I had been meaning to get to Melt Bar and Grilled in Lakewood for a while now. I had read of the epic long waits for tables and even longer wait for food once seated. Knowing that I don't like waiting more than about twenty minutes for a table (and even less if I have a reservation), I decided to pick what I thought would be an odd time to go and hopefully result in fewer customers. Seeing that I needed to be in Cleveland on Saturday evening for a party, I thought I'd show up mid-afternoon and grab a meal. Bzzzt! Wrong! At 3:00 PM on Saturday afternoon there was a 90 minute wait just to get a table. And based on anecdotal evidence I'd read from the local food forum, I knew that once I got seated, it would more than likely be another 45 - 60 minutes before I received any food. My visions of the Parmageddon quickly dissipated in my mind's eye.
Needing a new plan, I assessed my location and realized that I was just down the street from The Big Egg. The last time I ate at The Big Egg Restaurant, I waxed nostalgic about the previous incarnation being a hangout spot for my college friends and I back in the early to mid 1990's. We would show up after the bars had closed and we had picked the one (mostly) sober person to drive us across town to fill our bellies with strong coffee and cheese-topped omelettes. While the last time I stopped in for dinner at the updated restaurant I had a classic omelet and hash browns, I was determined to return at some point and try something else off of the menu. Clearly, today was that day.
Compared to Melt, The Big Egg was nearly empty. In fact, I think there were more employees present than customers. The owner seated me at a table by the window adjacent to West 52nd street and I began looking through not only the regular menu, but also the daily specials menu. While I didn't get a shot of the daily specials menu, I have to say that the list was impressive. Each day had somewhere between six and eight additional items either at a reduced price from the regular menu or not on the menu at all. For instance, one of Saturday's specials was a chicken paprikash served over noodles. While that sounded really good, when I noticed that the regular menu offered honey-dipped fried chicken, my mouth instantly began to salivate. When I presented my dilemma to my server, she said that they were both good, but the chicken was fantastic. Chicken it was.
With my entree, I had the choice of a garden salad or soup. Today's homemade choices were chicken noodle or chicken gumbo. I opted for the chicken gumbo:
The flavor was good and the broth seasoned well, but the rice had been sitting so long in this hot soup that it had essentially disintegrated into mush. In fact, the rice didn't even look like rice anymore, but really mushy pasta. I had to ask my server when she stopped back around if the gumbo had rice or pasta in it. She looked a little surprised at the question, but answered, "Rice." Sadly, the vegetables in the soup, carrots, okra, and the like, were equally as mushy. I don't mean to convey that I thought they should be crisp; they shouldn't. But these literally dissolved in my mouth once they hit my tongue.
My soup finished, my entree and sides arrived at my table. First up, a shot of the honey-dipped fried chicken:
My chicken portion today consisted of a breast, a back, and a drumstick. Which, at $6.99 for soup, my meal, and a dessert was a pretty darn good deal. I was a little surprised when this plate was set down in front of me because I had assumed that the "honey-dipped" part of the name meant that after the chicken was fried, it was either drizzled or dipped in some type of honey-like syrup. The coating on the chicken was bone dry. Thinking that maybe there was some other clever trick for deploying the honey, I went ahead and took a bite. I like my fried chicken crust to be substantial, crispy, not greasy, and flavorful. I expect the chicken meat to be juicy and seasoned well. This chicken was nearly perfect. While not quite as juicy as some other versions I've had, it was pretty darn close. After chewing on the crust for a bit, I could definitely get a slight sense of sweet, so perhaps the honey was incorporated into the batter somehow. In any case, I descended on my fried chicken like a vulture and within just a few minutes, it was reduced to a pile of flesh-stripped bones.
I turned my attention to the vegetable of the day (which came with the dinner), peas and carrots:
As you can see from the muted, washed out pale green color on the peas, the flavor more or less matched. Mushy seemed to be the texture of the day for vegetables here at The Big Egg, and this side dish did not disappoint in that regard. I took a bite just to say that I did, but I didn't venture much further beyond that.
With each dinner entree, you get a choice of potato as well. Since I had chosen hash browns the last time I ate here, this time I went with another diner staple, French fries:
Fried nicely, these were crispy on the outside and soft and pillowy on the inside. They weren't greasy, but I noticed that they were a tad bit bland. A bit of table salt and an application of ketchup to the plate and I quickly scarfed these down, too. While the best French fry title belongs to another restaurant, The Big Egg's version won't disappoint if you like classic diner-style French fries.
Even without finishing all of my French fries and vegetables, by the time my server came around to ask me what I wanted for my included dessert, I had to decline. I was simply too full. Instead I asked for my check, took one last swig of water and paid for my meal before returning out into the chilly winter Cleveland air. I admit, there were a few misses in tonight's dinner, but that fried chicken was definitely worth returning to the restaurant for another look. And of course, I still want to try the chicken paprikash. I guess I'll just have to plan on not getting into Melt on another Saturday and return to the Big Egg instead.