Some might consider sandwich making an art form in itself, especially when it comes to using the right ingredients to create that perfect balance of taste and portion size.
Sandwich lovers, even those looking to walk in the snow, can enjoy ingredients piled on classic sandwiches, like Cuban and club, at the new Ollie & Finn’s Counter restaurant, which has opened inside the Columbia Arts Building earlier this month.
Creating an all-new sandwich shop that brings family tradition to Columbia has always been the dream of Ollie & Finn’s Counter founders, Anna and Ethan Eilermann.
“What made us want to do this is that I always wanted to open a small sandwich shop/café/bar, an all-in-one, since I was a teenager”, Ethan, who is also the boss boss, said.
“Since I started cooking professionally and getting paid to make food, I’ve wanted to take everything I’ve learned and turn it into sandwiches and other accessible food for people. We love Bad Idea Brewing [located in the arts building], I love this building and the neighborhood, and so when the space opened up, we just thought, ‘Why don’t we do this, let’s chase it and chase it?'”
The menu has a mix of options from sandwiches to weekly soup specials and gourmet desserts, such as gooey butter cake, as well as homemade sides and more.
“As small as we are, we’re an in-house ‘from scratch’ kitchen with very few cans or frozen bags of anything. Really the only thing we get that’s frozen is our potato chips,” Ethan said. “Everything else is made from fresh ingredients.”
Opening their own restaurant has been in the works for a few years, and they say arranging for a smooth opening during the recent winter season certainly made the experience memorable, yet successful.
“Timing is everything, and you don’t want to miss a good opportunity, and it felt like a really good opportunity,” Anna said. “We first opened when it snowed, but people were coming out of their homes and walking up West 7th through the ice, and it was a really good day to have customers here.”
Ollie & Finn’s is also the culmination of years of preparatory work to achieve “right” recipes, such as the signature Madre De Aguas, the traditional Cuban version of Ollie & Finn, with mojo pork, ham and Swiss cheese with pickles and mustard on Cuban Bread.
“I grew up in Tampa, Florida, it was one of my staple things, and I ate a Cuban sandwich at least once a week,” Anna said.
“Ethan spent years getting the mojo pork right, and he nailed it pretty much the day before we opened. I almost cried when I first tried it, and I’m so proud of him for knocking him out of the park.”
Ollie & Finn’s is also now the CAB’s official restaurant, partnering with Bad Idea Brewery so patrons can enjoy a hearty lunch with an ice cold brew.
“You can order food from them and eat it here with us, so you can have your beer with your sandwiches,” Bad Idea’s Kassi Fox said. “It’s just another good reason to bring people to the Arts District. It’s what we need.”
When asked how they came up with the name of the restaurant, they explained that the nickname is in honor of two members of their family – only they are not blood relatives, but the furry friends of four paws they take care of at home.
“Ollie and Finn are our dogs,” Ethan said. “And one of the things I love about our menu is that everything is named after a dog we know and love, or a modern-day cryptid, like The Sasquatch, Chupacabra or Madres De Aguas, which is the Cuban. Mother of Water.”
Starting this week, Ollie & Finn’s will operate from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday, which the Eilermanns say will likely be the regular schedule. The CAB is located at 307 W. 11th St.