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. Some of my other favorite hot subs 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 #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). Obviously you have to like bleu cheese to appreciate them.

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

The Original Pancake House

The Original Pancake House was founded in Portland, Oregon in 1953 by Les Highet and Erma Hueneke. It may be a chain of pancake houses across the United States, but it isn’t a large one that is so homogenized that the quality lacks. I don’t really even consider this a chain, because the food is so outstanding. We only have two locations in the Cleveland area – in Woodmere and Fairview Park. The OPH batters are all made from scratch, every day, and are carefully prepared and blended by hand using only the very freshest and finest quality ingredients available. Their original (and extensive!) menu of authentic national and ethnic pancake recipes has gained national acclaim and remains unchanged to this day. In 1999, the Original Pancake House received the James Beard Award in the category of “America’s Regional Classic Award”.

There is always a wait, so plan ahead. Bring snacks and diversions for the kids. Expect at least a half hour wait during breakfast hours – even during the week. The wait may be longer if it is a weekend. If you are a group you better make sure everyone shows up on time, because they will not seat you until everyone has arrived. I try to get there after the rush hours during the week. I don’t have the patience to deal with the weekend crowds.

The food is excellent, and the portions are huge. The focus is pancakes and crepes. The Original Pancake House’s specialties include the Dutch Baby (a fluffy German pancake topped with melted butter and powdered sugar) and the Apple Pancake. They use only the highest quality ingredients such as 93 score butter, pure whipping cream, fresh Grade AA eggs, hardwheat unbleached flour and their own sourdough yeast. The ham and Canadian Bacon are naturally hickory smoked, and the smoked bacon is sliced extra thick. Seriously, it is some of the best bacon I have ever eaten.

Their coffee blend is specially roasted just for the restaurants and served in their own specially designed mugs. I don’t know what it is about the mugs, but they definitely appeal to me. The swooped handle and the cup shape with its larger bottom and tapered top just make me want to keep drinking coffee. It wouldn’t surprise me if they had done psychological studies and knew that. I like that I can also order cranberry juice here.

I also love their seasonal fruit salad. The fruit varies with the season, but when I ordered it in late January the fruits were cantaloupe, honeydew, strawberries, bananas and grapes. The fruit salad is served with a little metal pitcher of Tropical Syrup. I can’t quite place what fruits are in it, but it is citrusy with a hint of bitterness to the sweet, which I enjoyed since it wasn’t so cloyingly sweet. A discussion on Reddit revealed that it is made with day old orange juice and some pineapple juice and corn starch (1 8 oz can pineapple chunks, 2 6 oz cans pine-banana-orange juice and 1 Tbsp corn starch – boil together and then pour over the pineapple chunks, slices of 1 orange, 1 c seedless grapes and 1 banana).

The first time I ate here was with my Meetup Brunch Group. We managed to get a table together – or rather a couple tables close together. This was pre-COVID. Now they don’t allow groups of 7 or more. I remember taking forever to decide what I wanted, because everything sounded so good. I knew I wanted some kind of pancake and was in the mood for sausage, so I ended up ordering the Pigs in a Blanket. The Pigs in a Blanket are three regular-sized sausages wrapped up in their own individual pancake. The pancakes are a little too sweet for my taste. I would have preferred a more savory pancake to match the savory sausages. Then again, I do tend to prefer savory breakfasts over sweet.

I need to rave about the Dutch Baby for a second. I always shied away from ordering it because it looked so plain. It tastes anything but plain! More like custardy goodness! A Dutch baby pancake is like a hybrid (or a love child, if you will) of a pancake, a crepe, and a popover — all in a 9 or 10 inch skillet. I’ve started making them at home because they are not hard. Mix the ingredients (flour, milk, eggs, sugar, vanilla extract and salt) together in a blender or food processor and let it rest for 20-25 minutes to allow the flour to absorb the liquid. The skillet should be screaming hot and preheated in a 425 degree oven. Melt butter in the skillet, swirl to evenly distribute the butter, add the batter and pop back in the oven for 15 to 20 minutes. Top with melted butter, powdered sugar, maple syrup, jam, Nutella, peanut butter, fresh fruit, etc. One Dutch Baby can feed two people – or one person who wants to bring home leftovers for the next day. The OPH Dutch Baby is served topped with butter and powdered sugar with more on the side along with a lemon wedge.

Their omelettes are not omelette-shaped. They are round – as if finished off in the pan and not flipped or folded. This photo of the Irish omelette is from my friend Jane. This fluffy omelette is filled with OPH’s own corned beef hash, onions, and provolone cheese. She definitely enjoyed it. I try to avoid omelettes due to my egg allergy, which is why I am using her photo.

