Choolaah Indian BBQ

January 20, 2015

IMAG1705Everyone I know has been anxiously awaiting the opening of Choolaah Indian BBQ on Chagrin across from Corky & Lenny’s. Well, it was worth the wait. The place has been mobbed since it opened. We went on a quiet Sunday afternoon. The place was not overly packed, and there were quite a few Indian and Pakistani diners (not including the two with me).

The place bills itself as “Casually Fast Indian Cuisine.” The food came out quick. IMAG1696If only the registers moved a little faster. I expect that may change once people become more familiar with the menu and don’t need as much explanation. The restaurant is bright and cheerful with pops of color and open kitchen and grill areas behind glass.IMAG1744

I ordered the Chicken Tikka Masala plate with a side of Naan bread. This hit the spot. It was a decent size portion and had a perfect amount of heat. I forwent the “Choolaah Heat” sauce and am glad I did, as two of my fellow diners “couldn’t stand the heat.” IMAG1693They were glad they had ordered Mango Lassis, but lamented the size. After I raved about the soda dispenser they followed up with a “Coke product” from the beverage dispenser (more on that in a minute).

The side of naan bread was also fluffy and perfectly seasoned with just a hint of salt. I was also given a side of masala sauce to dip the bread into and to pour over the rice IMAG1694bowl in areas I wanted to add a little more sauce.

I had a bite of my friends’ meals, including the Paneer Biryani and the Paneer Tikka Masala. I loved the grilled paneer in the tikka masala almost more than my grilled chicken, which I thoroughly enjoyed! I would totally order it even though I am not a vegetarian. It was that good.

IMAG1695My Indian friend loved her Paneer Biryani. I was not as enthusiastic about it. I will order this with chicken next time and see if it makes a difference. It didn’t have a lot of heat and tasted somewhat reminiscent of mango. I might have had a non-representative bite though, because there are eight layers of flavor in this topped with naan. In any event, my friend loved the idea of it coming with the bread baked on top like a pot pie.

IMAG1749Another friend loved the Salmon Tikka Masala and the chaat. I might have to try the salmon next. My two Indian friends split a Samosa Chaat. The Samosa were a little softer than I expected due to the addition of the chaat (chickpeas, spices, yogurt and tamarind sauce). They both liked it, and loved the yogurt and cheese atop the chickpea-based chaat.IMAG1747

The Samosa side features three small samosas for $1.99. The samosas were very flavorful and contained potato, onions and peas. They were a nice little side to add to my meal.

My absolutely favorite thing about Choolah though is the Coca Cola freestyle soda dispenser.IMAG1699 I had translated a text about this several years ago, so it is nice to see it in action. More and more restaurants are offering this, including the Winking Lizard, Firehouse Subs, Five Guys, etc. Testing of the fountain, which can offer up to 200 different drinks, was launched in several markets in 2009. Coca Cola started rolling out the fountains in 2010, and they are slowly deploying it in various restaurants around the country. Customers choose a base product, which they can supplement with additional flavoring. IMAG1702The machines include flavors not previously available to the American market, including Orange Coke, which was previously sold only in Russia and the Baltics (and briefly in the United Kingdom and Gibraltar). I debated between peach and grape flavoring for my Dasani Sensation and ended up going with grape. The Dasani soda was under 5 calories and was not overly sweet (0 g sugar), so it really hit the spot and was waistline-friendly. I can’t wait to experiment with more flavors in the future. Be sure to check out the above link to see all the available flavors, such as lemon, raspberry, lime, vanilla, cherry, etc., to add to Coke, Dasani, Fanta, Minute Maid Lemonade, Hi-C, Mr. Pibb, Fanta, Mello Yello, Ginger Ale, seltzer, etc.

They also sell chai, mango lassi, beer and have wine available in a WineStation dispenser. I didn’t love the chai, but my Indian friend who tried mine liked it. IMAG1703Then again, I have been ruined forever by her mother’s chai. They always seem less flavorful and somewhat watery in restaurants now.

