Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Best School Lunch Ever

I went to back to high school for lunch last week. Happily that did not mean sitting in a sprawling noisy cafeteria eating greasy pizza or mystery meat off a plastic tray. I was at The Ranger Cafe, a lovely 50 seat dining room with big windows, done up in shades of mustard and eggplant and outfitted with handsome contemporary wooden tables and chairs, at Lakewood High School.

The year old restaurant, open to the public on Tuesdays and Wednesdays from 11:30 AM-1 PM, is operated by the Culinary Arts/Pro Start students and faculty. It’s a professional training program, part of the West Shore Career-Technical Education District, that gives juniors and seniors a chance to build real world skills and find out if a career in the restaurant business is right for them. It’s also the best deal in town for a mid-day meal.

With expert guidance from Chefs Rob McGorray and Devan Sharosky, who has worked for Michael Symon at Lola and Eric Williams at Momocho, the kids make everything from scratch including breads and pastries. Each day there’s a different soup ($3), quiche ($5), risotto side ($1.50), seafood entree (market price) and dessert special ($3.50), plus four sandwiches ($5.75 each), veggie pasta ($6), roasted pork ($6.50), and a stuffed chicken breast ($6).
I had a delicious bowl of creamy clam chowder studded with potatoes and nicely peppered, a generous portion of chicken salad served on a bed of field greens, and a warm apple tart with a scoop of house made vanilla bean ice cream and a drizzle of caramel sauce. Total cost $11.50. Dirty dishes were quickly whisked away and my coffee cup promptly refilled; I’ve had less attentive care in some upscale establishments. The students handle every aspect of service, from back of the house food prep in a state of the art commercial kitchen and mastering the art of intricate napkin folding to staffing the hostess station, serving, and bussing. I was impressed with how expertly they managed all these tasks.

Ample parking in the School lot at 14100 Franklin Boulevard in Lakewood. Reservations are always required. Call 216-529-4165. Your stomach, your wallet and these hard working students will thank you.
all photos by Barney Taxel

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