Sitting atop a bluff that overlooks I-480 and gorgeous views of wooded rolling landscapes of northeast Ohio, Blue Canyon Restaurant offers an unparalleled rustic, cozy atmosphere. The restaurant’s design was inspired by the grand lodges located throughout the National Parks of the United States. It seriously reminds me of El Tovar in the Grand Canyon, but it’s a little brighter.
Surrounded by hand-hewn cedar logs, soaring cathedral ceilings, and multiple fieldstone fireplaces, you can relax and enjoy the views out the large windows or admire the gigantic antler chandelier. The bar is also rustic, combining wood and glass partitions. Opened in 2004 by Chef/Partner Brandt Evans, Blue Canyon has stayed in business for almost 20 years without ever dropping in quality. The open kitchen specializes in creative American dishes, including wild game options.
The menu has been tweaked over the years, but there are several customer favorites that remain constant. The BC Yukon Gold Potato Chips are a great appetizer to share. The crispy chips are dressed with a Wisconsin Buttermilk Blue Cheese, a blue cheese cream and scallions. Seriously good as a bar snack or an appetizer. The Bacon Wrapped Boursin Stuffed Chicken Breast is also an original item. It is currently served with whipped Yukon Gold mashed potatoes, Brussels sprouts, and an apple cider glaze.
My favorite dish on the menu is the Pretzel Crusted Trout. I have been enjoying it for almost 20 years. I very rarely deviate, because it’s just so good. You can order a large order (two filets) or a small order (one filet). It is currently served with whipped Yukon Gold mashed potatoes, garlic green beans, and a mustard caper butter. Since I’m not the biggest green bean fan they gladly substituted broccoli for green beans. The mustard caper butter is good I would bathe in it if I could. It is a nice accompaniment to the trout. Paired with a cup of sherry-forward lobster bisque, this was my birthday dinner this year. When given the choice of dessert, I chose the Strawberry Pretzel dessert. The creme brulee and chocolate mousse bomb were also phenomenal.
My birthday dinner (not pictured: a Hurricane)
My friends and family members at the dinner ordered the trout, the salmon, or the pork chops. The Cedar Plank Salmon is also available as a large and small order, which my friend really appreciated. It was also accompanied by whipped mashed potatoes, garlic green beans, and a lemon herb butter sauce, but my friend appreciated that she could substitute a corn side for the mashed potatoes.
The Pork Chop was served with farro risotto, pickled red cabbage, and bacon and pear mustards. My mother is a pork chop fan and enjoyed this dish a lot. They were able to work with her to accommodate her dairy and gluten allergies. She had no problems the next day, which is always appreciated after going out to dinner.
The Dinner Menu is just one of the menus available on the website. They offer a Beverage Menu, a Dessert Menu, a Date Night Menu, a Weekly Family Dining Menu, a monthly Brunch Menu, and currently a Holiday Celebratory Luncheons Menu, a Restaurant Week Menu, and a Thanksgiving Takeout Menu.
Obviously, I enjoyed the Clambake here this year (see here), but I also recently enjoyed their Oktoberfest Brunch in September (to be continued, see next post). Blue Canyon is worth the drive for a special night out with friends or a date night. The bar and dining rooms are cozy, and you just want to sink into the chairs. There are choices for every price point – from a burger to a steak or scallops.
My friends and I are obsessed with Mango Mango, the new Asian dessert shop on Payne Avenue (just down from Wonton Gourmet). Fruity, sweet desserts and drinks are the focus at Mango Mango. The New York-based chain opened its first Ohio location in April of this year. The first location opened in 2013, and it has since expanded to have 30 locations in 13 states. It definitely fills a need that was only being filled by Koko Bakery. It has been packed since it opened.
Some of the most popular items at Mango Mango are, unsurprisingly, mango-focused: mango and sticky rice desserts, mango pancakes, mango mochi and mango Mille crepe cakes are crowd favorites. The menu is formidable, featuring cold and hot desserts, crepes and waffles, cakes, flavored (bubble) teas and smoothies. I am a huge (HUGE) fan of the quintessential Thai dessert mango and sticky rice.
That said, on my first visit I ordered the mango juice and watermelon with rice balls. I figured since it was a seasonal item I would take advantage of the fact that I could order it. I really liked it. The mango juice and watermelon were refreshing, and the rice balls were reminiscent of sticky rice but it wasn’t the same consistency and lacked the condensed milk.
My friend ordered the strawberry mango juice sago and lychee jelly with mango ice cream. I really liked this as well because the lychee jelly was simply heavenly. My friend didn’t really love the mango ice cream, but I felt it added a nice flavor profile to the dessert. I obviously ordered this the second time I visited.
A bunch of my girlfriends gathered here one Saturday evening after dinner at Sichuan Hot Pot. I had been at a luau at the Willoughby Elks Lodge, so I joined them for dessert. We all ordered a dessert each and shared them. I absolutely fell in love with the Matcha Crepe Roll. The crepe, which is soft and tender, is stuffed with a mildly sweet red bean whipped cream. It is super light and airy. Definitely a showstopper.
Cleveland’s very own Andy Ng of Ice or Rice made a video on how to make one and makes it look so easy.
I had ordered the Mango and Black Rice dessert, which tasted almost exactly like a mango sticky rice dessert. The black rice had a slightly different texture, but the flavor profile was the same.
Two of my friends recommended the mille crepe cakes and the brown sugar cream puffs. The brown sugar cream puffs were good, but tasted a little burnt. I’ll have to get them again to determine if burnt sugar is the flavor profile they are going for.
The Mango Mille Crepe Cake was also a fan favorite. A mille crepe cake is a cake made up of many crepe layers, with freshly made milk, custard, or sauces sandwiched between each layer. Flour, eggs, sugar, and milk are used to make the crepes themselves. The word mille means “a thousand” in French, and it refers to the crepe cake’s several layers. You can choose between the Mango Mille Crepe Cake, Mustang King Durian or the Green Tea Mille Crepe Cake. It too was very light and not too filling.
