Doug Katz of Fire, Food and Drink and Provenance’s latest venture is a diner car – and not just any diner car, but the diner cars on Lee Road that have hosted several restaurants since I moved to Cleveland Heights a few year ago. I wanted to wait to write about my visits to give them time to settle and to enjoy a collection of their dishes. The restaurant is located in the diner car to the left, while the diner car on the right features a 1920s-style speakeasy bar that guests have to dial in to access. I haven’t made it to the speakeasy yet, but was honored to be given a tour by Doug before the place opened when dining with friends at a place down the street. The seats in both cars are luxurious, and you sink into them easily. Perfect for a relaxing meal or drink. Parking in the small lot can be tight, but luckily there is an abandoned Rite Aid across the street – as well as on-street parking.
The surroundings inside the renovated dining room are warm and comfortable. Doug has installed polished steel, dark woods, gray vinyl and white tabletops. The polished steel is eye-catching and industrial. The tables feature starched and neatly folded white dishtowel napkins with a black border.
Update: They have changed the menu. The only things remaining that I talk about here are the coffee, the French toast, the adult milkshakes, the Katz Club, and the Eggplant Reuben. They may bring some of these back as specials. For example, the Matzoh Ball soup was a special during Passover. I talk about some of the newer items at the bottom.
My first visit I ordered the meatloaf and garlic mashed potatoes. I was a little leery of the tomato cream, but one bite had me wishing I had a big bowl of it. The sauce is luscious. The only thing I miss from the dish is a side of steamed broccoli to balance out the carbs and the protein, but I think that stems from my childhood when meatloaf always came with broccoli. My dining companion enjoyed her Reuben and gave me a bite. It was delicious, and everything she was expecting.
Their breakfasts are filling. The coffee by Rising Star is divine – and comes served with barista art, which made me smile. If you want an espresso or cappuccino you won’t go wrong ordering one here. I enjoyed my French toast, which came with a side of beery compote, immensely. My companion enjoyed his eggs and bacon, while another companion thoroughly enjoyed his cheesy mushroom omelet.
The Matzoh ball soup is to die for – served with chunks of chicken and veggies. Corky & Lenny’s and Jack’s Deli’s matzoh ball soup is just broth and Matzoh ball (although I think C&L has a couple carrots floating in it). I paired it with a Katz Club, which includes a fried egg instead of ham – an intriguing twist on the club sandwich. It was delicious, but I think the cold meatloaf sandwich is an even better pairing with the soup. Just because I love the meatloaf here (although I would have liked just a couple lettuce leaves scattered on the sandwich and not a hunk cut off the head and piled on top in the middle – some rearranging was needed before I could enjoy it).
I enjoyed the pan-fried chicken and spaghetti-mushroom casserole on my latest visit. The farmer’s cheese didn’t melt real well on the casserole, but I think that is more due to the consistency of the cheese rather than the cooking of said dish (because I had the same problem with the tuna melt – see photo). This ain’t Velveeta – and thank goodness it isn’t! Again, I missed some veggies, so I ordered a side salad, which rocked my world with the addition of a warm bacon dressing. If you order nothing else here, you must try the warm bacon dressing! OMG!
I have heard grumblings that the burger is disappointing, but with the meatloaf and cold meatloaf sandwich on the menu why would anyone try to order a burger here?
I also heard a complaint about the tuna melt, which is served on an English muffin. This is how I learned to enjoy tuna melts – at The Millsville Diner in Twinsburg (RIP), so I was perfectly happy with my tuna melt. There are apparently two schools of thought on what makes a tuna melt – one being a grilled cheese-like melt. Who knew? Paired with a boozy chocolate shake (The Gene Wilder Shake, which features rum) I was a happy camper.
Reviews have been mixed on Yelp. People either love it or hate it. I, for one, love it. Don’t go here expecting quickly-fixed, inexpensive, greasy-spoon-diner food. In fact, the food here is relatively expensive, though portion sizes are generous and ingredients are high quality. Most everything is locally sourced, and the attention to quality shows. I don’t know if it is a coincidence, but it seems like almost every time I’ve been here Doug has been here as well. I think it is a testament to his passion for the food and desire to make this restaurant a success. It’s definitely worth a trip.
Update: I met friends here for lunch and we shared some of the new items. I ordered the Creamy Smoked Chicken soup and didn’t share it. It was that good. It features spaetzel, great northern beans, kale, fine herbs & focaccia croutons. It was zesty and smoky and just a lovely soup. I ordered the tried and true eggplant Reuben, while my friend D. ordered the Masala Fish. It is a flavorful wrap that features house made naan, mint slaw & Indian Masala sauce. This fish wrap was amazing! Be sure to give it a try. Our other friend K. ordered the burger, and it was quite lovely. I don’t know what people were complaining about. It was moist and delicious.
1975 Lee Rd
Cleveland Heights, OH 44118