On the advice of an old college friend, I decided to have dinner at a little French cafe in Cleveland, Ohio, called Le Petit Triangle Cafe. Located on the opposite corner from Johnny Mango at the corner of Fulton Road and Bridge Avenue, the somewhat limited outdoor patio and storefront looked rather inviting:
But it wasn't until I walked in that I discovered the quaint exterior extends into the quaint interior as well. It was immediately apparent where the name of the cafe comes from, as the walls slope inward the further back into the cafe that you walk. There are only a few tables inside; the remainder of the space being used for a small, but functional, grill and food prep area. There were stairs going down into the basement inside a door next to the table where we sat, so I have to believe that there must be a storage and prep kitchen in the basement as well.
Our server dropped off menus for us to look through. Here is a shot of the front of the menu:
And the back:
As you can see, there is a variety to choose from, and seeing as Le Petit Triangle Cafe is open for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, they do have to cover all of these bases. The nice thing is that you can order whatever type of dish you would like at any time during the day. So, if you are feeling "brunch-ish" but are there at dinner time, feel free to go ahead and order it. The menu broke down into appetizers, salads, soups, sandwiches, entrees, sides, savory crepes, sweet crepes, and desserts. They also had a separate menu for beer and wine which looked quite fantastic and really specialized on local breweries and breweries within the greater area.
In fact, after our server told us about a special beer that originated from Bell's in Kalamazoo, MI, all three of us ordered it:
The Oberon Ale is a summer wheat ale produced from the end of March through October. Besides the fact that it is served with a slice of orange in the glass, the beer itself is a wonderfully light and fruity (but not sweet) beer that definitely goes well with summer. It isn't heavy or overly hoppy and would pair well with most meals. All three of us thought this was an excellent example of a wheat style beer and I know that I personally would order it again if I found it on a menu or in a bar. Even if you aren't pairing this beer with food, I could see myself enjoying a bottle or two of Oberon Ale just sitting out on the deck and enjoying the sunshine.
We decided to start with a few appetizers. First up, we ordered the "French" pizza, pissaladiere:
This was topped with caramelized onions, olives, dried tomatoes, potatoes and Parmesan cheese. It was finished with some chopped parsley and placed on a bed of greens before being served to us. The pissaladiere was actually quite good, but I wished they had baked it just a tad longer. I think another minute or two in the oven and the crust would've darked just a bit more and added some caramelized notes to the equation. The flavors on the pizza were well-balanced and seasoned nicely. The crust had a nice chew to it and a good flavor, but like I mentioned earlier, it could've benefited from just a touch more browning. The salad underneath the pizza was a little puzzling as it lacked either salt or a dressing of some kind. My guess is that it was simply there for presentation; which is sad because dressed with a nice vinaigrette, this would be a perfect lunch.
Next up we decided to order the chicken pate:
This dish comes garnished with cornichon, pickled red onion, and various "platforms" on which to spread and eat your pate. Honestly, this was a good tasting dish and all of the flavors worked well together. However, the pate was just a bit dry and crumbly and it took a bit of effort to get a good "shmear" of pate onto the baguette. The bread was very fresh and it had a lovely chew to the texture. The pickled red onion and the cornichon added a wonderful acidity that helped to cut the fattiness of the chicken livers in the pate. Again, more salad greens dressed the plate underneath the various components of the dish, although this time I didn't make the mistake of thinking they were actually part of the edible dish.
For my dinner, I decided to go with an old French classic, the Croque Monsieur:
This was served with the Lyonnaise potatoes. With what is essentially a ham and cheese sandwich served on savory challah French Toast and a bechamel sauce, this was a decent representation. It surprised both myself and my one dining companion who has been to France that the bechamel was served as a sauce on top rather than being spread inside. No matter, I happily tucked into this sandwich with fork and knife. While the portion of ham and Gruyere cheese was quite generous, I couldn't help but notice that there was a slightly bitter quality to what I was tasting. It wasn't until I lifted up the sandwich from the plate and looked at the bottom slice of bread that I realized that the bitterness was coming from a much more "well done" side of the sandwich that I hadn't seen until that point. This kind of surprised me because our server knew that at least I was there to photograph our meal and was intending to write about it on this blog.
"What?!?" I hear you say. Wait, wait, gentle reader, I can assure you it was not I that spilled this bit of information. The dining companion who had originally suggested Le Petit Triangle decided to share that bit of information at the onset of the meal before I could stop him. While I told him later that I don't generally tell people up front what my intentions are because I don't want special treatment, he laughed it off and said that he was hoping for the opposite effect. Needless to say, my somewhat burnt sandwich clearly indicates that somewhere between our server and the cook who made my food, the lines of communication severely broke down.
The Lyonnaise potatoes were nicely roasted and seasoned, although some of them were a bit more crispy than I normally like. However, I can think of at least one other person (I'm thinking of you, Debbie) who likes her potatoes this way, so I think it may be more about preference rather than the potatoes were overcooked.
Finally, I decided to get an additional side, the Panni Spaetzle:
This was essentially the spaetzle that is already offered on the menu (my one dining companion had the Chicken Chasseur which came with a side of the spaetzle) and combines it with a bechamel and topped with cheddar cheese before being cooked to a lovely golden brown in the Salamander (broiler for you non-foodie geeks out there). This was actually a tasty side dish and reminded all of us of a more German/French version of Mac'n'Cheese that we were calling "Spaetzle'n'Cheese". We looked around for the ubiquitous "blue box", but settled on the fact that this was something that was definitely homemade and delicious. Not quite as cheesy as a good Mac'n'Cheese, the spaetzle retained their eggy flavor and nice softness. This is also offered as an entree with a side salad.
The other item I'd like to touch on is the service. I think our service was good. That being said, the atmosphere at Le Petit Triangle Cafe is very relaxed. Which means that I wouldn't be going here if I had opera tickets or open heart surgery to attend to afterward. Our trio was there for about two hours and while we all left feeling quite full, this isn't exactly the kind of place to pop into for a quick bite to eat. However, if you've got a little bit of time and want to try some French fare without having to hop onto an international flight, I'd suggest you give Le Petit Triangle Cafe a try. I wouldn't bother telling your server that you read about them in my blog, however. Even with the foreknowledge of me being a food writer and as the future author of this entry, I still got a sandwich that should never have left the kitchen.