One pro tip is to order the mango or malai (cardamom) kulfi with your meal so that it is softened by the time you eat it. My friends had a tough time eating it in its frozen-solid state.

Another really nice touch is two reserved spots right by the door for veterans and active military service members. It’s a nice way to honor them and say thanks. I just don’t know how many of them IMAG1706would be willing to take advantage of it. I know many of them are very modest.

Another pro tip is to use the entrance/exit on Orange Place to avoid the congestion on Chagrin. The entrance on Orange Place that it shares with the collision center is right next to the gas station on the corner and is well-marked.

IMAG1709Overall, the selection is small but affordable. It doesn’t have a large variety, but what they do offer is good and designed for the American fast food eater (plates, bowls, sandwiches, wraps, etc.). It was fast, and the portions were reasonable. I was perfectly satiated by my “plate,” which featured an entree and a side.

This is the first location of what the owners hope to turn into a chain of Indian BBQ places. If the crowds are any indication they have a hit on their hands. Open daily Mon-Thurs & Sun 11am-9pm, Fri & Sat 11am-10pm.

Contact info:

Choolaah Indian BBQ
27100 Chagrin Blvd
Orange Village, OH 44122
(800) 459-8860

Crop Kitchen

January 9, 2015

IMAG1389Steve Schimoler of Crop Bistro recently opened a restaurant on the East Side in the new Uptown District (intersection of Euclid Avenue and E. 115th across from Constantino’s and behind the Cleveland Wine Cellars). Steve relocated to Cleveland in 2005, as Director of Innovation and Development for Nestle North America and, after completing his term there, decided to remain in Cleveland, and we are all the better for it. Crop was initially opened to function as a test kitchen, but soon became a Cleveland favorite. His son Stevie is the General Manager of Crop Kitchen, and they recruited Matt Anderson of Umami to run the kitchen.IMAG1391 I’ve been there several times now and am happy to report the quality of Crop is available on the East Side in a hip, affordable location. Crop Kitchen is located where the old Accent used to be. They managed to inherit Accent’s awesome Robata Grill and Josper Oven. They changed the colors a bit and put up whimsical colanders as light fixtures. One side of the restaurant has a pool table and makes it the perfect venue for after work drinks or a quick, informal bite to eat, while the dining room offers light wood tablesIMAG1390 and plenty of tables to accommodate any sized party. Crop Kitchen features Crop favorites like two different flavors of popcorn (orange miso and truffle) as well as Matt Anderson specialties like spring rolls, sushi and the goat cheese dumplings (more on those later).

I started off with the Sleepy Hollow cocktail, which featured house-infused pumpkin vodka with a house-made apple crème liqueur. It was delicious. Unfortunately they are only running it in the fall, because on a visit in early December I was told they had just taken it off the menu.

IMAG1392The chile deviled eggs with crisp prosciutto are a mustardy choice for an appetizer. It was very good, with just a hint of heat and prosciutto flavor. However, you have to try the wasabi deviled eggs with pickled ginger. They are out of this world! A friend and I were served one each served side by side recently, and the wasabi egg was my hands-down favorite!

IMAG1393When I heard Steve was doing a burger for the first time ever I knew what I had to order on my first trip. The CK Double Double Burger was even better than I had hoped it would be. It features two all-beef patties, lettuce, tomato, onion, smoked cheddar cheese, and Dijon aioli on an onion bun. IMAG1394The onion bun and the melty cheddar cheese really put this burger over the top. It was cooked exactly to my specifications and was AWESOME. The roasted potatoes that accompanied the burger were perfectly cooked, with a crisp exterior and creamy interior. I was able to dip them in house-made ketchup.

I was less impressed with the sushi rolls. The tempura veggie roll was kind of bland, and the spicy tuna roll didn’t wow me. They serve three rolls a night, and the selections vary. I will try them again, but as of right now I am not all that keen on ordering them again. That said, the fish was very fresh, and the sashimi someone ordered at the next table glistened and looked delicious. However, you definitely should not avoid the Asian side of the menu. IMAG1966I can report that I had the duck ramen special the other night, and it was spectacular. It featured pork belly, duck confit and grilled eggplant and had a delicious gingery and umami taste in the broth. I hope to see this on the menu again soon!

