Writer: Amelia Jeffers
Photos: James Henthorn & Barcelona Restaurant
If there was an award in the Columbus restaurant scene for consistency, it would be hanging on the historic walls of an unassuming pair of buildings at the corner of Whittier and Jaeger in German Village. Barcelona, the spanish-fusion restaurant that has occupied the site for over 20 years, has consistently received high reviews across multiple online review sites, has been included in most (if not all) of the top 10 lists of Columbus restaurants for the past decade, and has been awarded Wine Spectator’s Award of Excellence every year since 2005 for it’s nearly 1100 bottle inventory of California and Spanish wines. If you select dinner spots on a risk/reward ratio, Barcelona is a pretty sure bet.
The buildings occupied by Barcelona boast a legacy of consistency, as well. For over 100 years, the structures have been associated with food and drink (with the notable exception of the Prohibition era, when they became a grocery and pharmacy). Originally built by the Bunswick Company in 1895, the grand oak bar was once used here by The Hoster Brewing Company. While historic preservation generally has to take a back seat to function when designing a restaurant, great care has been made to maintain as much of the site’s integrity as possible, including the wonderful tin ceilings. A nod to the illustrious gartens throughout the surrounding village, the award-winning patio is planted and maintained by the Barcelona staff. Adding to the ambiance is a rotating selection of works by a featured artist, selected by owner (and self-proclaimed “most frequent diner”), Scott Heimlich. The works line the brick focal wall opposite the bar, and are available for purchase. The atmosphere throughout is relaxed but sophisticated.
Few restaurants offer diners the option of joining a fan club, but at Barcelona, it is not only an option, it boasts a strong numbers. The Los Amigos de Lona is an annual membership that offers a Chef’s muse to start each meal, retail pricing on the impressive and extensive wine list, a 25% discount, and an extra bonus during gift card sales. Of course, for those who don’t get out enough to maximize the benefits of the club, notable specials offered by Barcelona include “Un-wine’d Sundays” (retail pricing on all wines), a generous happy hour ($5 tapas and $4 cocktails), Tapas Tuesday (half-price tapas on the first Tuesday of each month), and the Siesta Fiesta menu offered between lunch and dinner every weekday.
During my visit, muse from Chef Jacob Hough was a tender portabello on a bed of bleu cheese farro, served with a saute of spinach, chorizo chistorra, charred piquillo peppers, and a single, large, perfectly-grilled shrimp. It was accompanied by one of the signature, housemade sangrias (I sampled two), which are frighteningly drinkable and delicious. We were off to a great start! Although we skipped the rotating selection of quesos and charcuterie for fear of filling up, the breadth of selection is notable. From the tapas (small plate) menu, the gazpacho was as delicious as one might anticipate, but an unexpected delight was the Sopa de Melocotón Fría (chilled, spiced peach soup). A selection from the salad offerings, the Ensalada de Rúcula is a delicious arugula salad with roasted pear, beets and squash, pomegranate seeds, candied pecans, and bleu cheese dressed with a delicate cider vinaigrette. The heavenly and poppable Dátiles, bacon-wrapped dates stuffed with chorizo and Manchego cheese, were a hit at home when we pulled out the leftovers later. My server, whose insight into the vast menu was helpful, recommended the Costillas, a braised beef short rib dish with a rich Spanish blue cheese mushroom sauce, green olive aioli, and garnished with crispy fried leeks. Another server-recommended dish, the Migas, may have been my favorite of the evening: fried bread, potatoes, onions, peppers, spinach, and chorizo were the foundation for a simple, sunny side up egg.
Since her recommendations for appetizers were spot-on, I asked for guidance on the raciones (large plate) menu. The most requested entree on the menu? Hands down, she told me, the Vieiras – pan seared sea scallops with bacon, mushrooms, baby lima beans, dates, chile flakes and cream. I opted for the Bacalao, a pan roasted cod with curried potato purée, Basque pepper and tomato pan sauce with white wine, garlic and chile flakes. It did not disappoint. From the variety of Paella choices, we went with the house Paella Barcelona, a generous serving of chicken, chorizo, and seafood including shrimp, squid, clams, and mussels with a delectable sofrito and piquillo peppers, peas with calasparra rice.
Desserts are made daily by pastry chef, Stephanie Kincaid. Selected for our table were the Tarta de Santiago, a Spanish almond cake with dulce de leche, whipped mocha ganache, and crushed Marcona almonds; and the Tarta de Queso, a cranberry orange pistachio cheesecake with cranberry coulis and crushed pistachios. We requested to sample the dessert offered on the Chef’s Tasting Menu, and the exception was granted. The Blondie de Canela was exceptional: the Cinnamon blondie topped by a remarkable housemade rosemary ice cream and cherry rum sauce.
A refreshing note on the dinner menu invites guests to add a “Community Tapa” or “Community Entree” for $10 - $25, with Barcelona matching the donation to benefit the Mid-Ohio Food Bank. The effort is in keeping with the community-minded focus of Barcelona’s owners and staff.
Twenty years is fair justification for bragging rights in today’s competitive restaurant environment, but with the consistent and frequent reviews from Barcelona’s loyal fan base, here’s hoping another decade is a pretty sure thing.
Editor's notes: This article ran in the Jan / Feb 2017 issue of Sophisticated Living Columbus.
As of this note (September, 2020), Barcelona is now offering their signature Sangria to go. For updated information on Barcelona's menus and hours, visit barcelonacolumbus.com.
Barcelona was also featured in the COVID-19 special fine dining recipe feature in the late spring 2020 issue of Sophisticated Living Columbus. You can read that feature here.