An Ode to Smoked Prime Rib

Now being served in the dining room of Frank Sterle’s on Friday nights.

Oh, smoked prime rib, you complete me… your tender, juicy meat, your marbling, your smoky flavor, your crispy crust…
Served with creamy garlic mashed potatoes and the tenderest, butteriest ear of corn I’ve eaten in a long while…
Walter and Scott from Fat Casual BBQ in Macedona (later Tavern of Solon, now Frank Sterle’s) have outdone themselves – truly…
I don’t think I shall ever forget you.

Luckily I won’t have to, because they are starting to serve it again since the weather is starting to cool. Get your own smoked prime rib by visiting Fat Casual BBQ in Macedonia Tavern of Solon Frank Sterle’s Slovenian Country House on Friday nights. The smoked prime rib is ready to serve at 5 and sells out quickly. The day I bought mine it sold out by 6:15. I got mine to go and ate the other half of the prime rib on a crispy baguette from Stone Oven for lunch the next day. If they’ve run out, you won’t go wrong ordering anything off their menu, such as the ribs, the smoked turkey, the brisket, the sweet potato salad, the deep fried potato salad…

Le Petit Triangle in Ohio City

This place is tiny (as in only maybe 8 tables – tops – in the winter and a few more on the sidewalk), but it serves up some heavenly crepes and French bistro fare. This is my go-to place whenever I want to have a leisurely breakfast or lunch featuring a good cafe au lait and feel like I’m back in Europe sitting in a little corner bistro. My first meal here was a memorable fondue dinner featuring the most amazing White Bordeaux back when it was Le Oui Oui Cafe. For such a small place and “limited” menu, the food is simply outstanding. I have never had a bad meal here. They serve a delicious Salad Nicoise (featuring pan-seared salmon filet, redskin potatoes, green beans, olives, tomato, hard boiled egg, and a peppercorn dressing), Croque Monsieur (ham, Gruyere and Bechamel sauce served warm on grilled challah with a side of potatoes), Croque Madame (the same sandwich but topped with a fried egg) and crusty baguette sandwiches. They are also known for their savory and sweet crepes and a delicious and filling French onion soup.

I was craving a baguette sandwich after watching Martha Stewart make one on her show, so I decided to enjoy a late lunch recently. I started with the French Three Onion Soup, which is topped with Gruyere and is vegetarian-based. Life just seems complete when you are eating a nice steaming bowl of French onion soup. Digging through the melty Gruyere cheese, tearing off some of the hunk of bread at the bottom of the bowl and getting the perfect amount of onions and broth is decadence at its best. In fact, I couldn’t wait to let it cool a bit before I dug in and burned my mouth. Do yourself a favor and let it cool just a bit.

For my baguette sandwich, I was torn between the Pan Bagna, which features Swiss cheese, ham, tomato, artichokes, spinach, olive tapenade on a baguette and served with a side of couscous-lentil salade, or the Caprese (fresh mozzarella, sliced tomato, spinach with pesto on a baguette). The server (who also happened to be the owner) recommended the Pan Bagna, so I went with her recommendation. Wow, it was great! The olive tapenade really made the sandwich shine. As you can see from the side shot of the sandwich it was just packed with cheese, ham and veggies. And have I mentioned the olive tapenade? Soooo good!

If you still have room, I highly recommend ordering one of their sweet crepes. They are absolutely divine.

They are open Monday and Thursday from 10 am-10 pm, Friday and Saturday from 10 am-11 pm and Sunday from 10 am-9 pm.

Contact info:

Le Petit Triangle
1881 Fulton Avenue
Cleveland, OH 44113
(216) 281-1881

Hot Sauce Williams

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Edit: All Hot Sauce Williams locations are now closed.

Photo from the Cleveland Scene

Hot Sauce Williams is a Cleveland institution. I drive past it all the time and had heard so many good things about it that I finally decided I needed to try it. If you love fried food that is slathered in hot sauce, then this is your place. We went to the main restaurant on Carnegie, but they have additional locations on Lee Road and Superior Avenue. The restaurant has a “divey” feel to it, which I always enjoy (I still miss the old Suds Maguire in Olmsted Township). The tables are covered in plastic and the place looks somewhat run-down. Just don’t come here expecting fast or friendly service.  In fact, the major negative about our visit to Hot Sauce Williams was that the service was slower than molasses and was not particularly friendly, but we quickly forgot about that after digging into the food. But if you go in knowing it’s a bit of a dive and that the food makes it worth the trip you’ll be ok. One thing I can say is that you get a massive amount of food for a great price. It just took an hour to get it. If you don’t want to wait that long, order whatever is in the warmers behind the counter.