IMAG1711Matt Anderson is also known for his goat cheese dumplings. These dumplings are crazy good. The dumplings are light and fluffy and are served over a bed of shiitake mushroom, miso vinaigrette and what may be sauteed spinach or kale. This dish is a good choice for vegetarians as well as non-vegetarians. The menu indicates if a dish is gluten-free, vegetarian or vegan, which I think is a nice aid for those with dietary issues.

IMAG1713I had debated between the burger and the cassoulet, so I decided to wait and order the cassoulet once the weather turned a little colder. This is the perfect comfort food for a cold, dreary Cleveland winter. The cassoulet is made with sausage, boneless chicken thighs, pork belly, and beans. I loved the melding of all the flavors. The beans were creamy and smokey. I liked this more than the cassoulet at L’Albatros, and the cassoulet there is really good. I managed to eat half and save the other half for later. It was just as good – if not better – reheated the next day.

IMAG1714I had a couple bites of the potato salad that came with my friend’s Grilled Portabello & Marinated Tofu sandwich, which features grilled peppers & onions, lettuce, tomato, onion, avocado aioli and herbed goat cheese on request on the onion roll. She loved it and said it was some of the best tofu she has ever eaten. I have to say I am now a huge fan of the potato salad, and I am a tough critic when it comes to potato salad. It was creamy and had just the right mix of herbs. Definitely try it if you can. They only serve one side a day, so don’t come in there looking forward to a specific side dish. The orzo side dish I had the other day needed some citrus or something to brighten the flavor a bit. Crop Kitchen should consider posting its sides and specials on its Facebook page, because I would make a trip for the potato salad and would be there in a heartbeat for any of their ramen.IMAG1715 In addition to drawing in customers, it would also highlight the kitchen’s versatility.

I also want to talk about the ice cream and sorbet at Crop Kitchen. My friend and I split the Ohio Strawberry Sorbet recently, and it was bright and fresh. It was the perfect end to a meal of goat cheese dumplings and cassoulet. Steve was the VP of product development for Cabot Creamery in Vermont for several years, so the man knows his ice cream. I was lucky enough to hear about the recent launch of Pierre Ice Cream’s Chef’s Signature Ultimate Ice Cream Pints. IMAG1664You can read about the story here. They unveiled the first two flavors — Croppy Road and Holé Molé — on December 5th at Crop Kitchen. Croppy Road features chocolate ice cream, chocolate-covered marshmallow cups, almonds and smoky salted caramel swirl, while Holé Molé incorporates cinnamon ice cream with chili choco chips, chocolate-covered toffee pieces and molé fudge swirl. The Croppy Road was very smoky, but if you like that you will love the unique ice cream. However, I am head over heels for the Holé Molé. You can order the ice cream by the pint or in a sundae at Crop Kitchen (and I would imagine Crop),IMAG1712 and the pints are also available in local grocery stores that sell Pierre’s products, including Heinen’s, Marc’s, Dave’s Supermarkets and Zagara’s Market.

One final recommendation is the Maker’s Mark New Fashioned, featuring Maker’s Mark with hints of spiced orange and cherries in their housemade Orange & Cherry Chipotle Cure. I had two the other night at a good friend’s recommendation (her husband loves them so much she ordered 2 quarts of Cure for him for Christmas). They are delicious, but they are potent. Another friend I was dining with was surprised to see me happily buzzed, because I never have more than two (and we’ve been going out together to happy hours since 2005). The drinks here are strong, so plan accordingly.

Welcome to the neighborhood, Crop Kitchen! I’ll be back soon.

Contact info:

Crop Kitchen
11460 Uptown Ave (Euclid Avenue & E. 115th)
Cleveland, OH
(216) 696-2767

Flying Cranes Cafe on Larchmere

December 27, 2014

IMAG1578Flying Cranes Cafe is a quaint little cafe that blends American and Japanese cuisine, such as soups, sandwiches, udon, yakisoba, donburi rice bowls, and quiche. It also happens to serve up a fine bowl of ramen. Owner/chef Kayoko Irie-Frye and her husband Bill Frye opened the restaurant in November 2008.