I was in the mood for a waffle one morning, and their Cherry Kijafa Waffle did not disappoint. It is a Belgium waffle topped with Montmorency cherries that are simmered in homemade Danish Cherry Kijafa sauce then dusted with powdered sugar. I loved the Kijafa sauce. According to the OPH in Denver, Cherry Kijafa is a type of fortified 16% ABV cherry fruit wine that is produced in Denmark from cherries with added natural flavors. Because Montmorency cherries are naturally tart, the sweet wine sauce balances the flavors so you have a lovely cherry flavor that is not too sweet and not too tart. The sauce also paired well with the sausage links.

During my most recent visit I ordered everything ala carte. From a small fruit salad to two scrambled eggs, 4 slices of delicious, thick-cut bacon and one perfect Continental crepe. I didn’t want a full order of crepes, so this was a good solution. The Continental crepes are stuffed with sour cream tempered with Triple Sec and served with hot tropical syrup (I still had mine left from the fruit salad). I wanted to take some bacon home, but it was just too good. I sat there drinking my coffee and nibbling on the bacon

The omelettes and egg specialties (not the sausage though) are gluten-free. Gluten-free pancakes and crepes are also available.

Contact info:

The Original Pancake House
Woodmere location

28700 Chagrin Boulevard
Woodmere, OH 44122
216-292-7777

Fairview Park location

3000 Westgate
Fairview Park, OH 44126
440-333-5515

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

Charlie’s Dog House Diner

I have been fascinated with Charlie’s Dog House Diner my entire life. The building sparked my imagination for years. To my young eyes, it looked like a little fairy tale diner guarded by two snoopy dogs. My grandparents lived on W. Schaaf off Broadview in Old Brooklyn, so we would frequently pass the diner, which marks the border between Cleveland and Parma. The kitschy roadside attraction has been in the exact same spot since 1952, when it began life as the Dog House, part of a national chain of shops that offered walk-up service to customers who ordered hot dogs and hamburgers through a window. When my father heard I ate here he made fun of me. Apparently, it was never quite taken seriously by him and his friends. Their loss.

The menu was expanded to include breakfast and lunch when a new owner took over 10 years ago, but they “updated” it during the pandemic (June 2020). It still contains all of the breakfast and lunch favorites. There is not a lot of seating. If you time it right, you can walk right in and grab a seat at one of the twelve red-topped stools at the L-shaped counter. It is open every day from 7:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m., which means I have to get motivated to make it there.

The building features a doghouse-like façade and two painted hound dogs that look out in either direction from the front door, just beneath a classic Coca-Cola sign, neon lights promising Chicago-style Vienna hot dogs and Charlie’s original waffles, and a marquee that reads “Charlie’s Restaurant.” It can seat 12 people. Obviously, I can’t say how busy it is in the morning. I would imagine it is busy enough that it is still in business all these years later.

These days, the clientele is still solidly working class, the burgers and pancakes still sizzle on the flat top and, though heavily remodeled throughout the decades, the space still features numerous retro throwbacks. Children’s artwork, a Specials board, lotto scratch-off dispensers, and photos of Liam Neeson (see below) decorate the area behind the counter. The operation still runs much like it would have back in the 1950s, with the owner on the grill and one of the employees tending the counter. Everything is made to order. You can still get full for less than $10.

The eggs Benedicts and breakfast burritos are well-loved. A list of skillets and omelets, pancakes, burgers, sandwiches, and, of course, those famous hot dogs are also on the menu; however, most people here are regulars and just ask for “the usual.” Since I am not a regular, I chose to go with one of their “specialty omelets” – the Dog House Omelet – along with hash browns and rye toast. The Dog House Omelet is stuffed with bacon, sausage, onions, mushrooms, and cheese. It was almost too much. A good omelet has two or three ingredients. This one seemed like it was trying too hard. As you can see by the photo it was more mix-in than egg.

also wanted to try their waffle but knew it was a lot of food. The waitress suggested I order half a waffle (yes, it’s possible!), so I splurged and added strawberry and blueberry toppings to it. The waffle was light and crispy and luscious inside. Adding the fruit toppings was an inspired choice. I really enjoyed the fruit with the carby goodness of the waffle. I ate half of everything and then took the leftovers home. I made the day of a guy begging at the side of the exit ramp onto Carnegie when I gave him my leftovers.

