Phusion Cafe

February 7, 2016

IMAG3734Cleveland now has an authentic Taiwanese restaurant, Phusion Cafe, which is located in the middle of the Superior Asia plaza (behind Superior Pho, towards the front door) in the old Mama’s Soul Kitchen location. The space is a little odd and lacks walls, but it makes up for the less-than-ideal ambiance by serving some killer food.

The most popular dish at Phusion Cafe is the Taiwanese Beef Noodle Soup ($7.95). The broth is very flavorful. It looks brown in photos, but it has a reddish cast to it. Because of the color I was afraid it was going to be spicy, but it was perfect. It actually has a slight pepperoni-like taste. The noodles (I upgraded my noodles for $1 more) were thick and a little hard to eat IMAG5264with a chopstick, so if you aren’t really adept with chopsticks swallow your pride and use a fork. I used chopsticks and ended up wearing a lot of it. The beef pieces were a decent size and fairly thick, yet tender. Overall I can definitely see why this is their most popular dish.

When Map of Thailand was unexpectedly closed on the dayIMAG3736 I planned a dinner we tried to come up with a Plan B, and someone suggested Phusion Cafe, which had just opened. They handled our large table of 11 wonderfully considering we just showed up with no notice (something I never do). The server was pleasant and super competent. The group was full of vegetarians and non-pork eaters, and everyone left happy and full.

I ordered mango iced tea, an egg roll and the IMAG3737Three Cups Chicken ($12.95). The egg roll was nothing to write home about. It was nicely fried and had a nice filling. The Three Cups Chicken was a bit unwieldy to eat since it had the bones still in, but it had a nice flavor. The chicken is cooked with fennel, whole pieces of ginger root, and basil, in a savory sauce. It was unlike anything I’ve had before.

I already had a dining out event at Phusion Cafe booked a few weeks later IMG_20150819_192142with my dining out group, so we met up again and had an even better meal. As mentioned in my Best Bites of 2015 post, the dish that absolutely astonishedIMAG4060 us and had us constantly reaching for more was their crispy chicken with fried basil. It was perfectly fried and extremely flavorful. My friend Nancy described it as “Chicken-Basil Crack.” I’m not sure if it is on their regular menu, but if you see it as a special do yourself a favor and order it. It was extremely addictive and makes a great appetizer.

We ordered several different entrees that visit and shared them. We ordered the eggplant with garlic sauce ($9.95) since so many of us are fans of the Chinese dish. It was definitely on point and was very similar to other eggplant dishesIMAG4057 such as Wonton Gourmet and Szechuan Gourmet. Another big hit was the hakka pork with tofu and celery. The flavor was really good, but it was really hard to eat with chopsticks. The thin little strips were difficult to wrangle. Again, don’t be too proud to ask for a fork. We also ordered the Sausage Fried Rice. Although several of my friends enjoyed this dish I wasn’tIMAG4058 as big of a fan. I thought it was kind of bland.

I was there recently for lunch and grabbed the Peanut Butter Chicken combination to go ($5.95 – the combo at dinner is $6.95). If you love peanut butter you will adore this dish. It was crisp fried chicken in a luscious peanut butter satay sauce. This is the chicken satay I have been searching for since I lived in Germany. The chicken was perfectly fried and still held up to reheating later. Now that I have had this dish I have to be honest and say I don’t think I will ever try anything else here. I still need to try the Peddler Noodles, but I can easily see the peanut butter chicken becoming an addiction.

Overall, Phusion Cafe is in a weird location, but it is super cheap and super delicious. Give them a try.

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Contact info:

Phusion Cafe
3030 Superior Avenue
Cleveland, OH

(216) 861-3399


Wonton Gourmet

January 28, 2016

wontonWonton Gourmet is one of the best Chinese/ Cantonese/Hong Kong style restaurants in town. The neighborhood might be off-putting for suburbanites and the restaurant is nothing to look at on the inside, but if you like authentic Chinese food you really should give this a try. And I can assure you that the neighborhood is fine. I drive through here all the time. Parking is right outside and there’s closed circuit monitoring of the parking IMAG5078lot inside the restaurant, so I’ve never felt unsafe there. There is also zero ambiance, with enlarged photocopies of food hanging on the wall, paper place mats, and a TV playing loud Chinese shows in the back. But I don’t go there for the ambiance. People have talked about a decline in quality since a change in owners, but I hear it has improved again. I honestly can’t speak for how it was since I’ve only started coming here in the past two years, but my experiences at Wonton Gourmet have always been consistently good. It has menus, but mIMAG5079ost people rely on the photos on the wall to choose what they want. I suggest you order dishes you don’t find in most “Americanized” Chinese restaurants, because they really shine here.

