Brunch at Lucky’s Cafe

I have a new favorite brunch place in Cleveland. It’s Lucky’s Cafe in Tremont. (FYI, The Vine and Bean Cafe on Larchmere apparently has the same menu.) I learned to appreciate brunch while living in Germany. My friends and I would wake up late after a late night out, go out to a buffet of breakfast and lunch items and enjoy ourselves for hours. Lucky’s doesn’t have a buffet, but their brunch items are so delicious that quality wins out luckys_cafeaulaitover quantity. I love that they serve their coffee in cafe au lait mugs (what one of my friends lovingly calls a “bowl of coffee”). I miss my cafe au lait and love when I find a place that offers a good one!

I met my Meetup.com brunch group at Lucky’s the other day. We got there early to ensure we got a table for our large group. Lucky’s tends to fill up at around 11, but the picnic tables in the garden doubles the available seating space in the summer. Lucky’s grows a lot of the ingredients in that garden and prides itself on relying on locally grown produce.

luckys_waffleThey are best known for their waffles and something called a Shipwreck. It was a tough choice, but I decided to opt for the vanilla bean waffles with roasted peaches and honey whipped cream. They were absolutely divine!

The Shipwreck is a mix  of hash browns, eggs, veggies, bacon and cheddar cheese, served with house baked como toast and fresh fruit. I can’t wait to order this next time. It just luckys_shipwrecklooks amazing. Lucky’s also serves a vegetarian version of the Shipwreck called the Canoewreck. The Canoewreck features curried tofu, hash browns, seasonal veggies, and brewers yeast, served with Como toast and fresh fruit. I got to try my friend’s, and it was delicious.

Everyone thoroughly enjoyed their meals – from the biscuits and gravy (cheddar scallion biscuits topped with soft scrambled eggs and sausage gravy) to the Shipwreck and the omelette (spinach, mushrooms, zucchini and white cheddar cheese, served w/ hash browns & banana bread). I leave you with this final picture, which hopefully will make you smile.

luckys_omelette

Contact info:

Lucky’s Cafe
777 Starkweather
Cleveland, OH 44113
216-622-7773

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An evening at Blossom with the Orchestra

100_0733Probably the thing I was most looking forward to when I moved back to Cleveland after living in Germany for six years was spending the evening at Blossom Music Center listening to the world famous Cleveland Orchestra or the Blossom Festival Orchestra.

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Appetizers - crab dip, whole grain crackers and soppressata

There is simply nothing like listening to the world-renowned orchestra while listening to birds chirp under a blue – and later starry – sky. Unlike other concerts at Blossom, chairs, umbrellas, blankets and alcohol are allowed.

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Lobster roll, cole slaw and sea salt potato chips

I grew up enjoying the Cleveland Orchestra with my parents, and they taught me how to do it right. Mom would make some elaborate picnic dinner involving some kind of shellfish or other picnic-friendly meal. We would lay out a blanket, grab a glass of wine, and enjoy an orchestra that is consistently ranked one of the top ten in the world. Now I have a wheeled cooler packed and ready to go with plates, silverware, cloth napkins, plastic wine glasses, wine stakes, binoculars, a cutting board and knife, Off, and a citronella candle and lighter.

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KFC 2 piece grilled chicken dinner with mashed potatoes and green beans

Everything goes on the lawn. You can high-brow it or low-brow it. You see folks with tables, candles, and elaborate spreads to buckets of KFC and family servings of mashed potatoes, cole slaw and green beans. No one will judge you, but if you have something especially yummy you may see folks coveting your food.

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Wine stakes in action - both the bottle and the glass stakes

We usually have a three course meal – with appetizers and the main meal before the performance and then dessert at intermission. The photos here are our meals last weekend. My mother and father had the lobster rolls, chips and cole slaw served on paper plates, while I purchased KFC on the way to Blossom and ate off my melamine plate.

