Merwin’s Wharf

September 2, 2015

IMAG3616What Merwin’s Wharf lacks in food quality, it makes up for in atmosphere. I met a friend there for dinner on a recent Tuesday. There was a one and a half hour wait for a table (on a Tuesday), but my friend quickly found two people leaving at the bar and snagged their seats. The location is the big draw. Located on the banks of the Cuyahoga River, Merwin’s Wharf has a large patio with a fire pit, a gas fireplace, and a giant Jenga, lots of windows and a great view of the boats and river traffic. I saw a rowing crew IMAG3608counting out their strokes and the Goodtime III drove by at one point. My friend commented that they should have the bar facing the river, but the design allows the servers and food runners access to the kitchen (note I didn’t say quick access, because several orders sat there for a pretty long time). Things got better onceIMAG3601 the manager came out to expedite things.

I was underwhelmed by the food, but I loved the drinks. I started off with a Hemingway’s Day Off, which was delicious. It features rum with a little lime and is finished with basil syrup. I saw no sign of the “seasonal fruit” mentionedIMAG3610 in the description, but it really didn’t need it. I drank it down quickly and enjoyed every sip. I then ordered a Rum Runner, which features light and dark rum, banana and blackberry liqueur, orange juice, pineapple, Grenadine and 151 Rum. It was also delicious, and I had to ask the bartender for water IMAG3612because I was afraid I would drink it down too quickly without any food. I didn’t get my water until I finally was able to ask the runner who brought the food for one. The bar was slammed, but the bartender had obviously forgotten my water.

As far as the food is concerned, it isn’t the best food, but it is okay. I ordered the Beef and Mushroom Melt. I don’t know if it had sat under the heat lamp for too long, but the thick-cut beef was tough and the “melt” was pretty dry. There wasn’t much horseradish cream that I noticed IMAG3613and as you can tell the cheese was also pretty meager. The fresh cut potato chips were decent. I think a shaved beef would make this a much more successful sandwich.

My friend ordered the fish tacos. The fish was walleye and it had a nice amount of veggies accompanying it. She said the tacos wereIMAG3611 okay but a bit bland. She said they could really use the addition of some kind of crema or creamy topping.

A fellow patron at the bar also offered us a bite of their giant pretzel with mustard and beer cheese. The biggest thing it has going for it is the size. It was gargantuan. It was doughy but didn’t have the nice crispness I am used to. The mustard andIMAG3600 beer cheese dips were tasty and were needed to give it some flavor. It was nothing like the pretzel at the Hofbrauhaus or any pretzel in any backyard beer garden in Germany. The pretzel was more like a bit dough bowtie than a pretzel. In any case the two of them were having trouble finishing it, which is why they offered us a taste. I guess it would do a good job soaking up the alcohol, so it is a good bar choice.

This is definitely a place to go for drinks. Just don’t expect too much from the food. Or the service. I have heard complaints about rude hosts/hostesses, and I was not impressed with the time it took to run food out once it hit the kitchen window. Go for the drinks and the view. You can wave at the Goodtime III when it goes by.

Contact info:

Merwin’s Wharf
1785 Merwin Avenue
Cleveland, OH 44113
(216) 664-5696


Kenko sushi + teriyaki

August 25, 2015

IMAG3898I have mixed feelings about this place. I was really excited when I heard they were going to open a casual hibachi place in the new Uptown district in University Circle. I love hibachi and, even though it wouldn’t have any of the showmanship, I was excited about the possibility of hibachi-like results at a cheaper price. Especially one so close to my home. The folks from Shinto in Strongsville are the force behind Kenko. I anxiously awaited IMAG3899the opening, which seemed to take forever. It opened on July 7th and is located just past University Hospital next to Rascal House Pizza. There is also a rear entrance off the valet area of the Courtyard Hotel.

