LAKEWOOD, Ohio -- Nowadays, it's become increasingly apparent that what we really need right now is a lot more peace, love and understanding -- and a fun little Norse black-metal bar.
Ta-da! Enter LBM. I could go way beyond my allotted space here just to parse the almost infinitely shifting subtleties of heavy-metal music. But suffice it to say that LBM embraces a particularly loud, fast and noisy sub-genre whose bands mostly emanate from Scandinavia and celebrate the region's glorious and fearsome Viking heritage.
That cultural imperative also informs the Nordic Medieval-chic. Goth-inspired decor of LBM (more about that later, but I'll give you a hint -- each table-top terrarium contains mystical crystal, a wisp of a green sprout and one perfect tiny bat skull) and the spirited, seasonally inspired Viking-themed cocktail menu.
But the mission here is mostly to discuss edibles. So I'll save you the fun of perusing the drink list all by yourself and discovering the deep alcoholic satisfaction of a beet-infused "Blood Eagle" and the creamy festive jing-a-ling of "I Am The Sacrifice," made with house-made egg nog and pumpkin butter plus lots of rum. There's an equally seductive selection of custom-crafted, non-alcoholic bar drinks, including fizzy citrus and spicy candy-colored confections served in tall glasses with pink-striped paper straws. They're perfect for a Sweet Sixteen Party in Helheim.
So then, let's talk food and don't worry. It's not going to be blood-rare haunches of elk or rarified mod-Nordic cuisine like deep-fried lichen on a bed of poached pine needles. Courtesy of Chef Cory Miess, previously long-time sous chef at Players/Sarita, it's all about beautifully considered and composed small plates that expand the repertoire of modern pan-American dining in rewarding and satisfying ways.
For instance, the Latin American Ceviche, citrus-cured salmon and shrimp, is given a more specific Honduran spin, with a boiled potato to soak up the juices and a succulent ear of lime and chili-spiced sweet corn to add to the fun. North-of-our-border Poutine becomes a brighter lighter dish at LBM. Miess' rendition of the customary cardiac incident-inducing cheese curds, fries and gravy is topped with a robust welcome layer of life-affirming roasted tomatoes (and spiked with Andouille sausage in the gravy).
He also has a way with All-American. The enormous -- and enormously satisfying-- Hamburger, a beautifully balanced mix of short rib, sirloin and brisket on a comfortable. pillowy Blackbird Bakery bun comes with exquisitely crisp garlic-scented fries and -- wait for it -- piquant housemade ketchup and chipotle aioli. The latter also appears on the burger along with roasted tomatoes and caramelized onions for even greater delectability.
Deeper into carnivorous territory is very well done Steak Tartare. Chopped raw tenderloin accompanied by a line-up of cooked accessories; sweet roasted garlic, a dark-complected Worcestershire sauce-marinated egg with a secret runny center, and grilled onion aioli to heap on fine toast. For all you Vegan Vikings, there's a lovely pastoral tender-light Gnocchi, bathed in a creamy coconut curry sauce and gently tossed with Portobello mushrooms, leek and those seasonally-popular roasted tomatoes.
There are a few disappointments. The otherwise splendid autumn melange of Brussels Sprouts, apples, leeks and brie was marred by hard undercooked sprouts, and the Corn Bacon Chowder was pedestrian and tepid, but the soup changes weekly, so we can all move on.
If you're a little concerned about the afore-mentioned music, not to worry. From about 6:00 p.m. on, it's a pretty much of a full-tilt Norse boogie at LBM, and the roar of the crowd drowns out anything coming over the sound system. But it all becomes pretty easy-to-ignore black noise after a while, along with the leather gear, hipster beards, sundry tattoos and rainbow-hued hair almost universally displayed by waiters and customers alike. (LBM is in Birdtown, surrounded by Lakewood and this appears to be the native plumage).
To create LBM, Owner Eric Ho stripped the old Corner Bar to the studs, and with friends and assorted artisans constructed a snug 45-seat homage to ancient Norse culture. Hand-hewn wooden surfaces carved with runes and serpentine dragons abound, with an assortment of druid hatchets strewn behind the bar. Dark crimson-and-black walls and funereal unlit lanterns add to the gloom. But all this plays well with the culturally dissonant multi-colored laser light-lit ceiling -- possibly a later relic from a 70's disco club.
Besides the decor, Mr. Ho has assembled a cracker-jack crew that has worked together before. They're charming and intuitive and the esprit de corps is contagious. It's not exactly "Cheers,", but at LBM, you'll always have a warm Viking welcome, some mighty fine food and the unique opportunity to belly up to the bar and order an impeccably prepared, beautifully balanced Seaside Terror.
Where: 12301 Madison Ave. Lakewood.
Contact: 216-712-4692; lbmbar.com
Hours: 4:00 p.m.- 2:30 a.m. Monday-Saturday. Closed Monday.
Prices: Small Plates $5- $18
Reservations: Accepted for parties of 8 or more
Credit Cards: All major cards accepted.
Cuisine: Modern American
Kid-friendliness: It's a grown-up bar, get a sitter.
Bar Service: Impeccably crafted, creative and very seasonal Viking-themed cocktails, well-curated draft and bottled beer selection, six meads and two wines.
Wheelchair Accessibility: Limited at the door (several steps), easy access afterwards throughout the restaurant.
Grade: ***...Read more