Marie’s Restaurant

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.

Contact info:

Marie’s Restaurant
4502 St. Clair Avenue
Cleveland, OH 44103


Clambakes 2021

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!

Stancato’s clambake

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

Gunselman’s Tavern

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.

Contact info:

7380 State Road
Parma, OH 44134
(440) 886-6242

Leather Stallion
2205 St Clair Ave NE
Cleveland, OH 44114

Gunselman’s Tavern
21490 Lorain Road
Fairview Park, OH 44126
(440) 331-5719

Clambakes 2020

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.

Blue Canyon

Blue Canyon

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

Gunselman’s Tavern

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

Bruno’s Ristorante

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

Contact info:

Blue Canyon
8960 Wilcox Drive
Twinsburg, OH 44087
(330) 486-2583

Gunselman’s Tavern
21490 Lorain Road
Fairview Park, OH 44126
(440) 331-5719

The Cabin of Willowick
28810 Lakeshore Boulevard
Willowick, OH 44095

Fisher’s American Tavern
28020 Miles Road
Solon, OH 44139
(440) 349-3736

The Lobster Pot
2749 Som Center Road
Willoughby Hills, Ohio 44094
(440) 569-1634

Bruno’s Ristorante
2644 W 41st Street
Cleveland, OH 44113
(216) 961-7087

I Heart Mac N Cheese in Parma

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).

Contact info:

I Heart Mac n Cheese
7725 W Ridgewood Drive, Suite 800
Parma, OH 44134


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.

The vending machines were there even before the COVID renovations (see the new menu boards in second photo)

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.

Contact info:

Grum’s Sub Shoppe
1776 Coventry Road
Cleveland Heights, OH 44118
(216) 321-4781

Issho Ni Ramen, Sushi & Hibachi

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. I ordered the chicken yakisoba and debated adding shrimp for a second, but decided to just stick with chicken. It was a nice choice.

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.

Contact info:

Issho Ni Ramen Sushi and Hibachi
34302 Euclid Ave Unit 1-2
Willoughby, OH 44094
(440) 306-8020
Closed Mon. & Tues., open Wed-Sun from 11 am to 9/9:30 pm

Urban Kitchen & Deli

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.

Contact info:

Urban Kitchen & Deli
9751 Chester Avenue
Cleveland, OH 44106-1604
(216) 471-8956
Closed on Sundays

Davis Bakery

Brothers Ben, Julius and Carl established Davis Bakery in 1939, opening their first location on South Taylor Road in Cleveland Heights. They were also the first bakery to incorporate delicatessens into their retail outlets. They currently have two locations – one in Woodmere and one in Warrensville Heights. The Woodmere location is open 365 days a year, while the Warrensville Heights location is open Monday-Friday 9 am – 4 pm. Known for Jewish rye bread (made with a 75 year old starter), Russian tea biscuits, coconut bars, and chocolate chip cookies, they also offer sandwiches featuring hot corned beef, a turkey off the bone, and the self-proclaimed best tuna salad in Cleveland. The bread is always fresh and delicious, the meat is fresh, lean and tasty, and the baked goods are great.

When you walk in, the first thing you see is a wall of bags of chips – snack-sized and regular-sized. The right side is dedicated to the deli, while the left side is filled with display cases of baked goods, whether they are fresh loaves and rolls of bread, cookies, pastries, and biscuits. The center divider contains small cookie plates, rolls, t-shirts and condiments.

The first time I went, I pored over the menu and decided to order a grilled roast beef and Swiss sandwich. You can get a “King sized” sandwich for $3 more. I can’t even imagine what a King sized sandwich looks like. Each sandwich gets a pickle and a cookie. The chocolate chip cookie was so moist, and I’m a sucker for a good dill pickle. I also ordered the Matzo ball soup (which is served every day in addition to a soup du jour) and a side of macaroni salad. I loved every bite of everything. The Matzo ball soup was comforting, and the macaroni salad became my official favorite macaroni salad in Cleveland. It was perfect in my mind – not too sweet, yet really creamy.

I also love their soda fountain. It isn’t filled with the typical Pepsi or Coke products (except Diet Coke). It features natural cane sugar flavors like Root Beer, Lemonade, Southern Sweet Tea, Ginger Ale, Black Cherry, Cream Soda, and Cola. I like mixing the flavors for a unique soda.

On the next visit I splurged and ordered the Cavs specialty sandwich. It is my perfect sandwich. It features hot roast beef, melted Swiss cheese, coleslaw, and a special Bistro sauce on grilled rye bread. I have a hard time going there and not ordering it again and again, because I love it so much. The coleslaw is creamy and just goes so well with the crispy bread. I love that they name some of their sandwiches after our sports teams (note: the Tribe is still the Tribe, which features hot corned beef, pastrami, Swiss, coleslaw, and Thousand Island dressing. Shhh! Don’t tell them.).

