Gateway District/E 4th St
2057 E 4th St
Cleveland, OH 44115
By Beau Cadiyo
I tried to like Erie Island Coffee Co. – I really did. The interior has an aquatic feel, like a well-appointed luxury ship, with comfortable-looking chairs, excellent use of metal and brilliant color combinations. The coffee was stellar – strong, hot and potent, and not as bitter as Starbucks. The location couldn’t be better – it seems made for East Fourth, and I’m shocked that there wasn’t a hip, independent coffee shop there before now. The staff were nice, professional and struck me as creative and hip.
What initially impressed me the most, though, was the price of the sandwiches. At around $5, they were VERY reasonable for the street (which boasts Lola and Greenhouse Tavern just across the way). I would have paid a lot more for what I expected. Instead, I paid too much for what I got.
To be clear, it wasn’t bad. The egg was unexceptional, but with rare exceptions (all in Europe) I’ve not had exceptional eggs. The bacon was tasty, but there wasn’t much of it. My girlfriend, who won’t eat pork was able to take two large bites without getting even a whiff of it. The bread was quite delicious, but there wasn’t much, and even delicious bread can only get you so far.
Was it good? Sure, I guess. But there’s a trend here that bothers me. First, many truly good restaurants serve food in small portions, or at least don’t serve massive portions. I think it’s either a quality-control issue or a marketing scarcity issue. Regardless, the less people can get of something, the better they think it is – gold, for example, or Tickle Me Elmos from several Christmases past. Naturally, then, people learn to equate smaller amounts – or portions - with quality.
What I suspect, though, is that some restaurants are trying to make people think that their otherwise good food is excellent by serving it in small portions. It’s the same thing that DeBeers did with diamonds – they have vast vaults of diamonds ready to sell, but they only release some in order to keep prices artificially high. Erie, I feel, is doing just this – they’re serving an ok product in small quantities to make it seem better than it actually is. They needn’t have resorted to this sort of trickery. Considering the prices at nearby restaurants, they could have made the sandwiches bigger, increased the price and still competed with their neighbors, but on good quality at large quantity. After all, what coffee shop is going to compete with Michael Symon or Jonathon Sawyer on gourmet quality?
I’d come optimistic and hopeful, ordered excitedly and left partially disappointed. The coffee WAS quite excellent, the interior WAS stunning, the staff WAS nice, and I want to help local, independent businesses when possible. But unless something changes – the size of the sandwiches, the quality or the price – then I won’t be eating there again. A Lola Burger is a much more attractive option. If you’re on East Fourth and want coffee, by all means, go to Lake Erie. If you’re looking for food, though, there are plenty of better options.