IMAG1433The cafe seats 15 and is comfortably nestled among the bookshops and antique shops on Larchmere Boulevard. It is a place to come and relax with a book while you wait for your food. Things are slow here, so don’t come here if you are in a hurry. But if you want to relax for a while you will be in good hands.

Everything is made from scratch using fresh ingredients, from the soups and broths to the sandwiches and quiches.

IMAG1236I have been there several times since I first discovered it through a Meetup group tea. We were served a lovely tea with delicious soup, a Madeleine, a tiny quiche, small tea sandwiches, a fresh fruit cup, cookies, and a tier of delectable sweets. The quiche was divine, and I gladly had a second one. The desserts and the cookies were a huge hit with everyone. The tiramisu and the chocolate chip cookie were my particular favorites. If you are looking for something different try their lime bar. The cafe requires advanced notice for the tea, and the price was very reasonable considering all the effort that must have gone into preparing the food for us. If you are looking for something special be sure to order the blooming tea, which are tea leaves handsewn around flowers into bundles that that literally bloom as they steep.

IMAG1439The miso soup seems to be one of their most popular dishes. The last time I was here it seemed like everyone was ordering the miso soup to eat in the cafe and to go, so I had to try it. I’m glad I did. It comes in three different sizes. The miso broth is accompanied by fresh scallions, tofu cubes and shiitake mushrooms. It was delicious. They also have a soup of the day, so be sure to check the board to see what is on offer that day.

IMAG1437I initially went back to try the ramen. I have been on the search for a good ramen, and the Flying Cranes serves an authentic ramen that is warm and filling. I ordered the champon ramen, which features shrimp, vegetables like shiitake mushrooms and bok choy and ramen noodles. They asked if I wanted an egg, and it was then topped with two halves of a perfectly cooked hard-boiled egg. It’s not brimming with shrimp, but when the vegetables, noodles and broth are so well done you won’t miss the shrimp. At the moment this is my favorite meal in Cleveland, surpassing pho in my heart.

IMAG1440There are a variety of good Japanese noodle and rice dishes. The chicken teriyaki features a house-made teriyaki sauce served over rice, sprinkled with black sesame seeds and served with a side salad with ginger dressing. It was very flavorful and filling.

IMAG1580I also tried the curry udon, which was the perfect choice on a blustery cold November day. The curry sauce was a thick brown sauce containing some kind of meat and vegetables. It was extremely flavorful, but the curry was not overpowering. It was served piping hot, so it was easier to slurp up the noodles once it cooled down a bit.IMAG1241

I am glad to have discovered this little gem so close to my home. I have since become a regular, and the owners appear to recognize me now. The prices are affordable. Soups and sandwiches run between $2-$7.50, entrees range from $7-$11. They offer Saturday and Sunday brunch for $10.00, and all of the brunches come with coffee or tea, soup and dessert. So if you are looking for a fine bowl of warmth this winter be sure to check Flying Cranes out. I also hear they have a lovely garden filled with wisteria in the back, but I have not had the opportunity to check it out for myself.

Contact info:

Flying Cranes Cafe
13006 Larchmere Boulevard
Cleveland, OH 44120
(216) 795-1033

Seoul Garden in Parma

December 20, 2014

IMAG1564I recently learned about Seoul Garden from one of my foodie groups, and I am so glad we went. I ate dinner there recently with several friends on a cold, rainy evening. The place is a bit of a hole in the wall, and the dining room is nothing special. One of my friends lives around the corner and had always wondered what it was like. IMAG1565She was thrilled when I scheduled this. It may not look like much from the street, but what makes it special is the authentic food. There were several tables of Korean diners enjoying barbecued beef and some kind of hot pot soup or casserole – both served over hot plates at the table.

