Some folks will go to any lengths to satisfy their culinary cravings. For local record producer Jim Buchanan, that meant
opening his own restaurant to ensure that he could always get a
little Southern fix.
Buchanan, who owns Buchanan Recording Group, one of the largest
recording studios in the state, and his own record label, has spent
a Eot of time traveling and noticed that Cleveland lacked a
restaurant serving Vis favorite Southern fare. He envisioned an
upscale eatery with a classy, yet comfortable ambiance; an
excellent, accommodating service staff; a full wine list and
well-stocked bar; and Southern food. It's a combination that
Buchanan admits "is rare in Southern dining."
In our visits to Alexandria's on Main, we found that he appears
to have fulfilled his vision on all fronts, creating a dining spot
that will please more people's tastes than just his own.
A short elevator ride to the second floor of a great, old brick
building on the west bank of the Flats brings one into Alexandria's
dining room, where walls mix dark-red tones and exposed brick, the
tables and chairs are lacquered in sleek black, and the dim
lighting glints on exposed ductwork and inspired artworks that
depict various musical motifs. Alexandria's exudes a trendy,
refurbished-urban-loft vibe that mixes well with the cool R&B
playing softly in the background.
Between being greeted by two gracious hostesses at the front
door -- who actually offer promptly to take our coats and hats (no
charge) -- to meeting our affable, enthusiastic server, it's clear
that Buchanan has excelled in providing the high-level service
staff he wanted. In fact, during each of our visits, we were
impressed by the service in almost every way: Our servers were
exceptionally helpful and able when it came to guiding us through
our menu choices, stood ready to make our visit enjoyable however
necessary, and, perhaps best of all, seemed genuinely interested in
making sure we got the best value for our dining dollar. A
uniformly polite gentility creates the feeling of Southern
hospitality to which Alexander's aspires.
So, feeling comfortable and welcome, we got down to the real
business at hand: the Southern food that sparked the whole thing in
the first place. With the help of executive chef Michael Franklin
-- who previously worked at New York's Shark Bar and Justin's, the
latter owned by R&B mogul Sean "P. Diddy" Combs -- Buchanan has
put together a menu of Southern and soul classics that offers more
hits than misses and something for just about everyone.
To begin the meal, our server brought out a big basket of
freshly baked sweet potato-cornbread muffins that begged us to
unashamedly eat every one. We did.
The appetizer menu is dominated (perhaps a bit too much) by
three types of chicken wings ($6.95) and a Three Wing Combo ($7.95)
that offers a sampling of each. The flavors -- Willie Q's, Jamaican
Jerk and Mike's Buffalo style -- are excellent and the wings larger
than the usual bar-food suspects. Gulf Stream garlic shrimp
($7.95), saut�ed in a garlic-butter sauce and served with
collard greens, were slightly overdone, but the sauce was tasty and
the greens excellent with some surprising Cajun kick. The real hit
on the app menu is Alexandria's Soul Roll ($7.95), a handmade
spring roll filled with collard greens, napa cabbage, black-eyed
peas and rice. Served with a zesty pineapple dipping sauce, these
goodies present an imaginative soul-meets-Seoul combo that we'd
love to see developed further.
The entrees, all of which include two excellent sides, were
perfectly executed on our visits, if sometimes unexceptional. The
honey-dipped fried chicken ($15.95) and St. Louis ribs ($17.95)
fall well within the above limits. Each dish was tasty and hit the
mark in terms of our expectations, though neither offered anything
especially innovative in thought or presentation. The ubiquitous
favorite, chicken and waffles ($14.95), is also very good. On the
very, very good end of the spectrum are the smothered pork chops
(one for $9.95 at lunch and two for $15.95 at dinner). The
center-cut chops are perfectly tender and covered in homemade gravy
hinting of fresh herbs that, for true gravy connoisseurs, would be
equally pleasing poured on the contents of one's entire plate.
For seafood lovers, Alexandria's offers such Creole fare as
Alexandria's seafood gumbo ($19.95) and shrimp etouff�e
($18.95), both solid renditions of the classic dishes. There are
also several preparations of salmon (honey-glazed, BBQ,
potato-crusted and croquette -- each $16.95) and catfish presented
in an astonishing four ways, not counting the catfish chowder
($6.95) or Georgia Bank catfish strips appetizer ($7.95). When
asked about the prevalence of catfish on the menu, Buchanan
good-naturedly responds that it's something he loves and, indeed,
the menu consists of the food he likes.
Blackened stuffed catfish ($18.95), filled with crabmeat,
shrimp, onions and peppers, is excellent, so perhaps you can never
have too much of a good thing.
On the subject of good things, it's rare that side dishes are
accorded their own place in a review, but Alexandria's on Main wins
our personal award for best-executed selection of savory sides.
Collard greens were perfect, enlivened by some serious Cajun
wallop; the red beans and black-eyed peas are sent from legume
heaven; the garlicky mashed potatoes and �ber-cheesy
macaroni and cheese are great renditions of classics; and the
candied yams should be standard issue on every Thanksgiving table
in America. Keep in mind that each entree comes with two sides, so
try not to double up. That way, you can try them all. If the amount
you're allotted falls short, all sides are available for $3.95.
If you have room left for dessert, Buchanan's sweet-potato pie
($4.95), made from a family recipe, is possibly the best pie we've
Overall, Alexandria's on Main offers a solid dining experience
and a sense of Southern hospitality that will easily take the chill
out of a Cleveland night.
Alexandria's on Main, 1275 Main Ave., west bank of the Flats,
Cleveland, (216) 344-4500. Hours: lunch: Mon-Fri 11 a.m. - 3 p.m.;
brunch: Sun 11 a.m. - 3 p.m.; dinner: Sun-Thu 5 - 11 p.m., Fri and
Sat 5 p.m. - 1 a.m.