Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Off The Wall Eatery & Gallery

You never know how many breakfast and lunch only joints are out there until you realize that you can never make it to them because the only time you are available to go is in the evening. Most of my hopefully anonymous visits to the restaurants I review are usually made in the evening hours. When I come across a place that doesn't offer anything in the evenings, it usually gets put at the bottom of the list and when I have the rare opportunity of a day off from my regular job or even more rare, a free weekend day, I tend to pull out that little-used part of my "To Eat" list in order to select a restaurant I know I wouldn't be able to get to normally.

Several months ago, my friend and hair stylist extraordinaire, Sherri, told me about a new breakfast and lunch place, Off The Wall Eatery & Gallery. Apparently she and the other stylists over at Frizz Hair Experience have been fairly regular customers of Off The Wall and like to place large lunch orders to go. In fact, they even had several of the menus behind the receptionist's counter. Over the course of the next couple months, she asked if I had gotten a chance to try them out, and unfortunately, until today, I just couldn't make it there when they were open.

That changed today. After running some morning errands, I found myself over near the Steel Corners exit on Route 8 and decided to pop in for lunch. Off The Wall Eatery & Gallery was located in a strip mall building quite a bit back from Steels Corner Road. The address of the restaurant was 4161 Steels Pointe, Unit #900, Stow, OH 44224 and they can be reached at 330-923-9255. Parking was available in front of the strip mall. At the time of this writing, no website could be found that was directly associated with the restaurant.

Here was a shot of the front entrance to the restaurant:

Storefront for Off The Wall Eatery and Gallery
Upon walking through the front door, I was presented with a bright, well-lit space that had all manners of art hanging on the walls. Featuring local artists, it turned out that EVERYTHING was for sale. I didn't have a chance to walk around today and take in the visuals, but the variety of colors added a wonderful visual appeal to the stark monotone color on the wall. After seating myself as the sign inside the door instructed, I picked up one of the paper menus that were stacked vertically at each table.

Here were snapshots of the menu:

Off The Wall's Menu Page 1
Off The Wall's Menu Page 2
Off The Wall's Menu Page 3
Off The Wall's Menu Page 4
My server was cheerful and friendly and when I told her this was my first time visiting, she pointed out some of the items on the menu which she thought were some of the restaurant's stand outs. She also mentioned that today's homemade soup choices were white chicken chili (which they have on a daily basis) and the chipotle chicken and rice. I was even more impressed that she said "chipotle" correctly. While I was still undecided about the sandwich I would be ordering, I made the decision to go ahead and order a cup of the chipotle chicken and rice soup:

Chipotle Chicken and Rice Soup
If this was the cup, I can't imagine how big a bowl of the soup would have been. I thought she might have brought me the larger version instead of the cup, but when she brought my check, I was charged for the smaller cup size. The broth was fairly thin and the milky texture came from the starch of the rice and not any added dairy. I tasted the soup and was immediately aware of the chipotle; not so much because of a smokiness from the smoked chili, but because of the heat which tickled the back of my throat. The rice and chicken were tender and soft. In addition to the protein and starch, various soup vegetables were also present: carrots, onions, and celery ... the power trio for most soups. The only real complaint I had about the vegetables was that the carrots seemed to have been peeled somewhat haphazardly. While this didn't detract from the flavor of the soup, visually, they looked "dirty."

After finishing my soup, my server came back to take my sandwich order. When I saw that one of the sandwiches being offered was a Muffaletta, I couldn't pass it up. This sandwich, a popular New Orleans staple, is a study in balance. You must have the right bread, the right meats, and finally the topper that makes a great Muffaletta, the olive salad. While all of the sandwiches come with chips and a pickle, for an extra $1, I could go with one of the premium sides. My server suggested the homemade coleslaw and I agreed to go with her suggestion.

Here was a shot of my lunch basket today:

Muffaletta with Coleslaw
Here was a close-up of just the Muffaletta:

And a shot of the olive spread with the crown of the ciabatta roll lifted:

Muffaletta with the Crown Removed
Finally, a side shot of the neatly bisected sandwich:

Side Shot of Muffaletta
I took a bite and discovered that the sandwich had been served hot ... well, sort of. Traditionally, the sandwich is served cold. The problem with this version was that after splitting the ciabatta roll, the ham is place on the bottom half and the salami and mozzarella cheese was placed on the top half and then both halves were run through the sandwich toaster. After coming out of the oven, green leafy lettuce was added and the two halves were placed together. The problem came from the fact that the meats were warm on the side closest to the heating element, but as you got closer to the bun, they were actually cold. Serve it hot, serve it cold, but don't serve it with multiple temperatures happening in the same sandwich.

The other problem I had was with the olive salad. The menu listed it as olive tapenade (which seems redundant to me), but the olive spread that was on this sandwich seemed to be too coarse to be tapenade, but far too fine to match the much preferable olive salad that tops the original Muffaletta. In addition, there just wasn't enough of the tapenade on the sandwich to give a full bite any discernible olive flavor. I realize that I'm doing a bit of nitpicking; all that being said, it was a decent enough sandwich. But as a Muffaletta? It definitely needed some work to get to that level.

After my sandwich, I turned my attention to the very colorful coleslaw:

The lovely lilac coloring came from the prodigious use of red cabbage. This was definitely not food service slaw that had come pre-made. The cabbage had been dressed lightly in a slightly tangy, slightly sweet dressing. I was honestly on the fence about the dressing. I would have liked a more pronounced tang to the flavor, but I could also tell that the slaw had been dressed to the point where the cabbage didn't overpower the dressing and the dressing didn't overpower the cabbage. In addition to the cabbage and the dressing, carrots and celery seeds were used to complete the dish. When you go, I'd recommend you give the coleslaw a try.

The total for my lunch today was just under $10 with tax. I left quite full and in fact, wasn't even able to finish my Muffaletta. Sadly, when asked about how much of the food was homemade, it seemed to be about a 50/50 split. For instance, the ciabatta roll on which my sandwich came was a product that they purchased. The pizza dough for their thin crust pizzas was also purchased. Some of the dressings were homemade, some were not. Given that the ciabatta roll used for my sandwich was decent, but not outstanding, I am wary to suggest getting the pizza without trying it out myself first.

Off The Wall was definitely a step out of the ordinary. Service was prompt and efficient and the food, for the most part, was okay, but could've been better. Since it is exceedingly rare that I find myself with the right hours of the day free to attend a place like this, I would return again if someone suggested it, but probably wouldn't find myself seeking it out on my own.

Off the Wall on Urbanspoon


bonnjill said...

A muffaletta done right is truly a wonderful thing. That said, I am going on record here as someone who cannot stand ciabatta. It makes me want to gag. The muffalettas down in New Orleans (well, Central Grocery, which is the originator) aren't served on ciabatta. They are served on round loaves of somewhat crusty bread. OK, now I want to go to New Orleans... Thanks, Tom.

On another note: what did their breakfast menus look like? I might think about scheduling a brunch meetup there, because I'm intrigued by the gallery/eatery idea. Thanks for sharing this!

Tino said...

@bonnjill: Agreed, a well made muffaletta IS a thing of beauty. I enjoy ciabatta, but it seems to be overused quite a bit to make a sandwich seem "trendy." And I've noticed that some restaurants take a certain amount of liberty by calling their bread "ciabatta." While I didn't have a problem with the bread being used at Off The Wall, you're right in that it wasn't right for this sandwich.

I didn't have a chance to sample any of the breakfast items, but I did manage to capture a photo of the breakfast items on the menu. Check out the photos at the beginning of the blog post and you'll see them there.

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