Wario's time! Meet the Arena District's new, can't-miss sandwich shop
It’s often said that hindsight is 20/20. Well, I'm glad that 2020 will soon be relegated to “in hindsight” status.
As an unforgettable year that many people might largely prefer not to recall dwindles away, though, let’s remember that it wasn’t all bad. For example, 2020 was when a tiny-but-mighty eatery called Wario’s Beef and Pork began crafting fantastic sandwiches and ridiculously good potatoes.
Situated across from Nationwide Arena, Wario’s is still new enough that I mentally excused it on my most recent visit for continuing to bear the signage of its predecessor, Arena Sandwich Co. Like that previous occupant, Wario’s operates from a walk-up window that abuts a little plaza offering a good number of tables. If wintertime al fresco dining isn’t your thing, know that the food travels very well.
Unless you take a bite of it in your car. Because then — I’m speaking from my own glistening-faced experience here — it’ll be hard to get very far without further ripping into the powerhouse, Philadelphia-influenced fare that Wario’s prepares.
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All six of the eatery’s sandwiches arrive in outstanding crusty-yet-supple sesame seed rolls that are locally produced by Matija Breads. Impressive fillings are generously piled inside to create flavor-bomb sandwiches so enormous that one can feed two people.
If you order The Steak ($15), you’ll be getting a huge portion of tender and juicy shaved ribeye with real steak flavor — don’t expect “Fake Umms''-style meat here — flattered by addictive house-made cheese “whiz” and sauteed onions. Bound in a great bun that miraculously doesn’t disintegrate under the weight and moisture of its delicious payload, this sandwich will likely be the best Philly-style cheesesteak you’ve had in Columbus — or anywhere.
Until you try The Steak “Wario’s Way” ($17), that is. This is the same stellar sandwich enhanced with melted white American cheese and a Philly favorite: delightfully earthy sharp provolone. I recommend adding yet another Philly favorite — roasted Long Hots ($1.50 extra) — if you’d enjoy sweet-and-spicy peppers for counterpoint.
The slammable House Spuds ($6) could easily serve four. They’re fingerling potatoes that are roasted, smashed, fried and decorated with herbs and Parmesan, plus textured salt and cracked black pepper. The tubers are served with Wario’s Sauce — think French onion dip aioli.
Wario’s Spuds ($11), the only other side, is an even better potato-based creation that could be a meal — or three — on its own. This wonderful dish is essentially the House Spuds embellished with shaved steak, gooey cheese, roasted-to-sweet whole garlic cloves, Wario’s Sauce and diced long hots.
Italian sub fans should target The Cold Cut ($13), an unbaked but terrific sandwich that’s like a charcuterie board stuffed into bread. Components include high-quality ham and salamis (soppressata and hot coppa), sharp provolone, Wario’s Sauce, salad-like garnishes, plus a scene-stealing spicy house giardiniera I wish were sold by the jar.
The Falafel sandwich ($11) was far from a vegetarian afterthought: zesty and crisp house-made falafel patties harmoniously merged with wispy onions, cucumber segments, lettuce, Wario’s Sauce, pickled onions and tomato butter — an inspired tangy-sweet condiment.
Pork and greens are said to be lucky around this time of the year. Calendar date aside, you’ll feel lucky to bite into Wario’s Roasted Pork sandwich ($14). Emulating the Philadelphia classic, it combines lean but flavorful thinly sliced meat with garlicky sauteed broccoli rabe (brightened with lemon here), sharp provolone and a side of good jus. I strongly suggest enjoying it Philly-style by adding long hots.
Although it contains broccoli rabe, tomato butter, Wario’s Sauce and sharp provolone, the Chicken Cutlet sandwich ($13) with crisp, nutty and herb-kissed schnitzel tasted wholly distinct. Like its menu mates, though, this huge and delicious meal is well-suited to the kind of 2020-ending splurge that we all deserve.
Wario's Beef and Pork
111 W. Nationwide Blvd., Arena District