Sokol of Greater Cleveland – Bohemian National Hall

May 13, 2017

Cleveland is known for its strong ethnic heritage. Polish, Ukrainian, German, Lithuanian, Slovak and Czech all have strong roots here. Cleveland’s churches are usually at the forefront of keeping the heritage alive. For example, St. Josaphat and Pokrony in Parma are known for their pierogi, and St. Josaphat’s Lenten fish fry is one of my favorites.

Located on Broadway Avenue in the heart of Slavic Village, the cornerstone of the Bohemian National Hall was laid in 1896 as a community hall to accommodate the cultural, social, and educational needs of Czech immigrants in their newly adopted country. The hall continues to serve new generations, houses the many activities of Sokol of Greater Cleveland and showcases  the cultural history and traditions of the Czech and Slovak people. Since my great grandparents were from Slovakia I have a special place in my heart for it.

Ethnic dinners are served throughout the year in the lower level dining room of the Bohemian National Hall. “Sokol Sunday Dinners” are served from 1 pm to 2:30 pm on the last Sunday of every month. The dinner is $14 and includes dinner, dessert and coffee/tea. We went for the pork goulash and bread dumplings (knedliky) a few months ago. We had to salt and pepper the goulash. I think they are used to cooking for older parishioners.

I enjoyed the Czech beer a lot. They have a cash bar to the side that serves soda, beer and wine. I got a bottle of Staropramen and a glass of ginger ale since I know I can get thirsty.

Servers came around to serve the food, give us boxes and serve the dessert (on this evening a very nice cherry cobbler). They were friendly and very helpful – and most likely members and volunteers.

They will be serving roasted duck in July and my friend Nancy was extremely excited to hear about it. For reservations, call Olga at 216-447-0264 by the Monday prior to the dinner. Although to be honest they have plenty of space for walk-ins and should be able to accommodate a few folks walking in. I was able to bring a dozen knedlicky home with me to steam later. I popped them right in my freezer since they were already frozen for the most part (I think they made them ahead and steamed them as needed).

I think it’s important to support local groups like this one. The newer generation isn’t interested in this kind of thing, and they are starting to die out. I would have liked to have seen this place filled with more people.

Contact info:

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


Geauga County pancake breakfasts

May 6, 2017

When spring is just around the corner in Cleveland, we know that it’s pancake and local maple season, with Sunday breakfasts being served throughout the area. Geauga County in particular is known for their pancake breakfasts. I had always wanted to go to one, but never got motivated enough. I made it to two this year – on March 19 and on April 2. Most pancake breakfasts are served on Sunday mornings in March, although a couple run into mid-April. Geauga County is known for its maple syrup, and the pancake breakfasts in the area serve genuine Geauga County maple syrup, tapped fresh.

My former neighbors in Solon go every weekend in March, so I joined them for the one in Parkman. It was worth waking up early to meet them and drive out 422 just past Route 528 to the Parkman Community Center. I got to catch up with the patriarch of the family, and we enjoyed an all-you-can-eat feast of sausage and pancakes with beverage (coffee, water and milk) for just $8. I managed to eat three pancakes and three sausage patties. Some of my fellow diners did better than that, but I was happy with my meal. Word of warning: don’t get the water unless you like sulfur-tasting water. Crystal from Eat*Drink*Cleveland warned me about the coffee ahead of time, but since I use lots of cream and sugar anyway it wasn’t an issue. The straight water was. This community fundraiser sponsored the Parkman Chamber of Commerce is a well-oiled machine. You pay as you walk in and get in line. Gingerich Farm sells their maple products, and the Girl Scouts sell their cookies to the waiting hordes that winds their way through the room. The hostess waits until a stretch of table clears before leading the next bunch in. The serpentine table allows diners to sit on one side and the servers to walk in between and serve up the goodness. I loved the fact that they use real plates and silverware and serve local maple syrup in pitchers that sit on the table every couple of seats. I didn’t love the fact that the kid across from me stared at me the whole time. It was unnerving.

