Cafe Sabor Miami

Moving from Guatemalan to Honduran, another fun little spot in Old Brooklyn is Cafe Sabor Miami. This place is tucked in a storefront with a bodega selling propane on Broadview Road (just north of I-480), so it is very easy to drive by and not even know it exists. It is in the old location of Pupaseria Katarina, but it looks completely different. Pupaseria Katarian was rather austere, whereas Cafe Sabor Miami is bright and filled with vibrant artwork. The charming tropical cafe run by Honduran native Mariela Paz opened in 2015 and has been quietly feeding residents ever since. Paz lived in Miami for more than a decade and oversees a menu that ranges from Cuban to Honduran as well as Peruvian and Mexican featuring savory and sweet breakfast and lunch choices. I always say I am going to order some of her sweet pancakes, but the savory side of the menu keeps calling me.

First, I must say that I have never been disappointed by the coffee choices here. Apparently Paz’s family have a coffee plantation, so she is well-versed in coffee. She offers lots of standard choices as well as some rare finds, such as Cuban Colada espresso, Oreo Mocha, Mojito Latte, Rose coffee, Cortaditos (cafe con leche with espresso), and Mayan Mocha, as well as smoothies and hot and cold tumeric beverages.

As I’ve said, I love the savory side of the menu. The Tropichop is my favorite thing on the menu so far. The Tropichop is a rice-based dish with Latin flair. Yellow rice is piled with pulled chicken or pork, black beans, pico de gallo and curry sauce. The flavors meld really well together, and I love the light curry sauce, which is not overpowering at all. I have ordered it several times now.

I also love her empanadas. Each empanada is under $3 and is stuffed with filling and perfectly fried. My favorite is the La Hawaiana, which is a ham, cheese and pineapple empanada, but the La Cubana (a Cuban sandwich in an empanada) is also quite delicious. One day I’m just going to order one of each and decide which are the best.

Her pancakes like her plain or pecan or specialties like cinnamon bun pancakes, pineapple upside down pancakes, Caribbean Love (with lots of fruit), or Key West Lime pancakes are so tempting, but as a savory breakfast fan I tend to order savory. I ordered the Bistec a Caballo, which is a Cuban steak with eggs, onions, and home fries, the last time. I was absolutely blown away by the Cuban toast. It doesn’t look like much, but it packs a crisp and buttery taste that I fell in love with. Mariela does a great Cuban toast! It has its own section on the menu, and you can order it with butter, mozzarella cheese or cream cheese and guava.

Mariela and her staff are always so happy to see you when you walk in. I felt like a regular on my first visit. The place is bright and cheerful, filled with lots of Mariela’s artwork and taste. If I had to choose between Cafe Sabor Miami and El Rinconcito Chapin I would choose this place, but its limited breakfast and lunch hours ensure Chapin will also get some love from me. But Cafe Sabor Miami is one that should absolutely not be missed!

Contact info:

Cafe Sabor Miami
4848 Broadview Rd
Cleveland, OH 44109
(440) 714-0202

Advertisements

El Rinconcito Chapin

I’m back! I haven’t really been gone. I’ve just been too busy to write up posts for the blog. I’ve gone out to eat less in the past few months, but I have a few new posts up my sleeve. I appreciate one fan reaching out asking if I had quit blogging. I apologize. I didn’t quit. I was busy with work and my national conference in New Orleans, and then catching up with work when I returned. After conference is always busy following up with potential new clients and catching up with jobs I missed while I was gone.

I have been sitting on a post for El Rinconcito Chapin for a while now. El Rinconcito Chapin is an authentic Guatemalan restaurant in Old Brooklyn. My dining out group first visited them about a week before they were closing at their old location on Pearl Road. It was not a good location, with very little parking and smack in the middle of road repaving. Nevertheless we managed to meet there and have a lovely meal that was graciously served by the owner. He even gave us free flan and tres leches cake, which were absolutely amazing. We were so impressed that we swore we would visit again at their new location (we rarely repeat visits to places). They reopened on Broadview Road in the old Coney Company building near the corner of Broadview and Pearl, but it took me a while to schedule a visit. You can also access it from Pearl – just ignore the drive-in signs, which as far as I know they aren’t using. The sign on the road is not visible – look at the building. In addition to offering a larger dining room, the new site also has its own; parking lot, which is always a plus for some of our less mobile members.

