I confess, the appeal of battered, deep-fried pickles has always mystified me. However, in the interest of fairness, I finally succumbed and tried one, and I'm still mystified -- the combination of textures and flavours makes absolutely no sense to me. But de gustibus -- as the Latin saying goes -- there's no accounting for taste and, as it turned out, it was the only thing at Cravings that didn't make sense to me. Everything else was delicious.
It's a spare, spacious room with no decor other than some paintings by local artists. It's open 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Tuesday to Friday, 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. Saturday and 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. Sunday, and the menu covers the usual diner territory. There are burgers, sandwiches, wraps, salads and soups, but most come in dauntingly huge portions, and are prepared to a high standard. Most prices, which include fries and a bottomless beverage, range from $9.99 to $12.99, unless you're prepared to tackle the Jaw Breaker burger at $13.99 -- three patties, four slices of bacon, three slices of cheddar and all the other usual suspects.
But even the regular burgers are generous. Big and juicy, with a good beefy flavour, they come in a number of tempting variations, involving such additions as lettuce and/or pickles/and/or tomatoes. Many include cheese -- swiss, cheddar or mozzarella -- and some come with bacon as well. There's one version with guacamole and chipotle mayo and also a sometime special of marinated beef. One elegant little topping was thin-sliced and unbattered deep-fried onion rings.
Sandwiches are also excellent. The Reuben is packed thick with corned beef, swiss cheese and sauerkraut. Wraps are something I often avoid (the wrappings too often dominate the fillings) but the cranberry chicken club, with bacon, dried cranberries and cranberry sauce, was moist and tasty and enough to convert me. Other choices include grilled chicken with guacamole and mozzarella; warm roast beef with jalape±o Monterey jack, caramelized onions and mushrooms on a toasted baguette; and a triple layer clubhouse that is said to be a marvellous mouth-stretcher.
There are also a few quesadillas, and occasional daily specials. I was lucky enough to be there when the special was pickerel -- fresh from Gimli, crunchily battered with sweet moist flesh within, and absolutely delicious.
There are a few starters as well, not just those deep-fried pickles (three for $2.99, seven for $4.99), but terrific little taco sliders as well, filled with spicy beef, cheddar, romaine and a zippy sauce (four for $5.99). A perfectly dressed caesar salad was fresh and crisp, with bits of bacon and freshly ground Parmesan ($9.99). Other salads worth exploring might be the Asian Sweet N' Spicy of crisp chicken with mixed greens, toasted almonds and julienned vegetables in a sweet and spicy sesame dressing ($12.49), and the Santa Fe of grilled chicken with black bean corn salsa, feta, toasted almonds and tortilla chips in a honey cilantro dressing ($11.99).
The unadorned fries are great, and the poutine, cloaked in a rich brown gravy, is sinfully seductive. There are also sweet potato fries with a chipotle dipping sauce at $4.99, or $1.79 if substituted for fries with a meal. Ditto the poutine, caesar salad or soup -- a delicious vegetable-barley on my visit.
Licensed. The staff is friendly, attentive and helpful.
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Cravings' only dessert is ice cream, but if you still want -- and have room for -- something sweet, stop in and/or stock up on the goodies at Cocoabean Bakery. Judging by my email inbox, gluten is a problem for many readers, for whom Cocoabean would be heaven -- not only gluten-free, but also using mostly organic ingredients and free-run chickens. I have no problems with gluten, but everything was so good, the fact they might be missing anything just didn't occur to me.
A mini chocolate cake with peanut butter icing was moist, rich and wonderful, and at $7, enough for four. Most other items ranged from $2 to $3.50. The crumbs on the rhubarb platz lacked crunch but tasted good nevertheless. There are more choices than I was capable of investigating, but I can report on the deliciousness of the raisin cookies (which did have enough crunch), peanut butter oat bar under a thick layer of dark chocolate, and the fabulous banana-chocolate chip muffin with walnuts.
I didn't try the other breads, but, although the $9.50 tab is a bit of a shocker, the amaranth loaf is terrific.
It's all primarily for takeout, but there's one little table for two, another on the sidewalk, and a few counter seats along the window where you can enjoy a sweet and coffee, or -- if your conscience demands a healthy lunch before you can have dessert -- there are two sandwiches ($6.99 each), and two salads as well ($5.99 each). The one packed thick with chicken, coconut, cucumber and greens on amaranth bread is filling and delicious, and the other, with pickled beets, hummus, tomato, cucumber and greens, is one of the better vegetarian sandwiches. The chicken in the Naked Chicken salad (with cucumbers and lettuce) has the most amazing flavour; the quinoa and mango salad is also nice but needed a lot more seasoning.
Open from 10 a.m. to 5:30 Monday to Friday, to 3 p.m. Saturday.