Seven Roses in Slavic Village

September 18, 2016

There is no better deal in Cleveland than the lunch buffet at Seven Roses in Slavic Village. For a price ranging from $8.99-14.99 you can eat your fill of hearty Polish food. I had eaten at the Seven Roses in Beachwood back in the day, and always try to hit their stand at local Oktoberfests because the food is good.

Photo from Yelp user Stephen H.

Photo from Yelp user Stephen H.

My friend Kat’s summary best describes our experience, so I’ll start you off with that:

Had I not read some of comments on Yelp, I would have been totally confused. We sat ourselves and waited a short time for someone to come out of the kitchen. An elderly lady came out and asked if we were having soup. Sure. She brought out 2 flavorful cups of cabbage soup and then asked “Pepsi?” Sure. A bit later she brought out small plates of very creamy potato pierogi and a crisp potato pancake for each of us. (Ask for sour cream if you go, btw) We then helped ourselves to the buffet…because both this [Cleveland.com] review and Yelp told us they had one. Very good, as mentioned. When through, we were each brought a couple of pastries. I had a short conversation with the owner when I asked if there was vinegar in her soup. She asked if I’d ever had dill pickle soup. I hadn’t. When we went to the counter to get the bill, she had a quart container of some ready and gave it to me. Very sweet of her. We enjoyed lunch very much and for sure will be returning. Now you know the drill. Just nod, say “sure”, and enjoy.

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Now for the particulars of our visit. The cabbage soup was the absolute highlight for me. It was simple, but had a great flavor to it. I definitely could have eaten a bowl of it. I wasn’t too keen on the choice of Pepsi, especially because I was so thirsty and there was no air conditioning (only fans). Next time I’ll ask for water as well.

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The potato pierogi were indeed creamy, almost slippery in texture. They were obviously homemade and were very light. They weren’t as good as Sokolowski’s, but whose is? The potato pancake was delicious as well, and I didn’t really need the requested sour cream.

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The food that is served varies, but the kielbasa and stuffed cabbage appear to be a constant. The buffet was in a little corner and featured some small stuffed cabbage, some meatballs of some sort, what I think were broasted chicken thigh, kielbasa and sauerkraut, mashed potatoes, spaetzel, and super-dried-out mixed vegetables. I particularly enjoyed the chicken, stuffed cabbage and kielbasa. I had filled my plate and my eyes were actually larger than my stomach. I did not go back for a second round and could barely finish the first one.

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After we were finished they brought us a small plate of Polish pastry, which I wrapped up and took home for later. I particularly enjoyed the poppyseed cake.

Like I said, pricing is hit or miss. It’s cash only, and you pay at the register when you are done. We paid $14.99 while others have reported paying $8.99 for the same experience. It’s a mystery. That said, it’s still a steal with the amount of food you get for the low price.

Contact info:

Seven Roses
6301 Fleet Avenue
Cleveland, OH 44105


Porco Lounge and Tiki Room

September 8, 2016

2016-08-05-05_43_25I love a good cocktail, and I tried to get here for several years. Plans would be made and then fall through. Finally I got a chance to go there for happy hour with some friends, and I fell in love with the place. The drinks are strong, the music is from the 1980s and the ambiance is top notch. The ambiance is also dark, so I had to use the flash to get the photos to be halfway decent.

We ventured our way right before the Republican National Convention hit Cleveland because we heard the “Love Trumps Hate” billboard was nearby. IMAG6356In fact, it was on the left side of the bridge heading south just before you reach Porco. As far as I know it is still there. Whether Mr. Trump or his campaign staff saw it is doubtful.

All of the drinks here are hand-crafted and incredibly tasty. My first choice was the Planet of the Apes, which features banana, pineapple and orange flavors and three rums. I loved it. I’m all about fruity drinks, and if they are garnished with a plastic mermaid all the IMAG6348better! My friend ordered a Gin Mai Tai off the happy hour menu. We all loved it so much we ordered it for our second round. It was super refreshing. Since the drinks are so potent and I was driving I ordered a non-alcoholic tiki drink for my third drink. The waitress had them make up some kind of fruity drink that was heavy on coconut and pineapple flavors. I left a very happy camper.

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Photo by my friend Edsel because mine was too dark

I was hungry, so I wanted to order something to nibble on. I decided to order the Closing Time Nachos, which are advertised as having pretty much everything in the kitchen on them. This includes tortilla chips, black beans, jalapenos, pork rinds, melted cheese, BBQ sauce, chorizo, salsa and pulled pork. I ordered them with “no meat” and they came without the chorizo and pulled pork, but with those lovely pork rinds. Our vegetarian just didn’t eat those. More for us! The nachos were IMAG6353absolutely magical. I loved the addition of BBQ sauce, which gave it a hint of sweetness. I was craving them the next day.