Hot Sauce Williams’ fried chicken was highly recommended as being amazingly good, so I went there intent on fried chicken. I ordered the 2 piece fried chicken breast dinner and received two massive bone-in chicken breasts. They needed to make it in the back and took their good old sweet time doing so. It came out so hot it melted the styrofoam. I could barely finish one breast and took the rest home. It came with cole slaw and French fries and slices of white or wheat bread and cost a whopping $5.99.

The wing dinner was $5.00 and also came with French fries and coleslaw, white or wheat bread. My friend upgraded and ordered three different sides, which she absolutely raved about – mac and cheese, collard greens and candied yams. True Southern comfort food!

Another friend ordered a full slab rib dinner for $19.50 (it also comes with French fries, cole slaw and white or wheat bread). He let me try a couple bones while I waited for my food and watched everyone eat. They don’t fall off the bone, but they are nicely smoked and slathered in an absolutely delicious sauce. After all, Hot Sauce Williams is known for the BBQ sauce.

They gave our group a mess of French fries for free to compensate for our wait. We got an industrial restaurant aluminum pan brimming full of fries (you can see it at the top of the photo in the center of the table). The fries are actually store-bought Ore-Ida brand fries, but they were good – especially drenched in the hot sauce, which wasn’t all that hot (as in spicy).

We weren’t all that impressed with the desserts though (I was so unimpressed that I didn’t even take photos of it), so unless something really tickles your fancy just keep gorging yourself on the dinners. No one walked out of here hungry. In fact, we all left with lots of leftovers.

Hot Sauce Williams has been featured on Anthony Bourdain’s No Reservations and Man vs. Food. The menu item that was featured on Man vs. Food was the Polish Boy IMG_20170625_193149sandwich. It is a whopping $3.50. According to Man vs. Food, the Polish Boy is Cleveland’s signature menu item. I must not be a true Clevelander (although I was born in Parma and grew up in Olmsted Falls), because I have never had a Polish Boy. Pierogis? Yes. Kielbasa? Yes. But a Polish Boy? I had never heard of one until a few years ago. The Polish Boy at Hot Sauce Williams is made up of an all beef kielbasa, French fries, cole slaw, bbq pork shoulder, and hot sauce on a bun. I’ll be sure to get one next time.

Contact info:

Hot Sauce Williams
3770 Lee Road
Cleveland, OH 44128
(216) 921-4704

12310 Superior Ave.
Cleveland, OH 44106
(216)249-0710

Corky & Lenny’s

Corky & Lenny’s has earned itself quite a reputation in the deli business, having served Clevelanders for over 55 years. The menu is massive and features all kinds of kosher and non-kosher goodies, including massive, overstuffed pastrami and corned beef sandwiches, various entrees featuring lox (smoked salmon), kishkas and knishes, burgers, and other treasures. I always make sure to bring my father a knish when I go to Corky & Lenny’s.

You stand in line by the deli counter and are seated by the hostess. A small counter is also available for solo diners. Once you are seated your waitress will come over with fresh pickles. Oh, the pickles! Dill, garlic, and other kosher deli pickles. To be honest, sometimes I just come for the pickles. They are the perfect compliment to a sandwich – and do a great job of taking the edge off your hunger while you are waiting.

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One of my favorite things at Corky & Lenny’s is the Mish Mash soup – chicken soup packed with a matzoh ball, kreplach, noodles and rice. Perfect if you can’t decide which doughy goodness you want, because you get them all. It’s only available in the large bowl size. I have been known to get it to go to eat over several days. It’s the perfect antidote for a wintery day or when you are sick. The broth isn’t as rich as Jack’s Deli’s and the matzoh ball is not very dense, but it hits the spot when you’re in the mood.

