-by Amanda Craig

ArepaWith the promise of patio-friendly days ahead, it’s only natural to day dream about a south-of-the-border Spring getaway complete with delicious food and umbrella adorned drinks. Well, I can’t help you with the exotic trip, but I can recommend a culinary escape to Arepazo for authentic Latin American cuisine and libations.

Arepazo’s dishes range from authentic Venezuelan and Colombian fare inspired by the heritage and culinary experience of owners Carlos and Carolina Gutierrez, to go-to classics like burritos, fish tacos and tostadas. Looking for the quintessential South American experience? Try the Patacon – a ripe plantain flattened and deep fried into a platter for shredded chicken, beef, tilapia or veggies topped with lettuce, banana peppers, avocado, mozzarella and provolone cheese.

My meal of choice was the Pabellon Arepa – shredded beef, black beans and fried plantains pocketed within a maize patty. Arepas are not only a signature menu item at Arepazo, they are ingrained in the restaurant’s name and its more than 10-year history.

Owner Carlos Gutierrez was inspired to open El Arepazo Latin Grill after serving up delicious and very popular Venezuelan Arepas at Festival Latino in Columbus. The original downtown Columbus location is now a lunchtime hotspot in Pearl Alley. In 2010 Carlos and Carolina expanded their operation to a full service restaurant and bar in Gahanna, and in 2014 they opened their largest location in the Brewery District on South High Street.

PaisaArepazo’s owners frequently travel and are inspired by the dishes they try while visiting Colombia, Latin America and while visiting family in the U.S. In addition to Arepas, the menu features family favorites like Guiso De La Abuela – Carlos’ mom’s recipe – a dish first served in the Brewery District location that has expanded to the other locations.

Beyond delicious cuisine, Arepazo serves an international array of cocktails, sangria, beer and wine. My fellow cerveza lovers can enjoy Tecate, Estrella and other Latin American inspired brews. Feeling adventurous and craving something exotic?

“We serve a lot of Peruvian Pisco. It’s starting to get a little notoriety in Columbus, some more places are playing with it, but we started to do it pretty early,” said Arepazo General Manager Amanda Wilburn. “We make Pisco Sours, and then we started to do Peruvian Mules and Peruvian Margaritas.”

Tequila lovers are encouraged to try Mezcal for a smoky twist on the traditional margarita. Brazil’s national cocktail – the Caipirinha – is another favorite concocted with cachaça rum.

Wander into Arepazo on a Tuesday night for dinner, and you may also leave a better dancer. Bailando Tuesdays attract beginners and dance aficionados who are eager to learn Salsa, Bachata, Cha-cha, Kizomba and Zouk. Learn the basics at 7:0Dance Floor 20pm from instructor Stacy Coil, and then put those skills to work during the salsa social that kicks-off at 8:00pm. For a $5 donation at the door you can make Bailando Tuesday your next date night all while supporting a local charity – all May proceeds benefit HeartFund. If your date needs a little convincing before hitting the dance floor, consider it the perfect opportunity to try the aforementioned Pisco Sour (or two) over happy hour.

Whether you are hoping to perfect your Salsa skills, or just looking for a taste of authentic Latin American cuisine, look no further than Arepazo in the Brewery District.

Visit Arepazo online to discover more!