Another time I was there I ordered the strawberry and mango dessert with lychee jelly and a Brown Sugar Boba Milk Tea (their signature tea). The milk tea was very refreshing, even if I’m not a huge fan of boba. I definitely enjoyed it to the very end.
Mango Mango is open Monday – Friday from 12pm-9pm and Saturday – Sunday 11am-9pm. The menu is so extensive that I imagine it will take a very long time to try most everything. I’m looking forward to trying some of the hot soups and maybe a waffle when it gets colder. It definitely has something for everyone (inluding dairy-free, gluten-free and vegan choices).
I had the most phenomenal clambake to start off clambake season. My friend Nancy (who lives in Florida now) posted on Sept. 15th that her favorite restaurant, Mish Mosh Eclectic Eatery in Solon, was doing a clambake this year. Mish Mosh is tucked away behind Fisher’s American Tavern at the corner of Brainard Road and Miles Road. I finished a five-day Zoom assignment, so I decided to treat myself to the clambake on the 23rd. A friend had gone on the 15th and enjoyed it. They advertised it as “First come first serve for our patio or call for reservation.” Even though there was a chill in the air (it had dropped to 50 degrees Fahrenheit that day), I was okay sitting on the patio. The restaurant itself was already packed at 5 PM, so they aren’t kidding about reservations. Anyway, I sat by myself on the patio and was waited on by co-owner Jamie. They had a fire pit and heaters going, so I was perfectly comfortable in my capri pants and short sleeve shirt. They offered the clambake every evening Thursday through Saturday through October. The clambake includes a mug of New England clam “Chowda,” 1 dozen butter broth steamed little neck clams, garlic crostinis, butter roasted corn on the cob, house slaw, and pomegranate roasted sweet potatoes. The dinner with the Garlic Herb Roasted Chicken was $38, the Black Angus New York strip steak was $58, a half-rack of dry-rubbed, BBQ baby back ribs was $47, and the lobster weighed between 1 1/4 to 3 lbs and was market price. I decided I was going to go all out and order the lobster. It was market price and not cheap, but I decided to splurge. The lobster they had was a 2 1/2 lb. lobster, so my dinner was $130 plus drinks (perfect Rum Runner) and tip. I enjoyed every single bite. I usually am sad when I run out of lobster, but this was the perfect amount for me. The Chowda was delicious and chock full of clams. The clams were in a nice broth with some vegetables; I liked the broth so much that I tipped the plate to drink some and the server ended up bringing me a shot glass to decant the rest into. The corn was nicely grilled, and I enjoyed the sweet potatoes and house slaw as well. Jamie also accidentally brought me a house salad, but it was nice to get some freshness in. I would definitely do this again when I have the cash to splurge on a meal. I ate peanut butter sandwiches that week to counterbalance the cost.
Mish Mosh’s clambake
I used to attend the Willoughby Elks’ clambake every year since 2014. I wasn’t able to go in 2018 or 2019, and Covid stopped events there in 2020. I have several friends who are members, so I attend the occasional brunch, BBQ, fish fry, and of course the clambakes. They even use my photo for their Event photo every year! This year was the first time in a while they have had dinners. I signed up for the October 1st clambake in mid-September and promptly forgot about it until Facebook reminded me (after a nap) that the event had started an hour ago. I rushed out of the house and made it there just as the last folks in line were being served. I missed nothing. I enjoyed sitting with my friend Kerrie. Her partner Brian was working the tent and organized my meal for me. The clambake includes clams (or mussels) with the choice of 1/2 a chicken or steak along with sweet potato, corn on the cob, coleslaw, and their famous clam chowder! Tickets MUST be purchased in advance & it does sell out, so it’s important to reserve your ticket in September when they post the event. The Chicken Bake is $28, the Steak Bake is $35, and extra clams or mussels are $12. They cook and serve outside (and the smokers congregate there), but there is inside seating and a full bar off the hallway. To explain the photos below: the one on the left is the photo they use for the event photo, the photo in the middle is a photo from their recent luau to show the seating (the bar is through the door in the middle), and the photo on the right is this year’s meal. I had the steak and had an Oktoberfest beer and a Sprite from the bar. I brought home half the steak and most of the sweet potato. The corn was out of this world this year!
Willoughby Elks’ clambake
My friend Beth contacted me spur of the moment to see if I would be interested in joining her at the Winking Lizard for their clambake on the 7th. The Winking Lizard locations apparently alternate when they host the clambake, and that weekend was Canton, Macedonia, Mayfield Heights, Mentor, Peninsula and Reynoldsburg. It was available on that Friday after 3 pm through Sunday. She wanted to meet right when it started at 3, and I whined that I wasn’t a senior citizen yet. But I hadn’t eaten that day, so I was definitely getting hungry. I was so glad we did it. We got a great server, and it wasn’t too busy (until we were leaving). The dinner included a cup of New Egland clam chowder, steamed clams, baked or sweet potato, corn on the cob, and garlic cheese bread with our choice of twin lobster tails for $37, a 12 oz. strip steak for $34, a half slab of St. Louis ribs for $30 and half a BBQ chicken for $25. Another option was “Clams & Clams” for $30. A great deal! I ordered a margarita along with the clambake with twin lobster tails. Everything was cooked perfectly. Probably because the kitchen wasn’t slammed. It was wonderful! And we ran into two friends as we were about to leave, so we sat and kept them company. I’d definitely do it again.
