Restaurant Review: Knead
The game plan: Update old favorites and use as many locally sourced ingredients as possible. And keep prices in check. Even restaurants at the high end of the price scale rarely make as much food in-house (or get as many ingredients nearby).
In the Short North space, modern elements and materials mix harmoniously with rustic, homey touches -- oak chairs, for instance. At one side, a comfortably sized bar offers a stellar lineup of beers.
The imaginative menu reflects the owners' familiarity with different types of restaurants and foods. The sandwiches are often as enticing as the entrees, and missing are the excesses of salt, sugar and cheap fat. Whimsical titles dot the brand-new menu, in place for less than three weeks.
The Caprese salad -- with thick slices of lean bacon that Rick Lopez smokes himself -- is called a "bacaprese" ($8). Three large slices of locally grown tomato are sprinkled with smoked blue cheese (also from Ohio) and chopped onions, and dressed with top-quality olive oil.
The "Italmale" small plate ($8) features chicken wrapped with a masa-harina dough and cooked inside corn husks. It's served with an enticing saute of shiitake mushrooms and Marsala wine. The corn flavor is pronounced and welcome.
The corn tortillas used to make the "bacon cheeseburger taquitos" ($7) are also flavorful. The tortillas wrap a mixture of ground grass-fed beef, onions, garlic and white cheddar cheese. Deep-fried crisp, they're served with greens that carry an appealing tomato-aioli sauce.
The "veggie enchilada" ($12) is filled with white cheddar and prepared with an excellent coffee-flavored mole sauce topped with plenty of sauteed vegetables and accompanied by sour cream and excellent black beans.
The fine La Rossa eggplant is used in the eggplant Parmesan ($15 as an off-menu large plate). Skillfully breaded and fried, the slices of eggplant are arrayed under a light sprinkle of cheese and a complex tomato sauce.
Several worthwhile pizzas are made with a from-scratch crust that's crisp and full of old-time flavor. The "fun-guy" pizza ($12) has oyster mushrooms and house-smoked shiitake mushrooms atop mozzarella, along with house-made mild Italian sausage that has a delicious fennel-seed note. Underneath is a swirl of tomato sauce.
All of the desserts are made by Krista Lopez. The blueberry tart ($5.50) starts with a low-sugar, high-butter short crust. It contains a first-class light custard, fragrant with vanilla bean and dotted with blueberries. The icing is topped with strips of lemon zest.
The "smoosie Q" ($4) is huge: Two large squares of excellent chocolate cake, with a complex coffee flavor, sandwich a worthy cream.
A ladyfinger is served with a tiramisu ($5) that has a fine balance of flavors -- coffee, cocoa, liqueur, spongecake and a superior-quality mascarpone from Vermont Creamery.
The small wine list is loaded with modest prices. One impressive selection is a Prosecco ($7) from the Cinqueterre region of Italy.
The drink emphasis is on beers, and the selection is vast and imaginative. For serious beer drinkers who want hops bitterness to go with their food, consider the Old 21 IPA ($9.75 for 22 ounces) from Brew Kettle Brewery in Strongsville. It lets you know right away that it isn't for amateurs.
505 N. High St., Short North
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