Corky & Lenny’s is of course known for its sandwiches, which IMG_20180703_132937.jpgare ENORMOUS.  I usually only eat half and then take the rest home. An hour or so later I then realize I’m kidding myself and scarf the rest down. They are known for their overstuffed corned beef, pastrami, roast beef and turkey breast – and tongue, which I can’t bring myself to try. The deli sandwiches are available in the regular size and the king size. You can also order a half a sandwich and soup (pictured to the right – I asked them to make a tuna and Swiss sandwich, which isn’t listed as a sandwich choice but they happily made for me).

Some of my favorite sandwiches on the menu include the Clevelander or The East Sider, which features sliced turkey breast or roast beef, respectively, topped with cole slaw and Thousand Island Dressing on rye bread. If you prefer hot sandwiches, you can’t go wrong with one of their Reubens (turkey or corned beef) or the Beef & Latkas (pictured here above), which feature corned beef on potato pancakes (latkas).

One of my all-time favorites, which is frequently overlooked in such a packed menu, is the Challah Grill (pictured to the right), which comes with your choice of turkey breast, beef brisket or chicken with Muenster cheese grilled on challah bread with honey mustard sauce. Yum!

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I also sometimes get a craving for a hot turkey or roast beef sandwich and mashed potatoes in the winter. They have a decent hot turkey sandwich here – the bread is nice and soft and the gravy is flavorful. Although I have to say Jack’s mashed potatoes are better – with lumps.

They have a really large menu IMG_20181228_132714.jpgfeaturing breakfast, lunch and dinner, so there is something for everyone’s taste. I love that they serve Arizona Mandarin Green Tea, so that is always a draw for me. They are also known for their chocolate phosphate.

Whatever you decide to order, you won’t be disappointed. Once you are finished simply bring your bill to the register at the front of the deli and try not to take home a bag of bagels, some bread, or something from the deli or bakery counters. I dare you, because it simply isn’t possible.

Contact info:

Corky & Lenny’s
27091 Chagrin Boulevard
Woodmere Village, Ohio 44122
(216) 464-3838

Bo Loong (Dim sum in Cleveland)

oBo Loong is under new management, and they have really spiffed up the place. One change is it now closes at 9 or 10 PM every night instead of 2 or 3 AM. It is still located across from Siam Cafe and has the same entrance doors, but the water-stained ceiling tile and grungy carpet is gone. The tables still have white tablecloths, but the chairs have sumptuous red covers. They also offer some fun and different dim sum choices.

Everyone has their favorite restaurant when it comes to dim sum (I know a guy through Meetup who is at Bo Loong every Saturday for dim sum), whether it be Bo Loong or Li Wah. I’ve tried them both – and both are very good – but in my opinion Bo Loong doesn’t quite measure up to Li Wah. I think the service has a lot to do with it. The carts don’t flow through the restaurant as often as in Li Wah, and the offerings aren’t as diverse. One morning we had to sit and wait 30 minutes for the first cart to be ready.

The crust on the egg tart is just a little flakier, and I prefer the atmosphere at Li Wah more. Plus, you never have a problem getting a table at Li Wah because it is so large. Bo Loong, on the other hand, also has plenty of seating and was deemed Cleveland’s best dim sum restaurant by the Plain Dealer. Both restaurants are usually packed with Chinese diners, which is a testament to the quality of both places. You really can’t go wrong at either place.IMG_20171111_114256

Dim sum refers to a style of Chinese food prepared as small, bite-sized or individual portions of food traditionally served in small steamer baskets or on small plates. Most people think of various steamed or pan-fried dumplings and stuffed steamed or baked buns when it comes to dim sum. My favorites include the turnip cake, sui mai (or sao mai depending on the restaurant), sticky rice, and shrimp dumplings. It’s a chance to be adventurous and try new things. I always try to order Chinese broccoli or some other vegetables to balance out all the carbs. Pro tip: order the green veg FIRST so you have it at the same time as the rest of the food!IMG_20171111_114821

Dim sum is served in most Chinese restaurants on carts. The fully cooked and ready-to-serve dim sum dishes are wheeled around the restaurant for customers to choose their orders while seated at their tables. The most unusual dishes can be ordered from the servers and are made to order in the kitchen. The dishes are tallied on a bill that is left on the table, and are priced according to size. The recent cost of dim sum at Bo Loong for 8 people was $62.55, which came out to about $10 a person after tax and a generous tip.

