Mason’s Creamery

September 28, 2017

Mason’s Creamery opened in 2015 and has quickly become a favorite ice cream spot for me. They started out making ice cream at local farmer’s markets. Located on Bridge Avenue and W. 44th Street, Mason’s is a small, local business serving high-quality ice cream in all kinds of adventurous flavors. The flavors are constantly changing, so it’s always fun to go and try new things. They are always trying new flavors and are open to suggestions. There are always 16 flavors available, five of which are usually vegan or dairy free. At a place like this it’s worth venturing out of your comfort zone to try the taro, red bean, black sesame, matcha or the chai tea latte ice cream. My absolute favorite so far has been the fried ice cream, but their sorbets are also intriguing (and vegan if you like that sort of thing). They allow you to sample the flavors before you order. They also serve vegan soft serve on Sundays. In addition to scoops in a cup (2 for $4 or 3 for $5.50), you can order your ice cream or sorbet in a waffle cone, with a churro (with or without dipping chocolate), as an iced cream sandwich between warm, fresh cookies or Coquette Patisserie macarons, or nestled in a fluffy egg waffle. They make everything there fresh.

I am usually boring and prefer my ice cream scooped in a cup. It may be austere, but their ice cream is never boring. I’ve enjoyed the Tang sorbet, fried ice cream, Vietnamese coffee, Ceylon Cinnamon, Matcha, Cafe con Leche, Thai iced tea… I could go on. When I had the Tang sorbet I regretted not ordering it with the Thai ice tea because that would have been an amazing dreamsicle-like creation.

I had been wanting to try the egg waffle and I am so glad I finally did, because it is absolutely delicious. It is a great accompaniment to the creamier flavors, and you can imagine my surprise when I was then asked if I wanted regular whipped cream, peanut butter whipped cream or Nutella whipped cream. What? My friends also ordered egg waffles and raved about them. One went with the French toast and is now a HUGE fan, and the other ordered the salted caramel and loved it. I opted for Ceylon Cinnamon and Thai ice tea with Nutella whipped cream. Go big or go home, right?

Pay attention to your spoon. It changes color when it hits the ice cream (you can see it in the photo of the sorbet above). My friend freaked out tonight when I pointed it out and his boring white spoon then turned pink. I love that.

If that isn’t enough, they occasionally do Ramen Nights where they make big pots of ramen and serve it to long lines of ramen enthusiasts until they run out. I have yet to make it to one, but it is on my list of things to do.

Contact info:

Mason’s Creamery
4401 Bridge Avenue
Cleveland, OH 44113
216) 245-8942

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Crust

August 15, 2017

Crust Midtown has great pizza and subs and is the perfect lunch-time stop. I haven’t been to the one in Tremont, but the one in Midtown is perfect when I get a craving for crusty bread or pizza. Do two locations make it a “local chain”? I’m categorizing it as one. The Tremont location just opened and has expanded including a liquor license. It’s also open until 9 PM every day except Sunday. The Midtown location offers more seating with all the businesses nearby, and is only open until 2:30 Monday through Friday. In addition to a nice range of seating options they also have a few tables for al fresco dining, which don’t see a lot of use in the winter. I tend to go at off-lunch hours, so I’ve always had very quick service.

The ovens are not wood-fired, but they turn out a good pizza at 550 degrees. Everything is made from scratch, and the dough is hand-tossed. The pizza slices are huge. One slice fills up a small carryout box. The crust is delicious, and they have a variety of toppings to choose from. They also have pre-made pies to choose from that don’t require a wait. I ordered a slice of the Margherita, which is my go-to order at a new pizza place. The crust was chewy and had a nice crumb to it. The tomatoes and basil were very fresh, which was great. The Lemon Rosemary Chicken smelled wonderful, and I will have to try that sometime soon.

As good as the pizza is, I really like their subs. Like the pizza, the subs are also quite substantial. The first sub I tried was the Ultimate Club , which features slab bacon, turkey, capicola, provolone, lettuce, tomato, and basil mayo. My sub came out of the oven a little charred, but I really enjoyed the flavor of it. The meats were delicious and fresh, and I just really enjoyed every bite. The subs are very filling (at least for me). I was only able to eat half and took the other half home for later.