I waited a couple days after they opened to let the crowds die down. I paid for parking in the little lot off Mayfield and headed in the Euclid Avenue entrance. The lines are a little confusing. The line on the left is for those ordering sushi. If you want a teriyaki bowl or bubble tea you order that at the cash registers to the right.

I have to say the most exciting thing about this place is the Kung Fu tea. It is really good. A lot IMAG3951of the reviewers on Yelp are raving about how excited they are to have Kung Fu tea being served in Cleveland. Their bubble teas are tea and milk-based tea drinks originally from Taiwan, with added tapioca pearls (boba). Kung Fu Tea is a bubble tea chain that is popular all along the east coast, and Kenko is the only place in Cleveland that serves it. It is a neat little set-up. They have a ton of different flavors, and you can order it with milk and/or boba. You can also choose how sweet you want the tea to be (30%, 50%, etc.). The personIMAG3900 behind the counter prepares it, puts it in some kind of shaker and then into another machine to seal it with plastic. On my first visit they were out of green milk tea, so I went with the plain milk tea. It was really flavorful. On my second visit I ordered the green milk tea with bubbles. I liked that one even more. The boba are somewhat sweeter than other bubble teas I have tried. You can also order all kinds of flavored black and green teas. I think I’ll order the orange green tea next time. They have a sign featuring their top 10 selling flavors if you are overwhelmed by the choices.

IMAG3952Anyway, on to the food… On my first visit they were out of the gyoza in addition to the green milk tea, so I ordered a miso soup. It was palatable, but it didn’t wow me. It didn’t have a lot of tofu or seaweed like at some other restaurants here in Cleveland. I’ll spare you the picture because it is boring.

I ordered the gyoza on a subsequent trip and have to say they were pretty bad. The dough was really thin and seemed almost undercooked. I was afraid it was just going to fall apart. There is no pan frying here. The shrimp filling was decent, but the wrappings were so limp and tasteless that it negated it. I definitely prefer a more toothsome gyoza that has been pan-fried a bit more.

I also ordered a chicken and shrimp teriyaki bowl with fried IMAG3812rice. I enjoyed the flavor of the bowl, but was disappointed with the minuscule portion of yum yum sauce (pictured to the right). If you order a bowl, be sure to order extra yum yum sauce. The chicken and shrimp were cooked well and the veggies were not overcooked. The fried rice was definitely worth the upgrade. It wasn’t as good as a meal at a hibachi restaurant, but that is probably because they don’t use as much butter as they do at a hibachi. I ordered the same thing on another trip with an upgrade of fried rice for $1.50 and fried mushrooms for $1.00. The second bowl was so tasteless. This time the fried rice had no soy IMAG3815sauce or flavor to it at all. It was a waste of $1.50. Maybe they don’t use soy sauce to ensure the teriyaki bowls are gluten-friendly, but that is kind of the point of ordering fried rice. I noticed they serve packets of gluten-free soy sauce, but I would think you could specify gluten-free soy sauce for the teriyaki since they create each one individually in a wok. I had also ordered extra yum yum sauce, and it didn’t help much. I could have saved the extra $1.00 (yes, they charge 50 cents for each small portion of sauce). Also, some of the “fried mushrooms” also were barely cooked. If I had to choose something I would order the teriyaki bowl again and hope that the cook was competent.