One of my friends recommended I go to the Burton American Legion Post for their pancake breakfast, because she felt it was the best one in the area. Burton is well-known for their numerous pancake breakfasts, including the Rotary Club, the Century Village Museum and other groups. Burton has been serving pancakes every spring to over 20,000 guests every March since 1951. The American Legion Post is located just north of the square at 1405 Goodwin Street and serves from 9 am to 1:30 pm, which works well with my not being a morning person. It is a smaller venue, but there are apparently two floors. My friends actually were there about 45 minutes before I was, because T. posted a picture of the bus that had just rolled up. Apparently they come from Pennsylvania just for the pancakes. The guy said they started out with a few people and more and more join them every year. When I got there the bus was still there (they were seated upstairs), but my friends must have just left. I paid my $10 and lined up. They not only served pancakes (blueberry or buttermilk) and sausage, but also had delicious home fried potatoes and scrambled eggs (I didn’t get the eggs since I am allergic). The pancakes were fluffy and delicious, but my favorite was the potatoes. Diners were free to get back in line for more, so I went back a second time for a blueberry pancake and more potatoes. They also had plenty of coffee and orange juice. I drank a couple juices and a couple coffees. I got a kick out of the coffee spill catcher they made out of a two liter bottle. The ladies told me they’ve been using it for years. I wish I had taken a picture. The fresh local syrup was on the tables in squeeze bottles, and the ladies kept walking around to make sure they were full. The tables also had salt, pepper and Heinz ketchup. I sat by myself, but enjoyed chatting with a couple guys near me – and eavesdropping on a table of older diners comparing their flip phones and phone plans.

Be sure to put a pancake breakfast or two on your Must Do list next March. There are a wide variety of pancake breakfasts in the surrounding counties and specifically in Burton to choose from. And if you don’t want to wait a year and want some now, as the Burton website explains, “You can still have unique & delicious pancakes even after the season ends. All year-round many local restaurants, civic organizations and lodging facilities serve pancakes and offer pure maple syrup for your enjoyment!” Just head on out to Burton – I recommend stopping to walk around at LaDue Reservoir, Punderson State Park or in Amish country in Middlefield and the surrounding towns after breakfast.


Joe’s Deli

April 26, 2017

Joe’s Deli is a popular restaurant on the West Side of Cleveland. It is so popular that they built a larger restaurant, and it still has waits. If I lived closer I would be there all the time. As it is, I go when I visit my tax preparer. It seems like no matter when I go I have a wait (and I try to go at non-peak hours to avoid a long wait). They have a large vestibule that is usually packed with people waiting for a table. You go in, get your name on the list with the hostess, and get a flashing beeper-type thing that tells you when your table is ready. In the meantime, you can either sit or stand along the walls or admire the gorgeous cakes in the counter cooler. I have yet to have room to order dessert. Maybe some day, because they look amazing.

You can also glimpse inside their open kitchen, which is spotless, and you can see the kitchen staff working hard. The servers and staff are extremely efficient. The bussers are very polite when removing diners’ dirty plates. My waitresses have been friendly and quickly fill up my ice tea without my having to ask. They masterfully handle large tables and small. The first time I was there I was seated near a loud and obnoxious table of diners, but it has proven to be the exception to the rule. I take my Kindle and enjoy a nice meal in a nice setting.

Joe’s is a Lebanese family-owned restaurant serving up amazing American and Lebanese fare. They are cousins to the Slyman family, so you know it’s going to be good. They also happen to serve the absolute best matzoh ball soup in Cleveland in my opinion. The broth is smooth, the matzoh balls are perfectly cooked, and the soup is chock-full of carrot, celery, onion, chicken and parsley (not typical but still tasty). I order it every single time I go, and then get a bowl to go for later that day. The portions are huge, and I have yet to eat a full sandwich there. I bring it home and eat it later with my bowl of soup.

One of my friends from high school met me in the parking lot to drop something off the other day, and he reminisced about how much his mother used to love their German dumpling soup. I did a little research and discovered that is their soup of the day on Saturdays. According to Yelp the place is packed all day, but it might be worth it to go on a Saturday to try the soup. What I found were rave reviews.

The first time I went I got the Matchmaker – a bowl soup paired with a half portion of any of their house salads. It also came with a muffin. I ordered the Joe’s Chef Salad, which features fresh tossed greens topped with turkey, ham, Monterrey Jack and cheddar cheeses, tomatoes, hard-boiled eggs and black olives. The ingredients were extremely fresh and crisp. It was beautifully plated, and I ordered the hot bacon dressing and loved every bite. The muffin that day was a strawberry muffin. It was moist and delicious. I ended up taking half of the muffin home for later. It was a lot of food.

On my second visit I ordered a simple tuna sandwich and a bowl of matzoh ball soup, thinking it would not be as much food. It was, but oh so good. The tuna was fresh, the bread was perfect, and I loved the pickle. Their pickles are firm and have a really nice crunch to them. Of course I still ended up taking half of the sandwich home.

