Big Al’s Diner

Big Al’s is about as “greasy spoon diner” as it gets. The 25-year-old diner is not flashy, it’s not fancy, it’s not big, it’s just a small diner. The staff is friendly, hard-working, and attentive. You walk in, sit where you want, and one of the servers will come ask you if you want coffee and take your order. The bill is dropped with your meal, and when you are done they cash you out or you pay the bill at the register. The diner is open Wednesday thru Sunday from 7:00 am to 1:30 pm, and breakfast is served the entire time.

It’s not a place to come if you are watching calories. The portions are big, and the food is fresh and delicious. If you are like me, you will be taking food home with you. The home fries are available with pepper and onions, and the prices are affordable. It has all the comforting favorites, like fluffy eggs, large, buttery pancakes and waffles, several kinds of sausage, sausage gravy to die for, thick, steaming soups, homemade mashed potatoes with gravy, burgers, and layer cake for dessert. But the corned beef hash is the star of the show – it was featured on the Food Network’s Best Thing I Ever Ate by Michael Symon.

Obviously, I had to order breakfast the first time I visited. Since I am not a fan of corned beef I left the hash for the fans. I chose #8 – “On the Lighter Side Combo” – 2 eggs, 1 pancake or 1/2 a French toast, and bacon, ham or sausage. I added fresh blueberries to the pancake for an additional 50 cents. It was the perfect amount of food. The eggs were scrambled just as I like it and I could add cheese to them, the bacon was crisp and the blueberry pancake hit the spot. And best of all, my coffee cup was never empty for long.

I usually visit diners during the week to avoid crowds and waitings for a table. However, craving diner food on a recent rainy Sunday morning I headed to Big Al’s for a waffle. I had to wait about 5-10 minutes for a table at 12:45 (they close at 1:30). The two tables in front of me got seated right away, so it was just bad timing on my part. They seated one table after me and took the phone off the hook to cut off to-go orders. The #10 hit the spot – a waffle, 2 eggs, and choice of bacon, ham or sausage. I opted for scrambled and sausage (patties or links? turkey or pork?) patties. I ordered a large orange juice ($3.25) that was worth every penny because the serving was large. Most of the time you order a large orange juice and you are lucky to get a medium juice glass as the “large.” I wasn’t quite able to finish it, but I didn’t have enough to warrant a box. I left sated and happy at 1:35 pm.

Another visit had me trying the sausage gravy. Since I didn’t want a huge portion of sausage gravy I chose the country fried steak combo (#13) with two eggs, home fries, country fried steak, and toast. I chose over easy eggs so that I could mix the yolks in with the loaded home fries (always get them loaded with grilled onions and green peppers) and rye toast. Everything was very tasty, but the sausage gravy-covered country fried steak was exceptional. Screw the corned beef hash – get the sausage gravy! It was a filling breakfast, and I ended up taking half the home fries and steak home with me for a light supper. I ordered cranberry juice and coffee this time around, and the medium cranberry juice was perfect in addition to ice water.

I, of course, had to try their lunch items as well and decided on the Patty Melt. This was a great Patty Melt. The cheese was melty, the onions were nicely grilled and caramelized, and the burger was cooked to my specification (medium rare). The hand cut fries were delicious.

They are doing a booming carry-out business in the time of COVID, but they also clean and sterilize the tables before seating diners, the booths and tables in the middle of the room are separated by plastic partitions, and there is a bottle of hand sanitizer on each table. Silverware is rolled and sealed with a band.

Contact info:

Big Al’s Diner
12600 Larchmere Boulevard
Cleveland, OH 44120
(216) 791-8550

Mama D’s Diner

Breakfast is my favorite meal of the day, and one of my greatest pleasures is enjoying it in a small diner. I’ve discovered Mama D’s Diner in the past year. I noticed it in a small strip mall on Mayfield Road. I asked my Facebook food forum about it, but no one could tell me anything about it, so I decided to check it out for myself. I am so glad I did! It’s a definite find!

It’s a small space with four booths, one booth in the front window, and a couple chairs along the counter. Once COVID hit they hung plastic panels between the booths and discourage sitting at the counter. Silverware comes served in an envelope. There have been two people working whenever I have been there – Mama D and the kitchen cook. They greet and joke with their regulars. They were teasing a retiree because he arrived after 3 the last time I was there, and I got into a nice discussion with a fellow diner about the weather and my car as she was leaving. I usually bring a book to entertain myself, but an occasional brief conversation is always welcome.