We were greeted with a mug of hot tea. Some of us smelled barley and some of us smelled corn. Whatever it is, it is completely additive, because I came home still tasting it on my palate and want it again soon.

The highlight of the meal is the banchan – an array of small kimchi and pickled root and vegetable dishes, including several kinds of kimchi (cucumber, bok choy and cabbage), a kind of seaweed salad, some kind of delicious potato dish, what might have been cubed radishes, IMAG1562Gyeranjjim (Korean Style Steamed Egg Casserole, see second photo), and some other dishes that we just ate without knowing what they were. I liked everything I tried. It was a fun way to try a bunch of different dishes.

We ordered a couple appetizers even knowing that we would be served Banchan. I ordered the fried dumplings. They were good – deep fried dumplings served with a dipping sauce. IMAG1566The rice dumplings (Ddukbokkie – fourth photo) were really unique and different. Long dumplings made from rice flour covered in a spicy and sweet red sauce - they were delicious. One of my friends explained that people either love them or hate them (due to the texture), but we all thoroughly enjoyed them. Another friend ordered the spicy tofu. It was good, but there were so many other things to eat I only had one piece.

After debating what to order we ended up ordering 3 orders of Gopdol Bi Bim Bap, 1 order of Bulgogi and 1 Tonkasu. We are big sharers, but that wasn’t the case tonight – although I did manage a bite of BiBimBop and Bulgogi. The Bulgogi was cut thin and served with various peppersIMAG1568 and what may have been spinach. It was definitely delicious.

They serve two kinds of Bi Bim Bap. My friends all ordered the Gopdol Bi Bim Bop, which is a rice, meat, and vegetable mixture served with a raw egg cracked on top. It is served in a sizzling hot stone dish, and it is a good idea to wait a minute or so to let the rice on the bottom get somewhat crunchy. You then stir the egg through the other ingredients, and the heat from the bowl cooks the egg. Everyone had their leftover Bibimbap IMAG1569packed up, and one friend looked forward to eating it for breakfast the next day.

My Tonkasu was a fried pork cutlet with a deliciously sweet sauce on top. It was served with rice and what they called a Seoul Salad, but it was essentially iceberg lettuce with some kind of smooth dressing on it. It did a nice job cutting the heaviness of the pork cutlet. I really liked it – even if the pork cutlet was probably a food service cutlet. The sauce really made the dish.

IMAG1567I was impressed with the speed of the service once we ordered the food. Our server remembered everyone’s order without writing it down, and then brought everyone their food very quickly. The dumplings were brought out probably within a minute of ordering. The banchan and other appetizers were then served, followed by the entrees.IMAG1570

I was expecting very spicy food, but that wasn’t the case. I suspect they lowered the spice level for us – although a couple of my friends can handle it. I for one thoroughly enjoyed every bite. I only had one bite of rice dumpling that had me coughing from the spicy kick. They also serve water in a plastic water bottle, so we could serve ourselves. Canned soda lines the hallway to the bathrooms. There are no aesthetics here – just good food.

At the end of the meal we were served a delicious drinking yogurt (Yakut).IMAG1571 We couldn’t decide whether it was mango or banana or what, but we all agreed that it was delicious. Our server gave us each one to go after we raved about it as we left.

I’m already looking forward to my next meal there. I’m going to try the Korean barbecued beef. Or maybe one of their soups. Or the seafood pancakes…

In any event, the place is easy on the pocketbook. Our dinners average to around $20 a person. The prices are very reasonable given the quantity and quality of food.

Contact info:

Seoul Garden
5270 Pearl Road
Parma, OH 44129
(216) 661-5990

Das Schnitzel Haus in Parma

December 11, 2014

schnitzelhausDas Schnitzel Haus may bill itself as a German restaurant, but they certainly don’t have a German speaker making their menu. Spelling errors abound on both the menu and the website (they even misspelled the restaurant’s name on the Menu page – twice!). It’s almost comical how atrocious it is. But the food is good, so I am not going to get too upset about the spelling. I will use the spelling on their menu in this post, but will add the proper name in parentheses just in case you are familiar with the dishes or want to do a little research. IMAG1341Don’t rely on the drop-down menus on the website. They are minimalist at best. Be sure to download the complete PDF to see everything they offer.