On my third visit I ordered the Chicken Philly sandwich and a cup of matzo ball soup (trying to save room – it didn’t help). I wasn’t as in love with the Chicken Philly as I was with the other things. The bread was a little tough from the broiler, and the filling just seemed kind of bland. The peppers were definitely fresh, but they didn’t have much flavor. Maybe they were off-season. They have an aioli mayo that they serve on the side that jazzed it up a bit, but I don’t think I’d order it again. The French fries are good, but nothing to get truly excited about.

I had a cup of matzoh ball soup and the California Chicken Club on my most recent visit. It was wonderfully prepared with a thin grilled chicken breast, a hunk of fresh avocado, fresh lettuce (almost too much – it seemed like 1/4 of a head of lettuce and I had to remove some) and mayo. They served an herby sauce on the side, which I slathered on the sandwich as well. The juices dripped down my hand. It was an absolutely delicious mess. I nibbled on the fries and took half of the sandwich home for later (leaving most of the fries).

As busy as they are in the restaurant, they also do a booming take-out business. They have two dedicated cash registers just for carry out. The phone is ringing constantly with new orders. This photo is of their Dawali (stuffed grape leaves). I wanted to try them, but knew I couldn’t eat a whole portion and a sandwich. so I got them to go. It was a good decision. The pickled veggies, feta cheese and cucumbers accompanying the grape leaves were super fresh.

They are open Monday through Wednesday from 7 to 9 PM and until 10 PM on Thursday, Friday and Saturday. They are closed on Sunday.

Contact info:

Joe’s Deli
19215 Hilliard Blvd
Rocky River, OH 44116
(440) 333-7890


Fish Fry Friday #6 – Academy Tavern

April 7, 2017

I didn’t feel like venturing too far from home tonight, so I went by myself to Academy Tavern on Larchmere Boulevard for their fish fry. Recently featured as one of the oldest bars in Cleveland, Academy Tavern has been in business since 1939 and has been doing a fish fry most of that time. It runs from 11 a.m. until 11 p.m. on Fridays.

This place definitely has character – both in the decor and the patrons. I can picture the bar full of hard-working men drinking after work. And apparently it was spruced up recently and the menu was updated.

I didn’t feel like eating pierogi today, so I stuck with a bowl of clam chowder and the fish fry.

I went before the dinner rush, so the waitress told me to sit wherever I wanted. I chose a seat towards the back, and she came right over and took my order. She was soon back with my clam chowder.

The clam chowder was loaded with clams and obviously freshly made. It was very heavy on the dill, so if you don’t like dill be forewarned. It was very good and very filling. I definitely can recommend it.

The fish fry offers you your choice between perch or pike. Both come with fries and slaw and fetch $15. I went with the perch, although I was very tempted to order the Pineapple Pepper Trout, which is a special this month. I’m a sucker for rainbow trout. But it is Fish Fry Friday, so fried fish it is. The fish was perfectly fried as well as flaky and tender. The tartar sauce tasted homemade, and I really enjoyed it. The coleslaw was creamy and delicious, and the fries were a nice accompaniment. I ended up taking half of my dinner home (I’m sensing a pattern here…). It will be great as a sandwich tomorrow.

I’m on the fence whether I will go to a fish fry on Good Friday. To be honest, I’m kind of fished out at the moment. For many of the church fish fries this is the last day of their season. I guess I’ll just see how I feel on Good Friday, although to be honest that is actually the only day that Lutherans aren’t supposed to eat meat. If I plan to go to a fish fry maybe I’ll be sure to stick to it. Or I might just go get some sushi.

In any event, I hope you all enjoyed this little series. I know I did.

Contact info:

Academy Tavern
12800 Larchmere Boulevard
Cleveland, OH 44120


Fish Fry Friday #5 – Prosperity Social Club

April 1, 2017

Prosperity Social Club has a special place in my heart. My father grew up in Tremont and would be sent there when it was Dempsey’s to buy a bucket of beer and a pack of smokes for the World War II GIs hanging out at the Lincoln Bathhouse next door when he was 8 years old. Prosperity Social Club celebrated its 10 Year Anniversary on October 22, 2015. Before that, the business had been Dempsey’s Oasis from 1938­-2005. Lots of history here.

Prosperity was featured on the Travel Channel’s “Delicious Destinations” show last November. The place has been packed in the past for their fish fries, but now things are crazy. I drove past last week at 7 PM and people were standing outside on the sidewalk. I hoped the rain and cold temps today would keep people home, but I still got there at 6 PM to reserve a table of 8 for my friends and me. I was told it would be a 1 1/2 to 2 hour wait. At 6:45 several of my friends showed up and several didn’t, so we were able to lower our seating count to 4. We were seated pretty soon after that (a little after 7). Pro tip: despite what the Plain Dealer article says, they take reservations all the way until 2 a.m. I had read “first come, first served,” but that only applies to seats at the bar.