On our first visit I ordered a chuchito (similar to a tamale) and chiles rellanos (pictured below). The chiles rellanos is beef stuffed poblanos that are dipped in an egg batter and fried. I was not all that thrilled with either choice (I’m just not a fan of masa – I find it to dry) and prefer the Mexican version of the chile rellanos over the Guatemalan version.

The Chapin sampler was a huge hit, which allows you to try several different dishes like pupusas, tamales, yuca fries, dobladitos and plantains. I’m a big fan of a lot of these things on the plate, so everyone really enjoyed this.

We all fell in love with their Licuado, which is a smoothie-like beverage. I had ordered the Jarito soda on my first visit and only got a taste of the Licuado, so I made sure to order it on the second visit. You can choose between the mango and the strawberry. I ordered the strawberry and almost ordered a second one! It is very refreshing.

On our second visit we ordered chips and guacamole as well as dobladitos as appetizers. Dobladitos are an empanada-like turnover made of corn masa and stuffed with chicken, a spicy cabbage slaw and red salsa. They were really delicious, and I would order them again. The guacamole and chips were good, but nothing to write home about.

The enchilades are nothing like the Mexican version of enchiladas. They are a flat tortilla piled with fresh slaw, meat and egg. They are delicious (if messy) to eat) and are quite beautiful to look at.

On my second visit I intended to order the churrasco skirt steak, but overheard one customer say the Pepian was their favorite dish. The customer had been raving about the Tofu Pepian, but I was in the mood for some meat. The “regular” Pepian consists of chicken cooked in a spiced tomatillo sauce. It came with rice and refried black beans and some green beans atop the chicken. It was extremely flavorful.

Unfortunately they were out of the flan when we visited the second time. We all split the tres leches cake, which was moist and delicious. The food was very authentic, with many Guatemalans eating there that night. The service is friendly, and we enjoyed exploring the menu. The prices are also very affordable.

Contact info:

El Rinconcito Chapin
3330 Broadview Road
Cleveland, OH 44109
(216) 795-5776

Luigi’s in Akron

Akron isn’t necessarily Cleveland, but if it’s good enough for Akron native LeBron James to be from “Cleveland,” then I can certainly feature a restaurant in Akron here. Luigi’s is an institution and has been an Akron tradition since 1949. It is open 7 days a week for lunch or dinner and is open until 2 a.m. on Fridays and Saturdays (they recently changed to a 2 a.m. close time instead of 3 a.m.). Beer and wine is served until 1 a.m. Reservations are not accepted, and they only accept cash or “local checks.” I’m not sure if they consider Cleveland local. In any event, I first started coming here when I was in grad school at Kent State University. Luigi’s is about as old school Italian as it gets. It was also the inspiration for Montoni’s Pizza in the Funky Winkerbean and Crankshaft comic strips, including the bandbox over the front door. Cartoonist Tom Batiuk was born in Akron and attended Kent State. Luigi’s is not gourmet, but it is good, solid, stick-to-your-bones fare. It’s extremely traditional. The tabletops are melamine, the menus are checked, the walls are fresco paintings, and the wood is dark. Most nights there is a line for a table out the door, so I tend to go during the lunch hour or off hours. They have great lunch specials until 3 p.m. But if you do find yourself in a line you will not be waiting for hours. The line moves quickly with several dining rooms available.

Luigi’s is known for its salads, because it has a ton of whole milk mozzarella cheese with a little iceberg lettuce, black olive and sliced radish underneath. Paired with their House Italian dressing, it is a nice balance to the heartier pizza and pasta they serve. The antipasto salad features salami, pepperoncini, olives, tomatoes, radishes, and mozzarella cheese. You can also add pepperoni, tuna or anchovies for an extra price. The complimentary bread is a really nice Italian bread, with a nice crust yet chewy center, served with packs of butter.

