Citizen Pie – W. 25th

img_20170927_202321Citizen Pie opened a second location on W. 25th just south of the West Side Market in September 2017. I’ve been there several times, but just decided to make it a separate post from the Waterloo location. This location is a good choice for West Siders who don’t want to (are afraid to?) drive to Collinwood. There are a few changes – for the better. img_20170927_185210Most obviously, the location has a lot more seating, and the pizzaiolos (I think that is what the pizza pie makers are called) have more room to work. Parking can sometimes be a challenge, but one of the parking lots across the street allows Citizen Pie img_20180803_135545customers to park there when the lot isn’t in use by the company.

Citizen Pie has a 900 degree wood fired oven, and Chef V has worked hard to perfect the pizza dough. They only make enough for the day. Once the dough is out, they close. The website has a dough meter, so you can tell how close they are to running out of dough. The pizzas cook quickly – in 90 seconds. The outside edges are nicely charred and delicious, but the center tends to run a bit thin, which makes the pizza a bit soggy. It is the biggest complaint, but it is just something that happens. If you want the delicious fermented dough you deal with it. You just have to fold your slice and eat fast.

The menu is pretty identical to the Waterloo location. You can still also build your own pie at both locations. The only main difference I can tell is the W. 25th location doesn’t offer The Collinwood and has a pizza called OC Supreme (similar to the Collinwood with Italian sausage and proscuitto cotto instead of the salami and Italian sausage). They also added a Ham and Cheese pizza featuring proscuitto cotto, Fontina cheese, mushrooms and Mozzarella. Also, my favorite addition when they opened this location is that they also launched “Salad Pizzas” topped with arugula or Caesar salad. I love this idea. The arugula is popped onto the pizza when it gets out of the oven, so it is nice and fresh. The arugula pizza comes atop a Margherita with cherry tomatoes. The Caesar salad pizza is a garlic, olive oil and mozzarella pie. You can add prosciutto or anchovies for an additional $2. My go to pizza is now the arugula pizza with prosciutto.

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Dressed Arugula without prosciutto

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Dressed Arugula pie – Margherita with prosciutto

The beverage choices are still the same. There is a water pitcher on the counter for the more frugal folks among us, but you can buy real sugar Coke, Honest Tea, Diet Coke, Dr. Brown’s Root Beer, San Pellegrino img_20170927_190412 sparkling water or Blood Orange soda, and boxed water in addition to a nice modest selection of beers and wines. My favorite is still the Stiegl Pilsner. As any proud alumni of BGSU’s Academic Year Abroad program in Salzburg, Austria will tell you, Stiegl beer has been brewed in Salzburg since 1492 (when Columbus was sailing the ocean blue).

A selection of pies

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Roman – mozzarella, cured olives, green chili, stracciatella, and basil

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Mushroom – with mushrooms, mozzarella, brie, porcini truffle crema, bacon and red onion – always a solid choice

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Little Italy – mozzarella, Italian sausage, roasted red peppers, red onion, basil and oregano

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Puttanesca – mozzarella, oil cured olives, Ortiz anchovies, Calabrian chili, garlic and basil

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Caesar Salad pie – I think there might be some pepperoni on there but I’m not sure

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Cacio e Pepe – one of my favorites

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NYC Classic Calzone

This location does not serve the desserts that the Waterloo location is known for. Instead, Chef V has been making soft serve ice cream and is toying with the idea of introducing pie to the menu.

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Photo by Edsel Little

Contact info:

Citizen Pie
2144 W 25th Street
Cleveland (Ohio City), OH 44113
(216) 860-1388

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Let’s talk about paczki

Pączki (pronounced PUUNCH-ki) are filled doughnuts that are typical for Polish cuisine. Paczki have been made in Poland since the Middle Ages. Germans call them Berliner. They are deep-fried dough balls that are filled with a filling and covered with powdered sugar. Traditional fillings include prune and poppyseed. Many bakeries also feature modern fillings such as chocolate mousse, marshmallow and (my favorite) custard. They are served on Fat Tuesday and most recently are now also served during the month leading up to Lent. Clevelanders hear a lot about paczki during this time, and most bakeries hold huge events on Fat Tuesday where you can pick up your paczki for the office, friends or just general consumption. I’m not a huge fan of crowds so I have avoided the hoopla surrounding Fat Tuesday paczki celebrations, but I might venture out to Rudy’s this year just to see what it’s like.

