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Review: Arepazo Tapas & Wine

 Morgan Kelley Review: Arepazo Tapas & Wine
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El Arepazo Latin Grill opened in a Downtown alleyway seven years ago and has become a local favorite both for its authentic South American cuisine and for its off-the-beaten path location. After years of expansion rumors, husband and wife duo Carlos and Carolina Gutierrez opened a second location in Gahanna in February.

Arepazo Tapas & Wine is the full name of the new Gahanna restaurant, and as the name implies, the menu has expanded. Where the Downtown location excels at providing a quick lunch option for office workers, the Gahanna space is more of a full service affair with a full bar, expanded selection of entrees and a tapas menu for tasting. It’s a place to sip Sangria and share a Colombian sausage plate with friends.

The decor is modern, dark and clean. The bar provides a view for patrons interested in catching a fútbol match while ample booths and tables can seat larger groups. The outside of the building isn’t much to look at, with all the charm of an 80s-era doctors office, but the location a block away from the busier Creekside strip mimics their “hidden gem” appeal found in the original Downtown Columbus locale.

The Fish Tacos ($9) include breaded cod served in three flour tortillas, topped with shredded lettuce, corn, avocado slices, chipotle sauce and mojito (pico de gallo) salsa. I found the choice of cod to be refreshing having tasted all too may tilapia tacos at other restaurants around town. The breading was ample and beer-batter like in texture. The condiments were all fresh, and the avocado portions were plentiful. I’d rank these fish tacos pretty highly among those that can be found locally, and for only $3 apiece, they’re affordable too.

The Caribbean Crab Cakes ($10) includes two crab cake patties on a bed of rice, topped with avocado, cheese, mojito and chipotle sauce and served with a side of black beans and fried plantains. The crab cakes had plenty of meat (artificial) without a lot of filler, and the mix of traditional latin spices within gave them a nice spice. The white rice and black beans were well-cooked, though a bit standard, and the fried plantains were a great side. Slightly caramelized on the outside and soft and sweet on the inside.

The Cuban Wrap ($8) is a large flour burrito filled with shredded beef, black beans, rice, lettuce, mojito, sour cream, cheese, avocado and a single slice of fried plantain. I was initially very interested of the idea of a Cuban sandwich converted into a burrito, but upon inspecting the list of ingredients, I should have known that’s not what I was getting. No ham, no swiss, no pickles, no mustard. I hate to say it, but I was disappointed. This was a perfectly fine shredded beef burrito — which could give Chipotle a run for their money — but the misleading name had me expecting something a little different. Next time I’ll probably opt for the Big Mexican ($9) which is practically the same thing, minus the plantain and with the addition of grilled veggies, banana peppers and enchilada sauce.

For dessert I tried out the Lava Cake ($5) which is served with blackberries and a strawberry, raspberry sorbet and a caramel sauce drizzle. The cake was dense and rich, but served in a right-sized smaller portion. The sorbet was absolutely delicious when paired with the sauce and berries. I’d love to try this again with seasonal fresh fruit, or even a mix of tropical fruit more indicative of the South American countries that influence the Arepazo menu.

Overall, I was quite impressed with my first visit to Arepazo Tapas & Wine. It’s less of a second location and more of a sequel to El Arepazo in Downtown Columbus. The new entree additions to the menu hold up just as well as the staples carried over from the original location. The ingredients are fresh, portions are plentiful and the prices are affordable. And of course, the addition of wine and cocktails doesn’t hurt either.

Arepazo Tapas & Wine is located at 93 North High Street in Gahanna, Ohio. They’re open for lunch Mon-Fri from 11am to 2:30pm, dinner Mon-Thur from 5:30pm to 9pm dinner Fri 5:30pm to 10pm, Saturday 11am to 10pm and closed on Sunday.

More info can be found online at www.facebook.com/ArepazoGahannaTapasWine.

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