My first visit was after noon, but they serve breakfast all day. I had had enough coffee by then, so I ordered a Mountain Dew instead. I decided to order Rob’s Famous Breakfast Bowl, which was featured on the chalkboard. It features loaded homefries topped with two eggs, 2 bacon strips, 2 sausage patties, and a slice of Texas toast. I chose scrambled eggs, and the loaded homefries were an absolute home run! They contained grilled onions and peppers. It was really tasty.

The second time I came in Mama D recognized me and asked if I wanted a Mountain Dew. I was stunned she remembered me. I felt so welcomed. Since it was earlier in the day I instead chose coffee and a sweet breakfast. I was intrigued by the Chunky Monkey French Toast. Chunky Monkey is a great Ben & Jerry’s flavor, and this French toast also does the name justice. It features three slices of French toast topped with maple syrup bananas and chocolate chips, chocolate sauce, and vanilla whipped topping. It was a work of art and delicious as well!

Another breakfast favorite I ordered Mama D’s Philly Egg Sandwich, which features shaved prime rib with peppers & onions, two eggs, and cheese on a toasted hoagie. It was a little too much bread, but the prime rib, egg and cheese combo was great. I tore off the excess bread and gave it a good shake of A1 sauce. A side of thick-cut bacon was the perfect accompaniment.

Now I love Eat at Joe’s, but I haven’t been as enthused by the lunch options as I am about the breakfasts there. I can’t say that here. The soups here are great. I ordered a cup of chili with the Philly Egg Sandwich. I know it’s a weird dichotomy, but I had a craving. It’s a good chili. It has a bit of heat to it, but it also has a nice balance of meat and tomatoes with just a few kidney beans (I’m not the biggest fan of kidney beans, so I appreciated it). I’ve also enjoyed the clam chowder and beef noodle soup. The clam chowder had a nice flavor to it and lots of good bites of clam and potato. The noodles in the beef noodle soup were intact, which isn’t always the case in noodle soups that sit. I can tell they add the noodles just before serving. A nice detail that is appreciated.

I decided to switch it up and try Lou’s Patty Melt. Mama D’s serves an excellent Patty Melt. I need to keep trying new things, but the Patty Melt keeps calling to me. I’ve enjoyed it with the housemade potato chips and dip as well as house-cut fries. And you can tell they are cut in-house because I have never, ever seen fries cut like this before.

The Sloppy Joe was on special the last time I was there. It is probably one of the best sloppy joes I have ever eaten. It didn’t have any discernible peppers or onions, but it was a great tasting sandwich all the same. I knew better than to eat it with my hands. I would have ended up wearing it. If you see it on the menu, order it. I’m wondering if the specials are the same every day. I’ll have to stop by again next Thursday and see. But then again I may order the Beef Stew, which also sounded good.

There are plenty of other things on the menu that I want to try, like the various breakfast sandwiches and one of the smashburgers. It’s a small menu, so the goal of trying everything is definitely a doable one. And I will continue to be a regular there – although I try to go during off-hours when they aren’t as busy. Mama D’s is open Wednesday to Sunday from 8 am to 4 pm.

Contact info:

Mama D’s Diner
5416 Mayfield Road
Lyndhurst, OH 44124
440-421-9500

EDWINS Butcher Shop

EDWINS Butcher Shop opened up in December 2018 and has filled a void in the Buckeye neighborhood. It is part of the EDWINS Leadership and Restaurant Institute and shares the building with EDWINS Patisserie, Bakery and Diner.  Its logo is a pig that flies, which makes me smile. The EDWINS program trains people who were previously incarcerated in restaurant skills (cooking, hosting, and serving). Now, they’ve opened an additional program at the butcher shop where students can learn butchery.

The Butcher Shop was the first to open. It sells various meats in the meat case as well as prepared foods like fried chicken and shrimp, hot dogs and sausages, burgers, and sandwiches. They also sell a range of specialty items like Cleveland Ketchup, jams, mustards and spices. They have several coolers filled with prepared soups and salads, beverages (including rare sodas like Cheerwine), and prepared desserts like banana pudding.

