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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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Clintonville Brunch Crawl: We dare you to squeeze all 3 stops into 1 day

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Clintonville is lovely this time of year, especially when you make three separate stops for brunch. 

Whether the weather is gracing the charming little burgh with a healthy dose of vitamin D or giving it a couple spins around the Lazy Susan that is Ohio’s climate, a trifecta of morning food destinations is sure to keep your mood afloat.

BLunch  • 2973 N High St.

blunchcolumbus.com

Yes, we know that Columbus now is home to a Drunch AND a BLunch.

Snicker all ya want—if you do, you’d be missing out on one of the culinary scene’s welcome newcomers—a half-day cafe that carries the comforts of a First Watch, but with the sophisticated execution of Tasi or Katalina’s.

The White Family has decades of hospitality under their belt—the family owned Galena’s Mudflats until recently, and dad Jeff has been running the OSU Faculty Club for the past 20 years.

Those two were training grounds for son Jeff, once a young, eager dishwasher and now head chef for the White’s new “daylight eatery and bar.” Mom Jane, despite her own admission that in the family’s tavern-running days breakfast didn’t get served until halfway through afternoon, now relishes an intimate spot where people can maintain their own balance between booze and breakfast.

A full-bar at brunch is a rarity in the peculiar little burg, and positioned near Lineage, Old Skool, and Condado, BLunch could be the perfect starting point for a casual Clintonville crawl.

Then again, you may not have another stop after Chef Jeff gets done with ya. He and the White family have concepted a bennies-and-batter focused menu, where you’ll be sure to come back after a healthy amount of indecision. Me? I’ve been dreaming about the Bananas Foster pancakes (topped with ice cream) and the huevos rancheros over masa cake for weeks. – Travis Hoewischer

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Dough Mama • 3335 N High St.

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Dough Mama is the top of my list for my favorite breakfast joint. I love so much about this place.

The atmosphere is super chill, laid back, and inviting. The food is so so good. I would call it comfort food with an extra sprinkle of love and thought.

From pie to salad, it’s all good.

They use a variety of local and seasonal ingredients and support some of my favorite local delicacies with Dan the Baker bread and Thunderkiss coffee … YUM! They also have a variety of vegan and gluten-free options.

I am smitten with the Gluten-Free Lemon Poppy muffin. This place is my go to for a yummy drippy egg, roasted potatoes, salad, a sweet treat and a perfect cup of coffee.

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My husband loves Grammie’s Sammie and a piece of Maple Bourbon Pecan Pie. I somehow manage to splurge here and feel really really good about it.

Their menu has some great staples but they also always have specials that look and are amazing.

Right now they serve both lunch and breakfast during the day and I’ve heard it through the grapevine that they will soon be open in the evening and serving dinner. I cannot wait to see what delicious dishes they create for that menu. – Jana Rock

Baba’s • 2515 Summit St.

babascolumbus.com

Baba’s is my go-to breakfast spot in Columbus. You can grab a breakfast sandwich on their homemade griddle muffins (aka little pillows of heaven), order a rack of ribs, or in the spirit of Alabama Worley, have a slice of perfect pie and a cup of Thunderkiss coffee.

Their delicious baked goods are made in house, they smoke all of their own meats and their produce and coffee are all sourced locally, though their espresso will send you to the moon.

The service is fast, their team is super-friendly and there are never any pretentious vibes in the super chill atmosphere they have created on the corner of Hudson and Summit.

They’ve made a beautiful impact in their short existence in the SoHud neighborhood, fostering local artistic connections and bringing beautiful new mural art that rotates different artist from the community throughout the year. Don’t forget to grab one of their perfect cinnamon rolls for later. — Vanessa Jean Speckman

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Harvest Pizzeria sowing last seeds in German Village

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Eight years ago, Harvest Pizzeria cropped up in a small space in German Village. Today, the local pizza chain announced the closure of its flagship location.

Harvest Pizzeria German Village will open its doors for the final time on Saturday, April 27th.

“Despite the success of Harvest in German Village and our strong ties to the neighborhood, the owner of the property will not honor our renewal of the lease,” wrote founder Chris Crader in an email. “…the landlord’s demands for a new lease at a higher rate would not allow our little pizzeria to remain viable.

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Crader added that he is proud of the strides Harvest German Village has made over the years, and thankful for the community that’s supported it. He hopes they can return to the neighborhood when the right spot presents itself.

As far as the employees go, Crader wrote that with the success of the other locations, the German Village workers will be able to join a team at another restaurant.

“Harvest sincerely thanks all of its loyal supporters and we hope to see you at our other locations soon,” wrote Crader.

This news follows the announcement of the Grandview Harvest closing back in February. Read more here.

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Crawfish boils claw their way into Columbus Saturday

Mike Thomas

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What’s the deal with crawfish boils? Sure, they’re delicious, but as a true land-lubbing midwesterner, my knowledge of this particular culinary phenomenon is fairly lacking.

That said, I definitely can’t tell you why there are multiple crawfish boils going down this Saturday. Best not to overthink it—just enjoy the experience!

Pecan Penny’s |113 East Main Street
Saturday at 4 PM – 7 PM

Sponsored by Brewdog, downtown BBQ joint Pecan Penny’s is kicking off patio season with an all-you-can-eat Crawfish boil, complete with giveaways and a DJ.

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Rehab Tavern | 456 W Town St
2 PM – 6 PM

Rehab’s own 4/20 crawfish boil kicks off at 2:00. Your $15.75 entrance fee will net you a pint of beer in addition to all-you-can-eat crawfish and fixins’!

Can’t make either of these, or want to try the boil experience before committing to a large-scale event? Check out Kai’s Crab Boil or Boiling Seafood Crawfish—both on Bethel Road —for first-rate seafood experiences you won’t soon forget.

Why are there two crawfish boils on the same day? Why are there two crawfish restaurants on the same road? We may never know, and honestly, who cares? Crawfish is the bomb! Just put on your bib and get crackin’!

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