Moving from Guatemalan to Honduran, another fun little spot in Old Brooklyn is Cafe Sabor Miami. This place is tucked in a storefront with a bodega selling propane on Broadview Road (just north of I-480), so it is very easy to drive by and not even know it exists. It is in the old location of Pupaseria Katarina, but it looks completely different. Pupaseria Katarian was rather austere, whereas Cafe Sabor Miami is bright and filled with vibrant artwork. The charming tropical cafe run by Honduran native Mariela Paz opened in 2015 and has been quietly feeding residents ever since. Paz lived in Miami for more than a decade and oversees a menu that ranges from Cuban to Honduran as well as Peruvian and Mexican featuring savory and sweet breakfast and lunch choices. I always say I am going to order some of her sweet pancakes, but the savory side of the menu keeps calling me.
First, I must say that I have never been disappointed by the coffee choices here. Apparently Paz’s family have a coffee plantation, so she is well-versed in coffee. She offers lots of standard choices as well as some rare finds, such as Cuban Colada espresso, Oreo Mocha, Mojito Latte, Rose coffee, Cortaditos (cafe con leche with espresso), and Mayan Mocha, as well as smoothies and hot and cold tumeric beverages.
As I’ve said, I love the savory side of the menu. The Tropichop is my favorite thing on the menu so far. The Tropichop is a rice-based dish with Latin flair. Yellow rice is piled with pulled chicken or pork, black beans, pico de gallo and curry sauce. The flavors meld really well together, and I love the light curry sauce, which is not overpowering at all. I have ordered it several times now.
I also love her empanadas. Each empanada is under $3 and is stuffed with filling and perfectly fried. My favorite is the La Hawaiana, which is a ham, cheese and pineapple empanada, but the La Cubana (a Cuban sandwich in an empanada) is also quite delicious. One day I’m just going to order one of each and decide which are the best.
Her pancakes like her plain or pecan or specialties like cinnamon bun pancakes, pineapple upside down pancakes, Caribbean Love (with lots of fruit), or Key West Lime pancakes are so tempting, but as a savory breakfast fan I tend to order savory. I ordered the Bistec a Caballo, which is a Cuban steak with eggs, onions, and home fries, the last time. I was absolutely blown away by the Cuban toast. It doesn’t look like much, but it packs a crisp and buttery taste that I fell in love with. Mariela does a great Cuban toast! It has its own section on the menu, and you can order it with butter, mozzarella cheese or cream cheese and guava.
Mariela and her staff are always so happy to see you when you walk in. I felt like a regular on my first visit. The place is bright and cheerful, filled with lots of Mariela’s artwork and taste. If I had to choose between Cafe Sabor Miami and El Rinconcito Chapin I would choose this place, but its limited breakfast and lunch hours ensure Chapin will also get some love from me. But Cafe Sabor Miami is one that should absolutely not be missed!
I’m back! I haven’t really been gone. I’ve just been too busy to write up posts for the blog. I’ve gone out to eat less in the past few months, but I have a few new posts up my sleeve. I appreciate one fan reaching out asking if I had quit blogging. I apologize. I didn’t quit. I was busy with work and my national conference in New Orleans, and then catching up with work when I returned. After conference is always busy following up with potential new clients and catching up with jobs I missed while I was gone.
I have been sitting on a post for El Rinconcito Chapin for a while now. El Rinconcito Chapin is an authentic Guatemalan restaurant in Old Brooklyn. My dining out group first visited them about a week before they were closing at their old location on Pearl Road. It was not a good location, with very little parking and smack in the middle of road repaving. Nevertheless we managed to meet there and have a lovely meal that was graciously served by the owner. He even gave us free flan and tres leches cake, which were absolutely amazing. We were so impressed that we swore we would visit again at their new location (we rarely repeat visits to places). They reopened on Broadview Road in the old Coney Company building near the corner of Broadview and Pearl, but it took me a while to schedule a visit. You can also access it from Pearl – just ignore the drive-in signs, which as far as I know they aren’t using. The sign on the road is not visible – look at the building. In addition to offering a larger dining room, the new site also has its own; parking lot, which is always a plus for some of our less mobile members.
On our first visit I ordered a chuchito (similar to a tamale) and chiles rellanos (pictured below). The chiles rellanos is beef stuffed poblanos that are dipped in an egg batter and fried. I was not all that thrilled with either choice (I’m just not a fan of masa – I find it to dry) and prefer the Mexican version of the chile rellanos over the Guatemalan version.
