Luigi’s in Akron

May 9, 2018

Akron isn’t necessarily Cleveland, but if it’s good enough for Akron native LeBron James to be from “Cleveland,” then I can certainly feature a restaurant in Akron here. Luigi’s is an institution and has been an Akron tradition since 1949. It is open 7 days a week for lunch or dinner and is open until 2 a.m. on Fridays and Saturdays (they recently changed to a 2 a.m. close time instead of 3 a.m.). Beer and wine is served until 1 a.m. Reservations are not accepted, and they only accept cash or “local checks.” I’m not sure if they consider Cleveland local. In any event, I first started coming here when I was in grad school at Kent State University. Luigi’s is about as old school Italian as it gets. It was also the inspiration for Montoni’s Pizza in the Funky Winkerbean and Crankshaft comic strips, including the bandbox over the front door. Cartoonist Tom Batiuk was born in Akron and attended Kent State. Luigi’s is not gourmet, but it is good, solid, stick-to-your-bones fare. It’s extremely traditional. The tabletops are melamine, the menus are checked, the walls are fresco paintings, and the wood is dark. Most nights there is a line for a table out the door, so I tend to go during the lunch hour or off hours. They have great lunch specials until 3 p.m. But if you do find yourself in a line you will not be waiting for hours. The line moves quickly with several dining rooms available.

Luigi’s is known for its salads, because it has a ton of whole milk mozzarella cheese with a little iceberg lettuce, black olive and sliced radish underneath. Paired with their House Italian dressing, it is a nice balance to the heartier pizza and pasta they serve. The antipasto salad features salami, pepperoncini, olives, tomatoes, radishes, and mozzarella cheese. You can also add pepperoni, tuna or anchovies for an extra price. The complimentary bread is a really nice Italian bread, with a nice crust yet chewy center, served with packs of butter.

One of the best lunch specials around is the “slice and salad” combination. You get a small salad and a slice of pepperoni or cheese pizza for $4.35. Not bad for such a low price.

I have always loved their pasta. Spaghetti, rigatoni, ravioli – it’s all good to me. My go-to order has always been the Baked Pasta Combo (but be sure to emphasize the Pasta because you might find yourself served a Baked Combo Casserole, which is a baked meatball and sausage combo with no pasta in sight). It is a nice choice when you can’t decide if you want rigatoni or cheese ravioli. The pasta comes either with marinara or meat sauce. It is then covered in cheese and baked. The sauce is not spicy, but it is very good.

I recently ordered the Baked Florentine Ravioli on a whim and fell in love. It’s a spinach ravioli with a filling that is somewhat reminiscent of the Stouffer’s spinach souffle. The ravioli are not jammed with filling, but there is enough that it is a tasty ravioli. I ordered it with the meat sauce and loved every bite. I will be ordering this again.

The pizza also comes in two sizes – small (4 slices) or large (8 slices). The large is not as large as you might think, but it’s enough for a couple slices per person. The pizza is fairly unique. I think the pizza is fairly reminiscent of a Detroit style pizza, in that it is a flat pan pizza with a high rising crust. The crust has a nice crunch to it and yet it is sufficiently doughy for this thick crust lovin’ gal. I prefer the red sauce pizzas with a little meat instead of the Bianco or plain cheese pizzas. The meat and toppings balance out the tomato of the sauce. The cheese pizzas tend to overwhelm the sauce too much. If you prefer to take your meal to go, they offer parbaked pizzas that you can bake in your oven at home for 10 minutes.

Most people complain about the fact that you have to pay cash (although they do have an ATM). As long as you are aware of it ahead of time and bring cash with you you’ll be fine. The prices are so low that you won’t be shelling out a ton of money on your meal. I recently ordered a dinner sized baked pasta, small tossed salad and two small pizzas (to go), which easily fed two people and another meal besides, and my bill was $37.45.

Contact info:

Luigi’s Restaurant
105 N Main Street
Akron, OH 44308
(330) 253-2999

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V’s Gourmet Fried Chicken and Ribs

April 28, 2018

V’s Gourmet Chicken is a tiny little take-out place in a tiny strip mall on Lakeshore Boulevard in Collinwood. It serves without a doubt the best fried chicken in Cleveland. It is take-out only, and every order is prepared fresh, so either call ahead or be prepared to wait. Luckily I live 8 miles from it so it doesn’t get cold, but even if it did the chicken would still be amazing because I’ve had it for leftovers and it stood up.

