Dan Varga said his culinary style goes well with the Explorers Club.

Dan Varga said his culinary style goes well with the Explorers Club.

Varga, who took over as chef of the Merion Village restaurant several months ago, said he likes to expand cuisine beyond the ordinary.

The menu still has a broad appeal to vegetarians with dishes such as the ratatouille lasagna, one of Varga's creations and a top seller at the restaurant. Meat-lovers also have plenty of options, such as the jerk chicken, which is brined for 24 hours and marinated a full day before it's roasted; and brisket and pork platter, smoked on the premises.

"It's simple food, but we take the time to do it right every day," said Varga, now a contributor to Food & Wine.

The Explorers Club was founded just shy of a year ago by Tracey Studer and Ricky Barnes. Barnes, who helped get the restaurant up and running, left to pursue other interests. Varga was working at a chain restaurant when the opportunity arrived at Explorers Club, 1586 S. High St.

He's kept the Caribbean flair on which the restaurant was founded but widened the menu's appeal. For example, the third Wednesday of each month is Hungarian night, which celebrates Varga's heritage and current residence, in Hungarian Village, just south of Merion Village. Previous, three-course menus – $18 each – have included chicken paprikash, homemade sausages, cabbage rolls and apple strudel.

"Whatever I think of, I can do," he said. "I love to explore aspects of other cultures. So this place fits with what I like to do."