Das Schnitzel Haus was opened by the Djurin family, long-time residents of Parma, Ohio. The fact that the restaurant has cevapi (aka ćevapčići), which is a kind of minced meat kebab, on the menu led me to believe the family’s origins may be the Balkans, and in fact the woman I spoke with there one night said she was Serbian. The restaurant and outdoor, heated Beer Garden (Biergarten) on Pearl Road offers customers reasonably priced German food and drinks, combined with friendly service in a cozy, warm atmosphere. The restaurant is open 7 days a week.IMG_20110318_195017

The food here is much better than Der Braumeister. There are some hit or misses, but generally the food is a hit. The bread and butter service was really good. The bread was warm and crusty, and the butter was nice and soft.

Pierogis are not a German dish, but they are probably included for the Cleveland palate. For that matter, Sauerkraut balls are a Cleveland invention as well. These particular pierogi are deep-fried instead of boiled. They are served with sour cream and grilled onions.

The schnitzels are fried well, and the sides are quite tasty. 600_6010745A Schnitzel is a house butchered & trimmed cutlet (usually veal, but also pork), thinly pounded, seasoned, lightly breaded and fried or sauteed.

This photo shows your basic Schnitzel. If I had to hazard a guess I would say this one is the veal “Wiener Schnitzel vom kalb” (Wienerschnitzel vom Kalb). The sides are red cabbage and Spätzle. Both are quite tasty.

IMG_20110318_195149On my first visit I enjoyed the Käse Schnitzel, which is a chicken breast pounded thin and battered in egg, sauteed in a pan, and topped with melted cheese. It is served with a lemon slice. I found this Schnitzel to be light and flavorful, and I really liked all the cheese. That said, this isn’t exactly authentic. I ordered it with a side of cabbage and noodles and a dinner salad.

On my second visit I ordered my go-to favorite, the Jäger IMAG1350Schnitzel (Jägerschnitzel). A Jägerschnitzel is literally translated as the Hunter’s Schnitzel. It is a pork schnitzel and is topped with a delicious brown mushroom gravy. This is one dish that Der Braumeister does not do well at all. Das Schnitzel Haus does a good job, and the gravy is flavorful. I substituted vegetables for one of the sides. The veggies looked extremely unappetizing and overcooked, but they were in fact quite delicious. Don’t let the appearance fool you.

One of my fellow diners enjoyed the Chicken Paprikasch. It is made with white and dark meat cooked in paprika sauce thickened with sour cream served over spätzle.IMAG1344

The Hungarian Goulash is also a successful version of Goulasch. This Goulasch does not have sour cream in it, which indicates that it is definitely Austrian in origin. Austria was part of the Austrohungarian Empire, and this is the version of Goulasch that I am used to from my years in Austria. The sauce is very flavorful and the beef was tender. The Goulash is served over Spätzle and comes with a dinner salad.

kasselerIf you are looking for a unique dish that most people don’t think of I recommend ordering the Kassler Fleisch (Kasseler). They are grilled, smoked pork chops served with crisp potato pancakes and cooked sauerkraut. This smoky dish is a definite favorite of mine.

IMG_20110318_195122The terribly named Kraut Wickeln (Kohlroulade or Stuffed Cabbage) features two boiled cabbage leaves stuffed with beef, pork, smoked bacon, and rice all cooked in paprika and garlic gravy. Served with kraut and a side of your choice. If you are a fan of stuffed cabbage you might want to give this a try – although if you prefer the taste of tomato with your stuffed cabbage this is not the choice for you.

If you are a fan of sausages the Wurst Platte is for you. It features “one plump bratwurst and one succulent IMG_20110318_195116knockwurst served with two sides of your choice.”

One fellow diner absolutely raved about the Walleye here. He said it is the best in Cleveland – and that’s saying something. It is baked in a garlic white wine sauce and comes with a baked potato and green beans.

