I admit it, I came late to the Cleveland Heath party. Life always gets in the way, but finally it all worked out. Three of us fired up the No Wait app and headed east to Edwardsville.
The bar was hopping – and the cocktail menu looks seductive – but it’s not a bar scene, with people as interested in socializing as in imbibing large quantities of alcohol. There’s a long bench for waiting, an hospitable touch.
The primary difficulty here comes from the menu: It’s impossible to order everything that calls to one’s palate. Nearly everything sounds seductive. Deviled eggs? Not at all ho-hum, they sport a taste that’s almost buttery, thanks to the parmesan cheese in them, somehow managing a little tartness in there as well.
The Japanese omelet may be most easily explained by beginning with the patty used as egg foo yung or a St. Paul sandwich, in that it’s ingredients held together with egg and fried as a cake. Here, there are cabbage, bacon, shrimp, green onion, and some sesame seeds, topped with a drizzle of Kewpie mayonnaise, so beloved in Japanese cuisine, a brown sauce described as HM bbq, and a shower of a thinly-sliced ingredient that I still can’t identify. It’s delicious, a combination of sweet-tart-salty-chewy bouncing around in the mouth, and would make for a fine lunch entree.
We’re starting to hear more about poutine lately, the Canadian dish that seems like their equivalent of a slinger, at least in terms of hangover recovery. Cleveland Heath’s version is a local take, using the house french fries, a mixture of white and sweet potatoes, topped with a swell and very spicy sausage gravy and cheese curds from a local source, the whole thing crowned with a couple of beef cheeks, falling-apart tender and succulent from their braising. Yes, messy, and the melting cheese curds, good as they are, don’t pull apart easily, but it’s still great fun.
Don’t even think about resisting the biscuits made with cheddar cheese and served with honey butter and jam. And we haven’t even gotten to the main courses yet.
Is this the place for a banh mi sandwich? After three weeks in Southeast Asia, I was hesitant. Foolish of me; it was remarkable, even if it was on grilled slices of bread rather than a baguette. All the cool and the crunchy, the meaty (pork belly) and the moist of the banh mi, but it was the pickled vegetables that gave it the bigger-than-usual zing on the tongue. The acidity was just the right touch to leave me grunting after each bite.
The signature entree seems to be the porterhouse pork chop. Lazing atop a square of jalapeno bread pudding and sporting a fried egg as a chapeau, it’s a first-rate piece of work, moist and flavorful without tasting more like the brine than like the hog. The bread pudding, only pleasantly warm, not hot-spicy at all, will wipe up bits of egg that slide onto the plate. Even the roasted green beans seemed particularly flavorful.
For those who need a cheeseburger, this is a good one, moist, fat (8 ounces of Rensing’s grass-fed beef) and satisfying. It, and all orders of the sandwiches, come with Utah fry sauce, an institution in the Beehive State. That’s mayo, ketchup, pickle juice and, usually, onion powder, although there are often changes rung on the basic mixture.
My personal standards for cherry pie are pretty high. It was one of the first pies the picky-eater kid ever loved. I cannot say my grandmother’s pastry was remarkable, but the cherries, from a tree in their yard, were wonderful, tart-sweet, the juices not over-thickened. The family I was raised in would all have approved of Cleveland Heath’s individual cherry pie. The filling was just right, not thickened too much, with only a slight touch of almond extract. And the crust – oh, the crust. Bloody stunning. Flaky, crunchy even without the contribution of the coarse sugar showered over the top, it was wondrous. It comes with ice cream; I strongly suggest considering ordering it on the side, the better not to sog up that great crust.
Noise levels are workable unless you sit near someone who booms, and the service was first-rate, patient, knowlegeable, flexible, altogether really fine. And the wine-by-the-glass list is full of good options.
Next time, the Manchurian cauliflower, the pozole, the beef tongue sandwich – and more cherry pie.
106 N. Main St., Edwardsville, IL
Lunch and Dinner Tues.-Sun., Brunch Sun.
Credit cards: Yes
Wheelchair access: Fair