Mike’s Place in Kent

When I was in grad school at Kent State University Mike’s Place quickly became a favorite haunt. Mike’s Place opened at 6 am on September 5, 1987 and has become an institution. People either love it or hate it. I love it, because you can’t help but love a place that features off-the-wall humor on the menu (click here to check out the menu in all its glory), quirky decorating and a fighter plane.

I was in Kent the other day to visit my dentist (no cavities) and decided to go to Mike’s Place for an early lunch. I was there at 11 a.m., and apart from a couple hung over co-eds the place was populated with an older crowd than I was used to seeing.

My favorite sandwiches at Mike’s Place include Samuri Mike’s Teriyaki Terror (a hamburger with teriyaki sauce and onion rings), Josh’s Chicken Meltdown (fried chicken tenders, sautéed onions, American & Swiss cheese on 2 slices of grilled rye) and Lutz Lavishous Lust (pictured here – grilled chicken breast, bacon, 1000 island dressing, tomatoes & pineapple topped with shredded cheese), but there is a sandwich for just about every taste under the sun. You will need at least ten minutes to peruse the menu and narrow down your choices. I never managed to order a dinner entree, because I never managed to work my way through the sandwich menu!IMAG5792

Mike’s also serves breakfast all day, which was really appreciated when I was in grad school. They also feature lots of affordable specials. Mike’s hours of operation are 6 am – 11pm Monday through Thursday and 6 am to midnight Friday and Saturday, and 7 am to 10 pm on Sundays.

And if your sandwich is too sloppy, there is always a roll of paper towels on the table.

Contact info:

Mike’s Place
1700 S. Water Street (corner of SR 43 & SR 261)
Kent, Ohio 44240
330-673-6501

Apple turnovers at Blue Jaye Farm

I am not a big fan of baked goods (despite the fact that I worked at Baker’s Square for five years in high school and college). I usually leave the crust on pies and just eat the filling, and scones make me gag because I find them too dry. 100_1139But I stopped at Blue Jaye Farm on Liberty Road in Twinsburg (edit: the place has since closed – now working out of Heritage Farm in Peninsula) the other day to pick up some apple cider and was hungry, so I grabbed an apple turnover. Oh my goodness was it delicious. The turnover was flaky and delicious with just a hint of creamy vanilla goodness. I went back today and bought some more. I asked her what her secret ingredient was (making a joke that it was crack), and she told me she makes them two ways – plain and with cream cheese. I was lucky enough to buy one that uses cream cheese, although I bought a plain apple turnover too for the trip home and that was just as flaky and delicious. The apple turnovers made with cream cheese are slightly larger than the regular apple turnovers. Both are available for $1.50 each.

100_1140She sells lots of baked goods there, including chocolate chip cookies, rice krispie treats, fudge and homemade pies (I saw pumpkin, apple walnut, mixed berry and blueberry when I was there), as well as apple cider, apples, homemade jelly and preserves, pumpkins, and several kinds of candy for the kids. Not to mention the homemade wreaths, crafts, decorative corn stalks, and gourds. The pumpkins are gorgeous and are available in all sizes and colors (I’d never heard or seen cotton candy white pumpkins before). The variety is amazing.

Blue Jaye Farm also offers hayrides on the weekend. Be sure to check the site, because it is only open until October 31st. However, you can buy her baked goods, gift baskets, wreaths, centerpieces, etc. at Heritage Farms at 6050 Riverview Rd. in Peninsula. You can also find them in July and August at the Farmer’s Market in Middlefield.

Contact info:

6050 Riverview Road
Peninsula, Ohio
(330) 657-2330

Melt Bar and Grilled, Part Two

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Westside Monte Cristo

My love affair with Melt continues. My brunch group met there on a Saturday morning in September. We got there a half hour before it opened because the organizer got the times mixed up, so we were the first folks in the restaurant and the first table to be seated. The place quickly filled up, and every seat was soon full.

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Porky Cheese (honey ham, crisp bacon and Swiss cheese)

I wish I had thought to take a photo of the menus. They are cleverly printed on the backs of old album covers. The Muppet Christmas Album and Kenny Rogers menus were particularly comical. The album covers span many different genres from the 1960s, 1970s and 1980s.