Everyone I know raves about their chive potstickers and turnip cakes. I’m the same. The chive potstickers are wrapped in a delicate wrapper and come with a delicious dipping sauce. It’s hard to limit yourself. I also really enjoy the flavor of the turnip cakes very much. I think they are up there with Emperor’s Palace’s version. They are are creamy and flavorful and reheat really well, so don’t feel bad ordering them if you are eating alone.

TIMAG4979he entree I order the most often is the fish fillet with jade tofu. Jade tofu is a silken egg tofu that is fried on the outside and soft on the inside. That tofu is amazing, with a golden yellow color and creamy consistency. I’ve included a photo of my leftovers with a cross section of the jade tofu to show you how lovely it is. I also love the fish fillets that accompany the tofu. It has a nice little crunch to it despite the sauce, and the fish is just very flavorful. The vegetables also pair really well with the dish. Normally my favorite vegetable in Chinese cooking is the sweet pea pod, but in this dish I love IMAG4981the Chinese cabbage. Yum!

You also can’t go wrong with any of their salt baked seafood. I ordered the salt baked tri-seafood the other day and it was exceptional. Perfectly baked fish filet, shrimp, scallop and calamari with just the right amount of breading. Very flavorful. The Hong Kong deep-fried pork chops in Beijing style were also delicious. Lots of meat with little bone and tender as can be.

I’m not a huge fan of their wonton noodle soups. They come with wontons and ramen noodles and you can add brisket, roast pork or roast duck. I love wontons, but the broth doesn’t appeal to me. I think it tastes a little musty. But I know plenty ofIMAG5081 people who love it.

I went here the other day with a friend and split the fish fillet with jade tofu. We needed another entree and decided on the Szechuan chicken with Chinese eggplant. Wow, this dish was delicious. It was not as spicy as I thought it would be, and I just really love the Chinese eggplant stir fried in the Szechuan sauce. I loved the flavor of this dish and would order this again in a heartbeat. I’m looking forward to eating the leftovers. The photo below is the salt fish chicken fried rice. It was really good too!

IMAG5404The tea is hot and flavorful, and the service is attentive without being overbearing. I have a lot of friends who say the quality has diminished over the past few years, but I honestly love the food here. I can’t vouch for what it used to be, but I certainly like it as it is now. Many of the clientele are Chinese, which is the sign of a good Chinese restaurant as far as I am concerned. So if you are looking for a good place to eat some authentic Chinese food give this place a try. If you prefer the Americanized dishes like General Tso’s chicken, egg foo young, chop suey or chow mein you can order it here too, but I highly recommend picking something that looks good from the photos on the wall. I guarantee you won’t regret it!

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Contact info:

Wonton Gourmet
3211 Payne Avenue
Cleveland, OH 44114
(216) 875-7000


Black Box Fix

January 18, 2016

IMAG4922I have a new favorite sandwich, and it comes from Black Box Fix. It’s called the OMG Philly, and OMG is it good! People were sad when Sweetie Fry closed last year, but Chef Eric Rogers has opened Black Box Fix and it no longer hurts. The 1,200-square-foot restaurant opened this past March and serves gourmet sandwiches, soups and dishes with a Creole and Cajun flair, all served in black boxes (hence the name “Black Box Fix”). The restaurant’s name refers to the IMAG4923black, recycled, compostable boxes the food is served in. The restaurant also seats about 15 for customers who want to eat in. Black Box Fix was just voted Best New Business and Best New African American Owned Business in the 2015 Future Heights Best of the Heights Awards.

The OMG Philly ($13) is a chicken philly sandwich with grilled chicken and jumbo shrimp with sautéed mushrooms, onions, peppers and melted Swiss cheese on a toasted brioche roll and drizzled with yum yum sauce. ThisIMAG4924 sandwich is delicious. Every bite is well-seasoned and full of flavor. The cheese is nicely melted and holds it all together. The sandwich is served with a side of garlic-parmesan fries, which were good, but I was all about the sandwich. Try one as soon as you can. You won’t regret it.

