates.” Consider this your challenge to try something new!

Situated in the busy 4th street corridor in Downtown Columbus, Andes Bar and Grill stands out from its drab surroundings thanks to its colorfully painted awning and decorations. With a superb and diverse menu of South-American favorites from chef-owner Jorge Nisthauz, the food at Andes stands out, too.

A veteran of the New York food scene, Nisthauz is a seasoned restauranteur with decades of experience under his belt. When family circumstances prompted a relocation to Columbus, there was no question that he would share his expertise with his new community. With the founding of Andes Bar and Grill in 2017, Nisthauz set out to bring authentic South American cuisine to a city that was sorely underserved in that department.

While certain ingredients or preparations are held in common by the nations of the Andes region, each has its own unique culinary traditions. With his menu, Nisthauz set out to represent something from each country that touches part of the Andes mountain range.

The result is what Nisthauz touts as a culinary vacation to the Andes in the heart of downtown Columbus. When I visited for lunch this week, the first stop on my trip was Bolivia, for a traditional saltena.

The Bolivian take on the empanada, chef Nisthauz describes saltenas as a very important part of Bolivian food culture. It is a preparation that he clearly takes much pride in, boasting “they wanted to call me the ’empanada’ king for this one!”

The care that goes into the saltena is obvious at the first glance of its glistening, flaky crust. The insides, which contain a rich mixture of black beans, chicken, and peas, are satisfying in a way that elevates this empanada beyond the territory of mere appetizer. Even if you’ve never set foot in Boliva, the saltena’s hearty filling reminds of the flavors of home.

While I was sworn to secrecy, the chef imparted to me some of the secrets that go into preparing his saltenas. I can assure you, there is no empenada in Columbus that is receiving this level of forethought and care.

Highlighting the restaurant’s vegan offerings, the next course was a salad of mixed greens with diced bell peppers, topped with a blend of quinoa and crumbles of mild white cheese. While the salad itself should be fairly familiar to western palates, the banana-mango vinaigrette that accompanies takes the experience to new (and delicious) territory.

For the main course, chef Nisthauz served up one of the restaurant’s signature entrees: chicharrones moderno. If you see the word “chicharrones” and immediately think “pork rinds,” think again.

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The chicharrones at Andes Bar and Grill are made from thick chunks of sliced pork belly, marinated for 2 days in a proprietary blend of spices. The depth of flavor in this dish is matched only by the varied experience of texture in each bite – crunchy, tender, fatty (in the best way) pieces of pork that explode with succulent juices.

Served with chimichurri and house-made relish, the chicharrones are also accompanied by a simple side of rice and beans. Even in the ubiquitous red beans, the flavor is extremely deep and developed, highlighting the care that chef Nisthauz brings to every detail of his cooking.

With a full bar including South American-inspired cocktails and hard to find soft drinks from the region, Andes Bar and Grill is an ideal gathering place for anyone seeking the unique flavors from way, way south of the border.

To keep things fresh and to help fully represent South American food culture, chef Nisthauz is always adding to his menu, which rotates twice a year in summer and winter. The one thing that remains constant is the commitment to authenticity – no americanized takes here.

In addition to some of the best South American food you’re likely to find in town, the atmosphere at Andes Bar and Grill makes for a fun trip outside of the ordinary. The restaurant’s interior is done up in bright colors, with plenty of regional flair to put you in the Andes state of mind.

Not afraid to step out of the kitchen, Chef Nisthauz is a welcoming host who clearly hopes to make his guests feel welcome. In the time I spent there, he chatted with regulars and newcomers alike as if they were old friends.

Whether South American cuisine means a familiar trip home, or a whole new adventure, Andes Bar and Grill is the kind of place that will leave any culinary traveller satisfied.

Visit Andes Bar & Grill at 79 S 4th Street. For more information, check out the restaurant’s Facebook page.

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Food & Drink

Kick off summer with FREE Krispy Kreme this Saturday

Mike Thomas

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It’s officially summer in C-Bus, which, due to climate change, apparently doubles as monsoon season (thanks a lot, Al Gore).

If you’re still there after reading the words “climate change,” we have some good news. Krispy Kreme, purveyors of those sugary-sweet rings we all know and love, want to help you celebrate “summer” (and the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 space mission) with a free doughnut this Saturday, June 22.

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Free doughnuts might just be the perfect way to salvage a weekend wrecked by rain. As always, please remember to pace yourself!

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Biz + Dev

Signage suggests new eatery coming to former Short North Blick space

Mike Thomas

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A brand new awning sporting the words “Ned’s Bayou” has appeared over the former Blick’s Art Supplies location at 612 N High St in the Short North.

While initial searches have turned up little information about this forthcoming business, we can only assume that this will one day be the sight of a Louisiana-inspired restaurant of some sort.

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Then again, the word “Bayou” carries other connotations. Maybe this will be the Short North’s first-ever spot for gator rasslin’. Only time will tell!

614NOW will keep an eye peeled for more info on this business as it becomes available.

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Food & Drink

Hop On: (614) rolls around in new brewery party bus

Regina Fox

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So many breweries, so little time, so few volunteers to drive your tipsy tush around, right? Wrong! Columbus, I’d like you to meet CBus Brew Bus: a brewery party bus tour that offers a new and refreshingly different way for curious hop heads to experience the local craft beer scene.