Since we were a large group (and the kitchen is probably fairly small) our sandwiches came out in batches. It didn’t matter. We were enjoying each other’s company.

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Chorizo & Potato

Being a large group, we were able to order a lot of different sandwiches. Knowing how filling the sandwiches were, I planned on eating half of my sandwich and taking the other half home. The woman to my left commented that she thought I was a wimp when I told her my plan, but then she ended up doing the same thing with her very filling chorizo and potato grilled cheese.

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Soul Vegetarian

Several of our members are vegetarians, so they were looking forward to the sandwich of the month, the Soul Vegetarian, which featured fried green tomatoes, collard greens, black-eyed pea puree, and pepper jack cheese jalapeno cornbread. I was able to taste it, and it truly was a taste sensation. The collard greens were simmered in garlic, and that took it to the next level!

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The Kindergarten

I had been looking forward to trying the Mushroom Melt, but it seemed too early in the morning to be eating caramelized onions. So I ended up ordering The Kindergarten and added spinach, tomatoes and bacon. It was absolutely delicious.

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Breakfast Burger

With the focus on the grilled cheese the fact that Melt also serves grilled cheese burgers sometimes gets overlooked. Since it was brunch, the lone burger at the table was the Breakfast Burger, which features two Amish farmed fried eggs, crisp bacon, and American cheese. It is my friend’s favorite thing on their menu, and he loves it medium rare. It is cut in half here in the photo, because he cut it to make sure it was medium rare. The burger came out just to his specifications, and he loved it.

As has become our custom, we also ordered several desserts and passed them around the table. I had looked forward to the fried Twinkies, which are served with mixed berry preserves, but was most taken with the pumpkin cheesecake. It was creamy and delicious. I leave you with photos of the mouthwatering desserts.

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Fried Twinkies
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Bread Pudding
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Pumpkin Cheesecake

Amish dinner at the Red Maple Inn in Burton

redmapleinnThe Red Maple Inn is a quaint bed and breakfast in Burton, Ohio, which is about 45-60 minutes from downtown Cleveland. It features cozy rooms and a breathtaking view of the valley.

The inn offers an Amish style dinner every 1st and 3rd Friday of each month at 7:00pm. I took a small group thredmapleinn2ere recently, and we enjoyed a lovely meal together. There were lots of different sized tables, ranging from dinner for one to a large family gathering that took up two whole tables, which seat 6-7 each.

Jo Ann Kauffman and her family are local Mennonites who prepare and serve this feast.  The menu includes foods that are typically served at an Amish wedding, including a redmapleinn3salad and fresh baked rolls, breaded chicken, roast beef, mashed potatoes with gravy, stuffing, seasonal vegetables (we enjoyed corn), and dessert (which can be anything Jo Ann chooses, but this night we had the date & nut pudding). The dinner includes coffee and iced tea. No alcoholic beverages were served, but honestly we didn’t miss them.

redmapleinn5The food is served family style, which means the food is served in bowls at the table which you then pass around the table. The meal was absolutely delicious. The baked chicken was moist, the roast beef was tender, the rolls were soft and fresh, and the mashed potatoes were smooth, creamy and delicious. But the big hit at our table was the stuffing. Fresh stuffing studded with chunks of celery, so you could tell it was homemade. We couldn’t get enough of it!

redmapleinn6After dinner we were served coffee (both decaf and regular) and the aforementioned date & nut pudding. As you can see, the pudding was the consistency of a British pudding rather than the creamy pudding we usually associate with the word ‘pudding.’ The vanilla sauce was almost too sweet and I found myself working around it and just eating the pudding and the whipped cream. But it was delicious, just like everything we were served that night. Simple, yet delicious.

The price of dinner was quite reasonable considering all the food we were served. Guests of the inn pay $40.00 for two dinners, and public guests pay $24.00 per person plus tax and gratuity. The service was a little slow, but they were overwhelmed by having to serve so many tables. They told us they typically serve about twelve to twenty people a night. Our table alone accounted for 7 and there were at least 7 other tables if memory serves me correctly. Advanced reservations are required and you have to give them your credit card number to reserve your spot, but they had no problems ringing us each up individually at the inn’s check-in desk and my credit card was not charged.