They have a great fish fry during Lent and serve a great fried shrimp dinner as well. The shrimp was plump and tender, and the fries are really good. I went one Friday in April for the fish fry. Even though it looks overcooked it wasn’t. The fish inside the breading was moist and tender. I chose JoJos (wedge potatoes) and mac n cheese as my sides. The mac n cheese is really creamy and delicious. The

They also serve a great burger. I ordered in medium rare, and it came out medium. Color me surprised. It’s hard to find a place that makes a medium rare burger. The burger itself was still quite tasty, despite the patty being quite firm.

They also serve dinners that come with 2 sides and a roll. These dinners include 1/2 a chicken, 6 oz of brisket, a half slab of ribs, fried chicken and pulled pork – and special dinners like corned beef on Saint Patrick’s Day. The sides are also available individually. They are all only $2 and are good sized portions.

PDF of the Butcher Shop menu

Contact info:


EDWINS Butcher Shop
13024 Buckeye Road
Cleveland, OH 44120
(216) 417-1100

808 Shave Ice

In keeping with the Hawaiian theme, I also came to appreciate shave (not shaved!) ice in Hawaii, which is a much better version of a snow cone. The Hawaiians shave the ice until it is almost the consistency of snow. There is no crunch from the ice. This local chain also uses high quality imported flavors mixed with 100% cane sugar and contain no high fructose corn syrup or preservatives. The shave ice cones are handcrafted and can take 30-60 seconds to maintain quality and presentation. You can also top it with sweetened condensed milk (called a ‘snow cap’), whipped cream or mochi or get a scoop of vanilla ice cream at the bottom for your very own float.

There are a ton of flavors to choose from. The first time I went I chose one of their suggested combos (Lahaina Luna), which features pineapple, coconut and banana. It was a very tropical treat on a very hot day in May. Another of my friends ordered The Cool Cat (root beer and vanilla with a snow cap). She said it hit the spot. We got a kick out of their tables, which include recessed holes for the shave ice cones to fit into.

By the time I made it back, Covid was in full swing and there was no more seating. You order at the window, go stand in front until your order is ready, and then leave. I chose to eat in my car, but the church a couple buildings down has some picnic tables set up on the front lawn.

I’ve been back several times since – one of the most memorable was the Getaway, which features margarita, pina colada, a mai thai. These non-alcoholic flavors were still chocked full of flavor. But everyone kept recommending the Tiger Blood flavor (strawberry-coconut) to me, so I ordered two-thirds tiger blood and 1 part orange dreamcicle. I loved it. The two flavors complemented each other really well.

Then I tried another combo just to be adventuresome and tried a combination of my own making. I chose tiger blood, passion fruit (which is dye-free and comes out clear white) and banana. That was a winning island combination as well.

This place also offers a lot of choices. In addition to shave ice, they serve bubble tea, ice tea, various hand-pressed lemonade flavors, smoothies, and milkshakes. Overall I love this place. I’m sure you will too. I’m always sad to see it close in the fall (it’s open from May to September – their close date this year is September 27th).

Lahaina luna (pineapple, coconut, banana) with a snow cap

Getaway (margarita, pina colada, mai tai)

Tiger’s Blood, Orange Dreamsicle, Tiger’s Blood

Tiger’s Blood, Passion Fruit, Banana (w/ ice cream)

Contact info:

808 Shave Ice
21280 Lorain Avenue
Fairview Park, OH 44126

12457 Pearl Road
Strongsville, OH 44136

Cleveland Metroparks Zoo
3900 Wildlife Way

Los Arcos Mexican Restaurant Bar and Grill

I never would have thought a great little gem of a Mexican restaurant would be hidden in a strip mall on Green Road. Los Arcos Mexican Restaurant Bar and Grill was recommended to me by my massage therapist. He told me many of his clients enjoyed eating there.

Authentic Mexican is hard to find, and I’m certainly not someone who can tell. However, one southern California transplant is a fan and that’s enough for me. She recommends the cheese enchiladas (and several people suggest getting the verde sauce) and fish tacos. And they have tacos and gorditos de lengua (tongue) on special on Saturdays (click on the Specials on the website). You don’t see too many restaurants here that serve tongue. They also serve pozole on Saturdays and menudo on Sundays as well as cheap street tacos (hard shelled for $1, soft shelled for $2) on Taco Tuesday.

I met a girlfriend there for lunch after her massage for our first foray there. I ordered what is probably the most Instagrammable item on the menu, but it is as delicious as it is beautiful. I ordered the pineapple fajitas. I love fajitas because they are hard to screw up, but these fajitas come in a pineapple half on top of the searing hot plate. The chips are fresh and warm, and I enjoyed the salsa. The margarita was great. I ordered a frozen peach margarita the first time, but over time I have determined that I love the fresh margarita the best.

