Sweet Melissa herself would tell you she's battled something of a case of mistaken identity ever since opening some four years ago.
That's when the popular Rocky River restaurant and cafe moved into the space formerly occupied by Max's Deli, a vintage building that's unmistakably modern and inviting inside, with its polished black furnishings, bare brick walls, and gilded ceiling tiles. Max, like Melissa, was also well known for its "upscale casual" atmosphere and its giant display of desserts that sit front and center.
"Max's had great desserts, but ours are better," says manager Katie Jones, who has been with Sweet Melissa since its opening.
You'd get little argument from the delighted guests who savor the proof every day: everything from hefty slices of Triple Chocolate Cake to triple-dipped strawberries, all of them presented so elegantly that you'll hardly remember they serve "real" food here too.
"We like to keep customers on their toes," says Jones. One way they do that is with unexpected twists on conventional dishes: Brunch hash browns are splashed with ranch dressing, and fruit cups come with a silver-dollar-sized white chocolate and cranberry scone.
Vegetarian options abound, from Jen's Tofu Scramble at breakfast to Mediterranean pasta shot through with veggie-feta broth, artichokes, basil, and sun-dried tomatoes. Other reliable offerings range from hamburgers sided with homemade chips to meatloaf paired with homemade mashed potatoes and fresh spinach.
Those with food allergies have a friend in Sweet Melissa: The restaurant offers an array of gluten-free items — like the lemony grilled shrimp with wild rice and the peanut butter chocolate cake — that are irresistible to flour eaters too.
Sweet Melissa will be debuting a new menu in October: retaining old favorites and making permanent fixtures of popular weekly specials like Chicken Parmesan and Corn Chowder. As usual, count on a healthy dose of rotating surprises sprinkled in to the mix as well.
Not sure which way to go? Just ask the friendly staff — and be sure to save room for dessert.