Koko Bakery

June 29, 2015

IMAG3133I’ve been frequenting Koko Bakery for a while now and have written about it during my dim sum crawls, but thought it might be nice to write a separate post about it. Koko Bakery is located in a small strip on Payne Avenue with Han Kabob Chinese Grill and Map of Thailand (and across the street from Seoul Hot Pot). The storefront is quite unassuming. One wouldn’t know by looking at it that it produces some amazing food and beverages. During a recent dinner at Map of Thailand I watched the people stream by heading for Koko. IMAG3021The Case Western Reserve University students on Yelp talk about how authentic it is and how it is exactly like bakeries you would find in Taiwan. Koko offers a wide variety of choices, ranging from savory to sweet. The case to your left as you walk in features hot dogs wrapped in pastry dough and the larger case next to it contains all kinds of buns, from green onion buns, pork buns, ham and egg buns, pineapple buns, buns with cut up hot dogs to egg tartlets and custard buns. There is a cooler and a freezer filled with buns to take home and finish baking yourself. My friend from Akron always stocks up with a ton of buns when he is up here. He then takes a bun or two out of the freezer and steams them for a quick and delicious meal. They sell all kinds of breads, cookies, buns, etc. to take home with you. The green tea cookies in aIMAG3022 bookshelf on the right-hand wall near where you wait for your order caught my eye, and I am tempted to get them next time.

The cooler cases flanking the cash register feature the most beautifully decorated cakes, tarts, mousses, and tiramisu. Every single one of them that I have tried – ranging from a chocolate mousse topped with a chocolate covered strawberry to the mango and passion fruit mousses and the mango cheesecake – has been delicious. Sufficiently creamy without being cloyingly sweet, the flavors hit all the right notes. The boardIMAG3028 behind the register lists a number of rice bowls, entrees like pork katsu or steam buns, and sandwiches as well as coffee, tea, milk pudding tea, smoothies, and their most popular item, the bubble tea. Several reviewers on Yelp have claimed that Koko has the best bubble tea in Cleveland.

My first foray into the wonders of Koko started with the mango mousse. I got it to go and still have the neat container in my cupboard to use if I feel like fancying up a pudding. The mousse was light, airy and flavorful. IMAG3027This mousse was delicious and I didn’t even miss the chocolate, which desserts usually have to contain in my world. I love the artful decoration of the fresh fruit atop the mousse. It looks whimsical but adds a nice artistic touch to an already amazing dessert.

During part one of the dim sum crawl I was full and was considering just ordering a chocolate covered strawberry until the chocolate mousse topped with a koko2chocolate covered strawberry caught my eye. The chocolate mousse was fluffy and delicious, the strawberry was perfectly ripe, and the chocolate coating was the perfect thickness to balance out the acidity of the strawberry. I also really liked the little chocolate curls adorning the sides. I ended up eating half and taking the other half home for later.

One of myIMAG3032 friends was less impressed with the passion fruit mousse. It was layered with a thick layer of white chocolate, which she doesn’t like, so it wasn’t as appreciated as it could have been. That said, the passion fruit mousse itself was absolutely delicious and she loved every bite of that part of it. Another friend ordered the triple chocolate mousse, while another ordered a green tea bun and another ordered an almond bun. Everyone walked away from Koko thoroughly impressed.

Several friends who had only eaten at the first stop of the first dim sum crawl and were IMAG3130sad that they missed such beautiful desserts wanted to try it when they saw photos, so we stopped at Koko Bakery after part two of the crawl. The couple split the mango cheesecake, which again was absolutely delicious and beautifully adorned with fresh fruit. However, it took forever to get the coffees they ordered because the people behind the counter seemed more concerned with making smoothies andIMAG3132 bubble teas for the young Asian girls who came in after us.

Meanwhile, I wanted something light after eating so many dumplings. I had noted during the previous stop that they served two different kinds of shaved ice – Taiwanese and Korean shaved ice. Since the Korean shaved ice mentioned ice cream I decided to try the Taiwanese shaved ice because I figured it would be lighter. The price includes 3 toppings of your choice, and you can add additional toppings for an additional $0.90. I stuck with 3 toppings and chose lychee, kiwi and mango. The ice is shaved, topped with fruit and then condensed milk is poured over it. It was actually really good. The fruit tasted fresh. The mango and kiwi were diced fairly small. As the ice melted down it mixed with the condensed milk. This dessert was extremely refreshing, and I can foresee myself coming here in this summer quite often to cool down.

