Marie’s Restaurant

Marie’s Restaurant is a Cleveland institution located at the corner of E. 45th and St. Clair Avenue. The restaurant has been in business for four decades and features Eastern European cuisine – specifically “home cooked authentic Eastern European cooking just like mama would make.” It’s known for its Croatian cooking (see: cevapi). Marie’s has great lunch and dinner specials all week.  You can order in or take it to go, get a full or half portion, lunch or dinner, the choice is yours. The specials run out, so make sure you order early. Marie’s has a comfortable, no-frills dining room, friendly down-to-earth staff, and delicious home cooking.

The bread is soft and fluffy and comes served with prepackaged butter pats, which were nice and soft. No frozen hard butter that makes you tear the bread. I ate several slices before my soup and salad came out (entrees come with choice of soup or salad, but I ordered the salad on the side). The salad dressing is a delicious vinegar-based European dressing. You can’t go wrong with any of their soups, but you will have to add some salt and pepper. They definitely cater to the elderly patrons who are watching their salt intake. I’ve had the clam chowder, the ham and barley, and the chicken noodle soups. All were really tasty.

The first time I went I ordered a Schnitzel and Spaetzle, because I think that is the best test for a European restaurant. The Schnitzel was definitely homemade and hand-pounded. No uniform frozen schnitzels here. It was crisp and delicious. I ordered some goulash gravy to go over the Spätzle, which was perfect, and the green beans were good too (canned but I like that). The beer went down tooo smoothly.

The second time I went I brought my dining out group. I ordered the Schnitzel Cordon Blue and probably won’t ever order anything else. The schnitzel was thinly pounded and wrapped around a generous portion of ham and cheese. Each bite was delicious. I also ordered the spätzle again – and a side of the fried cabbage, which was absolutely delicious. It’s a special side on Wednesdays.

My fellow diners enjoyed the goulash with spätzle and with noodles as well as a schnitzel with homefries, and one diner ordered the pork chop with spätzle. The goulash is authentically Viennese in that it is just meat and sauce. Everyone loved their entrees and sides of choice. Several exclaimed that they would be coming here again.

We split several apple strudels, which was just like the thin layered pastry I enjoyed in Austria. Strudel is supposed to be made with multiple layers of thin dough – not puff pastry. This strudel was perfect.

I look forward to trying the stuffed cabbage and the cevapi before relying on the cordon blue from now on. Judging from the photos, Marie’s Chicken Paprikash is more Balkan than Hungarian. The sauce is creamier and does not use a lot of paprika like the Hungarian version does. Marie’s also has City Chicken on the menu. You can’t get much more Cleveland than that.

Contact info:

Marie’s Restaurant
4502 St. Clair Avenue
Cleveland, OH 44103
(216)361-1816

I Heart Mac N Cheese in Parma

Who doesn’t like mac n cheese? When done well, mac n cheese can put you in a happy place. When I went to New York City a few years ago we made sure to eat at S’MAC, which I think (and Goldbelly agrees) is probably the best mac n cheese restaurant in the U.S. The variety there is amazing. I wanted to love I Heart Mac N Cheese, but it’s no S’MAC. S’MAC offers a lot more varieties – and adult-friendly varieties. I Heart Mac n Cheese is perfectly okay, but I don’t see myself going out of my way to eat there.

Once you get to the ordering station, you tell the person your order. If you want mac n cheese, they fill a bowl with pasta, add whatever mix-ins you want (vegetables, meats, etc.) and ladle cheese sauce over it. They then put a couple slices of cheese on top and run it through the conveyor belt broiler/salamander. If you order a grilled cheese, they grab the bread, layer on the cheese (and mac n cheese if requested) and run it through the conveyor belt broiler/salamander. You can also order tater tots and tomato soup.

You can build your own mac n cheese bowl using pasta, broccoli, cauliflower, quinoa or tater tots as a base and add on your favorite proteins, cheeses, and vegetables. They have all kinds of set options too – like buffalo chicken, short rib philly and chicken parmesan. Bonus points for offering gluten-free options and being vigilant to prevent cross-contamination. Extra bonus points for offering vegan options and vegan cheese. If my mother liked this kind of thing I think she could safely eat here.

The first time I went they had just opened, and I brought my dining out group there. Everyone was very healthy and ordered veggies to add to their mac n cheese. I was less so and ordered the Lobster & White Truffle Mac n Cheese minus the truffle oil. Truffle oil is the easiest way to ruin mac n cheese if you ask me, and every restaurant feels they need to add it to make it fancier than it is. Mac n cheese is mac n cheese. It doesn’t need to be fancy. I enjoyed the lobster mac n cheese. I wish they offered different noodles than just cavatappi, but do understand that cavatappi makes a nice mac n cheese. The cheese sauce was really bland. A dash of hot sauce might help. They weren’t chintzy with the lobster, which I appreciated.