I heard the Ashlee Burrito is not to be missed, so I ordered that the next time I was there. Talk about filling! The tortilla wrap is stuffed with eggs, hash browns, bacon, sausage, and cheddar cheese and topped with sausage gravy. They also drop a bottle of hot sauce, so you can spice it up. It is a little bland, so the hot sauce was a nice added bonus. I obviously could only eat half, and saved half for the next day’s breakfast. I know I already said it, but “Talk about filling!”

I ordered a breakfast bagel sandwich to go just to see what it was like. For $3.99 I got a deliciously soft bagel filled with bacon, a well-fried egg (no yolk splooge on me this time), cheese and hash browns. It was a decent breakfast sandwich and was a total bargain. I can’t wait to try the croissant sandwiches, but I would definitely get this one again too.

They have several hot dogs on the menu. Since we aren’t in Chicago I decided not to order the Chicago Dog. I just can’t picture any place in Cleveland doing it right. Instead, I ordered the Cleveland Dog, because that is the way God intended hot dogs to be served 🙂 . It is a delicious Vienna hot dog, so it had some heft to it. They topped it with chopped onions and Stadium mustard. Absolutely divine. Someone ordered a trio of dogs the other day when I was there. It looked amazing.

I’ve tried to order a Patty Melt from every diner I have eaten at recently to compare them. This was definitely a decent Patty Melt. First off, they used rye bread, so bonus points. The burger was cooked medium and the cheese was perfectly melted to hold in the grilled onions. A squirt of yellow mustard made it complete. The onion rings were also decent. The onion stayed inside the batter when I bit into it. They stood up nicely to the ketchup.

I look forward to continuing to explore the menu. Maybe I’ll have a Monte Cristo, Charlie’s Mess or one of the benedicts next. This place definitely deserves our love. Did you know it was featured in a recent movie with Liam Neeson called The Marksman? Apparently, Charlie’s is a steakhouse in Arizona. 🙂

Photo of Charlie's Restaurant - Cleveland, OH, United States
How could a kid not be fascinated by this? Photo from Yelp user Chas M.

Contact info:

Charlie’s Dog House Diner
2102 Brookpark Road
Cleveland, OH 44134
216-661-4873

The Rowley Inn

Open since 1906, The Rowley Inn is a neighborhood pub with great food, craft beers, reasonably priced drinks, and good service. Whenever I am here I picture my grandfather eating and drinking here way back then (my dad grew up in Tremont). It has a casual neighborhood vibe and a Cleveland-focused menu of comfort food and drinks. After all, it is located across the street from the Christmas Story House, so it gets a lot of tourists as well as locals. The Rowley also serves a great brunch. I just wish it were bigger because getting a table can sometimes be difficult.

The first time I came here I had seen a video of the grilled cheese pull on social media and decided I needed one asap. I was hooked from the moment I walked inside. I grabbed a little table to myself and ordered Cleveland’s Best Grilled Cheese with fries and a hard orange soda. It was a grown-up version of a beloved childhood meal. The grilled cheese features smoked gouda, mozzarella and provolone with a touch of mayo on grilled sourdough. I had never had mayo on grilled cheese before, but I am now a fan. The fries may not have looked like much, but they were some of the tastiest fries I have had in a while. I don’t know what kind of seasoning salt they use, but it makes the fries delectable. The hard orange soda made me chuckle. I felt like I was being so decadent.

The second visit I decided to try something completely different and ordered the Loco Moski. I loved the Loco Moco in Hawaii, and this is a decidedly Cleveland take on the Hawaiian rice, burger patty, gravy, and fried egg. It features pierogi instead of rice that are topped with a burger patty, fried onions, eggs and pepper gravy. It was a lot of food piled up, and I struggled to finish it. It was definitely a very unique choice – and quite a delicious one. I paired it with a Be Sure To Drink Your Ovaltine, which is made with Pinnacle whipped cream vodka, Kahlua, cream and ovaltine. I very much enjoyed the creamy drink, which was reminiscent of a mudslide and/or White Russian.

I was with my dining out group on the second visit, so we were able to try a few things and share them. We ordered the fried pickle spears, the pretzel bites, the kielbasa corndogs (no longer on the menu). Everyone really enjoyed them. Most everyone went with a burger.

Obviously, on my next solo visit I had to try the Rowley’s version of a Patty Melt. The Rowley Melt features a burger (it came out a perfect medium rare) topped with Swiss, sautéed onions and mushrooms, and an egg on grilled rye. I ordered mine without an egg, because I need to limit my egg intake and I had overdone it the day before. It came with it anyway, but I just removed it. No big deal. The fries were once again a highlight. I ordered a Paloma (Espolon, lime, simple syrup, and sparkling grapefruit) to go with it. Refreshing!

