Monday, February 28, 2011

56 West

16300 Detroit Ave.
Lakewood, OH 44107
216-226-0058 (fax)

by Penny Panini

Frank and I went wandering around the Metroparks the other day, because the night before had brought a huge thunderstorm, and I wanted to take photos of all the overflowing rivers. We stopped by Berea Falls, and Olmsted Falls, and every other Falls we could find on the maps. It was cold, and the rapids were muddy and violent and intimidating. At one riverbank, we walked in the slushy snow and mud and slate all the way to the very edge of a giant roaring roll of water, and as it was like looking over a railing at a very high height, we both stepped back pretty quickly and automatically.

Later, we skipped the last Falls and jumped onto I-71 to try and avoid rush hour traffic. I always feel safer if I’m closer to the city when it's rush hour. First we drove to Lelolai's, because I wanted a Cuban, but there was a man in an overcoat staring mournfully at their glass door when we got there. The door was plastered with a flier about how Lelolai's was moving locations, and to add them on Facebook to get updates about their Grand Re-Opening. It was extremely disappointing, and I had a quick grab of panic in my chest that maybe they would close forever and I would never again have a coconut milk soaked rum cake. SIGH. There's no news on their facebook page and website; I checked, like, immediately. If that place closed because Cleveland didn't support them enough, I am going to be so mad at all of you.

So we got back into the car and talked about it a minute. We decided to go to 56 West, since it was near Frank’s house. The place was empty when we got there, and we got the two spot table in the window. The menu was nice looking, with just-interesting-enough sandwiches, burgers and salads. Frank got a salad called a French Kiss, with pears and blueberries and a thick, creamy balsamic dressing. The thing that caught my eye was a sandwich called “What the Doctor Ordered,” which is Dr. Pepper braised brisket on a pretzel roll with white cheddar and horseradish mayo. I know, right? Put Dr. Pepper into anything and I'll try it. I once had a Dr. Pepper flavored cupcake. It wasn't very good, but the point is, someone thought of that. And braising brisket in Coca Cola isn't unheard of. It makes you wonder about braising meat in, like, Orange Fanta or Sprite. Or, if this was my friend Frank cooking, Cheerwine. I would be willing to put money on there being a Cheerwine cookbook somewhere, with several meat recipes.

We ordered a side of sweet potato fries, and even though they were fantastic dipped in the salad dressing, I would have totally preferred them salted instead of sprinkled with sugar, which made them far too sweet. Also, dipping sugar in ketchup is unpleasant.

The sandwich itself was composed of sauce-drenched cuts of beef, charred on the edges, with melted cheese, all on a thick, sturdy yellow bun. I tried to eat it by hand first, but that was a sticky failure, so I forked it. The horseradish cut some of the sweetness of the sauce, but it was still exceptionally sweet. If you go in for sweet, this is your sandwich. I personally would have preferred more heat or vinegar, but man, that pretzel bun was great. I tell you what, what it really made me yearn for was a sopping cut of North Carolina barbecue. And a gallon of ice water.

I took half of it home and reheated it hours later as I tried to get warm. Once you stumble around in snow all day, I find it impossible to wash the feeling of snow off me until I shower. Ergo, I took a very hot shower, and put on the softest sweater I could find. Then I watched TV while I nibbled at chunks of brisket with my fingers. And it was pretty good. Because really, this sandwich is the ultimate junk food. That's why it didn't feel quite right at the restaurant. You need to be vulnerable and tired, with muscles aching for comfort food, with a DVR full of Community episodes and a fuzzy blanket, to really appreciate it. Oh jeez winter, just go already. Just go.

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