Saturday, January 17, 2009

Mortal Wombat

I saw a report saying that it was -15F last night with -30F windchill at the airport. I don't know anyone who lives near the airport to corroborate this. While I could feel my nose hairs crystallize when I inhaled, I didn't think it was quite THAT cold. At least we don't live in Marion, OH, just a 2 hour drive south of here, where it was reportedly -25F or in Fairbanks, AK where it was -35F. No worries that our tires will cling to the ice and peel off the rims.

Sub-Zero freeze

For the holidays, our landlord sent us a greeting card wishing us well and a $25 gift certificate to a neighborhood bakery, Lelolai. What a wonderful gesture!

Lelolai Bakery

Lelolai is owned and operated by a friendly Puerto Rican lady, Alma Sapia Alfonzo. As a result, the food served here has the flavor and heart of the Caribbean. The dining area was set up like a bright and warm lanai, a stark contrast to the arctic gusts outside.

Miami style Cuban sandwich + Spanish rice and beans

The Miami style Cuban sandwich is a garlicky sandwich with roasted pork, ham, Swiss cheese, and lots of yellow mustard and pickles ($6.29). I am not a fan of copious amounts of mustard, or garlic for that matter, in my food, but it was awesome in this sandwich because of the boldness of flavors. The loaf was flaky and fresh. The downside of the sandwich experience was the meat that got stuck between my teeth.

I enjoyed the Spanish rice and beans. The fluffy rice and lentil beans were lightly seasoned (chicken and turmeric?) and balanced the chorizo puff pastry I had. I'd come back just for the rice.

Chorizo puff pastry

The chorizo pastry was sweet and flaky, which was unexpected. Upon the first bite, I thought that perhaps I really did get the guava and cheese puff pastry that I ordered along with the chorizo puff pastry. There was some confusion with the order so I canceled the sweet puff pastry order and was left with the chorizo.

Because I was enamored with the puff pastry, I ate around the chorizo. By the time I got to the meat, there wasn't much pastry left to balance the saltiness. I'm glad we had the rice!

Two chicken empanada

The chicken empanada ($2.29) was interesting. Bug described what an empanada was before we went into the bakery -- meat-filled bun with breading that is not too dissimilar to a tortilla and fried. I thought I had seen empanada in Hawaii, but seeing this didn't jog my memory the least bit. We would have ordered 1 chicken and 1 beef, but the beef empanada platter was empty.I ate half of one and gave the rest to Bug, since it was too salty for me.

Bug frequently teases about my salt sensitivity, saying that I would find snow salty.


I became quite thirsty by the end of the meal so I bought a can of Tropicola ($1.95). I am not a hot coffee drinker, so I was at their mercy. We normally pay $1.79 for a 2 liter bottle at the grocery store.

Vanilla and coconut flan

The flan was the main reason we had been mulling over trying Lelolai for the past year, having bought a portion at a local supermarket. I gobbled up the generous slice of coconut flan ($1.99) and Bug devoured the vanilla ($1.99). The coconut flan was creamy, like an egg-custard version of haupia with bits of coconut, but not as firm.

Cafe con leche ($2.79) came in 12 and 20 oz sizes. There was a sprinkle of cinnamon that gave the latte a pleasant scent. Despite not being a hot coffee drinker, I was able to drink a few sips without adding any extra sugar or milk, which is pretty much unheard of for me.

Slice of pastel con mango

The moist mango pound cake ($5.29) with swirls of mango jam was nestled in a 9" round tin stacked at the register screaming, "BUY ME!" Glad we listened.

There was an empty basket next to the chicharones sign. Maybe next time.

Our bill came out to $31. Since we had the gift certificate, our actual total was much less.

At a glance, Lelolai is a bit pricey, but well worth it for the homestyle food and unusual menu items. The highlights were the Miami-style Cuban sandwich, rice and beans, and the flan.

- Cassaendra

Lelolai Bakery and Cafe
1889 West 25th St
Cleveland, OH 44113
Tel: (216) 771-9956

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