2058 E 4th St
Cleveland, OH 44115
Bite: Believe the hype.
by Beau Cadiyo
On the way over, D. said things that made me nervous. This was the Iron Chef’s restaurant. Friends of D’s once spent $150 per couple at Lola. It was the best restaurant in Cleveland. We’d need reservations, and there was next-to-no chance we’d get a table without one. I started to feel like a doughboy, hearing rumors of how the Krauts raped babies and ate women.
Realities: yes, it is the Iron Chef’s restaurant, and he walked around and talked to people. It was not too expensive – sandwiches were $9 each or $11 for a combination. We were seated promptly. And it may very well be the best restaurant in Cleveland.
It didn’t feel like a lunch place: it was dark, tribal music was playing, everyone was dressed up. We were competing for the youngest people in the room, next to the stunners one table over, and we were definitely underdressed. Despite this, they treated us like we were kings. Amy, the waitress, was attentive without being overbearing, somehow always being in sight when we needed something and otherwise disappearing.
The meal was served quickly. Normally I get nervous when people are behind me, but the staff must have been trained to make it comfortable. When I asked for ketchup, the waiter nodded, but seemed a bit off-put. He brought us small bowls, smaller than at Heck’s Café. When I bit into the Lola Burger, I understood why: Lola food needs no augmentation like ketchup, salt or pepper (which was also conspicuously absent from our table), and anything more than the bowl may have tempted us to pour on the ketchup and ruin the food. The meat was tender and perfectly cooked; the single slice of bacon added just a hint of flavor to the rest; the pickles and special sauce were hidden underneath the patty, surprising the diner; the aged cheddar melted just enough so that the carefully arranged onions on top sunk in ever so slightly, ever so elegantly, ever so perfectly, all inside an oversized English muffin with a side of rosemary-seasoned fries. It was a meal I never wanted to end. Then, when it was over and my plate had been comfortably cleared, I wouldn’t have wanted anything else but the iced tea that the waiter offered me after I’d paid the bill. It was an unnecessary gesture – after all, they weren’t going to get anything else by serving me more iced tea. But that didn’t matter – it was gracious, classy and memorable.