On a whim I ordered the fried zucchini and was very glad I did. The zucchini is sliced up into circles, breaded and fried. The outside is lightly breaded and crisp, while the inside has a delicious creaminess to it. I can highly recommend them.

The 3 piece fried chicken (wing, thigh and breast) is the most popular item on their menu. I can’t finish the whole 3-pc dinner at once, but it easily makes a couple of meals. The chicken breast alone was almost too big to fit into a Ziplock sandwich bag. I’ve had both the honey crisp and the seasoned breading. There are 8 breadings to choose from: Western, Mild, Honey Crisp, Seasoned, Coconut Crisp, Chipotle and Cajun. I personally like the Honey Crisp and Seasoned chicken. The chicken is crispy, juicy and perfectly seasoned.

Sometimes you don’t want to deal with the bones in fried chicken and might prefer a chicken tender. The chicken tenders are just as good as the fried chicken. They come in 5, 6, 10 or 15 pieces, and you can add a tender to any meal for $1.50 each. They offer the same seasoned breadings and 11 different dipping sauces. You can either get a 3 oz. cup for $0.75 or a 16 oz bottle for $5. The mild sauces are original BBQ, creamy honey mustard, creamy garlic, honey BBQ, honey glaze and teriyaki glaze. The spicy sauces are BBQ chipotle, creamy chipotle, berry jalapeno, creamy hot, Louisiana hot, Buffalo hot and chipotle pepper. I ordered creamy honey mustard and honey BBQ, and I preferred the creamy honey mustard. Get a couple different sauces and an even number of tenders and go to town.

The sides are hit or miss. The first time I had V’s chicken I was less than impressed with the sides. I also didn’t choose well. I’ve found over time that I do adore the coleslaw (nice and creamy with a nice jolt of horseradish). The rest are okay. The rice and greens have an Indian-like flavor profile. I’ve had it on good days and bad. When it’s good it is very good. The mashed potatoes and stuffing and gravy are okay, if a bit salty. The green beans are nothing to write home about, but I also don’t hate them. They are a nice vegetable option. I haven’t tried the JoJos (potato wedges) yet, but I hear they are great. Other choices include rice and beans, potato salad, buttered corn, baked beans and mac n cheese. I enjoy both the honey biscuit and the dinner rolls. If you want a hint of sweet order the honey biscuit. If you want a nice, soft, yeasty roll get the dinner roll.

They also offer ribs, fried fish, sandwiches, and salads, but I am all about the fried chicken.

Don’t forget about dessert! They have huge pieces of cake and cheesecake on offer. I have had the cherry cheesecake and the banana cream cheesecake. If you love banana cream you will love this cheesecake. Both cheesecakes were nice and creamy, but the banana cream cheesecake had me swooning. The cherry cheesecake topping offered a sweet contrast to the creamy cheesecake. I’m not a huge cake person, but everything always looks great.

Contact info:

V’s Gourmet Chicken
15418 Lakeshore Boulevard
Cleveland, OH 44110
(216) 738-7000
Open Monday through Saturday from 11 AM to 8 PM and Sunday from 3-7 PM


Meals on Wheels

April 16, 2018

I’ve been delivering Meals on Wheels for about 10 years now, first in Solon and now in Cleveland Heights. As much as I love to check out the latest restaurant and take in all the great food Cleveland has to offer, I am also aware that there is a percentage of the population who do not have that luxury. Millions of seniors nationwide are struggling with hunger, isolation, and the ability to pay for basic living needs. One in six of our seniors struggle with hunger.

Meals on Wheels is a program that delivers meals to individuals at home who are unable to purchase or prepare their own meals. The name is often used generically to refer to home-delivered meals programs, not all of which are actually named “Meals on Wheels”. Because they are housebound, many of the recipients are the elderly, and many of the volunteers are also elderly but able-bodied and able to drive automobiles.

