Nighttown

July 20, 2018

Nighttown celebrated its 50th birthday on February 3, 2015. It is truly a Cleveland institution. Its owner, Brendan Ring, has been the bartender, general manager, and proprietor for 22 years. The food is really good, but you should definitely go when there is live music to really enjoy it.

Photo by Yelp user Steve F.

The restaurant/nightclub at the top of Cedar Hill in Cleveland Heights has been voted the #1 Jazz and Blues club in Cleveland for many years now. I’ve seen several top names here, including Manhattan Transfer, Basia, Diane Schuur, and Jane Monheit. I’ve also heard that some famous jazz folks like Wynton Marsalis and musicians like Stevie Wonder have stopped here after nearby performances for an impromptu jam session. I can’t even imagine how awesome that was. If you come here for a performance be sure to come early, because seating is first come, first served. The room is small and there really aren’t any bad seats in the place, but it allows you to relax and enjoy your meal beforehand so you can focus on the performance. If you are claustrophobic, the sound carries into the dining rooms.

Pro tip: You can take advantage of the valet parking, but there is also a parking lot behind the building with parking meters. You can access the lot from Euclid Heights Boulevard. The kitchen is open until 2 a.m. if you are looking for late night eats in the area.

The first time I went here I ordered the Private Eye Reuben, which is named after Milan Jacovich, the fictional investigator from the Les Roberts mystery series. The Reuben is only available on the lunch or brunch menus. Nighttown is mentioned in several of the books (Milan lives at what I assume is Cedar and Fairmount and often walks to Nighttown for dinner), so I was excited to check it out. I ordered it with turkey, and it came with Swiss cheese, sauerkraut, and thousand island dressing and was served with French fries. If you do get it with corned beef, you should know that they make the corned beef in-house, and it is not too fatty.

Photo from Yelp user Jodi L.

I usually start my meal here with soup. Both Neal’s Famous Clam Chowder and the French Onion Soup are great choices, although I had to add salt to the clam chowder the last time I ordered it. They always come out piping hot. The Italian wedding soup was also quite lovely during my most recent visit. And I also don’t know too many restaurants that serve steamed whole artichokes. It’s served with drawn butter and lemon.

IMAG5783My absolute favorite thing on their menu is the Dublin Lawyer, which consists of lobster meat over a wild rice pilaf in a heavy cayenne butter cream sauce with mushrooms, scallions, and Irish whiskey. When I treated my parents to see Diane Schuur I suggested my father order it, and he loved it as well. Since this is my ‘happy meal’ I rarely order anything else. In fact, I have even ordered it through Delivermefood when I was in the wheelchair for a month a few years back. The lobster is always perfectly poached, and the whiskey cream sauce is a delight. Paired with a salad you have a great meal.

The Veal Meatloaf is fantastic and a great value. It comes with crème fraiche mashed potatoes, fresh vegetables and Madeira mushroom gravy. The last time I had it the veggies were green beans. The meatloaf was very rich from the addition of veal, and I saved half of it for a sandwich the next day. I loved the mashed potatoes and gravy together too.

Their Grilled Delmonico is topped with foie gras butter, served with cider braised kale and roasted fingerling potatoes and is a great choice for those of you who are gluten-free. My mother enjoyed hers without the foie gras butter since she also can’t eat dairy.

My best friend is a vegetarian. She loves the Grilled Halloumi Kebobs, which feature skewered Cyprian sheep & goat’s milk cheese, served with citrus couscous, steamed asparagus and chive oil. They also have a stuffed squash on their winter menu that she adores as well.

I’ve also been here for a private brunch for a celebration for a friend who graduated from grad school. I’ve always heard good things about their brunch, and was not disappointed. On a recent visit I got to enjoy it on the patio/”three season room.” I ordered the Brioche French Toast, which is dipped in Grand Marnier batter and served with Canadian bacon. I enjoyed it a lot. The coffee mugs crack me up. They also have a Lobster Benedict that looks good. Several of my friends IMAG5784ordered it. I only wish I had taken a picture of it. You can order the Dublin Lawyer and several other entrees at brunch as well.

The Banoffee pie is a popular dessert. I was not sure what to expect, but I had recently learned about it online and wanted to try it. It features a graham cracker crust with bananas and toffee sauce. It is drizzled with dolce de leche and has a generous dollop of banana whipped cream on top. It was so sweet and filling that I was only able to eat a few bites of it and took the other half home for later.