This became my go to place to order from during the coronavirus crisis, because they starting serving their margaritas to go. I got a little emotional when I had a sip of margarita for the first time in months. They serve peach, raspberry, blue raspberry, strawberry, watermelon, mango, pineapple and lime on the rocks or frozen. They are available in glasses, jumbo glasses, half pitchers, and pitchers. I love the raspberry, watermelon and – when I really want to splurge – fresh lime margaritas. They are $14.99 ($18.99 for top shelf). They also have a nice happy hour every day.

My go to order here is the Pollo Adobo. It features grilled, seasoned and marinated chicken strips with grilled mushrooms, spinach, tomatoes, bell peppers and onions covered in queso. It comes served with rice, beans and tortillas. This is my favorite thing in a Mexican restaurant. It isn’t available at every restaurant, so when it is I order it. I love the cheesy dip mixed with the savory chicken and veggies.

My dad likes chile rellenos, so I like to try them when I see them on the menu. I was able to order it in a combination with a spinach enchilada and bean burrito (Vegetarian Combo #7). I thought it was a little bland, and I loved the spinach enchilada the most out of the three. The best thing about it was the cost – $9.99. You can’t beat that when you are pinching pennies during a pandemic.

Growing up we had Chi-Chis, and everyone ordered their fried ice cream. The fried ice cream here actually comes kind of close to the Chi-Chis fried ice cream. My photo doesn’t look very appealing, because it was in a to go container during COVID (and on Cinco de Mayo to boot). They got overwhelmed with orders and I was afraid my ice cream would melt, but it came out perfect and was still cold when I got it home. I highly recommend it if you like the combination of cinnamon and ice cream.

Contact info:

Los Arcos
2175 S Green Road
University Hts, OH 44121
(216) 862-6623

Bonus Fish Fry Friday – The British American Club in Twinsburg

It’s Fish Fry season! I am starting my usual fish fry attendance tonight at St. Andrew’s, but wanted to post a couple fish fries from the past to share them here. This fish fry visit was from April 20, 2018. It was spurred by someone asking about it on All Things Food in Cleveland, a Facebook group I help run. I found my photo of the food and drove by today to take a photo of the building. This is facing west on Ravenna Road. A couple interior photos are from the BAC website.

The British American Club in Twinsburg is not your usual fish fry. This completely nondescript building is located on Ravenna Road in Twinsburg. Just past the Square the street Ys off on Route 82 (at Romeo’s Pizza), so turn to the right then keep going straight when it turns to the left. It’s on the right side a couple miles down. It is a brick building that is just past the Do This Do That Auto Body shop. The BAC volunteers serve fried fish, fried shrimp and fried chicken throughout the year on the 1st and 3rd Friday of the month and every Friday during Lent. The Fish and Chips dinner includes two pieces of battered fish, chips, mushy peas, cole slaw and bread and butter and costs $8 for members and $9.50 for non-members. It is cash only.

We cautiously entered since we weren’t sure what to expect but were greeted and told to take a table. We then went to the back of the room where we gave our orders. If you want to order a drink at the bar they will charge you $2 for a temporary associate membership. I was happy to do it because they had Guinness and Harp on tap. We were given our fried food and helped ourselves to the cole slaw, mushy peas, and bread and butter as well as the condiments (ketchup and malt vinegar) on a table along the wall separating the bar and the dining area.

I spent $15 that night for my fish and chips, temporary membership, and Black and Tan. We would go back again for the mushy peas and the malt vinegar alone. My friend from England was so happy that night. The fish was perfectly cooked – not too greasy while crisp outside and moist inside. I got the impression that the fish were hand-breaded, because most fish service fish look flat and identically triangular. I would definitely recommend this fish fry if you are near Twinsburg or don’t mind a bit of a drive.

Contact info:

British American Club
8564 Ravenna Road
Twinsburg, OH 44087
(330) 963-6370

Byte Cafe

Two years ago during Lent I joined a fun little thing called “40 Days of Sandwiches.” I was introduced to it by my friend Nina whose friend Mitch started it. They are still doing it this year if you want to join them. Just post your photo to Instagram and use the hashtag #40daysofsandwiches. I’m toying with the idea of doing it again, but it is really hard to eat some kind of sandwich every day. Maybe every other day. It was a fun way to explore new restaurants and sandwiches.

