Grab a seat at the Porch Ohio for flavorful Venezuelan street food
The quaint mom-and-pop restaurant can be found in a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it log cabin just off of Route 23 south of Delaware
“Talk about quaint,” I thought while pulling into a parking lot and exiting a busy, not particularly scenic stretch of Route 23 just south of the city of Delaware.
What triggered my observation was a cute little “blink and you’ll miss it” log cabin that seemed largely ignored by most of the cars buzzing by in the steady stream of fast-moving traffic. I guess the other drivers had blinked.
Once inside the prefab cabin — which looked to be approximately the size of a two-car garage — I encountered a campground-evoking but extremely tidy space with a wooden floor, wooden walls, two little picnic-style tables, two repurposed card tables and a small pot-bellied stove. Oh yeah, and a lengthy menu of Venezuelan street-food classics.
Welcome to the eatery quaintly named the Porch Ohio.
Visitors to the Porch, which celebrated its two-year anniversary in December, can expect to be welcomed again with a warm address from Mariangela Jimenez, who operates the Venezuelan mom-and-pop restaurant with her husband, Lenin Lopez.
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The menu they offer is populated with items, such as empanadas and arepas, that were once rare in the area but no longer are. But it also advertises a dish which remains hard to find in Central Ohio and that, in addition to being scarce, is so comforting and delicious that it’s practically worth making the trip on its own: cachapa pork ($16).
Cachapas — like their North American cousins, johnny cakes — are essentially corn-based pancakes. Three cachapa dishes are offered at the Porch, and each features a puffy yet substantial pancake that has a great toasted-corn flavor accentuated by corn kernels. The yellow flatbreads are also attractive, resembling dark-spotted omelets.
The cachapa in the cachapa pork was folded and filled like an omelet, too. Its killer, pig-out innards including mozzarella-like “handmade cheese” (Venezuelan queso de mano), nata (think cream cheese meets clotted cream), feta-like cheese and, spilling out in abundance, wonderful nuggets of deep-fried pork.
Eleven arepas constitute the bulk of the menu. They’re generously overstuffed — I wouldn't recommend eating one with your hands unless you’re wearing a wetsuit — because they're more about the bountiful fillings than the mild, grilled white cornmeal discs used like overwhelmed sandwich bread.
I tried two: the arepa asada with chicken ($13), packed with kebab-style thigh meat, cheese, pico de gallo and mayo-based house cilantro sauce; and the arepa pabellon ($13), loaded with pot roast-style beef, fried sweet plantains and hearty black beans. I’d order either arepa again in a heartbeat.
More of that good beef, Venezuelan-style cheese and pico de gallo turned up between sheets of fried plantain — along with deli ham, melted American cheese, lettuce and cilantro sauce — in the irresistibly over-the-top shredded beef patacon ($15; a patacon resembles a sandwich assembled with plantains instead of bread). Although the plantains were oily and sweet rather than unripe (unripe green plantains are advertised and are more traditional), that patacon was still a good-tasting and massive meal.
The mozzarella-stick-like tequenos (five for $12) similarly could’ve been fried at higher heat to make them crispier and less oily. But who can resist soothing melted cheese enclosed inside golden-brown pastry?
The frying technique was on target with the Porch’s empanadas. An order ($12) brought three hefty hand pies whose crisp and handsome pastry shells surrounded a simple but pleasant, if somewhat salty, ground-beef filling.
Here’s a short story about dessert. After sampling the wiggly quesillo ($5.50) — a flan-like confection whose name derives from “queso” because quesillo has cheese-like pores — I drove back out to the Porch the next day to verify that the eggy custard with an excellent caramel sauce was again as fantastic upon further reflection. Verdict: It was, but more research is still very, very necessary.
The Porch Ohio
5808 Columbus Pike, Lewis Center