Back to Banana Bean
Posted by cmh gourmand on October 16, 2009
Banana Bean Cafe
340 Greenlawn Ave
The undefined space that is south of the Brewery District and west of German Village.
The original Banana Bean spot has been replaced by a place called Skillet. The new Banana Bean has been open about a year and recently did a minor menu overhaul. It is time for an update on my trips back to Banana Bean. Let us begin with some history and background.
The first version of Banana Bean opened in 2006 in Schumacher Place, just across the border from German Village. The small cozy cafe with non traditional hours (closed at 7:00 PM – WTFrak) fast became a favorite of mine and many others. Banana Bean was and still is the only Floribbean eatery in Columbus. So are they fibbin’ about Floribbean – not according to Wikipedia. This style is a fusion of the flavors of the Florida Keys, Cuban, Jamaican, and Carribbean cuisines. For me, this creates the perfect spot when I am undecided – if I am not sure what country or style of meal I am in the mood for, Banana Bean takes the pressure to choose away. Different tastes blend together to create many memorable menu items. The Arnold Palmer is a mix of iced tea and lemonade, the perfect beverage for the undecided.
So what else has changed? Banana Bean (2.0) is almost the antithesis of the old residential cozy cafe. The restaurant is now west of German Village on Greenlawn with plenty of parking and a patio. The space is big with plenty of room to spread out and about. Another new addition, Banana Bean has booze. The old location was alcohol free. Now choices include cocktails, wine and bevy of beers. The best deal is at happy hour (Monday – Friday, 4-7 pm) with $2 Margaritas.
The neighborhood feel is gone (one past use of the new site was a strip club) as is the cozy connection with the small pool of servers (and the cooks to some extent due to proximity). The void is filled with a living room lounge feel, complete with fireplace as well as an outdoor patio to pretend you are near a beach vs. the TV feed to the Keys used to tease you at the original cafe.
While the feel (but not feeling) is gone, the food remains the same: unique, flavorful and fun. So let’s move on to the main course – eating. I will use exact words from my original review to describe the Cuban Sandwich. The #1 Little Havana Cubano is among the number one best sellers for lunch. This sandwich stacks citrus kissed pork tenderloin and sweet bolo ham with Emmenthaler Swiss cheese, dill pickle slices and Dijon in between two crunchy slices of Cuban bread.. This is still executed the same. The same goes for my default brunch or default dessert item – Bananas Foster French Toast features thick slices of Cuban style bread perfectly transformed into French Toast with fresh berries; Captain Morgan spiced rum sauce, bananas, and a dollop of whipped cream. Still the same.
What else does Banana Bean do well? A lot, but let’s go off the griddle with some unexpected selections. We begin with grits. What is a grit a Midwesterner may ask? Is it a nebulous magazine from the 1970’s, a movie, or food. Yes, the answer is food. The key to good grits is what gets added to the mix since the core corn porridge components are always the same. Banana Bean adds goat cheese to open the grit gateway for the uninitiated. Another unexpected combination is chicken and waffles normally found in the South and southern California. The extra allure of this dish is the blend of flavors – buttermilk fried chicken breast on an almond Belgian waffle with apricot honey syrup, it is hard to be more diverse than this concoction.
Banana Bean has your back for breakfast, lunch and dinner. And now with more space you can add in an after hours drink and a snacky snack or two before moving on to German Village, the Brewery District, softball (across the street) or your yacht on the ocean blue.
Funky Fact: The Patina of Key West???
That’s what the sign said at Banana Bean.
What the owners said (when I e-mailed them back in the day):
“patina” in the literal sense is brought on by exposure to certain atmospheric elements; we feel that our patrons, therefore, are exposed to the elements and atmosphere of establishments that one would find in South Florida/Key West, i.e., our menu, etc…….