One of the best lunch specials around is the “slice and salad” combination. You get a small salad and a slice of pepperoni or cheese pizza for $4.35. Not bad for such a low price.

I have always loved their pasta. Spaghetti, rigatoni, ravioli – it’s all good to me. My go-to order has always been the Baked Pasta Combo (but be sure to emphasize the Pasta because you might find yourself served a Baked Combo Casserole, which is a baked meatball and sausage combo with no pasta in sight). It is a nice choice when you can’t decide if you want rigatoni or cheese ravioli. The pasta comes either with marinara or meat sauce. It is then covered in cheese and baked. The sauce is not spicy, but it is very good.

I recently ordered the Baked Florentine Ravioli on a whim and fell in love. It’s a spinach ravioli with a filling that is somewhat reminiscent of the Stouffer’s spinach souffle. The ravioli are not jammed with filling, but there is enough that it is a tasty ravioli. I ordered it with the meat sauce and loved every bite. I will be ordering this again.

The pizza also comes in two sizes – small (4 slices) or large (8 slices). The large is not as large as you might think, but it’s enough for a couple slices per person. The pizza is fairly unique. I think the pizza is fairly reminiscent of a Detroit style pizza, in that it is a flat pan pizza with a high rising crust. The crust has a nice crunch to it and yet it is sufficiently doughy for this thick crust lovin’ gal. I prefer the red sauce pizzas with a little meat instead of the Bianco or plain cheese pizzas. The meat and toppings balance out the tomato of the sauce. The cheese pizzas tend to overwhelm the sauce too much. If you prefer to take your meal to go, they offer parbaked pizzas that you can bake in your oven at home for 10 minutes.

Most people complain about the fact that you have to pay cash (although they do have an ATM). As long as you are aware of it ahead of time and bring cash with you you’ll be fine. The prices are so low that you won’t be shelling out a ton of money on your meal. I recently ordered a dinner sized baked pasta, small tossed salad and two small pizzas (to go), which easily fed two people and another meal besides, and my bill was $37.45.

Contact info:

Luigi’s Restaurant
105 N Main Street
Akron, OH 44308
(330) 253-2999

V’s Gourmet Fried Chicken and Ribs

V’s Gourmet Chicken is a tiny little take-out place in a tiny strip mall on Lakeshore Boulevard in Collinwood. It serves without a doubt the best fried chicken in Cleveland. It is take-out only, and every order is prepared fresh, so either call ahead or be prepared to wait. Luckily I live 8 miles from it so it doesn’t get cold, but even if it did the chicken would still be amazing because I’ve had it for leftovers and it stood up.

On a whim I ordered the fried zucchini and was very glad I did. The zucchini is sliced up into circles, breaded and fried. The outside is lightly breaded and crisp, while the inside has a delicious creaminess to it. I can highly recommend them.

The 3 piece fried chicken (wing, thigh and breast) is the most popular item on their menu. I can’t finish the whole 3-pc dinner at once, but it easily makes a couple of meals. The chicken breast alone was almost too big to fit into a Ziplock sandwich bag. I’ve had both the honey crisp and the seasoned breading. There are 8 breadings to choose from: Western, Mild, Honey Crisp, Seasoned, Coconut Crisp, Chipotle and Cajun. I personally like the Honey Crisp and Seasoned chicken. The chicken is crispy, juicy and perfectly seasoned.

Sometimes you don’t want to deal with the bones in fried chicken and might prefer a chicken tender. The chicken tenders are just as good as the fried chicken. They come in 5, 6, 10 or 15 pieces, and you can add a tender to any meal for $1.50 each. They offer the same seasoned breadings and 11 different dipping sauces. You can either get a 3 oz. cup for $0.75 or a 16 oz bottle for $5. The mild sauces are original BBQ, creamy honey mustard, creamy garlic, honey BBQ, honey glaze and teriyaki glaze. The spicy sauces are BBQ chipotle, creamy chipotle, berry jalapeno, creamy hot, Louisiana hot, Buffalo hot and chipotle pepper. I ordered creamy honey mustard and honey BBQ, and I preferred the creamy honey mustard. Get a couple different sauces and an even number of tenders and go to town.