They make a mean grilled cheese, and I love the tomato soup. I am not normally a fan of tomato soup, but their tomato soup is quite creamy and flavorful. I am not a fan of the tater tots. They are just kind of mushy and not very crisp. I felt like I was biting into mashed potatoes shaped into tots. They come with a small container of tomato soup for dipping, but you can also get ketchup if your kids want it. This is definitely a kid-friendly place, but it’s not S’MAC. If you want to try S’MAC for yourself you can order it through Goldbelly. My favorites are the four cheese and Napolitana, but the Parisienne is out of this world (make it yourself at home with this recipe).

Contact info:

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

Grum’s

Established in 1977, Grum’s is legendary when it comes to CWRU students and their favorite subs. You can get a foot-long (whole) sandwich for $13, which is enough for two meals. Grum’s is always recommended when folks on food forums ask for good subs. Unlike many sub shops in Cleveland, Grum’s has one location – Coventry Road in Cleveland Heights. I live within walking distance, which makes me the envy of a lot of people. One of my friends drives here twice a year from the west side and enjoys their Grum’s in Lake View Cemetery.

It doesn’t wow me, but they make a good sub and they have their die-hard fans. The bread is fresh, the meats and cheeses are plentiful, and the combination of flavors are well-paired. At the moment they only carry Italian bread. There is a supply problem with wheat. They have a sign on the door. They have chips and soda in vending machines to the right of the ordering counter. They used to serve them from behind the counter. I do not like the addition of the vending machines. It seems cheap and not very customer-friendly to me. I don’t know too many people who are willing to pay for a sub and then willingly plug money in a machine for a bag of chips and then another machine for a can or bottle of soda. But maybe that’s just me.

Grum’s is best known for the Turkey Ridge. It is made with roasted turkey breast, lettuce, tomato, onions, provolone cheese, Grum’s (secret) spices and mayo. It’s definitely a tasty sub. The spices complement the turkey sub, and I like the fact that the lettuce and onion are thinly shredded.

I usually order the Grumsteer, which is made with thinly sliced roast beef, oil, lettuce, tomato, onions, provolone cheese, Grum’s horseradish sauce and Grum’s spices. I really like the roast beef and tangy horseradish sauce. It can be ordered hot or cold, but I prefer it cold, because I felt the consistency and taste of the roast beef changed when it was heated and I was not a fan. As you can see from this side view there is a lot of roast beef in the sub. They also offer something called a Grumsting, which is a roast beef sandwich with barbecue sauce (thinly sliced roast beef, lettuce, tomato, onion, jalapeño pepper rings, provolone cheese, BBQ sauce , and Grum’s spices, to be exact). I prefer horseradish with my roast beef, but if you like barbecue sauce you might enjoy the Grumsting. It’s only available as a hot sub.

I tried the signature sub, the Grum, just to report on it. It is a decent Italian-style sub, featuring smoked ham, pepperoni, genoa salami, oil, lettuce, tomato, onion, hot banana pepper rings, provolone cheese, and Grum’s spices. Me being me, I picked out the hot banana pepper rings, but there was enough residual juice left behind to give it a bit of zing. The pepperoni and salami obviously overwhelmed any taste of ham, but it is a good sub if you like Italian cold cuts.

Grum’s tuna fish sub, the Seagrum, is made with Grum’s tuna salad, mayo, lettuce, tomato, and provolone cheese. I am not a fan of crunchy stuff like celery in my sub, so I really enjoyed the softness of the sub bun and the tuna. But if you prefer a sturdier sandwich you might want to order something else. The tuna flavor was not too overwhelming or “tuna-ee”. It wasn’t the best tuna sandwich I’ve had, but it also wasn’t the worst. It was a decent tuna sub.

I was going to order a hot sub, but I wasn’t able to order a half Hamshire in their online ordering system. Maybe another time. I’ve also had their pizza sub, which I enjoyed, but I don’t have a photo of that either. Two things you can order on the online ordering system is a side of potato salad and a half or a whole pickle, so I did. The potato salad was a decent potato salad. It’s not Fragapane’s or my mom’s, but I would order it again. It had a nice mayo base. It could use a little more seasoning than the paprika dashed on top of it. The whole pickle was great. Cut into four spears, it was sturdy and not too floppy and had a good dill flavor.

They also have three salads and a hot dog on their menu. The salads look like they are all iceberg lettuce, but the toppings appear to be plentiful. The salads are also all under $10. I would have really like to order soup, but maybe that is too much. There is chili listed in the ordering system, but several people on Yelp complained that they don’t have it despite it being listed. The online ordering system also allows you to order a soda, but they don’t specify what kinds and I wonder how that works with the vending machine.

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

Grum’s isn’t my go-to choice for subs, but it certainly has its fans. I prefer a sturdier bread. Maybe I would have become a fan if I was a CWRU student in the 1990s instead of BGSU. Instead, my heart belongs to DiBennedetto’s, which was across the street from my dorm and is unfortunately is no longer in business.