On my most recent visit, I ordered the Tuna Melt (I obviously had to try the best tuna in Cleveland). It came with the requisite pickle and cookie, but I had to get Dr. Brown’s soda in a can because the soda fountain was out of order. I also ordered a side of potato salad and a side of macaroni salad in addition to some egg salad to take home and eat later. The deli worker told me he would deliver my choices to the dining area while I chose my drinks and paid at the register.

I got my Dr. Brown Black Cherry and Cream Soda sodas in cans. They also have Faygo soda, Arizona green tea, juices, and lots of other choices. I also ordered an Apricot French stick (I think that is what they were called – made using puffed pastry, it is kind of like a snoogle or bear claw). The Tuna Melt was indeed fantastic. It seemed to be made with Swiss instead of American cheese, which was just fine by me since I love Swiss. The potato salad was a decent potato salad for a deli potato salad. I prefer a tangier, less creamy potato salad, but I would not complain if served this at a party. The macaroni salad was just as divine as always. The chocolate chip cookie literally melted in my hand – and not just because it was 88 degrees outside.

I volunteered to bring a dessert to my niece’s high school graduation party last month. I decided a cookie and bar platter would be perfect. I made Rice Krispy Treats with Sweet Vanilla Matcha for my gluten-free relatives and then hit Davis Bakery for the good stuff. I had fun picking out several different cookies, bars, and brownies as well as a large selection of kolache. My family members are hard-core and picky kolache connoisseurs, because my maternal grandmother used to make them from scratch for holidays like Christmas and Easter. Needless to say, the dessert tray was a huge hit.

Contact info:

Davis Bakery
28700 Chagrin Boulevard
Woodmere, OH 44122
(216) 292-3060

Warrensville Heights location:
4572 Renaissance Parkway
Cleveland, OH 44128
(216) 464-5533

Yonder Brunch & Vibes

Yonder Brunch & Vibes opened this year in Midtown in La Bodega’s old location. This is not fast food so a wait was to be expected, but the wait during my initial visit was ridiculous. I brought a small group in for breakfast, and we must have completely overwhelmed them. We were probably the first people through the door, but more people arrived after us. The first person who ordered from our group ended up getting his food last – an hour after he ordered it. That said, the food was really good.

I ordered a coffee and an apple juice as well as a breakfast that featured soft-scrambled eggs, bacon, buttered and grilled Texas toast, and smashed potatoes. It was a lot of food! I ended up packing some potatoes, toast and bacon to go because it was a lot. When I say buttered and grilled, I mean buttered and grilled. This was the most buttered toast I have ever had – I swear they SOAK it in butter before grilling it. It also leaves your hands greasy, so keep the breakfast sandwiches in the paper wrappers when you eat them.

The coffee is good and you can go up to the counter for a refill. They have milk, half and half and liquid creamers available. They have the sugar, creamer packs, stirrers, etc. with the silverware, syrup and butter on the side counter.

Most of my friends ordered the Yonder breakfast sandwich or some variation thereon. It features the buttered and grilled Texas toast packed with bacon or sausage (or avocado), egg and cheese. The Yonder features Applewood bacon, caramelized onions, soft-scrambled eggs, cheese, chives and Chipotle Mayo. Everyone loved their sandwich.

Two of my friends ordered the Pancakes Classic, which features two pancakes, two eggs and your choice of meat. The soft-scrambled eggs had some cheese in them, and the over easy eggs came out perfect.

They also serve cocktails and special iced teas, but it was too early for a cocktail. They are only open from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m., so I can’t imagine they do a rocking alcohol trade (particularly during the week). The iced tea was very refreshing, if a little boring – it only had a couple citrus wedges when some of the other photos I’ve seen are more decadent.

Despite the wait, everyone left happy. I’m not sure if anyone went back on their own, but now that they have opened a second location in South Euclid I think it is pretty likely they are doing good business.

I went back again to try the Cereal Killa French Toast. They use the Texas toast and coat it in breakfast cereals. The Cereal Killa features 4 slices of French toast (you can choose from Fruity Pebbles, Cinnamon Toast Crunch, Apple Jacks and Frosted Flakes), while the French toast breakfasts have 2 slices and egg and meat. I tried the Fruity Pebbles French toast with two eggs (I chose well-scrambled with no cheese) and a meat (pork bacon for me). I can’t decide if I liked the Fruity Pebbles French toast. They had a weird scent and flavor. I think the heat might change the molecular structure a bit. The flavor lingered with me throughout the day. I’ll try Frosted Flakes next time. They even have an Oreo French toast now. The menu is a little longer than it is online.