The sides are hit or miss. The first time I had V’s chicken I was less than impressed with the sides. I also didn’t choose well. I’ve found over time that I do adore the coleslaw (nice and creamy with a nice jolt of horseradish). The rest are okay. The rice and greens have an Indian-like flavor profile. I’ve had it on good days and bad. When it’s good it is very good. The mashed potatoes and stuffing and gravy are okay, if a bit salty. The green beans are nothing to write home about, but I also don’t hate them. They are a nice vegetable option. I haven’t tried the JoJos (potato wedges) yet, but I hear they are great. Other choices include rice and beans, potato salad, buttered corn, baked beans and mac n cheese. I enjoy both the honey biscuit and the dinner rolls. If you want a hint of sweet order the honey biscuit. If you want a nice, soft, yeasty roll get the dinner roll.

They also offer ribs, fried fish, sandwiches, and salads, but I am all about the fried chicken.

Don’t forget about dessert! They have huge pieces of cake and cheesecake on offer. I have had the cherry cheesecake and the banana cream cheesecake. If you love banana cream you will love this cheesecake. Both cheesecakes were nice and creamy, but the banana cream cheesecake had me swooning. The cherry cheesecake topping offered a sweet contrast to the creamy cheesecake. I’m not a huge cake person, but everything always looks great.

Contact info:

V’s Gourmet Chicken
15418 Lakeshore Boulevard
Cleveland, OH 44110
(216) 738-7000
Open Monday through Saturday from 11 AM to 8 PM and Sunday from 3-7 PM

Kifaya’s Kitchen

Is the name Kifaya’s Kitchen or Kafaya’s Kitchen? According to the storefront sign it is Kifaya’s Kitchen, but social media calls it Kafaya’s Kitchen. No matter the spelling, I call it delicious. The phone number on their Facebook page is disconnected. The phone number on Yelp (below) works. Kifaya’s has been in business since 2013. One of my friends had read about it and wanted to try it, so I scheduled an evening with some fellow adventurous diners.

I had never had Somalian food before and didn’t really know what to expect. As anyone who follows me knows, I love being adventurous and will try anything. Ethiopian? Bring it on. Afghani? Yum. Squid on a stick? Yes, please. It turns out Somalian is like a cross between Arabic, Mediterranean and Indian with a little Italian thrown in for good measure.

It is an unassuming storefront on W. 117th. The place itself is very small, and there is a limited menu. You can order goat, chicken, fish, beef or vegetable with pasta or rice. The door was propped open, but since it was 35 degrees out and we were right by the door we asked to close it. It then got quite hot with the door closed. It appears their ventilation system is inadequate.

They were very accommodating for our large group of ten (with a reservation since it was a larger group – I wanted to give them a heads up we were coming). We almost filled up the place on our own, although there were two other tables of diners when we arrived. We sat around a long table and pulled chairs on the ends. I was glad I had called ahead.

Orders are placed at a counter (where you also pay at the end). We ordered in waves in order to not overtax the kitchen, but it turns out that was unnecessary. People who ordered last got served at the same time as the first wave of people who ordered because we had ordered similar things. It took a little longer to get the Kaykay delivered to the table, because it was a little more involved.

There is a sink in the dining room to wash your hands. Beverages and bananas were brought out while we waited for our food. Pro tip: the bananas are not an appetizer. They are to be sliced or mashed and mixed with the rice or pasta. The food was quickly brought to the table, and any minor mix-ups were quickly rectified without complaint.

Everything here is made from scratch, meat tossed upon a large flat-top grill and sautéed with vegetables and an array of spices. The quality of the food was excellent. It is very reminiscent of Indian food, with shai (chai), samosas and jabatic (chapati-like flatbread) served along with stewed or grilled meats and veggies. I ordered the goat with rice and vegetables, and another friend ordered the chicken so that we could try both.

