Lunch review: Casa Sazon
It's pretty remarkable, when you think about it, what a Latin-food hotbed Downtown Columbus is. If you're not quite ready for a full-fledged taco truck tour, you should try my fancy-website-pending Parade of Plantains instead.
Yes, within a one-block radius, Downtown workers can find three lunchtime spots that serve deliciously addictive fried plantains.
There's Plantain Cafe, a new Cuban place near the corner of Gay and Third that makes them in three equally tasty ways, plus in soup form. There's El Arepazo, the veteran favorite Venezuelan spot in Pearl Alley that offers near-caramelized plantains with many of its dishes (and even uses them as the base for their yummy Patacon).
And then there's Casa Sazon, incidentally owned by the brother-in-law of Arepazo's proprietor, a newish Latin deli with a menu boasting fried plantains as a side.
Each of these tropical banana dishes has its charms.
But, of course, that preponderance of Latin eateries is probably why Casa Sazon devotes much of its menu to crossover fare, like a Loaded Spanish Potato heaped with black beans and peppers, and straight-up American deli classics like Reubens and chicken clubs.
In fact, most of the other customers on my visits have ordered the American dishes rather than the Latin ones. Which is a shame, because Sazon does a fine job with their ethnic offerings, like Tostadas with crisp corn tortillas topped with cheese, veggies and your choice of meat.
One Venezuelan specialty you won't find on the menu at the other Latin places Downtown is the Cachapa, a distinctive dish that uses a cornmeal pancake as its base. It's well worth a visit.
Cachapas are a popular Venezuelan street food, similar to arepas (which are served here too but are better across the street at El Arepazo - whose name, after all, means "Big Arepa"). Those corn-kernel-studded pancakes add an unexpected sweet aspect I find kind of addictive.
You can order cachapas just with melty Mexican-style cheese, and that's a lovely snack. But for a hearty lunch, you should opt to top it with some meat and other veggies.
I'm a big fan of Sazon's shredded beef, nice and stewy with just a hint of a spicy kick.I also asked for some pico de gallo, spicy cilantro sauce and a handful of melty white cheese. Since the pancake covers the entire plate, each forkful brings the perfect combination of sweet, savory and spicy.
It's also pretty darn cheap. The cheese cachapa is just $4.50, and adding my pile of meat and toppings was just another buck. So there was plenty left in my Lunch Money budget to spring for some of those fried plantains for dessert.
Cachapa w/beef: $5.50
Fried plantains: $1.75
49 N. High St., Downtown