Fire Food and Drink

May 23, 2015

IMAG2931If you ask me who my favorite chef in Cleveland is I will answer “Doug Katz” without hesitation. I have loved everything I have ever eaten at any of his restaurants, but his flagship restaurant Fire Food and Drink holds a special place in my heart. It is one of my favorite places for brunch in Cleveland – both inside as well as on the patio watching the world go by. But he alsoIMAG2938 does some great food at dinner and special pop-up dinners both at Fire and around Cleveland Heights (like a mussels demo or grilled cheese at The Wine Spot on Lee). He is planning to reopen the Katz Club Diner as a pop-up restaurant.

His Prince Edward Island mussels are delicious. He makes them with tomato, fennel and garlic and serves with it a piece of grilled, buttered  toast. Simple but delicious. The broth is a tomato broth and you can taste all the butter in it. Dipping the toast in the broth is one of my favorite parts about this dish. I was at his mussels demo for Le Creuset at The Wine Spot, and my friend and I loved them so much we drove straight to Fire to order a batch for ourselves. Paired with the popovers IMAG2933with local honey butter and the iceberg salad it was a great meal.

The popovers are light on the outside and custardy soft on the inside. They come as a set of three, so they are great to share. I tried to recreate the meal by myself the other day and ended up taking a popover and IMAG2934half of the salad home with me. If you order these you won’t need the bread and dipping oil service.

I have heard from several foodies that his Tandoor roasted pork chop from New Creations farm and Tandoor rib eye are among their favorite foods in Cleveland. The Tandoor oven ensures the meat is moist and flavorful.

Another thing I love about Chef Katz is that he supports local farms and local businesses and usesIMG_20110817_204050 local meats whenever possible. He also partners with Seafood Watch and uses only sustainable seafood at his restaurants. Dietary restrictions are also no problem. I confidently brought my mother here for dinner before taking the RTA to the July 3rd fireworks downtown a few years ago. She was having severe dietary issues (being gluten- and dairy-free) and at that time could not eat a number of other things due to ulcerative colitis. After consulting with the Fire staff on what she could and couldn’t eat on the menu she was able to enjoy a delicious meal and did not have a single problem.

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Grilled cheese pop-up at The Wine Spot

The photo above was my favorite course on the NEO Food Tour of Shaker Square a few years ago. He served a 4 oz. Tandoor roasted hanger steak paired with the most amazing leek bread pudding, sauteed spinach and porcino jus paired with a red wine. I wish the leek bread pudding was on the regular menu. If asked what I would choose as my last meal I would probably ask for this.

Doug is also passionate about community building. This I-Open interview is really fantastic and demonstrates his integrity and support for the local farmers and the local community. It’s just sad because the interview took place in the Katz Club Diner and came out just before it was set on fire.

Contact info:

Fire Food and Drink
13220 Shaker Square
Cleveland, OH 44120
(216) 921-3473


Lopez Southwest Kitchen

May 16, 2015

IMAG2863Lopez began in 1979 as Lopez y Gonzalez, which was conceived as a multi-international chain of cutting edge Mexican restaurants. The only cities where the owners succeeded are Palm Beach, Beverly Hills, Mexico City, and Cleveland Heights. Celebrity chef Rick Bayless opened the restaurant as its first chef in 1980. Lopez has been turning out southwestern food and drinks since 1979. Lopez y Gonzalez was located at the corner of Washington Boulevard and Lee Road and closed in 1998. Lopez on Lee opened in 2001.

I hadn’t been back after an unfortunate incident with chipssalsaa bartender in 2009, but decided I needed to check it out again. We went on a Monday night when they don’t offer valet parking, so I parked in its small parking lot. But valet parking is only $3, which is a small price to pay if the heavens are threatening to open up that night. I arrived a few minutes late to find my friends there, water glasses filled and chips and salsa waiting for me. It was a nice beginning to the evening.

I have been bloodorangemargon a blood orange kick lately, so I ordered a tall blood orange margarita. It was during happy hour, so I got it for $6 instead of $12! It was delicious. Not too sweet, not too bitter and not too potent. It definitely tasted as if they used fresh blood orange juice. I sucked down two that evening. They were that good.

