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!

IMAG1313

Contact info:

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


Boiling Seafood Crawfish on Lee Road

June 6, 2016

IMAG6092Boiling Seafood Crawfish opened on Lee Road last fall to little fanfare. One of my friends drove past and noticed it, which is how it got on my radar. I’ve been trying to get there since I heard about it. It is located on the east side of Lee next to Two Brothers (straight across from Dewey’s Pizza). Due to the road improvements, on-street parking is not available, so plan to park behind the strip in the Cedar-Lee parking lot/garage. Bring lots of quarters. We were there for an hour and a half, and my meter had just run out a few minutes before I got to my car. Luckily I didn’t get a parking ticket, which is a miracle in Cleveland Heights. One of my friends had to run out and feed the meter while in the middle of eating,IMAG6091 so be sure to be generous with your time estimate. Better to spend an extra quarter than pay a $10 or $15 parking ticket.

Unless you can pound down several pounds of seafood in one go this is definitely a place for a group. The seafood is boiled in a flavorful broth, tossed in a seasoned spice mixture of your choosing and heat level, and delivered to the table in clear plastic bags. The seasoning options are Juicy Cajun, Garlic Butter, Lemon Pepper or Homemade Juicy (which is IMAG6096a combination of all four seasoning) and four spice levels ranging from Baby Spice (which has almost no heat) to Spicy (five chili peppers).

Note: this is not a “first date” kind of place. You get messy and it’s hard to look dainty when you are tearing off shells and pulling off heads or cracking crab legs. This is a place to dress down and be prepared to get covered head to toe in seasoning and juice – especially from your neighbor. They do give you plastic bibs and plastic gloves though. I was happy for the bib since I tend to wear my food even at the most gentile places, but found the glove only got in the way. IMAG6100I ended up going Michael Jackson-style and wearing only one glove, leaving my right hand more control of the cracking and picking out of meat. Guests can pour the contents out onto the white-paper table toppers or eat straight out of the sack. We chose to eat ours out of the bags, but I accidentally let one side down and a river of red seasoning suddenly ran down the table towards my friend and her white pants. We were able to avert disaster with lots of paper towels, which are conveniently available on the table.

I ordered the corn fritters as an IMAG6094appetizer for the table and an order of Hawaiian sweet rolls to mop up the sauce. The corn fritters were creamy and perfectly fried with a nice dipping sauce. I had to force myself to stop eating them to save room for the seafood. As for the sweet rolls, they added a nice sweetness to the sauce and I’m glad I ordered them. They came three to an order, so we IMAG6099shared them as well.

The Handful ($31) features a pound of shrimp, a pound of crawfish, a half pound of clams, a handful of andouille sausage slices, two ears of corn and two new potatoes, so it’s perfect to share between two people. My friends who can stand some heat ordered this between them and ordered it Medium. They really enjoyed it. I tried one of the shrimp, which wasn’t as spicy since they are boiled in the shell and the seasoning doesn’t penetrate. It’s best to peel or unearth the seafood and dip it in the sauce.

IMAG6106Diners can also build their own experience by ordering seafood by the pound and add-ons like corn and potatoes. I chose to go with that option since I wasn’t sharing. I ordered a whole lobster and snow crab legs with Baby Spice and Homemade Juicy. It had a really nice flavor to it, but no heat at all. I would probably get the Mild option next time. I had ordered a half pound of shrimp as well, but that hadn’t printed out in the kitchen. I was glad it didn’t because I was comfortably full when I finished. The shrimp probably would have taken me to the side of “too stuffed to move.” The lobster ended up to be a little over a pound, but one of the claws was deformed, so I ended up payingIMAG6095 $7 for one claw on top of the $25 for the lobster tail. I’d probably opt for the tail by itself next time.

One of my friends ordered a shrimp Po’Boy, and it definitely looked delicious. She said it was very flavorful with a nice remoulade sauce and chopped green peppers, onion, tomato, and lettuce. I will definitely be trying that next time as perhaps a carry out order with some etouffee. IMAG6110The Po’Boys feature shrimp, crawfish, catfish, cajun chicken, soft shell crab, fried oysters and lobster. They come with or without fries.

