Everything about Leo Café put me in the right mood from the time I got out of my car along Center Street in Leo-Cedarville.
The bright yellow little building with its sunny sign screamed small-town comfort, and I found the same touches inside.
It was clean and quaint with the restaurant's name – and that sun image – adorning the back wall above the specials board. Vintage posters added a classic look and it had a truly welcoming feel.
The menu also had the right feel to it with a good variety of offerings including old-school favorites that every small-town restaurant should have and some more modern offerings to appease a diverse crowd.
It was all good until the food arrived and there weren't enough sunny images to keep my mood from turning dark.
There were some solid offerings that I had little issues with:
• The Kitchen Sink scramble was like the popular Fort Wayne garbage plate. It had all the goods – a big plate of nicely fried potatoes with ham, bacon, sausage links, onions, fresh mushrooms, green peppers and two eggs mixed in it. I paid the extra dollar to have mine covered with gravy and it was forgotten, but a cup was provided quickly after and that gravy was just right.
• The Loaded Belgian Waffle was a decadent choice and it tasted as good as it looked. The big waffle had a healthy serving of macerated berries in the middle of it nicely framed by whipped cream around the edges. The waffle had a nice flavor on its own, but there was no doubt the berries and whipped cream were worth getting.
• The minestrone soup was probably the best thing I had at Leo Café. It was a big serving and had a bevy of ingredients – chickpeas, kidney beans, spinach, potatoes, peas, tomatoes, celery, onion, flat green beans, carrots and shell pasta – in a perfectly seasoned tomato broth that was simply yummy. Those vegetables also had some texture and hadn't cooked away to mush which can often be the case.
That is where the yummy ended.
The most glaringly bad dish I had was one that should have been simple to execute.
But my Fried Egg Burger not only came without the promised American cheese, it arrived without the egg. I asked for the egg at least and was appeased, though it took way too long to get it, which left the drab, gray, preformed patty cold and even less appealing.
The wait during all my visits was bad even though it was never overly busy. If I worked nearby there is no way I would try to stop in on a work break.
I thought the Lowery breakfast sandwich would be a better bet, but I was wrong. Ham, egg, Swiss and American cheese on Texas toast seemed like a good mix, but the Texas toast – the real draw to this sandwich – was regular sandwich bread that had been buttered and grilled. It was barely mediocre.
As good as the minestrone was, the other soups I tried were flops. The staple chili arrived cold and I did not find its acidic flavor to my liking. The featured chicken tortilla soup was very timid in flavor; the chicken was dry and it had nary a speck of tortilla in it or sprinkled on top.
The Mediterranean salad was not much better than those soups. It looked abysmal when it arrived, for starters, and was made with basic iceberg lettuce. The bacon on it, which seemed odd on a Mediterranean salad to start with, was tough and hard – leftover I am guessing. It also had dried cranberries, walnuts and included raspberry vinaigrette as its dressing, all of which were not very Mediterranean.
The chicken, in addition to being dry, like it was in the soup, was bland without any Mediterranean seasonings.
The only thing Mediterranean about the salad was the light sprinkling of feta cheese.
The veggie flatbread pizza, which I tried as an appetizer, was a better attempt at something Mediterranean. Its thin and super-crispy base had a decent artichoke and spinach dip as its sauce, with some of those nice mushrooms and tomatoes and mozzarella cheese on top. The cheese was pretty bland as were the canned tomatoes. A little Parmesan cheese would have helped, but Leo Café is not an Italian restaurant, so I was out of luck.
I was really out of luck when it came to dessert.
There were pies on the specials board during my first visit and I was eager to try some of them, but it was not in the cards. My server went missing in action after leaving my bill on the table, and by the time she returned to collect that bill I was antsy to leave and passed.
During my second visit I was determined not to leave without trying the pie. But, alas, there was no pie to be had.
Restaurant: Leo Café
Address: 15024 Indiana, Leo-Cedarville
Hours: 6 a.m. to 2 p.m. Monday through Saturday; 7 a.m. to 1 p.m. Sunday
Handicapped accessible: Yes
Smoking status: Non-smoking
Credit cards: Yes
Menu: Flatbread ($6), soup ($2.50), Kitchen Sink ($9), loaded waffle ($6), burger ($6.75), Mediterranean salad ($7)
Rating breakdown: Food: ★ (3-star maximum); atmosphere: ★ (1 max.), service: 0 (1 max.)
Ryan DuVall is a restaurant critic for The Journal Gazette. This review is based on two unannounced visits. The Journal Gazette pays for all meals. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org; call at 461-8130. DuVall's past reviews can be found at www.journalgazette.net. You can follow him on Twitter @DiningOutDuVall.
Out of a possible five