New Kids on the Block

Curated cultural cuisine and unique uncorkings offer diners and drinkers the perfect fall night out.

Ask Pat Fettig, co-owner of Empanadas Aquí, what she’d order at her beloved food-truck-turned-Mason-restaurant, and it would be the parrilla. The platter of marinated and grilled steak, chicken and chorizo, served with tostones, yucca fries and guasacaca sauce is just a glimpse into the Venezuelan cuisine available.

“Save room for a homemade dessert,” she adds. “Like the Tres Leches.” The vanilla cake soaked in a blend of three milks and rum, topped with house-made whipped cream, is a favorite among customers.

Thanks to a love of cooking and authentic family recipes, Pat, along with Brett and Dadnitri Johnson, began their mobile food dream in 2014. Starting with a tasty truck and  a desire to bring the flavors of Caracas—Dadnitri’s hometown—to the Queen City, the trio knew it was sure to be a hit.

 And they were right.

Since then, the owners have expanded their food truck into a brick-and-mortar location in the heart of downtown Mason. And with more space, comes opportunity for more food offerings. Recipes come both from Dadnitri’s childhood and Brett’s creative inspiration. The menu now includes items such as arepas, tostones, tequeños, quesillo, fruit juices, hallacas, pan de jamón, plato navideño, pabellón, asado negro and more. In just a short period of time, some dishes—all made in-house—are already winning awards. The Bad Girl Empanada, the Hairy Arepa, and the tostones boast winnings from the Taste of Cincinnati and the Breeder’s Cup Festival. 

“We’ve brought empanadas and arepas to the people of Cincinnati,” Pat says. “Many beyond the Latin American community now know and enjoy our food.”

It is this spirit of sharing that has driven Pat, Dadni and Brett from day one. Opening in February, two weeks before the mandatory COVID-19 restaurant shutdown, the Empanadas Aquí team proved how resilient they are.

“We began to use the drive-thru window,” Pat says. “The ordering and support of so many of our customers have kept us going. We’ve survived through creativity and commitment and look forward to the day that we can have all of our tables back inside and welcome everyone when they are comfortable."

Live music can be enjoyed outdoors on Saturday evenings, and additional picnic tables have been added for carryout customers. Patio seating is currently available as well as inside seating during restaurant hours Tuesday-Saturday 11 a.m.-9 p.m. Empanadas Aquí also offers catering options for small and large events with or without their food truck.

Empanadas Aquí Café, 322 Reading Rd., Mason | EmpanadasAqui.com

Uncork & Unwind

Love, togetherness and laughter—three things that wine is a catalyst for. And for Mio Vino Manager, Christy Hoskins, three things that the new downtown neighbor to Empanadas Aquí is all about.

“Mio Vino is like a family,” Christy says. “You just pick up the phone and one of us will be there to help.”

Whether you’d like to try a dry cabernet or the new South African blend, you’ll discover your very own “mio vino” thanks to Christy and her team. Teaching others about the craft is perhaps what sets the micro winery and wine bar apart from typical wine stores. Twenty wines are fermented on site and available for tasting—as well as creating. The “try-before-you-buy” mentality is at the crux of Mio Vino’s philosophy.

“We offer a wine making experience,” she says. “You can come in and make your very own batch of wine from beginning to end. I enjoy helping customers define their wine palate.”

With access to more than 100 wines from 13 countries, grapes come from only the finest vineyards and will satisfy any enthusiast.

Choose a house bottle or craft your own personalized wine. Regardless of which you choose, Christy simply wants Mason neighbors to come in and feel comfortable having a glass or bottle of wine. 

“Surviving the pandemic has been tough,” she says. “The support of our communities and our amazing customers has not only gotten us through this, but we were also able to open this second location in Mason.”

As a fill-in bartender at the Deer Park location several years ago, Christy and her husband now manage both locations—everything from the winemaking and bottling to keeping both wine bars stocked and ready for pouring.

And despite only being open in Mason for a short time, Christy is looking forward to getting involved in the community. Mio Vino is planning to host a customer appreciation day to show how grateful they are to the community for their support.

“We couldn’t do this without them,” she says. As vino lovers say, it’s the perfect pairing.

Mio Vino, 312 Reading Rd., Mason | Mio-Vino.com

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