I for sure won’t be ordering their sushi again. Many reviewers on Yelp talked about how bland the sushi is, and they were right on point. I couldn’t quite put my finger on why that is, but I think the sushi rice is made without rice vinegar. The sushi appears to be spread on the seaweed or soy paper using a conveyor belt machine of some sortIMAG3902 (see first picture). The ingredients are fresh and stretch out along the counter so you can see what you are ordering. I ordered two rolls: the Kenko roll and a make-your-own roll. The Kenko Roll features shrimp tempura, crab, cucumber, avocado and cream cheese in soy paper with a miso glaze. My shrimp tempura was sent from the kitchen when I ordered it and then assembled in the roll. I don’t think it was freshly fried because it was cold, but it had a very nice crunch to it so it couldn’t have sat out too long. That said, the roll itself was really bland. I liked the crunch of the tempura and the flavor of the cream cheese, but the other ingredients just kind of got lost. The make-your-own roll allows you to choose your wrap (seaweed or upgrade to soy paper), a protein, two “veggies” (although “filling” would probably be a better descriptor), two sauces and a topping. I went with a raw white tuna with cucumber and asparagus, tempura crumbles and sweet chili and yum yum sauce (with an added sauce of teriyaki). Despite the three sauces this sushi roll also didn’t wow me. It was better than IMAG3903the Kenko Roll, but I left just kind of disappointed. There are several other places that serve sushi nearby like Dynomite and Crop Kitchen.

The employees behind the counter were pleasant and kept their cool with a couple customers who were just clueless (including me on the first visit). They patiently explained what Kaiware (sprouted daikon radish seeds) and Masago (fish roe) were to a rather loud first-time customer. The dining area definitely appears to be a hang out for university students and Kenko employees on break. There were tables of young college students enjoying themselves both times, not to mention a couple of people on laptops. Most of the seats are equipped with outlets.

The thing I am most disappointed in are the lack of recycling options. They had advertised that they would be using biodegradable containers, but have since switched to black plastic containers. Since everything here is served in to go containers it’s great if you take it home and can recycle, but if you eat there they don’t offer recycling bins along with the trash containers.

If I want a Kung Fu tea I will be stopping here, but honestly the food isn’t worth the price tag or the calories. When I want hibachi flavor I am going to stick with a hibachi restaurant. I’m disappointed because I had been so excited. I’m also not the only one, because I overheard one fellow diner saying he was going to give it one more shot and then he was done too. The place does seem to attract a lot of young Asian college students, so maybe it will make a go of it. I encourage you to try it out for yourself and hope you have better luck than I did, but three tries and I’m out.

Contact info:

Kenko sushi + teriyaki
11312 Euclid Avenue
Cleveland, OH 44106
(216) 862-7690

 


Santorini Greek Taverna

August 15, 2015

IMAG3868I have been missing a good, authentic Greek restaurant in Cleveland. I learned to love Greek food at the Greek restaurant around the corner from my house in Germany. I spent many a lovely evening in their grapevine-covered backyard, enjoying saganaki, gyros and IMAG3857souflaki. There is nothing better than grilled meats.

Located on W. 9th next to Mallorca, Santorini doesn’t have a grapevine-covered backyard, but it does have some awesome food to make up for it. I met some girlfriends there for dinner the other night. I had made a reservation for 5 people, and the restaurant had our table set and waiting for us. There was someIMAG3849 question whether a couple others would be joining us, but the waiter assured us it would not be a problem. They were very busy that night with a dating group/happy hour event of some sort and another large table twice our size, so I appreciated the willingness to be accommodating if needed.

We started off ordering a bunch of appetizers to share among the table. There were two vegetarians in the group, so our choices tended to be vegetarian-friendly or pescatarian-friendly. With Greek food that was not a problem at all! The waiter took our drink orders and had a basketIMAG3850 of bread with yogurt butter in olive oil, hummus and labneh, and olives sent to the table.

I had the blueberry mojito, and it was tasty and refreshing. It featured fresh blueberries and was not overly sweet. The photo here is of a Santorini special cocktail featuring a Greek liquor and with mint and orange flavors. I received this free when the bartenders messed up one of my friend’s drink orders and we IMAG3854got two of the same thing. I sacrificed for the table. It was delicious.

The hit of the table were the spanakopita that I ordered and the saganaki one of my friends ordered. The spanakopita was without a doubt the best spanakopita I have ever eaten, and several of my friends shared that opinion. The crust was light, the filling was a fluffy mix of feta and spinach, and it had a bright flavor that I believe was lemon. A mix of feta cheese and Greek yogurt was served on the side. It was spectacular. I don’t know if it is worth $13, but I would still order it again. The waiter brought out the saganaki and lit it on fire with dramatics befitting the dish. After a minute or so he then extinguished the flames with lemon juice. It was served with pita bread.