Winking Lizard’s clambake
It was the third year in a row for Gunselman’s Tavern. This year was a little different in that they seated people inside and on the patio, and opened the parking lot up for parking. Despite advertising it to my dining out group I ended up going by myself. I brought my Kindle, but was seated at the Community Table, which I have really enjoyed at other restaurants in the past. This Community Table did not disappoint. I was initially seated with a couple from Fairview Park. The wife knew the older sister of my high school boyfriend, so we talked about the few families I knew through him. Then another couple and their friend were seated with us, and it turns out they know my high school best friend’s husband and family from way back (first grade and he’s in his mid-50s now). I am the one who introduced the two, so we had plenty to talk about. Finally, a second couple and their son were sat with us. Turns out the last two groups had paid for tickets and had the credit card statements to prove it, but there was no record of them on Gunselman’s side. I’m sensing a pattern… Anyway, we had such a fun time talking that I blew off my book discussion to stay and talk. The clambake was, as always, delicious. The food prep was in the parking lot along the patio, so it didn’t take up any parking spaces. Same as the last two years, the Gunselman’s clambake includes clam broth, New England clam chowder, a dozen clams, sweet potato and roasted potatoes, coleslaw, corn on the cob, and 1/2 chicken. We were served extra broth and clam chowder (note my two cups stacked in the chowder photo). The chowder was packed with clams and potatoes. I was able to get my own meal from the buffet this year! I once again ordered the Steak Bake, so I got a 12 oz strip steak instead of chicken. When I went through the buffet, I asked for sweet potatoes and not roast potatoes, which helped me not fill up and need a to-go box. I had 2 Great Lake Oktoberfest beers and an iced tea. The beers went down smoothly in that weather.
Gunselman’s Tavern’s clambake (Year 3)
Stancato’s hosts its clambake every Saturday in October. I met one of my Meetup dining groups here for the clambake on the 22nd. There were 12 of us, and 11 ordered the clambake, making it easier for the wait staff to handle us. I ordered a Limoncello Margherita (ha!) as my cocktail and a ginger ale for when I was thirsty. They brought out a ton of herb ciabatta rolls and a small bowl of marinara for dipping or drizzling. I spooned several spoonfuls of marinara on each half and enjoyed them. They then brought out a cup of New England clam chowder, followed by the linguini in white clam sauce. They brought out small to go cups of parmesan cheese and red pepper flakes for us to add as desired. Delicious! The third course featured a dozen middle neck clams with broth and drawn butter, which were perfectly cooked. The broth was good. I wish we had been given some on the side. The roasted portion of the meal includes a marinated roast chicken, Italian sausage (this time lacking the peppers and onions although you could taste them), parsley red skin potatoes, and buttered corn on the cob. We were given a long list of available desserts, including cannoli, tiramisu, cheesecake, pumpkin cheesecake, several cakes, and ice cream. I chose the pumpkin cheesecake, which was great, and had a bite of the tiramisu, which was extra chocolatey and “espresso-y”. Once again, I ate everything that wouldn’t reheat well (chowder, linguini, clams, and corn) and took the rest and an extra dinner roll (and half my cheesecake) home for dinner the next day. Delicious!
We’re not quite done, folks. We have two more clambakes before we get to the end. Halloween weekend I had ordered stone crab claws from Goldbelly for a little crab bake at home, but decided at the last minute to go out on Sunday for the famous Salmon Dave’s clambake. I have been hearing about Salmon Dave’s clambake since I started paying attention to the local clambakes. Salmon Dave’s is known for the quality of its seafood and fish, so I was looking forward to it. And best of all, the clambakes are $10 off on Sundays. I decided to splurge and order a nice chardonnay. The server suggested two that were “buttery” and would go well with the clambake. I told her to bring me the “butteriest” of the two, which was the Chalk Hill. I loved the wine and will be looking for it in stores. I decided to order the “Maine Event” Clambake, which includes fresh bread and honey butter, clam broth, a whole 1 1/4 lb. lobster, 1/2 a baked chicken, 1/2 dozen (six) clams, a half ear of corn on the cob, and roasted red potatoes. It was the first clambake I’ve been to that only serves six clams instead of a dozen. You can order an extra dozen, but I figured I’d have enough food there and there was no option to order six. If I hadn’t been to Mish Mosh, I would have been over the moon with this clambake, but I missed the extra 1 1/2 pounds of lobster meat (grin). Also, the half (!) ear of corn was a little dried out. Luckily it puffed up a bit once I slathered some butter on it. The quality of everything was great. I particularly enjoyed the roasted potatoes. The chicken was a little salty, but I just avoided the skin after that. As always, I ate the stuff that wouldn’t reheat well and brought the chicken and roasted potatoes home for later.
Salmon Dave’s Maine Event
The last clambake for the season was at Blue Canyon. I recently rediscovered Blue Canyon when I decided to celebrate my birthday there in August. My parents live close, and I wanted to celebrate with them. Our dinner there was exquisite. I had been to Blue Canyon for the clambake in 2020 and remember it being excellent, so I definitely wanted to end this season on a high note. It certainly lived up to it. I made a reservation for 4 for 6:30 on Thursday, November 3 (the last clambake of the season – they started serving at 4). I arrived there to find a full parking lot. There were a couple spots at the very end near the dumpsters and space in the overflow lot on the hill above the parking lot. I parked in the lot and sat for a while waiting for the reservation time. Two of my friends had canceled, and my friend who was meeting me was running a little late. I walked in at 6:30 along with a group of ladies, who were whisked to their table. I was greeted warmly, explained we would only be two people, and asked to take a seat for a few minutes. They apparently had to clean a couple of tables. I wasn’t in a hurry. I joked about walking from the upper parking lot and remarked that the last time I was there I was using a cane and the hostess exclaimed, “I thought I recognized you!” That is the sign of an excellent hostess, Brandt!
