White table cloth city tonight, baby!! Somebody paid me and I was feeling flush…so me and my honey decided to upgrade the food level a tad and drive in the rain to Hudson, Ohio, exactly 45 miles from my driveway. Hudson is a great little town between Cleveland and Akron filled with great shopping, schools with the word “academy” in their name, and lots and lots of expensive real estate. Sprinkled in the mix are several interesting restaurants from bargain Mexican to an uber trendy tapas bar. (Check out the Rosewood Grill review for another great Hudson restaurant)
I wanted to try something that was upscale, familiar, adult oriented, but not so trendy as to make me feel I need a trip to the plastic surgeon to take some wrinkles off of my face and take away two of my double chins. After perusing the internet, I decided to give Leo’s Reserve Inn a try.
Let’s say that what I was expecting, and what we got were two different things. I have driven past this place for years. The sign out front is 1950’s neon modern…it might as well say “Airport Bar and Grill”. Obviously the outside of the restaurant had to have been remodeled because it looks like an Amish place you might find in Columbiana. “I will have the hot turkey sandwich, please!” I went to the unremarkable website, also looking like this should be one of those home cookin with fixin’s places. You know…fruit pies thickened with lots of corn starch and tapioca!!!!!
But the posted menu and the reviews on Trip Advisor belied what my senses told me, so I thought we would give it a try. I didn’t know what to expect. So we overlooked the tacky website. We drove past the tacky neon sign. We parked next to the Amish styled building and walked into…well…into an absolutely sophisticated space that didn’t look anything like the pictures on the website. (If they did the site themselves, they should hire someone to fix it. If someone they hired designed the site, get somebody else quick!) It was exactly the kind of place I wanted to be tonight.
As you walk in the door, there is a dining room to the left, and a bar to the right. The dining room is plain but tasteful. The bar is to the right, and it is upscale in every sense of the work. The clientele is somewhat older than the tapas bar around the corner, but these are folks I am comfortable with enjoying a restaurant where you can actually hear yourself talk while eating some great food. It is just fancy enough.
It takes reservations, recommended on the weekends. Request a booth in the bar. We got there very early so we got seated without too much trouble, but most of the tables were reserved for the evening. This is not a moo-moo place that turns tables umpteen times as you gulp down your food.
The menu is well thought out, and would be classified “American”. Translate: If want veal parm…go down the street. Although we didn’t meet the chef, he spent a considerable amount of time at the table next to us. His heritage is apparently Native American. He loves to talk about his cooking. And he offers numerous specials that don’t appear on the menu, so listen closely when the server gives you the run down.
The appetizers are fascinating. We had baked olives with onions and tomatoes in vinaigrette. It is served hot, so it is a little disconcerting. You could just eat appetizers and a salad and call it a night (like tapas?). This is a well thought out selection.
Next my wife had a Caesar salad and I had French onion soup. To be honest, the onion soup was not that great, but my wife’s salad was terrific. For our main course, my wife chose walleye served with black eyed peas. I had an expertly prepared hanger steak served with baked au gratin potatoes served in a wedge.
Here’s the thing. Everything was very good…nothing was WOW. The garnish on the steak was some annoying green shredded stuff that wasn’t really needed and a little irritating. The potatoes were good, but I have had better. My wife’s walleye was good, but again, she has had better. And they didn’t serve bread…and I need my carbs with my meal. Not serving bread or rolls is just plain strange. When I asked for some, they brought out some corn bread…which again was good, but I have had better.
So here’s the deal. I would definitely go to the Reserve Inn again. The total package of good food and the wonderful atmosphere and absolutely outstanding and friendly service makes it worth the 45 mile drive. It is a little on the pricey side. It is an ala carte menu. And for a place like this, you should expect nothing else.
One secret….IT HAS THE BEST DAMN COCONUT CAKE I HAVE EVER EATEN IN MY LIFE!!!!!! In fact, it the best piece of restaurant cake of any kind I have ever had in my live. Homemade on the premises, if I were the owners, I would put on that neon sign out front…"Home of the World’s Best Damn Coconut Cake."
It is SINFUL. We think we figured it out. Cubans have a specialty cake called three leches cake, which is a cake made with three kinds of milk…regular milk, sweetened condensed milk, and evaporated milk. The number of “leches” goes up as the baker gets creative to include whipping cream and coconut milk…now a five leches cake. The trick to these cakes is to pour the milk mixture over the cake and let it sit while the cake sops up the milk. Sound yucky, but the result is a cake that is creamy and rich and decadent. Throw in two tablespoons of rum and whoa mama!!! Layer it…add coconut and you have one of the richest and creamiest cakes you can imagine. We don’t know if that is what this is…but we have our suspicions. If it isn’t, whoever bakes for them is the best baker in the world, and we had fun digging up some recipes to try at home!!!!!!
I was going to give it 3 ½ meatballs until I had the cake, which bumped into the 4 meatball category.