Diners of a certain age might recall Snicker's, a quirky restaurant in an out-of-the-way locale that enjoyed a small but devoted following. That restaurant had an amazing 20-year run before the final owner, Ron Heinbaugh, closed it to open Krazy Mac's, a macaroni and cheese-focused cafe that survived less than two years.
Elements of both of those restaurants have been resurrected in another quirky restaurant in an out-of-the-way locale with a small but devoted following. Pastas & Pastry, which Heinbaugh and partner Diane Miller opened in a residential section of Ohio City, isn't much like the other restaurants in the neighborhood. Guests who cross the threshold walk right into the hushed, 45-seat dining room. There is no bar, no lounge, no eye-catching open kitchen. Some of the decorations appear to be holiday ornaments that nobody's gotten around to boxing up and stowing in the attic. In short, the place feels a bit dated.
But one man's "dated" is another person's "timeless."
"We prefer classic and timeless," Heinbaugh says during a follow-up call. "We wanted to be an alternative to the trendy dining places on West 25th."
Fans of either Snicker's or Krazy Mac's might experience a bit of déjà vu when glancing at the menu. In fact, I spotted dishes that looked familiar from my visits to Snicker's 10 years earlier. One, the chicken breast in a champagne cream sauce ($19) on a bed of pasta with a side of asparagus, wouldn't look at all out of place at a wedding – from 1985. But not every diner wants to be challenged by his or her food, and it's hard to argue that there's anything wrong with juicy chicken in a silky cream sauce on fresh al dente linguine.
Other old-school touches are equally welcome. Meals begin with baskets of fresh-baked bread and butter, and entrees include one's choice of salad or soup of the day, which during our visit was a delicious Italian wedding soup. In place of de rigueur starters like charcuterie boards or seared pork belly, Pastas offers tried-and-true chestnuts like puff pastry-wrapped baked brie ($16) and artichoke dip ($7). We scooped up mouthfuls of the textbook dip with pale toasted pita chips. That warm and melted brie, topped with nuts and fruit, arrived with thin sliced toasts of its own. Mussels ($9), steamed in white wine and herbs and sprinkled with grated cheese, found no enemies at our table.
The truth is, says Heinbaugh, a full 80 percent of diners are coming for the mac and cheese. There are a dozen varieties of the creamy comfort food, most of which hail from the original Krazy Mac's. We tried the Bavarian ($17) and Fiesta ($18), both of which arrived to the table bubbling-hot from the oven. The Bavarian was a straightforward blend of pasta, cheddar cheese and ham beneath a toasted crumb topping. The Fiesta starts as a chorizo and pepper-jack cheese mixture and then is garnished with scallions, tomatoes, avocados and tortilla chips – a bit too many add-ons for its own good. If you think $18 is too much to fork over for a bowl of macaroni and cheese, come on Tuesday nights when they're all half price.
Currently, Heinbaugh is doing all of the cooking, something he hopes to remedy with the addition of a chef. That should both speed things up in the dining room, while spicing up the menu with the addition of more nightly features, like fresh fish specials. Dessert is given special attention here, with homemade German chocolate cake, carrot cake, coconut cake, lemon tarts and other sweets available for dine-in or take-away.
Despite the absence of a bar, Pastas does sell booze. A short but wisely chosen and agreeably priced wine list offers 10 wines by the glass and twice that in the bottle. A shorter bottled-beer list tries to offer a decent mix of styles.
Sunday brunch, while off to a slow start according to Heinbaugh, is slowly gaining an audience. Quiche, eggs Benedict, French toast and even a breakfast mac and cheese (topped with an egg, naturally) are offered from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.
A new 30-seat patio currently under construction should also conjure images of the old Snicker's, which boasted a secluded oasis often hailed as one of the best in town. "This will be the nicest patio in Ohio City when it's done," promises Heinbaugh.
And while much snickering has been made of Pastas' cash-only system, that approach has been scrapped in favor of a more modern one that accepts both cash and credit.
Pastas & Pastry 3800 Whitman Ave., 216-331-4317,
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