Meals on Wheels originated in the United Kingdom during the Blitz, when many people lost their homes and therefore the ability to cook their own food. The concept of delivering meals to those unable to prepare their own evolved into the modern programs that deliver mostly to the housebound elderly, sometimes free, or at a small charge. MOW America started in the U.S. in 1974. The first program began in Philadelphia, and Columbus, Ohio was the second city in the U.S. to establish a community based meals program. In 2016, Meals on Wheels provided approximately 218 million meals to 2.5 million Americans. Approximately 500,000 of the recipients are veterans. The annual meal cost is $2,765.

In March 2017, President Donald Trump’s proposed budget cuts to block grants that go towards spending on Meals on Wheels. Defending these cuts, director of the Office of Management and Budget Mick Mulvaney said that “Meals on Wheels sounds great” but that the program is one of many that is “just not showing any results. This is not true. A 2013 study on the impact of home-delivered meal programs found that “all but two studies found home-delivered meal programs to significantly improve diet quality, increase nutrient intakes, and reduce food insecurity and nutritional risk among participants. Other beneficial outcomes include increased socialization opportunities, improvement in dietary adherence, and higher quality of life.”

No one is turned away from Meals on Wheels due to inability to pay. The cost for meals is based on a sliding scale, and the staff works with the client to determine an affordable fee based on the senior’s gross monthly income minus certain expenses. Meals on Wheels also accepts SNAP (food stamps) for payment. Our seniors pay about $1.35-5.00 for each delivery day. They receive one hot meal and one cold meal. Dietary issues and food preferences can be taken into account. For example, one client in Solon hated wheat bread, and it was marked on the delivery sheet. Also, diabetic meals with a diabetic-friendly dessert are labeled accordingly. One gentleman gets a frozen meal delivered with his hot and cold meals, and frozen meals are also available on national holidays. We do not deliver on holidays, such as Easter Monday this year because the church was closed. Today the church was having plumbing repairs done, so we were able to deliver out of the kitchen of Disciples Church on Mayfield Road.

Speaking from my own experience, sometimes I am the only person these homebound seniors see all day. They are always happy to see me and bring a smile to my face. My favorite client in Solon always had a huge grin on her face when she greeted me. I learned several years later from her son that she had Alzheimer’s and had no idea who I was, but she was so happy to have food delivered. I have been lucky. If no one comes to the door we always call their home and if there is no response we then call the Office on Aging or Senior Center that oversees the program. Most of the time it is just a matter of having a doctor’s appointment and forgetting to cancel the delivery that day. However, some drivers have reported finding clients injured on the floor or even dead. I hope it is a myth, but I have heard of at least one senior waiting to commit suicide before the driver arrived so that their body would be found.

The meals in Solon are/were picked up out of a retirement home cafeteria, and we provided our own coolers and bags. The hot meals were delivered in those big styrofoam take-out containers, so I had a large cooler to fit them all. The cold meals were bagged in plastic shopping bags. Cleveland Heights picks up from a retirement home and delivers the food to Fairmount Presbyterian, where it is portioned out and reheated in their oven. Cleveland Heights provides coolers and bags for the drivers, and the hot meals are delivered in handmade cozies to keep them warm. We return the coolers, bags, cozies and clipboard to the church when we are done.

I have included some photos from today’s delivery, because I had a client who was not home. When that happens I am allowed to do whatever I see fit with the meals. I have been known in the past to give it to one of the homeless on Carnegie Avenue. I decided to eat it myself today (thanks Tax Day). The hot meal featured beef stew, rice and what I thought were beans but ended up being asparagus that was overcooked to an inch of its life (but still tasty). The beef stew was actually quite good. The cold meal is always a sandwich, a piece of fruit, a carton of milk, a dessert and some kind of side salad. Today it was a turkey and American cheese sandwich (with two slices of turkey instead of one – we had complaints) and mayo and mustard packets, a carton of milk, an orange, a slice of cake, and cottage cheese with a cherry tomato. The meals are always balanced and nutritious.