I’ve had their shrimp ‘n’ grits before and was seriously tempted to order it again. It features corn, chiles, smoked gouda, roasted peppers and scallion. It has a nice heat to it thanks the jalapenos and chiles in the grits and sauce IMG_20120828_184052and is outrageously good. The photo here is just a sample portion from when I was on the NEO Food Tour of the Cedar-Lee district.

Instead I ordered the guacamole trio for the table to start. My favorite was a blue cheese and bacon guac. I learned later it is the Iron Chef guac created by Michael Symon with blue cheese, sage and house-cured bacon chunks. Yeah. Big fan. The cheese and bacon complemented each other well and were a good guactriomatch for the fresh creamy and chunky avocado. The other two flavors (lobster guac with salmon caviar and the traditional) were also really good.

My friend B. is a huge taco fan, so it was obvious what we were all going to order.The tacos are pricy, but the flavors are inventive, the ingredients are upscale, and they are actually quite filling. I had a tough time deciding which I wanted and how many I wanted (there is a minimum order of two). I ordered a trio and ended up taking half of each one home with me. Next time I will just order two. I knew I wanted to order the Buttery Lobster Taco, and that was in fact my favorite taco out of the three Ilobstercatfishtrout chose. It features butter-poached lobster, bacon, arugula, smoked tomato and guacamole. The lobster was fresh and tender, and the flavor of the smoked tomato really came out when it popped in my mouth. My second favorite was the Smoked Trout Taco. It comes with jicama slaw and a habanero corn mustard crema. The server told me the cream was a little spicy, so I ordered it on the side just to be safe. After dipping my fork to test it I quickly troutcarnitasslathered the entire portion on the taco. The crema was delicious and not spicy at all. I chose the Ancho Battered Catfish with jicama slaw and a gaucho crema for my third taco. The catfish was a good portion of fish and it was perfectly fried. It was good, but just couldn’t compare with the other two tacos. I was extremely pleased with my meal, as were my dining companions who both ordered the trout, but one ordered the Smoked Brisket Tops taco and the other ordered the Mole Dusted Seared troutshrimpTuna and the Spicy Grilled Shrimp. The two of us who ordered 3 tacos ended up with small to-go boxes.

None of us had room for dessert. I plan on going back soon to try the lobster enchiladas, the fajitas, and the garlic and spinach stuffed trout (not necessarily in that order). Now that the weather is getting nicer I plan on enjoying some more blood orange margaritas on their inviting patio. They take reservations through Open Table.

Contact info:

Lopez on Lee
2196 Lee Road
Cleveland Heights, OH 44118
(216) 932-9000


Frank Sterle’s Slovenian Country House

May 9, 2015

IMAG3034Frank Sterle, an immigrant from Slovenia, founded his Slovenian Country House in 1954 with a small building on East 55th Street, a few picnic tables, and only one waitress. The small menu featured traditional eastern European fare such as wiener schnitzel, chicken paprikash, stuffed cabbage, sausage and sauerkraut. After Frank’s death in 1986, the restaurant was taken over by Mike Longo and Margot Glinski, both immigrants — from Italy and Germany, respectively. When Mike died 25 years later Margot retired and Rick Semersky

Photo by Edsel L.

Photo by Edsel L.

purchased Sterle’s in 2012. Chef Jeff Jarrett has accepted the position as Executive Chef and GM of Semersky’s entire portfolio of properties and is breathing new life into the old chestnut (as well as the neighborhood). This includes a health-focused Café 55, followed by Goldhorn Brewery led by a Great Lakes Brewing Co. veteran as well as The Market, an evolving weekly incubator market with local foods and crafts, and a “signature restaurant” in the former St. Clair Cleveland Public Library and Lakeshore Banking and 600_4297106Trust building. Jarrett’s first order of business was to bring in Walter Hyde and Scott Slagle to run the smoker and beer garden at Sterle’s. Their smoked meats, particularly their smoked prime rib, are legendary. I’m not kidding when I say the smoked prime rib is probably one of the best things I have ever eaten. They’ll be serving it IMAG1399up at Sterle’s every Friday.