I also tried the Hibachi Burger ($13) several days later. It features seasoned beef topped with mozzarella and provolone, sautéed mushrooms, onions and peppers and 4 jumbo hibachi grilled shrimp on a Kaiser roll with yum yum sauce. IMAG4947I ordered it medium and it had some pink but not as much as I expected. It was a delicious burger. Again, it came with a side of the garlic-parmesan fries. The shrimp were huge and succulent and every bite of the burger was soul-satisfying.

Their Creole Soul Roll ($3) is so popular that it is only offered Thursday through Saturday. It is a deep-fried egg roll filled with smoked turkey, collard greens, andouille sausage, and jambalaya rice. It was really good. The rice was fluffy, and the “stuffPhotoGrid_1452265841317ing” had a really good flavor to it. It comes with a dipping sauce that is reminiscent of a sweet chili sauce.

I was less impressed by the Mr. Martin ($9), which features a fried chicken breast dipped in agave BBQ sauce and topped with sweet onion vinaigrette slaw. Despite arriving after the 15 minutes specified on the phone the sandwich and fries were a little soggy from condensation (and the bun from the BBQ sauce and slaw). IMAG5271If you are going to order it I would suggest eating it in the restaurant. I also didn’t love the BBQ sauce; it was sweeter than I expected and not zippy.

Chef Rogers also believes in giving back to the community. I hear $1 from every Lee Road Hobo ($8.50 – the Black Box Fix version of Cleveland’s Polish Boy) is donated to the Ginn Academy Youth Support Program, which provides programs for inner-city children in Greater Cleveland. Paintings by local artists are exhibited on the restaurant’s walls. He’s happy to be in Cleveland Heights, and we’re happy to have him.

Since it is a locally owned, true “mom and pop” store, Black Box Fix is closed on Sundays and Mondays.

Contact info:

Black Box Fix
2307 Lee Road
Cleveland Heights, OH 44118
(216) 383-8130


Bombay Chaat

January 9, 2016

IMAG3829Bombay Chaat offers Mumbai street food to Clevelanders, and CSU students in particular. It is located on Euclid Avenue next to JB Mack’s at the intersection with E. 21st Street. The signage is terrible. Look for black awnings with ‘BC’ on them.IMAG5068

The term chaat refers to a wide variety of delicious roadside snacks that are served throughout the Indian subcontinent. The menu offers a variety of dishes hailing from New Delhi to Mumbai, with roughly 75 different items in all, much of it finger food. They also offer an amazing weekday lunch buffet featuring two vegetarian curries, two non-veg curries, Dal, Naan, rice, yogurt and IMAG5069dessert for $9.99. When I was there recently for lunch they had a paneer in a cashew cream sauce that was simply delectable, an entree with potato and what looked like okra, butter chicken and some other meat curry. The lettuce in the salad was a little brown from being cut with a knife, but it tasted fresh enough. I was pleased to see the place so full during lunch on a Tuesday. We got the last table, although there were seats available in the tall communal table in the middle.

IMAG3833I organized a group of vegetarians and meat eaters to eat there on a recent Saturday morning. The staff was very accommodating and explained anything we had questions about. We feasted on dosas, pani puri and all kinds of Indian delicacies. The dosas in particular were a huge hit. Most college kids are hung over on Saturdays, so we had the place practically to ourselves. Later on the place started filling up with people in gorgeous saris because there was an Indian concert nearby that afternoon. People were eating and then going to the concert.

I ordered the pani puri ($4.99) to share with everyone, because I have been hearing about it from IMAG3832friends and really wanted to try it. Pani puri are puffy fried dough balls (puri) are filled with “flavored water” (pani), which is a chutney-like gravy with yogurt, chickpeas and cilantro. They came with the pani and chopped onions on the side to dress as you saw fit. IMAG3835They were really good, very vegetarian-friendly, and were the perfect one-bite starter.

I also ordered the Chicken Manchurian ($6.99) off their Indo-Chinese menu. It was well-flavored and I really loved the sauce. It was just the chicken and sauce. If I had known I would have ordered a side of rice to go with it.

The Veggie Manchurian was also quite nice. It features fried vegetarian balls in the Manchurian sauce. I liked it a lot and didn’t miss the chicken.

