Review: Take the Cake (Brunch)
(This is the third in a series I’m dubbing “The Grand Tour of Northside, Cincinnati’s Brunch Capital”. See the previous entries: The Comet, Honey, and look for entries about Melt and Hideaway soon… and I’m always open to other undiscovered Northside brunches. Just email me!)
Admittedly, I love Take the Cake and have written about it before. James, the partner of owner Doug Faulkner, is a buddy on Twitter and we’ve built a rapport, which may make some think I’m biased. It would be different if their food wasn’t so consistently good– so good it won three (count ‘em) awards from Metromix just recently. It’s not just me who is impressed. The truly impressive thing, for me, is that rapport I have with the folks from Take the Cake is not unique– they have that rapport with *everyone* they serve. I see it whenever I walk in for brunch or lunch– they treat everyone like a good friend.
Last Sunday, I was woken up with the smell of coffee right under my nose. “Get up, Sweetie!” said Terry. “They have shrimp and grits today!” It’s an understatement to say that Terry is obsessed with their shrimp and grits. They do it a few different ways (Creole, scampi, and others) and it’s always a little different. If they have shrimp and grits, Terry invariably gets them. Their grits are unbelievably creamy– I really don’t want to know how much butter and cream are in them– but incredibly delicious. Sunday’s were Creole-style, in honor of the New Orleans Saints playing in the Super Bowl, so the creamy, cheesy grits were topped with a slightly spicy tomato-based sauce, English peas, red pepper and sauteed shrimp.
I grabbed the “Cuban Biscuit”– ham, roast pork, swiss with lightly pickled cucumbers, topped with a creamy dijon sauce. I love how they played with the flavors of a cuban and turned them on their heel. The mustard and mayonnaise turn into a light sauce instead of heavy condiments, and instead of the traditional pressed bread, one of Doug’s stellar biscuits. A lot of their dishes are like this– take the expected and twist them around until they’re both remarkably different and remarkably good.
Get there early– they open at 9:30, and often food is sold out by noon. I’ve seen Melissa (the other owner) go back into the pantry to see what she can whip up, but if you see something on their website, go early to catch it. Other not-to-miss items I’ve had in the past would be the bread-pudding style French toast. French Toast contains, essentially, the same ingredients as bread pudding (eggs, milk, bread– in this case, French) with a slightly different preparation. For Elvis’ birthday, Doug did a version with caramel, bananas, and peanut butter that made my teeth ache it was so sweet, but last week I got a bite or two of an Eclair style bread pudding, which was more dessert than breakfast with chocolate, berries and pastry cream– but for me, the savory really stands out. You can always follow up with a cupcake.