Contact info:

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

Swensons

Opening Day in University Heights

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

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

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

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

Galley Boy with lettuce, tomato and onion added.

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

Galley Boy dressed with a Spanish olive

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

Beef veg, large California and a crispy chicken sandwich

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

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

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

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

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

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

Contact info:

Swensons Drive-in
(click on link for locations)

Dave’s Cosmic Subs

Established in 1997, Cosmic Dave’s™ has become a legend here in Northeast Ohio.  A legend that is spreading at “Cosmic” speed across the state and beyond.  What started out as a humble sub shop in Chagrin Falls is now revolutionizing the sub world with a franchise with stores currently in four states and looking to expand into more.

Cosmic Dave’s™ is known for its crispy bread and tasty and generous toppings – and Dave’s Cosmic Sub Sauce™ (I have a bottle of it in my fridge right now). Dave’s Cosmic Sub Sauce™ is kind of like a creamy Italian, but better. The Original Dave’s Cosmic Sauce TM is all-natural, vegan, and sold in all of the Dave’s Cosmic Sub shops as well as select local stores. After leaving the family business in Cleveland (Seaway Wholesale Cash n Carry on Woodland Avenue) and moving to California for ten years, where he gigged as an actor, musician with his own band (they opened for Huey Lewis and the News and Steppenwolf), and playwright, he moved back to Cleveland and decided to mix the memory of sharing great sandwiches late at night with his dad and the music of the decade that shaped him. Dave knew what to look for in the right kind of bread, sauces, and combinations of the highest quality ingredients to create the “ultimate sub that rocked.”

Their first and most popular sub is #1 – The Original Dave’s Cosmic Sub™ (also referred to as the OG), which is made with pepperoni, Genoa salami, prosciutto, lettuce, tomatoes, sliced banana peppers, onions, fresh garlic, herbs, Provolone cheese – smothered with Dave’s Cosmic Sauce™.

The Crazy Dave – photo from the Dave’s Cosmic Subs website (bottle of Dave’s Cosmic Sauce in the background)

#8 – The Crazy Dave™ (prosciutto, capicola, hot peppers, lettuce, tomatoes, onions, fresh garlic, Provolone cheese, sprinkled with crushed red peppers, herbs, and Dave’s Cosmic Sauce) was voted best sandwich in Cleveland. I’m not a fan of hot peppers or red pepper flakes, so I’ve never tried it. I probably should some day.

I like Dave’s subs because they are tasty. All of their subs are served on vegan, kosher Italian or whole wheat bread baked fresh in their ovens throughout the day. Gluten-free bread is now available.

The Incredible Dave before I picked off the banana peppers

My favorites are the #9 – The Incredible Dave™ or # 5 – Dave’s All American™. The Incredible Dave is made with “two generous layers of juicy chicken, lettuce, tomatoes, onions, sliced banana peppers, lots of Swiss and Cheddar cheeses, herbs, smothered with Dave’s Cosmic Sauce.” I always leave off the banana peppers. The combination of the chicken, cheese and herbs with the sauce just satisfies something in me deep down inside. As for the Dave’s All American, it is his roast beef sandwich with “delicious tender roast beef, lettuce, tomatoes, onions, American and Swiss cheeses, herbs, and Dave’s 1000 Island Dressing.” It’s like a Reuben but with roast beef and cold. I prefer my roast beef cold, so I love this. Roast beef changes flavor and texture when you heat it.

Slap some cole slaw on the All American and heat it up, and you have the #19 – Hey Dave™. The Hey Dave features “delicious tender roast beef, Dave’s Famous Horseradish Sauce, Swiss cheese, with Dave’s homemade cole slaw piled a mile high, topped with sliced banana peppers and herbs.” It is only available as a Regular Size sub.

#2 – Dave’s World Famous™ combines chicken and roast beef and features their horseradish. I love horseradish, and it is a good accompaniment to roast beef as well as chicken and roast beef. The World Famous is made with “delicious tender roast beef, succulent chicken, lettuce, tomatoes, sliced banana peppers, Swiss cheese, herbs, and a generous portion of Dave’s Famous Horseradish Sauce.

The Grateful Dave

Two other favorites of mine are #25 – Dave’s Famous Bleu™ (turkey, Dave’s Cosmic Sauce, mayo, tomatoes, lettuce, onions, Cheddar cheese, hot peppers, topped with Dave’s Bleu Cheese Dressing) and #27 – The Grateful Dave™ (turkey, tomatoes, red onions, mayo, Dave’s Cosmic Sauce, avocado, alfalfa sprouts, and hot pepper juice). I’m a sucker for avocado and alfalfa sprouts. Not enough sandwich shops serve them.

#29 – Dave’s Peace Steak™ is another hot sub that I enjoy, which is surprising because I prefer cold subs. It is made with premium steak, mayo, green peppers, tomatoes, crisp onions, mushrooms, Dave’s Cosmic Sauce, and topped with Provolone cheese.