At this moment, thousands of homebound seniors across America are on waiting lists to receive Meals on Wheels. If you would like to help, a donation could help us fight for the resources our programs need to serve vulnerable seniors. At the local level you could call the local senior center and see what they need. Our delivery coolers are getting pretty ragged, for example, and we are constantly running out of cozies. You can also volunteer your time picking up food, packing the food or delivering meals.

I hope you forgive my indulgence today of spreading the word about Meals on Wheels. I know many people are not sure what it involves. Hopefully this little blog post helped. Thank you.

Contact info:

Meals on Wheels


Kifaya’s Kitchen

April 10, 2018

Is the name Kifaya’s Kitchen or Kafaya’s Kitchen? According to the storefront sign it is Kifaya’s Kitchen, but social media calls it Kafaya’s Kitchen. No matter the spelling, I call it delicious. The phone number on their Facebook page is disconnected. The phone number on Yelp (below) works. Kifaya’s has been in business since 2013. One of my friends had read about it and wanted to try it, so I scheduled an evening with some fellow adventurous diners.

I had never had Somalian food before and didn’t really know what to expect. As anyone who follows me knows, I love being adventurous and will try anything. Ethiopian? Bring it on. Afghani? Yum. Squid on a stick? Yes, please. It turns out Somalian is like a cross between Arabic, Mediterranean and Indian with a little Italian thrown in for good measure.

It is an unassuming storefront on W. 117th. The place itself is very small, and there is a limited menu. You can order goat, chicken, fish, beef or vegetable with pasta or rice. The door was propped open, but since it was 35 degrees out and we were right by the door we asked to close it. It then got quite hot with the door closed. It appears their ventilation system is inadequate.

They were very accommodating for our large group of ten (with a reservation since it was a larger group – I wanted to give them a heads up we were coming). We almost filled up the place on our own, although there were two other tables of diners when we arrived. We sat around a long table and pulled chairs on the ends. I was glad I had called ahead.

Orders are placed at a counter (where you also pay at the end). We ordered in waves in order to not overtax the kitchen, but it turns out that was unnecessary. People who ordered last got served at the same time as the first wave of people who ordered because we had ordered similar things. It took a little longer to get the Kaykay delivered to the table, because it was a little more involved.

There is a sink in the dining room to wash your hands. Beverages and bananas were brought out while we waited for our food. Pro tip: the bananas are not an appetizer. They are to be sliced or mashed and mixed with the rice or pasta. The food was quickly brought to the table, and any minor mix-ups were quickly rectified without complaint.

Everything here is made from scratch, meat tossed upon a large flat-top grill and sautéed with vegetables and an array of spices. The quality of the food was excellent. It is very reminiscent of Indian food, with shai (chai), samosas and jabatic (chapati-like flatbread) served along with stewed or grilled meats and veggies. I ordered the goat with rice and vegetables, and another friend ordered the chicken so that we could try both.

Others in the group enjoyed pasta (angelhair pasta – although they call it spaghetti) or Kaykay (grilled jabatic mixed with goat gravy) instead of rice. The goat had some bones, but it was so tender that the meat easily fell off the bone. I enjoyed the goat, but preferred the chicken. The chicken had a very nice grilled flavor to it. The Basmati rice and sautéed vegetables were absolutely outstanding. The rice is flavored with fenugreek, cumin, coriander, cardamom and turmeric. I loved the sautéed greens, white beans and rice. Other vegetables include peas and carrots, potatoes, and okra. They also served a green chopped salad of greens with cucumber, red onion, green pepper and tomato with fresh lemon for acidity. Squeeze bottles of hot sauce and ranch dressing were delivered to the table, and the server suggested the ranch went particularly well with the chicken. I just put it on my salad, preferring the taste of the meat to be unadulterated.

The jabatic was like Indian griddled bread, but slightly sweet. It was a little greasy, but it was very thin and light, reminiscent of a scallion pancake. It had a slightly sweet flavor to it. We used forks, but I could imagine using the jabatic as a kind of injera to eat the food with our hands.

The kitchen served us chicken samosas when several of the folks had only ordered the beef. The server put it on the table, and we cut it into 8 pieces and shared it. Someone then did the same with the beef samosa. The filling in both samosa was different from Indian samosas. It was ground meat with some onion and no vegetables like the Indian potato and peas that I could see. The samosa themselves were perfectly fried and not at all greasy. The pastry was very delicate, and the filling was very flavorful. I think I preferred the beef over the chicken, but both were lovely.