One of my friends swears by their meatball sub, so I met her a few weeks later to try it. The meatballs were soft, the cheese was perfectly melty, and it had the perfect ratio of meat, sauce and cheese. The photo here is just half of the meatball sub, so they have four substantial meatballs in the sub. I enjoyed the sub a lot and would probably get it again if I were craving a meatball sub.

If you are looking for a solid slice of pizza or tasty sub be sure to check out Crust.

Contact info:

Crust Midtown
3000 St Clair Avenue,
Cleveland, OH
216-589-9711

Crust Tremont
2258 Professor Ave
Cleveland, OH
216-583-0257

You can find the menus for both locations here.


The Red Chimney

June 2, 2017

The Red Chimney on Fleet Avenue in Slavic Village (or as it’s called by the residents “Warzawa”) is hard to describe. It is a Slavic Village institution that has been in business since the 1970s. It’s like your typical Americana diner with a Polish influence, and the decor hasn’t been updated since the 1970s. The food is heavily Eastern European and pure comfort, ranging from cheap breakfasts served all day to sandwiches and burgers and entrees like stuffed cabbage, pierogi, kielbasi, wiener schnitzel and city chicken. The food is very affordable. I think the most expensive thing on the menu is twenty-five chicken wings for $16.99, but most dinners are under $10. On weekdays before 11 a.m. you can get two eggs, ham, sausage or bacon, potatoes, and toast for just $3. The service is quick and efficient, and the majority of the customers are all over the board, from a table of police officers, a table of businessmen holding a meeting to a table of young people trying to get rid of their hangovers with a nice greasy breakfast.

I keep coming back for their chicken noodle soup, which is probably one of the best soups I have had in a long time. Chock full of homemade noodles, chunks of fresh carrot and celery, and shredded chicken in a tasty broth, I can’t get enough of it.

On my first visit I ordered the stuffed cabbage dinner. It is served with soup or salad, sauerkraut, your choice of potato and rye bread or dinner rolls. I went with the mashed potato and couldn’t decide on the bread so the waitress brought me one of each. They were both delicious. The rye bread was soft and flavorful, and the dinner roll was yeasty and delicious. So good! I’m not sure if I enjoyed the somewhat blander tomato sauce they used, but I’m sure most people would love it. I prefer dousing my stuffed cabbage with ketchup to give it a kick (I know, I’m a heathen, but I’ve been eating it that way since I grew up eating my grandmother’s stuffed cabbage). Next time I’ll just order ketchup on the side without any shame. The meat and rice filling is tightly packed and flavorful, and the serving was enormous. I brought half of my meal home (one whole cabbage roll and half the mashed potatoes) and thoroughly enjoyed it the next day.

I came back just a few days later for the soup again. This time I decided to order a club sandwich to go with my soup. The meat and fixings in the club sandwich were super fresh. In fact, the tomato kept falling out of the bread, and I ended up wearing a lot of it. I learned to order a side of Thousand Island Dressing with club sandwiches back in my Bakers Square days, and my request was accommodated without any questions. I chose the french fries as my side, but they also throw in a couple onion rings, which were really delicious. The fries themselves were nothing special, but I nibbled on them because they were there. It also came with a small side of coleslaw, which was fresh and creamy and overflowed onto the side plate it was served on. Again, I ended up taking half of my meal home for later.

The place is clean, friendly, and about as old-school as they come. The servers are friendly and efficient, the portions are huge, and the soup overflows the bowl. Every time. And every time I am tempted to drink the last drops directly from the bowl, but decide manners are more important.

