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Restaurant Review: Alqueria puts twists on American faves

Mike Thomas

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Bringing a new restaurant to market is an undertaking notoriously fraught with peril—in most cases.

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“We took the keys the last week of October, and we told everybody we wanted to be open by the middle of January,” chef Patrick Marker says of Alqueria Farmhouse Kitchen, which he co-owns with his business partner, chef Jacob Hough. “The way these things usually work out, there are tons of setbacks, and I think we were really lucky.”

There may be some luck involved in avoiding red tape and construction delays that accompany the typical opening, but the smooth sailing enjoyed by Marker and Hough is also the result of countless hours of hard work
and preparation.

As the former home of The Angry Baker, the University District space Marker and Hough chose for their restaurant was already fairly well-suited to their needs. When it came to executing the renovations necessary to bring their concept to life, the duo did much of the heavy lifting themselves.

“It was a lot of long days of us and our bar manager Michael [Marsan], the three of us in here together, just kind of squirreled away,” explains chef Hough of the construction process. “We know everything about each other now,” he adds with a laugh. “There are no more secrets!”

After 10 years working together in the tight confines of a kitchen, it is hard to imagine that any secrets would remain between Marker and Hough. The two met at upscale German Village staple Barcelona, where they spent a decade working together as sous chefs. 

Prior to their shared stint at Barcelona, the two chefs each forged their paths in the culinary arts in their own way. Hough’s is the classic story of learning from his mother and grandmother in the kitchen as a child, often using ingredients plucked fresh from his grandfather’s garden. He attended culinary school at the Pennsylvania Culinary Academy in Pittsburgh right out of high school and has never looked back.

In Marker’s suburban upbringing, food was viewed as a necessity more than a communal family experience by his busy, working parents. He discovered his love for cooking through a high school job as a dishwasher in a nursing home, where he was sometimes called upon to lend a hand preparing meals. A culinary degree from Johnson and Wales in Provincetown, Rhode Island followed, and Marker spent his twenties in kitchens in tourist destinations of the American South, before finding his way to Columbus’ Barcelona.

It comes as no surprise that the marriage of two distinct food influences is the defining feature of Marker and Hough’s new menu. At Alqueria, locally-sourced American comfort food classics are often presented with a Spanish twist, an homage to the duo’s shared history at Barcelona.

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Pan-roasted Lake Erie walleye is paired with gnocchi in a Spanish-inspired green sofrito broth. The menu’s charcuterie offerings bring Spain’s meats and cheeses to bear, while charred octopus—a holdover favorite from the Barcelona days—encourages patrons to push their boundaries outside of the familiar.  

“It’s been freeing, because the constraint was trying to stay in the realm of Spanish cooking,” chef Marker explains of making the transition from Barcelona to his own restaurant. “There were some flavors that maybe we wanted to explore that we didn’t get the chance to. Here, we’re saying it’s American with some Spanish influence, but we feel like we can pull any ingredient in and make it successful.”

Twists on American classics help the fare at Alqueria stand out from its peers in the elevated comfort food scene. Nashville-style hot chicken, the ubiquitous menu item for any modern comfort food joint worth its salt, is here paired with a cheddar and pork-infused waffle. This lunch entree is served with a drizzle of buttermilk dill dressing and topped with horseradish pickle slices for a unique, deconstructed approach to the modern classic dish.

Marker and Hough take a farm-to-table approach to procuring their ingredients, which in their view means always sourcing local ingredients when they are available, allowing for some wiggle-room for creativity when necessary. (You won’t find too many Ohio-sourced octopi, after all). For the two chefs, the farm-to-table mentality extends to the design sense of the space, which is adorned with ample reclaimed barn wood and assorted antique knick-knacks.

Along with bar manager Marsan, who constructed the restaurant’s drink menu of locally-minded beer, wine, and signature cocktails, chefs Marker and Hough are excited to see what the next chapter of their culinary journey has in store. “If you’re seriously committed to a life in the culinary field, I think the idea is that you want to have your own place,” says Marker, with Hough adding of their experience so far with Alqueria, “It’s been a fun journey; we’re living a childhood dream.” •

Alqueria is located at 247 King Ave. Visit alqueriacolumbus.com for a menu and hours.

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Food & Drink

Easton’s “dramatic” rooftop bar and restaurant opens this week

614now Staff

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Heads up, Easton, a snazzy new concept is opening this week. Restoration Hardware, or RH, will open The Gallery at Easton Town Center and RH Rooftop Restaurant & Park and Wine & Barista Bar on Thursday, December 12, at 11am.

According to a release, The Gallery "represents the brand’s quest to revolutionize physical retailing," with "immersive experience features artistic installations of luxury home furnishings in a gallery setting."

The three-story, 55,000-square-foot space will serve as "one of the most comprehensive collections of luxury home furnishings in the world."

The "dramatic" Rooftop Restaurant will offer "a year-round, skylit garden escape offering a timeless, ingredient-driven menu beneath a soaring atrium with retractable glass walls, and sparkling crystal chandeliers.

The restaurant will open onto a landscaped park with outdoor lounge spaces and trellised London plane trees.

