Frostville Museum Pancake Breakfast

Yeah, don’t bother.

The Olmsted Historical Society holds its annual Pancake Breakfasts on three Sundays in March from 9:00 am – 1:00 pm in the Events Barn at the Frostville Museum, 24101 Cedar Point Rd (at the corner of Lewis and Cedar Point Rd. in the Cleveland Metroparks Rocky River Reservation). Adults $7.00, Children 10 & under $5.00. Menu 1 includes unlimited pancakes, juice, hot beverage and sausage. Menu 2 includes scrambled eggs, sausage, potatoes (no refills), juice & hot beverage. Additional sausage is 3 for $1.00, additional orange juice is $.50. Maple syrup was also extra. Syrup was on the tables, but the maple syrup was doled out in little portion cups. I upgraded to add scrambled eggs to Menu 1 and bought an extra orange juice, so I spent $10.50. The coffee was at a table in the back of the room (see above photo).

Being from Olmsted Falls and since they host a farmer’s market here I had such high hopes for this, so I arranged for my dining friends to meet here for breakfast on March 3. There were eight of us. None of us liked it. The eggs were chalky, the hash browns were food service and not cooked very well, and the pancakes were just okay. They could have at least cooked the hash browns on the flat top grill.

The money raised helps maintain the historic buildings at the museum, so at least we donated to a good cause. We did a paczki crawl afterwards and shopped at Chuppa’s in Parma. Go for the farmer’s market. Save your money on the pancake breakfast.

Contact info:

Frostville Museum
24101 Cedar Point Road
North Olmsted, OH 44070
(440) 779-0280

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Fish Fry Friday #1: Arthur Treacher’s

Arthur Treacher’s Fish & Chips is a fast food seafood restaurant chain. At the peak of its popularity in the late 1970s, it had about 800 stores. Now, there are only four of the original old-style stores left – all in Northeast Ohio. The busiest is on Rockside Road (near the intersection wtih Turney Road) in Garfield Heights. I love going there and reliving my childhood memories of fried fish and that amazing cole slaw. I went a long time without eating there, and just one bite of the cole slaw had me realizing that it was the cole slaw I had been comparing all other cole slaws to. It is a nice, wet, mayo-ey cole slaw, which I prefer.

Things have not changed much at Arthur Treacher’s. The decor is firmly from the 1970s – as is the carpet. The food is still served on trays, and the condiments are pumped into little paper cups. You have your choice of ketchup, tartar sauce and cocktail sauce. I wish they wouldn’t use so much styrofoam, but understand their business model hasn’t changed since the 1970s so why wouldn’t they.

I made the mistake of going there on Good Friday once. That is probably their busiest day of the year. The line was almost out the door and didn’t let up the whole time I was there. Business had slowed down until the Cleveland.com article in 2016 and then news of its existence also hit social media, so they are happy to report they are doing well. It’s apparently become somewhat of a tourist attraction, with people traveling there from far away to experience it again.

Chicken dinner with cole slaw

The food still stood up to my memories. It isn’t gourmet, but childhood memories rarely are. I ordered the chowder, a fish and chip combo and a side of cole slaw. I can never finish the meal here and always bring half of it home. The fish is better than some of the fish I’ve had at other fish fries – flaky with a light batter. The chips are satisfying and made my British friend happy and “more at home” than most chips. And I usually save a hush puppy as my last bite. I really enjoy the sweet flavor yet savory texture of the perfectly fried hush puppies.

Seafood combo dinner – fish, shrimp and clam strips – and a cole slaw

I ordered the fish and chicken dinner here once, and although it was okay I will continue to order the fish. It was too jarring for me. Chicken doesn’t seem to belong with all the seafood, but I guess folks who don’t like fish or seafood have to eat too. I like the fried shrimp. They are plump and well fried without drying out. I am less enamored with the clam strips. They tend to get dried out and are a little too chewy for my tastes.

I can also recommend the seafood chowder. The first time I ordered it I don’t know what happened but it had an overwhelmingly metallic taste. I gave it a second chance the other day and enjoyed it. I’m a sucker for a decent chowder.

Contact info:

Cleveland area:
12585 Rockside Road
Garfield Heights, OH
216-662-6067

Akron area:
926 E. Waterloo Road
Akron, OH
330-724-9990

1833 State Road
Cuyahoga Falls, OH
330-923-8900

Niles:
2 Youngstown Warren Road
Pinetree Square
Niles, OH
330-505-2625

Koko Cafe

in-memoriam-graphic
Alas, Koko Cafe has closed. We hardly knew ye. Koko Bakery is still open.

