First things first, I love diners. I mean, who doesn’t? Milkshakes, burgers, fries. The whole retro feel with spinning chairs at the bar and waitresses wearing cute pink aprons. We love it all. When I think of good diner food, I immediately am reminded of my favorite spot in Chicago: The Chicago Diner. Reason being: the large variety of different meals you wouldn’t normally see at your average diner plus vegan and vegetarian options.
Finding something close to this in Cleveland was hard for me until I found The Katz Club Diner located at 1975 Lee Road in Cleveland Heights. Katz is run by none other than Doug Katz who also owns Fire Food and Drink in Shaker Heights, Ohio and even caters at the Cleveland Museum of Art. I had previously been to Fire before I heard of his diner opening up and fell in love with it. It is one of the top rated restaurants in Cleveland because not only has it been on the Cooking Channel but everyone I talk to has either heard of it or has eaten there (and loved it).
A little over a year ago when Katz first opened up his diner, I went for breakfast with my mom and was not too pleased. The wait staff was a bit off and took forever to take our orders, give us our food, etc. In their defense, they just opened so it wasn’t going to be perfect but I do remember how great my fried eggs were. Through the past year I’ve seen (via social media) their menu grow and expand. Recently I noticed their vegan options including a Vegan Amaranth Cereal ($6) with coconut and almond milk, toasted pistachio crumble and raspberries. That immediately had me drooling at my computer screen reading the menu.
This led me to asking my aunt yesterday if she would like to attend this new joint as we decided on somewhere to get lunch. I knew beforehand I was set on two items: the Vegan Benne Patty with Avocado, Arugula, Roasted Red Peppers and Whipped Tofu ($10) and the Vegan Lentil Curried Soup with Cashew Sauce ($5). As I came in to meet my aunt, she gave me a few minutes to look over the menu as she was ready to order the Buttermilk Pancakes with a homemade brown sugar syrup ($9). Instead of ordering the soup OR the sandwich, I said heck with it, I’ll go with both and have leftovers for dinner! Wise decision on my part because they both were delicious and quite filling.
Although my aunt ordered her pancakes with a powdered sugar coating and a brown sugar syrup, the flapjacks originally came with whipped ricotta cheese and cherry syrup (why she passed this up I have no clue). As she bit into them she lit up, “These taste so much better than basic pancakes. They must be whole wheat or something, they taste so fresh and light”. Due to the fact that Katz’ other restaurant, Fire, is known for his lemon blueberry pancakes – I had a feeling these would win her over. Even though she didn’t have the extra pure maple syrup for $3, she enjoyed the homemade brown sugar one very much. So much she asked for more.
As for my soup and sandwich – wow. The sandwich was not what I was expecting entirely. The burger patty (not quite sure what it was made out of exactly) did not taste like your typical bland patty. It had a thick texture that stuck together quite nicely. I want to say it was a combination of beans and lentils with a huge flavor punch due to the pickled chiles. Definitely was not prepared for that spicy kick in the face. The whipped tofu threw me for a surprise too. I figured it was just a side of tofu on top of the bean patty but the texture resembled a light mayonnaise. Probably my favorite part of the burger. I split it in half because it was so large next to my soup (I had it for dinner later and it was quite filling).
Then there was the soup. So so good that when I told my aunt she could take a bite… she took another. And another. And even a third. So good that she told me when we left she would be back just to get the soup. Thick with lentils and heavy with tomatoes, this could be eaten alone as a meal and deliver a hefty amount of nutrition and protein. Not only was the cashew sauce drizzle on top pretty to look at but it added a nice difference to the full tomato curry flavor of the broth. When I ordered it the waitress told me it was half the size of what it came out to be but I didn’t care because the more the merrier!
As we devoured our meals next to the bar, we could see a ton of desserts being placed onto the counter such as homemade cookies and pastries. The Katz Club Diner is well-known for their pastries and sweets including the Canoe Cake ($3) which is a classic twist on the Twinkie but homemade! They also feature a “Faux Ho” which is exactly what you may think it is… a Ho-Ho. But if Hostess re-makes aren’t your thing, fear not – you can always grab a slice of birthday cake ($6) at the pastry/coffee counter or a latte ($4).
Of course The Katz Club Diner is not a crappy diner where a burger and fries is $2 but you get what you pay for. Katz takes it to the next level with vegan options, fancy homemade cakes and pastries and comfort foods that include Lamb Meatballs ($18) with grits, local goat feta and rosemary. You most likely would not find that at a college diner but that’s the fun in it all. Located in a hip area of Cleveland Heights, this establishment fits right in.
Despite my first experience not being the best, this stop changed my views. Well deserving five stars.
The Katz Club Diner is open Wednesday-Thursday & Sunday from 8AM to 9PM, Friday & Saturday from 8AM to 10PM and Closed Mondays.