We said goodbye and drove into the night sated and happy – and kept an eye peeled for horse and buggies in case one was out on the road after dark. I can’t wait to go back soon, perhaps sometime this winter and enjoy a roaring fire as the snow falls outside the window.

Contact info:

14707 S Cheshire Street
Burton, OH 44021
440-834-8334

Everybody loves a good clambake

100_1088Clam bakes (or as we in Cleveland spell it – “clambakes”) originated in New England, but Cleveland has taken the clambake and embraced it as its own fall tradition. Many restaurants advertise their clambakes in the Plain Dealer and online, but if you ask me the best clambakes are the ones thrown in someone’s backyard. A clambake is a traditional method of cooking seafood over an open fire pit on the beach. The seafood is often supplemented by sausages, chicken, potatoes, onions, carrots, corn on the cob, etc. The food is layered, with lots of vegetables like celery, parsnips, onions, peppers, corn husks, etc. and herbs as flavoring.

As Wikipedia states:

Clam bakes are more popular in Northeast Ohio than any other region of the United States outside of New England. (Source: October 2008). Visit Cleveland“. Cleveland Convention and Visitors Bureau.) A typical clam bake in Northeast Ohio includes a dozen clams with a half chicken, sweet potatoes, corn, and other side dishes. Seaweed is not used and the clams, chicken, and sweet potatoes are all steamed together in a large pot.

100_1089My best friend and her family have a clambake every year, and my parents and I really look forward to it. Invitations go out in early September, and payment is due about a week ahead of the clambake (so that they can order the right amount from one of the many Cleveland catering companies that sell clambakes). The company they use is Quality Halls Meat Market in Olmsted Falls, but I have had good experience with Euclid Fish in Mentor as well.

The family works hard the day before rinsing the sand out of the clams and prepare them. Also, the seasoning and vegetables they use really add to the bake.

My friends assign everyone something to bring in the invitation, so it isn’t a financial hardship for them. I usually get asked to bring some German beer, but I was assigned appetizers this year. I made Trader Joe’s Parmesan Pastry Pups, which are essentially pigs in a blanket sprinkled with Parmesan cheese. They were a total hit. My mom made Barefoot Contessa’s Ham and Cheese in Puff Pastry, which were also delicious. My pastry pups disappeared, and Mom only had a few puff pastry pieces left over. Most of the salads and side dishes, on the other hand, went untouched because the clambakes were so filling.

100_1091They also offer a “chicken bake” alternative, because several people don’t like the taste of clams and two of the attendees are extremely allergic to shellfish. Since everything is boiled together in a pot, that means everything might be potentially life-threatening. As a result, they grill chicken breasts and make separate corn and sweet potatoes for the “chicken bakes.” It’s a lot more work, but it does work out in the end. They also try hard to keep the chicken bakes and clambakes separate.

100_1092Once it was determined that the pot contents were ready, the pot was removed from the burner and deconstructed. First, the seasoning vegetables were removed and set aside. Then the chickens were removed and browned in a large skillet over the same burner. In the meantime, the sweet potatoes and corn were transferred to serving platters and the clams were kept in the pot to stay warm. Everyone was encouraged to line up and help themselves.

100_0041There is always a bonfire roaring in the backyard, and folks congregate around the fire. There are also rousing games of corn hole and baseball in the backyard – and some years they blow off a cannon.

The family was sick this year, so the rest of us did our best to help and pull everything together. It takes a bit of work to put it all together, but when everyone gets together to enjoy the food and the company, it’s totally worth it. I deliberately selected the smallest chicken and sweet potato and only took a pat of potato salad, leaving the other sides alone, but was still completely stuffed afterward. No one went home hungry, and my dad left with a gallon of clam bouillon, which is his favorite part of the clambake.