Dim sum is traditionally served with tea. In fact, the drinking of tea is just as important to dim sum as the food. More traditional dim sum restaurants typically serve dim sum until mid-afternoon.

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Dim sum is a great choice when you dine with several people, and it’s a fun thing to do on a Saturday or Sunday morning. The first time I went to Li Wah we had a nice-sized group and sat at a round table with a lazy susan in the middle. We could select the dishes and rotate the lazy susan to get what we wanted.

My friends and I usually order a bunch of steamed goodies like shumai (a mixture of pork, shrimp and mushroom – last photo above), sin joe gin (tofu skin rolls – middle photo in top row above), various pork or shrimp dumplings, turnip cakes, char siu baau (steamed BBQ pork buns), or sticky rice wrapped in lotus leaves (see last two photos in last row below – so good!). We also got a fun deep-fried dumpling that blew us all away along with the house special Phoenix dumplings (shrimp, mushroom and pork paste – first photo below). The second photo are meatballs covered in shaved carrot – also delicious. The third photo are shrimp rice noodles. The first photo in the next row are ham sui gok (fried glutinous rice dumplings).

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Once we start getting full, we then order some sweets like egg tarts, jin deui (a chewy dough filled with red bean paste, rolled in sesame seeds, and deep fried) or steamed buns for dessert (see below). The third photo is complementary tofu fa – a kind of smoky-tasting soybean pudding.

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IMAG2004We then divide the check by however many people are in attendance (any vegetarians or picky/allergic diners get their own check – it’s just easier and more fair). It is always a surprise how stuffed we are and how little we spend in the end. As long as you avoid the roasted meats and vegetables (the higher priced items), you can sit there for hours and walk away paying less than $20.

The most important thing about enjoying dim sum is to go in there with an open mind and just try as many dishes as you can. Once you have learned what you like and don’t like you can then start being choosier. For example, I cannot and will not order tripe, jelly fish or chicken feet, even though they are a dim sum delicacy. But I have at least tried them.

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Dim sum tip: Bo Loong and Li Wah serve dim sum off carts, while Emperor’s Palace brings them fresh from the kitchen.

Contact info:

Bo Loong
3922 St Clair Ave NE
Cleveland, OH 44114
(216) 391-3113
Open Mon-Thu 10 am – 9 pm and Fri-Sun 10 am – 10 pm

The Chew: Have a Bite at Swensons

Michael Symon featured local favorite Swensons on The Chew today. Chef Symon said Swensons is “a little piece of his childhood.” I myself became a Swensons fan while at grad school in Kent. I agree with the King of the Cleveland Burger. The Galley Boy does happen to be a fantastic burger. No one knows the secret ingredient that makes the patty so sweet. Some say it’s brown sugar, others say it’s hash. All I know is it’s so good! If you haven’t had a burger at Swensons you need to rectify that as soon as possible. Swensons has been voted Akron’s best burger for the past 10 years and has several locations in the Akron/Canton area – as well as a location at 7635 Broadview Road in Parma/Seven Hills. There are currently seven locations, but the clip on The Chew filmed at the original location at West Market and Hawkins in Akron, which has been in business since 1934. I recommend ordering a strawberry phosphate, but most people swear by their milkshakes. Thanks for sharing one of our best-kept secrets, Chef Symon! Hope it ensures Swensons stays in business for many years to come!

Tom at Exploring Food My Way did a good review of Swensons and the Galley Boy back in 2009 here. Be sure to check it out.

An old favorite: Hunan of Solon

Before moving to Cleveland Heights in May 2010 I lived in Solon for eight years. Solon has a lot of chain restaurants, but there are a few independent gems. One of my favorite restaurants there is Hunan of Solon. I would get take-out or eat in the restaurant at least every couple of weeks. So when Groupon offered a deal there last March I jumped at it. It was set to expire soon, so I grabbed a friend and took a night off from my juice fast (more on that another time) to enjoy some much-needed protein.