It was a despairingly shitty day in Central Ohio when our very strange-looking Uber pulled up to the (614) Media Group office. We all raced to the front to catch a glimpse, giggling at the thought of our impending adventure. 

Our tour was private, meaning we had the whole bus to ourselves and were able to customize the pickup and dropoff locations, as well as the destinations. Public tours, on the other hand, are made up of several small groups that meet in the heart of downtown at City Tavern and visit predetermined breweries. (I know what you’re thinking and yes, the AUX cord is up for grabs on both private and public tours.)  

Photos: Rebecca Tien

Owner Andy Bachman and his wife/tour guide extraordinaire/HBIC Jess greeted us at the door as we took our seats. The inside was decked out with paintings of Godzilla wearing a shirt reading “I Heart Local Beer” and Godzilla wearing a Block “O” tee—both raising foaming pints of beer, naturally. Unlike a real school bus where Kenny from 5C won’t stop kicking the back of your seat, CBus Brew Bus chairs face inward to keep conversations flowing right along with the brews. Between each seat is a cup holder that contained a 6.75-ounce sample glass that we would use to sample three unique beers at each of our three destinations.

Between curiosities of our careers and a mutual interest in beer, we hit it off with both Jess and Andy immediately—a perk of the service before we even shifted into drive. 

“It’s a great way to meet other people who may already enjoy craft beer,” Andy said of the tour. “You might even be somebody new to town or visiting from out of town and it’s a great way to acclimate yourself to the Columbus culture.”

First stop: Zaftig Brewing

We hustled in to avoid the rain and were met by an expecting Frank Shoults, Zaftig Taproom Manager. One of the most special qualities of CBus Brew Bus is the personalized experience you receive at every checkpoint. There were other bar guests upon our arrival, but Shoults gave us his undivided attention as he explained the beers, and waited patiently as we decided on our individual flights of three. 

I’m an IPA girl through and through, but I wanted to use this excursion to expand my hop horizons. I went with the Big Barleywine (14% ABV), Nuts For You Peanut Butter Stout (8% ABV) and Juicy Lucy IPA (7% ABV) because, well, old habits die hard.

While Andy understands that beer isn’t everyone’s thing, he’s confident the CBus Brew Bus can provide an experience even the most inexperienced beer drinker can appreciate. 

“Through this tour, you get to sample nine different types of beer and there’s usually something within that range that people will grab onto,” he assured. “There’s something for everybody. Don’t fear the beer!” 

We sipped and gossiped until Shoults came over and invited us on a tour of the Zaftig brewing facility. We learned about cultures, yeast, the canning process, and the importance of having a CFO (chief feline officer—follow Hops on Instagram at @zaftighops).

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Second stop: Parsons North 

Jess popped the top of our crowler of Sweet Lucy and officially christened our trip with its first road beers before we were even clear of the Zaftig parking lot. You can throw a rock from pretty much anywhere in Columbus and hit a drinking establishment, but there’s just something about sipping on an ice-cold IPA with your buddies while doing 65 down I-71 South. Beer tastes better while you’re doing a mile a minute. Amirite?

It was becoming crystal clear that the three seemingly small samples at each brewery + to-go beers between stops were going to add up quickly.

Like at Zaftig, our bartender was also ready and waiting for us with an ice-cold pitcher when we tipsily traipsed into Parsons North. Mulberry Saison (7% ABV), American Stout (5% ABV), and Grapefruit Wheat (6% ABV) were the three beers we were treated to—none of which I would have ordered on my own accord, but were all brews I’d drink again. 

Andy, now retired from Columbus City Schools, was first introduced to craft beer during his residency in Boulder, CO and, more specifically, his experience with Boulder Beer Company about 20 years ago. Experimenting with different craft beers has been a muse of mine for about five years now. Andy, however, is a pioneer of sorts.  

“From that point on, I was pretty anti-domestic,” Andy said laughingly. But, he returned to Ohio in the mid-90s only to discover how far, far behind we were in the craft beer scene. Andy became a teacher but clung to his passion for beer. Without the capital for a taproom or enough knowledge of the process to become a brewer himself, Andy landed on the idea for the CBus Brew Bus.

Third and final stop: Platform Beer Co. 

The trip from stop 2 to stop 3 is what Andy calls the “sweet spot.” What he means is that the riders are experiencing peak fun. I couldn’t agree more. Our small, but lively, group of (614) staffers and Jess—who was going beer sample for beer sample with us—drank the rest of our Sweet Lucy crowler under-the-light of the green LEDs that lined the ceiling of the bus, and talked and laughed at unnecessarily high volumes until we rolled to a stop at our final destination. 

At Platform, I tried the Seltzer Project: Tangerine-Grapefruit Hard Seltzer (5% ABV) and I loved it. Will it replace my Black Cherry White Claws this summer? Stay tuned. I also had the Mello Hello IPA – Brut (5.4% ABV) and loved it, also. 

By this point, at our third brewery, it was crystal clear that the three seemingly small samples at each brewery plus to-go beer between stops had really added up—tipsy would’ve been an understated adjective for our crew. But, we got way more than a Friday morning hangover out of the deal. Jess was our new favorite drinking buddy, we fell in love with several new brews we may have never taken a chance on otherwise, we learned the ins and outs of Zaftig’s brewing process, and we bonded with each other in a way that few coworkers get to experience. 

What will your Brew Bus adventure hold?

For more information and to schedule your next trip, visit cbusbrewbus.com.

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