Eric Williams is one of my favorite Cleveland Chef/Restaurateurs. Proprietor of Momocho in Ohio, Eric keeps reinventing himself in different directions, with delicious results, and always Cleveland-centric. After Momocho came The Happy Dog, which went into in a classic bar space on Detroit Avenue in the Gordon Square District before the location was hip (and we join Cleveland in mourning the recent, untimely passing of co-owner Sean Kilbane), then El Carnicero in Lakewood, and plans to revive the historic Euclid Tavern with the Happy Dog brand (which I haven't heard any updates on since Mr. Kilbane's passing).
The latest Williams venture to take flight is Jack Flaps, a small breakfast-through-the-lunch-hour spot located near the Momocho home base in Ohio City. We visited this morning after a pilgrimage to the West Side Market, and had great fun playing with our food. Jack Flaps is a keeper; I just wish it was open more hours and had dedicated parking. I'd eat breakfast for dinner, if I could eat it here! When we arrived shortly before noon today, the restaurant was mostly full and there was one 4 top ahead of us. We watched that queue wax and wane for over an hour once we were seated; no question that they were slammed today, which is why they get a Fun Playing With Food pass for a couple of small flaws; overall, the meal was excellent.
Ironically, the Jack Flaps (or flapjacks) weren't the best part of our meal. Not because there was anything wrong with them, but because Eric and his partner Randy Carter really know their way around pork. We'll get to that in a moment. First, the Jack Flaps:
|Original Buttermilk Jackflaps|
Bob decided to be a purist today. Fluffy pancakes, cinnamon-y butter, maple syrup. The combination was tasty, but the butter and syrup would have melted better if the dishes had been warmer. Small flaw #1, our food was a little cold - not so cold that we had to send it back, but we wished someone had asked, because it really was a little too cold for everything, to well, melt together, and the pork would have sung even higher notes with just a few more degrees of temperature. As noted, though, they were in weed city, so we decided to just enjoy the food as it came (and the butter did eventually melt into the pancakes).
These pancakes were served with a Salted Caramel Sauce, and had Corn Nuts cooked into the batter. Cinnamon House Butter and Syrup were along side. Small flaw #2, the "prize" promised by the menu (to complete the "Cracker Jack" experience) never materialized. Again, the out-the-door line at the entrance made it impossible for me to want to question or complain. And I really didn't get that big "salted caramel" hit of flavor I was expecting. But it still tasted delicious, and not too sweet, which would have been an easy line to cross. The cooked corn nuts gave it a uniquely crunchy-chewy texture that did not threaten my dental work, but popped with corny flavor in the wheat-based dough (note that all of the Jack Flaps and Waffles can be made with gluten-free buckwheat batter at the diner's request). As for the pancakes themselves, how many times have you ordered pancakes in a restaurant and been served an obvious commercial mix that fell flat on your palate? That will not be your experience at Jack Flaps, where everything tastes of love and care in the preparation.
|Vietnamese-Style Sausage Patties|
These little flavor bombs explode in your mouth a bit better with a little dab of the house hot sauce, but even plain, they are fabulously porky and well seasoned. Nary a morsel remained.
|Mexican Coke-Braised Slab Bacon|
Probably the best bites of the day (and so plentiful that we had two full slices to take home) - this is not your mama's Oscar Meyer! Beautiful pork belly, prepared low and slow, melted in our mouths. A touch of the maple syrup (and even a touch of the hot sauce, not usually something I'd put on bacon) transported us to porky nirvana in one bite. At $3 for four huge slices, this may be the most economical ticket to that nirvana in C-Town.
The staff is still working out some of the "slammed" kinks, so be patient if you go at a busy time, and you will be rewarded. We shared our table (a six top) with three young ladies who enjoyed Jackflaps, as well as a waffle dish (looked like the "Fat Elvis" and looked delicious), the vegan Root Vegetable Hash, and Grits with Cinnamon House Butter. I also spied an amazing tower of French-Toasted goodness (I think it was the PB&J) at the next table that made me want to return ASAP to try it.
We loved our breakfast at Jack Flaps and look forward to returning there for more sweet and savory fun playing with breakfast in Ohio City.