Since we met for lunch on Sunday we ordered no alcohol, but they do have a small list of alcoholic beverages to quench your thirst. I was happy with my lemonade, which came in a large styrofoam cup and was happily refilled. The server was friendly and attentive. He removed the shrimp from my order in the computer without complaint when it was pointed out to him that the order hadn’t come with any. He had offered to have them make some, but at that point I had realized that I had just the perfect amount.

But look at the size of that crawdad!

IMAG6101

Contact info:

Boiling Seafood Crawfish
2201 Lee Road
Cleveland Heights, OH 44118
(216) 459-7777


Grilling

May 26, 2016

PhotoGrid_1464213269307Grilling is a pastime loved all over the world. I enjoyed many a summer evening grilling in my backyard or along the Rhine when I lived in Germany. I grilled this year for the first time last night. It felt so great to roll the grill out of the garage and fire it up. My mother grilled all the time growing up (and still does). She primarily grills the meat and serves side dishes out of the kitchen. Since I grill much less than she does it is more of a production. I cut up potatoes, onions and peppers coated in olive oil and seasoning and wrapped in foil along with a couple of chicken breasts, asparagus with garlic and soy sauce (also in foil) and pineapple slice. Of course I forgot to throw the corn on, which was the whole reason I decided to grill out in the first place.

But we Ohioans are hardy folk and some grill all year.

burger


Don’s Pomeroy House

May 14, 2016

IMAG5961Don’s Pomeroy House is the first fancy restaurant I ever ate at, and as such it holds a special place in my heart. My parents took us here on Christmas Eve day for brunch, and I had my very first eggs benedict. I have fond memories of the booths lined with books. Don’s Pomeroy House overlooks Strongsville’s town square and has quite a long history, including serving as a stop on the Underground Railroad. IMAG5970The beautifully restored mid-19th century mansion is Cleveland’s south side legendary home of the freshest seafood, steaks and chops and a premier dining spot in Northeast Ohio.

Diners who prefer a more casual setting can eat in The Pub in the basement or on the opatiopatio during the summer months. Having enjoyed evenings at all three I would be hard pressed to choose a favorite. They all have their winning points. You can order off both menus on the patio.

My most recent experience was for lunch. We were sat in the library near the fireplace, and it was just very cozy. I ordered a house IMAG5966salad and a lunch duo of the French onion soup and the French dip (pardon the blurry photo). The house salad was fresh, and I enjoyed the poppy seed dressing paired with the fresh greens, mandarin oranges and strawberry slices. The French onion soup was suitably cheesy and was packed with lots of caramelized onions and two slices of dark bread. I was less wowed by the French dip. The “baguette” had a weird texture to it that kind of collapsed when it was dipped in the au jus. I would have preferred a proper IMAG5967baguette to hold the roast beef and provolone cheese.

My dining companion ordered a house salad and the special baked salmon entree with a lemon thyme glaze served over spring pea, asparagus and Asiago risotto. He thoroughly enjoyed every bite, and I enjoyed theIMAG5968 taste of the risotto. It was perfectly cooked and very flavorful.

I can also highly recommend the White Fish sandwich, which when I enjoyed it featured grouper. It is served with steak fries. I have also thoroughly enjoyed the Kobe meatloaf, which is made with pork and Wagyu beef, and is served with Yukon Gold mashed potatoes and green beans. I unfortunately have no photos for you to enjoy, because I lost them in a computer crash

The table next to us ordered desserts, which were huge. We were too full, so we abstained. But that eclair looks very tempting. I can highly 600_161914792recommend their Bananas Foster if they bring it back on the menu. Also, the chocolate cake was moist and delicious.

