Plantain Cafe is a little slice of Cuban heaven in Downtown Columbus.
Located on Gay Street, which seems to be the new Restaurant Row in downtown, Plantain Cafe doesn't just cater to the Downtown workforce, it is open on Saturday's as well.
Last week, I ventured to Plantain Cafe with a coworker of mine who happens to be of Cuban descent -- definitely a great measure of authenticity.
Plantain Cafe is a very small space, maybe has seats for about 20 people, and different than its competing restaurant El Arepazo, Plantain Cafe has waitress service. And Coca-Cola products.
We ordered tostones to start. Tostones are mashed, fried plantains, served with a sort of garlic sauce.
I hate to say it, but I wish that the tostones were served with a cilantro like sauce El Arepazo serves. The tostones were nice and crispy, but unfortunately a lot of the plantain flavor was lost, and it needed a sauce to help brighten it up.
Cuban Sandwich: I think a lot of places try and serve a cuban sandwich, with the basic ingredients of mustard, pickles, a white cheese, some sort of pork, and grilled. However, at Plantain Cafe, two types of pork are used (ham and pork), swiss cheese, pickles, and homemade mustard. I am a huge fan of mustard, so the more the better.
For $8, this is a huge portion. Bigger portion than any other sandwich places around. The flavor combination was very nice. The meat was flavored nicely, and the mustard was AWESOME. The sandwich comes with homemade plantain chips. These chips reminded me a lot of my father's, but I prefer my pop's. My dad cuts the plantains circular, and then fries the bananas and seasons them nicely with chili powder and pepper. Here, they were fried, and not season well. But, it was a nice change to typical french fries or potato chips.
Ropa Vieja: I don't eat cow, so one of my friends with me ate this dish. Ropa Vieja is a shredded steak dish, in a tomato sauce that is served with onions and peppers. Next to the pile of meat, is a large portion of rice and beans. I'm told that the rice is not the wussy, uncooked kind, but the delicious morsels that melt in your mouth. For $11, it was a huge portion of meat, probably more than you would get in a steakhouse.
CONCLUSION: Plantain Cafe is a great addition to the downtown lunch scene. Unfortunately, the only vegetarian option is a "sampler" of the three vegetarian appetizers. So, probably not a place to go for the veg-heads out there. The meal I had at Plantain Cafe is good, but El Arepazo definitely has more options (however, Plantain Cafe is uniquely Cuban, whereas El Arepazo seems to be a mix of the different Latino flavors). All in all, it was a tasty meal and I would definitely go again.