Initial impressions of Blue Canyon’s clambake
I was taken to my table and greeted warmly. I ordered a delicious cocktail called Royal Winter, which was made with Crown Royal, Amaretto, Chambord, cranberry juice, and pineapple juice. I took a photo of the listing so I can try to recreate it at home. It was delicious and very cranberry-forward. Once my friend arrived, she ordered the same cocktail and we ordered our clambakes. I had ordered them with the reservations so they wouldn’t run out, so she didn’t feel badly ordering an extra dozen clams. The basic clambake featured bacon clam chowder, a dozen middle neck clams, a small thimble of broth (easily confused with the melted butter), Yukon Gold Potatoes with sausage, kale and Parmesan in a sage cream sauce (absolutely delicious), and an ear of corn with roasted garlic chive butter, and an apple cider-glazed chicken breast for $39. You could add on several items, crab cake for $10, an 8 oz beef tenderloin for $24, 4 grilled shrimp for $12, and a dozen clams for $12. There were also several desserts. Unfortunately, the crab cake was listed but not available. The server offered me grilled scallops instead, which sounded good. They were perfect, but unfortunately my photo of them was not so I don’t have a photo. The dinner was a winner from start to finish. Let’s talk about the bacon clam chowder. That was without a doubt the best, most flavorful soup I have ever eaten. I wanted to order a bowl to go but forgot by the end of the dinner because everything else was phenomenal as well. The chowder was full of chunks of potato, bacon and clam, and the seasoning was superbly on point. Blue Canyon wins the Best Chowder award. The Yukon potatoes were creamy and delicious. I’m a sucker for sage. The corn was flavorful, nicely cooked, and not dried out despite it being at the end of corn season. The clams were perfect. A little chewy, but definitely well-prepared. I brought the potatoes and chicken breast home with me for lunch tomorrow (today).
Best ambiance: Gunselman’s patio/parking lot (runner up: Mish Mosh’s patio) Best bread: Winking Lizard (runner up: Stancato’s) Best chicken: Salmon Dave’s (runner up: Blue Canyon) Best chowder: Blue Canyon (runner up: Gunselman’s) Best clams: Mish Mosh Best potatoes: Blue Canyon (runner up: Salmon Dave’s) Best corn: Willoughby Elks Bet add-on: Mish Mosh’s lobster (runner up: Stancato’s linguini and clams)
Marie’s Restaurant is a Cleveland institution located at the corner of E. 45th and St. Clair Avenue. The restaurant has been in business for four decades and features Eastern European cuisine – specifically “home cooked authentic Eastern European cooking just like mama would make.” It’s known for its Croatian cooking (see: cevapi). Marie’s has great lunch and dinner specials all week. You can order in or take it to go, get a full or half portion, lunch or dinner, the choice is yours. The specials run out, so make sure you order early. Marie’s has a comfortable, no-frills dining room, friendly down-to-earth staff, and delicious home cooking.
The bread is soft and fluffy and comes served with prepackaged butter pats, which were nice and soft. No frozen hard butter that makes you tear the bread. I ate several slices before my soup and salad came out (entrees come with choice of soup or salad, but I ordered the salad on the side). The salad dressing is a delicious vinegar-based European dressing. You can’t go wrong with any of their soups, but you will have to add some salt and pepper. They definitely cater to the elderly patrons who are watching their salt intake. I’ve had the clam chowder, the ham and barley, and the chicken noodle soups. All were really tasty.
The first time I went I ordered a Schnitzel and Spaetzle, because I think that is the best test for a European restaurant. The Schnitzel was definitely homemade and hand-pounded. No uniform frozen schnitzels here. It was crisp and delicious. I ordered some goulash gravy to go over the Spätzle, which was perfect, and the green beans were good too (canned but I like that). The beer went down tooo smoothly.
The second time I went I brought my dining out group. I ordered the Schnitzel Cordon Blue and probably won’t ever order anything else. The schnitzel was thinly pounded and wrapped around a generous portion of ham and cheese. Each bite was delicious. I also ordered the spätzle again – and a side of the fried cabbage, which was absolutely delicious. It’s a special side on Wednesdays.
My fellow diners enjoyed the goulash with spätzle and with noodles as well as a schnitzel with homefries, and one diner ordered the pork chop with spätzle. The goulash is authentically Viennese in that it is just meat and sauce. Everyone loved their entrees and sides of choice. Several exclaimed that they would be coming here again.
We split several apple strudels, which was just like the thin layered pastry I enjoyed in Austria. Strudel is supposed to be made with multiple layers of thin dough – not puff pastry. This strudel was perfect.
I look forward to trying the stuffed cabbage and the cevapi before relying on the cordon blue from now on. Judging from the photos, Marie’s Chicken Paprikash is more Balkan than Hungarian. The sauce is creamier and does not use a lot of paprika like the Hungarian version does. Marie’s also has City Chicken on the menu. You can’t get much more Cleveland than that.
I maxed out on clambakes in 2022, so 2021 was a little lighter. I only attended three. There were a number of reasons – the first being that my annual translators’ conference occupied the last prime clambake weekend. I was also less than mobile due to my knee problems, and we lost Walter Hyde that month. The joy kind of disappeared.
I met my friend Dale to enjoy the clambake at Stancato’s on October 2nd to start the season off right. Like Bruno’s, Stancato’s also serves a very Italiano clambake. They bring out round bread rolls with a lovely Tuscan herb blend on top of them along with a small ramekin of marinara for dipping or drizzling. The rolls are delicious, but I prefer butter over marinara on bread. They then bring out a cup of tasty New England clam chowder. Then my favorite part – the linguini in white clam sauce. Delicious! The third course features a dozen middle neck clams with broth and drawn butter. Again, very tasty and tender. The roasted portion of the meal includes a marinated and roasted chicken, sausage and peppers, roasted parsley red skin potatoes, and buttered corn on the cob. I ate everything that wouldn’t reheat well (chowder, linguini, clams, and corn) and took the rest home for lunch the next day. Delicious!
The Leather Stallion Saloon
I skipped the next weekend to prep for a vendor event I was working at on Saturday. But that next weekend, on the 15th, I enjoyed a clambake at a most unusual venue – at a Leather & Bear Bar that has been serving the Cleveland gay community since 1970. It was one of the tastiest clambakes I’ve ever enjoyed. The Leather Stallion Saloon on St. Clair Avenue has/had a phenomenal chef. The entrance is down the alleyway, and we ate outside on the enclosed patio at the very end of the alley. My friends had preordered the tickets. We enjoyed martinis and cosmos from the patio bar and then feasted on lobster bisque and clam chowder, clams and mussels, and a half chicken or steak. We walked to the cooking area to get each course. There weren’t many people this year, so the chef didn’t care if we came up and had seconds (obviously not on the steak). I was able to enjoy both the chowder and the bisque. I think the bisque was my favorite. It had a nice amount of sherry and corn in it. The chef also brought a big bowl of mussels to the table “just because.” The dinner itself included choice of soup, clams, potato, coleslaw, corn, rolls and butter, and choice of dessert. Of course, we were able to enjoy several desserts. I particularly enjoyed the pumpkin cheesecake, although the carrot cake was also pretty phenomenal. and my bite of one of my friend’s tiramisu was also great.