I was lucky to get a seat at the bar one Taco Tuesday. I ordered a couple tacos, which were actually pretty good (I’m not the biggest taco fan), and a margarita, and then a Meatloaf Sandwich (one of these days I will order Randy’s Meatloaf Dinner and try eating it Randy-style for a free t-shirt. But I will have to have a designated driver in order to loosen up enough to do it.) The meatloaf sandwich was really, really good. I loved the glaze on it. The tomato slices were a little weird, but I got over it. When I make a meatloaf sandwich it is usually just a slab of meatloaf and ketchup – no tomatoes, no lettuce, no fried onions.

Finally, brunch at the Rowley is amazing. One of my friends made a reservation for our large group – and it was a good thing he did. People were enjoying Bloody Marys and coffee. I ordered a mimosa and the Everything But The Bagel Breakfast, which features 3 pierogi, kielbasa, cheddar cheese, Everything Bagel seasoning and is topped with sausage gravy & 2 over easy eggs. It was quite tasty and very filling. What’s not to like about pierogi and kielbasa?

My neighbor ordered the Corned Beef Hash and enjoyed it. Everyone else seemed to enjoy their meals as well, which ranged from a caesar salad, avocado toast to a breakfast burger. We split an order of beignets. Since the kitchen is small they brought the food out as it was finished, which meant that everything was fresh and piping hot. One thing to note is that a 20% gratuity is added to the checks for parties of 5 or more. I have no problem with this practice at all. I only wish our waitress had reminded us of it when we cashed out. She got a 43% gratuity out of me. It was her lucky day.

Contact info:

The Rowley Inn
1104 Rowley Avenue
Cleveland, OH 44109
(216) 795-5345

Big Al’s Diner

Big Al’s is about as “greasy spoon diner” as it gets. The 25-year-old diner is not flashy, it’s not fancy, it’s not big, it’s just a small diner. The staff is friendly, hard-working, and attentive. You walk in, sit where you want, and one of the servers will come ask you if you want coffee and take your order. The bill is dropped with your meal, and when you are done they cash you out or you pay the bill at the register. The diner is open Wednesday thru Sunday from 7:00 am to 1:30 pm, and breakfast is served the entire time.

It’s not a place to come if you are watching calories. The portions are big, and the food is fresh and delicious. If you are like me, you will be taking food home with you. The home fries are available with pepper and onions, and the prices are affordable. It has all the comforting favorites, like fluffy eggs, large, buttery pancakes and waffles, several kinds of sausage, sausage gravy to die for, thick, steaming soups, homemade mashed potatoes with gravy, burgers, and layer cake for dessert. But the corned beef hash is the star of the show – it was featured on the Food Network’s Best Thing I Ever Ate by Michael Symon.

Obviously, I had to order breakfast the first time I visited. Since I am not a fan of corned beef I left the hash for the fans. I chose #8 – “On the Lighter Side Combo” – 2 eggs, 1 pancake or 1/2 a French toast, and bacon, ham or sausage. I added fresh blueberries to the pancake for an additional 50 cents. It was the perfect amount of food. The eggs were scrambled just as I like it and I could add cheese to them, the bacon was crisp and the blueberry pancake hit the spot. And best of all, my coffee cup was never empty for long.

I usually visit diners during the week to avoid crowds and waitings for a table. However, craving diner food on a recent rainy Sunday morning I headed to Big Al’s for a waffle. I had to wait about 5-10 minutes for a table at 12:45 (they close at 1:30). The two tables in front of me got seated right away, so it was just bad timing on my part. They seated one table after me and took the phone off the hook to cut off to-go orders. The #10 hit the spot – a waffle, 2 eggs, and choice of bacon, ham or sausage. I opted for scrambled and sausage (patties or links? turkey or pork?) patties. I ordered a large orange juice ($3.25) that was worth every penny because the serving was large. Most of the time you order a large orange juice and you are lucky to get a medium juice glass as the “large.” I wasn’t quite able to finish it, but I didn’t have enough to warrant a box. I left sated and happy at 1:35 pm.

