Monday, May 28, 2007

Lucky’s Café

777 Starkweather
(216) 622-7773
By Beau Cadiyo

I’d walked in worried I wouldn’t recognize her, but Kate wore the same expectation on her face and when I smiled we did recognize each other and things became easier. She moved us to the big plush chairs near the front; the line was too long and slow-moving, so rather than wait we started planning. She’d already gotten coffee.

When the line was smaller, I walked up and ordered. Flummoxed by the choice of bagels on which I could have my eggs and cheese, I chose blueberry; the friendly waitress said, “Fuck it, it’s Saturday, we’re crazy,” and got me a medium cup of coffee. She made me specify the size, but it wasn’t clear that there was any difference between the cups. Next to the cream and sugar bar I overheard a mother and two teenage girls lamenting the exchange rate with Britain; upon returning to my chair, two men – one a video artist who walked with a cane – talked loudly and excitedly about what they’d done and would do real soon, and how amazing it would be.

The server had huge eyes; they stared at you excitedly, like a hippie camp counselor who was expecting great things of you and wanted to be encouraging and help you develop to someday be as enlightened as her. Annoying on one level, but I also didn't want to let her down.

The eggs she brought were not too wet, not too dry; not warm, but not prohibitively hot; not angel-cake fluffy, but not dense; not falling out of the sides, but not sparse. They would have pleased Goldilocks. The cheese played a minor role, sticking clammily to the eggs and sweating, but with the eggs, saltily contrasted with the sweet, fresh-tasting bagel. A single, probably organic, orange slice provided a small dessert.

Bernard, the video artist, broke in and asked us questions about what we were doing; Kate handled it without batting an eye. She’s professional. Sitting there, I felt very inadequate in the midst of so much potential.

Lucky's Cafe in Cleveland


Franks II

West Side Market
Corner of West 25th and Lorain in the Ohio City Neighborhood

Bite: the perfect winter sandwich.

By Beau Cadiyo

Even in April, March ice was on the streets. Sonny, a friend from college who then became a Marine Corps officer, had just gotten back from Fallujah; we were hungover in a way that felt even and accomplished.

Sonny was so tense from the war that he wouldn’t sit with his back to a door, so dealing with the lottery-ball-like movements of the West Side Market must have required great self-discipline. I benedicted the fruit row and then we moved quickly through the vegetables; his shoulders were up and his head was down while I created a path through the muppies and hawkers. We lefted through the side aisle and crossed to the main hall.

There are two stalls, Franks Bratwurst and Franks II. Franks Bratwurst always has a line, and Franks II often looks abandoned. We headed for the latter, where the guy behind the counter jumped at the attention.

I got the regular with sauerkraut, Sonny got the Italian with mustard. There are no tables – one can walk up to the gallery and sit on long benches, but if you don’t want to find the stairs then the only flat surfaces are the tops of the trashcans. The bread was a lesson in staging; you shouldn’t have supporting characters who compete with the lead. Anything but bland would have detracted from the tender, spicy sausage, bursting but not dripping with flavor. Sonny’s was better and we got two more. Upon tossing the napkins under our table, the market began to feel almost Christmaslike, and we were the center – two old friends, bundled up in a high-ceilinged, busy market in the wintertime, with full, warm bellies, satisfied.

Frank's Bratwurst in Cleveland