Hunan of Solon is located in an unassuming strip mall on a dead end street leading to the Solon Regal Cinemas. According to Scene Magazine, it is operated by the same people who run Hunan by the Falls in Chagrin Falls. They won Cleveland Magazine’s 2008 Silver Spoon Award for Best Chinese for their salty prawns. It offers an “eclectic and ambitious menu” including Korean beef rib strips, shrimp tempura, garlic shrimp, Cantonese lobster, basil chicken, moo shu duck, and pad Thai and Thai curries. Their lobster dishes are prepared from fresh live-tanked lobster (word of warning – if you order lobster they simply chop it up and you will have to remove the shells yourself, which can get quite messy and isn’t attractive when dining with others – but most especially on a date!). They also serve bubble tea smoothies. According to Wikipedia, bubble tea contains a tea base mixed with fruit (or fruit syrup) and/or milk. Ice-blended versions of the drinks, similar to slushies, are also available, usually in fruit flavors. I ordered the honey dew bubble tea smoothie, which was rather sweeter than I expected, in honor of St. Patrick’s Day. I probably would have been better sticking to the green tea bubble tea smoothie.

I dined there with my friend G., who is Chinese American. Once seated, our server quickly greeted us, asking G. if she was Chinese and then bringing her the Chinese menu. In all the times I have eaten here I had no idea they had a separate Chinese menu featuring more authentic dishes for Chinese palates. Looking at the website now I see that the “Authentic Chineses [sic] Menu” is featured there now. Having an Americanized palate and having anticipated the meal for at least a week, I knew exactly what I wanted already so I stuck with my tried and true favorites.

We started off with a cup of wonton soup each. Hunan of Solon is known for their wonton soup. G. even admitted that it was better than her mother’s, which I consider to be high praise seeing as her parents are currently living in Beijing. The broth is flavorful, and the wontons are dense and tasty (I apologize for the reflection off the broth in the photo). We both enjoyed every last drop.

My absolute favorite thing on the Hunan of Solon menu are the spinach pot stickers. I ordered these on a whim one day and did not regret it. After that my meal wasn’t complete without an order of spinach pot stickers. The pot sticker dough has spinach in it, and it is stuffed with a mixture of spinach and cream cheese. The pot stickers are pan fried to have a nice crisp base, but you can still really sink your teeth into these doughly little pillows of heaven. It is served with a dipping sauce that most likely features soy sauce but is not overly salty. If you are a fan of spinach or cream cheese you simply must try them. I guarantee you will order them every time afterward.

I could have been happy with just the soup and the pot stickers, but I was also looking forward to ordering my favorite curry on their menu, the Panang curry. The Panang curry is the mildest of their curries. It is a sweet and spicy dry curry, featuring dried chili peppers, coconut milk, butternut squash, yellow squash, snow pea pods, cherry tomatoes, onions, and green beans. I am not a big fan of heat – in fact I order it mild, a fact I overlooked when I ordered this time. However, it didn’t detract from the meal. I love biting down on the cherry tomato and having it burst with flavor in my mouth. I ordered the seafood curry, which included lobster, scallops and shrimp. I only had to remove lobster shell from one piece of lobster. The seafood was perfectly cooked, and the coconut milk, seafood and vegetables all blended together for a delicious meal that I have missed in the last two years.

G. ordered #50 off the authentic Chinese menu – lamb with cilantro and scallion. She was debating between three things on the menu, and the waiter recommended it. I got to try a bite, and it was very flavorful. She had ordered it with a medium heat, and this dish packed some heat that snuck up on you. The fresh cilantro and scallions complemented the lamb very well.

Without the Groupon our meal came out to $56. G. picked up the tab after the Groupon was deducted, and I plunked down the cash tip. We enjoyed catching up with each other and hearing each others’ plans for the summer. There was no need to dress up for Hunan. The restaurant was populated with young and old and several tables of regulars, including numerous tables of Chinese families enjoying authentic meals. All in all, it was a delightful and relaxed way to spend a St. Patrick’s Day evening.

Contact info:

Hunan of Solon
6050 Enterprise Parkway
Solon, OH 44139
(440) 248-8836

Inn on Coventry

The Inn on Coventry has been in business since 1981. This “mom-and-mom restaurant” has been feeding hungry college students and locals ever since. The matriarch died in 2010 (she was 96), and there is commemorative plaque hanging above the cash register. Word to the wise: since it is so popular it is always crowded on the weekends. Expect a wait. Also, they won’t seat you until everyone in your party is there. Despite what the website claims it is not open on Friday evening. I walked there for dinner last Friday, looking forward to trying their fish fry, and was sadly disappointed. I asked my waitress this morning, and she told me they haven’t been open for dinner for about two years. I suggested they update their website.