The beverages are all $1 each. I ordered the shai (Yemeni tea), which I loved. I rarely find a chai that I enjoy. The flavors of cardamom, cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, and clove really shine here. I ordered it with milk, but it is also available without. I find most chais watery. Not so here. It was absolutely perfect. I had also ordered two cans of soda, but since the food was not as spicy as I expected I ended up taking the second can home with me. They had a container of what looked like mango juice in the dining area for people to drink, but it was almost gone by the time we were there.

The portions were enormous, and most of us got boxes for our leftovers. I will be definitely going back again soon. I want to have the chicken again and really want to try the fish as well. If you want to have a fun culinary adventure, I recommend checking out Kifaya’s Kitchen. It is open every day from 11 a.m. until 9 p.m.

Contact info:

Kifaya’s Kitchen
3650 W 117th Street
Cleveland, OH 44111
(216) 219-8263


Bonus Fish Fry Friday – La Vera Party Center

April 1, 2018

I thought fish fry season was over, but it turns out it was only the churches because of their Good Friday services. Restaurants and alternative venues like Big Met Golf Course were still dishing out fish and other Lenten-friendly foods. Being raised Lutheran the only day we really refrain from eating meat is on Good Friday. I usually forget and remember as I bite into a sandwich or enjoy something with bacon. This year I was good and stayed meatless.

I’ve been hearing about La Vera and its fish fry for a few years now. My old hairdresser grew up there and still spends New Year’s Eve there with her family. Her mother is apparently quite well-known there, being an old Italian family in Cleveland (her aunt runs a small place in Little Italy for primarily locals). One of my friends is a huge fan of the fish fry and goes every year (if not twice in the season), so I spontaneously decided to give it a try on Good Friday.

La Vera has been in business as a catering and event center since 1952. It can accommodate events ranging from 100-720 guests for a variety of junctions including weddings, proms, bar and bat mitzvahs, anniversary parties, luncheons, holiday company parties, sales rallies, seminars, auction and fund raisers. So finding parking was not a problem. They have a spacious parking lot in back.

TLDR: I was underwhelmed, but will give it another shot next year.

I rolled up on La Vera just before 6 PM. I figured it was prime fish fry attendance time and expected a line. To my surprise there was only a back up at the entrance due to someone with a walker and a couple other people chit-chatting and blocking the hallway. I followed the guy in front of me to the dining area. The reservations and credit card customers have their own dining room, because he and his wife were sent on their way to the other room. I paid my $11 to the cashier and was shown to a table. I was surprised, because it had been advertised as $12 per person.

The venue itself was very pretty. Ornate statues, mirrors and chandeliers. My mother’s godmother would have felt right at home. And they had a coat room, which was a nice touch.

After sitting for a second I asked the folks at my table what to do. They directed me to the line where they were dishing out two kinds of fish and sides like macaroni and cheese, whipped potatoes, penne in marinara sauce, and cabbage and noodles. I decided to skip the whipped potatoes and got small portions of everything else. My plate was still full. I grabbed a roll, butter, tartar sauce, a plastic container of cole slaw and napkins and silverware. A woman was ladling out soup at the end of the table, but I could not carry it all. I put my plate down at my table and headed back to get salad and a bowl of soup. I also grabbed some non-alcoholic beverages that were lined up on the bar.

Everything was okay. My favorite thing that night was the cole slaw. I don’t know if the regulars were all at Good Friday services, but everything just tasted bland to me. Both the fried beer battered pollock and baked cod were also kind of dry and nothing to get excited about. I ate the pollock and left some cod on the plate. The cabbage and noodles were full of big pieces of cabbage. I almost salted everything up, but resisted. That soup that everyone raves about? The pasta fagioli? I just thought it was meh. Like watered down tomato soup. To be fair, I’m really not a huge fan of tomato soup. The salad was good, with a nice Italian dressing.