IMAG3851  IMAG3853

IMAG3855I was surprised to enjoy the fried eggplant and zucchini chips (Kolokythakia) as much as I did. Shaved thin and lightly coated with what might be breadcrumbs and cheese, these chips were addictive, and I could not stop eating them. The presentation was also whimsical, as they were served in a big metal ice scoop with a side of tzatziki.

I was less impressed with the feta dip one of friends ordered. The presentation was cute (in a little jar on the wooden slab – see photo below), but it didn’t hold up against the other dips IMAG3859on the table, such as the tzatziki with the chips. I was expecting it to be creamier than it was, but it was kind of dry. She ended up taking most of it home with her.

Another friend (who is Greek) ordered a couple of sides. She chose the Horta (blanched greens drizzled with olive oil and lemon juice) and I believe the Spanakorizo, which was Greek rice with spinach and chopped tomato. Both were quite good. I unfortunately failed to photograph them.

Another friend had a mix-up with her order, and she ended up with both the Chtenia (pan-searedIMAG3860 diver scallops in a butter sauce over spinach, feta cheese, and bacon) and the Garides Saganaki (shrimp sauteed with olive oil, tomatoes, scallions, garlic and feta). Both were exceptional, but I preferred the scallops over the shrimp. Again, I failed to photograph them in all the confusion and the clearing of the plates to make room for more.

The original plan had been to order some appetizers and then entrees, but with all of the appetizers we ordered I was starting to feel full. I decided to order the grilled octopus (or IMAG3864Octapodi as I was corrected several times) instead of the seafood orzo I had been anticipating. The octopus tentacles were firm and meaty and had a nice char from the grill. They were served on a bed of split yellow peas, shaved red onion, and some cherry tomatoes. The puree itself was delicious. It was a little pricier than I expected given the portion size, but it isn’t like octopus is a local delicacy.

One friend was brave enough to order an entree, the moussaka, which was recommended by the waiter. She enjoyed it and offered a taste. It was good, but I was so full I couldn’t appreciate it.

Unfortunately there were a few hiccups that night. The IMAG3867air conditioning was not working, and it was easily over 100 degrees in the restaurant. It made us feel like we were definitely in the tropics of Greece. Also, the happy hour event monopolized the bartenders to such an extent that we waited forever for our drinks (see above). There were also some miscommunications. In fact, there were so many mishaps that the owner offered us dessert on the house. Two of my friends took advantage of the offer. I declined because I was stuffed, but I was able to enjoy a bite or two of their pastry with a delicious almond ice cream and some kind of chocolate mousse with pistachios. They apparently just hired a pastry chef a few months ago.

I will definitely be back to give it another shot, because I have every intention of trying the calamari, seafood orzo, and of course the souflaki. And you can be sure I will be ordering the spanakopita!

Contact info:

Santorini Greek Taverna
1382 West Ninth Street
Cleveland, OH 44113
(216) 205-4675


Map of Thailand

August 8, 2015

IMAG3058I’ve been meaning to dine at Map of Thailand for over a year now. A lot of my friends really love it and feel it is the best Thai restaurant in Cleveland. I had a craving for Thai food one Friday night, so I decided to set off on the spur of the moment to Payne Avenue. I got there at around 7 PM. Several tables were occupied, but it wasn’t full and they were able to seat me quickly. It seems they do a fair amount of take-out business. The restaurant has 10-15 tables, but IMAG3539turnover is quick even during the lunch rush. They don’t serve alcohol, but allow you to bring your own with no corking fee. They have several nice non-alcoholic beverages that you can enjoy as well. I loved the White IMAG3143Sangria, and their various ice teas are also unique and thirst-quenching.