Contact info:

Nighttown
12387 Cedar Road
Cleveland, OH 44106
(216) 795-0550

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Sérénite in Medina

June 29, 2018

I am a huge fan of EDWINS on Shaker Square, so I knew I wanted to support Brandon Chrostowski and his latest culinary institute in Medina. I organized a dinner with a bunch of my foodie friends shortly after it opened, and we trekked down to Medina looking forward to a good meal. We were not disappointed. The restaurant is located at the old Medina Steakhouse & Saloon. They have done a nice job paring the decor down to match the sophisticated French menu. There was ample parking and two main rooms to seat diners. There are even a few tables on the front porch for those who enjoy dining al fresco.

Despite my attempt to get there early I was the last to arrive due to heavy traffic. When I arrived the entire table was enjoying their French 75s. Who was I to buck the trend? The French 75 is one of my favorite drinks, but it can suffer from a heavy hand. Luckily the person behind the bar makes a perfect French 75. It was delightfully refreshing. There was some furor in Medina about whether Sérénite should be awarded a liquor license since the restaurant is a training ground for people in addiction recovery. I am glad good sense prevailed, and the restaurant was given a license. Their employees need to learn how to work around it without giving into the temptation, and if they do fail they are in a supportive environment that will catch them as they fall and quickly set them back on the path. I wish them all the best of luck! They also offer a non-alcoholic menu for those who prefer one. Since we were there in the early days our server was understandably nervous, but when something went awry she quickly and efficiently took care of it. Things go wrong when you dine out, especially in the first few weeks. It’s all how the service staff handle things, and they did a great job taking care of us. That said, for a table of 7 only one of us had a major issue, which was immediately rectified (one of my friend’s mac n cheese was lukewarm, but they whisked it away and quickly rectified the problem). Everyone else was delighted with their meals. She was too once the mac n cheese was hotter.

I ate here twice in the first two weeks of opening, once with a small group and then with a friend to enjoy a quick drink and nibble before my nieces’ middle school orchestra concert. Unfortunately I’ve been swamped with work and haven’t had the chance to write about it until now. As a result of my visits, I was able to sample about half the menu. Although Sérénite is similar to EDWINS it does not have an identical menu, which allowed me to try some new things. The biggest surprises were the frog legs and the artichokes. More on those later.

I decided to stick with a classic appetizer-entree-dessert on my first visit, so I tried not to fill up too much on any of the courses. I ordered the shrimp cocktail. The shrimp were plump and juice and averaged out to $3 a shrimp. The cocktail sauce had the perfect amount of horseradish bite to it. The presentation was also flawless.

I was able to try a frog leg, which was absolutely delicious and perfectly prepared. They are pan-fried in butter and garlic. The meat fell from the tiny bones and were a huge hit with my friends who ordered them. The serving size is generous, so I could imagine ordering them to share or even as an entree.

After spending the afternoon studying the online menu deciding what to order I was surprised to see a range of other choices available, including several steaks. To see page two click on the arrow at the bottom of the online menu that appears when you hover over it. Don’t be a noob like me. That said, the restaurant may want to change their format if they want older, less savvy diners to be aware of page two.

I had decided on the Steak Frites (hanger steak with fries and Bérnaise sauce), but when I arrived and saw the other choices I was torn. After consulting with the server and my fellow diners I decided to order a steak along with a couple of sides. The ‘Le Boeuf’ steaks do not come with sides. You have to order them a la carte. I ordered the artichokes from the appetizer section and the risotto from the sides. I decided to order a New York prime strip steak, but could have also ordered the filet mignon or a bone-in ribeye. The steaks come with a sauce of your choice. I chose the Bordelaise sauce and could not have been more pleased. Bordelaise is a red wine demi-glace with shallots and butter. It was flavorful without overpowering the flavor of the steak. I was also able to taste the au poivre (cognac cream sauce with demi-glace and green peppercorns) and Béarnaise (rich butter sauce with tarragon vinegar and shallots) sauces. The other sauce is a Diane sauce featuring demi-glace, mushrooms, shallots, brandy and cream), which I knew I loved but decided to order something I don’t make myself. For those of you who are wondering what demi-glace is, it is a combination of espagnole sauce and a rich brown stock. The strip steak was extremely flavorful and tender, just as it should be. I loved the Bordelaise sauce as well. The braised artichokes were tender, and the white wine butter sauce delicious. The risotto features mushrooms, which is what made me decide to order it over the frites. The rice was al dente, and the flavor was phenomenal. I took half of everything home and enjoyed the meal again the next day for lunch. After all, I needed to save room for dessert.

I am a huge fan of EDWINS’ creme brulee. I think it is the best I have ever had. So I wanted to order it, but then learned that they also offer Bananas Foster, which is prepared tableside. Luckily, one of my friends and I decided to share both. The creme brulee was just as delicious as I remembered, creamy with a nice crust of caramelized sugar that broke with a tap of the spoon and complemented the custard. The surprise for me was that I adored the Bananas Foster even more. The tableside preparation was enjoyable, even though I have seen it prepared before in New Orleans. The chef did a great job with it. The bananas were perfectly flambeed and were a great complement to the creamy vanilla ice cream. I would definitely go back just for the Bananas Foster!

