Cleveland Independents, a group that showcases local independently owned Cleveland restaurants, has worked with its members to promote family-oriented meals during the month of January 2010. This means that at each of the eighty member restaurants, you can find a meal that will either be served family-style or have the addition of a children's menu (sometimes both). Having had the family dinner at Crop Bistro not to long ago (which runs every Sunday regardless of this special promotion by Cleveland Independents), I was excited to receive an invitation from my friend Diane to join her and a group of others to try the family-style dinner at Moxie, The Restaurant. I had been wanting to try Moxie for quite some time and this gave me a perfect opportunity to sample a multi-course dinner at a more reasonable cost.
Moxie was located at 3355 Richmond Road, Beachwood, Ohio 44122 and can be reached at 216-831-5599. Moxie shared the building with another Cleveland eatery, Red. Since both shared the same parking lot, it could be quite full, even when Moxie wasn't. This was the case when I showed up for our 6:30 PM reservation. While valet parking was available, I chose to instead park across the street at the Charter One and walk over.
Once inside the door, I immediately noticed the restaurant's namesake built into the top of the wall that greeted all of the guests:
Once seated at our table, I noticed two menus. The regular menu was available for those who chose to order from it. The other menu available was for the family-style dinner. Here was a shot of that second menu:
Considering that most of the entrees alone on their regular menu were somewhere between $20 and $35, $30 for a three course meal seemed like a good deal. Having only the Crop Bistro's family dinner to compare it to, I was a little taken back that for $5 more per person, there was a lot less choice. However, I thought I needed to be open minded and experience the entire meal before making any further judgments.
The nice thing about the family dinner at Moxie was that it wasn't an all or nothing deal. Three members of our party decided to order from the regular menu and five of us decided to go with the family meal. After placing the order with our server, bread and butter quickly found its way to our table. Here was a shot of the bread basket:
Comprised of several kinds of bread, it was all fresh and delicious. Missing from the above basket but present in a refill was some of Moxie's homemade cornbread. The cornbread was by far the favorite amongst our group and it had a wonderfully fresh crumb and really tasted of corn. Served with the breads were two condiments:
At the front of the plate was simply butter. At the back of the plate in the two ramekins was a creamy white bean spread that had loves notes of garlic and lemon juice in them. A little thicker than your average hummos, it was a wonderful pairing with the whole grain bread that was in the basket.
A few minutes after our bread course arrived, the family style spinach salad platters arrived on the table, too:
The salad was made with fresh spinach, Westfield Farms goat cheese and dried pear strips and was dressed with a warm date vinaigrette. After serving myself from the communal platter, I tucked into my portion. The spinach was slightly wilted from the warm vinaigrette, but was still fresh and had a nice chew to them. The seasoning on the salad was spot on and for the most part was delicious. The goat cheese added a nice creaminess and sharpness to balance the sweetness from the vinaigrette. The only criticism that I and a few others around the table had was that the dried pear strips were simply too big. It was a nice textural contrast to be sure, but because the strips were so large, it was a little difficult to get a little bit with each bite. Also missing from this salad was something a little on the crunchy side, like nuts. Had the pears been cut into a dice instead of julienne and a sprinkling of nuts been added, I think this salad would've been perfect.
Having finished the salad course, the main event soon arrived at our table. This presented somewhat of a real estate issue as the table was already covered with dishes from previous courses and attempting to set down new platters of fried chicken, carrots and mashed potatoes required quite a bit of shuffling around. Until we eventually got it all settled, there were a few of us at the table holding our own plates or platters of food in our hands while the jigsaw puzzle of food was being finalized.
Here was a shot of the buttermilk soaked fried chicken and the thyme-glazed carrots:
And here was a shot of the bowl of mashed potatoes:
There was also a milk gravy that was served, but in all of the confusion, I didn't manage to get a picture of it. After serving myself and dishing up my plate, I ended up with this for my dinner:
The chicken breast I had taken was completely boneless except for a single wing bone sticking out at one end of the meat. Based on how juicy and well seasoned the entire breast was, I am guessing that the chicken had been brined at some point. Regardless, this was an excellent piece of fried chicken. The coating was crispy and not greasy at all. I could taste a blend of spices in the crust, but it never overpowered the flavor of the moist breast meat inside. This was also a sizable portion and I by the time I finished what was on my plate, I was completely full. The mashed potatoes were equally as delicious. Light and creamy, they didn't taste like they had any butter or cream in them at all. However, knowing restaurants' love for the dairy, we figured there was probably more than any of us cared to acknowledge. The milk gravy was also seasoned well and complimented the mashed potatoes perfectly. Finally, let's talk about the thyme glazed carrots. Cooked until soft, the glazed carrots had the addition of fresh spinach to provide an additional color contrast. Flavor wise, the spinach didn't add a whole lot to the party, but it was nice to see an additional color on the plate. The carrots were a nice blend of salty and sweet (as glazed carrots should be), but the use of thyme to add a herbaceous note was a bit of a departure for me. Thyme has such a woodsy, earthy flavor that to my palate goes much better with something like mushrooms. I think dill or fennel fronds might have been a better pairing here, but the thyme still added a nice counterpoint to the flavor of the carrots.
Having finished the main portion of the meal now, I was completely stuffed. Thankfully, whether purposefully or not, the kitchen took a bit longer to get the dessert out to our table. At Crop Bistro, the dessert on the family dinner was the same for everybody, but plated separately. Here at Moxie, however, one very large chocolate Baked Alaska came out to the table:
After serving everyone at the table participating in the family dinner, I took a shot of my individual portion:
This was a three layered dessert. At the base was a dense, intensely flavored chocolate cake studded with chips of chocolate. Topping that was a homemade chocolate mocha ice cream. Finishing the dessert was a layer of ultra-light meringue that had been expertly baked so that each bite had a little bit of the caramelized flavor that only running this under the Salamander (e.g., broiler) could bring to the party. This was a fantastic way to finish the meal and the portion size turned out to be perfect after such a heavy meal. While none of us could taste the mocha flavor in the ice cream, the chocolate flavor in both the cake and the ice cream satisfied my seemingly unquenchable chocoholic craving.
After our meal was complete, Chef Jonathon Bennett stopped by our table to see how the meal went. All of us agreed that we had been treated to an excellent meal, which save for a few nitpickings I mentioned earlier in this review, was true. Having now experienced the flavors and cooking techniques of Chef Bennett and his brigade, I intend on returning to Moxie when I can afford it a bit more. While the family dinners cater to childrens' tastes with more well-known spices and flavors, the regular dinner menu was definitely more geared to an adult palate.
The family dinner at Moxie changes weekly and there are still several more weeks to go in the month of January. While I don't think the family dinner at Moxie was still quite the amazing value that Crop Bistro's is, I definitely think it would be wise to check them out during this special promotion whether you've eaten here before or not. Those ordering from the regular dinner menu said that their meals were excellent and I have no good reason to doubt them. I heartily recommend that you give Moxie a try.