If you are lucky you can get your favorite flavors when you just stop in, but most bakeries prefer you order ahead of time for Fat Tuesday or just to ensure you get the flavors you want. Some flavors sell out quicker than others.

Michael Angelo’s makes my favorite

Debates rage about who has the best paczki. A couple years ago I decided to try a bunch and decide for myself who has the best. My heart lies with Michael Angelo’s Bakery on Broadview Road in Broadview Heights. I love the soft, yeasty dough of the paczki as well as their variety of flavors, and the dough is almost bursting with filling (as you can see on the right). I started getting my paczki fix from here last weekend. They announce when they start selling paczki on their social media pages and continue until Fat Tuesday. Flavors include their famous marshmallow, custard, raspberry, apple, apricot, Bavarian maple, lemon, chocolate mousse, strawberry mousse, peanut butter and prune. Flavors vary with availability. The are $1.95 each and $17 per dozen.

Colozza’s Bakery on Ridge Road in Parma wins the award for most unique flavors. The classic Italian bakery takes on a Polish accent in February. Colozza’s mixes in new and traditional flavors in their dozen annual paczki offerings, from lemon and apricot to peanut butter banana fudge, butterscotch, and cannoli. They discontinued prune and poppyseed, but might be able to make them if ordered. The minute I heard they had a butterscotch paczki I headed there. The paczki were good, but not as good as Michael Angelo’s. The dough was a little drier, and as you can see in the photo to the right it wasn’t as filled with filling. But hey, butterscotch…

Seven Roses Polish Deli on Fleet Avenue in Slavic Village serves paczki year-round. It is basically just a jelly doughnut, but a little rounder and denser. The bakery serves old world favorites such as prune, poppyseed and the classic rose jam paczki on the Monday and Tuesday before Lent (Rosenmontag and Fat Tuesday). Last year there was even a Paczki Parade, so check their Facebook page or keep your eyes out on Cleveland.com. All paczki orders must be placed ahead of time.

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Rudy’s Strudel on Ridge Road in Parma is considered Paczki Central in Parma. They expect to sell more than 65,000 by the end of Fat Tuesday. Last year they paired up with Barabicu Smokehouse to feature their hand-smoked brisket in a savory paczki. IMG_20190206_134735.jpgThis year they are pairing with Sweet Moses for a Hot Chocolate paczki. Call ahead to order this one. They had run out when I stopped in. This photo on the left shows the variety of flavors they offer – both sweet and savory. Rudy’s hosts their annual Paczki Day Party starting at 5 a.m. on Fat Tuesday with live accordion music, eating contests, babushkas and more. Flavors include savory and sweet treats, such as Murray Hill (Italian sausage and peppers), Parma (potato and cheese), and Polish Village (potato & IMG_20190206_135659cheese, kraut & kielbasa) or chocolate butter cream, pina colada, mocha, poppyseed, prune and rose petal jelly paczki (to name just a few).

Cleveland’s favorite donut shop, Jack Frost on Pearl Road in Cleveland, wouldn’t miss paczki day. For one day only, Jack Frost goes Polish with poppyseed, raspberry, apple, pineapple, lemon, cream cheese, Boston cream, cinnamon-caramel and a special chocolate and peanut butter Buckeye option. Orders taken during the month before Lent and can be picked up in a tent outside the shop beginning at 6 a.m. on Fat Tuesday. They’re pricey – $4.25 each and $28.95 a dozen, but as anyone who has had Jack Frost donuts knows, they are well worth it.

