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Restaurant Review: Arepazo Tapas Bar Grille

Miriam Bowers Abbott Miriam Bowers Abbott Restaurant Review: Arepazo Tapas Bar GrillePhotos by Mollie Lyman.
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The new Arepazo Tapas Bar Grille is doing its own thing down in the Brewery District.

Sure, it’s from the same good people who created a legendary joint in Pearl Alley, famous for empanadas and a cilantro sauce that people will spill blood over.

But the new digs are a little glitzier. It’s more Frida Kahlo. In fact, there’s a Frida portrait hanging right at the front of the restaurant, as well as other bursts of color installed throughout the establishment that brighten up the heavy woodwork.

Much like the other El Arepazo spin-off in Gahanna, the Brewery District location offers a very different menu than the one found at the original joint. For example, as the name implies, there’s a developed tapas menu.

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The favorite tapas offering so far has been something relatively simple: Papa Criolla ($7). It’s fundamentally roasted yellow potatoes. Here’s why it works: start with the fact that the skin-on potatoes are tiny. The little tuber jackets are crispy and bejeweled with crystals of salt. The end product has all the intensely likeable qualities of a french fry, but in a petite, round package that pops right into the mouth.

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The Chorizo Al Vino ($6) is good too. It’s simple, like the potato dish. An order provides thick slices of sausage that’s leaner than most, which means it packs meaty chorizo flavor (infused with wine) and less mouth-coating grease.

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Of course, these particular offerings are fairly simple versions of tapas. Some diners need more complex offerings in the small plate department. For them, the tapas menu includes items such as tuna tacos, pork belly with pickled corn and an option called Pimiento Picante ($8). The table jury did not love the P.P. dish. It’s interesting. Crunchy, smushed plantains (tostones) form the foundation for a mixture of diced roasted peppers, plumped capers and an aromatic asiago cheese. It delivers pungent/salty/starchy flavors and textures that are intriguing together: if that’s your tapas priority, there’s your joy. Meanwhile, the rest of the party will fight over the chorizo and potatoes.

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There are formal dining options too, the Mojo Chicken ($13) offers a serviceable breast served with beans and plantains that outshine everything else. For the price, it seems like a fair deal.

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For empanada fans, the lunchtime menu features an assortment of the Divine HotPockets, including Chicken ($5) and the Domino ($3.75), which is filled with sturdy, comforting black beans and cheese. And there’s the cilantro sauce, in two flavors (one is a little hotter than the other). While it would be difficult for anything to live up to the “nectar of the gods” reputation this little sauce enjoys, it is darn good: it has the appealing qualities of a ranch dressing with heat and the fresh zip of cilantro.

You can find the new spot at 515 S. High Street. Happy Hour runs from 4:30pm until 6:30pm and features a cocktail menu with lots of fruity martinis, mojitos and signature drinks. The restaurant itself is open Mondays through Thursdays from 11am until 11pm. On Fridays and Saturdays, it’s open from 11am until midnight. The restaurant is closed Sunday.

For more information, visit www.elarepazolatingrill.com.

Photos by Mollie Lyman of www.fornixphotography.com. Photos are taken at a different time than review, so discrepancies between photos and review may occur.

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