I first came here before I lived in Cleveland Heights (invited by local friends who were in the know), and it is one of my favorite breakfast and lunch places in the area. I ordered the Swedish eggs, which are eggs scrambled with lox and cream cheese, and fell in love.  I treated myself to breakfast this morning and indulged in this favorite. The saltiness of the lox is balanced by the creamy chunks of cream cheese. I make this at home now, but I add chopped spinach. The dish is served with your choice of grits or home fries and toast. I chose the home fries and Jewish rye (not like the marbled rye some places serve). There is no better comfort for me than starting the day off with buttered rye toast and jelly.

My second favorite breakfast offering here is the Fresh Banana Walnut French Toast. The thick slices of French toast are topped with ricottafresh sliced bananas. The flavors meld together really well, and it is simply a flavor explosion. It doesn’t get much better than this. I had a similar French toast at Deagan’s the other day, and although it was good it simply didn’t compare to Inn on Coventry’s. I ordered a side of bacon for good measure, because everything’s better with bacon.

sisterhoodInn on Coventry is also known for their Eggs Benedict and Eggs Mando – and they also offer a Veggie Mando topped with avocado instead of Canadian bacon for the vegetarians). The lemon ricotta pancakes are also divine (or any of the pancakes really… although I haven’t had the nerve to order IMG_20160303_133410the Reese Cup pancakes). If you do order the pancakes stick with one at first. The pancakes are huge and, as you can see, span the whole plate.

Although I usually order breakfast, I can also personally vouch for the sloppy joe, the Coventry Burger, and the California Club sandwich. And I am usually critical of sloppy joes that aren’t my mother’s “white trash” version that consists of a pound of ground beef, a half bottle of chili sauce bloodyand 4 oz of Velveeta (try it – you’ll love it). All of their items are made fresh and are just like Mom used to make. I intend to try as many items on their menu as I can, but it is hard when such delicious favorites are available.

They offer a full service bar if you want a mimosa or Bloody Mary. Also, one thing that simply must be mentioned is that Inn on Coventry has delicious coffee. It is a Kona blend that simply can’t be described. It is very smooth and not at all bitter. Plus, the waitresses are constantly coming around to ensure your cup is full. Come for the food, stay for the service. And don’t forget to always overtip your breakfast waitresses!

Contact info:

Inn on Coventry
2785 Euclid Heights Boulevard
Cleveland Heights, OH 44106
(216) 371-1811

Open 7 days a week from 7 a.m. (8 a.m. on Sat/Sun) to 2:45 p.m.

Bearden’s is back, baby!

Bearden’s in Rocky River is a Cleveland institution. Opened in 1948, Bearden’s is known for its bear logo, steakburgers and shakes. It closed a couple years ago when construction on Lake Road caused business to dry up. It reopened this past October. Most West Siders have a story about Bearden’s. I remember going to Bearden’s with my high school boyfriend on our first date. There was some discussion the night I went as to whether it was the original location. My friend and I remember it being much darker than it is now. I seem to remember wood paneling, and my friend Suzanne insists it was at the end of her grandmother’s street. Maybe there were two locations at one time. Who knows. In any case, the new Bearden’s is much brighter, but the iconic train with its stuffed bear conductor is still circling the dining area. Bearden’s is not fancy dining by any stretch of the imagination. In fact, my fellow diners weren’t that impressed with the fare. If you are used to burgers at B Spot, Greenhouse Tavern or Whitey’s this place may not be for you. However, if you like Steak and Shake you’ll feel right at home. Kids adore it and it is good for a stroll down memory lane, eliciting the old 1950s diner vibe.

When I mentioned on Facebook that I would be dining at Bearden’s several of my friends mentioned the peanutburger, so of course I had to try it. I would have never thought creamy peanut butter spread on a burger would be tasty, but it wasn’t bad. If I were to go there again I would definitely order bacon with the burger. The chocolate milkshake was definitely a nice accompaniment to the peanutburger for this Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup fan. Everyone at our table shared sides of golden fries and thick onion rings. My fries were quite tasty, with just the right amount of salt. The onion rings are fresh and not frozen. One side of fries or onion rings can easily be shared by two or three people.