The service was extremely accommodating, making sure my water was always topped up and bringing the food out fairly quickly. When I made an absolute mess trying to put my leftovers in the to-go container the waiter quickly grabbed a towel to clean up the sauce that had poured all over the table. I also love the attention paid to small details like the straw wrapper being folded up like a flower.

I started off with the Golden Bags, which are billed as “Crisp tofu purses filled with shrimp, chicken, IMAG3062water chestnut, mushroom, and scallion, fried to golden perfection.” I have to say these were really nice. The filling was pretty light and not as dense as I expected. They were indeed fried to perfection; they just left a light sheen of oil on the doilie. They were so light and crispy! They came with a nice sweet chili dipping sauce. I was intending to eat half and bring half home, but they were just too good aIMAG3063nd I ate them all.

The photo of the Seafood Coconut Soup (Assorted seafood in coconut cream base soup, seasoned with spices, mushroom, lemon grass, galanga, cilantro and kaffir lime leaf) was the first thing to catch my eye and my interest on the Yelp page for Map of Thailand. It was my favorite thing about the meal. Creamy with just a light kick, I loved every single drop and tipped the bowl to fill my spoon with the remains. It came out piping hotIMAG3144 and I actually burned part of my tongue on it, so be prepared to stir it until it cools enough to eat. The soup had two shrimp and two calamari rings as well as thinly sliced mushrooms. It was divine. I could see myself getting addicted to it really easily. It is the most expensive soup on the menu but worth every penny. I have also had the Tom Kha Kai soup, but I really recommend the seafood coconut soup. The Tom Kha Kai is good, but it isn’t as flavorful in my opinion.

I wasn’t sure what I was in the mood for, and the Lard Nar Noodles sounded appealing. It is packed with vegetables, which really appealed to me. It features widIMAG3064e rice noodles with chicken, shrimp, Chinese broccoli, carrot, broccoli, and cabbage in a special house gravy sauce. I just wish it had been a tiny bit spicier. The soup was billed as two-star spicy and was perfect, so I am going to stick with spicy here instead of my usual mild.

IMAG3065They do not serve alcohol but allow you to bring whatever with no corking fee, which is nice if you want to share a bottle of wine. It didn’t matter to me, because I ordered my usual Thai iced tea to cut some heat. The Thai lemon ice tea (see photo above) is one of the house specialties. It is indeed quite lemony, and I found it to be quite refreshing. That said, I highly recommend the Thai lime ice tea. It is fantastic. If you like lime you will love it. I found it paired really well with the pad thai.

My bill for the three courses came to $25.25, which I found to be extremely reasonable for a Friday night dinner. As I was waiting for my food, a gentleman at a table near me said it was “the best meal [he had] had in a really long time.” He was also pleased to hear that his friend’s meat-centric dish could be made vegetarian for him, which is good to know.

I came during lunch on my second visit. Lunch portions are a little less, so my bill was even more reasonable at lunch ($18 including tip). I arrived shortlyIMAG3145 after 1:00 and only a couple tables were free. I ordered the Tom Kha Kai soup and Drunken Noodles. The Drunken Noodles were billed on the menu as two stars (meaning very spicy), but they were able to drop it down to one IMG_20150617_134312star for me. It had a nice little kick to it and my mouth was burning nicely by the time I left. I really like their method of flash frying the cabbage, green beans, carrots, red pepper, because the vegetables were crisp and fresh. The noodles were a reasonable size to eat and were nicely coated with the sauce.

On yet another visit, the pad thai was a little sweeter than I expected, but it was a nice pad thai. If you like it IMAG3540sweet you’ll love this. The portion size was fair, and it had a nice balance to it. Order the country pad thai for a little heat.

The Khao Soi Noodle is a Thai coconut curry noodle soup with chicken. The red curry sauce is well-executed and addictingly spicy. I didn’t like it as much as the seafood coconut soup, but it had a good flavor and nice depth. The crispy egg noodles on top were a good palate cleanser to balance the spice.