Sterle’s is one of Cleveland’s “big S” institutions (my nickname) – Slyman’s, Sokolowski’s, and Sterle’s. I’ve been hearing about Sterle’s since I was a kid. My father worked just down the street at Richman Brothers for 25 years, and that was my first job as well (doing inventory counting bolts of cloth and cut pieces during Christmas break). He and his coworkers met monthly at Sterle’s for another 20 years after it closed. The building is massive. The beer hall is flanked by IMAG1398a huge mural to the left and the bar to the right. The two areas are separated by the area where the polka band sets up and the dance floor.

The food is plentiful, but don’t go there expecting great service (but that could change with Jarrett at the helm). And the menu is much smaller than it used to be. The menu got overhauled in 2012, but the old favorites are still there. Unfortunately the food also suffered. I’m confident that will change under Chef Jarrett. The chicken paprikash is always a good bet and has some good chunks of pepper. Dad’s favorite, the Slovenian sausage, is no longer IMAG2839on the menu, but they do still have sausage on the menu. Even before Walter and Scott came on board they made awesome sausage. The waitresses aren’t in dirndls anymore. They are wearing black t-shirts instead. A polka band is still playing most nights, and some brave souls do venture out onto the dance floor. The beer selection has greatly improved. There are some great beers available on tap as well as other imports like Lasko – and they serve my favorite beer, Stiegl (a beer brewed in Salzburg, Austria) in bottle. Stiegl brings me back to my junior year abroad in Salzburg in college when I could get various Stiegl choices out IMAG1400of the vending machine in the dorm.

To start, the server brings you a loaf of white bread to snack on while waiting for the meals. The bread was soft, but good lathered in soft butter. You also get salad for the whole table to share. You can add Sterle’s Chicken Soup for $1.50. That recipe hasn’t changed for 50 years. It’s not fancy, but is a decent chicken soup.

I love ordering the Family Style Meal. You get a choice of three entrees, one side, a vegetable and dessert for $20 a person. The choices include Wienerschnitzel, pork schnitzel, pierogi, chicken paprikash, sausage or roast pork. The side choices are dumplings (spaetzle), sauerkraut or potato (mashed, home fries, french fries). The schnitzel was good, if a little dry. The pierogi are not dripping in butter and onions like at Sokolowski’s, but they are still tender and delicious. The chicken paprikash was the stand out for me. The chicken is tender, the dumplings are toothful, and it has chunks of peppers in the sauce.

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Stuffed cabbage isn’t one of the entree choices, but you can order it as a side. The cabbage is so tender it falls apart, and the stuffing is this wonderful, solid mix of meat. Not tomato-based, but still good.

We were given dessert, but I forgot to take a picture of it and don’t even remember what it was. IMAG3204It certainly wasn’t strudel though. I would have remembered that!

The beer garden opened last year and is a great addition. Tonight just happens to be its opening night for the summer 2015 season. It is quite the space – with lots of wood picnic tables and a bar outside. It’s a great place to sit outside in the summer and share a pitcher of good beer with friends.

Change is good, but there is a fine line to walk to keep your loyal regulars happy while attracting new customers. As one Yelp reviewer aptly stated: “As the older generation dies off and the gentrification of the inner-ring suburbs continues, places like Sterle’s risk being lost forever. Sure, Sterle’s is a bit rough around the edges, stale perhaps. They could use a bit of an update. Sterle’s is also a piece of my city that I don’t want to lose and a IMAG3207piece of our heritage that deserves to be preserved.” I think Chef Jarrett can do it, and I’m excited to see what they do with the place. As of now the plan is to keep with the current menu and introduce BBQ items as specials on Thursday, Friday and Saturday. As I said before, Friday will be smoked prime rib night. I was invited there during Walter and Scott’s first week for a special dinner they prepared and was blown away by several things they are toying with. They served us some delicious creations: polka fries (spiral-cut potatoes with cheese sauce, bacon, and jalapeno), smoked lardons over cheesy grits with a maple syrup, humongous beef ribs (aka Flintstone ribs), and smoked pork with sweet potato salad and sauerkraut. I’m not posting the photos here since I am not sure they will be on the menu all the time, but be sure to click the link and check out the photos. I wish them lots of luck. That area really could use some revitalization. This is an exciting prospect.