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Brasa Grill Steakhouse

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Brasa closed in November 2018. I will miss the delicious skewers of meat and amazing salad bar, but luckily we have Rodizio Grill in Valley View and Texas de Brazil on the east (Woodmere) and west (Crocker Park) sides in case you have a craving for skewers of meat.

brasaI love Brazilian steakhouses. Brazilian steakhouses feature skewered cuts of meat grilled over a wood burning fire and sliced into thin, succulent pieces (churrasco) and served to you continuously at your table from skewers. They also feature an all-you-can-eat salad bar. When you want some meat, you flip the table-side card to green and when you need a break you flip the card to red. My first experience was in Cincinnati at Boi Nai Brasa. As a beginner I had no idea what to expect and filled up on its truly outstanding salad bar and barely had any room for the delicious grilled meats.brasa1

I didn’t make the mistake at The Brasa Grill Steakhouse, which is located in Cleveland’s Warehouse District. Brasa is a truly unique restaurant for Cleveland. For $35 you can eat your choice of beef, pork, lamb, chicken, sausage, and turkey. If you love meat, this is the place for you. You can also pay $25 for just the salad bar, but why would you when brasa2you can eat your fill of prime rib, filet, chicken and lamb? Dinner starts off with a selection of appetizers and a trip to the salad bar. The salad bar features 40 different salads, vegetables, seafood and pastas.

Then the fun begins. Gauchos walk around the dining room with skewers of meat, announcing which cuts brasa3they are offering. When you would like a piece, they slice off a generous portion and you use your tongs to transfer it to your plate.

Definitely go there hungry. This is not a place for the faint-hearted. Also, be sure to allow yourself plenty of time. The food is best enjoyed in a leisurely fashion.

Contact info:

1300 West 9th Street
Cleveland, Ohio 44113
(216) 575-0699

Tremont Tap House & Grill

As the Tremont Tap House website explains, “Located on Cleveland’s Southside in the historic Tremont district, The Tremont TapHouse is the city’s first gastropub. The term gastropub is derived from London and depicts a casual pub that serves an upscale cuisine complimented by the assortment of wine and beer the tavern offers.  The TapHouse boasts a meticulous and extensive selection of hand crafted American and European beers. The list consists of 100 plus examples of fine beer, 24 of which are available on draft.”

taphouse1When I told my father I ate at the Tremont Tap House he exclaimed, “That used to be Pukach’s. Your Uncle Barney lived in the house behind it.” You see, my father grew up in the Tremont area and tells me all kinds of interesting stories about when he was a kid. GIs home from World War II used to rent rooms in homes and would hang out at the corner bars because they missed the company. They would also congregate at the Lincoln Park Bath House, because their rooms did not have modern bathing facilities. taphouse3They would sit outside and used to give him a dime to run next door for a pack of smokes and a bucket of beer when he was 8 or so.  This kind of stuff fascinates me, so I am really tempted to take him to the Tremont Tap House with me the next time I go, which will hopefully be soon.

We enjoyed a delightful evening at the Tremont Tap House the other night. The weather was perfect, not too hot and not too cool. We sat on the patio under several umbrellas and enjoyed the mood lights once the sun went down. The beer list is quite impressive. I normally don’t take pictures of menus, but I couldn’t resist taking a photo of this one.

taphouse7The food was divine. I had a tough time deciding what to order. I ended up ordering the Salmon BLT on marble rye. It was delicious. The fries that accompanied it were thick and perfectly seasoned (you can see them peeking out from behind the sandwich).

taphouse4Everyone thoroughly enjoyed their meals. From the macaroni and cheese with dried figs, rosemary and brie (for our vegetarian, but it was so good I will probably order it next time!) to the seared sea scallops with white truffle oil and mushroom risotto or smoked ham and turkey sandwich with brie and cranberry relish served on raisin walnut bread (Thanksgiving in a taphouse11sandwich) and small plates like blackened scallops with red onion jam, blue cheese and walnuts to beer cheese soup and side salads, there was something for everyone. The fried egg burger with Swiss cheese and carmelized onions was a particular hit. The group had a discussion about how to best order the burger to bring out the flavors, with the quote “It is very important to me that it be medium rare.”

taphouse10The service was a little slow, but they had another large party upstairs, which I think overwhelmed them. The mac and cheese, which was ordered after we had all ordered by one of our late-comers, was comped without her asking because she had such a long wait for it. One of the dining out members, who wasn’t able to join us and tried it separately, now claims it is one of his favorite restaurants in Cleveland to bring guests or just relax and watch a game.

Contact info:

2572 Scranton Road
Tremont City, OH 44113
(216) 298-4451