We soon went back for another happy hour at Porco a few weeks later. The nachos weren’t as magical because I ordered them “vegetarian” this time. Everyone agreed that something wasn’t the same. I think it was the lack of pork rinds and the light hand with the BBQ sauce. They also appear to have added pico de gallo. We weren’t as hungry as we were IMAG6543the first time, and there were only two of us. Luckily my friend’s boyfriend showed up and was drunk and hungry, so he ate half of them for us.

This time I ordered Heart of Darkness, which features passion fruit, honey and citrus with some alcohol. I love me some passion fruit. My second drink was a Limon Dee, which they bill as tasting like a key lime pie. It did not disappoint and came in a fake coconut, which I was particularly thrilled about.

I can’t wait to try the Fogg Cutter, complete with dry ice.

Pro tip: go early, if you can. We try to arrive between 4:30 and 5:00 and have managed to park in their small parking lot and get seats in the air-conditioned main room. It has been too hot to enjoy the patio, but once the weather cooled we enjoyed a lovely night on the patio as well.

This has quickly become my favorite bar in Cleveland.

Contact info:

Porco Lounge and Tiki Room
2527 W 25th Street
Cleveland, OH 44113


Lunch buffet on the Nautica Queen

August 28, 2016

When the weather is beautiful there is nothing better than taking a river or lake cruise in Cleveland. Whether it’s the Goodtime III or the Nautica Queen it is definitely something special that always makes me happy.

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I recently went on an afternoon cruise on the Nautica Queen with my local translators group. The dock is located next to the Powerhouse and Cleveland Aquarium. We shared the boat with several groups, including a wedding party and a family reunion. For $24.95 we were treated to some great views of the Flats, the lake and the Cleveland skyline as well as a buffet lunch and gratuity. Tea, coffee and iced tea were included with the price. Soft drinks and alcoholic beverages were extra. They did not have any bottled water.

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The food isn’t going to win any awards, but it was pretty good. We were ushered to the buffet by table and after filling our salad plates with some rather fresh salad fixings the plates were taken from us and deposited at our seats, freeing our hands up for the larger plate. The salad bar was actually pretty good. I managed to make a very nice salad from the mixed greens and side salads, including a pasta salad and an antipasta salad. The dressing choices included ranch, poppyseed and I believe a vinaigrette of some sort.

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The choices that day included roast beef, chicken breast, fish and a rigatoni pasta with tomato sauce as well as mixed vegetables and mashed potatoes. I’m told the entrees and sides can vary. I particularly enjoyed the fish and the mashed potatoes. The roast beef was a little fatty, but it was moist and tender. The pasta and chicken breast were a little dry, but I don’t expect anything less from a buffet like this.

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After clearing our plates the waitress brought us a lemon cake with raspberry drizzle. It was a little dry but palatable.

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After we ate we watched the newlyweds dance their first dance (she sang to him the whole time – it was very touching), and then went up a level to the roof to enjoy the skyline and the sunshine. We left the dock at 11 and returned at 1. It was an enjoyable two hours spent on the lake. If you are looking for a fun thing to do with guests I can recommend this. The price doesn’t break the bank, and it is a relaxing couple of hours spent on our beautiful waterways. They also offer a dinner buffet, which I have been told is better than the lunch buffet, as well as a brunch buffet.

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They also cater wedding receptions, because I attended a wedding reception on the Nautica Queen about 12 or 13 years ago. I remember enjoying the dancing and the nighttime view of the Cleveland skyline.

Contact info:

Nautica Queen
1153 Main Ave
Cleveland, OH 44113
(216) 696-8888


The summer of ice cream

August 17, 2016

bananaIt’s been a while since I’ve posted here. Money has been tight, and I have been eating at home a lot. However, there is always room for ice cream. I’ve spent the summer exploring some of Cleveland’s oldest and most popular ice cream establishments. I was on a mission to find old-fashioned ice cream stands.

It all started out with a stop at Strickland’s of Streetsboro on Route 14 about a mile from the intersection with Route 43. I ordered their Banana Bowl ($4.25 including tip), which features one scoop of vanilla custard, 1/2 a banana, one topping (I chose butterscotch), peanuts and a cherry. TPhotoGrid_1471467709431he flavor combination was awesome, and I decided I needed many butterscotch sundaes in my life this summer. Unfortunately I have never managed to scrape up the nerve to ask them to add a banana to the butterscotch sundaes.