I plan to try Samosky’s and Buettner’s this year. If I am in the Northfield area I will also try Stan’s Northfield Bakery, because the idea of a grape paczki is tempting.

My friend Judi from The Charmed Kitchen used to make homemade paczki every year on Fat Tuesday. Click the link for her recipe for tiramisu paczki. She made the doughnuts and offered a bunch of different fillings, so you can fill your own with whatever you prefer and however much you prefer. You might consider making your own paczki and having a paczki party of your own. Cleveland is all about the paczki.

What’s your favorite place for paczki? You have a month to discover which one you prefer so you can get your order in for Fat Tuesday. Fat Tuesday this year is March 5.

Sichuan Hot Pot

Cleveland’s got a new Szechuan restaurant in town, and it’s become my friends’ new obsession. Sichuan Hot Pot quietly opened in April 2018 on Rockwell Avenue in the building that houses Emperor’s Palace. The storefront seems rather quiet and unassuming. You walk in and have to go through another door to the right. Make sure the door shuts behind you properly, because it forms a wind tunnel.

We keep meaning to order the hot pot, but we are enjoying discovering all the various entrees too much. It’s best enjoying everything as a group. When it comes to Chinese food we are a bunch of sharers, so everyone orders a different dish and we dig in. We then get the bill, add a 20% tip, and divide the total by however many people are in the group. I have a handy app for that, so it is really easy. The bill never comes out to more than $20 per person (it’s usually between $12-18).

The first time I ate at Sichuan Hot Pot (just before Christmas) there were 7 of us. We were the only non-Asian table in the place. We ordered 8 different dishes (one person ordered two because they were vegetarian items and cheap). We had the Dan Dan Noodles, Chongqing Noodles, Lamb Kebabs served with crinkle cut French fries (what??), Shredded Pork with Pickled Cabbage Noodles, Ma Po Tofu, Sour & Spicy Cucumbers, and a Roasted Eggplant appetizer with what looked like a green chili pesto on it. I chose the Crispy Ribs with Garlic Sauce (S7), which was delicious. The ribs were perfectly fried (popcorn chicken-sized) and served along with fried onions and fresh green scallions. I was very happy I ordered it and would happily order it again. However, the absolute standouts for me were the Shredded Pork and Pickled Cabbage Noodles and the Dan Dan Noodles. I have never been a fan of Dan Dan Noodles, but I really like their version. The Shredded Pork was the huge hit at the table. We ordered it on a whim, and I will never go there and not order it ever. It has a delicate flavor and has a soup-like consistency. Ordering small bowls for everyone to enjoy it would not be a bad idea. The Chongqing Noodles were also lovely. Apart from the eggplant, which everyone was saying was very hot so I avoided it, I didn’t find anything so spicy hot that I couldn’t eat it. Szechuan cooking has a nice heat to it, but if I can tolerate it anyone can. We were served a complementary Tofu fa with a smoky sauce and sesame seeds for dessert.

Spicy & Sour Cucumbers

Dan Dan Noodles

Chongqing Noodles

Shredded Pork with Pickled Cabbage Noodles

Lamb Kebabs

Crispy Ribs with Garlic Sauce (S7)