I can attest to happy hour both in The Pub and on the patio. My Meetup happy hour group had several events here that were very successful. Everyone enjoyed the food and drink specials. I can also highly recommend the Sunday/Monday surf and turf special. You save $10 on a Maine lobster tail, center cut filet mignon, whipped potato, vegetable. It was quite the popular order the Monday evening one of my dining out groups spent on the patio. Again, no photos but if I ever stumble on them I will update this post.

Photo courtesy of Don's Pomeroy House

Photo of The Pub courtesy of Don’s Pomeroy House

Contact info:

Don’s Pomeroy House
13664 Pearl Road
Strongsville, OH 44136
(440) 572-1111


Russo’s Kitchen

April 29, 2016

outsideRusso’s Kitchen is a unique restaurant that straddles the border of Peninsula and Cuyahoga Falls on State Road (aka Akron-Cleveland Road) near the intersection with Seasons Road (Route 8 is close by). I learned about it from a fellow diner at a wine dinner at The Blue Door. He and his wife raved about the food and said they were there every Saturday. Sure enough, when I went there they were sitting at the bar around the open kitchen. We were sat at the counter and felt lucky. The place was packed so there really weren’t many available tables (it seats 97), but the counter overlooks IMAG3161the open kitchen.

Russo’s has great food and friendly service, but it can be quite loud and hard to hear your dining companions when it is busy. The food theme is Italian/New Orleans fusion, so there is something for everyone. In the mood for seafood? They have some amazing seafood choices like perch and IMAG3160oysters or grouper. Want pasta? How about cavatelli pomodoro with meatballs or meat or spinach and cheese ravioli?

I love New Orleans. It is my favorite city in the U.S., and I’ve been there several times (and going again in September). I went to Russo’s with a friend who used to live in New Orleans, so naturally we focused on the Creole menu.

Of course I had to order a Hurricane. It is my absolute favorite drink,IMAG3164 and this one was made without mixes and syrups. It was absolutely delicious and packed a wallop. It was possibly even better than the Hurricane at Pat O’Brien’s.

The bread service is a homemade foccacia with olive oil dip. You could tell it was fresh and was very flavorful. It had a nice consistency to it and was toothsome on the outside and soft on the inside.

My friend started off with the Gumbo Ya-Ya, which was very flavorful. She said it rivaled the gumbo down in NOLA. I had a house salad that featured fresh greens and a delicious White French dressing. The waitress offered fresh cracked black pepper, and I couldn’t resist.

IMAG3168I decided to order the New Orleans BBQ Shrimp appetizer to save room for dessert. The appetizer was filling all on its own. The BBQ sauce was thick, silky, and absolutely delicious with a peppery bite and a hint of sweetness. It had a great flavor to it and was not too spicy. The shrimp were a decent size and perfectly cooked. I also really liked the grilled foccacia garlic bread they served with it to sop up the sauce. I would order it again in a heartbeat.

IMAG3169In fact, my friend enjoyed the meal so much she went back a week or so later and ordered a variation on the same meal, this time lake perch and scallops with smokey baked 3-cheese macaroni, grilled seasonal vegetables, and chipotle tartar sauce.

We splurged on dessert and ordered the bread pudding. It was deliciously creamy and luscious. I would order this one again too, but I also hear the peanut butter pie is delicious.

In addition to the main restaurant there is also a more casual IMAG3170eatery with 60 seats called Bacchus in the back. It serves pizza, fried chicken and burgers as well as a few Creole and Italian choices. It is open for lunch and dinner, unlike the main restaurant which is only open for dinner service. Bacchus has a happy hour Tuesday through Friday from 3-6 PM. They have some drink specials (including some $5 cocktails) and select food choices ranging $3 for a slider to $6 for wings with hot pepper relish.

My only word of advice is to not go here if you are in a hurry. Service is also very southern, and they give personal but slow service. It didn’t bother us because we had made a special trip there, but if you are stopping there on your way to Blossom plan to get there really early and plan for maybe 1 1/2-2 hours depending on how many courses you order.

Contact info:

Russo’s Kitchen
4895 State Rd
Peninsula, OH 44264
(330) 923-2665


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