One must-have are wine stakes. Since the lawn is sloped wine stakes allow you to keep your wine glass and wine bottle upright while sitting next to you. Most people use blankets or lawn chairs (people with tall lawn chairs have to sit closer to the back). The most popular chairs are beach chairs or sand chairs. They allow you to sit close to the ground and yet not impair the view of those on blankets behind you.

Lawn tickets will only set you back $19-21 depending on the show. Individual pavilion tickets range from $19 to $42 a piece. You can also buy a book of tickets for the season. However, if there isn’t a chance of rain I suggest you try sitting on the lawn for a little ambiance. If you choose to sit in the pavilion you will have to leave your picnic dinner and wine at the entrance to the pavilion for the concert. Contact the ticket office at 216.231.1111 or just visit http://www.clevelandorchestra.com.

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The Cleveland Orchestra viewed from the lawn

Akira Hibachi in Solon

I just enjoyed a very pleasant meal tonight at Akira Hibachi in Solon. When I was younger the idea of eating “raw fish” was not appealing, but I became hooked on it while living in Germany of all places. Did you know that Düsseldorf has a very large Japanese population? I had the best green tea ice cream there and have never been able to find a comparable green tea ice cream since.

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The hibachi chef keeps everyone entertained

I have eaten at a lot of sushi places in Cleveland, and I have to say Akira Hibachi is at the top of my list for sushi as well as hibachi. Sure, it is within walking distance of my home (lucky me), but the sushi is consistently fresh and delicious and is worth the drive. You can tell that this independent restaurant is a labor of love, because Anna the owner is almost always present, greeting guests like old friends and circulating through the dining room and stopping at the tables to chat.

The hibachi chefs have a sense of humor and really put on a show, and you definitely walk out of there full and happy. The hibachi offers a nice mix of meat, vegetables and rice with flavorful dipping sauces. The grilled shrimp appetizers are nice too – but not if you are out to dinner with a vegetarian (on second thought, you get your dinner companion’s appetizer, so I recommended it!). Hibachi entrees come with miso soup and salad.

Tonight my neighbor Kim and I spontaneously decided to go out for sushi, which to be honest happens quite often. I had delivered batch 4 of a rather large translation project today and wanted to celebrate. I had tried the Iidako Nigiri last Saturday when I ordered sushi to eat at home after my training walk for the Breast Cancer 3-Day, and I was craving it again. It did not disappoint.

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Seaweed salad

I always start my meal with a martini there. The Cherry Bomb (featuring Three Olives Cherry Vodka) is always delicious and refreshing. My friend Kim ordered a Sam Adams. Akira also serves Kendall Jackson Chardonnay, which pairs really well with sushi. We are creatures of habit, so Kim ordered the seaweed salad and I ordered the miso soup and house salad. The miso soup has fresh seaweed and generous cubes of tofu in a delicious broth. The ginger dressing on the house salad is light and refreshing and can be quite addictive as well.

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Miso soup

We tend to order a la carte because we have our favorites. Tonight I ordered two orders of the Iidako (baby octopus) Nigiri, the Philadelphia Maki (rolls with seawood with salmon, cream cheese and scallion), and the Rainbow Roll Futomaki (double size maki roll of tuna, whitefish, salmon, yellowtail and shrimp wrapped around the California Maki). Kim ordered the Tobiko (flying fish roe) Nigiri, Lobster Maki (lobster, lettuce and tobiko) and the Nama Sake Nigiri (fresh salmon). Other favorites on the menu include the Cloud 9 Maki (sushi roll with shrimp, mango and sour cream), the Volcano Roll (with shrimp tempura, conch, tobiko and spicy mayonnaise)  and anything with the Toro (marble tuna). Akira is one of the few sushi places that serves Toro. The toro is sold at market price and simply melts in your mouth. If you are looking for a treat and it is on the special board, I suggest you try it.