Contact info:

Koko Bakery
3710 Payne Avenue
Cleveland, OH 44114
(216) 881-7600

Graffiti: A Social Kitchen

June 23, 2015

IMAG2963Graffiti: A Social Kitchen is the latest creation from chefs and brothers-in-law Brian Okin and Adam Bostwick. I recognized a few of the items on the menu from the pop-up they did at Toast last year, which I consider to be the best meal I ate last year. I’ve heard nothing but good things about Graffiti from everyone who has been there, so I organized a dinner there recently. The restaurant is located in the building where IMAG2966Reddstone used to be, so I can’t wait it is patio season.

The bar has been redone and is covered in nickles. It is a nice place to sit and enjoy some drinks and a nosh. Our group was seated in the dining room upstairs. If you have trouble with stairs be forewarned. If you really have trouble with stairs grab a table in the bar. The upstairs is really beautiful, featuring stained glass in the windows and whimsical light fixtures and artwork. I also really have to say I love the music they play. They have several channels they use, but the theme is eighties music. My kind of music. I jammed to the Cure, DepecheIMAG2967 Mode, and David Bowie to name a few while enjoying my drinks and the food.

Instead of bread they serve paper bags of flavored popcorn. The flavor varies every day. The day we were there it was a tomatillo popcorn. Another day I was there it was jalapeno cheddar. It is a fun and unique item, and makes you really thirsty. Hats off to that idea.

I have been IMAG2964on a blood orange kick recently, so I didn’t order my usual C&C drink, Stellar, and chose She’s A Woman. This was just a really delicious, refreshing drink. In fact, I’ve ordered it every time I’ve been back since.

I couldn’t decide on an appetizer, so I was very pleased to see the Graffiti Artist, which allows you to order three appetizers to share. They weren’t samples either – they were the full appetizer servings. One of my friends wanted to try the Ribs so I then decided to order the Toad in the Hole Bologna Fried Rice (because that was one of the items at Toast) and the French onion egg rolls. Luckily IMAG2968another friend ordered the Potato Skins, because that was my favorite out of the four appetizers we had.

The Ribs are corned baby backs similar to the Reuben Ribs that everyone loves at Cork and Cleaver. However, this one is a more Cleveland take on ribs, featuring shredded Napa cabbage, IMAG2970pickle slices, horseradish, and Stadium mustard. The meat fell off the bone, and the Napa cabbage and dressing the ribs sit on is really delicious.

The Bologna Fried Rice is made with Saucisson bologna Toad in the Hole, Himalayan red rice, mire poix, and soy sauce. The rice was a little dry, but I really loved the combination of egg and bologna. And no one does meat and charcuterie in Cleveland better than Saucisson.

IMAG3289The French Onion Egg Rolls taste exactly how you think they would, like French onion soup and delicious. The crispy wonton wrappers are packed with caramelized onions and Gruyere cheese and it is served with a French onion jus to dip the egg rolls in. Again, this unique twist really worked for me.

The potato skins feature crispy Russet potatoes, chorizo, goat cheese and guacamole. I really, really liked the flavor of this! The ingredients paired really well together, and the goat cheese and guac lent a nice creaminess that balanced out the chIMAG2971orizo. I will definitely be ordering this again.

For my entree I decided on the Monte Cristo. I read several Yelp reviews recommending it, and I’m glad I took their advice. This dish is a deconstructed Monte Cristo, featuring maple brined pork tenderloin, French toast, IMAG3045Mornay crema, and a raspberry mostarda. The French toast alone makes it worth ordering. It was custardy, soft and delicious. It made me want to come back to eat brunch here. I made sure to get a little bit of every ingredient with every bite, and OMG was this good. The pork was perfectly tender, and I loved the crema and raspberry flavors together with it.

My friends ordered the Graffiti Burger, the Cod and pierogi, the Burrito. They said that the IMAG3047burger and the cod were both a little dry, but they still enjoyed them. My friend N. ended up bringing half of her burrito home and looked forward to the leftovers.

The next time I went I was in the mood for something light, so I ordered the BLT Salad (left). It features iceberg lettuce wedges served with crispy pork belly, balsamic roasted tomatoes, bleu cheese crema, and a delicious buttermilk vinaigrette. The bleu cheese and buttermilk melded together to make a delicious dressing. I enjoyed this salad a lot. My friend ordered the Egg Salad (right) and was just as impressed with it.