Contact info:

Yonder Brunch & Vibes
Midtown location
3859 Superior Avenue
Cleveland, OH 44114
(216) 465-3046

Cedar Center North location
13957 Cedar Road
South Euclid, OH 44118
(216) 400-6201


Opening Day in University Heights

Swensons Drive-In is an Ohio drive-in restaurant chain with locations in the Akron, Canton, Cleveland, Columbus and Cincinnati areas. Swensons’ signature hamburger is the Galley Boy, a double cheeseburger prepared using two sauces (a tartar-sauce-like and a BBQ sauce), and the restaurant also sells 18 different milkshakes. Wesley T. “Pop” Swenson started selling hamburgers at Buchtel High School out of a station wagon in 1933. In 1934, he opened a restaurant on South Hawkins Avenue in Akron, near West Market Street. Swenson sold the restaurant in 1949 to Robert Phillips, who began expansion in 1952 with a second location in North Akron on East Cuyahoga Falls Avenue.

I have been eating at Swensons since I was in grad school at Kent in the mid-1990s. My father introduced me to the Stow location, but I also enjoyed the Swensons near Howe Avenue. You pull into a parking spot and turn your headlights on for service. You turn your lights on again if you need anything or are ready to pay. I was so impressed with the guys in shorts running as fast as they can back and forth between the restaurant and the cars in the parking lot.

People either love or hate Swensons. The burgers have a little sweetness to them. No one knows the secret recipe.  It seems to be something of an Akron urban legend that Swensons mixes a little brown sugar into the ground beef. I can’t say if it is true or not, but whatever they do it yields a patty that is extra tasty and delicious. But no, they are not dumping sugar on top of the hamburger, and it is definitely not sweet. And you can’t hate the prices. A Galley Boy is between $3-4, asloppy joe is $2.65, the sides are all around $2, and a classic milkshake costs $2.70 for a medium and $3.10 for a large and the special milkshakes are $0.10 more.

My father is a HUGE milkshake fan. He’s easy to buy for on holidays, because I can get him a Swensons gift certificate or a Swensons glass to make a milkshake at home. It was an exciting day when Swensons opened in Cleveland, first in the Seven Hills area and then near me in University Heights. I was at University Heights on Day One despite the terrible weather (see first picture). I got the last available spot in the parking lot. Here’s an amusing story: I ordered a milkshake and was driving home and tried to drink it. Oddly enough, nothing came out but a couple ice pebbles. I drove back and complained that I didn’t get the right drink. I tried my best to explain it to the server. It turns out someone had filled the cup up halfway with ice and then poured the milkshake on top of the ice.

Galley Boy with lettuce, tomato and onion added.

Swensons features one milkshake a month or so. It used to drive me crazy because I never knew what the milkshake flavor was without having to drive by. I reached out to them through the Internet, and they actually took my suggestion and are posting the milkshake flavor on the website and on their social media channels. You’re welcome. You can order the flavor as a standalone or mix it with one of their standard milkshakes. Think strawberry and chocolate or nutella and banana.

Galley Boy dressed with a Spanish olive

I have tried most of the things on the menu. My go-to order is usually the Galley Boy. I switch things up and usually “with everything” (mustard, dill pickles and onions) and add lettuce and tomato. I feel like I am making it a little healthier that way. It comes out dressed with a Spanish olive on a toothpick.

Beef veg, large California and a crispy chicken sandwich

Another favorite is the beef vegetable soup. It was probably launched to use up older beef, but now it has chunks of beef instead of ground beef and features eight different veggies. It is a definite order when it turns colder. I also really like that there are no lima beans.

Another must for me is the California. Swensons has three specialty sodas that mix a fruit flavored soda with ginger ale. The Florida uses orange juice, the Ohio uses cherry soda, and the California features grape soda. The California also has a slice of lemon floating on top. I always order “the largest California possible.” I wish they wouldn’t use styrofoam cups. If they would sell reusable cups I would love that.

The sides are all quite tasty, and everyone has a favorite. When fried well, the fries are crisp yet creamy, the onion rings are shatteringly crisp. The potato teezers are the hands-down favorite (potato with cheese and jalapeno). I like the fried mushrooms and fried zucchini sticks. Be sure to order a side of Ranch to dip them. The potato puffs are basically tater tots.

The sloppy joe (above left) is pretty decent. It’s not the most spectacular sloppy joe, but it will curb the craving. If you like fried bologna (above right) they can satisfy that urge too.

I very rarely order the shrimp or chicken dinners. The dinners come with a toasted roll, fries and coleslaw or applesauce. The toasted roll could be improved, because all it is is a toasted hamburger bun. This is similar to the “in a basket” back in the day before COVID. Any sandwich was available “in a basket” and get fries and coleslaw or applesauce. I miss that.

This is a controversial choice, but I enjoy the grilled cheese and tomato soup special or the egg salad sandwich and tomato soup special in the winter. I’ve also been known to just order an egg salad sandwich when I want something light and not fried/grilled. Swensons serves a decent egg salad sandwich.

Contact info:

Swensons Drive-in
(click on link for locations)