The Chapin sampler was a huge hit, which allows you to try several different dishes like pupusas, tamales, yuca fries, dobladitos and plantains. I’m a big fan of a lot of these things on the plate, so everyone really enjoyed this.
We all fell in love with their Licuado, which is a smoothie-like beverage. I had ordered the Jarito soda on my first visit and only got a taste of the Licuado, so I made sure to order it on the second visit. You can choose between the mango and the strawberry. I ordered the strawberry and almost ordered a second one! It is very refreshing.
On our second visit we ordered chips and guacamole as well as dobladitos as appetizers. Dobladitos are an empanada-like turnover made of corn masa and stuffed with chicken, a spicy cabbage slaw and red salsa. They were really delicious, and I would order them again. The guacamole and chips were good, but nothing to write home about.
The enchilades are nothing like the Mexican version of enchiladas. They are a flat tortilla piled with fresh slaw, meat and egg. They are delicious (if messy) to eat) and are quite beautiful to look at.
On my second visit I intended to order the churrasco skirt steak, but overheard one customer say the Pepian was their favorite dish. The customer had been raving about the Tofu Pepian, but I was in the mood for some meat. The “regular” Pepian consists of chicken cooked in a spiced tomatillo sauce. It came with rice and refried black beans and some green beans atop the chicken. It was extremely flavorful.
Unfortunately they were out of the flan when we visited the second time. We all split the tres leches cake, which was moist and delicious. The food was very authentic, with many Guatemalans eating there that night. The service is friendly, and we enjoyed exploring the menu. The prices are also very affordable.
Lox, Stock and Brisket opened recently at Cedar Center in the old Ribsticks storefront. They did not have to do much with the place. It looks a lot like the old Ribsticks. There was another food service place there very briefly, but Chef Anthony Zappola and his family took over the lease. He heard about the smoker, so he decided to smoke meats and open a Jewish deli. He used to own a restaurant in Las Vegas called The Rice Shop, but he wanted to move home to northeast Ohio after living and working in numerous restaurants in several major cities. A Solon native, this spot truly is a family affair. His mother works behind the counter and makes the matzoh ball soup. They are very responsive with food allergies. One of my friends has a soy allergy, which limits her a lot. They were able to find something she could order and promised to use a different oil that isn’t soy-based in the future. How awesome is that?The menu revolves around smoked meats and dishes inspired by the neighborhood around it. They offer a good matzo ball soup (with chunks of celery, carrot and chicken), a lox platter with cream cheese, capers, chopped egg and chopped red onion, and a bunch of delicious sandwiches featuring brisket, smoked turkey, lox, tuna salad and a breaded chicken schnitzel. They make most everything in-house, including the smoked fish, lox, and pickles.
I heard about Lox, Stock and Brisket the day it opened and went to check it out the very next day. During the first visit I ordered the matzo ball soup, the Santa Monica and the potato salad. I love the matzo ball soup. It’s not just broth. There are chunks of carrot, celery and moist chicken in it. The smoked turkey on the turkey sandwich was moist, and the BBQ sauce and mustard were not too heavy. I absolutely loved the potato salad. It is a red skin potato salad and is perfectly creamy.
On my second visit (the very next today) I went back to try the brisket. The “Rueben” is named after his childhood friend and features thick chunks of brined and smoked brisket, Cleveland Kraut, Swiss cheese and Russian dressing. As those who follow this blog know, I am not a fan of corned beef because it’s too salty and fatty in my opinion. This is now the ultimate Reuben for me – featuring a tender and flavorful brisket without too much fat or salt. It is now my favorite Reuben ever. The brisket is served in thick chunks of flavorful meat – not too fatty or salty (although one of my friends was less than impressed with it and reported that one bite had it coming out in one piece due to some gristle). The one I had was perfect. The Russian dressing and kraut on a nice rye bread were just right. I wasn’t as enthused with the coleslaw, but it was good. But I prefer a very creamy coleslaw, so my choice is subjective based on my tastes.
I ordered the Roz (above left), which is the Rueben but with thick slices of turkey, on a subsequent visit. It was also a very good sandwich, with good slaw and cheese. I think I like the brisket more though. My friend with the allergies thoroughly enjoyed her Upper East Side. I can’t wait to try the rest of the sandwiches – the Buttermilk Chicken Schnitzel looks especially delicious.
The lox was a nice smoked salmon, and it was a nice sized portion. I had stopped at Bialy’s beforehand to pick up a couple bagels to enjoy with it. The lox platter came with crackers, but frankly I ended up feeding them to the birds. I’m not a huge cracker fan and don’t ever eat them with soup. Lox, Stock and Brisket’s lox platter with a Mish Mosh bagel from Bialy’s was everything.