#20 – Dave’s Cordon Bleu™ (juicy chicken, ham, lettuce, tomatoes, onions, Dave’s Bleu Cheese Dressing, Dave’s Cosmic Sauce and a slice of Swiss cheese and herbs) is one unique sandwich. Obviously you have to like bleu cheese to appreciate it.

I would be remiss to leave out Dave’s meatball sub (#17). Called “Dave’s Best Meatball Ever™ (And We’re Not Kidding!),” it features three large meatballs, Dave’s Cosmic Sauce, fresh garlic, tasty tomato sauce, topped with Provolone and Romano cheese, sprinkled with herbs and crushed red peppers and is served Hot. I went through a phase where I tried meatball subs everywhere, and this was my favorite next to Crust’s meatball sub. And #18 – Dave’s Famous Italian Sausage™ sandwich is also awesome. It’s topped with pretty much the same things and is a little easier to get your mouth around than the meatballs.

I live within walking distance of the Dave’s on Coventry, so I treat myself occasionally. I’ve also been to the original shop in Chagrin Falls as well as in Hudson and University Heights. I haven’t made it to the Dave’s in the old Barking Spider location on Juniper yet, but I want to check it out. I usually grab a soda and a bag of chips when I am there. I loved that they served Arizona Mandarin Orange Green Tea. It was the only place I could find it, but now they don’t sell it anymore. The chips they serve now are made locally and cooked in peanut oil. The flavors include Maui Onion Chips, Sea Salt and Vinegar, Cracked Pepper and Sea Salt, Funk Fusion, Mesquite BBQ, Sea Salted, Sour Cream and Onion, Jalapeño, and Sriracha Honey. The Maui Onion is fantastic. If you’ve had the Hawaii Five-Oh at Gourmand’s that is the chip they use to top it. They also offer soup, but they microwave it. I can do that at home.

Contact info:

Dave’s Cosmic Subs

Click to find a location near you

Landmark Restaurant on St. Clair

The Landmark Restaurant is a laid-back eatery off of St. Clair Avenue that locals can’t get enough of. You should not confuse it with the Landmark in Lakewood – that is a flashy BBQ place. The Landmark on St. Clair is an old-fashioned ‘mom and pop’ diner-style breakfast and lunch place, which is growing ever rarer on the American landscape. We all love this homestyle cookin’, but these types of businesses are often overshadowed by new destinations with flashy surroundings. I’ve been focusing on diners for the last few months because they give me comfort.

I parked to the left of the building in their small parking lot, but I could have parked along the street as well. The Landmark is open five days a week from 7 a.m. to 2 p.m. Yes, the website and Google says 5 a.m., but there is a sign in the window when you walk in warning you otherwise. Covid seems to have changed quite a few practices here. I tried to come at around noon or one p.m., but I’ve been told I need to get there earlier if I want the clam chowder. When you walk in you immediately see a counter in front of you and a cash register to your left. They seem to do a lot of carry-out business. The dining room is to the left and you can sit wherever you would like.

Obviously, the first thing I do when I enter a new place is to ask the waitress what are the most popular items. Her response was “the Hungry Man, the Crazy Omelette, and the Fisherman’s Platter.” Since I wasn’t hungry enough for the Hungry Man (three eggs any style, three hotcakes or three slices of french toast, three slices of bacon, and three sausage links), I decided to order “Two eggs any style,” which comes with a short stack of pancakes or two slices of French toast and two slices of bacon, ham or sausage. I decided to go for scrambled eggs, bacon and upgraded the pancakes to blueberry pancakes. It certainly hit the spot. The blueberry pancakes contained a good amount of blueberries, and the scrambled eggs came out topped with cheese, which was a nice surprise. That was a lot of food for only $6. I splurged on a cappuccino and orange juice. The cappuccino was definitely from a packet, but they both hit the spot.

Landmark has the coolest syrup dispensers. I’ve never seen anything quite like them. While some places serve their syrup in syrup bottles with the lid hanging almost off (Diner on 55th) or in metal jugs (Original Pancake House, Mama D’s), the Landmark has this cool plastic dispenser with a hole at the top. There is very little chance of dripping or overflow. And the squeeze bottle fits perfectly in my hand and allowed me to dispense exactly the amount I wanted.

The Crazy Omelette was actually a bit much. I arrived there starving, having looked forward to ordering a Shipwreck at Lucky’s but not wanting/being able to stand and wait 30 minutes, and I got full after eating half of it. The Crazy Omelette contains onions, green peppers, mushrooms, ham, bacon, sausage & cheese. I ordered the home fries and an English muffin. When they say there is an “upcharge” they mean they will charge you for the entire cost of the English muffin or cinnamon swirl toast, so order a normal toast (white, wheat or rye) and then order the English muffin or whatever as a side.