IMAG3836They have a huge variety of dosas to choose from – both plain and masala dosas. Dosas are huge, wafer-thin, griddle-fried crepes filled with things like potato curry, egg or onion. The Rava Dosa (pictured to the left), which is made of rava and rice, was gorgeous and very flavorful. Many of my friends ordered the Masala Dosa with potatoes and onion or the Onion Dosa. They were very good as well.

With such an extensive menu to choose from you certainly won’t get bored. And the prices are affordable. Sure, they aren’t Indian street food prices, but we aren’t in India and they have downtown rent to pay. I will happily support them when I can.

Contact info:

Bombay Chaat
2044 Euclid Avenue
Cleveland, OH 44114
(216) 815-3950


Tommy’s

December 31, 2015
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Tommy’s (photo from the Tommy’s website)

Tommy’s on Coventry is a Cleveland institution. It has been in business since the 1970s (even the Coventry fire in 1988 couldn’t shut it down) and many of its menu items are named after its regulars who ordered them. It isn’t haute cuisine, but it doesn’t claim to be. Instead, it is a good place for vegans, vegetarians, and omnivores to get together. Because it specifies IMAG5070vegan, gluten-free, etc. on the menu it is a great place for those with allergies or dietary issues. They have a separate gluten-free fryer and strict gluten-free kitchen practices, so I can eat here with my mother without worrying that she is going to get sick afterwards. It’s also great if you are on a juice fast and still want to get out and meet your friends. The food can be a little IMAG4942_1bland depending on what you order, so be prepared to season it.

Tommy’s is famous for its milkshakes. They are rich and smooth with a wide variety of flavors. I can vouch for the chocolate and chocolate mint milkshakes, but my favorite is the IMG_20120318_143600banana – made with fresh bananas and vanilla ice cream. One of my friends swears by their chocolate peanut butter milkshake. It’s best to order them in the restaurant, because you get lots of milkshake with the glass and the metal mixer full. If you order one to go you just get a small plastic cup sealed with plastic.

I go to Tommy’s for comfort food. My go to comfort food is the broccoli risso. It’s a casserole with broccoli, rice, mushrooms, and cheese. It’s served in a bowl with a warm IMG_20160114_183654piece of pita. You can also order a cup if you don’t want a big bowl of it or want it as a side. It is just warm, comforting goodness.

I’m not a big fan of the pita  sandwiches or escarole pies, but that’s a personal choice. They certainly are unique and come with a wide variety of fillings. My sister loves the Capetown spinach IMAG5315pie with cheese, raisins and mushrooms. I usually stick with the basics – plain grilled cheese (Judy), Sharpy Burger, burgers, grilled chicken breast sandwich or any of their delicious salads (pro tip: deconstruct it on the plate because you won’t be able to eat it in the heaping bowl it comes in). Vegetarians rave about their vegetarian choices like the hummus, falafel, tempeh and seitan.

Tommy’s was recently voted the Best Fries in Cleveland. I don’t know if I would go that far IMAG5071(Bar Cento gets my vote), but they were better than average. They are intentionally unsalted so you can salt them however you want.

Tommy’s also has great breakfasts. There is always a wait on the weekend, but it goes fairly fast. I get a kick out of seeing young college-age men stuffing their face with waffles buried in strawberries and whipped cream. IMAG5072One interesting choice is the Elsie Combo, which features two fried eggs, two strips of bacon, mayo, American cheese, and their homemade peanut butter made into a triple decker sandwich on your choice of toast. The first time I ordered it I was really scared, but the waitress assured me I would like it. And she was right. The mayo and the peanut butter actually went really well together and complemented the eggs and bacon. If you want to try something different, give it a try. Their omelets are also delicious and plentiful.

They also turn the restaurant over to the Heights Arts group from 10-2 on January 1st for an annual IMAG2902all-you-can-eat pancake breakfast benefiting Heights Arts. Volunteers serve the masses pancakes, eggs, sausage patties and links and vegetarian options as well as juice, coffee and tea for around $10. Tommy’s has been hosting the benefit pancake breakfast since 2001, when owner Tom Fello first offered to help raise funds for the Coventry Arch, located at the intersection of Coventry Road and Euclid Heights Boulevard. It’s a fun time and a good local cause. Consider checking it out this week.

There’s something for everyone at Tommy’s.

