Monday, December 31, 2012

Cleveland Heath, Suburban St. Louis

The small Illinois-side St. Louis suburb of Edwardsville has seen incredible growth over the last few decades.  It now features everything a person could want in a bedroom community – a quaint downtown, plenty of grocery stores, your basic box stores, parks and trails and lots of dining options.  For a family dinner Friday night we checked out one of the newer options, Cleveland Heath.  We walked in shortly after 5pm, and it was already mobbed.  Getting to our table proved challenging, as the bar and waiting area, really one in the same, is right next to the door; I suppose this makes it look busy and happening from the street.  The reality is that it was busy and happening.  So busy, in fact, that hearing people at our table of eight was challenging without yelling.  The atmosphere is very casual, decorated in earth tones and natural woods with some food-oriented art. It would be a good date spot. 

Our server dropped by to see what we would like to drink.  The beer selection was good, featuring many local options and quality larger offerings.  They did have Goose Island’s Bourbon County Stout, so why go further? The wine selection was comparable.  We ordered a few appetizers also.  The deviled eggs were great with a touch of spicy heat.  The shrimp and grits were good, but could have been a bit firmer.  My favorite was the boquerones, or white anchovies.  They were wonderful.  Five little fishies served on a single slab of toast with roasted tomatoes…a taste of heaven.      

Moving on to main dishes, Cleveland Heath shined.  Cauliflower bisque was large enough to swim in, looked rich enough to clog arteries, but tasted light and delicious for a cool winter evening.  The pozole was served in the same size bowl and was full of quality ingredients.  The pork cheeks with lentils were wonderful, rich and soothing, defining umami flavor.  The mac and cheese was creamy but stood up over time, not becoming a gooey mess.  Burgers were all cooked just right.  They came with a side of mixed French fries and sweet potato fries and these were addictively delicious, however, the quantity was obscenely huge.  We passed around a plate of beignets for dessert.  They were light and airy, warm and sweet.  The pulled pork was tender and juicy, and the chop salad was bountiful and delicious.

Cleveland Heath was a mixed bag.  Food quality and variety was excellent and well worth the trip.  They say that simplicity represents their ideals, and I would say they have done this element well.  However the noise in the front room was deafening, making a social meal with a big group near impossible.  In back noise levels were likely lower.  In warm weather they use a patio in back.  Quality for your money was excellent and most dishes were served in a reasonable quantity, though the soups and fries were over the top.  I look forward to going back; Cleveland Heath would be a great date spot.  Those pork cheeks are calling me!
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