6301 Fleet Ave
Cleveland, OH 44105
by Beau Cadiyo
In Alex Garland’s “The Beach,” one of the key themes is the idea that, as humans, we’re always looking for virginity. It isn’t in the sexual sense, though – after all, who really wants to sleep with a virgin? It’s meant more in the sense that we’re always looking to be the first to find something new, to be the gentrifiers in a new area (even though we resist that classification) or to listen to a new band before they get popular, or to travel to the ends of the earth to “discover” a place not yet corrupted by tourists.
That’s the Seven Roses. The building was dark from the outside, seemingly built for strength rather than aesthetics. Inside, people buzzed about, children and adults alike coveting the pastries behind the glass display cases, all speaking Polish. A giant vat of fresh pickles marinated in the refrigerator; dark wood shelves, ornate and sturdy, lined the walls, displaying an incredible display of products unknown and magazines incomprehensible to us. Everyone was dressed up, even the children; it was Sunday, and after church, and everyone still maintained their old-world customs. It was incredibly bright inside, and I realized that more than anything it felt prosperous.
I followed Frank in ordering the Bratwurst sandwich with sauerkraut, adding potato pancakes. The waitress brought out water, sans ice, and some sort of flavored bread – I thought rye, Frank thought otherwise. We talked – girls, business, politics, everything you can be ambitious about. The food came and we were still talking. Babies played dangerously close to glass bottles, pulling them off of the shelves, the parents unfazed. Another waitress walked by with two large, steaming bowls; what is that? Umm…how do you say…cabbage soup. One, please – we’ll split it. Separate bowls? That would be wonderful, jinkooya. Surprise, and almost a curtsey as she walked back. Two bowls were delivered, and then our sandwiches.
It was incredible. The sausage was crisp, and I had a little bit of the tie-off at the end – where the outside binding was tied off and you could see it cut, crisped, delicious. One UrbanSpoon review said that the sausage was made in the basement by a Polish butcher, and the reviewer complained; we both thought it was fantastic. Why would you want sausage made in a factory in Canada when you could have it fresh from downstairs? The sauerkraut was sour, and lovely with the sandwich; the bread firm, a little toasty, but yielding delicately to the teeth. The potato pancakes were a little flaccid, the only weak point of the meal. The soup was incredibly flavorful – strong, thick, hearty.
The waitress came out; would we like coffee? Yes, and do you have a dessert menu? Then, another waitress came out with two slices of cheesecake. “Free,” she said, refusing to meet our eyes or statements of surprise, and the other waitress shrugged. “Free,” she said, and brought us coffee. We paid up at the front, looking around as open-eyed as the children had been an hour previously. The man behind me laughed; “it’s our first time here,” I said. “It’s obvious,” he said, in a thick accent. Jinkooya, jinkooya, and we left.