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Contact info:

Frank Sterle’s Slovenian Country House
1401 E 55th Street
Cleveland, OH 44103
(216) 881-4181


Dim Sum Crawl – Part Two

May 3, 2015

My friends and I did part two of last week’s dim sum crawl today. We met at E. 30th Street Cafe at 11:30. It is at the back of Asia Plaza, off the parking lot with Park to Shop grocery store. We were the only table for a little bit, but a few other diners came after us. To be honest, I was nervous about the dim sum here, because no one ever talked about this restaurant or its dim sum. Last week there were only a few occupied tables, while Li Wah on the other side of the plaza was packed. I did some reconnaissance the night before and was pleased to see a very extensive dim sum menu of 50 items. I picked some ones that I knew no one else offered and was quite excited about the idea of a steamed chicken bun or cilantro shrimp dumpling; however, when we started ordering we were told that the restaurant had new owners and they had gotten rid of a lot of the dim sum. In fact, they were closing on Monday so they could renovate for 10 days and reopen as a new restaurant (if I understood her correctly the new place will have Szechuan something in the title). We stuck with the dim sum, which was prepared in the kitchen and brought out as it was done.

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The original plan was to go light here anyways, so it made it easy to just stick to a few items. We ordered the stuffed eggplants (which were good with a quite chewy texture), sesame balls (smaller than what I am used to but good red bean filling), cilantro shrimp dumpling, and chiu chow dumplings. The chiu chow dumplings were my favorite dumpling here. They were filled with peanuts, chopped vegetables and pork. They tasted like the filling of a lettuce leaf wrap, and everyone really enjoyed them. Our two vegetarian friends split the curry vegetables off the regular menu and had a separate check. The bill for seven of us was $34.67, or $6.00 each with tax and tip. We left comfortable but not full, which is exactly what we planned.

The second stop was Bo Loong. This was our cart experience for the day. The service here was pretty lacking, but that might have been because we were off the main room. We asked for a knife to cut the buns, which we never got. They gave us forks and we had to ask for chopsticks. I ended up using the forks to cut the buns and to serve things like the sticky rice. We ordered Pu Li tea to start, because someone on Yelp had recommended it and I like trying new teas. It was okay, but most of us preferred the black tea they served us automatically. There was no lazy susan, which meant we needed to pass the dishes around and I had to keep reminding one of my friends to stop talking and pass the food.

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Food service was quick as the carts came around, but our poor vegetarian friends who ordered off the menu finally got their food almost when we were finished. And we had to remind the waiter that I had also ordered pea shoots with garlic. The dumplings were good and we had a ton of them, ranging from Sue My (aka shu mei), Fun Goa (steamed dumpling with chopped veggie, shrimp and pork), a dumpling with scallions and some kind of meat, xiao lao (soup buns but they had sat too long and the soup had escaped from them – they still tasted good though and was the favorite dumpling for most of us) and Sin Joe Gin (fried tofu skin stuffed with sausage). We had two buns – 4 Sue Bough (baked BBQ pork buns) and 4 Guy Me Bough (a bun with coconut). I cut them up into four pieces each so we could all try them. We also ordered one sticky rice in a lotus leaf, which I normally love, but I was really disappointed with here. Despite being packed with various meats it lacked profundity and most of all flavor. The pea shoots and garlic was delicious and it came with a side of rice. Our bill came to $60.75, which broke down to $10.50 a person including tax and tip.