My next stop was Dairy King on Mayfield Road in South Euclid. I’m not sure if it is associated with the Dairy King in North Olmsted I used to visit as a high schooler, but it is awesome no matter what. I ordered a medium butterscotch PhotoGrid_1471467618514sundae for $2.75 and got a large because she “accidentally made a large.” It was huge, and I couldn’t finish it. But I kept coming back all summer. I also really like their peanut butter cup parfait ($4.75) – and where else can you buy a “mini” banana split for $1.35? They also sell hot dogs and fries.

Sandy’s Frozen Whip on Lake Shore Boulevard in Euclid also managed to get on my radar. I made a special trip there, and since I was craving a root beer float that is what IPhotoGrid_1471467568141 ordered. A root beer float and a foot-long chili dog with everything definitely brightened my day. The person working the counter (I think it might have been Sandy herself) was extremely friendly and helpful. She made a strawberry shortcake sundae while I was waiting for my chili dog that looked tempting for next time (sub ice cream for whipped cream on top).

I then went to the Apple Cart, one of Cleveland’s oldest ice cream stands on Superior Road. I ordered a butterscotch sundae for $2.50 (keep the change). The woman behind the counter asked if I wanted whipped cream and nutsIMAG6495 – of course. It definitely hit the spot. I had to chuckle driving home and seeing all the workers walking back to work with their ice cream cones. I’m going back soon for a cherry-dipped cone.

Two outliers I wanted to talk about are Snow Brothers Shavery and Koko Bakery’s shaved ice. They aren’t ice cream per se, but they are a cold treat on a hot day. Snow IMAG3132Brothers is a food truck that you can find at Night Market and various other festivals around the area. They shave their flavored ice to make “snow” and top it with condensed milk and various toppings. I chose the milk-flavored snow and topped it with blueberries and strawberries, but you can also choose mochi, red bean paste, Captain Crunch and a few other toppings. Koko Bakery also sells shaved ice. They sell Korean and Taiwanese shaved ice. I prefer the Taiwanese shaved ice. The price includes 3 toppings IMAG6162of your choice, and you can add additional toppings for an additional $0.90. I am a creature of habit and always choose lychee, kiwi and mango.

And of course no Cleveland ice cream post is complete without mention of Mitchell’s. Mitchell’s fresh strawberry ice cream was a divine pleasure when the strawberries were in season. I hear fresh peach ice cream is in season right now. Mitchell’s is always a treat, but this scoop of strawberry really stands out in my memory this summer. They unveiled a few flavors for the RNC and Cavs championship win. You’ve got to love a hometown favorite that is just as passionate about their hometown as well.

What’s your favorite old-fashioned local ice cream stand?

Contact info:

Strickland’s of Streetsboro
9070 Cleveland – East Liverpool Road (Route 14)
Streetsboro, OH 44241

Dairy King
4325 Mayfield Road
South Euclid, OH 44121

Sandy’s Frozen Whip
17635 Lakeshore Blvd
Cleveland, OH 44119

Apple Cart
4313 Superior Avenue
Cleveland, OH 44103

Mitchell’s Ice Cream
Various locations

Koko Bakery
3710 Payne Avenue
Cleveland, OH 44114


Taj India Palace

July 10, 2016

IMAG6218This little unassuming restaurant in a strip mall by Richmond Square Center blew us away the other night. I chose to eat there because it had ample parking close to the restaurant (I’m currently on crutches). I’m so glad I did, because the food was absolutely delicious. They serve both south and north Indian dishes, and there are lots of choices (both veg and non-veg) to choose from.

We started out ordering some appetizers. My friends ordered the Vegetarian Platter, which features samosa and potato, cauliflower and eggplant pakoras. I jokingly referred to it as the big plate of fried stuff. Well, they certainly fry things well. My IMAG6221friends raved about the vegetable samosa, so I ended up ordering a serving and eating one and taking one home. They also let me try a pakora, and it was lightly fried and not at all greasy. It had a crisp exterior and a light and fluffy interior.

I ordered the Garlic Naan, and my friend’s husband ordered the Peshwari Naan. He enjoyed it, but I can’t say anything about it since I didn’t try it. I was all about my Garlic Naan. The bread was fried light and thin and was very garlicky. I went home reeking of garlic and had plenty left over for the next day.

IMAG6222While looking at the menu online I noticed they had my favorite, Chicken Saag, on the menu, so I knew what I would be ordering. I liked the saag, which is chicken cooked with spinach. It was billed as medium hot, but there was no spice to it at all. I think I will ask for them to bring it up one notch next time. It was kind of bland and boring without any spice.