Roasted Eggplant (C5)
IMG_20181221_195949.jpgComplementary Tofu Fa
Mid-meal

The second time I was with a different group, with only three of us having been there already. There were six of us this time. This time we were the only table in the place, but I hear it gets busy on the weekends and at night. A few tables joined us by the time we were finishing up – including a friend of one of my friends, which was a hoot. We were there on a Tuesday for lunch. I made sure to order the Shredded Pork and Pickled Cabbage Noodle again. Two of our group had already gotten there and ordered the Dan Dan Noodles because they were hungry. We also ordered Dried Beef with Spicy Sauce (C12 – which I found to be just okay, but my friend D. loves it), “Chicken with Special Sauce” (word of warning – it’s a cold poached chicken and celery dish with bones – I wasn’t a fan), Crispy Big Ribs with Garlic Sauce (S15 – whole ribs on a bed of cabbage – quite tasty if a little dry), Sour & Spicy Cucumbers, and Sliced Potatoes with Scallions (which was too American if you ask me – basically warm parsley potatoes). The Sliced Potato dish was good, so it would be a good choice for kids or less adventurous diners. I certainly didn’t expect it at an Asian restaurant. The standout dish for me this time was a different version of eggplant – the Eggplant with Garlic Sauce (M19). I could not stop eating it, and I look forward to enjoying it again this coming Friday.

Dan Dan Noodles – after mixing

Spicy & Sour Cucumbers

Dried Beef with Spicy Sauce (C12)

Eggplant with Garlic Sauce (M19)

Crispy Big Ribs (S17) on a bed of Napa cabbage

Chicken with Special Sauce

Sliced Potatoes with Scallions (not shredded!! – that’s a completely different dish with green peppers)

Complementary Tofu Fa
Mid-meal

Like I said, I am going back there for lunch on Friday with some of the folks from the previous meals and a couple new people we are introducing the place to. I look forward to trying some new dishes as well as the favorites. I’m tempted by the Crispy Fish Hot & Spicy.

Contact info:

Sichuan Hot Pot
2162 Rockwell Avenue
Cleveland, OH 44114
(216) 523-1188

Cafe Sabor Miami

Moving from Guatemalan to Honduran, another fun little spot in Old Brooklyn is Cafe Sabor Miami. This place is tucked in a storefront with a bodega selling propane on Broadview Road (just north of I-480), so it is very easy to drive by and not even know it exists. It is in the old location of Pupaseria Katarina, but it looks completely different. Pupaseria Katarina was rather austere, whereas Cafe Sabor Miami is bright and filled with vibrant artwork. The charming tropical cafe run by Honduran native Mariela Paz opened in 2015 and has been quietly feeding residents ever since. Paz lived in Miami for more than a decade and oversees a menu that ranges from Cuban to Honduran as well as Peruvian and Mexican featuring savory and sweet breakfast and lunch choices. I always say I am going to order some of her sweet pancakes, but the savory side of the menu keeps calling me.

First, I must say that I have never been disappointed by the coffee choices here. Apparently Paz’s family have a coffee plantation, so she is well-versed in coffee. She offers lots of standard choices as well as some rare finds, such as Cuban Colada espresso, Oreo Mocha, Mojito Latte, Rose coffee, Cortaditos (cafe con leche with espresso), and Mayan Mocha, as well as smoothies and hot and cold tumeric beverages.

As I’ve said, I love the savory side of the menu. The Tropichop is my favorite thing on the menu so far. The Tropichop is a rice-based dish with Latin flair. Yellow rice is piled with pulled chicken or pork, black beans, pico de gallo and curry sauce. The flavors meld really well together, and I love the light curry sauce, which is not overpowering at all. I have ordered it several times now.

I also love her empanadas. Each empanada is under $3 and is stuffed with filling and perfectly fried. My favorite is the La Hawaiana, which is a ham, cheese and pineapple empanada, but the La Cubana (a Cuban sandwich in an empanada) is also quite delicious. One day I’m just going to order one of each and decide which are the best.

Her pancakes like her plain or pecan or specialties like cinnamon bun pancakes, pineapple upside down pancakes, Caribbean Love (with lots of fruit), or Key West Lime pancakes are so tempting, but as a savory breakfast fan I tend to order savory. I ordered the Bistec a Caballo, which is a Cuban steak with eggs, onions, and home fries, the last time. I was absolutely blown away by the Cuban toast. It doesn’t look like much, but it packs a crisp and buttery taste that I fell in love with. Mariela does a great Cuban toast! It has its own section on the menu, and you can order it with butter, mozzarella cheese or cream cheese and guava.

