Along with this booming brunch culture comes the heightened anxiety of being left out in the cold. Conventional wisdom states that if you want to guarantee a seat in a popular breakfast place at a reasonable hour, you have to get an early start. Restaurants aren’t in the habit of accepting morning reservations, so we must gird ourselves for the inevitable stress and inconvenience that is part and parcel of the check-in process.
So imagine the zen-like calm that comes with the knowledge that on the other end of a long drive there is a table with your name on it. Such is the case at The Spot on Lakeshore, where chef-owner Zachary Bond knows that people appreciate the peace of mind that comes with a booking. Bond, who opened the Mentor restaurant six months ago, comes from a fine-dining background, so he approaches many of the eatery’s details through that lens.
If you haven’t noticed, brunch is no longer reserved for the weekend. At places like Juneberry Table, Cleveland Breakfast Club and Sleepy Rooster, those all-day-breakfast vibes extend throughout the week. Unlike the traditional greasy spoon, these places offer an elevated experience and menu that often includes booze. Industry watchers credit the rise of “blunch” places on the growing number of virtual employees who now have the flexibility to enjoy a leisurely weekday meal. Eager to step up to the plate is a generation of burnt-out chefs like Bond, who are looking to foster some work-life balance in their lives.
“That 4:30 a.m. start is still hard to get used to, but at least my kids know my name,” Bond says about his new routine, which gets him home while the sun still shines.
A vanilla strip mall exterior gives way to a spacious, sparkling and lively interior. When we arrived, there was a two-piece acoustic band belting out standards, a jam-packed bar and lounge, and a dining room that appeared to go on forever. All told, says the chef, there’s seating for 120 (plus another two dozen in the private dining room) and every one of them were occupied. Despite the crowd there were no customers waiting to be seated and we were immediately shown to our table.
You might call The Spot a “gastro-diner,” a place that melds the come-as-you-are comforts of the neighborhood hash house with a gently elevated menu grounded by local ingredients and solid technique. The Spot’s menu is a two-sided affair that offers all-day breakfast items on one side and tempting lunch items, available starting at 11 a.m., on the back. Not many diners stock a full bar so we took advantage of the situation by ordering a Breakfast Margarita ($9), which tempers the sting of tequila with fresh orange juice, and a Bloody Mary ($9) that is garnished with celery, olives and a whole rasher of bacon.
The menu lacks for nothing, as far as I can tell. Basic brunchers can order a classic diner plate with eggs, meat, potatoes and toast or go grand with something like grilled flank steak and eggs or black pepper gravy-covered fried chicken and waffles. Fussy diners will love the ability to customize those platters with options that go well beyond the conventional. In the Big Breakfast ($9), for example, the three over-easy eggs came with a choice of meats that includes local Slovenian smoked sausage, grilled Serbian sausage and slow-braised short rib. I went with the coffee-rubbed short rib, which comes glazed with a rich gravy that drips onto the crispy shredded hash browns. Also included in the deal is a waffle, pair of pancakes or million-layer biscuit.
The Spot is one of few places around to offer a full English breakfast ($10), and this one is tricked out with eggs, braised beans, smoked sausage, roasted potatoes, cheese gravy and toast. Bond’s Brunch Burger is an ingenious stack of sausage patties and eggs on a French toast bun dripping with spicy maple syrup.
Flip over the menu and you’ll find a chef’s take on soups, salads, sandwiches and burgers. In keeping with the gastro theme, there are elevated classics like a tuna melt on marble rye and a proper fried chicken sandwich on brioche, but also a smash burger capped with two kinds of cheese, caramelized onions and Thousand Island dressing.
The Spot also happens to employ a heavy metal pastry chef, who “puts a little rock ‘n’ roll in every bite.” A display case in the diner is stocked with sticky buns, cookies and brownies for enjoyment here or on the road back home.
The Spot on Lakeshore
7272 Lakeshore Blvd., Mentor