I have been a big fan of Koko Bakery on Payne Avenue for a while now. I would go there for their multitude of hot and room temperature savory and sweet buns (and to buy frozen steam buns to make at home), bubble tea, smoothies, shaved ice, and gorgeous desserts, but never really got around to ordering their hot entrees, which seemed like an afterthought in the small place with maybe 9 tables in the place. When the news broke that they were expanding next door to offer hot food in a larger sit-down restaurant that seats 40 I was excited.

The first time I went to check it out shortly after it opened I was supposed to meet a friend who forgot, so I ordered some dumplings and an entree to enjoy by myself. I loved the dumplings and wasn’t too excited by the entree. I love the dumplings so much that I keep ordering them. I was intrigued by the idea of pork and leek, and I really enjoy the combination so I keep ordering it. I prefer dumplings pan-fried over steamed, because I like a bit of toothsome bite to them. My entree that day was the Triple Mushrooms with Chicken. On paper it sounds awesome, and it would be without the American-style frozen vegetables they use. I was extremely off-put by the corn kernels, peas and carrots of it all. I am not used to Asian food with vegetables I grew up eating in TV dinners.

I then organized a dinner for my foodie friends, which allowed me to try a lot more from the menu. Needless to say I am now a fan.

They offer some interesting dim sum options, such as rice noodle rolls and steam buns. I am not a fan of rice noodle rolls. You either really like them or really dislike them. I don’t like the texture and find them bland; however, my friends who are huge fans of rice noodle rolls raved about them. They tried the shrimp and the dried radish rice noodle rolls and enjoyed them a lot.

Dried radish rice roll noodles

Cucumbers with chili sauce is always a must

Shrimp rice roll noodles

Steam buns

That was the day I ordered what has become my favorite dish there – the Singaporean Style Fried Vermicelli. It has a nice curry flavor that is not overpowering, and the vermicelli is a great consistency. They have a wide range of fried noodle and fried rice dishes on the menu that go beyond the usual chicken and shrimp offerings – including a Barbecue Pork Fried Rice, which sounds intriguing. If you like salted fish there is a Salted Fish & Chicken Fried Rice as well.

Koko Bakery is especially known for its bubble tea, so I suggested my Meetup tea group meet at the Cafe for bubble tea and a meal. Bubble tea is a Taiwanese tea-based drink invented in the 1980s. Recipes contain tea of some kind, flavors (milk and non-milk, fruit and non-fruit) and sugar. Toppings, such as chewy tapioca balls, popping boba, fruit jelly, grass jelly, agar jelly, and puddings are often added.

Thai Iced Tea Bubble Tea

Iced Hong Kong Milk Tea

My go-to bubble tea is melon with fruit jellies instead of boba

This might be mango – I love the contrast of black boba and yellow tea

We had a range of diners – from a very picky/non-Asian food fan to someone with some major dietary issues/needs. Both were happy with their choices. The picky eater ordered the Sesame Chicken and was very pleased with it. She raved about how moist and flavorful the chicken was. She shared a bite with me, and I liked it so much I ordered it the next time I went. The vegan/no-oil diner ordered a soup and was absolutely thrilled with the quality and the variety of vegetables in the soup. Everyone else enjoyed their meals as well. I just didn’t know them well enough to ask to photograph their food :-).

Special order vegetable soup – no noodles, no oil

Sesame chicken

They have a great online ordering system as well. I was craving several different entrees at once one night, so I ordered online and drove to pick it up. My meal was waiting for me as I walked in, and I was able to turn around and drive home. Most gratifying was the fact that nothing had been left out – including all the accoutrements that I had specified they could leave out when I ordered it (soy, mustard and duck sauce packets for the egg rolls).

Koko Cafe is a welcome addition to the Asia Town neighborhood. There is something here for everyone – from basic Chinese-American dishes to more intriguing choices we haven’t seen anywhere else. It is also super-affordable. The soups, congees and dumplings are all around $8, the rice noodle rolls are $3, steam buns are $3.50, and most entrees range between $10-13.

I just wish someone would create a separate Yelp page for the Cafe, because the cafe reviews/photos co-mingle with the bakery.

Contact info:

Koko Cafe
3710 Payne Avenue, # 104
Cleveland, OH 44114
(216) 881-7602

Sichuan Hot Pot

Cleveland’s got a new Szechuan restaurant in town, and it’s become my friends’ new obsession. Sichuan Hot Pot quietly opened in April 2018 on Rockwell Avenue in the building that houses Emperor’s Palace. The storefront seems rather quiet and unassuming. You walk in and have to go through another door to the right. Make sure the door shuts behind you properly, because it forms a wind tunnel.