The service was great. They definitely made me feel welcome. I see myself becoming a regular with quality – and matzo ball soup – this good. Items like brisket, turkey, lox and tuna salad are also available by the pound.
Is the name Kifaya’s Kitchen or Kafaya’s Kitchen? According to the storefront sign it is Kifaya’s Kitchen, but social media calls it Kafaya’s Kitchen. No matter the spelling, I call it delicious. The phone number on their Facebook page is disconnected. The phone number on Yelp (below) works. Kifaya’s has been in business since 2013. One of my friends had read about it and wanted to try it, so I scheduled an evening with some fellow adventurous diners.
I had never had Somalian food before and didn’t really know what to expect. As anyone who follows me knows, I love being adventurous and will try anything. Ethiopian? Bring it on. Afghani? Yum. Squid on a stick? Yes, please. It turns out Somalian is like a cross between Arabic, Mediterranean and Indian with a little Italian thrown in for good measure.
It is an unassuming storefront on W. 117th. The place itself is very small, and there is a limited menu. You can order goat, chicken, fish, beef or vegetable with pasta or rice. The door was propped open, but since it was 35 degrees out and we were right by the door we asked to close it. It then got quite hot with the door closed. It appears their ventilation system is inadequate.
They were very accommodating for our large group of ten (with a reservation since it was a larger group – I wanted to give them a heads up we were coming). We almost filled up the place on our own, although there were two other tables of diners when we arrived. We sat around a long table and pulled chairs on the ends. I was glad I had called ahead.
Orders are placed at a counter (where you also pay at the end). We ordered in waves in order to not overtax the kitchen, but it turns out that was unnecessary. People who ordered last got served at the same time as the first wave of people who ordered because we had ordered similar things. It took a little longer to get the Kaykay delivered to the table, because it was a little more involved.
There is a sink in the dining room to wash your hands. Beverages and bananas were brought out while we waited for our food. Pro tip: the bananas are not an appetizer. They are to be sliced or mashed and mixed with the rice or pasta. The food was quickly brought to the table, and any minor mix-ups were quickly rectified without complaint.
Everything here is made from scratch, meat tossed upon a large flat-top grill and sautéed with vegetables and an array of spices. The quality of the food was excellent. It is very reminiscent of Indian food, with shai (chai), samosas and jabatic (chapati-like flatbread) served along with stewed or grilled meats and veggies. I ordered the goat with rice and vegetables, and another friend ordered the chicken so that we could try both.
Others in the group enjoyed pasta (angelhair pasta – although they call it spaghetti) or Kaykay (grilled jabatic mixed with goat gravy) instead of rice. The goat had some bones, but it was so tender that the meat easily fell off the bone. I enjoyed the goat, but preferred the chicken. The chicken had a very nice grilled flavor to it. The Basmati rice and sautéed vegetables were absolutely outstanding. The rice is flavored with fenugreek, cumin, coriander, cardamom and turmeric. I loved the sautéed greens, white beans and rice. Other vegetables include peas and carrots, potatoes, and okra. They also served a green chopped salad of greens with cucumber, red onion, green pepper and tomato with fresh lemon for acidity. Squeeze bottles of hot sauce and ranch dressing were delivered to the table, and the server suggested the ranch went particularly well with the chicken. I just put it on my salad, preferring the taste of the meat to be unadulterated.
The jabatic was like Indian griddled bread, but slightly sweet. It was a little greasy, but it was very thin and light, reminiscent of a scallion pancake. It had a slightly sweet flavor to it. We used forks, but I could imagine using the jabatic as a kind of injera to eat the food with our hands.
The kitchen served us chicken samosas when several of the folks had only ordered the beef. The server put it on the table, and we cut it into 8 pieces and shared it. Someone then did the same with the beef samosa. The filling in both samosa was different from Indian samosas. It was ground meat with some onion and no vegetables like the Indian potato and peas that I could see. The samosa themselves were perfectly fried and not at all greasy. The pastry was very delicate, and the filling was very flavorful. I think I preferred the beef over the chicken, but both were lovely.
The beverages are all $1 each. I ordered the shai (Yemeni tea), which I loved. I rarely find a chai that I enjoy. The flavors of cardamom, cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, and clove really shine here. I ordered it with milk, but it is also available without. I find most chais watery. Not so here. It was absolutely perfect. I had also ordered two cans of soda, but since the food was not as spicy as I expected I ended up taking the second can home with me. They had a container of what looked like mango juice in the dining area for people to drink, but it was almost gone by the time we were there.