Contact info:

Tommy’s
1824 Coventry Road
Cleveland Heights, OH 44118
(216) 321-7757


The Best Bites of 2015

December 29, 2015

Inspired by Doug Trattner’s The Best Things We Ate All Year in the Cleveland Scene, I decided to look back on the best things I remember eating this year. I had a lot of memorable meals this year. It was the year I had a Seti’s Polish Boy, ate at Slyman’s for the first time, and discovered the deliciousness of Eat at Joe’s in South Euclid. It was the year my friends and I did a dim sum crawl that spanned two weekends because our eyes are bigger than our stomachs. I became addicted to the flavor of blood orange and developed a serious jones for Tommy’s banana milkshakes. It was hard whittling all the deliciousness of 2015 down to these fifteen choices, but three of them are not in Cleveland (so I consider them runner-ups). These bites are the bites I will remember for quite some time.

Everyone raves about Fire Food and Drink‘s lemon souffle pancakes (and they are divine), but I was blown away by the tandoor smoked pastrami hash. It features Yukon potatoes, Emmenthal cheese, honey dijon aioli, fennel, apple, arugula and a local fried egg and is out of this world. I love how the Emmenthal cheese and honey dijon aioli work together and meld with the potato and egg. Each bite was a little bit of heaven. And oh that honey dijon aioli!!!

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111 Bistro in Medina has been consistently serving up delicious meals since they opened, and my friend Tom is one of the restaurant’s biggest fans. He arranged a birthday dinner there early this past year that was delicious, but the dessert was the absolute stand-out. Each dessert was a good-sized portion and delicious in its own right, but I was absolutely thrilled with the black pepper ice cream and the salted caramel cake. That salted caramel cake was so moist and luscious, and I never thought I would like – let alone be craving – black pepper ice cream of all things. It was a revelation. The flourless chocolate cake on the left and the panna cotta on the right weren’t too shabby either! I was very glad I had had my leftovers boxed up so I had room for dessert! It’s a nice touch to add the date on the box for the diner.

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Dinner in the Dark is always a dining adventure, but I still dream about this crêpinette by Tim Bando of Grove Hill in Chagrin Falls. This was my very first Dinner in the Dark, and I have to say I have not missed one since. This DITD was special because it united the powerhouse team that worked together at Moxie when it opened in 1997. With acclaimed chefs such as Doug Katz, Tim Bando, Jonathan Bennett, Eric Williams, Karen Small and Heidi Robb cooking for us, I knew it was a dinner not to be missed, and I was right. Each course was a delight, but I am still salivating over the lamb and foie gras crêpinette with polenta and a lamb demi-glace. The lamb and foie gras “meatball” was so flavorful and unique, and the polenta and demi-glace just complemented it really well. It might just have been my favorite thing I ate all year!

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Graffiti: A Social Kitchen and its sister restaurant Cork & Cleaver are known for innovative, playful takes on well-known dishes. One of my favorite meals was a Cork & Cleaver pop-up at Toast while the Toast owners were on their honeymoon. It was a Hillbilly Picnic and featured some really awesome plays on “white trash” food that featured spam and french onion dip. Some of the dishes they debuted there have popped up on the Graffiti menu, so I knew I was going to enjoy Graffiti when it opened. We tried quite a few of the appetizers, such as the french onion egg roll featuring caramelized onions, Gruyere cheese and French onion jus and Hillbilly Pate, which is bologna pate served with sweet pickle relish, goat cheese whiz and white bread crostini (and is apparently no longer on the menu – bummer), but I was extremely pleased with their deconstructed Monte Cristo (thanks Yelp!). It features super-tender maple brined pork tenderloin, luscious French toast, mornay crema, and raspberry mostarda. A little bit of tenderloin and French toast dragged through the crema and mostarda made each bite the perfect bite.

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I had heard many good things about Map of Thailand from enthusiastic friends and finally made it there this year. And then proceeded to keep going back repeatedly because of their amazing seafood coconut soup. It isn’t a large portion, but it is a great way to start a delicious meal. The soup is billed as “Assorted seafood in coconut cream base soup, seasoned with spices, mushroom, lemon grass, galanga, cilantro and kaffir lime leaf.” The flavor is quite addictive. The calamari rings and whole shrimp are a little awkward to eat with the soup spoon, but I have gotten fairly adept at using my knife to cut them into bite-sized pieces before slurping it down. It is good to the very last drop, which I usually pour out from the bowl into the spoon.