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Philadelphia Maki (left), Rainbow Roll (back), Iidako Nigiri (right)

Sushi newcomers might want to start with smoked salmon, shrimp (always cooked) or crab stick and work into the raw fish selections. You may soon find yourself happily dining on Unagi (eel, which is rather sweet and quite delicious) and Iidako. It’s the pickled ginger and the mixture of wasabi, soy sauce and sushi. I crave it constantly.

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Left to right: Salmon Nigiri, Lobster Maki and Tobiko Nigiri

Online reviews of Akira (and past personal experience) complain of slow service, but we have noticed that the service at Akira has really improved. Our servers have been extremely attentive the last few times we have been there. Our server was surprised how fast our sushi was up.

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Akira's sushi bar

When we left at 7:30 there were lots of folks standing in the foyer still waiting to be seated. I have no idea if they were there for the hibachi or the sushi, but business was definitely booming on both sides of the restaurant. We were in and out in an hour, which we appreciated since we were both exhausted from a busy week.

Now if only Akira served Benihana’s Lobster Roll (big chunks of lobster meat served with melted butter instead of soy sauce and $20 a pop – talk about orgasmic!) I would never have to go anywhere else…

Contact info:

Akira Hibachi
6025 Kruse Drive
Solon, OH 44139
440-349-6850

Trattoria on the Hill in Little Italy

IMAG4566Trattoria on the Hill (formerly known as Trattoria Roman Gardens) is one of my favorite restaurants in Cleveland’s Little Italy. The food (particularly the gnocchi – oh my God, the gnocchi!!!) is fresh and delicious. And most importantly the prices are very reasonable. Since I had not yet started IMAG4567my blog when I went here I did not take as many pictures as I normally would have. We were there on a Tuesday and the place was pretty full, which is a testament to the fresh food.

The bread service with the fresh tomato bruschetta is absolutely divine. The bread was very fresh Italian bread (most likely from Corbo’s or Presti’s) – and the tomato bruschetta was amazing. I couldn’t stop eating it. I’ll take a picture the next time I am there.

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Eggplant Parmigiano

I ordered the eggplant parmigiano. I asked my friends on Facebook for recommendations, and one of my Italian friends told me I needed to get the eggplant parm. She raved that she had never had better eggplant parm – even at Italian restaurants in NYC. She wasn’t wrong. The eggplant at Trattoria was thinly sliced, lightly breaded and simply delicious.

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My friend Hélène ordered the gnocchi and let me try some. They were absolutely divine. So good that we were both craving them several days later and made a spontaneous trip that weekend. I have an unwritten rule that I never order the same thing as the person I am eating with, but I broke that rule for these gnocchi. They are a simple potato gnocchi in a sauce of tomato basil, butter and Romano. I had planned on bringing half home, but found myself eating the whole thing.

IMAG0142Everyone in the group thoroughly enjoyed their meals. The lasagna is huge and vegetarian-friendly (made with ricotta cheese, spinach and mushrooms – you can order meat sauce if you want a more carnivore-friendly meal).

The couple at the other end of the table ordered the linguini and clams and cavatelli with meatballs. Both looked lovely and quite affordable. They definitely enjoyed their meals as well. No one had room for dessert, although the desserts served to other tables looked quite delicious.

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Linguini and cavatelli and meatballs

On a trip there several years ago I had tried the Baby Bay Scallops Pesto with Linguini, which Rachel Ray had recommended on her show Tasty Travels. I would probably stick with the dishes with tomato sauce, because Trattoria on the Hill is known for their tomato sauce. It is fresh and delicious – and available for purchase.

The service was quite attentive, and they had no problems giving us separate checks. I like this place so much that my translators group is planning our Annual Meeting there in the fall (based on my and Hélène’s suggestion). But I will definitely be back before then!

