Zach Bruell gives us a taste of french staples at his quaint shop.
Tucked into University Circle like an artist's signature on a painting, Zack Bruell's L'Albatros Brasserie and Bar gives us a chance to rub elbows with the city's cultural and intellectual tastemakers. Since it opened as one of Cleveland's only French-inspired restaurants in 2008, we've flocked to the spot along with Cleveland Orchestra musicians and students and professors from Case Western Reserve University. But while the menu seems as high-minded as the crowd, the flavors in dishes such as a sweet and savory French toast appetizer ($9) and the ooey-gooey croque-monsieur ham and cheese sandwich ($14) are familiar and heightened. "Brasserie food isn't intellectual," Bruell says. "It's the food of the working class." But trust in Bruell's interpretations of classics such as the cassoulet ($26). Usually braised together for several hours, the white beans, duck confit, lamb, sausage, pork belly and chicken are cooked separately before combining it all to order. The result is a lighter stew that doesn't compromise on flavor. Don't miss: Complete the Franco feel with the velvety, licorice-tasting L'ALbatros cocktail ($13) made with Chartreuse and absinthe. Outer limits: Surrounded on three sides by the restaurant, L'Albatros' patio is more secluded French courtyard than party porch. 11401 Bellflower Road, Cleveland, 216-791-7880, albatrosbrasserie.com