With affectionate service and rustic, seasonal dishes, Alqueria is the kind of restaurant you'll want to dine at again and again.
Alqueria Farmhouse Kitchen is the kind of restaurant you want to be friends with. Interesting but unfussy. Current without trying to be cool. Hospitable and warm without being overbearing. When the nearly year-old Victorian Village-area restaurant smiles at you—in the form of a crisp and balanced apple cider cocktail, perfectly seared pork chop or a thoughtful server who brings extra side plates because your dining companion made a comment about wanting to share—you can’t help but smile back.
It’s no surprise to find such a familial vibe at this modest, white-walled and dark wood-tabled establishment. Alqueria is the first restaurant from Columbus culinary veterans Jacob Hough and Patrick Marker, who each spent roughly a decade at Barcelona, arguably one of the city’s most popular fine-dining restaurants. When the duo left their executive and executive sous chef positions in November 2018, they smartly carried with them the three elements that have made their former employer such a mainstay—consistently good cooking, careful attention to seasonality, and knowledgeable and kind service. (Heavy emphasis on the latter.)
Now rotating their shifts between back and front of house, the chefs have traded their Spanish blinders for a more rustic, neo-American view. In fact, I’d argue that the only real rhyme or reason to the food at Alqueria is seasonality, as regional influences bleed together across the menu like the strokes of an impressionist painting, to equally pleasing effect.Like what you’re reading? Subscribe to our weekly newsletters.
Take the walleye with charred Brussels sprouts ($27), easily one of the most successful entrées here. Crispy-skinned and flaky, it has one foot in the Deep South with a heaping pile of heirloom grits (from Shagbark Seed & Mill in Athens) and the other in the Southwest with an electric tomatillo sofrito. On the short ribs dish ($28), a perky red wine bordelaise adds richness, while a Paula Deen-worthy pat of unctuous miso-bone marrow butter melts into the striations of the long-braised beef for extra depth. And the roasted cauliflower ($18), the lone vegetarian entrée, is spiked with fragrant za’atar, charred until crisp and paired with a modestly sweet curried carrot-apple purée.
Elsewhere, you can trust the kitchen to put a positive stamp on common-sounding dishes—like the lettuceless Caesar salad ($9) that’s all crunch from shredded broccoli and Brussels sprouts and sourdough croutons, with potent citric pops from preserved lemon. The ubiquitous hummus starter gets a serious makeover in the green hummus ($7) made with earthy, young chickpeas and smartly topped with a lightly pickled vegetable relish. The warm flatbread, coated in a pungent ras el hanout seasoning, is equally savory, spicy and sweet, and will dance around your palate like fingers on a keyboard.
When Spanish touches do crop up, they strike with lightning-sharp flavor and are not to be passed over. A roasted beet purée with a sherry gastrique cuts through the richness of the pork belly and grit cake starter ($13). The tender and crispy tentacled, charred octopus migas ($14), one of the best dishes I’ve had in Columbus this year, is a menagerie of flavors and textures: still-crisp bell peppers and onions, creamy fried potatoes and croutons that help soak up every ounce of the bright verde broth.
Weeks later and I’m still swooning over the sweet potato bravas ($8)—a special one visit—doused in an herbaceous rosemary, maple syrup and pink peppercorn sauce. I implore the chefs to slot it into the regular rotation.
Despite the consistency in cooking and the attentive wait staff—who speak of dishes with expertise and deep affection—there are a few missteps at Alqueria. Some dishes need more seasoning, specifically the grits in the fish entrée and pork belly appetizer. Others have so much going on, it’s hard to know where to focus.
Take the cider-brined pork chop ($26), a stunning, well-seared, bone-in chop glazed with bourbon. It comes with crisped Brussels sprouts and two different purées—a rather-sweet sweet potato and a silky, earthy roasted beet—that feel at odds with one another. The same could go for the Brussels sprouts appetizer ($11), a must-try to be sure, with a restrained toss in an apricot gastrique and smoky blue cheese. But I couldn’t figure out why it needed crunch from both corn nuts and marcona almonds.
The cassoulet ($27) is, unfortunately, the biggest casualty. A lovely confit duck leg and al dente pinto beans are outshined by smoked sausage and slices of pork belly that clash like territorial bucks, catching my palate in the salty stampede. Remove one of these proteins and this dish handily crosses into the would-order-again-and-again column.
Cocktails, as well-composed as the best dishes on the menu, are a sure way to start every meal on a high note. The Live Appley ($11) is dry and brisk, like fall incarnate. The Smoking Silo ($10) is a great option for something a little more complex, a smooth balance of mezcal, sherry, nocino and egg white, styled with a smoking cinnamon stick on the rim.
I so appreciate the accessibility of the wine list with $10 or less pours and a focus on smaller vineyards. It’s a thoughtful array intentionally designed to pair with the menu. It’s not flashy but isn’t predictable either. A few by-the-glass standouts include the crisp Hopler white blend ($8) from Austria (pair with the walleye), the good-value Ponga sauvignon blanc (which would go well with the octopus; $8.50), and the Oregon pinot noir from Jovino ($9) that’s got enough backbone to stand up to the short ribs.
I hate to ding Alqueria on the atmosphere—it’s an awkward two-room setup that the previous tenants (Till, The Angry Baker) never really figured out how to use either. Alqueria is, unfortunately, not the exception with its strange mix of vintage farmhouse tools, framed feed bags and local art that feels designed to take up space more than inject character. Harsh track lighting doesn’t help, distracting from the warmth of the restaurant.
But here’s the good news: Once your food arrives, you’ll be lost in what’s on your plate. Because you’ve come to Alqueria for gracious and knowledgeable service, cocktails that shine and beautiful, seasonal food.