Once we sat down, we were given water, silverware, and blue fish fry menus advertising their Great Haddock Lenten Fish Fry as well as a couple pages featuring the normal menu and cocktails, beer and wines. Our waitress was efficient and had no problems breaking our table down into separate checks using our first names. It was refreshing and a huge relief considering how crazy busy they were. She took our drink orders and food orders at the same time since we were ready to order. Again, efficient. Due to fish fry volume, some regular fried menu items (like french fries and onion rings) are not available on Fridays. There are also no substitutions, but you are welcome to add things like pierogi or chowder onto your order.

I chose the home-cooked “Gotta Haddock” classic fry, which features flaky beer-battered haddock along with a cup of New England clam chowder, two pierogi with caramelized onions, creamy old-school mac and cheese with shell pasta, and homemade coleslaw. The zesty house tartar sauce and sour cream came out with the meals in little containers. I loved that tartar sauce! Also, the clam chowder was really good. It was nice and creamy and had lots of chunks of potato and clam. I could also taste a hint of the sherry they used, which was a really nice touch. The haddock was perfectly fried and nice and flaky. The pierogi were a little overcooked (slightly burnt), but were still good. One of my fellow diners, who is new to Cleveland, had never had pierogi until tonight. The waitress quipped that he will be spoiled for life. I think he’ll be okay. We’re taking him to Sokolowski’s next time.

The Big Fish dinnerEveryone really enjoyed their meals, and I enjoyed ordering alcohol with my meal. Being a fan of blood orange, I was going to order one of the beer cocktails with blood orange, but my friend pointed out that the Sol Rojo also had blood orange juice. It was so refreshing and delicious I ended up having two.

Once we were sat at a table the service was super-fast. I was not quite done with my cup of chowder as the entrees came out. Tables are at a premium, so there is a sign asking diners not to linger more than an hour and a half on Fish Fry Fridays. We were out the door at quarter past eight.

I would definitely go back to try some other things on the menu (like the shrimp picatta pasta), but I will be sure to make a reservation next time. I did enjoy chatting with my friends as we stood by the door (I didn’t mind the cold since it was so packed) waiting for our table (and it allowed us to talk a bit before things got crazy and we were busy eating), but being whisked to a table as soon as you walk in sure did look nice. I took exactly half of my dinner home and looked forward to having it for lunch. It was even better the next day.

Contact info:

Prosperity Social Club
109 Starkweather Avenue
Cleveland, OH
(216) 937-1938


Lunch buffet on the Nautica Queen

August 28, 2016

When the weather is beautiful there is nothing better than taking a river or lake cruise in Cleveland. Whether it’s the Goodtime III or the Nautica Queen it is definitely something special that always makes me happy.

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I recently went on an afternoon cruise on the Nautica Queen with my local translators group. The dock is located next to the Powerhouse and Cleveland Aquarium. We shared the boat with several groups, including a wedding party and a family reunion. For $24.95 we were treated to some great views of the Flats, the lake and the Cleveland skyline as well as a buffet lunch and gratuity. Tea, coffee and iced tea were included with the price. Soft drinks and alcoholic beverages were extra. They did not have any bottled water.

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The food isn’t going to win any awards, but it was pretty good. We were ushered to the buffet by table and after filling our salad plates with some rather fresh salad fixings the plates were taken from us and deposited at our seats, freeing our hands up for the larger plate. The salad bar was actually pretty good. I managed to make a very nice salad from the mixed greens and side salads, including a pasta salad and an antipasta salad. The dressing choices included ranch, poppyseed and I believe a vinaigrette of some sort.

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The choices that day included roast beef, chicken breast, fish and a rigatoni pasta with tomato sauce as well as mixed vegetables and mashed potatoes. I’m told the entrees and sides can vary. I particularly enjoyed the fish and the mashed potatoes. The roast beef was a little fatty, but it was moist and tender. The pasta and chicken breast were a little dry, but I don’t expect anything less from a buffet like this.

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After clearing our plates the waitress brought us a lemon cake with raspberry drizzle. It was a little dry but palatable.

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After we ate we watched the newlyweds dance their first dance (she sang to him the whole time – it was very touching), and then went up a level to the roof to enjoy the skyline and the sunshine. We left the dock at 11 and returned at 1. It was an enjoyable two hours spent on the lake. If you are looking for a fun thing to do with guests I can recommend this. The price doesn’t break the bank, and it is a relaxing couple of hours spent on our beautiful waterways. They also offer a dinner buffet, which I have been told is better than the lunch buffet, as well as a brunch buffet.

