A chef's Spanish flair

Lupo is one of the most versatile restaurants in Columbus. Here, you'll find a smart selection of food-friendly wines—12 of them chosen to accompany the oysters frequently shucked near a cute little bar—along with well-made seasonal cocktails, flavor-packed tapas (often showcasing seafood) and gigantic meat-starring entrées created to feed the whole table.

The flexible fiesta this restaurant offers, which focuses on the vibrant flavors of sunny Spain, arises through an inspired collaboration between owner and longtime restaurateur Rick Lopez (the owner/chef at terrific La Tavola) and his protégé, Lupo head chef Todd Elder, whose Spanish cooking chops were sharpened at Barcelona Restaurant & Bar.

Occupying a space in The Mallway at Old Arlington, Lupo resembles a bustling and attractive classic bistro with burgundy walls, black booths, blond wooden two-top tables and a very spirited atmosphere. Bonus: Weather permitting, a lovely little patio is offered.

Rather than becoming transfixed by Lupo's excellent chalkboard specials and free-form tapas menu, relax by first nibbling on the crowd-pleasing jamon y queso croquetas and, because dishes often feature chile-kissed, garlic-enhanced and addictive sauces, spring for the good house focaccia for sopping-up duty. Then target a few tapas.

The selection is updated seasonally, but a couple of enduring favorites not to be missed are the sublime octopus a la plancha—a deconstructed paean to paella with a crisp yet malleable toasted saffron-rice crêpe, smoky Spanish chorizo disks, peas and succulent grilled octopus—and the lamb meatball plated with a crisp falafel cake, spicy tomato sauce, yogurt, pea tendrils and pickled onions. For a meatless treat, seek out the memorable sautéed mushrooms (setas al ajillo).

Dining with a group? Dig into the “large format” Duroc pork shank, starring tender meat beneath a dark-roasted crust of spicy and sweet veritable pig candy.