CityBeat’s kicking off a new mid-month series of breakfast and brunch reviews with today’s look at the super-popular brunch at Take the Cake (4035 Hamilton Ave., Northside, 513-421-2772).
This is not a sit-and-sip-your-Blood-Mary destination. First, they don’t serve alcohol; secondly, it’s very busy. While Take the Cake is open for coffee and pastries every morning, Sunday is the only day that brunch is served (9 a.m.-2 p.m.), and it’s apparent that the customers build up lots of anticipation. There’s a real mix in the crowd — families, singles, couples — and it’s not all Northside neighbors. According to Take the Cake’s co-owner, Melissa Mileto, “Northside people don’t wake up until noon, and we’re only open ’til 2 p.m., so these people are coming from everywhere.”
The brunch menu focuses on some standard themes with variations. There’s always shrimp and grits, sausage gravy and biscuits and bread pudding French toast, but they mix the flavors based on the availability of fresh ingredients. Sometimes there are sweet potato biscuits or blueberries in the French toast. Service is hybrid — order at the counter, and you’re served at your seat. You get your own coffee — in great big Ikea mugs — but water, orange juice and Pellegrino are served.
We started out a recent visit with a couple nice strong cups of Joe, brewed from beans that are roasted next door at Cluxton Alley.
We’d managed to arrive at just the right time — there was one table open and after we’d nabbed it a dozen new arrivals were right behind us. Somehow, though, with its mix of counter seating, long communal tables and the odd four- or two-top, TTK doesn’t have to turn people away.
Personal pet peeve — I’m terrible at counter ordering. It makes me feel pressured and I’m never as happy as I am if I’ve had a chance to sit and study the food around me or consult with a server. Obviously, though, no one else shares my issues here.
I went with the shrimp and grits, and it was a lucky choice. The grits were really buttery and there were a half-dozen big fat shrimp in the mild Cajun-inspired sauce. I took half of the big portion home and it was even better for dinner that night with the excellent peanut butter brownie I chose for dessert.
The mister picked the quiche and wasn’t as thrilled. It was very eggy, with a little potato and shrimp adding pizzazz, but it could have used more cheese and spice. It came with an enormous side of fruit salad that I liked, but for his sake I would have gotten the side of fried potatoes that I didn’t notice on the menu until it was too late. Next time!
The bread pudding French toast looked really popular, but on follow-up, Melissa told me that their best seller is the sausage biscuit. They get country bulk sausage from Kroegers at Findlay Market, use locally sourced fresh farm eggs and make biscuits from scratch in their bakery. Hey, how could that not be good?
Of course, a huge advantage of dining at Take the Cake’s café is the dessert selection in their pastry case. Besides the peanut butter brownie that won my heart, there were cupcakes, individual bread puddings and loads of other goodies to give you energy for your Sunday afternoon projects.
So shake yourself to wake yourself — Take the Cake has a yummy brunch that won’t make you regret abandoning the cozy confines of your bed.
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