When planning my sandwich schedule, I stumbled on a Thrillist list of the best sandwiches in Cleveland, which included the Green Goddess by Byte Cafe. I live close to the Byte Cafe and had no idea it was even there. You probably aren’t even aware of it. It is a little coffee and sandwich counter on the ground floor of the Tyler Building on Superior Avenue. It is open Monday through Friday from 7:30 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. It is closed on Saturday and Sunday.

The Byte Cafe is an unassuming little place at the end of the ground floor hallway with a fun little eating area with leaded glass windows. It gets crowded during the lunch rush when all of the business people in the building head down for lunch. I go after lunch rush hours and before they close. And get it to go.

The first time I went there was for the Green Goddess. It features fresh avocado, goat cheese, basil pesto, arugula, balsamic reduction, roasted walnuts, and salt&pepper on multigrain bread. It was by far the favorite and most unique sandwich I ate during the 40 Days of Sandwiches. It was refreshingly light yet super creamy and flavorful.

Another sandwich that is highly recommended here is the Desperado, which is a turkey sandwich that is topped with has bacon, avocado, arugula, tomato and apricot honey mustard. I really enjoyed the apricot honey mustard. It gave it a nice little flavor kick.

All of their soups are homemade and change every week. So far I have enjoyed their cream of potato, clam chowder and French onion. The soups taste homemade with sizable chunks of ingredients, which makes it filling. The soup comes served with a nice hunk of bread as well. The French onion soup had the croutons and cheese in separate containers to add at home/in the office.

I haven’t ordered any salads, but the Ancient Grains and Green Goddess ones sound amazing. They also offer the option to order a half sandwich if you have a smaller appetite.

My most recent lunch featured the aforementioned French onion soup and The Alaskan. The Alaskan features smoked salmon, cream cheese, cucumber, red onions and a vinaigrette on a ciabatta bun. I’m not the biggest fan of ciabatta, so I would probably order a different bread choice next time. I always try the default before switching it up.

 

I usually get here after the lunch rush and don’t drink coffee after 2:30 or 3:00, so I have not ordered a coffee here yet. It’s next on the list!

Contact info:

Byte Cafe
3615 Superior Avenue
Cleveland, OH 44114
(216) 835-7073

Gas station hummus and more

A few years ago all the foodies in town started talking about a gas station that started making outstanding hummus. Five years ago, Muntaha “Mama Mary” Dari started making a few varieties of hummus to sell out of the family’s Sunoco gas station on the corner of Sprague and Columbia Roads in Olmsted Township. The raving about the hummus got so out of hand that it has become a running gag on the local food forums. Well, the food itself is no joke. I had it for the first time at a friend’s game night a few years ago. Some friends brought the Everything Bagel and the Garlic hummus. The flavors were outstanding, and I couldn’t stop eating it. Some of the available flavors include Original, Everything Bagel, Roasted Garlic, Roasted Red Pepper, Spicy, Sun-Dried Tomato, Jalapeno, Bacon, Dill Pickle, Cranberry and Pomegranate (at $3.99 a tub, add $1 for pita). Chocolate hummus will be available for Valentine’s Day and other romantic holidays. Popular flavors sell out quickly, and not every flavor is served every day. You can special order hummus in party trays as well. I bought a tub of Everything Bagel and Kalamata Olive hummus for Easter last year. Hummus is always a good choice for my gluten-free/dairy-free family members. My niece, who is gluten-free, decided she would suffer the consequences and ate almost all of the warm pita that had come with it all by herself. It is grilled and seasoned and absolutely delicious. Mama Mary’s Hummus is now available at several other gas stations (that belong to family members), but I have been frequenting the original location regularly since I started teaching German on Saturday mornings in Olmsted Falls.

The gas station serves more than hummus. They have lamb on a spit for lamb gyros and also serve chicken gyros and falafel in addition to subs and various fried side dishes. I adore the gyros. I get them “with everything” – so lettuce, tomato, onions, tzatziki, and seasoning. They are a little pricey at $6.99 or super sized at $9.99, but they are sizable enough to be filling. And are delicious to boot. I’m hooked on the chicken gyro. I’ve ordered it more than once.

The falafel is a good falafel. It’s not Ehab’s falafel from Cafe Falafel in Fairview Hospital, but it is a nice falafel sandwich. Most falafel are too dry for my tastes, but the falafel in the sandwich have enough moisture to satisfy me. The falafel wrap is $5.99 or you can buy 12 falafel for a few dollars more.