Contact info:

Trattoria on the Hill
12207 Mayfield Road
Cleveland, OH 44106
216-421-2700

Miss Molly’s Tea Room in Medina

100_0524One of my favorite places to go to lunch with my family is Miss Molly’s Tea Room in Medina, located just off the Square at 140 W. Washington St. #6. This is not a place to take the menfolk in your life. They will most likely feel uncomfortable surrounded by flowers, tea cups, doilies and other frou frou. We recently went there on the Saturday before Mother’s Day. We made our reservation a month ahead of time. It’s a good thing we did. The place was packed, and they had a live harpist that day, which was nice.

IMAG0657My nieces have been going there with us since they were very little. They have always been very accommodating to children. In fact, it is a popular place for little (and big) girls to dress in their finest. On our most recent visit there was a table of older women wearing all kinds of different hats – just because.

You can order the tea iced or in your own teapot (loose leaf tea or tea bags available, but a proper tea is served loose leaf and steeped for 3-5 minutes). They offer a delicious variety of teas from black teas, green teas to delicate white teas. Tea is nothing without scones. Their scones are quite good and are baked fresh every day. The scones are served with Devonshire cream and preserves upon request.

My all-time favorite meal is the Chicken Divan. I was in the mood to try something different that day though, so I ordered the tuna salad croissant. All the meals come with your 100_0528choice of soup or one of their side salads. They have four delicious salads to choose from: cucumber salad in a light creamy sauce (my sister’s favorite), chilled cranberry salad (Miss Molly’s specialty), broccoli salad (one of my favorites) and strawberry pretzel salad (which is by far my favorite). I ordered both the broccoli salad and the strawberry pretzel salad.

My mother ordered the crab salad puff and a side of the lobster bisque soup. She loved the fresh dill in the crab salad and remarked that the lobster bisque soup was delicious as well100_0529.

My sister had the Harvest Turkey sandwich that day, but she usually orders the chicken salad sandwich.

My nieces ordered Mac and Cheese and the cheese pizza off the children’s menu. The children’s meals come with a ‘decorate-it-yourself’  cookie. They love coming to Miss Molly’s, because they get their milk served in miniature tea pots and demitasse cups. In fact, they enjoy it so much that we serve them milk in tea pots at family dinners now too.100_0527

100_0532I have also had the Heavenly Wrap (roast beef and roasted red peppers with watercress, fresh spinach leaves and horseradish) and the Cooper River Croissant (hot ham and cheddar cheese) during past visits and can vouch for the freshness of the ingredients and overall tastiness. Miss Molly’s also features a quiche of the day and a featured lunch. The featured lunch the day we were there was a white lasagna.

One of these days we are going to order the special tea service. You need to request it 24 hours in advance. So if you are looking for someplace to take a special woman in your life I highly recommend Miss Molly’s.

Contact info:

Miss Molly’s Tea Room
140 W Washington St # 6
Medina, OH 44256-2262
330-725-6830

Der Braumeister

Being a German translator, I appreciate good German food. As the organizer of the Cleveland German Language Meetup group, I scheduled a trip to a German or ethnic restaurant once a month. We used to meet at Der Braumeister on Lorain Avenue. The food was consistently good, but seems to have dropped in quality lately. Apart from the Jägerschnitzel (I’m allergic to egg and the sauce reminded me of shrimp with lobster sauce, which contains lots and lots of egg), I have never been disappointed by the food here, but some of my friends have.

