CLEGourmand: Lucky’s Cafe
Posted by cmh gourmand on November 1, 2010
The town of Tremont, nestled in a bend of the Cuyahoga River across from the Flats has great things going on. The community has wonderful views of downtown Cleveland, an amazing assortment of eclectic historic churches, neighborhood spirit, spunk and an accelerating, independent, local fueled food scene. Tremont has been called “A small town in the heart of the city”. In the heart of the heart is Lucky’s Cafe.
It is an established fact that I do not get too excited about breakfast (with a few exceptions: Starliner Diner, Casa Nueva and Skillet come to mind). Breakfast is the meal that takes space away from lunch and dinner. I was slated to have breakfast at Lucky’s as part of a culinary tour of Cleveland. I was a bit bummed because Lucky’s had been on my hit list a long time and I was worried about missing the dishes I really wanted. After one trip to Lucky’s I can happily say I will have breakfast there anytime.
Lucky’s was featured on Diner’s, Drive In’s and Dives, the Guy Fieri Food Network show. The place is no dive. A quick look at the hippiesque, locavore and sustainable menu would scare the pants off most old school diner fans. However anyone would be satisfied in an eatery that nails the classics and creates unique spin offs of traditional fare with top notch ingredients.
The woman that makes this all possible is Chef Heather Haviland. Most ingredients are from within 100 miles of Cleveland. Heather made a conscious choice to buy from local farmers and she has a vegetable and herb garden across the street from her restaurant to add to her produce selection. The menu is all natural. The place is packed on the weekends filling up every seat inside as well as the picnic tables outside when weather allows. While eating around Cleveland we would ask various chefs where they liked to eat. Lucky’s was mentioned frequently. There is no greater endorsement than when peers make the choice to eat at your establishment. The accolades are deserved and I will add to them.
The place itself has a quaint and quirky charm which seems to be found in heaping portions in Tremont. A local artist created the unique signage for Luckys. Each month a new installation of a local art is spread around the dining area. The baked good selection at the counter has great depth and diversity. The servers are friendly and know the menu. As I mentioned in a tweet: Grilled cheese of the day. I am smitten. I am not easily smited. There were many things that smote me here. The concept of a new grilled cheese option everyday made a very good impression.
Among the items getting my immediate attention: freshly squeezed orange juice, special house blends of coffee, pecan crusted bacon and pumpkin pickles. Lucky’s makes almost everything for their menu including pickles, ketchup and sauerkraut (which ferments in the basement). Not bad for a restaurant that used two camp stove propane burners to cook everything for the first two years.
OK so what I have mentioned so far would excite hard-core breakfast eaters but I am a hard sell for breakfast bliss. What was the key to my conversion? One word: SANDWICHES. Lucky’s serves sandwiches all day. My eye immediately fell upon the Vietnamese Grinder (Black Forest ham, pork pate, pickled pumpkin, fresh cilantro, cucumber, mayo and diced jalapeño).
I was torn by several selections I wanted. Fortunately I was eating with people willing to share. The favorite of Chef Haviland and apparently most of Cuyahoga county is the Lucky Reuben (as seen on TV – Food Network’s Guy Fieri probably called this awesome). This Reuben is just the basics: corned beef, sauerkraut, rye bread and Thousand Island dressing (all house made) served with Swiss cheese. The whole and the parts were all delectable. Yum. My field notes read as follows: The Reuben kicks ass. Serious ass.
Heather and the staff insisted we share another house favorite, Baked Mac-N-Cheese: (Cheddar, Brie, Parmesan, and Mozzarella cheeses, baked with pasta and real cream then topped with Brioche bread crumbs and served with housemade apple sauce). This would have made any cheesehead happy. We also sampled the waffles which were wonderful. In fact, our group seemed unanimous in finding the waffles perfect especially served with real whipped cream.
If you are intent on a “real” breakfast, you are in good hands with Lucky’s signature the Shipwreck: a blend of hash browns, eggs, seasonal vegetables, bacon, and cheddar cheese. It is massive but probably worth the heart attack.
Lucky’s was worth the trip for breakfast. I can’t wait to head back for lunch.
777 Starkweather Avenue
Lucky’s Cafe website