Coordinating all the moving parts that make for a successful restaurant is more difficult than it appears. In the minefield of possible flubs, experience nearly always trumps dreams, and nothing stacks the odds for success like the talents of well-seasoned pros.
We were reminded of that by two recent visits to Eddie 'n' Eddie, Eddie Cerino's shiny new restaurant in the heart of downtown Lakewood. If the Cerino name sounds familiar, it should. Eddie #1 is the grandson of Carrie Cerino, founder of North Royalton's eponymously named Italian ristorante, and matriarch of one of the oldest family-owned and -operated eateries in the region. Cerino's personal experience includes founding restaurants in Brecksville and Parma. His son, Eddie Jr., is his partner in the popular Pizzeria Cerino in Seven Hills and in his current venture.
Their Lakewood restaurant is far from perfect. One night's bacon cheeseburger arrived sans bacon, and a bland-tasting chicken burger might profit from some redesign. But so much about our visits was so engaging — from the casually sophisticated décor to the conscientious service to the generally well-executed menu — that we're already looking forward to our next visit.
Attention to detail is evident throughout. Burgers, bourbon, and apple pie are the restaurant's triple calling cards, and the owners have gone to great lengths to get each of them right.
The bourbon list includes top-shelf offerings by the pour — Blanton's, Booker's, Four Roses Single Barrel, Woodford Double Barrel, and more. For less seasoned drinkers, the $10 Signature Manhattan presents a great argument for drinking more bourbon. Beyond that, the fully stocked bar can cater to just about any whim, and beer drinkers will find an intriguing list of seasonal craft beers by the bottle, can, or on draft, including pale ales, black ales, fruit beers, and double IPAs.
In the category of solid sustenance, the burgers are aces. Served on fluffy buns fresh from the in-house bakery, the patties are made with a beefy blend of short rib, brisket, and chuck specially created for the restaurant by Cleveland's Blue Ribbon Meats. Fresh, not frozen, and hand-formed, the burgers are exceptionally tender and far less greasy than some of their gourmet competitors — proving again the importance of details. Starring a 10-ounce patty, the signature E 'n' E burger is a jumbo-flavored stack of buttery caramelized onion, sliced portobellos, nutty Gruyere, and fresh herb aioli. Weighing in at seven ounces, other ensembles include the Kentuckyaki, with bacon, grilled pineapple, and bourbon-infused teriyaki sauce; the Balsamic Bleu with fried onion straws, crumbled blue cheese, and a balsamic drizzle; and design-it-yourself options that involve items like sliced avocado and fried eggs.
Alternatives for non-beef-eaters range from a shrimp burger with roasted poblano peppers to a falafel burger with vegan mayo. Four inventive salads —including the delectable Brussels sprout version with dates, almonds, craisins, Manchego cheese, and honey-mustard vinaigrette — come in half and full-sized portions. There are two types of ground-chicken burgers: the Pepper Pollo with sautéed peppers and onions, and the bourbon honey-mustard-basted Louis, topped with onion straws. Especially compared to the beef burgers, we thought the undersized chicken patty in our Louis tasted bland and boring; some additional honey-mustard sauce on the side might help perk things up.
Speaking of sides, the slim, crisp, freshly cut fries, garnished with rosemary and cloves of tender roasted garlic, are exemplary. So are the frangible, golden onion rings. Bourbon-baked beans balanced sweet and spicy notes to good advantage, while Chef John's Slaw — an Asian-accented toss of finely shredded cabbage and rice-wine vinegar dressing — delivered major crunch, cleansing tartness, and perhaps just a little too much salt.
The Low-Country fried chicken dinner was a pleasant surprise. Rather than the airline breast the menu promised, what we got were two broad, slim cutlets of breast meat, dredged in a secret blend of fragrant herbs and spices, then deep-fried to a crispy turn. Settled on a schmear of creamy pan gravy and finished with a fragrant drizzle of bourbon truffle honey, the fork-tender dish was delectable.
Also beyond reproach were the plump, tender chicken wings, tossed in a choice of three sauces (bourbon, buffalo, or a finger-lickin' sweet-and-spicy root beer) and then finished on the charbroiler for a hint of smokiness. We've had bigger wings, but rarely any more perfectly executed.
Speaking of smart execution, the restaurant's physical space is a charmer, done in cheerful shades of red and black and punctuated by subway tile, high-gloss concrete floors, and handsome, recycled-wood tabletops. Wall-to-ceiling windows give the L-shaped room an always-entertaining view out onto Detroit Ave.; inside, vintage-look lighting fixtures, art made out of bourbon barrel rings, and black-and-white photos of old-timey distilleries carry out the casual theme in a fun yet stylish fashion.
While youthful, the service staff seemed almost as polished as the shiny concrete floors. Orders were taken promptly, questions answered helpfully, and the occasional oversight — like that MIA bacon on our bacon-cheeseburger — was identified and rectified in a snap. Meantime, bussers, back servers, and the occasional hostess prowled the room, filling emptied water glasses, whisking away used plates, and checking on guests' satisfaction.
For dessert, the homemade apple pie is worth the calories. While the exact preparation may vary, on the night we visited, the filling was topped with a sprinkle of dried cranberries and nestled beneath a properly crunchy topping of oatmeal and brown sugar. The apples were a bit too crunchy for our liking, but the flaky crust was notably tender and buttery.
"It all boils down to the details," said a satisfied companion as he pushed away from the table. More often than not, Eddie 'n' Eddie gets the details right.