If you like Thai food I suggest you give this place aIMAG3532 try. I’m addicted to the seafood coconut soup, so I will be back again very soon. They are open Monday through Saturday for lunch from 11:30 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. and for dinner from 3-9:00 p.m. (9:30 on Saturday) and noon to 9 p.m. on Sunday (although their website says they are closed on Sundays – call first). I suggest checking out their website if you are curious about what the dishes look like. The site has a photo of every single item they serve (except the beverages), which is very impressive.

Contact info:

Map of Thailand
3710 Payne Avenue
Cleveland, OH 44114
(216) 361-2220


Night Market Cleveland

August 1, 2015

IMAG3927Night Market Cleveland is a summer event series that premiered in Asiatown June 26th and is held on the last Friday of every month through September. It was inspired by the Asian night markets, which originated in Asia as illegal “ghost markets” that bustled through the evening and vanished before daybreak. Night Market Cleveland is the brain child of Michael Fleming, Executive Director of St. Clair Superior Development Corporation. He got the idea when he was visiting Hong Kong. I wasn’t able to attend last month, but knew I wanted to check it out this month. I am so glad I did! I love Asian food and this embraced all different kinds of cuisines – from Nepalese to Japanese and everything IMAG3925in between! Organizers also invited outside fare not typically known for having an Asian influence, such as Pope’s Kitchen and Tremont’s Fahrenheit, with the caveat that they put an ethnic twist on their offerings.

They have found a great location for it – on Rockwell and E. 21st in front of Emperor’s Palace and the big parking lot across the street. Vendor booths line Rockwell as well as the parking lot and there are vendor booths and food trucks in the parking lot as well as a huge stage. Strings of lights, colorfully lit fake trees and glowing performersIMAG3914 lend ambiance after dark. It runs from 5 PM to 11 PM. They bill it as a family-friendly and pet-friendly event. I saw lots of strollers and a dog on a leash, so they weren’t lying.

I was lucky enough to find a spot on E. 24th just off Rockwell. When I left at around 7:30 someone was thrilled to quickly take my place. Secure parking is available for $5 in the Plain Dealer lot. Off site parking is available at the Tower Press parking lot and Hot Cards parking lot located right off of Superior Road as well as on-street parking throughout the area.

The star is undoubtedly the food. Lots and lots of street food IMAG3915ranging from huge combos featuring five or six different things for $7 to 3 pieces of dim sum for $2 or $3 or several pot stickers for $2. The longest line was for Han Chinese Kabob and Grill. It stretched down past two other vendors on Rockwell and that was at 6 o’clock before the crowds came. I started off with some shu mei and ginger sesame noodles from Li Wah for $10. The shu mei were my favorite savory bite of the night. They were moist and IMAG3917plump. I also enjoyed the noodles. Some people were adding protein like chicken to them. I saved my appetite for later.

The one vendor I knew I absolutely wanted to try was SnowBros Shavery. They debuted their traditional Asian snow cones featuring cream, milk and fruit in June. The newcomers hope to open a storefront in AsiaTown in the coming year. There were four “snows” to choose from: milk, taro, coffee and green tea. I chose the green tea and ordered the mochi at their urging as well as strawberries and then IMAG3918topped it with condensed milk and splurged for an extra topping of mango whipped cream. It was so worth it! Other toppings included boba (tapioca bubbles), red bean, sweet and salty cereal crunch, raspberries, blueberries, kiwi and blackberries. Dulce de Leche was the third choice for drizzle.

My friend ordered the taro snow (with a fun purple tinge), mochi, red bean and dulce de leche. She also enjoyed hers. She just lamented that the shaved ice she orders on the West Coast IMAG3920is much more plentiful, but maybe the food truck was limiting their volume. I first learned about shaved ice from her, so I defer to her judgment.

