Wildflower Cafe continues to dish up hearty, homestyle favorites
A friend recently announced in a group chat that after eating the fried chicken from Wildflower Cafe for lunch, he returned hours later to have it again for dinner.
Before I could type, “Did you wear a fake mustache on the second visit?” most of the text recipients commented on the brilliance of his dining tactic. Then they praised other dishes prepared by the restaurant.
It had been too long since I’d visited Wildflower, I suddenly realized. In fact, I hadn’t been to the widely beloved, versatile eatery — which is like a diner run by a professional chef — since the longtime Clintonville favorite reopened in July as an extremely efficient takeout operation after temporarily closing due to the pandemic.
Multiple menus are offered. They cover weekday lunch and dinner services, weekend-only brunch and Saturday dinners, plus weekly specials. Ranging from pancakes to crab cakes, the food advertised on the various menus is cooked from scratch and generally quite good.
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Wildflower’s Blueberry Pancakes ($6 for two) are among the stars of the popular brunch menu. They’re immense and floppy yet still light and fluffy. Because they aren’t sugar-bombs, they’re enhanced, not overwhelmed, by the provided syrup.
Three savory dishes I sampled were in the same league as the standout flapjacks: Corned Beef Hash ($9), a recent spot-on Sunday special served with with eggs and toast; custardy and delicious Quiche Lorraine ($9) served with a sizable good salad; and the highly recommended Chorizo Eggs Benedict ($12.50), which offsets spicy sausage patties with avocado and creamy-yet-lemony Hollandaise sauce.
The latter comes with a nice salad or home fries (my good-tasting home fries were slightly undercooked), but the terrific Cheesy Grits are still worth an extra $3.
I also enjoyed the Meatloaf Melt ($11; served with crisp house chips), a fine spin on a patty melt. For nearly the same price, though, you can get one of the best burgers in the area — the outstanding Black Angus Burger ($12, with chips), which showcases a juicy, smoke-scented, steak-like patty with real-deal grill-seared character.
The Yankee Pot Roast ($13), a Thursday special, was another beef-based home run: Juicy, delicious meat flattered by drinkable beef gravy and enhanced by tangy concentrated tomato and long-cooked onions. A generous serving of steamed redskin potatoes, carrot disks and green beans completes the hearty meal.
If something from the sea is calling, the peppery Cajun Crab Cakes ($16) can scratch that itch. Served with hand-cut sweet potato fries and sauteed veggies, my two golden-brown cakes included a decent amount of clean-tasting shellfish and partnered well with a perky-yet-rich remoulade sauce.
Lettuce played a small role in the large Cobb Salad ($12). With an excellent house-made honey-mustard dressing plus loads of smoky grilled chicken cubes, crispy bacon bits, sliced hard-cooked egg, tomatoes and grated cheese, the attractively presented entree tasted as good as it looked.
Wednesday’s special, Chicken and Noodles ($12; served with fluffy mashed potatoes), was as comforting as a warm blanket on a chilly night. I particularly loved its sturdy homemade noodles, but wanted more richness and flavor from its chicken gravy.
Flavor wasn’t lacking in the herbed Chicken Parmesan ($14): a slab of crackly crusted, flawlessly fried and sliced breast meat topped with grated cheese and paired with plenty of al dente spaghetti enlivened by a bold marinara sauce.
The crispy golden-brown poultry in the Southern Fried Chicken Saturday special ($14; served with honest mashers, gravy and coleslaw) was another triumph of technique. The characteristically homey but skillfully cooked meal is even better with a slice of dependably well-made pie du jour($5).
Is Wildflower’s chicken dinner so good that you’d want to eat it twice in one day? Ask my brother. He looks like me, only he has a mustache.
3420 Indianola Ave., Clintonville