I usually order lunch on my second visit. When I heard they served hot open-faced sandwiches I knew I would be back to order one of them soon (see below), but I wanted to try their clam chowder so I visited on a Friday afternoon. Unfortunately, they only serve clam chowder every other week, so the soup of the day was supposed to be cream of broccoli, which I also enjoy. But they had run out so I was served a chicken and rice soup that was quite tasty instead. I still haven’t been able to try it, but the broccoli soup is also nice.

I asked what came on the Fisherman’s Platter and was told it came with perch, white fish, and fried shrimp. The Fisherman’s Platter is usually $8.50 on the regular menu and comes with soup, choice of potato and choice of vegetable and a roll and butter, but it’s only $8.00 on Friday. The Friday special comes with a cup of soup, mac n cheese, and choice of vegetable. I chose the mac n cheese and corn. I definitely didn’t miss the roll and butter.

It was a TON of food for $8.00 – two planks of perch, a square of whitefish, and a bunch of fried shrimp. It was served with a side of tartar sauce and a side of cocktail sauce. I could tell it was food service fish, but most church fish fries also serve food service fish and I’m okay with that. With the special and an iced tea, my bill came to $9.99. I walked out of there absolutely stuffed and didn’t forget my leftovers!

On my third visit, I wasn’t sure if I wanted breakfast or lunch, but decided the siren call of a hot open-faced roast beef sandwich was too tempting to ignore. It isn’t as good as Jack’s Deli’s open-faced brisket, but it is a good roast beef sandwich. I’m not sure what I think of the mashed potatoes. I don’t think they were real mashers. But the sandwich and mashed potatoes hit the Comfort spot.

They don’t serve soda from a fountain, they sell it by the can. I ordered two cans of ginger ale because that’s how I roll, and I sipped the second one on my drive home. The cabbage soup that was the soup of the day that Monday also hit the spot. I love navy bean, cabbage soup, and stuffed pepper soup, so I would have been happy with any of them. But I have recently been on a cabbage kick, so the soup was really tasty.

Contact info:

Landmark Restaurant
5380 St Clair Avenue
Cleveland, OH 44103
(216) 881-5372 and 216-971-1318

Mr. Chicken

Mr. Chicken is a local fried chicken chain and family-owned business with eight locations that has been operating in Cleveland since 1968. It was started by the Simens family in Euclid in 1968. I was first introduced to Mr. Chicken by my dad, who loves treating himself by eating there every once in a while. I would stop at the Mr. Chicken in Parma (Pearl and Ridge), Northfield (on Northfield Road) or Twinsburg (just south of the Square on 91/SOM Center Road) when the mood struck me, but the chain recently opened its eighth location in South Euclid (on Green just north of Mayfield), and I have become a regular.

The Kids Meal features a chicken tender, mac n cheese, a cookie. and a small fountain drink (not a Capri Sun in the photo on the ordering board)

The original owners’ son is now heading the Mr. Chicken chain. He explained their business focus to cleveland.com by saying, “We are about family meals and dinners. The majority of our business is serving families. Our average customer is 35 and up who are buying for two or more people. We aren’t interested in high traffic, small transactions or a late-night crowd. We’re a family business.” When it opened, the South Euclid location opened without indoor seating. Orders are taken via a double drive-thru or by ordering in the lobby. Mr. Simens explained, “We feel that, after COVID, drive-thru will be the predominant way most people do transactions with us,” he said, noting that many customers prefer to eat with their families at home rather than in the restaurant.”

I usually order the three-piece, all-white-meat chicken dinner (there’s an upcharge but I’m willing to pay it). I’ve tried and I just prefer white meat, especially when it is fried. They serve this crazy side piece that is almost boneless that I really enjoy (see photo to the left). They claim to use farm fresh chickens and to make everything in-house. I definitely prefer it over KFC. It may not be V’s or gas station chicken (Krunchy Krunchy), but I really enjoy a good piece of fried chicken and this definitely meets my expectations.

I ordered the Chicken Bowl once, which is their version of the KFC Bowl, but I have to say I prefer the KFC Bowl. First of all, the Chicken Bowl is massive – almost too much. They start with a huge portion of mashed potatoes and top it with three chicken tenders, corn, gravy and cheese. I love a good chicken tender, but the bowl format lends itself to popcorn chicken, which KFC offers and Mr. Chicken does not. It’s awkward to eat, and there was something about the taste that I just didn’t love.

The Farm Fresh Chicken Sandwich is a great chicken sandwich. It uses a thick chicken breast that is lightly breaded and fried. Instead of mayo, it uses a delicious honey mustard sauce that is drizzled over a generous helping of lettuce and tomato. If you’d prefer you can also get the chicken sandwich with bacon and barbecue sauce. You can order the sandwich alone or as a meal with french fries and a medium drink. Unfortunately, they don’t serve jojos in South Euclid.