In short, this playful and rebellious restaurant is a great addition to the Cleveland dining scene. I plan to add this into my regular rotation. It also has one of the best patios in Cleveland.


Photo from Graffiti Facebook page

Contact info:

Graffiti: A Social Kitchen
1261 W 76th St
Cleveland, OH 44102
(216) 651-6969

Zanzibar Soul Fusion

June 19, 2015

IMAG3520Zanzibar on Shaker Square is a great place to satisfy your craving for Southern soul food. They moved from their old location next to the cinema into where Sergio’s Sarava used to be several years ago. The move not only gave them more space, but also a great patio. Zanzibar is owned by the same people who run Angie’s Soul Cafe (see previous post).

I had been to the old location for a buffet brunch where I fell in love with their chicken and waffles and the Purple Rain, a IMAG1216mixture of lemonade and grape Kool-Aid served in a mason jar). The Sunrise mixes lemonade and red Kool-Aid. I found myself craving this and kept trying to replicate it at home. Sadly I couldn’t, but luckily for $5 you can order a mason jar filled with your drink to take home.

Now they are located in the old Sergio’s Sarava location. They have an awesome patio, which is where we were sat for this meal. However, they also have plenty of inside seating for the winter months.

Once seated the wait staff brought out a bIMAG1219asket of cornbread and blueberry muffins. I had a tough time deciding which one I loved more. Both were really moist and flavorful. The butter was soft and plentiful, which was also nice.

We enjoyed quite a few things on the extensive menu. We started off with a couple appetizers that we shared. My favorite was the Soul Rolls, IMAG1217which feature chicken, greens, black beans, roasted corn and cheese with a zesty remoulade sauce to dip them into. They were delicious. The Collard Green and Artichoke Dip was also stellar. We devoured the ciabatta toast points that came with them and ate forkfuls of the dip to finish it off. I would definitely order both again.

I ordered the Ultimate Feast, which is a great option for those who have trouble deciding between items, because you can pick two entrees. I wish more restaurants would offer something like this. I ordered the walleye cake and the turkey chops. Because where else IMAG1218do you find walleye made into a fish cake? Nowhere. The walleye is mixed with scallions, roasted red peppers, and cilantro, shaped into a patty, and lightly fried. It comes with a Thai ginger mayo on the side. Pro tip: when they ask whether you want your entree “smothered” the answer is always yes. This means that your meal will be smothered in gravy. The gravy was delicious and added a really nice moistness to it. It paired really well with the mashed potatoes, which was the house potato IIMAG1220 ended up choosing. The turkey chop meat was tender and easily fell off the bone. The walleye cake was also quite good, but the turkey chops stole the show. I really liked the collard greens that I chose as my additional side.

Another favorite was the Honey Glazed Fried Chicken. There is nothing more southern than fried chicken. The entree features half a chicken broken down and deep fried to a golden brown and finished with a sweet honey glaze. You can order an all white meat option for an extra $3. My friend really enjoyed her wild riceIMAG1221 and baked macaroni and cheese sides.

Another friend ordered the Shrimp and Grits, which features shrimp, onions and peppers marinated in a Creole sauce served over a bed of grits. She lived in New Orleans for a little while and appreciated the Creole sauce. She enjoyed the leftovers too.

The aforementioned Chicken and Waffles are served with buttered grits. This place really knows how to make good grits. The entree includes two pieces of chicken over a Belgian waffle. Heaven!

The portions are huge. Be prepared to leave stuffed and bring home leftovers. None of us had room for dessert, although they sound good. You can choose from peach cobbler, apple cobbler, sweet potato pie, baked bread pudding with rum sauce, and Better Than Sex cake, which is a rich cake injected with chocolate chips and walnuts and topped with vanilla ice cream.

So take advantage of the nice weather and enjoy a drink and/or meal on the patio at Zanzibar. You’ll leave happy for sure.

Contact info:

Zanzibar Soul Fusion
13225 Shaker Square
Cleveland, OH 44120
(216) 752-1035

Angie’s Soul Cafe

June 13, 2015

IMAG3033As the website explains, “Angie started laying the foundation for down-home Soul food around the late 70’s, when she cooked in the Carnegie Hotel in Cleveland, Ohio. Within the confines of that kitchen she concocted recipes that she brought with here from Santuck (Union), South Carolina. Emphasizing on preparing everything from scratch and blending the perfect seasonings, she started to build a following around the city that supports Angie’s still today.”

