77 E. Gay St.
Columbus, OH 43215
East Gay Street in downtown Columbus hosts some of the most popular downtown dining destinations, and has been one of the places that was popular with downtown workers even before the current trend of urbanism really brought a lot more restaurants to different parts of downtown. One of those restaurants, Plantain Cafe, has been a mainstay for a few years, offering Cuban food a bit different from the other places on the street, some of which have seen a lot of turnover. But the food! It’s good and it’s well worth a trip.
The menu is pretty extensive. Many of the things there Cuban dishes with few equals elsewhere in downtown. Some of the things I really like:
- Cuban sandwich: A classic in Cuban cuisine! A flatbread filled with slow roasted pork, sweet ham, swiss, pickles and tangy mustard. The bread is a little different than you might be used to, but it’s a pretty true-to-form prep style, and that makes for a very heavy sandwich. Served with fried plantains for good measure.
- Lentil stew: Thick stew with a ton of diced ham inside. The stew is definitely meaty, that thick stew itself is a heavy appetizer, and served with more fried plantains.
- Tacos: Grilled dish, in this case tilapia, piled high with cabbage, pico de gallo, sour cream, avocado and cheese on the top. Served with rice and pinto beans. You can pick flour tortillas but I strong suggest you take the flour route instead. They’re just such heavy tacos as is that a lighter wrap won’t leave you feeling so full.
The restaurant is one of the staples of the Gay Street corridor in downtown Columbus, which is to say that it’s constantly pretty busy around lunchtime. But with the city’s downtown population with a long way to grow, the fact is that there are fewer people here in the evening, so it’s easier to get a table. Many people come through for carry-out, but to be sure this would be a better evening stop.
It might be easy to pass without notice, but there’s a pretty good reason that Plantain Cafe has stuck around so long: because the people who know where to go for a meal downtown know that this place is definitely one to see.
- Dinner is a better time to dine in because the restaurant tends to be less packed in that time, and also there will be meters nearby that stop charging around 6 p.m. or so.
- Carry out is a pretty common option for the food here, too.
- There are some specifically Cuban dishes here that might be less familiar, but I highly recommend them, because those are the most unique things on the menu.