The BBQ Bacon Chicken Sandwich features a thick chicken breast, romaine lettuce, crispy onions, cheddar cheese, 2 pieces of bacon, and hickory smoke BBQ sauce on a brioche bun. I found it to be incredibly salty. I’m not even sure what was causing the salt overload, but it could have been the BBQ sauce, bacon or cheese. I loved the crispy onions on it. It gave it a nice crunch.

As for the various sides, I can highly recommend the Corn Nuggets (listed under Southern Favorites, they are worth the higher price). They take corn and add it into a batter of flour, cornmeal, baking powder, sugar, salt, milk, eggs and melted butter, then scoop them out into little balls and deep fry them.

The corn and green beans are good sides, and the mac n cheese is a basic mac n cheese that is bland enough for kids to enjoy. The cole slaw is chopped and prepared daily and has a nice moistness to it. I usually get the mashed potatoes and gravy and cole slaw with my chicken dinner. The biscuits have a hint of butter to them but are lacking a hint of honey like Popeyes has. But they are good slathered with butter and jelly or honey at home.

Last but not least, I would be remiss not to mention one of my favorite things on their menu – the Funnel Fries. They’re a delicious funnel cake that is shaped like fries and liberally doused in powdered sugar. The fries are best served fresh and warm. I usually eat them in the car while driving home, because the scent is irresistible. Who says you can’t start with dessert first? They also sell chocolate chip cookies (see Kids Meal photo above) and an Apple Churro.

Mr. Chicken’s typical store hours are 10:30 a.m. to 9:30 p.m. or 10 p.m. weekdays (hours below taken from Mr. Chicken’s Locations page on 2/21/2022).

Contact info:

Mr. Chicken


South Euclid – Mr. Chicken
1415 Green Road
South Euclid, Ohio, 44121
(216) 848-0001
10:30 AM – 10:00 PM, Mon thru Sun


Maple Heights – Mr. Chicken
5515 Warrensville Center Road
Maple Heights, Ohio, 44137
(216) 662-2100
10:30 AM – 11:00 PM, Mon thru Sun


Northfield Village – Mr. Chicken
10710 Northfield Road
Northfield, Ohio 44067
(330) 468-2250
10:30 AM – 10:00 PM, Mon thru Sun


Parma Pearl – Mr. Chicken
5451 Pearl Road
Parma, Ohio 44129
(440) 886-2880
10:30 AM – 10:00 PM, Mon thru Sun


Twinsburg – Mr. Chicken
9010 Darrow Road
Twinsburg, Ohio 44087
(330) 425-4455
10:30 AM – 09:00 PM, Mon thru Sun


Willoughby – Mr. Chicken
35901 Euclid Avenue
Willoughby, Ohio 44094
(440) 951-1020
10:30 AM – 09:00 PM, Mon thru Sun

Fish Fry Friday 2022 #4 – St. Sava Serbian Orthodox Church

St.Sava was an interesting fish fry. There were some good parts and some bad parts – like any fish fry. I somehow had it mixed up in my mind with St. Francis DeSales when it came to the location. I drove down Broadview and did a u-turn once I hit the Seven Hills border. I had been concentrating on finding it on my left side when it was on the right. Luckily I hadn’t gone far at all, and I was able to almost immediately pull onto W. Ridgewood and then into the parking lot. I followed another diner to the Hall entrance on the left side of the building and then followed the signs down the hall to the fish fry.

I got there at about 4:15 or so to beat the crowd. I got in line, where I was greeted by a friendly lady in Serbian and then in English. There were two dinner choices – fish and some Serbian dish called Bakalar. She explained to me that Bakalar is a dried cod served with potatoes and lots of garlic. I wasn’t feeling that adventurous, so I paid for a fish dinner, took my receipt, and sat down at a table. There were plenty of seats to choose from. I sat with a very nice couple from Parma. Apparently, there is also a fish fry at St. Sava Hall on Wallings Road that offers a bit more selection (fried shrimp, pierogi, more sides than just fries and cole slaw). The food runner greeted me at the table and grabbed my receipt to get my food. I bevvied up to the bar, thinking I could get a soda. Nope! I had to buy a ticket at the cash table. That was not clear at all. Everything runs through the cash table. I spent $12 on the dinner, $1 on the apple strudel, and $1 on a can of soda.

Once I sorted out my beverage situation, I came back to my table to find a vegetable soup and a bread roll waiting. Here is where the first hiccups started. The soup was awful. There was NO seasoning in it – not even salt and pepper. I asked one of the runners for some butter, and he informed me they had no butter because it was Lent. What? Not even margarine. So bring your own butter to slather that delicious roll with.

Onto the main dinner. The fish was a thing of beauty – definitely the best piece of fish I’ve had this season. It is a 6 oz piece of cod that is battered and baked, and the fish inside was flaky and moist. I enjoyed a nice sizeable forkful each bite. The fries were quite good as well – nicely fried with a crisp outside and a soft inside. The only con from the dinner was the cole slaw. It was a vinegar-based cole slaw, but it didn’t even taste like vinegar. I added salt and pepper to it from the table, and it didn’t help. I ate two bites and left the rest.