We then walked around, sampling various things like a virgin strawberry daiquiri and pomegranate soda from Pope Catering (both were delicious, but the pomegranate soda made with his homemade grenadine was divine!) and fresh coconut milk from a young coconut that was lopped open in front of me ($4) and checking out the vendors’ wares, ranging from ceramics, jewelry, stuffed animals, those cats that wave at you, essential oils and soaps. IMAG3921They even had a bar serving draft beer and Asian-inspired cocktails run by Watershed Distillery. My friend was particularly fascinated watching a vendor named Love Triangle make fresh takoyaki and onigiri, two Japanese delicacies. Unfortunately they were running low on rice and tapped out pretty early on. Other vendors included Szechuan Cafe, Flavors of India, Emperor’s Palace, Koko Bakery, Asian Food Co., Asian Grill, Siam Cafe, Mitchell’s Ice IMAG3926Cream, Fahrenheit and Wok and Roll – just to name a few. Their website has a full list of all the vendors.

I grabbed a bahn mi ($5) from Pho Thang Cafe and a fried rice and egg roll combo ($4) from an unnamed street vendor to go for later. One organizer-related vendor also offered to-go food kits for $20 so you can make monthly traditional Asian recipe at home. This month it was pork lo mein. I ran into a couple more friends on the way out and stood a while chatting while they all nibbled on kabobs and pot stickers. I was glad I got there early because I got my pick of food, but I am tempted to come after dark next time to experience the magic of the true night market. It must have also gotten crazy tonight, because the Critical Mass Bike Ride was scheduled to end there. I remember being stuck in traffic in Lakewood and Gordon Square because of the ride last year. The next Night Market is on August 28th, and the last one for the season will be September 25th. Be sure to check it out!

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Marta’s European-American Food in Euclid

July 31, 2015

entranceMarta’s is a tiny hole in the wall serving up good, homemade Czech food as well as Czech beer on tap since 1995. When I say tiny I mean tiny. There are maybe eight or ten tables in here and one wall is taken up by the bar. This is a local tavern in addition to serving up some great food.

The menu features some American sandwiches as well as most Czech standards with your choice of the traditionalbar bread dumplings or (more typically Austrian or Hungarian) Spaetzle. Other Eastern European favorites such as Wiener Schnitzel, pierogis, beef goulash, and chicken paprikash are standouts as well. All of the Czech dinners come with dinner rolls and your choice of tossed salad or soup. If you like tripe soup you can order it here. Marta’s also serves hamburgers, salads and sandwiches, and I’m sure they are very good as well. I just can’t bring myself to ordesvickovar anything but Czech food when I come here.

If you are very lucky Svíčková will be offered as a special that day. Svíčková, or svíčková na smetaně (beef sirloin in cream sauce), is a typical and popular Czech dish. It is marinated sirloin prepared with vegetables (carrots, parsley root, celeriac and onion), spiced with black pepper, allspice, bay leaf and thyme, and boiled with double cream. It is generally served with houskové knedlíky (bread dumplings) and cranberry sauce. I LOVE Svíčková. If you like creamy dishes, ochick_papnce you try it I guarantee you will be hooked.

Marta’s chicken paprikash is also equally delicious. The chicken is tender and falls apart with your fork. The paprikash sauce is delicious. My date loved it. He ordered the spaetzle instead of the bread dumplings. The spaetzle were obviously homemade based on their irregular, inconsistent shape. They were perfectly schnitzcooked and light.

The Wiener Schnitzel was a very popular choice with several of my dining companions. The Schnitzel was pounded thin and lightly fried. A squeeze of the accompanying lemon slice is all you need to enjoy this authentic Wiener Schnitzel.

stuffcab_kartoffelpuffer_specialAnother friend ordered the stuffed cabbage and potato pancakes, which were also a special that night. You can barely see the stuffed cabbage peaking out from behind the potato pancakes. The stuffed cabbage was a hit and the potato pancakes were not overly greasy. They soaked up the stuffed cabbage sauce nicely.