Photo from Angie's Soul Cafe's Facebook page

Photo from Angie’s Soul Cafe’s Facebook page

Angie’s Soul Cafe is a local chain of soul food restaurants with a location on St. Clair Avenue, one on Harvard Avenue, and one at Emory and Green Roads. They must be doing something right. Angie’s brand has expanded to include Angie’s Kitchen, Angie’s Soul Food, Angie’s Chicken & Waffle, Angie’s Mobile Service, Stonetown on Prospect, and the more upscale Zanzibar Soul Fusion. They also have a food truck. I go to the Midtown location on St. Clair because it is close to me. I can’t speak for any of the other locations.

IMAG3038The focus here is on the food. The St. Clair location is a fairly utilitarian space. The restaurant itself was pretty bare. The tables are not adorned and the chairs are pretty basic. Specials are written on a chalkboard behind the counter. The counter has chafing dishes of freshly prepared food, which they go through quickly, but they also make certain things when you order it. Customers don’t linger either, they order their food at the counter, wait for it to be prepared, then leave. I usually grab the deliciouIMAG1949s home-cooked food and take it home, but I have seen several people eating in their car. A lot of the customers were greeted by name, and it was nice to see that personal touch. Customers who eat in the dining room have their food brought out to them on trays when it is ready.

The first time I went, I stuck with my usual “KFC order” of fried chicken, mashed potatoes and gravy, and green beans. It was way better than KFC. The fried chicken was perfect. I ordered the white meat meal, and the breast was juicy and the wing was not dried out at all. The mashed potatoes were not instant flakes. You could tell they were real potatoes. The gravy was a little meager, but it was enough to have some with each bite of mashed potato. The green beans were also really good. Every IMAG1948dinner comes with a moist corn muffin.

Everyone on Yelp was raving about the tilapia, so I knew I needed to try it. I ordered the tilapia dinner with sides of yams and collard greens. I swear to god I heard the angels sing when I bit into the yams. I have never been a big fan of yams. Until now. Those IMAG3039yams alone are enough to keep me coming back. The collard greens were a bit too bitter for my taste. I make them with a light vinegar and ham hocks. These greens were vegetarian-friendly and I missed the smoothness of the ham flavor. The tilapia itself was lightly breaded and perfectly fried. I couldn’t have been happier with my meal.

They are known for their smothered chicken and pork chops, so I had to try the smothered chicken. I ordered it with mashed potatoes (because that smothered gravy begs for mashed potatoes in my mind) and the collard greens because I wanted to be somewhat healthy. Hah, please let me live with my delusion. The IMAG3040smothered chicken came with three pieces of breaded chicken in a thick, rich, delicious chicken-based gravy. The gravy had huge pieces of onion in it as well that were soft as could be and was generously served over both the chicken and the mashed potatoes.

They also have a cooler of mason jars behind the register filled with bright colored Kool-Aid. I asked the cashier which one was her favorite and she told me it was Green, so green it was. The Kool-Aid was really good, but really sweet. They serve it with a lot of ice, which waters it down, in the restaurant. At home I cut it with a LOT of water (think half and half), so it went a long way. It was only after I ordered that I saw that IMAG1950they also serve the Sunset (lemonade & iced tea), the Sunrise (lemonade & red Kool-Aid), and my favorite the Purple Rain (lemonade & grape Kool-Aid). I ordered the Purple Rain the next time I went (see photo), but I think they misunderstood me and gave me Purple (grape). No big deal, because it’s my favorite flavor from childhood. It lasted several days served over ice and cut with water.

The dessert choices in the refrigerated counter looked really good, featuring peach cobbler or chef’s choice cobbler, sweet potato pie, and various cakes. I was there on a Sunday when it is on special, so I ordered the banana pudding. It was really creamy and good, and the portion was generous (unlike, say, Old Carolina’s banana pudding, which is pretty small). It had lots of decent chunks of banana and vanilla wafers. Just a good southern banana pudding.

Angie must be doing something right to have so many offshoots here in the Cleveland area. Be sure to check her out – and get the candied yams. You can thank me later.