Mariela and her staff are always so happy to see you when you walk in. I felt like a regular on my first visit. The place is bright and cheerful, filled with lots of Mariela’s artwork and taste. If I had to choose between Cafe Sabor Miami and El Rinconcito Chapin I would choose this place, but its limited breakfast and lunch hours ensure Chapin will also get some love from me. But Cafe Sabor Miami is one that should absolutely not be missed!

Contact info:

Cafe Sabor Miami
4848 Broadview Rd
Cleveland, OH 44109
(440) 714-0202

El Rinconcito Chapin

I’m back! I haven’t really been gone. I’ve just been too busy to write up posts for the blog. I’ve gone out to eat less in the past few months, but I have a few new posts up my sleeve. I appreciate one fan reaching out asking if I had quit blogging. I apologize. I didn’t quit. I was busy with work and my national conference in New Orleans, and then catching up with work when I returned. After conference is always busy following up with potential new clients and catching up with jobs I missed while I was gone.

I have been sitting on a post for El Rinconcito Chapin for a while now. El Rinconcito Chapin is an authentic Guatemalan restaurant in Old Brooklyn. My dining out group first visited them about a week before they were closing at their old location on Pearl Road. It was not a good location, with very little parking and smack in the middle of road repaving. Nevertheless we managed to meet there and have a lovely meal that was graciously served by the owner. He even gave us free flan and tres leches cake, which were absolutely amazing. We were so impressed that we swore we would visit again at their new location (we rarely repeat visits to places). They reopened on Broadview Road in the old Coney Company building near the corner of Broadview and Pearl, but it took me a while to schedule a visit. You can also access it from Pearl – just ignore the drive-in signs, which as far as I know they aren’t using. The sign on the road is not visible – look at the building. In addition to offering a larger dining room, the new site also has its own; parking lot, which is always a plus for some of our less mobile members.

On our first visit I ordered a chuchito (similar to a tamale) and chiles rellanos (pictured below). The chiles rellanos is beef stuffed poblanos that are dipped in an egg batter and fried. I was not all that thrilled with either choice (I’m just not a fan of masa – I find it to dry) and prefer the Mexican version of the chile rellanos over the Guatemalan version.

The Chapin sampler was a huge hit, which allows you to try several different dishes like pupusas, tamales, yuca fries, dobladitos and plantains. I’m a big fan of a lot of these things on the plate, so everyone really enjoyed this.

We all fell in love with their Licuado, which is a smoothie-like beverage. I had ordered the Jarito soda on my first visit and only got a taste of the Licuado, so I made sure to order it on the second visit. You can choose between the mango and the strawberry. I ordered the strawberry and almost ordered a second one! It is very refreshing.

On our second visit we ordered chips and guacamole as well as dobladitos as appetizers. Dobladitos are an empanada-like turnover made of corn masa and stuffed with chicken, a spicy cabbage slaw and red salsa. They were really delicious, and I would order them again. The guacamole and chips were good, but nothing to write home about.

The enchilades are nothing like the Mexican version of enchiladas. They are a flat tortilla piled with fresh slaw, meat and egg. They are delicious (if messy) to eat) and are quite beautiful to look at.

On my second visit I intended to order the churrasco skirt steak, but overheard one customer say the Pepian was their favorite dish. The customer had been raving about the Tofu Pepian, but I was in the mood for some meat. The “regular” Pepian consists of chicken cooked in a spiced tomatillo sauce. It came with rice and refried black beans and some green beans atop the chicken. It was extremely flavorful.

Unfortunately they were out of the flan when we visited the second time. We all split the tres leches cake, which was moist and delicious. The food was very authentic, with many Guatemalans eating there that night. The service is friendly, and we enjoyed exploring the menu. The prices are also very affordable.

Contact info:

El Rinconcito Chapin
3330 Broadview Road
Cleveland, OH 44109
(216) 795-5776

Nighttown

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

Sérénite in Medina

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