We keep meaning to order the hot pot, but we are enjoying discovering all the various entrees too much. It’s best enjoying everything as a group. When it comes to Chinese food we are a bunch of sharers, so everyone orders a different dish and we dig in. We then get the bill, add a 20% tip, and divide the total by however many people are in the group. I have a handy app for that, so it is really easy. The bill never comes out to more than $20 per person (it’s usually between $12-18).

The first time I ate at Sichuan Hot Pot (just before Christmas) there were 7 of us. We were the only non-Asian table in the place. We ordered 8 different dishes (one person ordered two because they were vegetarian items and cheap). We had the Dan Dan Noodles, Chongqing Noodles, Lamb Kebabs served with crinkle cut French fries (what??), Shredded Pork with Pickled Cabbage Noodles, Ma Po Tofu, Sour & Spicy Cucumbers, and a Roasted Eggplant appetizer with what looked like a green chili pesto on it. I chose the Crispy Ribs with Garlic Sauce (S7), which was delicious. The ribs were perfectly fried (popcorn chicken-sized) and served along with fried onions and fresh green scallions. I was very happy I ordered it and would happily order it again. However, the absolute standouts for me were the Shredded Pork and Pickled Cabbage Noodles and the Dan Dan Noodles. I have never been a fan of Dan Dan Noodles, but I really like their version. The Shredded Pork was the huge hit at the table. We ordered it on a whim, and I will never go there and not order it ever. It has a delicate flavor and has a soup-like consistency. Ordering small bowls for everyone to enjoy it would not be a bad idea. The Chongqing Noodles were also lovely. Apart from the eggplant, which everyone was saying was very hot so I avoided it, I didn’t find anything so spicy hot that I couldn’t eat it. Szechuan cooking has a nice heat to it, but if I can tolerate it anyone can. We were served a complementary Tofu fa with a smoky sauce and sesame seeds for dessert.

Spicy & Sour Cucumbers

Dan Dan Noodles

Chongqing Noodles

Shredded Pork with Pickled Cabbage Noodles

Lamb Kebabs

Crispy Ribs with Garlic Sauce (S7)

Roasted Eggplant (C5)
IMG_20181221_195949.jpg
Mid-meal

The second time I was with a different group, with only three of us having been there already. There were six of us this time. This time we were the only table in the place, but I hear it gets busy on the weekends and at night. A few tables joined us by the time we were finishing up – including a friend of one of my friends, which was a hoot. We were there on a Tuesday for lunch. I made sure to order the Shredded Pork and Pickled Cabbage Noodle again. Two of our group had already gotten there and ordered the Dan Dan Noodles because they were hungry. We also ordered Dried Beef with Spicy Sauce (C12 – which I found to be just okay, but my friend D. loves it), “Chicken with Special Sauce” (word of warning – it’s a cold poached chicken and celery dish with bones – I wasn’t a fan), Crispy Big Ribs with Garlic Sauce (S15 – whole ribs on a bed of cabbage – quite tasty if a little dry), Sour & Spicy Cucumbers, and Sliced Potatoes with Scallions (which was too American if you ask me – basically warm parsley potatoes). The Sliced Potato dish was good, so it would be a good choice for kids or less adventurous diners. I certainly didn’t expect it at an Asian restaurant. The standout dish for me this time was a different version of eggplant – the Eggplant with Garlic Sauce (M19). I could not stop eating it, and I look forward to enjoying it again this coming Friday.

Dan Dan Noodles – after mixing

Spicy & Sour Cucumbers

Dried Beef with Spicy Sauce (C12)

Eggplant with Garlic Sauce (M19)

Crispy Big Ribs (S17) on a bed of Napa cabbage

Chicken with Special Sauce

Sliced Potatoes with Scallions (not shredded!! – that’s a completely different dish with green peppers)

Complementary Tofu Fa
Mid-meal

Like I said, I am going back there for lunch on Friday with some of the folks from the previous meals and a couple new people we are introducing the place to. I look forward to trying some new dishes as well as the favorites. I’m tempted by the Crispy Fish Hot & Spicy.

Crispy Fish Hot & Spicy – highly recommend!

Shrimp in hot garlic sauce – delicious
Mid-meal

Contact info:

Sichuan Hot Pot
2162 Rockwell Avenue
Cleveland, OH 44114
(216) 523-1188

Sabor Miami Cafe

Moving from Guatemalan to Honduran, another fun little spot in Old Brooklyn is Sabor Miami Cafe. 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 Katarina 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:

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

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-thru 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