Contact info:

Angie’s Soul Cafe
3400 St. Clair Avenue
Cleveland, Ohio 44114
(216) 426-8890

16906 Harvard Ave
Cleveland, OH
(216) 295-7685

23041 Emery Rd
Cleveland, OH
(216) 896-7200

Original Steaks and Hoagies in Twinsburg

June 3, 2015

IMAG2926Those craving an authentic Philly cheesesteak need look no further than this locally owned restaurant in a strip mall on Ravenna Road in Twinsburg. It is located next to El Campesino’s. The owners used to managed several steak shops in Philly, so they know what they are doing. I have never been to Philly but some of my friends who have told me this place is better than Philly. They ship 7- and 10-inch Amoroso rolls in from Philly, and you can hear the meat beingIMAG2226 chopped with a metal spatula as you wait. It is a bit of a wait, so don’t go here if you are in a hurry and they are busy. These sandwiches are prepared fresh after you order them. They are so worth the wait.

I first learned about Original Steaks and Hoagies from Tom at Exploring Food My Way. His blog post definitely intrigued me enough to go check them out. He still stops there when he gets a craving. We apparently missed each other the other dayIMAG2227 by a half hour, even though we both live about 40 minutes away from Twinsburg.

The first time I went I ordered a Cheesesteak Whiz Wit (cheesesteak with Cheez Whiz and onions) and added mushrooms. They use thinly shaved rib eye for their steak and don’t skimp on the meat. The meat is also really juicy. The steak and onions were diced up very fine, the creamy Cheez Whiz held it all together, and the bun was soft yet did a nice job soaking up the grease and juice and notIMAG2229 falling apart. This is not on the diet, but it is a nice indulgence when you are craving a cheesesteak. This small cheesesteak was $7.50 and was very filling. Their Ultimate Philly Cheesesteak chops up salami into the meat and comes served with lettuce and tomato. Experiment and see what you like best.

The Old Bay fries ($2.50) are seasoned well and a nice accompaniment to the cheesesteak. While you are at it you might as well also order a side of cheese sauce to dip them in. Go big or go home, right? I’ve also heard great things about the sweet potato tots.

You can order soda in bottles, cans or from the soda fountain. The soda fountain IMAG3158serves lemonade, Half and Half featuring lemonade from Alex’s Lemonade Stand as well as birch beer.

The second time I went I ordered the Chicken Philly Fry. I was thrown for a second because it wasn’t in a bun. It is chopped 100% breast meat and cheese over their French fries. It was absolutely delicious. I had only intended to eat half and ate the whole thing. This is a great choice for anyone who is gluten-free. The chicken was juicy, and I ordered the provolone, which melted really well over the fries. IMAG2232The fries were well cooked and had a nice crisp outer skin while being soft creamy inside. If you want to be adventurous order the sweet potato fries or add Old Bay seasoning to them. The photo to the left shows the Chicken Philly Fry with Cheez Whiz. I definitely prefer it with the provolone.

Having grown up on hoagies in grade and high school I also had to order a hoagie. I went with the Original Hoagie and when asked what I wanted on it I agreed to IMAG2928everything except the sweet and hot peppers (not a fan). The small Original Hoagie came with meat, cheese, lettuce, tomato, onion and pickles, an oil blend and oregano for $7.50. I had gotten it to go to eat later that day and the oil had soaked through the wrapping paper and into the brown paper to go bag.  The meats and toppings are stuffed in the same Amoroso roll that the cheesesteaks come in. I didn’t love it. It was a decent hoagie, but the oregano really overpowered everything. The meat and veggies were all really fresh, and the veggies added a nice crunch. I think if I were to get one again I would ask them for no oregano. Oregano and oil do not Italian dressing IMAG2233make.

Unfortunately I wasn’t able to try the coleslaw because they were out of it when I was in the mood for it, but I’ve heard good things about it. The sweet potato tots also look pretty delicious. They also offer Tasty Kakes and Herr’s Chips for connoisseurs.

Ordering tips from the Original Steaks & Hoagies website:

To help you make the experience complete, here are some tips for ordering your cheese steak Philly style:

Step 1…Specify plain (no cheese), Cheez Whiz, Provolone cheese or American cheese.
Step 2…Specify if you want steak with (wit) or without (wit out) onions.
Step 3…Have your money ready. (Do all of your borrowing in line.)
Step 4…Practice all of the above while waiting in line.

Contact info:

Original Steaks & Hoagies
10735 Ravenna Road
Twinsburg, OH 44087
(330) 998-6574

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.


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


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