Good luck trying to save room for dessert (or as they call it “Desert”). German food is very hearty. I doubt you will have room.

Contact info:

Das Schnitzel Haus
5728 Pearl Road
Cleveland, OH 44129
(440) 886-5050

Tartine Bistro

November 30, 2014

tartineThis little French-American bistro in Rocky River is a great place to visit if you want a little soothing French cuisine. Despite its address on Detroit, it is actually on Old Detroit nestled in the Old River Shopping Area. The bistro is named for its tartine, a toasted French bread sandwich topped with luxurious slow-roasted meats like pork, duck and beef.

The space is small and is decorated like a dark little bistro with a large bar dominating the space. The red ceiling tiles lend the place a pop of color. We shared a space near the door, otherwise the photos would not have come out as well as they did.

We started our meal with a drink and several appetizers. There were four of us for dinner, and we split the Baked Brie en Croute and the Roasted Dates stuffed with goat cheese and sprinkled with a port wine syrup and diced bacon. Both were piping hot and really hit the spot. The brie was served with water crackers and I could have eaten one by myself. The puffed pastry was crisp and the brie was perfectly melty.IMG_20120424_190137The stuffed dates came out hot and stole everyone’s hearts. Instead of the usual preparation (dates wrapped in bacon), it is served as a plate of stuffed dates topped with crispy crumbled bacon. It isn’t something I would normally order, but I was quickly won over. They were the unanimous favorite. If you like a bit of sweet be sure to try these!IMG_20120424_190143

One of my dining companions ordered the Frisée salad and just raved about it. The Frisée features frisée lettuce topped with bacon lardons, a fried egg, hollandaise vinaigrette over toasted brioche bread. I had a bite and have to say that this was an outstanding salad. I have heard wonderful things about the Beet Salad, which is served with goat cheese and a honey vinaigrette. Next time.IMG_20120424_191959

Being the French onion soup fan that I am, I had to order the Onion Soup Gratinée. The onions were perfectly caramelized and were accompanied by bits of beef and an aged cheddar crouton in a beef broth that was peppery and not too salty. It was topped with lots of yummy cheese. Just look at that broiled goodness. What’s not to love? This was an excellent French onion soup. I particularly loved the aged cheddar crouton. I would definitely rank it up there with one of the best I’ve ever hard.IMG_20120424_192027

The duck confit tartine was a huge hit with most of us at the table. I loved my order and would order it again in a heartbeat. The duck had been slow roasted and pulled off the bone to produce a succulent topping for the French bread toast. I liked the brie, but was glad there wasn’t a lot of it on the tartine. I don’t know if brie pairs well with duck. I would have been happy with a brie tartine on its own.IMG_20120424_194649

Another surprising standout was the cauliflower gratin. This warm side dish showed off cauliflower in a deliciously cheesy gratin. Everyone who had a bite loved it – even those who were not fans of cauliflower.IMG_20120424_194635

Another one of my fellow diners loved his roasted duck special. He orders duck whenever it is on a menu and was quite pleased. It was served with roasted potatoes that were perfectly cooked.IMG_20120424_194829

I’m not sure what this entree was, but it is too beautiful not to share. It may be a lamb stew, which is not currently on the menu.IMG_20120424_194629

Overall this place was a huge hit. One of my friends who wasn’t there that night goes there quite often, and the restaurant certainly has its regulars and fans. I only wish I lived closer. I would be there all the time. I can just imagine how cozy it is in the winter time, with all that delicious food to warm you up. The bistro also bills itself as a wine bar. They just celebrated their 5th anniversary on Bastille Day this past July. May they see many more years.

Contact info:

Tartine Bistro
19110 Detroit Road
Rocky River, OH 44116
(440) 331-0800

Carrie Cerino’s Ristorante and Party Center in North Royalton

November 21, 2014
Photo by Tom Noe of Exploring Food My Way

Photo by Tom Noe of Exploring Food My Way

Carrie Cerino’s is an institution on the southwest side of town in North Royalton. The place is huge, and the decor is “old school.” People come here for the food and not necessarily for the ambiance. The dining room we ate in was cozy, but rather dated. They also offer party rooms for weddings, reunions and other larger celebrations.

