It was too beautiful a day not to eat lunch outside. And despite all my previous meals at Ettamae's Cafe, every single one had been on a day too hot to even consider eating on the balcony. Not so today. In fact, as I walked down Second Street, I could see my friend up there framed against the very blue sky, leaning over the balcony and calling out to me.
The patio was completely in shade and with no one else up there, we felt secluded under the umbrellas even as we were surrounded by bustling construction sites on either side of us. It's exciting what's happening over there, according to our server, since the infusion of B.B. king's 11 million dollar contribution to the cause.
The building to the south will be affordably priced small apartments and the Elks' Lodge to the north will house a southern barbecue restaurant downstairs with a jazz club upstairs. And of course, the fabulous art moderne Hippodrome is revealing itself to be more beautiful with each week of work. Is it any wonder I love J-Ward?
But it was my friend's first trip to Ettamae's and he couldn't decide what to order. I was telling our server how crazy I am about their house-braised corned beef with its little fatty bits and she agreed that she'd become a convert to corned beef after years of taking or leaving it. My friend was convinced and ordered his on the house made sub roll.
My problem was ordering something I hadn't had before, not that I had to, but why not? I decided on their chicken salad mainly because they roast the chicken and make salad from that. I, too, couldn't resist the crusty sub roll and Mom's potato salad on the side.
The chicken salad was better than my Mom's because she boils the chicken for hers, so I was delighted with the roasted flavor of Ettamae's. And there is nothing like homemade bread to take a sandwich to a whole new level.
My friend was too busy in corned beef heaven to say much. At one point, owner Matt came up and taking in our shady oasis, said, "Now this is the place to be!" He was right, it was just about perfect.
I could have stopped with the Two Street (sandwich and side) but ended up making mine a Three Sweet by getting two chocolate walnut cookies, thin and buttery. My friend, a devote of homemade ice cream, could not resist the peanut butter/dark chocolate chip ice cream and with good cause. Besides the paltry $3.00 price tag, it was obscenely rich. I ate a few bites and he ate the other two scoops, smiling widely the whole time.
Since Ettamae's ice cream flavors change often, he already told me that he wants to come back soon for another flavor. I'm just sorry we missed the homemade peach ice cream, a personal favorite. The coffee ice cream, we heard, is like a shot of espresso but sweet. I know several caffeine junkies who'd love that.
Afterwards, we strolled 2 Street, the better to admire the renovations and even some of the spaces just ripe for the right person to come in and make them viable again. We both gave our vote to Miss Polly's Beauty Shop, a classic Jackson Ward retail space, attractive as it was functional and sitting right on the sidewalk to attract foot traffic.
Walking my friend to his car, he teased me, "Why didn't you tell me about this place sooner?" I could have asked him, "Why don't you come to J-Ward more often?" But I didn't.
I don't think he'll wait for me to invite him back to Ettamae's. The siren song of a place that makes not only their corned beef but also their ice cream is irresistible to a Northside guy like him.
As well it should be.