(Grand Rapids, MI) Back when The Electric Cheetah first opened, we made the mistake of visiting them for Sunday brunch immediately after the Grand Rapids Press had announced their opening. Hot and cramped, the restaurant had run out of some dishes by the time we arrived. Not the best first impression, but shame on us for expecting a newly-opened restaurant to deliver a smooth experience. Now, nearly one and a half years later, we decided to give them a proper review...
We park across from the restaurant, just before the posted 10a opening and wait for them to turn on the neon OPEN sign. (They never do while we are there.) Finally, after a couple minutes, we decide to egg them on and go wait by the door. It only take a minute for someone to unlock the entrance and welcome us in. We are greeted and seated by our server, who offers coffee (which I accept) and water. Although we are given menus, another server promptly swaps them out, explaining, "Those are lunch menus. Here are the brunch menus." (I have to note here: although she says "brunch" it does not say brunch anywhere on the menu, and the website proclaims the menus "weekend breakfast" so I'm safe. No more brunches, remember?)
There are some enticing selections on the menu, most of which are familiar from our first visit. We gameplan a bit, then decide on four small plates, with some encouraging advice from our server (who is friendly and very prompt with coffee refills). We narrow it down to pancakes, biscuits and gravy, migas, and hash.
When the plates arrive, they are a bit bigger than we expect. Three would have been plenty, but it's a happy problem to sample four. I begin right away on my primary selection, the Migas with Sweet Chorizo. The spicy sausage is ground up with smoky bacon and breadcrumbs; strips of sweet red and yellow peppers interplay with the juicy whole grapes; and a crispy organic fried egg lies under all of it. I love the comingled flavors and textures, but I am slightly disappointed in the temperature of the food, which is maybe 10 degrees too cool. It's not a dealbreaker, just a nitpick in an otherwise delicious recipe.
Likewise, the Prime Rib Hash could have used a hotter skillet, although I barely notice. The slow roasted beef is so tender and salty, with an over easy egg dripping down onto the chunks of sauteed potatoes and red onions. The yolk is rich and creamy, and I use the potatoes to mop it up. Although I ordinarily would have gone for the corned beef hash, I'm glad I chose the more lively components of the prime rib.
Lemon Ricotta Pancakes, topped with vanilla cream and organic maple syrup, turn my taste buds around. The pancakes are light and fluffy (and much bigger than the menu would have you believe), with creamy ricotta worked into the batter. And although the combined sweetness of the lemon and vanilla cream elevates the dish, it is the delicious crispy fried outer layer that I'm diggin on most. It tastes of a well-seasoned grill, haunted by the spirits of previously prepared meals.
Lastly, in a twist of irony, I try the Biscuits and Gravy...Juliet's prime selection, and our server's recommendation over the Grilled Asparagus Crepes. I am not a biscuits and gravy kind of guy, so I am not very excited by the dish. Indeed, if I had been by myself, this dish would have never crossed my table.
Woe unto me.
After noting Juliet's exclamations of joy, I break off half a biscuit (because I never expect to eat a whole biscuit) and ladle on some sausage gravy that is thick with flour and drippings. I take a tentative but hearty bite... Whoa. Wow. Holy--. At this point, my fork literally flies from plate to mouth. The gravy has a meaty sweetness that I can't quite place. Of its own volition, my left hand reaches out for the other half of the biscuit and I shovel on the rest of the gravy. Keep it coming, keep it coming, my brain screams.
Minutes later, I am sated. Full, but wanting more. I am happy to report: this is the best biscuits and gravy I've ever had. Our server happily tells us the sweetness is from a honey spice added to the gravy. Whatever it is, I'm getting this dish every time we visit. I guess I am a biscuits and gravy kind of guy after all!
Despite some minor issues with food temp, this adventure impresses us enough to consider coming back on a regular basis. We pay the not-outrageous bill and shuffle back out into the cold, as light snowflakes drift down to contrast with the joyous warmth in our bellies.
I am anxious to go out for breakfast, despite months of travel and nothing but hotel breakfasts. But I want to enjoy a leisurely breakfast with Jeremy and since our most recent attempt at brunch was disappointing, I am excited for this morning's foray.
We are the first customers in the door and our server seats us at a table near the window, right next to the plant boxes filled with rosemary. I love that they have fresh rosemary growing along the windows. Now might be a good time to mention my rosemary obsession. I adore it so much so that I avoid washing my hands after I've chopped fresh rosemary so I can enjoy the highly perfumed tar-like juice on my fingertips. I have long dreamt of having a rosemary topiary in each window at the condo, but our evil kittens have other plans and my rosemary dreams are on hold until those naughty little beasts are too old and infirm to jump onto the window sills. Like I said, it's a bit of an obsession.
Our server explains that the plates are small and suggests we might want to share a few. We decide on four, though in retrospect three or even two would have been plenty. I'm eyeballing the lemon ricotta pancakes and wondering how I might get Jeremy to agree to include this in the four choices when he surprises me by suggesting it first. Hooray! He really wants to try the migas with chorizo and I suggest the prime rib hash. We debate between the sausage gravy with biscuits (you know my love of Southern food) and the asparagus crepes. I really want the biscuits and gravy, but we defer to the server and ask him to decide. "Oh the sausage gravy and biscuits for sure," he enthuses.
The hash and pancakes are the first to arrive followed closely by the migas and gravy with biscuits. I grab a biscuit and start spooning gravy onto the small plates our server has given us. The biscuits are gorgeous and clearly fresh baked. A bumpy, golden crunchy exterior hides a soft flaky interior. I have never seen biscuits flake quite like these and I begin to think how lovely these would be under some sliced strawberries or apricot preserves. The sausage gravy is divine, not at all greasy (though I don't even want to think about the butter, cream and sausage content) and slightly sweet. It's actually what I would term "pork-gravy-crack," a word that should be pronounced as one long stream "porkgravycrack". I am considering taking the remaining biscuit and gravy and locking myself in the ladies room to avoid sharing. Yes, it's that good.
Next I try the prime rib hash, which has cooled considerably while I was having my torrid affair with the gravy and biscuits. Even at room temp, the hash is very good with caramelized onions, thin ribbons of prime rib, a perfectly fried egg, and cubes of lovely white potatoes. I must remember this dish the next time I find myself bleary-eyed and headache-y after a night of too much wine. This hash would be a fabulous cure for the morning after.
The migas are also room temperature and Jeremy mentions both dishes arrived slightly cooler than expected; they probably sat under a warming light while the other dishes were completed. The migas are interesting. Finely chopped chorizo with chunks of crisp bacon atop sweet red and yellow pepper strips, red grapes, and a poached egg. The red grapes throw me off until I try a biteful and find that it all blends beautifully. I would have liked a piece of toast or tortilla to counterbalance all the intense flavors of the dish though.
I finish with a lemon ricotta pancake which is airy, lightly lemon-scented and topped with a dollop of freshly-made (not too sweet) whipped cream. The parts of pancake not covered in syrup are slightly bitter, in a good way, from the lemon. I've heard the addition of ricotta to pancake batter makes an ethereal pancake and now I know it's true.
Both Jeremy and I promise to return for Sunday brunch again. At 10 am, there wasn't a wait for a table and parking was a breeze. Our server is attentive and friendly. The food is extremely innovative and much of it is sourced locally or regionally when possible. What's not to love?
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