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One of my friends wanted us to stop at Asia Food Company – specifically Asia Tea House, which is tucked away in the back. I was completely unaware of the Asian Town Center complex until today. I’ve driven by it several times, but have never really paid attention to it. It has several parking lots, and I was glad they had a sign pointing to the main entrance. I had read about Asia Tea House several months ago when Doug Trattner wrote about it in the Scene Magazine, but I still hadn’t checked it out. The grocery store was huge and had a wide variety of items. I plan on going back again soon to take my time and browse the aisles. The fruits and vegetables were huge (including a jackfruit that was bigger than my head) and looked very fresh. They sell live crabs and lobsters, butchered meats, fresh kim chi, frozen and dried rice noodles, and a wide selection of sodas and juices, just to name a few. We were more interested in the little restaurant tucked in the back. At this point none of us were hungry and some of my friends were done for the day, so we just popped in to check things out. They had roasted meats hanging as well as a huge variety of dumplings (and samples!), savory and sweet buns, and pre-wrapped bahn mi sandwiches. If you want to sit in the table area you order your soup or from around 17 entrees at the register and they will bring you tea and your food when it is ready. I grabbed a sticky rice and a bahn mi to go for tomorrow. Some other friends grabbed a couple of buns to go. We were too full to order anything and sit down. I’ll be back soon to try some of their soups.

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Five of my friends continued with other plans, while four of us decided to stop at Koko Bakery. My vegetarian friend had left after Emperor’s Palace last week and lamented having missed the desserts, so I wanted to make it up to her. I thought about ordering a smoothie, but decided to order a Taiwanese shaved ice ($5.35 including tax) instead. One of my friends thought it sounded good and ordered the same thing I did. They shave the ice, top it with three toppings (I ordered lychee, mango and kiwi), and pour condensed milk over it. It was very refreshing on this 78 degree day. I also felt I was getting some vitamins to balance out the dumpling overload. My vegetarian friends split the mango cheesecake, which I had a bite of and really liked.

Overall, it was a successful dim sum crawl spread over two days. We got to try some old favorites as well as some new dim sum offerings and discovered a couple places along the way. I would recommend doing it all the time because it is really filling, but this was a great way to spend an early afternoon on a Sunday. I highly recommend it.

Contact info:

E. 30th Street Cafe
Asia Plaza
2999 Payne Avenue #142
Cleveland, OH 44114

Bo Loong *Warning: the website is really bad. A more extensive menu is here.
3922 St Clair Avenue NE
Cleveland, OH 44114
(216) 391-3113

Asia Foods/Asia Tea House
Asia Town Center
3820 Superior Avenue
Cleveland, OH 44114


The Velvet Tango Room

May 1, 2015

vtrThe Velvet Tango Room (or VTR) was just named one of the ‘Best 150 bars in America‘ (hint: it’s no. 90) – and for good reason. I love the VTR. Proprietor Paulius Nasvytis is just coolness personified, and the bartenders there really know how to shake a cocktail. The VTR opened in 1996 in a building that was once a speakeasy. It is located on Columbus Road on Duck Island, just a block or two from the West Side Market and the RTA station in Ohio City.

There are more than 80 cocktails on the menu. They serve classics like Manhattans, the Flip, Tom Collins, Sazerac, the Highball, the Ramos Gin Fizz, the Old Fashioned, and sours like the Pisco Sour and the Amaretto di SaronnaIMAG1751 as well as their own house creations like the India Lime Fizz (which Michael Symon talked about on the Food Channel’s The Best Thing I Ever Drank), the Lady in White, the Apricot Lady, the Cleveland Rose, and the Rust Belt. There is a drink to match every taste and mood. Every cocktail is completely fresh and made from scratch. Each cocktail uses the finest ingredients, the juice is squeezed as they make your drink, and mixers like bitters are made in-house. The ice cubes are made in a special 100_0395machine to be 1.25″ square and are frozen at -30 degrees, so that they stay cold longer and dilute the cocktail less. The cherries are imported from Italy. Once you taste them you will never eat maraschino cherries again. They’re delicious!

My favorites include the Lady in Red (vodka blended with the Tango Room’s own red wine reduction and adorned with marinated grapes), the India Lime Fizz (a rich, creamy, and powerful cocktail that combines gin, rum, flora India limes, vanilla, and a whole egg), the Moscow Mule (in the metal cup of course), and the Pisco muleSour.