However, I was also in the mood for a mushroom dish and was dining with some friends who are vegetarians, so I decided to also order the Peas and Mushrooms, which are fresh IMAG6219peas and mushrooms in a “mildly spiced creamy sauce.” I am so glad I did, because this particular dish was mouthwateringly good even without the spice. My friend kept sneaking spoonfuls of it because she liked it as well. In return, I was able to get a bite of her Bombay Potatoes and try the sauce from her husband’s Malai Kotta (which was slightly sweet and very creamy).

We were hell bent on leftovers, so my friend also ordered the Masala Dosa. Honestly I have never been a fan of dosa. I have several friends who are crazy for them so I’ve had them before at several places. I have found the crepe to be somewhat dry and the filling quite meager in the Indian IMG_20160620_192542restaurants that serve them here. I now understand the love for Masala Dosa, because this dosa was so delicious. The potato and onion filling was plentiful and extended almost all the way through the dosa. The filling was also extremely buttery in flavor, with the onion almost carmelized and sweet. The bite I had was moist and delicious, and I was thrilled to learn they serve them along with the lunch buffet.

I don’t know what spices they use, but everything was extremely delicious. My friends, who love Indian food, were extremely impressed with the place, and so was I. I was so excited about the leftovers that I ended up eating them forIMG_20160623_134717 breakfast the next day and enjoyed every single bite.

They also offer a lunch buffet for $8.99, which I went back for several days later. The lunch buffet on the day I went there included tandoori chicken, butter chicken, a peas and saag dish, chana masala, utthapam (the pancake-looking bread), a cabbage dish (hidden under the utthapam and naan) that I very much enjoyed, naan, rice, some yogurt-based salads, a delicious rice pudding (kheer) and several other options. They also have a Grand Buffet for $10.99 on the weekend.

So if you are on the east side and are looking for some good Indian food, definitely be sure to check this place out!

Contact info:

Taj India Palace
5156 Wilson Mills Road
Cleveland, OH 44143
(440) 461-3737


Bialy’s Bagels

June 27, 2016

IMAG5986Bialy’s Bagels is a little circle of NYC heaven right here in Cleveland. Located in an unassuming strip mall on the corner of Silsby and Warrensville Heights Roads in University Heights, Bialy’s has been pumping out bagels and bialys for over 30 years. It is a grab and go place. Go in, buy a half dozen or dozen bagels, and head home to stuff your face with carby goodness. There are no tables. There are IMAG5985no cutesy bagel sandwiches. There are no schmears. Just bagels. If you need cream cheese or smoked salmon they have it in coolers, but bring your own knife to assemble it in your car.

The bagels are available in a variety of flavors, from plain, egg, poppy seed to Mish Mosh (everything) and everything in between. I think I remember seeing IMAG5983cinnamon and blueberry as well. Obviously the fresher the better, but they just keep making bagels all day so they are fresh no matter what. If you are lucky you’ll catch a batch right as they come out. When that happens they have a warm outer crust with a chewy inside. You won’t be able to not eat one in the car. Even when they are warm the bagels are nice and chewy – just as a bagel should be. There is some debate as to whether a bagel should be toasted. New Yorkers say only bad bagels should be toasted. IMG_20160513_183628These bagels are great untoasted.

If you are wondering what the difference between a bialy and a bagel is, bialys are round with a depressed middle filled with cooked onions and sometimes poppy seeds and then baked. The outside of a bialy is therefore matte, not shiny. Bagels are boiled, then baked. The bialys are only available in onion, garlic, and mish mosh flavors. They also sell longer salt sticks, but I usually stick with my mish mosh and sesame seed bagels.

Also, please note that they don’t take credit cards, so be sure to bring cash with you. That said, your order won’t break the bank. Plan on about $1 a bagel.

Contact info:

Bialy’s Bagels
2267 Warrensville Center Road
University Heights, OH 44118
(216) 371-1088

 


Hofbräuhaus

June 17, 2016

IMAG6081Anyone who has paid attention to this blog knows that I am a German translator. I lived in Austria for a year and Germany for six years, so I am very critical when it comes to German/Austrian food. I was really excited to hear about the Hofbräuhaus opening and was there on the first day it opened (standing in line with everyone else). Unfortunately they still had a bunch of kinks to work out, and there was a limited menu at the time. We still enjoyed our pretzels and Obatzda, beer and Schnitzel. I just wasn’t super impressed. IIMAG1307‘ve been to the real Hofbräuhaus in Munich several times as well as the ones in Pittsburgh and Cincinnati (technically Covington, Kentucky). Obviously nothing compares to the real Hofbräuhaus. It is five floors of beer halls and has outstanding food and service. The beer gardens in Cincinnati was also a really good time, and the food was a welcome respite in Pittsburgh. So I was confident that the Hofbräuhaus would find its footing, and it has. I am pleased to report that they brew their beer on-site.