Any German restaurant worth its salt has to offer a good variety of German beers. They offer good German and Belgian beers here on tap and 50 bottled import beers. I went with the Reissdorf Kölsch this time, which is a light, refreshing beer. It is supposed to be served in a Stange (a tall, narrow 200-ml beaker that gives it more head), but I will overlook that because it is just nice to be able to drink it here in the U.S.

beer

Der Braumeister has three rooms. You enter through the bar, followed by a dining area that is filled with cozy wooden booths and tables, followed in turn by the mural room. The mural room is ideal for large parties and features a mural of Neuschwanstein Castle (probably Germany’s most famous castle – located in southern Germany).

braumeister

The Landjäger Platte features German smoked sausage, Swiss cheese,and crackers. It’s hard to go wrong with sausage, cheese and crackers. I’ve also had the sauerkraut balls, and they are delicious as well.

platte

Der Braumeister has several vegetarian options on the menu, which is gratifying since several of our members are vegetarians. The vegetarian Maultaschen (a Swabian delicacy that looks like large ravioli) was a hit.

maultaschen

The dinners all come with your choice of potato or dumpling and a salad. The salads are really fresh and good, and the bread rolls were crisp and delicious as well. I ordered the Sauerbraten. Although I wasn’t really enthusiastic about the meat itself (it was good, but a little too sweet and sour for me), the spaetzel (dumplings) and red cabbage were delicious.

sauerbraten

You can always judge a German (or Austrian) restaurant by how good their Schnitzel is. The Schnitzel at Der Braumeister is delicious. Here is the Schnitzel with mashed potatoes and sauerkraut.

schnitzel

One of my members ordered the Rahmschnitzel, which is a Schnitzel with a creamy onion and bacon sauce. She loved it.

jaeger

If you want to be adventurous, you might want to try the Schweinshaxe, which is a classic Bavarian dish that features roasted pork knuckles (ham hocks). I can’t bring myself to order it, but I know several men who love it. Bob thoroughly enjoyed his. It is also called Eisbein outside of Bavaria.

haxe

Another dinner that looked delicious was the Rheinlander Platte, which features a grilled, smoked pork chop and grilled bratwurst.

landplatte

Several of us ordered dessert. I had the Bavarian Cream Torte (Frankfurter Kranz) this time, which was huge. German cakes are not as cloyingly sweet as American cakes. This one catered a bit more to the American palette. Several others ordered the apple and cherry strudels, which are served with a dusting of powdered sugar. I failed to photograph the desserts, because I was too busy chatting with my tablemates.

Luxe Kitchen & Lounge

I have been reading about Luxe Kitchen & Lounge for months now and finally got a chance to try it last month with my Meetup.com Dining Out group. It did not disappoint. I was a little off-put by the construction and hidden parking lot. I had to drive around the block again to park behind the bank as instructed. The ambiance inside the restaurant was eclectic, yet hip. They didn’t have any record of our reservation, but since I try to schedule our dinners for slower nights it wasn’t a problem. They seated us right away at the window. The group really got a kick out of the fact that the curtain over the window is an old drop cloth. I loved the chandeliers and the fact that the tables aren’t crowded together. Unfortunately I wasn’t able to get any good pictures of the dining area. Onto the food…

The house salad with mixed greens, pine nuts, Romano cheese and white balsamic vinaigrette was simplistic, yet delicious. I loved the shaved Romano.

salad

Since I had unfortunately eaten a large lunch (I won’t make that mistake again) I chose from the Small Plate section. My Kobe beef corn dog with truffle fries and wholegrain mustard did not disappoint.

corndog_sauce corndog

The pizzas look absolutely amazing, and I plan on ordering one next time. I love the way Luxe serves it – on unique little stands.

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Several of the group went with the specials, and they raved about them. The hanger steak over lobster risotto was a huge hit, and the swordfish kebabs were fresh and tasty.

steak

swordfish_kebab

Bob also really enjoyed his Fettucini Carbonara. A good carbonara is a thing of beauty, and this one definitely is a sight to behold!

carbonara

No one had a harsh word to say about the restaurant. Our server was attentive, extremely knowledgeable and very friendly. The cocktail I ordered (the Amrita – citrus vodka with peach puree, lavender lemonade and ginger syrup) was delicious and very refreshing. I love Hoegaarden (a Belgian white beer), and if I hadn’t wanted a cocktail I would have ordered it. It would have been a good choice with the corn dog. I will definitely be going back!