Others in the group enjoyed pasta (angelhair pasta – although they call it spaghetti) or Kaykay (grilled jabatic mixed with goat gravy) instead of rice. The goat had some bones, but it was so tender that the meat easily fell off the bone. I enjoyed the goat, but preferred the chicken. The chicken had a very nice grilled flavor to it. The Basmati rice and sautéed vegetables were absolutely outstanding. The rice is flavored with fenugreek, cumin, coriander, cardamom and turmeric. I loved the sautéed greens, white beans and rice. Other vegetables include peas and carrots, potatoes, and okra. They also served a green chopped salad of greens with cucumber, red onion, green pepper and tomato with fresh lemon for acidity. Squeeze bottles of hot sauce and ranch dressing were delivered to the table, and the server suggested the ranch went particularly well with the chicken. I just put it on my salad, preferring the taste of the meat to be unadulterated.

The jabatic was like Indian griddled bread, but slightly sweet. It was a little greasy, but it was very thin and light, reminiscent of a scallion pancake. It had a slightly sweet flavor to it. We used forks, but I could imagine using the jabatic as a kind of injera to eat the food with our hands.

The kitchen served us chicken samosas when several of the folks had only ordered the beef. The server put it on the table, and we cut it into 8 pieces and shared it. Someone then did the same with the beef samosa. The filling in both samosa was different from Indian samosas. It was ground meat with some onion and no vegetables like the Indian potato and peas that I could see. The samosa themselves were perfectly fried and not at all greasy. The pastry was very delicate, and the filling was very flavorful. I think I preferred the beef over the chicken, but both were lovely.

The beverages are all $1 each. I ordered the shai (Yemeni tea), which I loved. I rarely find a chai that I enjoy. The flavors of cardamom, cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, and clove really shine here. I ordered it with milk, but it is also available without. I find most chais watery. Not so here. It was absolutely perfect. I had also ordered two cans of soda, but since the food was not as spicy as I expected I ended up taking the second can home with me. They had a container of what looked like mango juice in the dining area for people to drink, but it was almost gone by the time we were there.

The portions were enormous, and most of us got boxes for our leftovers. I will be definitely going back again soon. I want to have the chicken again and really want to try the fish as well. If you want to have a fun culinary adventure, I recommend checking out Kifaya’s Kitchen. It is open every day from 11 a.m. until 9 p.m.

Contact info:

Kifaya’s Kitchen
3650 W 117th Street
Cleveland, OH 44111
(216) 219-8263

Bonus Fish Fry Friday – La Vera Party Center

I thought fish fry season was over, but it turns out it was only the churches because of their Good Friday services. Restaurants and alternative venues like Big Met Golf Course were still dishing out fish and other Lenten-friendly foods. Being raised Lutheran the only day we really refrain from eating meat is on Good Friday. I usually forget and remember as I bite into a sandwich or enjoy something with bacon. This year I was good and stayed meatless.

I’ve been hearing about La Vera and its fish fry for a few years now. My old hairdresser grew up there and still spends New Year’s Eve there with her family. Her mother is apparently quite well-known there, being an old Italian family in Cleveland (her aunt runs a small place in Little Italy for primarily locals). One of my friends is a huge fan of the fish fry and goes every year (if not twice in the season), so I spontaneously decided to give it a try on Good Friday.

La Vera has been in business as a catering and event center since 1952. It can accommodate events ranging from 100-720 guests for a variety of junctions including weddings, proms, bar and bat mitzvahs, anniversary parties, luncheons, holiday company parties, sales rallies, seminars, auction and fund raisers. So finding parking was not a problem. They have a spacious parking lot in back.

TLDR: I was underwhelmed, but will give it another shot next year.

I rolled up on La Vera just before 6 PM. I figured it was prime fish fry attendance time and expected a line. To my surprise there was only a back up at the entrance due to someone with a walker and a couple other people chit-chatting and blocking the hallway. I followed the guy in front of me to the dining area. The reservations and credit card customers have their own dining room, because he and his wife were sent on their way to the other room. I paid my $11 to the cashier and was shown to a table. I was surprised, because it had been advertised as $12 per person.

The venue itself was very pretty. Ornate statues, mirrors and chandeliers. My mother’s godmother would have felt right at home. And they had a coat room, which was a nice touch.