Carrie Cerino opened a bakery in Maple Heights in 1945 with $3,000 bank loan. She branched into catering in 1955 and bought the location where the restaurant is in 1962. They kept adding extensions to the property, 600_21693669and it truly is a family business. Four generations work at Cerino restaurants, and her grandson Eddie Cerino has branched out to open pizzerias in Parma and Lakewood. I regret I never had the chance to try Dominic Cerino III’s cooking and the Blue Egg Ravioli. Dominic is missed by many foodies, may he rest in peace. As for the Blue Egg Ravioli, you had to call and order it ahead of time, but they stopped serving it several years ago.

This is not a hip place, but it also does not contend to be. It’s all about the food. The food and menu is very traditional: bread, soup or salad, and pasta come with every meal. The pasta is homemade and delicious.

The bread came out warm, and the butter was nice and soft. There is nothing I hate more than cold, rock-hard butter. saladThere were two choices of bread – one plain and one with an herb mix and sun-dried tomatoes. Each dish comes with your choice of a soup or salad.

I ordered the soup as my side and then ordered a side salad for an additional $1.95. The salad was pretty decent and was topped with some cucumbers, chickpeas, tomatoes, shredded cheese and a couple small slices of salami. The dressing was a bright Italian.

I am a huge fanweddingsoup of Italian wedding soup, so my choice was easy. The Italian wedding soup which was very flavorful and an interesting twist to a traditional recipe. There was one big meatball in the middle and some fresh spinach leaves and little bits of chicken throughout the broth. It was a very good soup.

One of my fellow diners ordered the French Onion Soup and was extremely pleased with it. I love a good French onion soup, and this one had scads of cheese, which is a bonus. I’ll be sure to order it myself some time.IMG_0945

I had heard great things about their chicken parmesan and white sauce, so my choice was an easy one. The chicken parmesan is a sauteed boneless, skinless breast of chicken finished in the oven with sliced tomato, prosciuttini and mozzarella. The chicken was well-seasoned and moist. It came with housemade spaghetti with a choice of sauce. I of course ordered the white sauce because it is fairly unique. I have no idea what is in the white sauce, but it wasn’t overpowering at all. It was, in fact, quite subtle and not at all cheesy or too creamy. The pasta was cooked perfectly al dente, and the sauce was delicious. It was a really nice accompaniment to the chicken.

Most of my fellow diners ordered some version of the chicken parm. One friend ordered the Parmesan Crusted Tilapia and was extremely pleased with it. It was tender, flaky and perfectly broiled.chickenparm_whitesauce

The desserts there were nothing but amazing. The two standouts were the chocolate bomb and the tiramisu, but the cassata cake was also really well executed.

There is a reason Carrie Cerino’s has such a large location – it draws the crowds because they consistently turn out great food at a reasonable price.

They are open for lunch Tuesday – Friday from 11:30 am to 3:00 pm and dinner Tuesday – Thursday from 4:00 pm to 9:00 pm. Friday and Saturday they are open from 4:00 pm to 10:00 pm, and on Sunday from 1:00 pm to 6:00 pm. They are also open on Mondays in December.

Here are some other photos from our delicious meal:

Eggplant Parmesan and side of spaghetti

Eggplant Parmesan and side of spaghetti

Eggplant Parmesan and side of risotto

Eggplant Parmesan and side of risotto

Chicken Parmesan with spaghetti

Chicken Parmesan with spaghetti

Not sure - this could be chicken or veal.

I believe this is the Veal Parmesan.

Parmesan Crusted Tilapia

Parmesan Crusted Tilapia

Tuscan Chicken and Risotto

Tuscan Chicken and Risotto

Cassata cake

Cassata cake

Chocolate Bomb

Chocolate Bomb



Contact info:

Carrie Cerino’s Ristorante & Party Center
8922 Ridge Road
North Royalton, OH 44133
(440) 237-3434


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.