Situated just off the grand stair, the Wine & Barista Bar will serve craft espresso, fresh-baked pastries, and artisanal wines to enjoy in the Rooftop Park.

This development will act as the anchor for Easton's new $500 million expansion.

RH Columbus, The Gallery at Easton Town Center is located at 4120 Worth Ave., Columbus. For more information, visit eastontowncenter.com.

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Food & Drink

Italian Lebanese hybrid restaurant coming to German Village

Regina Fox

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What do you get when you cross Italian food with Lebanese fare? Bistrolino.

The new hybrid restaurant will take over the spot formerly occupied by Harvest Pizzeria at 495 S 4th St. in German Village. A December open date is expected.

Columbus Business First reports Bistrolino is owned by Samer Chedid and Francesco Todisco, who worked together at Aladdin's Eatery. As immigrants, Chedid will bring is Lebanon roots to the concept, while Todisco will contribute his Italian influence.

Todisco told Columbus Business First the menu will be small, offering single-serving baking dishes including zucchini parmesan, braciola, and a Lebanese flatbread called man'oushe.

Keep an eye on Bistrolino's Facebook for updates.

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Food & Drink

Taft’s on Draft: Cinci Brewporium opens first Columbus location in Franklinton

Linda Lee Baird

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After hearing all the hype about Cincinnati’s up-and-coming Over the Rhine neighborhood a few years back, I went to see it for myself. The first stop was Taft’s Ale House, a gigantic brewery inside of a church originally built in 1850, fully renovated for guests’ reveling pleasure. After spending the next few hours sampling beverages and snacking on beer cheese pretzels, I was inclined to believe the neighborhood hype. Did I fully explore OTR that night? I don’t actually remember. But I’m certain that I had a great time at Taft’s. So when I found out that Taft’s was coming to Columbus, the news sounded even sweeter than their Maverick Chocolate Porter.

Taft’s Brewpourium Columbus spans nearly 6,000 square feet in the Gravity development, including over 2,000 square feet of patio space. Like the development itself, Taft’s is building an artistic theme into its new offering. “Our actual design is going to be kind of focused on ‘80s/‘90s pop art,” said David Kassling, Managing Partner for Taft’s Brewing Company. “Being that Franklinton definitely has its art roots, we think that’s a great way to ingrain ourself in the community.”

Kassling said that the word brewpourium literally means the place where the brew is poured. That they’ve chosen to make “brewpourium” part of their name tells you everything you need to know about what Taft’s wants to be known for: its carefully crafted suds. The brewpourium will have at least 10 taps serving Taft’s original varieties, including its signature Gavel Banger IPA, which was voted best beer in Cincinnati last March by the city’s residents.

Taft’s will offer a full food menu as well. Kassling is particularly proud to introduce New Haven-style pizza to Columbus. “We’re recreating a style that doesn’t exist anywhere else in Ohio,” he said. (The style is also known as apizza, which is pronounced "a piece," as in, I’d like a piece of that crisp coal-red cheesy goodness right now, please.) Kassling describes it as a cross between New York and Neapolitan style. Taft’s version features our and tomatoes imported from Italy.

Rounding out the menu is another ‘90s-inspired treat, this time in dessert form. Remember Dunkaroos, those cookies that came in a package with icing designed for dipping, perhaps consumed while you watched episodes of Saved By the Bell? Taft’s will serve up Taftaroos, its unique take on the snack.

Kassling plans to use the brewpourium’s large space to offer patrons activities beyond food and drink. The stage will be open for games of darts when not in use for performances. On the floor, guests will find shufflepuck and Killer Queen, an arcade game utilizing 8-bit graphics in line with the old-school theme. Video game fans will also find gaming stations inlaid in the bar, with several retro options to choose from.

With three Cincinnati locations in operation, Kassling is not new to the business. Even so, expanding to Columbus marks a milestone, and one he wasn’t always seeking to meet. “We didn’t necessarily look at this as we needed to expand to a new city or we needed to expand to Columbus,” he said.

But when the opportunity to join the Gravity Project presented itself, Kassling said it proved too good to pass up. “We’re really excited, not only because of the nature of the building being so modern and unique, not just to Columbus, but to anywhere. But also the shape of our space is funky, and that led to different ideas in what we wanted to do with our build out.”

Kassling acknowledged that in coming to Columbus, Taft’s is joining a few of our communities: the community of Franklinton, to be sure, but also the well-established community of independent breweries operating across the city. An installation built into Taft’s countertop will pay homage to this fact, incorporating crushed cans and packaging from breweries like Seventh Son, Land-Grant, and North High. “It’s gonna be totally an art piece,” he said.

Rather than focusing on the potentially competitive aspect of the brewing scene, Kassling emphasized the camaraderie and common goals within the industry. “At the end of the day, craft beer is a great way to bring people together,” he said. “And at the end of the day, we’re all preaching community and good times.”

While Taft’s new location may not be in a church, Kassling’s words are the type of preaching that I can get behind.

Taft’s Brewpourium Columbus is located at 440 W Broad St. in the Gravity project. For more details about Taft’s, visit taftsalehouse.com.

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