A Café With Connections

Downtown's Nexus serves food and opportunities

It's been eight years since Mickey DeAngelo worked in a commercial kitchen. The former executive chef of Vaccaro's Trattoria in Akron, DeAngelo says that he was waiting for the perfect opportunity to get back into the restaurant game.

Nexus Cafe and Coffeehouse, he says, is that opportunity.

Opening April 2 in the Caddyshack Lounge's former downtown space, Nexus will be a casual café serving breakfast, lunch, and dinner. DeAngelo describes the vibe as similar to Panera, but a little more upscale, a lot more comfortable, and with far more local ingredients.

The name "Nexus" was chosen because it means "connection." In addition to feeding diners, the café hopes to connect them to volunteer service opportunities. Additionally, all profits from the café will go straight to the "Cleveland, I Love You" initiative, which performs acts of beautification throughout town.

"I wanted to get back into the restaurant business, but it needed to be about more than just profit," DeAngelo says. "I have a passion to serve people. I have a passion to see the city become something different. Nexus allows me to use all of my passions in one place."

On the opening menu is a buckwheat waffle sandwich, vegan black bean soup, smoked chicken Cobb salad, espresso-crusted pork tenderloin wrap, house-smoked salmon pastrami, and a curry duck confit pizza. Most items check in at around $8.

The cafe is at 627 Prospect Ave.; learn more at nexuscleveland.com.

SWEET BLASTS FROM THE PAST: Just in time for National Egg Cream Day on March 15, Sweet Moses owner Jeff Moreau is preparing to unveil a new line of signature drinks.

Based on historical recipes that originate from the time before refrigeration, the drinks rely on milk and egg rather than ice cream for their creamy consistency. Many of the oldest ones include "medicinal" ingredients like bitters and tonics taken straight from historic drugstore pharmacies.

"People really seek this stuff out," Moreau says. "A lot of our customers grew up enjoying these drinks and can no longer get them because the ingredients aren't around." One such ingredient — the fizzy acid phosphate, a "health tonic" from the 1860s — is used by no more than a handful of treats shops in the country, according to Moreau.

New drinks include the Strawberry Paulette, made with chocolate syrup, strawberry syrup, acid phosphate, rhubarb bitters, and whole milk. The Temptress Egg Shake combines orange syrup, raspberry syrup, milk, cherry bitters, and an egg, which is then whipped into a frothy concoction. In addition to malt, the Malted Milk Bracer contains orange syrup, milk, and a wee dollop of ice cream.

Of course, you can always just stick with the good ol' ice cream sundaes too.

Sweet Moses is at 6800 Detroit Ave. For more info call 216-651-2202 or visit sweetmosestreats.com.

BIG BITES: Is downtown Cleveland hungry for a gourmet cupcake café? We'll find out Friday, March 16, when Colossal Cupcakes opens near the Colonial Marketplace at 530 Euclid Ave.

"I want to be known as the place where people can come in and always be wowed by the selection," says owner and former Miss Cleveland 2003 Kelly Kandah Ross.

Given the name, you'd expect a sizable treat — and that's precisely what Ross delivers. "People can really treat themselves to a good dessert. From the cupcake to the filling, to the frosting, to the topping, everything is amplified: They're colossal!"

The house specialty is the Colossal Classic: a milk chocolate cupcake with raspberry filling and almond buttercream frosting. Another fave is the Sunday Morning Cupcake, with maple cream-cheese frosting and brown-sugar-candied bacon.

More than just a take-away bakeshop, Colossal Cupcakes will be a sit-down café featuring Victorian furniture in a "dollhouse-style" setting. In addition to the sweet treats, the café will serve coffee, tea, and flavored hot chocolates.

Opening day hours are 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.