And go back I did within the week. I learned that my oldest niece was going to be the concertmaster of her middle school orchestra, so I decided to go down early and enjoy a quick bite with my friend who I had shared the desserts with. We sat at the bar this time and both ordered two appetizers. I chose the lobster bisque (I love French onion soup, but did not want to drip it) and the escargot. The lobster bisque was delightful – creamy and a nice underlying sherry base. But the star of the meal was the escargot. The Burgundy snails came out bubbling in the butter and garlic, and I enjoyed sopping up the sauce with Sérénite’s great homemade bread. I paid my bill and rushed out to go to the concert and was able to greet another friend who was taking her parents out for a nice meal as they walked in.

I wish I lived closer, because the Bananas Foster alone is worth the trip. Your meal can be fairly cheap if you stick with a few of the lower end items on the menu, but it can also be a perfect ‘special night’ venue if you are willing to splurge a little. I highly recommend you check them out as well and support their worthy cause.

Contact info:

Sérénite Restaurant & Culinary Institute
538 W Liberty St
Medina, OH 44256
(330) 952-2611


Lox, Stock and Brisket

May 27, 2018

Lox, Stock and Brisket opened recently at Cedar Center in the old Ribsticks storefront. They did not have to do much with the place. It looks a lot like the old Ribsticks. There was another food service place there very briefly, but Chef Anthony Zappola and his family took over the lease. He heard about the smoker, so he decided to smoke meats and open a Jewish deli. He used to own a restaurant in Las Vegas called The Rice Shop, but he wanted to move home to northeast Ohio after living and working in numerous restaurants in several major cities. A Solon native, this spot truly is a family affair. His mother works behind the counter and makes the matzoh ball soup. They are very responsive with food allergies. One of my friends has a soy allergy, which limits her a lot. They were able to find something she could order and promised to use a different oil that isn’t soy-based in the future. How awesome is that?The menu revolves around smoked meats and dishes inspired by the neighborhood around it. They offer a good matzo ball soup (with chunks of celery, carrot and chicken), a lox platter with cream cheese, capers, chopped egg and chopped red onion, and a bunch of delicious sandwiches featuring brisket, smoked turkey, lox, tuna salad and a breaded chicken schnitzel. They make most everything in-house, including the smoked fish, lox, and pickles.

I heard about Lox, Stock and Brisket the day it opened and went to check it out the very next day. During the first visit I ordered the matzo ball soup, the Santa Monica and the potato salad. I love the matzo ball soup. It’s not just broth. There are chunks of carrot, celery and moist chicken in it. The smoked turkey on the turkey sandwich was moist, and the BBQ sauce and mustard were not too heavy. I absolutely loved the potato salad. It is a red skin potato salad and is perfectly creamy.

On my second visit (the very next today) I went back to try the brisket. The “Rueben” is named after his childhood friend and features thick chunks of brined and smoked brisket, Cleveland Kraut, Swiss cheese and Russian dressing. As those who follow this blog know, I am not a fan of corned beef because it’s too salty and fatty in my opinion. This is now the ultimate Reuben for me – featuring a tender and flavorful brisket without too much fat or salt. It is now my favorite Reuben ever. The brisket is served in thick chunks of flavorful meat – not too fatty or salty (although one of my friends was less than impressed with it and reported that one bite had it coming out in one piece due to some gristle). The one I had was perfect. The Russian dressing and kraut on a nice rye bread were just right. I wasn’t as enthused with the coleslaw, but it was good. But I prefer a very creamy coleslaw, so my choice is subjective based on my tastes.

I ordered the Roz (above left), which is the Rueben but with thick slices of turkey, on a subsequent visit. It was also a very good sandwich, with good slaw and cheese. I think I like the brisket more though. My friend with the allergies thoroughly enjoyed her Upper East Side. I can’t wait to try the rest of the sandwiches – the Buttermilk Chicken Schnitzel looks especially delicious.

The lox was a nice smoked salmon, and it was a nice sized portion. I had stopped at Bialy’s beforehand to pick up a couple bagels to enjoy with it. The lox platter came with crackers, but frankly I ended up feeding them to the birds. I’m not a huge cracker fan and don’t ever eat them with soup. Lox, Stock and Brisket’s lox platter with a Mish Mosh bagel from Bialy’s was everything.

The service was great. They definitely made me feel welcome. I see myself becoming a regular with quality – and matzo ball soup – this good. Items like brisket, turkey, lox and tuna salad are also available by the pound.

Contact info:

Lox, Stock and Brisket
13892 Cedar Road
University Heights, OH 44118
(216) 471-8175


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


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