Just Say Cheesecake has an uphill battle against two things. First, its name seems to indicate that it makes only desserts, possibly only cheesecake. Second, up until recently, for the past seven or so years, that was true.
But now Just Say Cheesecake has begun offering lunch again, from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Monday through Friday. Based on a recent visit Pat and I made there, it’s well worth a trip for soup, salad, hot or cold sandwiches and panini.
The bakery and eatery is in a one-story building that houses three businesses along busy Sheridan Drive in Amherst. It’s between Buckeye and Ivyhurst, and if you blink, you’ll miss it. The door opens at the bakery counter, but if you turn to the left, you will be in a small dining room that holds a half-dozen tables set with tablecloths. A turn to the right leads to two other rooms, which can be set up for meetings or get-togethers. The front room had a few very elegant decorations flanking an interesting display of cakes.
The menu, without being enormous, has a good selection of interesting choices, none of which are more than $10. Soup, which always includes co-owner Jim’s homemade chicken and a soup of the day, is $3 for a cup and $5 for a bowl. The salads range from a house with mixed greens, tomato, cucumber, croutons, red onion and black olives tossed with homemade balsamic dressing ($6.95) to a portabella salad, made with greens topped with a goat-cheese-stuffed portabella mushroom, or a mandarin chicken salad with a grilled chicken breast, each for $9.95. There are carving board sandwiches, which can be made with ham, turkey, roast beef, pastrami, tuna, egg or chicken salad ($6.95). A hot pastrami sandwich is $8.95. Hot sandwiches (each $8.95) include pulled pork, beef on weck, Monte Cristo and a Reuben. Finally, panini range from a white cheddar and Swiss grilled cheese ($7.95) to a chicken pesto, made with grilled chicken breast, goat cheese, roasted red peppers and pesto ($9.95).
The weather was a bit raw, so Pat and I started with soup. The day’s choice was cream of broccoli, which Pat loves, and the chicken, which I love, so we each got a cup. If we weren’t designing our lunch carefully to leave room for cheesecake, we would have each ordered a bowl.
Both soups came out steaming, far hotter than usual. The chicken soup was extremely good, packed with shredded, flavorful meat, bits of carrot and onion and kluski noodles. It became my new “get me a quart of this when I have a cold” choice. The cream of broccoli was equally good, creamy and delicious.
The sandwiches were served on gold-rimmed china. Pat’s turkey cheddar ($8.95) was made on white bread grilled to perfection in a panini press, with deep toasted grooves. The sliced turkey was very good, but the white cheddar was superb. Many times cheese gets lost; in this case, it contributed a lot of flavor. The combination, topped with cranberry-accented mayo, was delicious.
The Monte Cristo ($8.95) is a classic grilled creation of ham, turkey and Swiss between slices of bread that have been dipped in egg and grilled. This sandwich was made with three slices of the egg bread, cut into segments and dusted with a bit of confectioner’s sugar. Along with the ruffled chips on the side, the Monte Cristo was served with a small cup of sweet semi-gelled raspberry sauce.
We each ate half of our sandwiches, asked for to-go boxes and shamelessly asked for the list of cheesecake. (Our server said we were not the first people to do this and probably wouldn’t be the last.) There are more than 30 on the menu, with close to a dozen available in slices ($3.50). We sampled the chocolate chocolate chip and the raspberry swirl, and as might be expected at a place with “cheesecake” in the title, both were excellent. They were rich without being too sweet; the raspberry flavor was swirled into the cheesecake with a delicate touch.
Although nobody else came in to eat while we were there, we saw several orders boxed up for takeout. But our experience was so much fun that we’ll be back – and not for just cheesecake.