Back a couple months ago, I decided to try corning my own beef. Flavor wise it turned out well, but texture wise, it wasn’t quite what I wanted. It is something that I will definitely be trying again. But the point of that little tidbit was not only to share the link to my attempt, but to introduce where the basis of the recipe came from…Lucky’s Cafe. It was during an episode of Diners, Drive-ins and Dives that I first found out about the little cafe in Tremont and not only tried to mimic the corned beef recipe, but added it to my list of places in Cleveland to try.
A few months in Cleveland, and I still hadn’t made it to Lucky’s. I had thought about it, even tried to work it into my morning routine, but making the haul out to Tremont in the morning just to have to turn around and head back east seemed too much. I needed some excuse of be on the west side with no need to hurry back. That excuse came in the form of the Cleveland Marathon where I made the trek out to the west side to play the role of supportive fan (as opposed to crazy participant).
After 3 hours and a 6th place finish, I was ready to cool down and refuel…you have no idea how hard you have to work being a fan… Fortunately Ashley was feeling the same, and the choice for the post-race meal was Lucky’s. After a quick stop for a Bloody Mary the three of us (Ashley’s mom was playing the role of fan as well) arrived at the small, yet popular neighborhood cafe. Inside the front door is a small coffee bar with a case filled with delectable looking pastries. Up a couple stairs were a few tables with more outside on the patio, nestled amongst the raised bed gardens full of herbs, greens, and vegetables that were sure to be included in delicious meals later.
It took about 15 minutes, but we got a seat right at the top of the stairs. The menu was a single page of brunch goodies. Pancakes and omelets and sandwiches. I almost swayed to the biscuits and gravy, my second favorite breakfast dish of all time. But I was there for the Reuben, the one that looked so good on the TV that it inspired me to try and make it myself. I was committed…I just had to wait. And wait. And wait. Apparently we were at a table with no server or something because other than the lady that brought us water, no one came by. It easily took 20 minutes before someone came by to take our order which also took the excitement and brought it down to a level of slight annoyance. At that point the food has to be really good to compensate.
The good news, the food was really good. The corned beef was moist and tender and flavorful. It was cut in chunks rather than slices so gave a bit more flavor and a bit more of a “meaty” bite. The bread was a homemade rye bread that just had that freshness of, well, fresh baked bread. It was toasted and crispy and gave a nice crunch with each bite. When I dipped it in the homemade dressing, it was sweet and just a little tart. Everything worked together well, though my one complaint is that there just wasn’t enough of the corned beef. With everything else, the four slices were overwhelmed a little bit.
I thought that the Reuben was great, probably a top 5 that could have been a top 1 or 2 with a bit more corned beef. But it may not have been the best dish on the table. That was the ratatouille that is a special, non-menu item that Ashley ordered. It consists of a plate of roasted squashes and tomatoes served with cheesy grits and topped with two eggs and a pesto sauce. The flavors were fresh and vibrant and just exploded in my mouth. It was a little rich, a little creamy, a little acidic and a lot of delicious. And that was only after two bites!
With the exception of the lack of service (after taking our order or server never came back except to bring the check), brunch was fantastic. It’s a place that I definitely would take friends or family that came to visit to show them that there is great food to be found in Cleveland. And it’s a place that I want to go back to…I mean there are biscuits and gravy on the menu…
Final Verdict – 4.25 Stars