Cloak & Dagger: Dine with PressureLife
If you’ve always wanted a place that combined fine booze and vegan food, Cloak & Dagger is the establishment for you. The Tremont craft cocktail bar opened in the old SalsaRito space Oct. 13 to offer Clevelanders with intriguing new drinks, non-alcoholic mocktails, vegan-based eats, and other tempting treats. The PressureLife crew recently visited Cloak & Dagger to see whether their offerings are to die for or simply dead on arrival.
There’s no real gray area with vegan food for me – it’s either delicious or disgusting. Cloak & Dagger definitely did not disappoint. We started out with the miso powder and sauerkraut popcorn, which quickly became addicting and we ran through the bowl in no time. My only critique would be to serve it warm.
We ordered every entree and my order from least to favorite goes poutine, nachos, brisket sandwich, bangers and mash, and the larb. I want that apple ham concoction in my pocket at all times. The use of fresh cabbage as the vehicle,was a real nice twist to a lettuce wrap. The bangers and mash brought the Sunday night family cooked meal vibe, which is never a bad way to go. Cloak & Dagger also used peas, which I enjoy because I feel like peas are a forgotten vegetable and should be used more often. The brisket sandwich was definitely good too, although I wish there would have been more horseradish crema. However, the bread they used was the real kicker.
In terms of my least favorite entrees, the nachos were fine. No real feedback there, they were just nothing earth shattering. I felt the fries for the poutine were too soggy for the soup of faux cheese and gravy they gave us. They definitely could use a sturdier fry.
I had two cocktails, the When Tigers Used to Smoke and the King of the Dead. The Tiger drink was a bit too smokey for my tastes – it felt like I was drinking a bonfire. The ‘King of the Dead’ was good, but heavy to the point that I could only have one of them.
All in all, I really enjoyed Cloak & Dagger and have already recommended the place to many people. Even if you’re a meat eater, there’s no chance you wouldn’t be happy with the brisket sandwich, bangers, or the larb. 4/5
As a non-vegan, and someone who wouldn’t ever choose a vegan dining option if given the choice, I have pretty limited experience with what the standard is or what is considered ‘good.’ Due to this, I also had a relatively low expectation going into Cloak & Dagger. I’ll just go ahead and say that I had it all wrong.
Before I talk about just how wrong I was, I’ll start with how right their inviting atmosphere and hospitality was. I’m a sucker for rich, warmly lit environments that make you just want to fade away into your seat with a good cocktail (recommend the Rabbit’s Foot!) and spend hours soaking in the good vibe. Cloak & Dagger is perfect for that.
Just like their attention to detail in their space, their service also hit the same high mark. The moment we sat down, we were offered a shooter of one of their whiskey cocktails (which I’m sure is standard, but still felt pretty special) and they even offered to accommodate a non-alcoholic version of it. Even as we were ordering Alex’s to-go cocktail, little touches like explaining how to serve it and recommending garnishes was a really nice touch (pretty sure we didn’t actually communicate any of this to Alex [Ed. Note: They didn’t] but at least Cloak & Dagger did their job).
As far as their entirely vegan menu goes, we ordered one of everything. The miso and sauerkraut popcorn was highly addicting and a wonderful bar snack. I honestly would have been satisfied with just that and my cocktail, but then the heartier first dishes came rolling in: the nachos and the poutine. The nachos were lovely with pickled veg and fresh herbs, and their cheese sauce was entirely convincing and very well-seasoned. The poutine wasn’t exactly my favorite. It was kind of a combination of the appearance of the gravy (raw egg-like consistency — and yes, I know most versions of poutine don’t exactly look good) and the textures were just a little soft for my taste.
It was really the larb, brisket sandwich and bangers and mash that completely changed me. I didn’t at all expect to be fooled by any plant-based meat I ate, but I truly was. Hell, my baseline expectation was to at least take a bite of everything and try not to visually or audibly offend anyone. All of the above dishes each had really unique qualities, and weren’t just ‘good for being vegan’ — they were good. I did get a little extreme in my thinking right after dinner wondering if I could sustain a vegan lifestyle if I figured out how to date the Cloak & Dagger chef or just move in or something. Spoiler alert: I did eat a cube of cheese later on that same evening.