Leather Stallion clambake
This year I ended up meeting two friends at the clambake at Gunselman’s Tavern. There was unfortunately a glitch with my ticket. I ordered it the day it went live on the website, but something happened and they had no record of me when I showed up. I had to pay for another ticket that day and come back with my credit card statements to get refunded for the first charge. We were seated on the patio and enjoyed the beautiful weather. The food prep was in the parking lot. Same as last year, the Gunselman’s clambake includes clam broth, New England clam chowder, a dozen clams, sweet potato and roasted potatoes, coleslaw, corn on the cob, and 1/2 chicken. I once again ordered the Steak Bake, so I got a 12 oz strip steak instead of chicken. I ordered a Blue Moon this year, which was refreshing. I wasn’t able to walk very well, so luckily one of the younger helpers (maybe 12 years old) was willing to go through the buffet line for me. I tipped him and he was thrilled. Once again it was a fun time.
Stancato’s 7380 State Road Parma, OH 44134 (440) 886-6242
Leather Stallion 2205 St Clair Ave NE Cleveland, OH 44114
I went to write about the clambakes I attended this season and went to compare the dinner I had last night with the one I had there last year. I was surprised to find I hadn’t written about the clambakes for the past two years. I have a write-up for 2019, so let’s start with 2020.
My first clambake of the season that year was on October 1st at Blue Canyon in Twinsburg. It was $30 a person (now $39). I will be writing about Blue Canyon soon, because I celebrated my birthday there and then enjoyed a delicious Oktoberfest brunch there. Since COVID was rampant in October 2020 they did a great job of distancing us from other diners by seating us in the enclosed terrace. They started us off with bread and their white bean tamponade and a cup of clam chowder with bacon, Sherry, Old Bay and potatoes. The chowder was chock-full of clams, bacon, potatoes and herbs. Very, very tasty. The middle neck clams were perfectly prepared – not a dry one in the bunch. It was served with a small cup of broth and a small cup of melted butter for dipping. The cider-brined roast chicken was served with a miso mustard jus – just amazingly good and I’m not a fan of chicken with clambakes. I could have eaten a second one. The dinners came with a side of creamed corn with harissa and parmesan, roasted fingerling potatoes with Cajun garlic butter, and wild rice pilaf with charred broccoli rabe, cranberry, almond and sage. The creamed corn was the item that convinced me to go. I love creamed corn, and this was the tastiest I’ve ever had. In fact, every single side was outstanding. I chose to upgrade and add a 4-5 oz. lobster tail for $9 (other options were 3 sea scallops or an 8 oz beef tenderloin). We rounded out the meal ordering the creme brulee, which was heavenly. I started out the season right, and I have to say this was one of the best clambakes I have ever enjoyed. Every Thursday and Friday starting at 4 PM from late September to early November (check the site). Reservations recommended.
Blue Canyon clambake
Two days later, I found myself at the clambake at Gunselman’s Tavern. They sell tickets to this clambake through their website and offer three a year. In this time of COVID they set it up in the parking lot. I sat by myself with my Kindle on the patio. I ordered a Stroh’s in honor of my grandfather. He was the first person to give me my first taste of ever – and you can bet it was a Stroh’s. The beer transported me to my childhood. The Gunselman’s clambake includes clam broth, New England clam chowder, a dozen clams, sweet potato, roasted potatoes, coleslaw, corn on the cob and 1/2 chicken. I ordered the Steak Bake, s i got a 12 oz strip steak. Since the food was served buffet style I was unable to order my steak medium rare. It was a little tough, but it was edible. It was definitely a fun time.
Gunselman’s Tavern’s Clambake
Cabin of Willowick
The next weekend I chose to go to the Cabin of Willowick, a casual dining steak and seafood restaurant known for its patio dining. I had heard they had a good clambake. Unfortunately, it was a rainy evening, so patio dining was out. I went early in the evening to avoid the crowds, sat by myself, and brought a book (well, Kindle). It was pretty dark, but I had a side dining room to myself. They started me off with a mug of clam broth (fantastic) and a bowl of New England clam chowder. It was a good clam chowder. I treated myself to a nice Chardonnay. The clams were little neck clams and were very tender. I had one questionably open clam, so I set it aside. No need to get an upset tummy from a clam that may or may not be bad. How open is okay to eat? I upgraded to the lobster tail dinner, which came with haricot vert (French green beans and roasted potatoes. They served a delicious Apple Brown Betty for dessert. The service was a little slow, but I wasn’t in a hurry. I remember waiting a while to be acknowledged by the hostess and then the server. I wasn’t that surprised when they closed soon thereafter. It’s Timber Social Kitchen now. I’ll have to check it out.
Cabin of Willowick clambake
Fisher’s American Tavern
I visited Fisher’s American Tavern at Miles and Brainard in Solon for week number 3. They had been advertising their clambake pretty heavily on All Things Food in Cleveland (a local Facebook food group I help moderate), so I decided to check them out. I had ordered a Lenten fish fry from there earlier (carry out only due to Covid) and enjoyed it a lot. But clams don’t travel well, so they have to be enjoyed on-site. I felt like having a hearty beer, so I ended up ordering a Guinness. It paired well with the clam chowder. The chowder was a decent clam chowder. The clams were middle neck clams and were nice and tender. The clambake came with a little ramekin of broth, a roll, and a baked potato (with sour cream). I ordered the NY strip steak instead of the chicken. The steak was perfectly medium rare, and I enjoyed the meal a lot. Every Friday, and Saturday, from 4 to 8 in October.