Even if you are a hater of eggnog, their version will change your mind. It is the third drink photo here. It is so dense it casts a shadow on the cocktail napkin. Paulius whips it up during the holidays with fresh cream and eggs, brandy and dark rum. I had it during the holidays, when Paulius makes gallons of it and runs out, but they are happy to make it for you any time.

If IMAG1753you can’t decide they offer cocktail flights. As the menu explains, the “flights are groupings of three signature cocktails designed to create a harmonious progression of flavor experiences. Each cocktail’s flavor profile and finish, gently introduces and compliments the next one in the series. The opening cocktail is full-sized, followed by a slightly smaller tasting size cocktail before the final coup-de-grace, another full-size cocktail.” It’s a great way to try several at once. I’ve had the White, Light and Spicy (Lady in White, Rangpur Gimlet, and Dark ‘n’ Stormy) and the Fruits, Herbs and Spices (Lady in Red, Lady in White, and Bourbon Daisy).

The joint is classy 1929284_89667701349_7751357_nfrom start to finish, but it isn’t pretentious. There is a dress code (no shorts, t-shirts, or anything disreputable), but as you can see in the photo to the right they don’t ban jeans. The customers are friendly and not at all pretentious.

The ceiling has bullet holes from its speakeasy days. The bar and back bar are made of refinished mahogany. There is a sitting room with a grand piano where live jazz musicians play. The back room is tucked away in a hallway and to get to it you have to walk through a mirrored door in the coatroom. lastwordYou need reservations for the back room, and there is a two drink minimum. The backroom has buttery soft leather chairs and sofas and a fireplace for the winter months and a great patio for the summer months. There is another baby grand piano in the back room for special events. You can check out the photos on their website.

The food is limited, but high quality. You can order savories like Warm Olives and Almonds, Speck on Rye (which I highly recommend), an Artisanal Cheese board, Swine and Cheese (local goat cheese with Courvoisier fig sauce IMAG1598and a mound of prosciutto and crackers), or a Charcuterie plate or sweets like gelato, chocolate truffles, chocolate fondue, and Bananas Foster. We were lucky enough to be treated by Paulius to his Crepe Suzette, flambeed table side. It was a treat for the eyes and the taste buds.

There is no other place in Cleveland serving fine cocktails like the VTR. They serve cocktails and only cocktails, so check out the menu before you go to make sure you like what they are selling. There is no beer, shots or wine served here. The drinks are pricey ($18 for one drink), but they are only $10 during Happy Hour. The Happy Hour at the VTR runs from 4:30-7 pm on weeknights (my friends usually meet there on Fridays). There are no reservations in the front. It’s first come, first served. There are sometimes free nibbles put out during happy hour, but don’t count on them. As one Yelper said, “It doesn’t have to be a “special occasion” for a stop at VTR. VTR is its own occasion and can make any day better.”collage-2015-05-01

Contact info:

The Velvet Tango Room
2095 Columbus Road
Cleveland, OH 44113
(216) 241-8869


Dim Sum Crawl – Part One

April 27, 2015

My friends and I did a dim sum crawl yesterday. I got the idea from a blog post describing a dim sum crawl in the San Gabriel Valley. The original plan was to hit all four restaurants that serve dim sum here in Cleveland – Emperor’s Palace, Li Wah, E. 30th Street Cafe, and Bo Loong – but we only made it to two of them before we cried ‘uncle.’ I can’t just order two things at a dim sum place. There is too much deliciousness. Everyone brought cash, and we carpooled and left four cars in Emperor’s Palace’s spacious parking lot since parking can be tight at Li Wah. We could have walked, but Bo Loong is a bit too far from the other places.