I’ll absolutely be back and already have spoken quite highly of my experience there to both meat-eaters and non. 4.5/5
I pay an unusual amount of attention to how spaces are lit. Sometimes it seems like a room could make me increasingly more anxious by the second, and no one else seems to notice anything. I bring this up to emphasize how overwhelmingly comfortable Cloak & Dagger is. I found myself scanning the room and taking in details, and the space as a whole, throughout our meal. The lighting, decor, and room volume all worked together to build the kind of environment you’d take an out of towner and make them say “I didn’t expect this in Cleveland.”
I’ll just come right out and say that Cloak & Dagger officially has the best vegan menu in the city. We started with the miso sauerkraut popcorn. It was subtle in flavor and definitely disappeared quickly. When it was time to dig into the main dishes, I started in familiar territory: the brisket sandwich. I don’t think the bar for vegan food should be “does it taste like meat,” but I will say had I not read the menu I would have never known I was eating an entirely vegan meal. All sandwich enthusiasts know it’s all about that bread, and this brisket sandwich is served on the perfect roll.
For the sake of brevity I’m going to file the nachos and poutine in the no complaints category.
I had never heard of larb before, but I think it might be my new favorite food. The fact that this dish consists mainly of apples and chickpeas is mind blowing. You are served a bowl of hot “meat” and veggies that have been spiced to perfection. The ginger and chilis in the dish never become overwhelming. You then spoon that deliciousness onto fresh, crispy cabbage and eat it like a taco. The Cloak & Dagger larb is going to be my best friend this winter. I used to drive to Tremont to pick up Edison’s, but I’m a larb guy now.
The runner up of the evening was the Bangers and Mash. Two house-made vegan sausages sit on top of a bed of a bed of thick mashed potatoes, peas, and onions. Cloak & Dagger really honed in on their fall and winter flavors and experiences. This is straight up comfort food that you want to keep eating until it hurts. The amazing thing to me is that this dish was executed without butter. It makes me question my entire culinary ethos. Is butter even as good as I thought it was? Am I a vegan? I don’t know what the caloric property of any of this food is, but it has to be dramatically lower than its traditional analogs without sacrificing any flavor at all.
Cloak & Dagger is an extremely cozy, locally owned, high-end cocktail bar with the best vegan menu I’ve ever tasted in Cleveland. If that’s not enough, they brought us all tasseled bookmarks to take home. Now when I’m trying to read at night, my mind wanders to a world filled with larb and mashed potatoes. I highly recommend Cloak & Dagger for carnivores and herbivores alike. 4/5
While my compatriots were able to take in the sights and sounds of Cloak & Dagger, I had a different seat for this review – my couch. Takeout has been the go-to for my wife and I this year, so my fellow PressureLifers were nice enough to drop off a selection of eats (Cloak & Dagger has since announced that it will offer takeout orders with contactless pickup).
First off, I’ll start by admitting that I don’t normally seek out vegan food – my body is made up of roughly 14 percent butter after all. I am a fan of craft cocktails, however, and good food is simply that – good. Fortunately, I’m happy to say that Cloak & Dagger churns out some good food, even after being driven from Tremont to Rocky River in a to-go box. I am certainly not the first person to praise the house larb, but I will gladly join the calls that this apple ham and garbanzo bean concoction is delightful. Each bite offers a lovely blend of acidity, sweetness, and spice that keeps you wanting more.
While the larb was the highlight, it wasn’t the only impressive dish. The bangers and mash delivered on the comfort factor and held up well at home. The nachos also traveled well, as the chips themselves maintained a surprising amount of crunch after it’s voyage from Cloak & Dagger to my house (and then my mouth). The fries in the poutine did not thrive in the same way, although it seems there wasn’t much crispiness to begin with based on my companions’ comments. Still, the white bean vegetable gravy held up rather well and made the poutine an enjoyable experience without my beloved curds (note: I miss the West Side location of Banter dearly).
One casualty of takeout was unfortunately the brisket sandwich. While I heard great things about the bread – and believe me, good bread is critical – this beloved bun was a shell of its former self by the time it arrived at my domicile. While the vegan brisket was still fine, it clearly missed some of the spark that it would have had if consumed at Cloak & Dagger. At least I was able to drown my sorrows with The Three Fate’s, a cognac-based cocktail that was surprisingly delicate and grew on me with every sip. 4/5
What we ate:
Each dish is rated 1-5 by each team member. This is the mean score:
- Nachos – 4
- Poutine – 2.5
- Brisket Sandwich – 4.25
- Larb – 5
- Bangers & Mash – 4.5
- Popcorn w/ powdered miso and sauerkraut – 3.5