Tuesday, March 9, 2010


777 Starkweather Ave
Cleveland, OH 44113
(216) 622-7773

by Beau Cadiyo

Bite: Is an ok, absurdly overpriced sandwich worth a friendship?

I recently had the following Facebook exchange:

Frank W. wrote:
Have you been the Lucky's?
My cousin KYW is the Chef.
Try a ruben. Guy Fieri loved it.
They were on DDD so they are a bit crowded.
I'd love to fly out there to try one but maybe in the fall.
He's a great chef!

Beau Cadiyo wrote:
Lucky's in Tremont?


Frank W. wrote:
I'd try to review again. the review was not so nice.
They were on DDD just for their Ruben.

Beau Cadiyo wrote:
Yeah - I think I've been there seven times, and none of them have been stellar. The problem (?) is that we have so many great restaurants here.
Lucky's gets a lot of attention - when is your cousin working there next?
Oh, and isn't that woman Heather the chef?
AND neither my girlfriend or my best friend will go there - it puts a dent in any attempts! I'll see if someone else wants to re-review it...

Frank W. wrote:
I would try again...they sounded really over whelmed.
Heather is the owner, my cousin is the head chef. Please give it another chance.
let me know when you go so I can tell my cousin KW.

Beau Cadiyo wrote:
Ooh, negative - we try not to do those reviews, and if we did, we'd have to tell everyone that we were possibly biased or treated preferentially because of it!

Frank W. wrote:
Not preferentially treated - just meeting the Chef. That's it. No comps...
You really aren't into second chances are you?
Have you ever thought that blogs like yours could negatively influences businesses? Like how yelp does.


The exchange probably would have continued constructively, except that she then blocked me on both Facebook and Twitter. It’s sad, really. I didn’t feel like my original review was that bad, really, and I’m not sure why she took it so personally. Perhaps she expects that reviews should be Pollyanna-happy, glossing over the bad and focusing solely on the good. I prefer to be honest rather than just praise everything to the sky and not tell potential customers that everything is great when it isn’t. There are distinct benefits to businesses to this approach: this sort of honest criticism can help them improve, and can even help them stay in business if they correct their flaws.

I was going to write the whole thing off, but the next morning I saw a hilarious tweet: "Food Network, why are you in Cleveland so much? You are ruining all our restaurants!" Something about the sentiment of the tweet made me decide to review Lucky's again, and get the Reuben she suggested I get, and to see if Guy Fieri's visit actually may have "ruined" Lucky's.

I really tried to like it. That’s the full disclosure I’ll give right here. Because I tried to like it, I was excessively jovial with the woman behind the counter. I effusively admired the way that they put my order in a black box and then put the box in a giant paper bag, far too large for it; in other places it would be considered an offensive waste of resources, but here the counter woman feigned offense and said, “we make it pretty.” I paid, and tipped on the take-out, and went straight to my car to open this rather nice black box. Inside I found a small scoop of very, very delicious potato salad, a flaccid pickle (it tasted homemade, but drooped limply like it was store-bought), a slice of orange, a partial slice of pineapple, half of a badly bruised strawberry, and the sandwich.

Overall, it was pretty darn good, too, even if everything came in very small portions. The three spoonfuls of potato salad I had were downright delicious and may be the best tiny serving of potato salad I’ve ever had. The fruit was sweet and ripe. The only standard I have to compare the Reuben to is the Reuben at Slyman’s, a beautiful, delicious monster with 66 layers of corned beef stacked perhaps two inches high. Lucky’s Reuben was nowhere near as high; it had two slices of corned beef, perhaps a third of an inch total, with melted cheese, a touch of sauerkraut, and two slices of bread, thoroughly soaked in butter. The small cup of Thousand Island was nice for dipping, and went well with everything else. All in all, it was a nice little package, and a nice little sandwich.