crawl1The first stop was at Emperor’s Palace. We met there at 11:30, because I wanted to order the Shanghai juicy buns and I know they run out early. Shanghai juicy buns (or xiao long bao) are a steamed dumpling commonly called soup buns because they are filled with pork and broth. The characteristic soup-filled buns are created by wrapping solid meat aspic inside the skin alongside the meat filling. Heat from steaming then melts the gelatin-gelled aspic into soup. Also on the menu were tofu skin rolls, egg custard buns, pumpkin cakes and their absolute stand-outs – shrimp dumplings (har gow) and turnip cake (law bok gow). Since we needed to save room we didn’t order some of my other favorites, but that’s okay. I go there enough to satisfy my cravings. Our bill, split among six diners, was $29.95 – which amounted to $6 per person including tax and gratuity.

crawl2Our second stop was Li Wah. There are two completely different kinds of energy at these two restaurants. Emperor’s Palace is more laid back and relaxed. The food is ordered from the photo-filled menu and prepared fresh. The dishes are served as they are ready. Li Wah was packed with diners and we had food on the table within a minute of sitting down. In fact, we were still getting our plates and chopsticks and our water glasses filled as the first cart stopped. We ordered in a blur. The choices we enjoyed at Li Wah included shu mei, spare ribs in black bean sauce, roast BBQ pork, turnip cake (Li Wah’s is softer and creamier than Emperor’s Palace, but the unanimous verdict was that Emperor’s Palace’s cake had the edge flavor-wise), baked BBQ pork buns, beef ho fun, and steamed rice crepes with ground beef. We wanted to get a roasted meat because Li Wah has outstanding roasted meat, some of which are hanging in a cart near the entrance. We also enjoyed a lovely chrysanthemum tea with real chrysanthemum petals steeping in the water (see photo below). Our bill here came to $44.25 – or $9 a person including tax and tip.

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At this point we decided we were too full to continue our crawl. We decided to do E. 30th Street Cafe (in the same plaza as Li Wah) and Bo Loong another day. Instead, we headed to Koko Bakery for something sweet. Koko has something for everyone – cream buns, savory buns, hot dogs wrapped in pastry dough, soup, sandwiches, rice bowls, salads, chocolate covered strawberries, mousse, tarts, brownies, cakes, tiramisu, shaved ice, coffee, tea, smoothies, and bubble tea. The cases are a feast for the senses. I opted for a chocolate mousse topped with a chocolate covered strawberry. My friends ordered mango mousse, passionfruit mousse, triple chocolate mousse, a green tea bun and a sponge cake with almonds. Everyone left happy.

crawl3If you want to try something different on a Saturday or Sunday consider doing a dim sum crawl with some friends and enjoy some new flavors. Feel free to use some of these suggestions or branch out on your own. We didn’t do as much shrimp because we had someone with a shellfish allergy with us. I tried to order one piece for each person and took the allergy into consideration when ordering – an extra egg custard bun or beef something for her while some got to enjoy two shu mei or shrimp dumplings. We split several choices in half at Li Wah because we were getting full. There are no rules other than enjoy yourself, gorge on dim sum, and drink lots of tea. Oh, and bring cash. Preferably in small bills. It makes life easier.

To be continued…

Contact info:

Emperor’s Palace
2136 Rockwell Avenue
Cleveland, OH 44114
(216) 861-9999

Li Wah
2999 Payne Avenue (Asia Plaza)
Cleveland, OH 44114
(216) 589-9552

Koko Bakery
3710 Payne Avenue (next to Map of Thailand)
Cleveland, OH 44114
(216) 881-7600


Slyman’s Restaurant

April 21, 2015

IMAG1875Is there anything more quintessentially Cleveland than Slyman’s? Would you believe that I (a native Clevelander) had never been here until a couple months ago? Whenever people talk about “musts” in Cleveland a corned beef sandwich at Slyman’s is always on the list. The sandwiches are monstrous. There is a reason they offer a side of bread on the menu – to make another sandwich with whatever falls off the monster you are currently eating. The carry out line is usually longer than the IMAG1869dining in line, with downtown workers grabbing their food to go eat at their desks. The place is tiny and cramped, but service is exceptionally quick. They have their service down to a science – a very efficient science.