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Walter Hyde and Scott Slagle of Fat Casual BBQ are known for their smoked prime rib (among other things). They were cooking at Sterle’s Country House this summer (in the Szemerszky beer garden), and I quickly became a fan of one of their latest innovative dishes – Polka Fries, which were spiral sliced potatoes topped with a beer cheese sauce and diced jalapeno. The prime rib and polka fries were definitely in my top meals this year. But the bite that I will remember was served at a special meal organized for a friend who was having surgery, billed as Bob’s Last Meal. They made these smoked pork belly lardons over cheesy grits and a maple sauce that were simply to die for. They gladly brought out a second serving for me when I begged for one. It was incredible.

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Sterle’s also deserves a mention for their chicken schnitzel and waffle that they serve during their brunch. The chicken schnitzel is moist and not too heavily breaded, and it sits atop a crisp yet tender waffle. The whole thing is then topped with “Slovenian gravy,” spicy maple, and arugula. Brunch is served on Sundays from 11-2. There are a lot of good choices on the menu, but the schnitzel and waffle is exceptional.

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Doug Katz reopened the Katz Club Diner this year and started doing pop-up dinners there instead of daily service. I have attended several dinners, but I was just wowed by his lobster rolls. The attention to detail showed from the buttery and soft roll to the perfectly dressed lobster salad. I could have eaten several more and been a very happy (but full) camper.

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Black Box Fix opened this year in Cleveland Heights in the space formerly known as Sweetie Fry, and I knew I needed to check it out. I will be posting a more comprehensive review soon, but I have to say that the OMG Philly replaced the now-defunct Now We’re Cooking’s Cajun Chicken Philly in my heart (sorry, Walter). Chef Eric Rogers created the OMG Philly, which features grilled chicken with sauteed mushrooms, onion, peppers and melted Swiss, topped with grilled jumbo shrimp, and drizzled with Yum Yum sauce. It’s kind of a mix between a Cajun chicken philly sandwich and a hibachi shrimp dish, and it is divine!

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Since I have been on an Asian food kick this year I knew I had to check out the latest Taiwanese restaurant, Phusion Cafe. I organized several dinners there and had some delicious food, but the dish that absolutely astonished us and had us constantly reaching for more was their crispy chicken with fried basil. It was perfectly fried and extremely flavorful. My friend Nancy described it as “Chicken-Basil Crack.” I’m not sure if it is on their regular menu, but if you see it as a special do yourself a favor and order it. It was extremely addictive and makes a great appetizer.

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I love Fragapane’s Bakery for their subs and potato salad, but I was pleased to learn about Ferrara’s Imported Foods on Mayfield Road from a friend this year. Their Italian sub with sweet peppers is a delight and is one of my favorite bites of 2015. It features homemade bread, Italian cold cuts and provolone cheese. And your choice of sweet or hot peppers. I am still a bit of a wimp when it comes to spicy (although Szechuan Gourmet and several Indian restaurants have me appreciating some heat in my food now), so I went with the sweet peppers. The cold cuts and cheese are sliced behind the counter and couldn’t be any fresher. The combination of the meat, cheese and peppers and soft homemade bread is mouth-watering.

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One of the best desserts I have ever eaten (let alone this year) was at the Dinner in the Dark at Deagan’s. It was a divine Warm Rocky Road Torte – molten chocolate cake in a torte shell, housemade marshmallows, honey bourbon ice cream, and bourbon and pecan Crème Anglaise by Emma Scheer from Humble Wine Bar. Unfortunately the preceding courses had all been rather filling, so I was unable to finish it and savor every bite. But I wanted to lick the plate! Everyone left the dinner raving about the dessert, and we are still talking about it months later! My camera battery died, so I am going to use my friend Edsel’s photo from his Flickr account. It’s a beauty.

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Runner-ups

I did some traveling this year as well and was exposed to some very interesting cuisine in Iceland. In addition to mashed fish on rye bread, meat soup featuring local lamb and vegetables, fish kebabs, dehydrated fish jerky, and fermented shark fin (pro tip: do not try it!), my most memorable meal was in a tiny little restaurant on the southwestern coast. My travel companion and I shared a lamb and a fish dish, and we were absolutely blown away by the butter and brown sugar potatoes that accompanied the pan-fried lamb cutlets. Very different — simple, yet delicious.