They were making party subs one day when I stopped by for a gyro. I remember back in the day when party subs were a must-serve for a football game. Footlongs and multi-footlongs are available, but they make big subs that are cored out and stuffed with filling. I don’t know how much the party subs are, but a regular sub is $7.99 or $8.99 depending on the choice. They are available hot or cold. There is even a corned beef sub available as well as several hot Philly subs and a Buffalo Chicken sub. As a proud Bulldog alum, I wanted to order the Bulldog when I was there, but ended up saying Raider instead. Total brain fart. The Bulldog features turkey and roast beef, and the Raider is roast beef, ham and turkey. It was still great – even if it was two subs in one! I ate one for lunch and the other one later that day for dinner.

They also serve sides like tabbouli, stuffed grape leaves, macaroni salad, potato salad and banana pudding. I love the stuffed grape leaves. They come five to a container, but they are so munchable I end up eating them all in the care on the way home. The macaroni salad is also creamy and delicious and not as heavily spiced as it looks. I think it is just perfect. I haven’t tried the other sides yet.

Contact info:

Mama Mary’s Hummus
Sunoco Cafe
9796 Columbia Road
Olmsted Falls, Ohio 44138
440-235-0351

Ramen at Mason’s Creamery

Mason’s Creamery opened in 2015 on the corner of Bridge Avenue and W. 44th Street in Ohio City, and serves high-quality ice cream in all kinds of adventurous flavors in the warmer months. They started serving ramen a couple times a year as pop-up events, which proved popular. They would run out within an hour or two. Last winter they decided to covert to a ramen shop, and they started serving three kinds of ramen, delicious tea, and soft serve ice cream. They put a sturdy tent around the overhang above, creating temporary seating. There are also about 12 seats available inside along the “bar.”

I stopped several times last winter and tried both the pork tonkatsu and chicken shio. Both were very flavorful. I am not a huge fan of pork belly or fat, so the pork wasn’t my favorite. I enjoyed the chicken a lot. However, I was there recently and had the vegetarian ramen, featuring several kinds of mushrooms and found my favorite. The bowls of ramen are $13 and come loaded with noodles and garnished with assorted toppings like seaweed, corn, mushrooms and a soft-boiled, soy-cured egg. There are vegan and gluten-free options, too. I remembered to ask them to not add the egg to my vegetarian ramen (I’m allergic). I really loved the broth and toppings in the vegetarian ramen. The broth had a really rich, umami taste to it. The other broths are also flavorful, but the veggie/mushroom broth is truly outstanding. I’ll be back for it.

As much as I love the ramen, I love the fruit-based tea they serve here more. It is a generous 1 liter serving, and you can get a lid to take the bottle home with you. In fact, they do not reuse the bottles. I’ve enjoyed a pineapple, passion fruit and raspberry tea, mandaquat (mandarin orange and kumquat), and the latest version was passion fruit and guava.

They also serve two flavors of soft serve every day. I couldn’t resist getting the matcha and chocolate swirl. The chocolate had a deep chocolate flavor, and the matcha was perfect – green tea flavor and not too sweet. The two flavors really complemented each other.

Starting in early December, Mason’s is open Wednesdays, Thursdays and Sundays from 4-9 p.m., and Fridays and Saturdays from 4-10 p.m. for ramen. The plan is to convert back to an ice cream shop in late March or early April.

We were a larger group than they can normally accommodate. They won’t allow groups to sit until everyone is there. Initially there were four of us. If one of your friends is pokey or running late you’re out of luck. I thought we were going to be five and then two more of my friends showed up at the last minute without warning, making us 6. We waited for one of the two tables of four to clear, while the cashier kept taking other orders from walk-ins. Once a table finally cleared, I sent my friend there to reserve it, only to get chastised by the cashier that you can’t sit until you’ve ordered and paid. I ordered for both of us and headed out into the tent. That did not leave a warm feeling in my heart. We had been standing there waiting for ten minutes already. The seventh person walked in just as we all sat down and were being served. The seven of us managed to cram around a table for four, but luckily ramen doesn’t take up a lot of room. We gladly doled out cups of water to the other diners since we were in the way. Three of my friends had never had ramen before. It was fun teaching them how to eat it – taste the broth with the spoon, slurp the noodles from the chopsticks, it’s okay to drink the broth from the bowl. Everyone enjoyed themselves in the end, so I must have been the only one stressing out. The joys of being an organizer.

