Oak & Embers Tavern
 Cleveland, Ohio         Date of Visit: 08/21/15         

Getting an invite we weren’t going to turn down we found ourselves at our first baseball game in years. We got to chatting about Michael Symon’s new show and his having been in Chesterland for some BBQ, sounded pretty good so a couple weeks later we are on the patio of Oak & Embers Tavern. The inside has a modern dark feel to it, probably to help them see fires quickly (their first building was lost after only 6 months but they weren’t closed for long, not much going to slow them down). Our server was somewhere in the realm of average, nice and efficient. They have runners so the food appeared speedy and hot for the most part, even when the place was quickly filled to the rafters.


Smoked Meat Helped Make Up For The 'Cuban' Missing From The Mild Bean Soup

We ordered soup and a couple apps. The Cuban black bean soup was very, very tame but it was topped with some smoked pork which added some depth. The cup would definitely have benefitted from a splash of heat. The pulled pork tacos were much more up my alley with a smoky cheddar and an apple slaw. The apple slaw was an interesting twist for me. First taste, I was right back at my Grandma’s table…haven’t had it since, if you have ever had Waldorf Salad, imagine it blended with salty smoky cheese, rich smoky pulled pork and rolled in a taco. Bingo. Weirdly rich but clean mayonaised fruit and veg with pork and cheese, interesting and pretty tasty. Our last opener was an order of the burnt ends served with plantain chips. I didn’t really get the plantain chips…not bad but really added nothing worthwhile to the dish. The little cubes of long smoked brisket point were a herald of smoky happiness. The required extra cook needed for the point was clearly applied and rendered the ridiculous amount of fat and connective tissue in to melt in your mouth, beefy glory. Strangely enough…the bbq didn’t turn out to be my favorite at Oak and Embers.




The Pulled Pork Tacos Were A Nice Start

And Topped With An Interesting Slaw I've Never Seen On Q


I Don't Think I Got What The Plantain Chips Were Meant To Add

But The Burnt Ends Were Magical


Regardless, the bbq was pretty good. A combo of pulled pork and brisket were well done, juicy, holding the essence of smoke. There wasn’t much of a ring, I wonder if they wrap and maybe do it earlier than some others, but you could tell they had spent time in the chamber.

My plate arrived with two thick slabs of smoked chorizo meatloaf laid over cheddar smashed potatoes and topped with a smear of sauce and a healthy handful of cheese. The potatoes were functional but I was hoping for more…there is something you should seriously try but more on that in a sec.

The meatloaf might have been almost too rich and heavy, but for the tanginess of their Carolinaesqe (Western Carolina that is) sauce which cut through the immense opulence of smoky meat and cheese. Again, the Q is good, don't get me wrong, but there was even better coming.

No Shortage Of Food In The Combo


Pork And Brisket Are Both Solid...

And Exhibit Craftsmanship In The Process

The Smoked Chorizo Meatloaf We Saw On T.V.

Sauce Levitated Serious Meatloaf Crush

What I didn’t expect was the delicious fried chicken. A buttermilk fried bird was really nice but actually came in second for me. I have never been a chicken and waffle guy. No reason to eat them together from most of the versions I’ve tried. This had a bit of weird to it, and the weird was stupendous. Same good chicken, maple syrup butter sauce, a little sriracha on the side…was there something else? Oh yeah…the waffle is CORNBREAD! Now that made sense. Their squares of cornbread are mostly savory with a brush of sticky sweetness spread over the top. Take that, make it waffle iron crispy, add butter and maple syrup, hot sauce and good fried chicken. I’m in. I thought the sriracha had been added to the waffle since there was a little heat popping through. Turns out the peppery sauce was still in the cup and the CSI team across the table from me found little green bits strewn throughout the waffle batter…jalapeno maybe? Doesn’t really matter all that much…it was delicious.

The Fried Chicken Reminds Me Of Eating Down South

Not Kidding, I Found A Chicken & Waffle Combo That Makes Perfect, Delicious Sense

The remainer of the sides were a split for me. Another cup of the smashed taters, meh. Grits thick enough to use as brick mortar (is that a thing) but wasn’t buried under loads of butter or cheese, which let a lightly sweet corn and pepper shine through. I wanted a little more in the taters but was surprisingly happy with the lack of it in the grits. The four cheese mac and didn’t exhibit much cheese flavor and it was doused with some kind of pepper running through, which I found distracting. Not enough cheese, maybe they don’t like cheese.

Hmmmm…but the smoked cheddar in the tacos…the pile atop the meatloaf…and the succotash. Oh, hell yeah! The succotach. First off…it contains none of the pale green demons, lima beans. Holla! Next the corn, zucchini and peppers are luxuriating in a bath of gorgeous cheese sauce…if only the mac had been in the same tub. Who puts cheese in succotash? Smart people…that’s who! When it comes down to it, Oak and Embers takes time honored care in one of our countries regional masterpieces of cuisine. They also stretch the definition of many of these classic dishes. That means there are some which might disappoint, I found a couple I hoped to be more of what I expected. It also means I tried some fantastic twists I never would have found anywhere else. I’ll take that anyday.

I Would Pass On The Taters For Their Simplicity - But Would Get The

Dense Grits For Their...Well...Simplicity. I Am Not Required By Law To Make Sense

Just Sweetened Corn Bread

&*%&#))# This ^#@* Is Delicious



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