It is worth mentioning that they do not accept credit cards. It’s a cash only restaurant, so be prepared. There is plenty of parking along the side and in back as well as across the street, and there is a door off Fleet Avenue as well as off the back parking lot. Slavic Village has gotten a bad reputation, but the people in the neighborhood are working hard to counteract that and it was recently voted the winning host neighborhood for Cleveland Chain Reaction. Cleveland Chain Reaction is a concept backed by LeBron James called “Cleveland Hustles,” with local business owners hustling to get their idea off the ground. Hopefully Slavic Village will once again become an up-and-coming neighborhood with the total economic boost to the neighborhood predicted to exceed $1 million.

Contact info:

The Red Chimney
6501 Fleet Avenue
Cleveland, OH 44105
(216) 441-0053


Sokol of Greater Cleveland – Bohemian National Hall

May 13, 2017

Cleveland is known for its strong ethnic heritage. Polish, Ukrainian, German, Lithuanian, Slovak and Czech all have strong roots here. Cleveland’s churches are usually at the forefront of keeping the heritage alive. For example, St. Josaphat and Pokrony in Parma are known for their pierogi, and St. Josaphat’s Lenten fish fry is one of my favorites.

Located on Broadway Avenue in the heart of Slavic Village, the cornerstone of the Bohemian National Hall was laid in 1896 as a community hall to accommodate the cultural, social, and educational needs of Czech immigrants in their newly adopted country. The hall continues to serve new generations, houses the many activities of Sokol of Greater Cleveland and showcases  the cultural history and traditions of the Czech and Slovak people. Since my great grandparents were from Slovakia I have a special place in my heart for it.

Ethnic dinners are served throughout the year in the lower level dining room of the Bohemian National Hall. “Sokol Sunday Dinners” are served from 1 pm to 2:30 pm on the last Sunday of every month. The dinner is $14 and includes dinner, dessert and coffee/tea. We went for the pork goulash and bread dumplings (knedliky) a few months ago. We had to salt and pepper the goulash. I think they are used to cooking for older parishioners.

I enjoyed the Czech beer a lot. They have a cash bar to the side that serves soda, beer and wine. I got a bottle of Staropramen and a glass of ginger ale since I know I can get thirsty.

Servers came around to serve the food, give us boxes and serve the dessert (on this evening a very nice cherry cobbler). They were friendly and very helpful – and most likely members and volunteers.

They will be serving roasted duck in July and my friend Nancy was extremely excited to hear about it. For reservations, call Olga at 216-447-0264 by the Monday prior to the dinner. Although to be honest they have plenty of space for walk-ins and should be able to accommodate a few folks walking in. I was able to bring a dozen knedlicky home with me to steam later. I popped them right in my freezer since they were already frozen for the most part (I think they made them ahead and steamed them as needed).

I think it’s important to support local groups like this one. The newer generation isn’t interested in this kind of thing, and they are starting to die out. I would have liked to have seen this place filled with more people.

Contact info:

Sokol of Greater Cleveland at the Historic Bohemian National Hall
4939 Broadway Avenue
Cleveland, OH 44127
(216) 883-0675


Geauga County pancake breakfasts

May 6, 2017

When spring is just around the corner in Cleveland, we know that it’s pancake and local maple season, with Sunday breakfasts being served throughout the area. Geauga County in particular is known for their pancake breakfasts. I had always wanted to go to one, but never got motivated enough. I made it to two this year – on March 19 and on April 2. Most pancake breakfasts are served on Sunday mornings in March, although a couple run into mid-April. Geauga County is known for its maple syrup, and the pancake breakfasts in the area serve genuine Geauga County maple syrup, tapped fresh.