On the plus side, I really enjoyed chatting with my table full of strangers. We recommended various fish fries to one another and talked about the crime of big business stealing pensions from hard-working employees. One big plus was that the dessert table was still plentifully stocked when I went to grab some dessert (even though I was full and left a lot on my plate). There were trays of cookies, some jello and slices of cake. I grabbed a small piece of cake, which I found cloyingly sweet, but it grew on me and I enjoyed it. It was nice and moist.

And you can’t beat the price – $11/12 for all-you-can-eat. Unfortunately I can never eat more than one plate at AYCE spots. The guy next to me went back for seconds, and my friend’s friend went back for thirds the last time they were there. So if you value quantity over quality this is the place for you. Like I said, maybe I was just having an off night and am being a little harsh, because I have heard rave reviews from people whose opinions I value.

Contact info:

La Vera Party Center
32200 Chardon Road
Willoughby Hills, OH 44094
(440) 943-0087


Final Fish Fry Friday – Han Chinese Kabob and Grill

March 25, 2018

The original plan was to attend the fish fry at Benedictine High School on Friday. They serve a fried fish dinner (2 cod pieces), baked fish dinner (1 cod piece), shrimp dinner (9 pieces), or pierogi dinner (8 pierogies) for $8 per dinner ($7.50 for seniors), which includes a baked potato or french fries, coleslaw or applesauce, bread, condiments, and coffee, tea or milk. They also serve clam chowder, fried clams, grilled cheese sandwich, macaroni and cheese, and onion rings. I was excited to try it, but all of my friends were less excited (or sick of fried food) and bailed. I didn’t feel like going there and facing a crowd by myself, so I reached out to a friend to meet me somewhere different.

I had fond memories of the sweet and sour fish at Han Chinese Kabob and Grill on Payne Avenue, and I have been meaning to get back there to order it again. Since I do not need to observe Lent (I just do it for the love of fried fish) I also ordered the wonton soup, which includes pork dumplings. It is enough to share, so I shared it with my friend. I also ordered some less-than-exciting steam buns on a kebab (seriously boring – do not recommend). She ordered some pot stickers and the Orange Beef Tenderloin.

There are two sweet and sour fish (whole fish) on the menu, and I could not remember which one we had ordered last time. I explained that there were ginger and aromatics and that it was a whole fish. The servers suggested I order the Sweet & Sour Crispy Fish. I was a little skeptical that it was the one I remembered – and I’m not sure if it was, but that certainly did not detract from my absolute enjoyment of the dish. First of all, it was a beautiful sight, with the tail curled up. It was lightly fried and served over a luscious ginger and garlic sweet and sour sauce. This is not the gloppy, bright orange sweet and sour sauce you find at most Chinese restaurants. It is mouthwateringly good. I had to keep removing small bones, but I think that’s because I am less adept at deboning a filet. The meat inside was moist and succulent. I ate the whole thing and had no leftovers, which is rare for me. The cheeks in particular were a treat, and my friend also enjoyed her couple of bites. I likewise enjoyed the bite of her orange beef tenderloin entree as well. I have a feeling we ordered the Sweet and Sour Mandarin Fish (click to see the photo), but I will just have to order it to try it. That fish was easy to debone and just as delicious. I am just not sure if it was fried, and I seem to remember an eye – although it could have been a clove of garlic. In any event, I do not regret ordering it, because it was delicious and hit the spot perfectly. The place had a nice amount of traffic (the booths in the back appear to be very popular choices), and the servers were very friendly and accommodating.

So if you are looking for a different kind of meatless Friday, consider the fish at Han Kabob.

Contact info:

Han Chinese Kabob & Grill
3710 Payne Ave #110
Cleveland, OH 44114
(216) 769-8745


Fish Fry Friday #4 – Sokolowski’s University Inn

March 18, 2018

In keeping with the idea of alternating between church fish fries and restaurant fish fries, this week we went to Sokolowski’s University Inn. Sokolowski’s is an institution here in Cleveland. As their website touts, “Located in the heart of Tremont, Sokolowski’s University Inn has been serving delicious Polish and Eastern European cuisine since 1923. Overlooking the Cuyahoga River and Cleveland skyline, this James Beard Foundation “American Classics” Award-winning restaurant is a must-visit for locals and visitors alike. As Cleveland’s oldest owned and family operated restaurant, loyal customers line up time and time again to eat their favorite homemade dishes.”