The Plain Dealer’s Friday! magazine recently reviewed Bearden’s, and I wouldn’t be surprised if she was there the night after we were. I distinctly remember the valentines on the windows too.

I was particularly thrilled to see that they offer birch beer on tap in the self-serve soda fountain. It’s one of my all-time favorite drinks from childhood, and you can’t find it everywhere.

Contact info:

Bearden’s
19985 Lake Road
Rocky River, OH 44116
(440) 331-7850

Empress Taytu

I could start the post with an ignorant joke about Ethiopian food, but I have become such a fan that the idea frankly offends me. If you haven’t eaten at Cleveland’s sole Ethiopian restaurant you have been missing out. I have eaten at Empress Taytu quite a few times in the last year, and it has quickly become one of my favorite IMAG5762restaurants. Not to mention the fact that it is truly unique!

To quote Wikipedia, “Ethiopian cuisine and Eritrean cuisine characteristically consists of spicy vegetable and meat dishes, usually in the form of wat (or wot), a thick stew, served atop injera, a large sourdough flatbread, which is about 50 centimeters (20 inches) in diameter and made out of fermented teff flour. Ethiopians eat with their right hands, using pieces of injera to pick up bites of entrées and side dishes. No utensils are used.” Guests are encouraged to share, and the combination platters easily accommodate several people.

Located in a rather dicey part of town, Empress Taytu offers ample parking in a gated area or in front of the restaurant, so there is really no need to be afraid to dine here. Once you walk inside you feel like you’ve entered another world. Empress Taytu features several thatched huts and comfortable carved wooden chairs sets around a mesob, which is a traditional table that is curved to accommodate the tray containing the food. Before the food is served you are given a warm towel to wash your hands. As I said earlier, the food is ladled on top of the injera (and additional injera is served on a separate plate). You then tear off pieces of injera and wrap it around a mouthful of your food.

101_0503To be honest, the first time I ate here I wasn’t a fan, but from the second time on I was hooked. You just have to know what to order. You can’t go wrong with the sambusas or any of the other appetizers. My favorite entree at Empress Taytu is by far the tibs, which is sauteed meat or vegetables (see photo above). I prefer the chicken or shrimp tibs, which is shrimp or chicken sauteed with peppers, onions and various seasonings. It is served on the bread with a small, lightly dressed salad and one of the vegetarian entrees. I always order the tikil gomen (a stew featuring cabbage and carrots). This entree is so good I usually can’t stop eating it – even after I am full.

IMG_20110208_195435One of Empress Taytu’s most popular dishes is Dorowat, a spicy stew made of chicken and sometimes hard-boiled eggs. Ethiopian food can be very spicy, and Dorowat is one of the spicier dishes. Those of you new to Ethiopian food may want to order a combination platter to try the various entrees that are available. Empress Taytu offers meat (right) and vegetarian (above left) platters.

One thing you should be aware of – it is very easy to get full. The portions may not look very large when the food comes out, but you will be very surprised how quickly you become full. I used to split the vegetarian combination platter with my boyfriend, and we wouldn’t finish it.

If you have a lot of time (and can handle strong coffee in the evening), the coffee service is also a must. It is designed to slow things down and provide time for you and your fellow guests to talk. The server pan-roasts green Ethiopian coffee beans over a low fire until they browned and began to ooze oil. After the beans begin to smoke, she passes them around (or places them close to you) so that everyone can enjoy the aroma. Incense is also lit and carried around the room. The beans are then ground with a mortar and pestle and placed in a tall clay pot (see photo – and you can see some smoking incense in the background). We had ordered it as a group for a recent annual meeting of my translators group (we had the place to ourselves), so those of us who wanted coffee were asked to sit in a circle of low wooden chairs once the coffee was brewed and elaborately poured the coffee into cups.

Just don’t go here if you are in a hurry. You are definitely in a different world. Service is very slow, so consider yourselves forewarned. Just plan accordingly, allowing for several hours to dine before embarking on any other evening plans.

Contact info:

Empress Taytu
6125 Saint Clair Avenue
Cleveland, OH 44103-1627
(216) 391-9400