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They also cater wedding receptions, because I attended a wedding reception on the Nautica Queen about 12 or 13 years ago. I remember enjoying the dancing and the nighttime view of the Cleveland skyline.

Contact info:

Nautica Queen
1153 Main Ave
Cleveland, OH 44113
(216) 696-8888


The summer of ice cream

August 17, 2016

bananaIt’s been a while since I’ve posted here. Money has been tight, and I have been eating at home a lot. However, there is always room for ice cream. I’ve spent the summer exploring some of Cleveland’s oldest and most popular ice cream establishments. I was on a mission to find old-fashioned ice cream stands.

It all started out with a stop at Strickland’s of Streetsboro on Route 14 about a mile from the intersection with Route 43. I ordered their Banana Bowl ($4.25 including tip), which features one scoop of vanilla custard, 1/2 a banana, one topping (I chose butterscotch), peanuts and a cherry. TPhotoGrid_1471467709431he flavor combination was awesome, and I decided I needed many butterscotch sundaes in my life this summer. Unfortunately I have never managed to scrape up the nerve to ask them to add a banana to the butterscotch sundaes.

My next stop was Dairy King on Mayfield Road in South Euclid. I’m not sure if it is associated with the Dairy King in North Olmsted I used to visit as a high schooler, but it is awesome no matter what. I ordered a medium butterscotch PhotoGrid_1471467618514sundae for $2.75 and got a large because she “accidentally made a large.” It was huge, and I couldn’t finish it. But I kept coming back all summer. I also really like their peanut butter cup parfait ($4.75) – and where else can you buy a “mini” banana split for $1.35? They also sell hot dogs and fries.

Sandy’s Frozen Whip on Lake Shore Boulevard in Euclid also managed to get on my radar. I made a special trip there, and since I was craving a root beer float that is what IPhotoGrid_1471467568141 ordered. A root beer float and a foot-long chili dog with everything definitely brightened my day. The person working the counter (I think it might have been Sandy herself) was extremely friendly and helpful. She made a strawberry shortcake sundae while I was waiting for my chili dog that looked tempting for next time (sub ice cream for whipped cream on top).

I then went to the Apple Cart, one of Cleveland’s oldest ice cream stands on Superior Road. I ordered a butterscotch sundae for $2.50 (keep the change). The woman behind the counter asked if I wanted whipped cream and nutsIMAG6495 – of course. It definitely hit the spot. I had to chuckle driving home and seeing all the workers walking back to work with their ice cream cones. I’m going back soon for a cherry-dipped cone.

Two outliers I wanted to talk about are Snow Brothers Shavery and Koko Bakery’s shaved ice. They aren’t ice cream per se, but they are a cold treat on a hot day. Snow IMAG3132Brothers is a food truck that you can find at Night Market and various other festivals around the area. They shave their flavored ice to make “snow” and top it with condensed milk and various toppings. I chose the milk-flavored snow and topped it with blueberries and strawberries, but you can also choose mochi, red bean paste, Captain Crunch and a few other toppings. Koko Bakery also sells shaved ice. They sell Korean and Taiwanese shaved ice. I prefer the Taiwanese shaved ice. The price includes 3 toppings IMAG6162of your choice, and you can add additional toppings for an additional $0.90. I am a creature of habit and always choose lychee, kiwi and mango.

And of course no Cleveland ice cream post is complete without mention of Mitchell’s. Mitchell’s fresh strawberry ice cream was a divine pleasure when the strawberries were in season. I hear fresh peach ice cream is in season right now. Mitchell’s is always a treat, but this scoop of strawberry really stands out in my memory this summer. They unveiled a few flavors for the RNC and Cavs championship win. You’ve got to love a hometown favorite that is just as passionate about their hometown as well.

What’s your favorite old-fashioned local ice cream stand?

Contact info:

Strickland’s of Streetsboro
9070 Cleveland – East Liverpool Road (Route 14)
Streetsboro, OH 44241

Dairy King
4325 Mayfield Road
South Euclid, OH 44121

Sandy’s Frozen Whip
17635 Lakeshore Blvd
Cleveland, OH 44119

Apple Cart
4313 Superior Avenue
Cleveland, OH 44103

Mitchell’s Ice Cream
Various locations

Koko Bakery
3710 Payne Avenue
Cleveland, OH 44114