My former neighbors in Solon go every weekend in March, so I joined them for the one in Parkman. It was worth waking up early to meet them and drive out 422 just past Route 528 to the Parkman Community Center. I got to catch up with the patriarch of the family, and we enjoyed an all-you-can-eat feast of sausage and pancakes with beverage (coffee, water and milk) for just $8. I managed to eat three pancakes and three sausage patties. Some of my fellow diners did better than that, but I was happy with my meal. Word of warning: don’t get the water unless you like sulfur-tasting water. Crystal from Eat*Drink*Cleveland warned me about the coffee ahead of time, but since I use lots of cream and sugar anyway it wasn’t an issue. The straight water was. This community fundraiser sponsored the Parkman Chamber of Commerce is a well-oiled machine. You pay as you walk in and get in line. Gingerich Farm sells their maple products, and the Girl Scouts sell their cookies to the waiting hordes that winds their way through the room. The hostess waits until a stretch of table clears before leading the next bunch in. The serpentine table allows diners to sit on one side and the servers to walk in between and serve up the goodness. I loved the fact that they use real plates and silverware and serve local maple syrup in pitchers that sit on the table every couple of seats. I didn’t love the fact that the kid across from me stared at me the whole time. It was unnerving.

One of my friends recommended I go to the Burton American Legion Post for their pancake breakfast, because she felt it was the best one in the area. Burton is well-known for their numerous pancake breakfasts, including the Rotary Club, the Century Village Museum and other groups. Burton has been serving pancakes every spring to over 20,000 guests every March since 1951. The American Legion Post is located just north of the square at 1405 Goodwin Street and serves from 9 am to 1:30 pm, which works well with my not being a morning person. It is a smaller venue, but there are apparently two floors. My friends actually were there about 45 minutes before I was, because T. posted a picture of the bus that had just rolled up. Apparently they come from Pennsylvania just for the pancakes. The guy said they started out with a few people and more and more join them every year. When I got there the bus was still there (they were seated upstairs), but my friends must have just left. I paid my $10 and lined up. They not only served pancakes (blueberry or buttermilk) and sausage, but also had delicious home fried potatoes and scrambled eggs (I didn’t get the eggs since I am allergic). The pancakes were fluffy and delicious, but my favorite was the potatoes. Diners were free to get back in line for more, so I went back a second time for a blueberry pancake and more potatoes. They also had plenty of coffee and orange juice. I drank a couple juices and a couple coffees. I got a kick out of the coffee spill catcher they made out of a two liter bottle. The ladies told me they’ve been using it for years. I wish I had taken a picture. The fresh local syrup was on the tables in squeeze bottles, and the ladies kept walking around to make sure they were full. The tables also had salt, pepper and Heinz ketchup. I sat by myself, but enjoyed chatting with a couple guys near me – and eavesdropping on a table of older diners comparing their flip phones and phone plans.

Be sure to put a pancake breakfast or two on your Must Do list next March. There are a wide variety of pancake breakfasts in the surrounding counties and specifically in Burton to choose from. And if you don’t want to wait a year and want some now, as the Burton website explains, “You can still have unique & delicious pancakes even after the season ends. All year-round many local restaurants, civic organizations and lodging facilities serve pancakes and offer pure maple syrup for your enjoyment!” Just head on out to Burton – I recommend stopping to walk around at LaDue Reservoir, Punderson State Park or in Amish country in Middlefield and the surrounding towns after breakfast.


Algebra Tea House

April 13, 2017

Algebra Tea House is an eclectic tea shop in Little Italy that serves beverages such as tea, coffee, smoothies and shakes, plus Middle Eastern cuisine (the owner was born in Pakistan and his family lived in Syria, Kuwait, Tripoli and Libya – he also lived in Austria for a while). The cafe is also very vegan friendly and has a large assortment of healthy menu options. Owner Ayman Alkayali is an artist and a businessman, and he created all of the eclectic cups in the shop. He also appears to enjoy woodworking and hates straight lines if the door and the shelving units are anything to go by. The front door, tables and shelves were hand-crafted by Ayman, and his paintings cover the walls. He put a lot of work into creating the shop from a bike shop with no gas or electricity. Algebra Tea House opened its doors in August 2001. It was the first non-Italian establishment in the Little Italy neighborhood.

Algebra is opened everyday from 9am – 11pm. They serve breakfast specials on Saturday and Sunday alongside the regular menu from 9 am – 1 pm. Even though he is Muslim you can smell the bacon in the air on the weekends. The smell of Middle Eastern spices also blends with citrus from the orange peel resting atop a wood burning stove.