After sitting for a second I asked the folks at my table what to do. They directed me to the line where they were dishing out two kinds of fish and sides like macaroni and cheese, whipped potatoes, penne in marinara sauce, and cabbage and noodles. I decided to skip the whipped potatoes and got small portions of everything else. My plate was still full. I grabbed a roll, butter, tartar sauce, a plastic container of cole slaw and napkins and silverware. A woman was ladling out soup at the end of the table, but I could not carry it all. I put my plate down at my table and headed back to get salad and a bowl of soup. I also grabbed some non-alcoholic beverages that were lined up on the bar.

Everything was okay. My favorite thing that night was the cole slaw. I don’t know if the regulars were all at Good Friday services, but everything just tasted bland to me. Both the fried beer battered pollock and baked cod were also kind of dry and nothing to get excited about. I ate the pollock and left some cod on the plate. The cabbage and noodles were full of big pieces of cabbage. I almost salted everything up, but resisted. That soup that everyone raves about? The pasta fagioli? I just thought it was meh. Like watered down tomato soup. To be fair, I’m really not a huge fan of tomato soup. The salad was good, with a nice Italian dressing.

On the plus side, I really enjoyed chatting with my table full of strangers. We recommended various fish fries to one another and talked about the crime of big business stealing pensions from hard-working employees. One big plus was that the dessert table was still plentifully stocked when I went to grab some dessert (even though I was full and left a lot on my plate). There were trays of cookies, some jello and slices of cake. I grabbed a small piece of cake, which I found cloyingly sweet, but it grew on me and I enjoyed it. It was nice and moist.

And you can’t beat the price – $11/12 for all-you-can-eat. Unfortunately I can never eat more than one plate at AYCE spots. The guy next to me went back for seconds, and my friend’s friend went back for thirds the last time they were there. So if you value quantity over quality this is the place for you. Like I said, maybe I was just having an off night and am being a little harsh, because I have heard rave reviews from people whose opinions I value.

Contact info:

La Vera Party Center
32200 Chardon Road
Willoughby Hills, OH 44094
(440) 943-0087

Lucy Ethiopian Restaurant and Bar

If you are a regular reader you might have noticed that I enjoy Ethiopian food. I think it’s super fun and has great flavor. A third Ethiopian restaurant just opened in Cleveland – this time on the west side in Old Brooklyn. My friends and I decided to check it out. We were so excited that we didn’t let something like a winter weather advisory stop us. We had planned on meeting at 6:30 but pushed it up a half hour to get a jump on the snow that was supposed to arrive starting at 7 p.m. It was a good thing we did, because driving home several traffic lights were out and power was out at my home from midnight until 11:30 a.m. the next day. Luckily I had kept my leftovers on the back porch.

I arrived after battling rush hour traffic and exploring new-to-me side roads between Cleveland Heights and Old Brooklyn. What would normally take me 20 minutes took me 45. Several of my friends were already there and had ordered beverages. I parked in the large parking lot behind the building and walked around to the front entrance. Don’t be me. There is a door in the back up a couple of stairs. It’s much more convenient.

The place is a little odd. It’s part neighborhood bar and part Ethiopian restaurant. When entering from the front, the neighborhood bar is on the right and the dining room is on the left. If you aren’t greeted right away feel free to seat yourself. They had no Ethiopian beer yet, but had several crappy beers (Budweiser, MGD, Miller, Heineken,

Lega Tibs, cabbage, and cottage cheese with a berbere dipping sauce

Corona, etc.) to choose from. Pass. Hopefully that changes. E. had ordered a large Yuengling. My other friend had a large vodka and tonic. They also serve Ethiopian honey wine, but I decided to stick with soda since the drive home would be treacherous. Also worth noting: this is the only Ethiopian restaurant that I’ve ever seen with a kids menu and chicken tenders, wings, grilled cheese, and burgers. Guess they are trying to still keep the locals frequenting the bar happy. It’s a shame if the locals don’t try being adventurous, because the Ethiopian food was really good.

