New Arena District spot offers the perfect Columbus sandwich
Walk into Wario’s Beef and Pork at 111 W. Nationwide Blvd. (the former location of Arena Sandwich Co.) and you won’t find any chic Edison bulbs hanging from the ceiling.
No exposed brick. No tasteful potted plants or sleek, retro booths.
The space is mostly unadorned and straightforward. In fact, most customers don’t even go inside: They simply order from a takeout window just off Nationwide.
BROUGHT TO YOU BY
And this is exactly the way head chef and owner Stephan Madias wants things to be.
“We did an East Coast-style sandwich shop for a reason” he said. “It’s just because I wanted a platform to be myself. By no means am I advertising that we’re from the east coast, but I think a lot of my ideals, in regards to customer service and how we portray who we are, comes down to that East Coast mentality.
“I think it roots down to no-nonsense; we take a very raw and transparent approach to running a restaurant.”
And stripping away everything that isn’t central to running an eatery well culminates in one delicious outcome: These guys have been making some of the absolute best sandwiches in Columbus since they opened in October.
For Madias, who has spent his career in the restaurant industry, everything starts with the most important part of the sandwich, the meat.
“I’ve always been very fond of butchery and have more of a meat-centric attitude, focusing on the center of the plate,” he said. “Most times in my household, in the culture I’m from, the center of the plate was always that big protein.”
Taking advantage of his extensive butchery experience, Madias and the Wario’s team process their own meat for sandwiches. From shaving ribeye primals to breaking down pork butts, everything is done fresh daily, and their protein is sourced from a variety of top-notch Ohio purveyors.
“Everything starts from the beginning. It’s as close as we can get besides processing the whole animal—and there are whole animals that we process from time to time as we need,” he said.
“The devil’s in the details. You really can’t cut any corners if you want to know what you’re serving and where it comes from. You really have to just cut the middleman out.”
Additionally, all of their bread is baked and delivered fresh daily from Matija Breads.
Wario’s offers a steak sandwich, an Italian cold cut combo, roasted pork with herbs on a turano roll, a crispy chicken cutlet sandwich, and a vegetarian option. In addition to their house potatoes (with herbs, parmesan, and garlicky Wario’s sauce) and “Wario Spuds” (topped with shaved ribeye, housemade whiz, garlic, Wario sauce, and long hots), that’s it for the menu.
The limited menu allows them to execute each one to perfection.
Take it from me.
While many swear by the Italian (another great choice), I tried the steak sandwich (done “Wario’s Way” with the addition of White American and Provolone), and was positively blown away. At over a foot long, this sandwich was the pinnacle of indulgence, as the medley of beautifully-cooked steak and cheeses was accented perfectly by the generous addition of tangy, savory grilled onions.
And while Madias and his team are serious about streamlining the sandwich process, that doesn’t mean they take a spartan approach to service. The rapport between employees (all friends of Madias) is immediately apparent , and this translates to a warm, familiar atmosphere for customers.
In fact, Madias models Wario’s and its service after one particular deli he frequented while growing up in Cleveland
“When I was a kid we used to go to a place in my neighborhood called Ferrara’s [Imported Foods]. There was Mr. Ferrara, who always sat behind the counter, Frankie, and another guy named Junior. And they knew all of us, my father, my brothers. Just walking in there and those guys knowing what I wanted, or what my father was going to go for, and how particular he was, it makes you feel that sense of home, that you’re part of it. ” he recalled nostalgically.
“We might not have that in-store deli and that guy sitting at the counter everyday and the single-wrapped pepperoni sticks, but we have that same foundation I think, and we’re going to keep that mindset. I want to get to a point where I know my customers’ orders right when they come to the window. We know your name; you’re 10 people back in line, and what you want is on the grill already.”