The portions were enormous, and most of us got boxes for our leftovers. I will be definitely going back again soon. I want to have the chicken again and really want to try the fish as well. If you want to have a fun culinary adventure, I recommend checking out Kifaya’s Kitchen. It is open every day from 11 a.m. until 9 p.m.
The original plan was to attend the fish fry at Benedictine High School on Friday. They serve a fried fish dinner (2 cod pieces), baked fish dinner (1 cod piece), shrimp dinner (9 pieces), or pierogi dinner (8 pierogies) for $8 per dinner ($7.50 for seniors), which includes a baked potato or french fries, coleslaw or applesauce, bread, condiments, and coffee, tea or milk. They also serve clam chowder, fried clams, grilled cheese sandwich, macaroni and cheese, and onion rings. I was excited to try it, but all of my friends were less excited (or sick of fried food) and bailed. I didn’t feel like going there and facing a crowd by myself, so I reached out to a friend to meet me somewhere different.
I had fond memories of the sweet and sour fish at Han Chinese Kabob and Grill on Payne Avenue, and I have been meaning to get back there to order it again. Since I do not need to observe Lent (I just do it for the love of fried fish) I also ordered the wonton soup, which includes pork dumplings. It is enough to share, so I shared it with my friend. I also ordered some less-than-exciting steam buns on a kebab (seriously boring – do not recommend). She ordered some pot stickers and the Orange Beef Tenderloin.
There are two sweet and sour fish (whole fish) on the menu, and I could not remember which one we had ordered last time. I explained that there were ginger and aromatics and that it was a whole fish. The servers suggested I order the Sweet & Sour Crispy Fish. I was a little skeptical that it was the one I remembered – and I’m not sure if it was, but that certainly did not detract from my absolute enjoyment of the dish. First of all, it was a beautiful sight, with the tail curled up. It was lightly fried and served over a luscious ginger and garlic sweet and sour sauce. This is not the gloppy, bright orange sweet and sour sauce you find at most Chinese restaurants. It is mouthwateringly good. I had to keep removing small bones, but I think that’s because I am less adept at deboning a filet. The meat inside was moist and succulent. I ate the whole thing and had no leftovers, which is rare for me. The cheeks in particular were a treat, and my friend also enjoyed her couple of bites. I likewise enjoyed the bite of her orange beef tenderloin entree as well. I have a feeling we ordered the Sweet and Sour Mandarin Fish (click to see the photo), but I will just have to order it to try it. That fish was easy to debone and just as delicious. I am just not sure if it was fried, and I seem to remember an eye – although it could have been a clove of garlic. In any event, I do not regret ordering it, because it was delicious and hit the spot perfectly. The place had a nice amount of traffic (the booths in the back appear to be very popular choices), and the servers were very friendly and accommodating.
So if you are looking for a different kind of meatless Friday, consider the fish at Han Kabob.
If you are a regular reader you might have noticed that I enjoy Ethiopian food. I think it’s super fun and has great flavor. A third Ethiopian restaurant just opened in Cleveland – this time on the west side in Old Brooklyn. My friends and I decided to check it out. We were so excited that we didn’t let something like a winter weather advisory stop us. We had planned on meeting at 6:30 but pushed it up a half hour to get a jump on the snow that was supposed to arrive starting at 7 p.m. It was a good thing we did, because driving home several traffic lights were out and power was out at my home from midnight until 11:30 a.m. the next day. Luckily I had kept my leftovers on the back porch.
I arrived after battling rush hour traffic and exploring new-to-me side roads between Cleveland Heights and Old Brooklyn. What would normally take me 20 minutes took me 45. Several of my friends were already there and had ordered beverages. I parked in the large parking lot behind the building and walked around to the front entrance. Don’t be me. There is a door in the back up a couple of stairs. It’s much more convenient.
The place is a little odd. It’s part neighborhood bar and part Ethiopian restaurant. When entering from the front, the neighborhood bar is on the right and the dining room is on the left. If you aren’t greeted right away feel free to seat yourself. They had no Ethiopian beer yet, but had several crappy beers (Budweiser, MGD, Miller, Heineken,
Corona, etc.) to choose from. Pass. Hopefully that changes. E. had ordered a large Yuengling. My other friend had a large vodka and tonic. They also serve Ethiopian honey wine, but I decided to stick with soda since the drive home would be treacherous. Also worth noting: this is the only Ethiopian restaurant that I’ve ever seen with a kids menu and chicken tenders, wings, grilled cheese, and burgers. Guess they are trying to still keep the locals frequenting the bar happy. It’s a shame if the locals don’t try being adventurous, because the Ethiopian food was really good.