And line up they do. We got there at 5:30 and the line extended all the way to the back of the building. Luckily I figured it would be bad and we entered using the door where the line started (the door is in the center of the above photo – it kind of looks like a chimney from here). My friend and I chatted with each other and with the folks around us. One older lady (she must have been 80 years old) was a total hoot, talking about marching in the St. Patrick’s Day Parade and trying to convince me to give Dyngus Day a visit. Her husband, who she had been with for 60 years, is a die-hard Indians fan and was flying to Arizona the next day to watch them train.

We finally found ourselves under the Smacznego sign at 6:15. We grabbed silverware, napkins and a tray and started sliding down the line. The desserts were tempting, but I knew I wouldn’t have room. I grabbed a Sprecher’s Orange Dream soda from the bin and continued on my way to the steam trays. My friend and I decided to get a Lake Erie perch dinner and a grilled rainbow trout and were going to share them. Once we got to the steam trays and saw the gorgeous beer battered cod we quickly changed our mind. We quickly had to decide which one not to order. I ordered the cod, and when they brought out fresh fried perch the decision was made really quickly. I grabbed a dinner roll and my plate of food (beer battered cod with pierogi and corn), loaded up on butter and sour cream, and paid my bill at the cash register. We told the guy carrying our trays how many people would be in our party, and he accompanied us to a table. My friend headed to the bar for a beer, while I headed to the salad bar.

After eating at Sokolowski’s so often I know my limits. I enjoyed my dinner roll, a salad loaded with fresh vegetables, cucumber salad, macaroni salad and cole slaw, and half of my meal. I packed up the other half to enjoy later. I had one piece of perch and one piece of cod. Both were moist and flaky. Absolutely fried to perfection. I can say without a doubt they were the best pieces of fish I’ve had all season. The pierogi were soft and pillowy potato goodness swimming in butter and onions. They were also the reason we were there. One of my friends had never had pierogi until Lent last year at Prosperity Social Club, and he was not that impressed with pierogi. I told him he had to try Sokolowski’s since they were probably the best in the city. He had one from his wife’s plates and enjoyed it more than the one last year. He had ordered the salmon as well as sweet potato mash, which he declared was “too sweet,” and roasted potatoes. He appeared to enjoy the salmon and roasted potatoes a lot, but left the sweet potato. His wife had the perch and pierogi. It was their first time at Sokolowski’s, and they were heading out to Pittsburgh for the weekend so they didn’t linger. Her verdict was “The pierogies were worth the trip!”

My friend who ordered the perch with me also enjoyed both the perch and cod. She loaded both up with lots of lemon juice. She peppered up the mashed potatoes and also thoroughly enjoyed the pierogi. We both knew what to expect and enjoyed our meals.

Two more of my fellow diners arrived late and were seated with us after I explained by text where we were sitting. They had never been there before either and didn’t know what to expect. They were surprised to see such a long line, but they took it in stride. In addition to giving her a few dining recommendations, one of guys in line with them recommended she get the Salisbury steak, so she did. It did look pretty amazing, and even though she had made meatloaf the day before she enjoyed it very much. She got the full-on carb experience – Salisbury steak, pierogi, cabbage and noodles and rice pudding. Right on! Apparently the rice pudding was a mix of rice and bread? Her friend ordered the lamb chops, which the food runner called “little steaks” along with the pierogi. She said they were good. We got a chuckle out of the mint jelly, which I had thought was green Jell-o. They both got boxes as well – and my one friend got a meal to go for her son – complete with a to go box for the salad bar for him (which you can see in the photo to the right).

Everyone left fat and happy, having enjoyed their meals. I don’t know if I would go for dinner again on a Friday during Lent (because they serve their fish specials every Friday throughout the year), but the line moved slow enough that there were always a few empty tables available. When we left around 7:30 the line had died down considerably (extending up the stairs but not through the dining room) and there were more available tables. They had run out of scrod by 6:30 though, so it pays to get there earlier rather than later.

Contact info:

Sokolowski’s University Inn
1201 University Rd
Cleveland, OH 44113
(216) 771-9236