Tastemakers 2021: What Does the Future Hold for Chef Stephan Madias, Owner of Wario's Beef and Pork?

Erin Edwards
Columbus Monthly
Chef Stephan Madias, owner of Wario's Beef and Pork

It was no small thing to open a sandwich shop in the Arena District in October 2020, a time when the area was almost desolate. But word quickly spread that Wario’s was slinging some of the city’s best handhelds—from its cheesesteak-esque sandwich with house-made “whiz” to its Italian-style cold cut. “We just didn’t have anything that paid homage to that East Coast style of sandwich shop [in the city],” says Wario’s chef and owner, Stephan Madias, a veteran chef who had worked for A&R Creative, the restaurant group behind The Crest Gastropub. While sandwiches are often an afterthought in other kitchens, Madias infuses his with a special reverence. “Just cook like your grandma would,” says Madias, who comes from a large Greek and Lebanese family.

Bread Bliss

Madias typically arrives at Wario’s by 7:30 a.m. “We get the flattop fired up. We’ll get some beef cold. We get our beef fresh, but we put it in the freezer for a little bit,” he says, which leads to nice, uniform cuts. His staff arrives between 9 and 10 a.m., vegetables for giardiniera are hand-cut, chicken cutlets are pounded out, cheese whiz is made daily—no shortcuts. Around 10 a.m. the chef heads to the Food Fort to pick up bread specially baked for Wario’s by Matt Swint, the owner of Matija Breads. Wario’s uses between 200 and 600 sticks (the chef’s word for loaves of sandwich bread) each day, depending on how busy the shop is with Arena District events. “Cutting bread is my favorite part of every day. I get to handle every piece of bread and inspect it, and it’s fresh,” Madias says. “It puts me at peace. It’s like my lullaby.”

The Cold Cut at Wario's Beef and Pork

Saturday Specials

On Saturdays, Madias gets to draw outside the lines. During one epic day in October, he celebrated Wario’s first anniversary with carefully prepared gyro cones, layering marinated beef rib-eye and lamb on a spit. Madias rolled the spits outside while playing Greek music, and his whole family showed up. “I have a gripe with gyros in the Midwest pretty much. … That mystery cone that you see and everybody is so familiar with—it’s such blasphemy to the true thing,” he says.

Discover more of Columbus' food scene:Subscribe to Monthly's weekly dining newsletter, Copy & Taste

On the Horizon

Madias hints that he is working on something new, and it might not be a second Wario’s. Though the chef demurred when asked, our wish is that Columbus gets the kind of gyro shop the city needs and deserves. No matter Madias’ next move, we’re thankful he’s still plying his skills on the Columbus restaurant scene, this time on his own terms. “It’s been quite an amazing year. I know a lot of terrible things have happened during the course of COVID, but it did something positive for me and ... it might’ve saved my career. I almost quit cooking a couple of years ago. I was fed up,” he says. “I’m happy that I had the opportunity to continue to express myself.”

Find more of Columbus' Rising Culinary Stars:Tastemakers Class of 2021

Wario’s Beef and Pork

111 W. Nationwide Blvd.,

Arena District

Speed Round

Age: 29

Hometown: Cleveland, Ohio

What’s something you are excited about right now? “Focusing on reviving old cultural and culinary traditions and their processes”

What does Columbus need? “MORE SANDWICH SHOPS!”

Podcast recommendations: The MeatBucket Podcast; Upperfeast with Anthony O’Connell

This story is from the December 2021 issue of Columbus Monthly.