Do not come here if you are in a hurry. Most of the time, there is only one employee working and they can only do so much. This is a place to linger and relax. There is even Bedoun seating around a low table. My knee would never cooperate with that, so I was also happy to see higher tables and chairs (there’s even a large couch). He designed Algebra to be a place for people to commune together. There is a selection of games in the back to play with and a book exchange library on the front right wall.

The first time I was here was in 2010 or 2011. I met a group of tea drinkers here and had a wonderful afternoon getting to know a lot of interesting ladies. In fact, I met a lifelong friend that day (Hi, G!).

I was last here on a Saturday, and it took an hour and a half to get the tea and kebab I ordered. I have to admit that was a little frustrating, because it shouldn’t take an hour and a half to make a tea. I probably would have ordered a second or third one to go with my food if they hadn’t waited to serve the tea with my food. The server did offer the table half a House Smoothie (a vegan smoothie with mango, strawberry and banana blended with rosewater), which I grabbed since they had all been served their food at that point. It was very refreshing! I’d definitely order it next time. They had three people behind the counter (one just doing the dishes) and were obviously in the weeds, so I do plan on giving them a third chance during the week some time. You order at the counter, and they (eventually) bring your drinks and food to the table. You pay when you leave.

I was there that Saturday with my tea group, so I was feeling more adventurous than ordering a straight Darjeeling or Orange Pekoe tea. The menu had a very wide selection of black, green, white, and ethnic teas as well as chais and “comfort blends” (basically spiced milks). Where else will you find hot chocolate made with chocolate, steamed milk, and rosewater? They also have a large selection of house roasted coffees. I decided to get the Friday Market Libyan Tea, which features black tea, roasted peanuts, mint and brown sugar. I was intrigued. It was the wildest yet one of the most delicious teas I have ever enjoyed. The mint was floating on the surface along with a good amount of roasted peanuts. The brown sugar meant I didn’t need to add any sugar. It was perfect just as it is. I also had the Moroccan Mint because my friend ordered me the wrong tea, but it was also lovely with fresh mint leaves. I had wanted to try their special tea that day, a green tea with mint cinnamon, but she must have misunderstood me when I asked.

I also ordered the Iraqi kebab, which is made of ground beef and lamb mixed with garlic, parsley, sumac and Palestinian spices and wrapped with fresh vegetables, hummus, harissa and a yogurt mint sauce in a homemade pita. I really enjoyed it. It was obviously fresh and was very flavorful. It definitely hit the spot.

Other choices include numerous salads and a falafal sandwich, shawarma sandwich, hummus sandwich, “Zoho gyro,” Cajun chicken sandwich, smoked turkey sandwich with zattar, and bagel sandwich. There are also various “plates” featuring fool madams, falafal, hummus, eggplant, labneh, sardines, or Syrian tomatoes as well as several “all day breakfast choices” that include shakshuka (Shak-shooka), a Saudi breakfast of carmelized onions, sauteed tomatoes and scrambled eggs with a side of warm pita. I’m familiar with the Israeli version. Another fellow diner had the spinach pie plate and loved it. The prices are affordable to appeal to the college crowd.

One of the people in the group who was a regular ordered the red lentil soup, and it came out piping hot in one of the coolest bowls I have ever seen. It’s round shape was intriguing, and the metal probably kept it hot for longer than a regular bowl would. The soup had fresh spinach floating on top and looked delicious. He enjoyed the soup very much.

Algebra is known for its hummus. The owner soaks large amounts of chickpeas overnight and makes big batches in an industrial-sized food processor. I know because I watched him grab the food processor from the shelf next to where I was sitting and pile in chick peas until they were almost overflowing out of the container. The hummus is smooth and creamy, drizzled with olive oil and dollops of what looks like a red pepper tapenade (but it could also be harissa), garnished with cucumber and tomato, and sprinkled with a mixture of spices on top.

