Update: Banana Bean Café relocated to Greenlawn Ave, and then later became Coyote Jane’s with Robin Emrick as the chef. Banana Bean has closed on Greenlawn, but Chefs Kevin and Patrick Caskey (formerly of Banana Bean Cafe) have opened a restaurant in the old Banana Bean space on Whitter. This casual farm to table driven restaurant has received rave reviews – you can take a look at a sample menu on their web site. Highly recommended!
My husband and I have been disillusioned with eating out lately – it seems like so many of the restaurants in Columbus are clones of each other with only minor variations in menu offerings. So when picking a restaurant to try tonight, we decided that we wanted to go somewhere where the menu had items that were unique for Columbus.
Banana Bean Cafe, the only “Floribbean” (Cuban/Jamaican/Key West fusion) restaurant in town, fit the bill perfectly. After perusing their menu online, and seeing so many unique choices, we called and secured a reservation. Parking was typical for German Village – on-street and not too difficult to find.
First things first – a few notes about things we noticed right off the bat. The dining space inside Banana Bean Cafe is *very* cozy – I think they’re lucky if they can seat 28-30 people in the dining room at once. So reservations, especially during peak days, are absolutely necessary. From what we saw, if you’re planning on going on a Friday night, if you want to be seated, you’ll need a reservation. Second, they don’t usually split checks. So if you’re dining with a bunch of friends, one person should be paying and you’ll need to settle up with the person who’s paying.
With those details out of the way – let me get into what makes Banana Bean Cafe really stand out – the food. We started with the Cuban Pork Springrolls with a Sugarcane Chili Sauce ($7), which was very good, but not what we expected. The eggrolls themselves had a very “Cuban sandwich” vibe to them, and the sauce was more of a sweet mustard than a chili sauce. It worked with the eggrolls, however, so this was a winner.
One of the great things about Banana Bean is that their entire menu is always available. My husband and I were both in a breakfasty mood, so decided to go with dishes that are traditionally eaten earlier in the day.
I chose the Bananas Foster French Toast ($9), a huge portion of what I think was Cuban bread dipped in an egg batter and fried, topped with bananas, raspberries, strawberry, and a Captain Morgan spiced rum sauce. This picture doesn’t do this dish justice – the flavor is so warm, so comforting – this is definitely a new favorite for me.
My husband chose one of the daily specials, the “DelMar” platter ($12) – seared spinach, topped with 2 crab cakes, 2 poached eggs, and a charred-tomato hollandaise sauce. Lindey’s has a similar dish, but Banana Bean’s version easily blows it out of the water. Everything was cooked perfectly, and the different components of this dish came together in unison nicely.
Since we were eating breakfast type foods, we decided to get a couple of different breakfast type sides to go with it, because they sounded so interesting.
The Stone-Ground Goat Cheese Grits ($3) is a creamy, rich conglomeration of the best grits I’ve tasted in my lifetime. These would be excellent with a meat-based dish as well, and are a true value at this price.
My husband and I were almost fighting over the Applewood Smoked Bacon ($4) – ever notice that most places either overcook or undercook bacon? Not here – this was cooked to just the right amount of crisp, which allowed the Applewood smoke flavor to shine through.
I ended up boxing up most of my entree, to save room for dessert. I chose the Crepes with Mascarpone Cheese, Aged Balsamic Drenched Strawberries ($7), which was 2 crepes filled with mascarpone cheese and what I think was a brown sugar mix, topped with strawberries and a very sweet balsamic sauce and whipped cream. If you choose this, you’ll either want to share with someone else or take some home, because if you eat it all in one sitting, you’re guaranteed to go into sugar shock. Tasty, but cloying.
My husband chose the Sweet Potato Creme Brulee with a Burnt Marshmallow Top ($6), which he ate very quickly and declared the best dessert he had in a while. I was lucky enough to get a bite of it, and I have to agree.
Service was a bit slow, but very friendly. Because it is a family business, it has a very small staff, which I’m sure is part of the delay. If you’re willing to be patient, however, you’ll get some really good food that is unlike anything else you’ll find in Columbus. We’ll definitely be back!
If you’d like to go: Banana Bean Cafe, 410 E. Whittier St, Cols. 614.443.2262