We ordered five orders of sambusa to start. We were a little unsure of what we were going to get, because there were two kinds listed on the various menus – one vegetarian with potato, onion, peas and lentils and one with ground beef. Happily we were served the vegetarian ones, because our friend who was running later than me had been craving them

Beef combo – Kaywat (middle), tibs, yellow split peas, collard greens, salad, cottage cheese, and carrot afosolia

and specifically asked us to order it for her. Lucy’s sambusa uses a different dough than I am used to. They were a little lighter and flakier than the ones I have had in the past, and they were huge. Everyone but me finished both of theirs. I took my second one home for later and reheated it for lunch.

If you’ve read my other Ethiopian restaurant posts here you know that I love tikil gomen, which is the cabbage, carrot and potato dish on their menu they call Alicha Alkilt. I wanted to try one of their tibs, and the Lega Tibs was the only one that served tikil gomen as its side. The others had salad. Lega Tibs are billed as “cubes of lean beef marinated with green pepper, seasoned

Vegetarian combo

butter, exotic spices, onion, rosemary, garlic and fresh cut tomatoes,” but I would swear that it was lamb. The meat was a little tough and gristly. I enjoyed the flavor, and loved the tikil gomen. The seasoning was great in both dishes. I also ordered a side of their homemade cottage cheese. Ethiopian cottage cheese is not as creamy as American cottage cheese, but it does a nice job cutting down on the heat of some dishes.

Three of my friends ordered combination platters – vegetarian, beef, and chicken, respectively, so I was able to try a lot of different things. I absolutely loved the flavor of the Kaywat from the beef combination platter. It was ground beef (not cubes as billed) that were stewed with red hot pepper (berbere – a very typical Ethiopian flavor profile) and flavored with onion, garlic, ginger and seasoned butter. I had a couple bites of that and would definitely order it again in the future.

Chicken combo – Dorowat (center – with the egg), cottage cheese, salad, cabbage, collard greens, kitfo, and mild lentils

The vegetarian combination platter features red hot lentils, mild lentils, yellow split peas, shiro, collard greens, cabbage and salad. My friend, who is new to Cleveland and was on a quest to try all of the Ethiopian restaurants in DC before her husband was transferred here, also ordered a Timatim Fit for the table. Timatim Fit is a salad that uses chopped tomatoes, green peppers, lemon, onion and olive oil mixed with pieces of injera. It was a nice version of it.

My other friend ordered the chicken combination platter just to try the Kitfo, which isn’t chicken. Kitfo is Ethiopian steak tartar made with lean chopped beef, seasoned with spiced butter, cardamom and mitmita (a powdered seasoning mix that is orange-red in color and contains ground African bird’s eye chili peppers, cardamom seed, cloves, and salt). They serve the kitfo either raw, rare, or medium, so don’t let the tartar of it all scare you off. It came out medium on the combination platter. It was very tender and flavorful. The fifth person in our intrepid band loves raw Kitfo, so I knew he would be ordering that. He enjoyed it and had no leftovers either.

Dorowat can be quite spicy, but it is one of the most popular and well-known Ethiopian dishes. The different lentil dishes have different spices and flavor profiles. The red lentils can be quite spicy. The collard greens are tender and have a nice flavor. The cabbage, carrot and potato (tikil gomen) is not spicy at all and has a lot of tumeric. I make it at home sometimes.

Everyone really enjoyed their meals. Ethiopian can be deceiving, because when you get the food put in front of you it doesn’t look like it would be filling. However, the injera you use to eat the food with expands and fills you up. My ex-boyfriend and I used to split a vegetarian combo between the two of us at Empress Taytu, so I was prepared to bring home leftovers to enjoy the next day. Most of us did. I was very impressed that my friend with the beef combination platter finished hers. She said it was just so good she couldn’t stop eating it.

I’ve hopefully intrigued you enough to give it a try if you haven’t yet. The service was a little slow, but they were very friendly and kept coming out to update us on the status of our orders. We were enjoying ourselves, so it didn’t really bother us. When we ventured out into the snowy tundra she came running after us because one of us had forgotten their leftovers. We were cleaning off our cars, so none of us had left yet. The drive home was a bit harrowing, but we all made it home safe and had full bellies.

Contact info:

Lucy Ethiopian Restaurant and Bar
2218 Broadview Rd
Cleveland, OH 44109
(216) 417-2550