The desserts also sound amazing. The Banana Algebra, featuring sauteéd fruit with rosewater, cardamom, nutmeg and cinnamon, served over ice cream, sounds amazing. As does the Chocolate Chip Deli, homemade chocolate chip cookies topped with wildberry ice cream, bananas, whipped cream, cherry and nutmeg. The desserts all feature some kind of fruit and/or ice cream and sound healthy in addition to delicious.

In short, this place features lots of Middle Eastern treats that appear to be all homemade. They have a wide choice of beverages and lots of vegan-friendly items. You can also buy loose leaf tea to make at home as well as a variety of grocery items.

Contact info:

Algebra Tea House
2136 Murray Hill Road
Cleveland, OH 44106


Fish Fry Friday #4 – St. Josaphat’s

March 25, 2017

St. Josaphat Ukrainian Catholic Church in Parma is probably one of my favorite fish fries in Cleveland. They have a wide variety of choices, including borscht (Ukrainian beet soup) and salmon, baked fish, baked cod, fried cod, or fried shrimp dinners served with their heavenly homemade pierogies, French fries, cabbage and noodles, or potato pancakes. You also have the choice between coleslaw and applesauce, but get there early or you will only have applesauce. They also offer pizza for the kids. All dinners also come with a dessert and beverages such as coffee or tea, cola, ginger ale, 7-up and water.

It is in the rotunda behind the church buildings. There is plenty of parking. Pull in where the sign says Enter.

The fish fry is a well-run machine. You tell the greeters which dinner you want, along with any extras, and they mark it on a piece of paper, which you then bring to the cashier. They only take cash or checks. Dinners range from $8.00 – $14.00. After you have paid, you take your stamped paper and queue up in line for the food. The line is long, but it moves fairly quickly. There aren’t a lot of stations where you need to think and consider a choice, which tends to slow things down. Once you get to the food table you are given a tray with a plate and plasticware, and the greeter tells you which steam tray contains the food you ordered (in my case #3). You then work your way down the line picking up your side, a roll and butter, and containers of coleslaw or applesauce, cocktail sauce, sour cream, and tartar sauce. You follow the circular path of the rotunda wall as you go along. Walk past the take-out station to choose from a variety of desserts on another table. The drinks are on tables after the desserts. I grabbed two because I was thirsty.

I really should just give in and just order the pierogi dinner here, although the salmon and baked fish also seemed very popular. The fried fish seems like food service since the filets were shaped so uniformly, but they weren’t overcooked or fried beyond recognition so points there. The fish here is just okay. On the other hand, the pierogi here are amazing, and I suspect my grandmother used to buy her pierogi here instead of making them herself. This was, after all, her home church back in the day. The pierogi are cheese and potato, and the dough is perfect and moist. They are sitting in butter and minced onions in the steam tray. You get three pierogi with every fish or shrimp dinner, but you can order more.

Like most church fish fries you shouldn’t count on the food lasting to the end. I wasn’t hungry right at 4:00 (plus I didn’t want to deal with the traffic on E. 55th and the Jennings Freeway, so I rolled up to St. Josaphat at around 6:40. They had already run out of coleslaw, and the desserts were looking mighty meager and picked over. On the bright side, there was plenty of available seats. The rotunda is filled with long tables and some round tables on the opposite side of the food service. Volunteers take your trays to bring them back to the front of the line during the peak dinner time. In any case, they shut down at 7. I felt badly for the cars driving in as I left, as the place had pretty much cleared out by then. I hope they were driving there to pick up their spouses.

The volunteers were all very friendly, and a nice volunteer who was cleaning the tables off even brought me a box so I could bring half of my meal home. All told, I spent $12 and had two pieces of fish, three pierogi, applesauce, a roll, a piece of lemon cake and two soft drinks. I will enjoy my one piece of fish and one pierogi, half my applesauce, and half a roll for lunch tomorrow. And I really should have bought a dozen pierogi to go.

This was the view of the church (I admitted I zoomed in a bit) as I walking out as the sun was setting:

Contact info:

St. Josaphat Ukrainian Catholic Cathedral
5720 State Road
Parma, OH