[UPDATE: Explorers Club has closed, although their food truck and catering business remain open.]
Explorers Club (Facebook)
1586 S. High St. (map it!)
Columbus, OH 43207
Accepts cash & credit/debit
Open Mon-Fri for lunch, Mon-Sat for dinner, brunch served 9am – 2pm on Sat & Sun
Vegetarian/vegan/gluten free? Y/N/N
Date of Visit: Saturday, November 5, 2011 at 9:00 a.m.
IMPRESSIONS: The arrival of Explorers Club is up there with one of the more anticipated arrivals in the Columbus culinary scene this year. Its opening marks the return of the partnership of restaurateurs Ricky Barnes and Tracy Studer to Columbus’ dining establishments. They bring with them a strong history, one that includes restaurants considered by many to have sparked our current boom of creative eateries over the last decade. Sadly, this is a history I’ve completely missed, except in story; I moved to Columbus about a year after Ricky’s last venture closed, and so I haven’t experienced his work firsthand until now. To get a full account of the story, I direct you to CMH Gourmand’s excellent recollections, as well as his account of Explorers Club’s opening.
I made my first visit to EC a couple weeks after they opened, having breakfast on the day of my book’s release. I chose to go then a.) because I was excited to try it, and b.) to symbolize the joy of still discovering new places, even after having finished the book. They even made a special sign for the occasion.
ATMOSPHERE: We were really impressed with the building and interior of Explorers Club. The decor is fitting for the theme of exploration. The main dining area is one long room with big front windows. Running down the center of the space is a series of tables, while rows of booths line the walls.
It was a little smoky (from the kitchen, to be clear) that morning, which actually lent itself to some interesting pictures with shafts of light coming through the windows.
The walls are covered with woodcut prints of different explorers throughout history, from actual exploration to pioneers in sports, politics, and culture. It’s a really, very nice touch.
The front windows facing South High Street let in a lot of natural light.
The entryway is on the side of the building, off Morrill Avenue. On your way in, you’ll pass by the bar, with more seating and a board listing the day’s specials.
Immediately you can see that Explorers Club’s menu offers some unique breakfast options.
A look at the brunch menu.
FOOD: Explorers Club serves food that, given its name, encourages you to expand your palate. They focus on food that’s more flavorful than your average diner fare. I love a good chilaquiles, so I immediately gravitated toward these. I was very pleased with them. Good punch of spices in the eggs, veggies, and even in the black beans (which some places under-season). Served on a bed of chips. A nice breakfast that leaves your mouth tingling.
The veggie burrito. Comes with scrambled eggs, refried beans, Monterey Jack cheese, veggies, and coated in a house-made sauce. A very good burrito, although it’s hard to tell how it’s drastically different than the standard burrito with scrambled eggs, refried beans, veggies, and muenster cheese.
The Cuban French toast. Essentially cubed and fried bread, loaded with fruit and dusted with powdered sugar. Hard to go wrong with it.
The House Burrito. Similar to the other burritos, but with ham. The burritos are all a good size; they will fill you up like a good breakfast should.
SERVICE: Overall, our service was good, although there were a couple oddities. I’ve heard a lot about the relleno omelet on the menu, but our server couldn’t really tell us what it was, except that it was an omelet with cheese. He couldn’t even tell us what type of cheese was in it. I’d expect a omelet named after chile relleno would have peppers or meat, or at least something more than cheese. It also confused us why this item is the priciest on the menu. Despite this, our server was very attentive. We had a to wait for a few items, plus the coffee, but otherwise we were taken care of.
OVERALL: Explorers Club may still be finding its feet a little bit, but that’s to be expected from any restaurant that’s only been open for two weeks (EDIT: when we visited; EC has been open now since late October). Still, it’s a more-than-welcome addition to the Columbus breakfast scene (and dining scene in general), it offers some flavorful breakfast items that aren’t widely available, and it’s great to see a strong breakfast joint down South High Street in Merion Village. It’s worth exploring on your own (see what I did there?).
-> great coverage of the Ricky and Tracy’s story in (614) Magazine
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