Fisher’s American Tavern
The Lobster Pot
Week number four had me eating at the Lobster Pot in Willoughby Hills. The Lobster Pot is known for its made-from-scratch food and fresh seafood. I’ve eaten here several times and enjoyed it every time. I went by myself, and as I was seated on the patio, two of my friends who were seated nearby asked me to join them. They were almost finished with their clambakes, but they sat and kept me company as we enjoyed the lovely weather. The clambake came with a cup of New England clam chowder, a dozen clams, a cup of clam broth, boiled red potatoes, corn on the cob, and cole slaw. This year I chose a pound of crab legs. Last year I ordered the whole lobster. I don’t know which one I prefer more. Starts in September and goes through October.
The Lobster Trap clambake
It was a five-weekend month, so I got to enjoy a fifth weekend of clambakes in 2020. The final clambake was a very unusual one – at Bruno’s Ristorante, which is known for its excellent Italian food. It is a very small place, so reservations are a must – even not during clambake season. Bruno’s Clambake Italiano includes fresh baked Italian bread with butter or oil (for dipping), one dozen middle neck clams in an herb broth (you can see the herbs on the clams), clam chowder, choice of cornish hen ($32), oven roasted 1/2 chicken ($32) or filet of beef (I got the beef for $42), corn on the cob, sweet potato (with brown sugar on the side), homemade white clam pasta, choice of dessert (I ordered tiramisu to go, so no photo) and non-alcoholic beverages. I ate several slices of bread. The clams were tender, and the white clam pasta was out of this world. The filet of beef was very tender and just as I ordered it. I’d definitely go here again. Every Friday and Saturday in October. Dinner service only after 4PM.
Bruno’s Ristorante Clambake Italiano
Blue Canyon 8960 Wilcox Drive Twinsburg, OH 44087 (330) 486-2583
Who doesn’t like mac n cheese? When done well, mac n cheese can put you in a happy place. When I went to New York City a few years ago we made sure to eat at S’MAC, which I think (and Goldbelly agrees) is probably the best mac n cheese restaurant in the U.S. The variety there is amazing. I wanted to love I Heart Mac N Cheese, but it’s no S’MAC. S’MAC offers a lot more varieties – and adult-friendly varieties. I Heart Mac n Cheese is perfectly okay, but I don’t see myself going out of my way to eat there.
Once you get to the ordering station, you tell the person your order. If you want mac n cheese, they fill a bowl with pasta, add whatever mix-ins you want (vegetables, meats, etc.) and ladle cheese sauce over it. They then put a couple slices of cheese on top and run it through the conveyor belt broiler/salamander. If you order a grilled cheese, they grab the bread, layer on the cheese (and mac n cheese if requested) and run it through the conveyor belt broiler/salamander. You can also order tater tots and tomato soup.
You can build your own mac n cheese bowl using pasta, broccoli, cauliflower, quinoa or tater tots as a base and add on your favorite proteins, cheeses, and vegetables. They have all kinds of set options too – like buffalo chicken, short rib philly and chicken parmesan. Bonus points for offering gluten-free options and being vigilant to prevent cross-contamination. Extra bonus points for offering vegan options and vegan cheese. If my mother liked this kind of thing I think she could safely eat here.
The first time I went they had just opened, and I brought my dining out group there. Everyone was very healthy and ordered veggies to add to their mac n cheese. I was less so and ordered the Lobster & White Truffle Mac n Cheese minus the truffle oil. Truffle oil is the easiest way to ruin mac n cheese if you ask me, and every restaurant feels they need to add it to make it fancier than it is. Mac n cheese is mac n cheese. It doesn’t need to be fancy. I enjoyed the lobster mac n cheese. I wish they offered different noodles than just cavatappi, but do understand that cavatappi makes a nice mac n cheese. The cheese sauce was really bland. A dash of hot sauce might help. They weren’t chintzy with the lobster, which I appreciated.
They make a mean grilled cheese, and I love the tomato soup. I am not normally a fan of tomato soup, but their tomato soup is quite creamy and flavorful. I am not a fan of the tater tots. They are just kind of mushy and not very crisp. I felt like I was biting into mashed potatoes shaped into tots. They come with a small container of tomato soup for dipping, but you can also get ketchup if your kids want it. This is definitely a kid-friendly place, but it’s not S’MAC. If you want to try S’MAC for yourself you can order it through Goldbelly. My favorites are the four cheese and Napolitana, but the Parisienne is out of this world (make it yourself at home with this recipe).
Established in 1977, Grum’s is legendary when it comes to CWRU students and their favorite subs. You can get a foot-long (whole) sandwich for $13, which is enough for two meals. Grum’s is always recommended when folks on food forums ask for good subs. Unlike many sub shops in Cleveland, Grum’s has one location – Coventry Road in Cleveland Heights. I live within walking distance, which makes me the envy of a lot of people. One of my friends drives here twice a year from the west side and enjoys their Grum’s in Lake View Cemetery.
It doesn’t wow me, but they make a good sub and they have their die-hard fans. The bread is fresh, the meats and cheeses are plentiful, and the combination of flavors are well-paired. At the moment they only carry Italian bread. There is a supply problem with wheat. They have a sign on the door. They have chips and soda in vending machines to the right of the ordering counter. They used to serve them from behind the counter. I do not like the addition of the vending machines. It seems cheap and not very customer-friendly to me. I don’t know too many people who are willing to pay for a sub and then willingly plug money in a machine for a bag of chips and then another machine for a can or bottle of soda. But maybe that’s just me.
Grum’s is best known for the Turkey Ridge. It is made with roasted turkey breast, lettuce, tomato, onions, provolone cheese, Grum’s (secret) spices and mayo. It’s definitely a tasty sub. The spices complement the turkey sub, and I like the fact that the lettuce and onion are thinly shredded.