It should be noted that this incantation has absolutely nothing to do with the old Hofbrau Haus at E. 55th and St. Clair, which closed in 2000. The Hofbrau Haus, run by German immigrant Steve Bencic, imported Hofbräu beer but never produced it on-site. It also had no official ties to Munich. This is an official franchise of the 427-year old Hofbräuhaus (the “ducal brewery” in German) in Munich. It was founded in 1589 to serve beer to the Duke of Bavaria and eventually the people of Munich. They have a tent at the Munich Oktoberfest, and you can smell it from a mile away. Lots of drunken idiots.IMAG1312 I always avoided it. The current Hofbräuhaus is part of a franchise chain, which started in 2003, but not in the sense that they are everywhere. They seem to be particular about where they open a location.

On my first visit I was so excited for the Jägerschnitzel that I was absolutely crushed when I was told they didn’t have it available yet. I ordered the cordon blue Schnitzel and the roasted potatoes (I hate German potato salad in the States. It shouldn’t be sweet).IMAG1299 I was underwhelmed by the meal. I am used to Austrian schnitzel that is pounded super thin and hangs off the plate. The schnitzel here was a little greasy and smaller than I am used to (and I suspect that it was food service schnitzel), but from the photos on Yelp it appears that was just opening week. The schnitzels look less uniform now, as they should.

Obatzda, which is a fave of mine, is a cheese mixture of brie or camembert (they use brie), cream cheese, butter, onion, seasonings like paprika or caraway, and some beer. It is usually servedIMAG1306 with bread or pretzels. The Hofbräuhaus’ version was just as good as I had hoped it would be. The pretzels were delicious and were a great accompaniment to the Obatzda. They were fluffy with just the right amount of crust and salt.

I was thrilled to be able to order a Radler, which is a mixture of soda and beer (a shandy). I drink fairly slowly so a liter is wasted on me as it warms up. I prefer the half liters so I can drink them cold. The Radler was the perfect size for me, and came with a lemon and a lime garnish, which was honestly a little weird. You drink Kristallweizen with lemon – not a shandy. But hey, it’s Cleveland, not Germany, and I’ll cut them some slack. I’m happy to report that my mostIMAG6077 recent Radler was not served with any garnish.

Flash forward to now. One of the people I follow on Instagram posted a photo of the Currywurst the other day. I love Currywurst, which is a Frankfurter or brat that is fried, sliced and doused in curry powder and a curry sauce. It is a German fast food delight when you’ve been drinking and comes accompanied with fries. I went there the next day for lunch to order one. It was as good as I had hoped. I was thrilled. The Wurst had a nice snap to it from the casing, the curry powder was present and the sauce was a nice accompaniment to the Wurst and the fries. I finished all the Wurst and half the fries. I think the true lunch portion would be perfect, since it only uses one sausage. Two and a IMAG6075mess of fries was a bit much.

Since I’m not a total glutton I ordered a side salad as well. It was a nice mix of fresh mixed greens accompanied by a red pepper ring, a couple cherry tomatoes, cucumber slices and croutons. I ordered the hot bacon dressing and was very happy I did. It was nice and warm with a sweet creaminess that was a nice topping to the salad.

I wish parking wasn’t so difficult, but that’s the way things are in downtown Cleveland. I’ve managed to find street parking and walk a few blocks to the restaurant. There are lots of parking lots in the area, IMAG1303but they can be quite pricey. And they offer valet service, but I have no idea what that costs. If you are going to drink and not have a designated driver you can hop on a bus or call Uber. In any event, I definitely enjoyed the lunch time ambiance better than the party ambiance of the evenings. There was no live band, everyone was low key, no one was dancing on the tables, and there were no shot skis being shared. But if you are in the mood for a lively evening the Hofbrauhaus is the place for you.

I’ll be back to try some more of the entrees. If you want to be adventurous I suggest you order the Schweinshaxe or Leberkäse. If you want something lighter go for the Wurstsalat. I had it at a German Cultural Garden event, and it was quite good. Vegetarians will love the Käsespätzle. They also have a vegetarian schnitzel.

In any case, Mahlzeit und Prost!

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Contact info:

Hofbräuhaus Cleveland
1550 Chester Avenue
Cleveland, Ohio 44114
216-621-BEER (2337)