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A trip to New York City for my birthday was not complete without a cup of matzoh ball soup and a slice of New York cheesecake from Junior’s. Junior’s is an institution, and when I posted the photo of the cheesecake several people just knew that’s where I was. I didn’t even need the strawberry topping I ordered on the side. The cheesecake was sufficiently luscious all on its own. Plus, I got the added bonus of watching a girl eat wings with a fork and knife. New York never disappoints!

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I had never heard of wreckfish before, but while staying on Seabrooke Island near Charleston, SC with my family to celebrate my parents’ 50th wedding anniversary the dish at the Palmetto Room on Seabrooke Island intrigued me. I’m not a fan of succotash because I detest lima beans, but this succotash was made with butter beans and was probably my favorite part of the meal. Definitely a memorable 50th wedding anniversary dinner for the food and the company.

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I’m also going to toss one in that I cooked, because I can. I learned to love squash this year, thanks to this recipe for stuffed acorn squash. I riffed on the recipe and used green onion bratwursts from Fresh Fork Market, chopped up some apple, sauteed some mushrooms, mixed in some mozzarella, and added some fennel, caraway and red wine vinegar for some flavor. I think I left out the spinach here because I didn’t have any. It was not just delicious – it was also a thing of beauty. I’ve made it several times since – most recently adding some leftover stuffing after Thanksgiving into the mix. It has never disappointed.

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I wonder what will wow me in 2016. I can’t wait. What were your favorite bites of 2015?


Dan’s Dogs in Medina

December 23, 2015

IMAG2781I love a good hot dog, so I was dying to try Dan’s Dogs in Medina. The only problem is that the only time I’m in Medina I am usually visiting family and eating with them. I had my chance recently when my niece had a play she had written performed at her school by an acting troupe, and I needed a place to have lunch afterwards. Dan’s Dogs immediately came to mind. The place is adorable. Very 1950s retro with a diner flair. It opened in 1991 and is located just northwest of the Square. It’s not The Happy Dog, nor does it try to be. It is just a good, old-fashioned hot dog diner.

Dan’s Dogs uses all beef hot dogs, grilled to order and served on a signature buttered and toasted split-top New England style bun. This bun was really amazing. The menu is extensive with 41(!) hot dogs to choose from and over 50 toppings if IMAG2776you want to build your own. If you don’t want a hot dog (but come on, why wouldn’t you order one?), they also offer grilled cheese sandwiches, grilled burgers, chicken sandwiches, salads, and more. I had trouble narrowing down what I wanted to order.

I started off with a root beer, because they make their own old-fashioned root beer and I’m a sucker for a good root beer. It was really good and quenched my thirst. If you like root beer floats, this would be the place for one. They also apparently make their own ice cream.

I was in the mood for a nice soup, and the soup that day was a chicken and rice soup. The broth was well-seasoned and the soup had chunks of carrot, celery and IMAG2777strings of chicken, so I could tell it was homemade. It was very good, although the rice had broken down a bit since it was later in the day after the lunch rush. My only complaint was that the server didn’t clear the soup bowl when she brought my dogs, but that is truly a minor complaint.

Now the big dilemma – what hot dogs to order. I ordered while I was still hungry, so I ordered three different “regular size” hot dogs. You can also order jumbo dogs if you are so inclined. Three dogs and soup was definitely too much, and I ended up taking half of each one home for later. My choices were The Mac Attack (smothered in their homemade five-cheese mac & cheese), the Top Dog (topped with grilled bacon and melted cheddar cheese), and a Firehouse Dog (“Red Hot” chili coney dog topped with homemade cole slaw). All three were really good, but that cole slaw was delicious – super creamy just the way I like it. It was a great pairingIMAG2779 with the coney sauce.

You can choose all kinds of weird and wonderful hot dogs, like the Hula Dog with baked beans and crushed pineapple; the Junkyard Dog with freshly chopped veggies, melted mozzarella cheese, sour cream sauce and fresh diced tomato; or the Deputy Dog with peanut butter and jelly, or your classics like the Old Yeller with mustard, relish and diced onions; the Chicago Dog with its mustard, relish, onions, cucumber, hot pepper pickle and celery salt; or Hound Dog with caramelized onions and grilled mushrooms. There is literally something for everyone – or you can make your own.

They are closed on Sundays, but now accept credit and debit cards (they used to be cash-only). So the next time you are in Medina and want to try a good dog, check this place out. It’s family-friendly and locally owned and operated.

Contact info:

Dan’s Dogs
111 W Liberty Street
Medina, OH 44256
(330) 723-3647


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