I usually order the Grumsteer, which is made with thinly sliced roast beef, oil, lettuce, tomato, onions, provolone cheese, Grum’s horseradish sauce and Grum’s spices. I really like the roast beef and tangy horseradish sauce. It can be ordered hot or cold, but I prefer it cold, because I felt the consistency and taste of the roast beef changed when it was heated and I was not a fan. As you can see from this side view there is a lot of roast beef in the sub. They also offer something called a Grumsting, which is a roast beef sandwich with barbecue sauce (thinly sliced roast beef, lettuce, tomato, onion, jalapeño pepper rings, provolone cheese, BBQ sauce , and Grum’s spices, to be exact). I prefer horseradish with my roast beef, but if you like barbecue sauce you might enjoy the Grumsting. It’s only available as a hot sub.
I tried the signature sub, the Grum, just to report on it. It is a decent Italian-style sub, featuring smoked ham, pepperoni, genoa salami, oil, lettuce, tomato, onion, hot banana pepper rings, provolone cheese, and Grum’s spices. Me being me, I picked out the hot banana pepper rings, but there was enough residual juice left behind to give it a bit of zing. The pepperoni and salami obviously overwhelmed any taste of ham, but it is a good sub if you like Italian cold cuts.
Grum’s tuna fish sub, the Seagrum, is made with Grum’s tuna salad, mayo, lettuce, tomato, and provolone cheese. I am not a fan of crunchy stuff like celery in my sub, so I really enjoyed the softness of the sub bun and the tuna. But if you prefer a sturdier sandwich you might want to order something else. The tuna flavor was not too overwhelming or “tuna-ee”. It wasn’t the best tuna sandwich I’ve had, but it also wasn’t the worst. It was a decent tuna sub.
I was going to order a hot sub, but I wasn’t able to order a half Hamshire in their online ordering system. Maybe another time. I’ve also had their pizza sub, which I enjoyed, but I don’t have a photo of that either. Two things you can order on the online ordering system is a side of potato salad and a half or a whole pickle, so I did. The potato salad was a decent potato salad. It’s not Fragapane’s or my mom’s, but I would order it again. It had a nice mayo base. It could use a little more seasoning than the paprika dashed on top of it. The whole pickle was great. Cut into four spears, it was sturdy and not too floppy and had a good dill flavor.
They also have three salads and a hot dog on their menu. The salads look like they are all iceberg lettuce, but the toppings appear to be plentiful. The salads are also all under $10. I would have really like to order soup, but maybe that is too much. There is chili listed in the ordering system, but several people on Yelp complained that they don’t have it despite it being listed. The online ordering system also allows you to order a soda, but they don’t specify what kinds and I wonder how that works with the vending machine.
Grum’s isn’t my go-to choice for subs, but it certainly has its fans. I prefer a sturdier bread. Maybe I would have become a fan if I was a CWRU student in the 1990s instead of BGSU. Instead, my heart belongs to DiBennedetto’s, which was across the street from my dorm and is unfortunately is no longer in business.
Issho Ni Ramen, Sushi & Hibachi in Willoughby (not to be confused with Issho Ni Poke in Mentor) is in an unassuming strip mall on Euclid Avenue in Willoughby. Issho Ni is a bit out of the way compared to other options closer to the city proper, but it’s definitely worth the drive out for its great flavor and fresh fish. One of my friends had been suggesting we go for a while, and I decided to give it a go in July because sushi is a great cool dinner.
I looked at Yelp photos and the menu first to get an idea what to expect. Yelp showed me that Issho Ni was serving things like Ikura with quail egg or nigiri with scoring and sauces that I had only seen at Kura (the conveyor belt sushi restaurant in Troy, Michigan). I was completely intrigued by the Sunshine Roll. My home computer and wifi network is called Sunshine, so I like the name. I was intrigued by the fact that they top it with lemon and honey. The Sunshine Roll features crabmeat, cucumber and avocado topped with fresh salmon, lemon slices, tomato, bell pepper, sesame seeds, and a honey wasabi sauce. My roll came out without tomatoes, but I certainly didn’t notice. The roll was one of the best I’ve ever had, and the entire table agreed that it was the best choice of the night.
I also ordered a California Roll (bottom of photo with black sesame seeds) and the Rock n Roll (top of photo), which is essentially a Philly roll (minus the avocado) deep-fried in tempura. The California Roll also comes deep-fried as an option, but I thought the cream cheese roll would be tasty with a little heat. The California Roll was your basic crabmeat, cucumber and avocado roll, but I don’t remember any avocado and barely noticed the cucumber. The Rock n Roll had smoked salmon and cream cheese inside and was topped with scallions, masago, sesame seeds and eel sauce. My friends were teasing me because I was liberally applying the wasabi to them, but I just found both of them pretty bland. I had ordered an expensive Seared Toro Nigiri (fatty tuna), but the server never brought it. I was full enough from the rolls, so I told him not to bother. I honestly think he had forgotten it. I don’t know many servers who would forget a $17.50 item, but it was easier on my wallet in the long run.
My one friend ordered the Albacore Lover Roll and a seaweed salad. The seaweed salad came out first, and it had a great flavor. I can see myself ordering it the next time I am there. The sesame oil was liberally and perfectly used. I won’t even mind that it sticks in between my teeth. Note to self: only order it when dining alone – LOL.
My friend has a shellfish allergy, so she was thrilled to hear that the crabmeat was imitation crab because she was able to try all of our rolls. Her Albacore Lover Roll was also tasty. It contains spicy tuna and cucumber topped with albacore, fried onions, scallions, and ponzu sauce. I enjoyed the crunch of the fried onions, and the flavors came together really well.
My other friend ordered the Issho Ni Roll, which features crabmeat, avocado, and cucumber topped with spicy tuna and deep-fried eel tempura, spicy mayo and eel sauce, masago, scallions and sesame seeds, and the House Roll, which features crabmeat, tuna, salmon, yellowtail, cucumber, avocado and a sweet mustard sauce. They were both good, but the House Roll was really awkward to eat. It was sliced very thin and was very tall.
We were given our checks without asking if we wanted dessert, which we did. Two of us ordered the matcha tiramisu, and one ordered the sweet pudding. All three came out partially frozen. The server was appalled by the look of the pudding and took it away, saying he couldn’t charge her for it. We enjoyed the matcha tiramisu because it was so refreshing semi-frozen.
