Friday, August 22, 2008

Bronte inside Joseph Beth Booksellers

Legacy Village
24519 Cedar Road
Lyndhurst, OH 44124
(216) 691-7000

by Beau Cadiyo

I’d never anticipated eating here. First, it’s a theoretically independent café in a theoretically independent bookstore located in Legacy Village. I realize that there is a role for these places in our economy, but I have much more respect for giant businesses which run on economies of scale – McDonald’s, Wal-Mart, Starbucks. To me, these are the greatest businesses because they’ve figured out how to deliver massive quantities of goods to consumers with stunning, incredible efficiency. Independence, while purportedly American, is inefficient; I have little tolerance for people who protest efficiency.

However, Frank Hoxha, a Kosovar Albanian architect, was studying there, and invited me to join her. She was intriguing – while I know plenty of people who like(d) Bill Clinton, she was the first who credited him with actually saving her life. That day she was bitter – Bronte charged her for each shot in her quadruple-shot cappuccino, which offended some Balkan sensibility of hers. (She had ended up at Joseph Beth’s because Starbucks cools its store to about 45 degrees, and at Joseph Beth’s it was actually reasonably temperatured. This was the tradeoff: pay extra for each shot or freeze.)

I ordered. Even though we were clearly reclined on the sofa, and couldn’t have appeared imminently mobile, they brought my tuna melt to me in a Styrofoam carton wrapped in a plastic bag. This was the low point of the meal; who would expect an independent bookstore which prides itself on independence, located in Beachwood, to serve a meal which was to be eaten in the bookstore in such ecologically unfriendly materials? The environment-killing clamshell contained one Tuna Melt, one small cup of either quinoa or couscous salad (I get the two mixed up), a small cup of coleslaw and a pickle. I hadn’t eaten all day – I was unemployed and had simply forgotten – but hunger couldn’t account for these spices. The (either quinoa or couscous) salad was chilled, with fresh bits of vegetables and a vinegary tang; the coleslaw was sweet and crunchy. The pickle was limp, but not offensive. But the sandwich.

Good tuna melts are a special breed. Tuna melts require simplicity of ingredients; packing them full of heretofore unheard of vegetables and modified sauces ruins their inherent integrity. Michael Symon could make one, but he wouldn’t be able to really alter the core ingredients too much and still have an acceptable tuna melt. (Dear sir – you may consider the gauntlet laid.) Simple tuna melts can be absolutely mediocre but still be passable, too; tuna, cheese, bread, grill.

Bronte did the only thing I can think of to make a superb tuna melt: it used superb ingredients and cooked them superbly. The filling was warm, well-seasoned and most importantly moist. The cheese melted into the tuna, but wasn’t so heavy that it overwhelmed the taste. The bread was crisp on the outside, but chewy just below the surface. Altogether, the balance was sublime.

By the time I finished the four women playing Mahjong had packed up and the Russian girls sitting near us had left. Frank asked me about palmistry, and, looking it up on a website, we compared destinies. She has very, very wrinkly hands; beyond that, I can’t remember much. Frank Pratt and his wife, Frank, stopped by and said hello. Then, at some early hour, Joseph Beth and Bronte closed. Leave it to the independent stores to kick freeloading students out.

Bronte at Joseph-Beth Bksllrs on Urbanspoon


Mary Jo said...

I have been there and I have to say that their Monte Cristo is to die for. My husband has tried a lot of other places and we have yet to find one as good. I'll have to try the tuna melt if they have it!

AS said...

Thanks for the tip - I'll have to try the MC, too!