Do yourself a favor and do not come with a group. But definitely check it out. Come with a friend or two or be like me and come alone and enjoy the ramen while you can. I truly think it’s the best ramen in Cleveland and worth the aggravation.

Contact info:

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

Boss ChickNBeer

Located on Front Street in Berea, this women-owned restaurant features fried chicken wings and tenders and locally brewed beer. I imagine it fits quite well into the Baldwin Wallace college culture.

Boss ChickNBeer is a unique restaurant – everything that is fried is gluten-free, as they use rice flour and soybean oil for their deep-fried and battered chicken. All the products that are in the fryers are all gluten free, and there is no cross contamination. The pasta and some buns are the only non-GF items. This is one of those places that picks one thing to do and does it well. Like the name says, it focuses on chicken and beer. If you don’t want beer you can help yourself to the free sweet or unsweetened iced tea and water in the dispensers in the back.

The storefront itself is rather small. It features bar seating and a few tables along the wall. There is no table service. You can order at the bar or if it is busy you order at the cash register near the entrance (although there is an entrance in the back as well from a small parking lot).

My first visit was right after it opened, so the menu was a little more limited than it is now. I couldn’t decide if I wanted wings or tenders, so I ordered both in the WingN Tender combo, which comes with 1 lb of wings, 3 tenders, 2 sides and 2 sauces for $20. I ordered the New Cleveland Gold and Citrus BBQ sauces. Both sauces were great, but I preferred the New Cleveland Gold. The wings were a little saltier than I expected, but they were absolutely delicious. I enjoyed the seasoning they use. The wings do not come coated in sauce, nor do they need to be. In fact, the menu specifies they can coat the wings in sauce for $100. The chicken tenders were perfectly fried, very tender – no pun intended – and quite juicy. I ordered the onion rings and fried brussels sprouts as sides. The onion rings were massive. They were thinly sliced, which I didn’t think was possible. The flavor was completely on point. The brussels sprouts were an absolute delight. They were roasted to within an inch of their life and absolutely delicious. I also ordered a Platform beer, because beer just goes well with wings. It was a lot of food and I enjoyed it the next day (hint: use an air fryer to reheat it and your leftovers will be perfect).

Vegan wings – photo from Boss ChickNBeer

My friends got the wings and the vegan wings (battered cauliflower & smoked tofu). The vegan wings weren’t bad. I imagine if I were a vegetarian I would come order this quite often. One of my friends ordered the salt roasted sweet potato as her side. It was massive and very tasty. They also got a sample taste of the queso mac n cheese, which was delicious. I brought date nut cupcakes from Dick’s Bakery down the street for dessert, because you can’t beat the date nut cake.

On my second visit I met a friend in the dog days of summer. The place was packed, and there was a line to order. I held our table while she ordered a WingN Tender combo for the two of us (it was perfect for two people). I let her choose the sides, and she chose the hand-cut fries and superfood slaw. I once again thoroughly enjoyed the wings and tenders. I can’t decide which I prefer, because they are both good in their own way. The handcut fries were perfectly fried, and the superfood slaw was delightfully fresh with lots of small julienned superfood veggies. I don’t know if I would have ordered the slaw, but it was a nice healthy choice.

The latest version of the menu features Boss-Tastic Mac with the mac n cheese topped with chicken tenders, gold sauce, boss sauce, green onion and bacon. The Veggie Mac is topped with the vegan wings instead of the chicken and bacon. Holy hell is it good. The queso has a bit of a kick to it, but you can lessen the spice by getting a bite with some barbecue sauce as well. The curly macaroni noodles are a great vehicle delivery for the soupy cheese.

They also offer four different sandwiches – the Hott Chick, the Hott Vegan Chick, the Jersey Shore Chick and the Vegan Shore Chick – for $10. The Hott Chick and Hott Vegan Chick features their jalapeno buffalo sauce and jalapeno pickles over tenders or vegan wings, while the Jersey Shore and Vegan Shore uses peppers, mozzarella, tomatoes and marinara sauce. You can choose between a gluten-free pretzel bun or a tortilla wrap. They had a sandwich featuring a glazed donut, but surprisingly that didn’t go over that well and was taken off the menu.

Contact info:

Boss ChickNBeer
120 Front Street
Berea, OH 44017
(440) 532-7660 b