The pièce de résistance of the meal, however, was the apple strudel. I ordered it on a whim for an extra $1.00. That strudel was divine. It is wrapped up like a burrito and seems like it was flash-fried. The strudel pastry shattered with each bite, and the filling was delicious. It tasted like a cross between strudel and baklava. I swear it had honey in it. I would come back again just for the strudel. If they improve the soup and the cole slaw by adding seasoning they would have a solid fish fry. Don’t be shy. A little seasoning goes a long way.

Contact info:

St. Sava Serbian Orthodox Church
6306 Broadview Road
Cleveland, OH 44134
(216) 749-0064

Fish Fry Friday 2022 #2 – Greater Sokol Cleveland

Sokol Greater Cleveland hosted two fish fries this year – on March 4 and March 11. The dinners are served in the basement of the historic Bohemian National Hall. Park in the parking lot in the back, walk down the hall and follow the voices to the ticket table. After you have your ticket and number stand, walk down the hall to the stairs or take the elevator to the basement. I took the elevator down with the evening’s musical entertainment, Anthony Culkar. Nice guy. He started playing at 5:30.

Reservations are recommended for big groups, but I was only one person. They were serving from 5-8 and I got there at 5:10. It was easy to find a seat at a table that didn’t have the chairs up indicating they were reserved. They serve fried or baked fish dinners, shrimp dinners, and pierogi dinners, either dine-in or take-out. The fish, shrimp and combo dinners are $12. The half fish and pierogi dinners are $8. The dinners come with tater tots, cole slaw, a slice of bread, coffee and dessert. I also got a small serving of apple sauce. It might have come with the pierogi. You also pay a $1 temporary membership at the door for the Full Cash Bar. My total came to $17 – $12 plus $4 for two pierogi and the membership.

I chose my seat and shared the table with a nice group of three. I sat for a bit to get my bearings and as I decided to get up to go to the bar my food arrived. My tablemates weren’t as lucky. They were served shortly before I left. There was an advantage to only being one person. Anyway, I hit the cash bar and ordered a Primator Premium Lager (a Czech beer) and a ginger ale ($6 total).

I arranged my meal and drinks and enjoyed m Combination Dinner, which had fried fish and fried shrimp, and two add-on pierogi with sauteed onions. I somehow got two pieces of fish instead of one. It was palatable, but I especially enjoyed the fried shrimp. If I had known butter and ketchup were available if I asked I would have probably enjoyed the tater tots and slice of bread more. In the end, I just left them unfinished. The cole slaw and apple sauce were a nice little treat, and the pierogi were delectable. I took my dessert (choice of yellow or chocolate cake) home in a small to-go box and hobbled back into the snowy night with a full belly. I was going to go grocery shopping, but decided to do it tomorrow instead. I just wanted to go home, put on some comfy pajamas and cuddle up with a book and a cup of tea in this weather.

BTW, they also serve a Sunday Supper from 1-2:30 on the last Sunday of every other month. The next one is chicken paprikash and dumplings on April 24th. Reservations are required by the Wednesday beforehand. The dumplings are usually the flat Czech dumplings, so it’s a total treat. Happy Lent, everyone! Where did you go?

Contact info:

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

The Diner on 55th

You can’t miss the Diner on 55th. Just look for the shiny, old-timey diner car at the corner of E. 55th and St. Clair (pro tip: enter from E. 55th once you cross St. Clair – the driveway on St. Clair is exit only). It’s right off the E. 55th exit on I-90. If the sun is shining you may need sunglasses, but you definitely can’t miss it!

Since it opened in 2001, the Diner on 55th has been the epitome of a “classic small town diner,” but in the big city. If you’re a fan of old-school dining and comfort food, you’re sure to fall in love with this classically-inspired 1950s-style diner with checkerboard tablecloths. They specialize in all-American comforts like breakfast foods, chili, burgers, and onion rings. The Diner on 55th is open 6 days a week from 6 am to 3 pm (Saturday and Sunday from 7 am to 2 pm). It is closed on Mondays and holidays.

The diner car is surprisingly roomy inside. Booths line the windows and walls, and tables are lined up down the middle to be fit together as needed. There is a counter down the middle with comfortable-looking stools as well. The clientele was a mix of regulars and first-timers. I don’t know our local athletes, but one particularly tall gentleman may or may not play for the Cavs. He had to duck his head when he left. Being 5’2″ I didn’t have that problem. Whether they were regulars or a newbie like me, everyone was cheerfully greeted and treated well. The servers were very friendly and accommodating.