It also would have been nice if he hadn’t started to wipe a table and mop the floor immediately adjacent to us while we were still eating. The overpowering detergent smell did not lend itself to the enjoyment of the dessert.
I went back to try the Yakisoba on a Sunday afternoon. I ordered the Scottish Salmon nigiri as a starter, which was just delicious. The rice fell apart a little too much, but the fish was perfect.
The server then brought out my Yakisoba and thanked me for my patience. I told her there was no patience needed because I had only ordered it minutes ago. The kitchen was super quick. I really liked the flavor of the Yakisoba. It had a basic sweetness to it that I liked, and the light vegetables added to it were great – cabbage and some scallions. ordered the chicken and debated adding shrimp for a second, but decided to just stick with chicken.
I also ordered the Sunshine Roll again and the Volcano Roll. They were out of the seafood mayo topping for the Volcano Roll, so the server suggested another roll that was similar called the Firecracker Roll, which features spicy tuna, cucumber, avocado, crab stick that is deep fried and then topped with shrimp tempura, habanero and scallops. Once I figured out what was making it so spicy (habanero) and removed it, I enjoyed the roll much more. I ended up taking half of everything and another Sunshine Roll home as leftovers.
Urban Kitchen opened in the Innova building on Chester across from the Cleveland Clinic main entrance on Euclid Avenue. I noticed it because it is right next to Fluffy Duck Cafe, but I didn’t know enough about it to want to eat there. Plus, there was some confusion in my mind with Urban Farmer downtown. Well, once I heard that Urban Kitchen served Egyptian food my curiosity was piqued.
Urban Kitchen bills itself as “an American style kitchen and deli. Serving local specialties with only the finest ingredients sourced locally. At Urban Kitchen we believe in natural, wholesome, and healthy cooking.” It’s the same boilerplate farm to table blah blah most restaurants push. They do serve some deli sandwiches and burgers, but their Egyptian and Middle Eastern food really shines.
There’s plenty of parking in the back (use the phone app), and there is an entrance in the back as well. Enter off Chester, follow the drive under the building, and park in the lot. The entrance is in the corner near the Kindercare entrace.
I got some friends who are equally adventurous together to check them out. I was really intrigued by the Kushery. Kushery is a vegetarian dish made of rice, macaroni and lentils mixed together, topped with a spiced tomato sauce, and garlic vinegar; garnished with chickpeas and crispy fried onions. It looks like a total mess on a plate, but it is delicious. I ordered it for everyone to try, and everyone really enjoyed it. It even heats up well the next day.
I also ordered the Mousakaa, which is similar to the Greek moussaka, but not quite the same. It features a seasoned ground meat mixture between two layers of fried eggplant oven-baked to perfection and served with vermicelli rice. I really enjoyed the flavor of this. I have really become a fan of eggplant in the past few years. Unfortunately, one of my friends has a nightshade allergy and couldn’t try it, but another friend liked it so much that he went back to Urban Kitchen a week later and ordered it for himself.
My friend with the nightshade allergy ordered the Mashawi, which is a platter of grilled meats consisting of Kofta (ground lamb kabob), Tawook (marinated chicken breast) served with Persian fava and dill rice, grilled veggies and garlic sauce. She really enjoyed it, even if it is very similar to some dishes at Aladdin’s and other Mediterranean restaurants. It looks so fresh and healthy that I want to order it the next time I visit.
Another friend ordered several of the phyllo dough desserts for us to share. Both the baklava and the sweet goulash (turnover) featured honey and pistachios, but the sweet goulash also had a nice sweet custard and English cream filling. I particularly enjoyed the sweet goulash. I tried to order it the next time I visited for dinner, but they had run out of it.
I ordered a slice of banana cream cheesecake to share. It was phenomenal. The creamy consistency was very comforting, and the banana cream flavor really shined. I would order it again if they have it, but their offerings tend to vary from day to day.
The stuffed grape leaves are also very good (see top of the photo below). They are not too stuffed, and the rice filling is not too overwhelming. I’d rank them just below Astoria’s stuffed grape leaves featuring its “golden rice.”
I have also ordered the California Chicken sandwich, which is a grilled chicken breast topped with avocado, bacon, Swiss, spinach, onion, and tomato on a grilled brioche roll. The onion was thick rings of red onion that were very pungent. A little red onion goes a long way. It got better once I removed most of the onion and broke it into tiny pieces that I distributed over the lettuce. They must have been out of avocado that night, but it took me a while to realize it, so I didn’t miss it much. It was a very flavorful sandwich. The spinach, onion, and tomato were very fresh. The bacon was tasty but looked a little weird. Turns out it is turkey bacon. The fresh-cut fries were a nice side, and I enjoyed them.
Another thing Urban Kitchen does well is breakfast. I have had the Breakfast Slammer sandwich two times now and thoroughly enjoyed it each time. It features two slices of French toast stuffed with sausage, eggs and bacon, served with whipped butter and drizzled with hot maple syrup. It’s got everything the perfect breakfast calls for.
They also serve great pancakes. My friend who returned for the mousakka ordered the chocolate chip pancakes to go and loved them so much he ordered them again. I’m intrigued by the Lotus Dream Pancakes, which are layered and drizzled with Biscoff cookie butter and topped with Biscoff cookie crumbles, red sanding sugar, and fresh whipped cream. If you love cookie butter, you will love these pancakes. The server asked if I wanted syrup, but they were perfect with just the cookie butter. I had forgotten how weird the bacon is. I ordered it to cut the sweetness of the pancakes.
The customer service is pretty informal and prompt. I was able to get refills of my iced tea from one server, while a server on another visit never offered. The flavored iced teas are nice. I’ve had the raspberry and peach. The cocktails are also nice. My coffee was refilled several times during breakfast/brunch hours.
I will probably be criticized for mentioning this, but they have a bidet installed on the toilet in the bathroom. If you want to experience a bidet, be sure to check it out. It’s a treat.