Marta’s Fish Fry on Fridays is also quite popular. Marta’s is open for business Monday to Thursday from 4 pm to 9 pm, Friday 4 pm to 10 pm and palacinkaSaturday 4 pm to 10 pm.

For dessert I highly recommend ordering the Palacinka, which is a crepe with fresh fruit filling and whipped cream. It is a light and perfect ending to a heavy meal. It is also a nice dessert to share, so save your forks. Marta’s also serves apple, cherry or cheese strudel and vanilla ice cream. One of these days I am going to see if they would be willing to combine the offerings and make my all-time favorite dessert – Eispalatschinken, which is palacinka filled with vanilla ice cream instead of fruit filling. I ate this for the first time 25 years ago and went back to the restaurant 10 years later and enjoyed it again.

Contact info:

Marta’s European-American Food
800 East 222nd Street
Euclid, Ohio 44123
216-731-9596


Gigi’s on Fairmount

July 22, 2015

IMAG3524Gigi’s on Fairmount opened in December 2013 and has been such a hit that it has already expanded and opened Gigi’s After Dark. That said, it is still tiny, although the patio in the summer helps somewhat. It only seats about 45 people. It is located in the same little shopping strip as On The Rise Bakery. It used to be a flower shop, and the owners put a lot of time and money into installing a kitchen and making the dining area appealing. IMG_0438The decor is cozy and intimate with crystal chandeliers and small tables, and it reminds me of a little French bistro. The food is fresh and unique, and the waitstaff is friendly and welcoming. They also have one of the best bartenders in Cleveland, although I have only come here during the day for lunch because it tends to get crowded at night. I’m thrilled that they are so successful.

On my first visit I ordered a soup and a panini. The soup of the day was a potato chowder IMAG0680that was out of this world delicious. It was creamy with nice chunks of potato and perfectly seasoned. It warmed me up and made me hungry for more. I seem to be drawn to the same thing, because the second time I went I almost ordered the exact same sandwich. I ordered the turkey panini with brie, apples, and fig chutney. The turkey is house brined and roasted and was really succulent. It paired really well with the brie, apples, and fig chutney and was a taste explosion. The panini was not under or overcooked, and the bIMAG0681rie was sufficiently melted to mix with everything else. I loved it.

During my second visit I decided to order their signature bruschetta board. After going back and forth I finally decided on the brie and apple compote, smoked salmon and boursin with capers, trout pate with radish and crumbled egg, and the mushroom and caramelized onions. I loved all four,IMG_0444 but my absolute favorites were the smoked salmon and the mushroom bruschetta. I also love the idea of the trout pate, but it was more chunks of trout than smooth, creamy pate. You don’t see many places serving trout. The bread was not toasted, but it stood up well to the toppings. The salad was IMG_0440lightly dressed with a light oil and vinegar dressing, and was well-executed if a little bland. It wasn’t anything special (just lettuce and dressing), but it was a nice palate cleanser.

I also ordered a soup to warm up with, choosing the roasted red pepper soup. Despite not being a big fan of roasted red peppers I liked it. IMG_0441It was drizzled with a balsamic vinegar that lent the soup a really nice flavor. The only thing I didn’t like was that I dripped all over myself and left with huge red splotches on my shirt. I had to do laundry before it set. But that’s just me :-)

My friend, who is a vegetarian, was thrilled to see so many vegetarian choices. All three soups that day were vegetarian. She ordered the Charline panini, which features avocado and sharp cheddar, and enjoyed it. My friend lived on the edge and ordered a light and fruity wine to go with her lunch at 11 a.m. Day drinking is where it is at. She let me have a sip and it was really nice. I would definitely order it a little later in the day to pair with the delicious offerings.

If you haven’t been to Gigi’s yet, what are you waiting for?

Contact info:

Gigi’s on Fairmount
3477 Fairmount Boulevard
Cleveland Heights, OH
(216) 291-7237


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