The problem I had was that it was absurdly and unreasonably expensive, and I couldn’t figure out what might justify the cost. My demi-meal cost $13.75, not including tax; if I’d eaten in, it would have been $14.82, as the woman behind the counter pointed out. This was only for the corned beef sandwich – I didn’t ask for sides, starters, for a triple-foam no fat soy caffeine-free organic chai latte. To me, $13.75/14.82 is too much to be paying for a sandwich that I’d put down as “nice” and subsequently not think much about after that, except for this entry.

So, FW, I gave them an eighth chance at your behest, and I tried to like it. In truth, it was ok – it was just absurdly overpriced, and I’m pretty sure I’ll never return. I’m not going to chalk it up to Guy Fieri “ruining” it, although I’m pretty sure he doesn’t pay for his meals. If they drop the prices to a level equivalent to what customers actually receive then I’d consider returning again ($6.95 would be reasonable). Luckily, I didn’t have the same experience as my girlfriend or best friend or Franks Gaspartos and McGarvey had; they all got exceptionally rude service, they didn’t think the food was worth the price or the trip, they didn’t really like the restaurant as a whole and none of them will go back. Come to think of it, of the seven - er, eight - times I’ve been to Lucky’s, I’ve never been there twice with the same person. I’m going to have to ask around about that.

One last thing, Frank W.: if you ever want to add me back on Facebook or follow me on Twitter again, you know what to do.

Lucky's Cafe on Urbanspoon


BaconLaser said...

Yup. Lucky's would improve 1000% if they addressed their mostly bitchy attitude and slashed prices in half. It can be done without sacrificing quality. Until then...

Anonymous said...

Had lunch at Luckys with a friend last week and the bill was $40!!!Food was good,but server was rude:(

Cookbook said...

People are crazy about Lucky's but I agree with your assessment -- too busy and hectic, especially on weekends; actually pretty mediocre food; and way overpriced for what you're getting. The Vine & Bean over on Larchmere (Lucky's sister restaurant) is just as bad, albeit less crowded.

You gave it multiple chances and didn't like it. It happens.

Anonymous said...

I've had some of the WORST service I've ever had at both Lucky's and its east side outpost Vine & Bean. I'll NEVER go to Vine & Bean again... listen, if you're busy, I understand, and I sympathize - I've had a lot of friends who worked at restaurants - but snapping at someone and saying they'll "have to come back later" because the restaurant has almost run out of food...well, that's pretty unforgiveable. The prices are insanely out of whack for what you get, too. I hate to say it, because I like to shop local, not at chains, but their paninis are an embarrassment to the word 'panini.' No flavor, just plain blah.

Mel said...

I had the Vietnamese Grinder today for lunch at Lucky's. Yes, my bill was crazy like $15 for a sandwich and a latte. Do I think Lucky's Cafe is over-priced? Certainly. But is it delicious? Abso-effin-lutely (I'm not sure if I can swear here).

It is the first time I have had pickled PUMPKIN... on anything. And on this sandwich (I added the optional chopped jalapeno), that just rounded out a really great-tasting sandwich.

I frequent there because of the owner's commitment to local foods -- and gossip was that she was spearheading a campaign for the City of Cleveland to allow live chickens and bees within city limits (for the ultimate in freshness!). I mean, there's a garden RIGHT OUTSIDE that supplies the kitchen pantry. THAT I can get behind. And, in essence, spend $15 for.

But yeah, I get really annoyed with the wait staff too. Nobody seems to be around when time for check or a take-out box.

All that said long-windedly, I'd take a Slyman's corned beef ANY day over any sandwich in this city. That is all.

Dine O Mite said...

Lucky's succeeds in spite of their prices, portions, and service. I'm not a huge portion size person, but I DO know what things cost. I found the prices completely out of scale with what they're serving. If the price isn't enough to keep me out of there, the service is. How is it that Zingerman's Deli can offer something (but much larger), at the same price, with much better service? I also think Gourmand's puts out sandwiches that are just as good at a VERY reasonable price. Lucky's has many fans. I'm just not one of them.

AS said...

Mr. Mite -

Well said!


Anonymous said...

Whatever. I don't get it and think you are right.