Cilantro sauce inspires a family dinner outing.

The Mom Says:

I was pretty sure the boys would be open to trying a South American restaurant, but, just in case, I tipped the scales by introducing them to Arepazo's Famous Cilantro Sauce prior to eating there.

The sauce—bold, creamy and green—truly lives up to its name and definitely whet the boys' appetite for more.

Arepazo is a local company with three restaurants, all of which bear a slightly different moniker. We opted for Arepazo Tapas & Wine in Gahanna, arriving in time for happy hour. We took advantage of the special pricing and ordered two appetizers: the Caribbean Crab Cakes ($5) and a pork arepa ($5). I had been debating about ordering the crab cake meal, so I was delighted to find I could sample them and something else. They did not disappoint. They were nicely spiced and topped with fresh tomatoes.

For my main dish, I chose the Tilapia Latina ($12). I mixed the fish, rice, beans, corn cake and salad together and created a winning combination. The mild fish allowed the bold flavors of the sides to shine.

Even though we were stuffed, we opted for dessert and ordered the tres leche cake ($7) and flan ($7). I told the boys flan would be a bit like a solid creme brulee—a dish we often make at home. The caramelized top was amazing, and the kids said they preferred the denser texture of Arepazo's egg custard. I've made tres leche cake before, but it was nothing like this—super moist and full of cinnamon flavor. As my husband said, “I'm not even a dessert person and I can't stop eating it.”

—Melissa Kossler Dutton

The Kid (Age 13) Says:

When I heard we were going to Arepazo, I was excited because the last time my parents went there they brought home a bottle of the restaurant's cilantro sauce, which is delicious on practically everything.

There was a lot of stuff on the menu that I had never heard of, but the descriptions and photos made it all sound very tempting. I decided on the Peruvian Lomo Saltado ($15), which was described as steak sautéed with onion, tomatoes, Spanish potato fries, wine and soy sauce. It was served with rice, plantains and avocado. I really like tomatoes and grilled onions, so this dish sounded perfect.

Before it arrived, we got two appetizers. My mom ordered crab cakes, which I was interested to try. Normally, I don't like crab cakes or shellfish. However, they were delicious with pico de gallo on top. We also ordered an arepa, which the menu said is a tradition in Colombia and Venezuela. It was a grilled cornmeal bun filled with flavorful pork and cheese. It was also amazing, although I preferred the crab cakes.

My dish was a bit like a stew, with tender steak and perfectly cooked tomatoes and onions. I definitely made the right call.

This restaurant serves really traditional South American food, but the choices are things I think American kids would enjoy eating. Nothing was so exotic that it sounded unappetizing. Also, the waitress was eager to explain the food and translate the Spanish words.

The other neat thing about this restaurant is the drink options. I had a mango juice ($3) that was the consistency of a slushy. I love mango, and my mom often buys me juice at the grocery store. This was another level. It tasted so fresh and sweet, I ended up ordering a second one.

I have to say this is one of the best restaurants that I have ever tried.

—Nick Dutton

The Kid (Age 11) Says:

My parents knew what they were doing when they brought home Arepazo's cilantro sauce because I am a huge fan of cilantro and lemon (I'll get to that later). I was eager to try the food there.

When I first sat down, I noticed their interesting drink selections—a variety of juices served as a slushy or with milk. I ordered a blackberry juice with milk ($4). It reminded me of a smoothie. It was tasty.

Then we sampled the crab cakes and arepa. The crab cakes were really good. I especially liked that they came with pico de gallo on top. This was like a chunky salsa, which I prefer.

For my dish, I ordered the Tilapia Ceviche ($5) off the happy hour menu. The waitress warned me it was a small portion, but I wasn't concerned because I had filled up on appetizers. It was served in a glass dish and on a bed of lettuce; it really looked fancy.

If you aren't aware of what ceviche is, it's raw fish cured in lemon juice. I first tried it while on vacation in Chicago. This is where the part about me liking lemon comes in. I've always loved lemon—I even put it on fries. To me, ceviche is one of the best ways to eat fish. And they do it right at Arepazo. It was lemony and delicious.

I was still a little hungry, so I ordered the Yuca Frita ($5), also a happy hour selection. I asked what yuca was, and the waitress told me it was a root served like fries. It tasted a lot like thick French fries except Arepazo wisely serves them with cheese and lime juice on top. YUM!

Just when I thought I couldn't eat any more, my dad ordered cake and flan. The tres leche cake tasted like a cinnamon roll doused in milk. I loved it. I discovered I like flan even better than creme brulee because it tasted pretty much the same, except had an interesting texture and didn't make me as thirsty—in other words, it's less sweet.

All in all, I would definitely recommend checking this place out.

—Alex Dutton