Another visit had me trying the sausage gravy. Since I didn’t want a huge portion of sausage gravy I chose the country fried steak combo (#13) with two eggs, home fries, country fried steak, and toast. I chose over easy eggs so that I could mix the yolks in with the loaded home fries (always get them loaded with grilled onions and green peppers) and rye toast. Everything was very tasty, but the sausage gravy-covered country fried steak was exceptional. Screw the corned beef hash – get the sausage gravy! It was a filling breakfast, and I ended up taking half the home fries and steak home with me for a light supper. I ordered cranberry juice and coffee this time around, and the medium cranberry juice was perfect in addition to ice water.

I, of course, had to try their lunch items as well and decided on the Patty Melt. This was a great Patty Melt. The cheese was melty, the onions were nicely grilled and caramelized, and the burger was cooked to my specification (medium rare). The hand cut fries were delicious.

They are doing a booming carry-out business in the time of COVID, but they also clean and sterilize the tables before seating diners, the booths and tables in the middle of the room are separated by plastic partitions, and there is a bottle of hand sanitizer on each table. Silverware is rolled and sealed with a band.

Contact info:

Big Al’s Diner
12600 Larchmere Boulevard
Cleveland, OH 44120
(216) 791-8550

Congin’s

Photo from Yelper Laura S.

I had never heard of Congin’s until I attended a Bordeaux wine dinner by myself at Le Petit Triangle. I was sat at a larger table of strangers, and we were trading favorite food tips (as foodies tend to do). One of the women, who I recognized as a writer for the Cleveland Heights Observer, recommended the pizza at Congin’s. Congin’s Pizza is a family-owned restaurant that has been in business for over 27 years. Apparently there are two locations – Congin’s Pizza in Chardon and Congin’s Italian in Cleveland on Nottingham Road & St. Clair near the Euclid/South Collinwood border). I drove past the Nottingham location, and it took me a second to recognize it. It looks like an unassuming auto body repair shop. One Yelper describes it as “a very unassuming, bare bones building lacking in even a modicum of charm.” I made a point to stop for a pizza (making the mistake of not calling it in – I sat and waited in the austere waiting area for a while). It was worth the wait, and I’ve been frequenting Congin’s Italian ever since. It is a quick drive from Cleveland Heights once I learned the back roads, and it serves what I think is the best old-school, American-style pizza in Cleveland. The crust is delicious, the red sauce is not too sweet and not too acidic, and they are generous with the toppings. I especially like the generous clumps of sausage. I am hooked. In fact, I was driving for Lyft on Valentine’s Day and decided to call it a night when I was near Bedford. I called in a pizza order to Congin’s and drove all the way there to get my pie just before they closed at 10 pm. Driving 271 to 90, I got off at E. 185th, and it was a quick trip until I was there on Nottingham. They have a drive-thru window if you’re lazy and don’t want to get out of car. I can’t usually wait until I get home and dig into the pizza as soon as I can. The melty cheese stretch brings so much satisfaction, and I rush to get the slice in my mouth before the warm toppings slide off. I’ve gotten pretty good at holding it so it all stays together. I order the same pizza every time – the Deluxe, which features pepperoni, sausage, mushroom, green pepper, black olive, and onion. I think about switching it up every once in a while, but why mess with perfection.

I’ve also tried several other things off the menu. I ordered the Congin’s sub on my second visit, because ordering the sub named for the restaurant seemed like a no-brainer. I enjoyed the sub a lot. The Congin features turkey, ham, roast beef, cheese, lettuce, tomato, mustard, & Miracle Whip. Even though I prefer mayonnaise I didn’t hate the Miracle Whip. I think it gave it a more unique flavor. The tomato was surprisingly fresh and perfect for a tomato in January. It was a nice surprise. I loved the fact that the lettuce they used was a spring mix featuring arugula. They have a meatball sub, Italian sausage sub, chicken and eggplant parmagiana subs, and hot buttered steak sub that sound good – as well as something called a Bundo Burger, which is apparently very similar to a Romanburger. Ah, Cleveland, never change!

Their pasta dinners come with a dinner salad and a bread roll. You can order a half order, but it doesn’t come with the salad or roll. I ordered the spaghetti with meat sauce my first time around. I always order spaghetti at a new place, but have learned not to order meatballs because I tend to be disappointed. The spaghetti was good and the meat sauce was quite generous. I will be trying other pastas off the menu in the future.

The wings were weird. People raved about them on Yelp. I was not expecting to receive breaded wings with the sauce on the side. They were large, meaty wings, but I prefer unbreaded wings. Breading makes the sauce soak in and is just unnecessary in my opinion.

Contact info:

Congin’s Italian
18812 Nottingham Rd
Cleveland, OH 44110
(216) 481-4585

Congin’s Pizza
104 South Street
Chardon, OH
(440) 286-1260