Super-ripe, super-sweet, fried-til-caramelized plantains: plenty of places around Columbus serve them. But there was a time when the only place you could find this addictive appetizer was the Galaxy Cafe, a pioneering Latin-tinged restaurant run by Ricky Barnes.

Super-ripe, super-sweet, fried-til-caramelized plantains: plenty of places around Columbus serve them. But there was a time when the only place you could find this addictive appetizer was the Galaxy Cafe, a pioneering Latin-tinged restaurant run by Ricky Barnes. This was during the 1990s, when I was living in Cincinnati, and so I never had the pleasure of dining there. But I'd heard lots of fond memories of the place, almost always mentioning those plantains.

So when I finally made it out to check out Explorers Club, Barnes' new Merion Village spot, the first thing I ordered was the plantains. And yes, they were as great as everyone made them out to be. Perfectly cooked, with a few bits so charred they take on the chewy texture of soft caramel. And served with a fantastic salsa yogurt dipping sauce--plenty creamy with just a small hit of spice.

Here's what else I tried that first visit. I'm eagerly awaiting more chances to try out more of the menu.

Ropa Vieja sandwich with muenster cheese on a housemade ciabatta bun, $8.This was fantastic, starting with the great housemade bun. It sopped up all the juices from the tender, tomatoey beef. And the side of spicy coleslaw tasted great scooped on top of the sandwich.

Galaxy Original with chicken, roasted veggies and greens in a balsamic olive oil dressing, wrapped in a grilled pizza crust, $8.50. I liked this, but not quite as much as that Ropa Vieja. The veggies were great and the pizza crust wrap was interesting, but with all that bread this sandwich could've used some sauce. In fact, immediately wished I'd saved some of that salsa yogurt from the plantains. Next time!

Explorers Club

1586 S. High St., South Side

614-725-0155

explorersclubmv.com