This place is a family-run institution. They celebrated 50 years in 2013. Joe and Mae Slyman opened the restaurant in 1963, and now their sons are working behind the counter, slicing the meat and grilling the sandwiches. Slyman’s is located on St. Clair Avenue at E. 31st Street. You can park along St. Clair and E. 31st, but there is also a parking lot across the street off E. 31st.

One reason I had never managed to make it here before are the limited hours and the talk of long lines. They are only IMAG1870open during the week until 2:30 and on Saturdays until 1:00. They aren’t open on Sundays. I finally made it here for the first time on the Saturday afternoon after Christmas. I figure it would not be as crowded as it normally is, and I was right. There was still a line, but it moved quickly. They were able to seat our table of 3 quickly in the small dining room to the right of the door. Once we ordered our food, service was even quicker. I don’t think more than 5 minutes passed before our food was brought to the table.

Since Slyman’s is known for their corned beef, I had to get a corned beef sandwich on my first outing. I ordered a Reuben. IMAG1872The Slyman’s Reuben is not like any other Reuben I have ever had. It is 99% corned beef with just a bit of sauerkraut and one slice of Swiss cheese on the top and bottom. That said, it was pretty damn delicious. The corned beef is not too salty and is shaved very thin and piled high. If you are not a fan of sauerkraut never fear. It doesn’t overwhelm, and I can’t see it in the sandwich. I think there might be a thin layer at the bottom with the cheese. The rye bread is buttery and crisp from the grill. They don’t put condiments on the sandwich. The ketchup, mustard, horseradish, hot sauce and Thousand Island dressing are on the table, which allows you to doctor it up just how you like it.

I ordered a Sprite and a side of potato salad to go with it. The Sprite came in a can along with a small glass of ice. Order two right off the bat if IMAG1873you are particularly thirsty that day. And since corned beef tends to be somewhat salty you might need it. The potato salad was out of this world. It was creamy and had small shavings of carrot and onion. It was not overwhelmingly mustardy if you like that kind of thing. If you do, just add a splash from the table condiments. It was just a good, solid potato salad that I would happily order again.

My dining companions ordered the french fries, and they were really good for IMAG1874food service fries. The serving size was plentiful, and the crinkle cut fries were crisp on the outside and soft and fluffy on the inside.

On my second visit I was craving a Tuna Melt. I had heard good things about the tuna melt, and the tips did not steer me wrong. This was a delicious tuna melt. I ordered it on the requisite rye bread with Swiss cheese. I wanted to have soup, but the choice that day was beef barley, which isn’t necessarily the best accompaniment. Potato salad it is! The tuna melt and potato salad were delivered within one minute of ordering (I kid you not). I also can’t believe IMAG2247I ate the whole thing! I didn’t eat for the rest of the day.

You can also order roast beef, pastrami, turkey, ham, egg salad, salami, BBQ beef, a hamburger or cheeseburger, hot dog, patty melt, grilled cheese and several salads. If you really want a challenge, their hot turkey (below), hot roast beef or hot BBQ sandwiches are served closed face along with home fries or french fries and come smothered in gravy.

If you come here and know you won’t be able to finish your sandwich, you might want to bring some kind of container with you. They bring you parchment paper to wrap up your sandwich, but it doesn’t work real well if you have a wet item like potato salad, cole slaw or tuna fish.

Breakfast is served from 6 am to 11 am on the weekdays. I have a friend from high school who raves about their corned beef hash. I’m tempted, but let’s be honest – I am likely to never make it here for breakfast. If you do be sure to order the corned beef!IMAG2975

There is a reason they bring your food so quickly. With space at such a premium you are not encouraged to linger. Order, eat, and get out to make room for the next person. Don’t take it personally. People are clamoring to get in here.

They just opened a Slyman’s Tavern on Rockside Road in Independence, and it seats 150. It is open every day from 11 am to midnight. Maybe it will decrease the crowds downtown, but I doubt it. If anything it will satisfy all the cravings of all business folks in Independence.

Contact info:

Slyman’s Restaurant
3106 St. Clair Avenue NE
Cleveland, OH 44114
(216) 621-3760


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