As for the food, it was by far one of the best breakfasts I have enjoyed in a long time!!! I ordered the Full Belly Breakfast, which comes with two eggs, two pancakes or two slices of French toast, and home fries or grits (or half and half). You can also order it with your choice of bacon, sausage, ham steak, or “ranch steak”, so I ordered bacon. When the server put the plate in front of me I was taken aback by how good it smelled. Well, it tasted even better. I don’t know what they put in the pancakes, but they were delicious. I think I only left a couple bites behind. As good as the pancakes were, the star of the show were the scrambled eggs. They were firm yet fluffy and every bite was a buttery delight. I savored every single eggy bite. The bacon was perfectly crisp. I walked out of here happy and looking forward to my next visit.

An omelet hit the spot one early Saturday morning. I decided to give it a chance even though it was 11 o’clock, and I was surprised that there were still a few tables available as well as the counter. People used the counter to sit until a table could be cleared. Once I sat down I ordered coffee and the Lorraine omelet, a three-egg omelet made with bacon, mushrooms, and Swiss cheese. I chose the home fries instead of grits and rye toast. There was a big table that had spun the kitchen into the weeds, but I was in no hurry. I had a book on my phone and was happy to chill and drink some coffee.

Since I have really enjoyed the breakfasts I ordered another Full Belly Breakfast, but this time I was in the mood for French toast. I figured I would be taking half home with me, but it was so good I cleaned the plate. The French toast was crisp on the outside and soft on the inside. They are generous with the butter. The scrambled eggs were once again delicious, the home fries featured some crispy bits and soft potato bits, and the bacon was perfectly crisp. I ordered coffee and two orange juices because I was thirsty. Since I know how to deal with the sugar dispenser now, the coffee was perfect.

Once it came out and I managed to wrangle up some jelly, ketchup, and an ice water, my breakfast was complete. I savored every bite of my breakfast – from the buttery omelet with chunks of bacon and mushroom and a pillow of Swiss and home fries with a liberal dousing of ketchup to the jelly-slathered and generously buttered rye toast. I walked out of there full and happy, which is how you want to be when you leave a diner.

Both breakfast and lunch are served all day. I saw stuffed cabbage on special one day and headed out (after digging my car out from a snowstorm). I got there shortly after one and they had unfortunately run out. When I asked the waitress when they usually start running out of things she suggested I get there a little before noon next time. So keep that in mind. I ordered the Roast Beef and Cheddar on a Bun off the Specials Board. She explained that they make the roast beef there, shave it and top it with cheddar cheese. In fact, from listening to the talk between the servers and the regulars at the counter they make just about everything (including the salad dressings) there.

I wasn’t all that impressed with the sandwich itself. Once I removed a couple pieces with gristle I enjoyed it more, but I was blown away by the onion rings. The special sandwich came with my choice of side, and when I asked her she recommended the onion rings. Talk about a great choice! They are definitely made there. The breading is light and crisp, and the entire thing is just tasty. One of the best orders of onion rings I’ve ever enjoyed. They don’t serve a lot of them, but it’s definitely quality over quantity. If you want more, order a second side.

The Lunch Specials also come with a complimentary soup. The soup of the day that day was Manhattan Clam Chowder (see above). I did notice a few clams in it, but honestly, it was more of a tasty tomato-based vegetable soup. I really didn’t miss the clams at all. On another visit, the soup of the day was cream of asparagus. I loved it. It was a lighter soup with not much cream and had some rice to give it some bulk. The soup was also brightened up by lemon juice. It was definitely a Greek take on asparagus soup combined with avgolemono soup (Greek chicken soup prepared with eggs and lemon and a bit of rice).

I ordered a Patty Melt with onion rings during a recent visit. The waitress, unfortunately, wrote it down wrong, but immediately rectified it by returning the plate to the kitchen and asking for onion rings. She then brought the burger back to me, and I enjoyed the perfectly medium rare burger while waiting for the onion rings, which were once again absolute perfection. The waitresses have also started greeting me like a regular.

Club sandwiches are also a great way to judge a diner. I also ordered the Diner Club sandwich to go. It was also perfection – a triple layer of white bread layered with ham, turkey (that are seasoned with what may be caraway?), bacon, cheese lettuce, and tomato. I asked for a side of 1000 Island dressing to slather on it. My perfect addition. I learned of this hack when I worked at Bakers Square. It was a bit difficult to eat, because it is so tall and fell apart pretty easily. But it sure was tasty! I ate the second half the next day, and it stayed together much better because it had all chilled together overnight.

The owner (a cute little older Greek guy named “Jimmy”) was either at the register or sitting/standing at the counter (the guy in the plaid shirt in the photo with the counter) the whole time I was there. He warmly cashes people out and thanks them for coming. On my first visit, I wondered how soon is too soon to return. Turns out every couple of days is just fine.

Contact info:

The Diner on 55th
1328 East 55th Street (at the corner of E. 55th and St. Clair Ave.)
Cleveland, Ohio
(216) 417-8001