We ordered five orders of sambusa to start. We were a little unsure of what we were going to get, because there were two kinds listed on the various menus – one vegetarian with potato, onion, peas and lentils and one with ground beef. Happily we were served the vegetarian ones, because our friend who was running later than me had been craving them
and specifically asked us to order it for her. Lucy’s sambusa uses a different dough than I am used to. They were a little lighter and flakier than the ones I have had in the past, and they were huge. Everyone but me finished both of theirs. I took my second one home for later and reheated it for lunch.
If you’ve read my other Ethiopian restaurant posts here you know that I love tikil gomen, which is the cabbage, carrot and potato dish on their menu they call Alicha Alkilt. I wanted to try one of their tibs, and the Lega Tibs was the only one that served tikil gomen as its side. The others had salad. Lega Tibs are billed as “cubes of lean beef marinated with green pepper, seasoned
butter, exotic spices, onion, rosemary, garlic and fresh cut tomatoes,” but I would swear that it was lamb. The meat was a little tough and gristly. I enjoyed the flavor, and loved the tikil gomen. The seasoning was great in both dishes. I also ordered a side of their homemade cottage cheese. Ethiopian cottage cheese is not as creamy as American cottage cheese, but it does a nice job cutting down on the heat of some dishes.
Three of my friends ordered combination platters – vegetarian, beef, and chicken, respectively, so I was able to try a lot of different things. I absolutely loved the flavor of the Kaywat from the beef combination platter. It was ground beef (not cubes as billed) that were stewed with red hot pepper (berbere – a very typical Ethiopian flavor profile) and flavored with onion, garlic, ginger and seasoned butter. I had a couple bites of that and would definitely order it again in the future.
The vegetarian combination platter features red hot lentils, mild lentils, yellow split peas, shiro, collard greens, cabbage and salad. My friend, who is new to Cleveland and was on a quest to try all of the Ethiopian restaurants in DC before her husband was transferred here, also ordered a Timatim Fit for the table. Timatim Fit is a salad that uses chopped tomatoes, green peppers, lemon, onion and olive oil mixed with pieces of injera. It was a nice version of it.
My other friend ordered the chicken combination platter just to try the Kitfo, which isn’t chicken. Kitfo is Ethiopian steak tartar made with lean chopped beef, seasoned with spiced butter, cardamom and mitmita (a powdered seasoning mix that is orange-red in color and contains ground African bird’s eye chili peppers, cardamom seed, cloves, and salt). They serve the kitfo either raw, rare, or medium, so don’t let the tartar of it all scare you off. It came out medium on the combination platter. It was very tender and flavorful. The fifth person in our intrepid band loves raw Kitfo, so I knew he would be ordering that. He enjoyed it and had no leftovers either.
Dorowat can be quite spicy, but it is one of the most popular and well-known Ethiopian dishes. The different lentil dishes have different spices and flavor profiles. The red lentils can be quite spicy. The collard greens are tender and have a nice flavor. The cabbage, carrot and potato (tikil gomen) is not spicy at all and has a lot of tumeric. I make it at home sometimes.
Everyone really enjoyed their meals. Ethiopian can be deceiving, because when you get the food put in front of you it doesn’t look like it would be filling. However, the injera you use to eat the food with expands and fills you up. My ex-boyfriend and I used to split a vegetarian combo between the two of us at Empress Taytu, so I was prepared to bring home leftovers to enjoy the next day. Most of us did. I was very impressed that my friend with the beef combination platter finished hers. She said it was just so good she couldn’t stop eating it.
I’ve hopefully intrigued you enough to give it a try if you haven’t yet. The service was a little slow, but they were very friendly and kept coming out to update us on the status of our orders. We were enjoying ourselves, so it didn’t really bother us. When we ventured out into the snowy tundra she came running after us because one of us had forgotten their leftovers. We were cleaning off our cars, so none of us had left yet. The drive home was a bit harrowing, but we all made it home safe and had full bellies.
There’s a new ramen place in town that is worth a visit. Xinji opened in October 2017 on Lorain Avenue in Ohio City and is a welcome addition to the Cleveland dining scene. The Cantonese proprietor and chef got his start making sushi and working at Akira Sushi and Hibachi in Solon as well as Momocho and Gingko and the famous Momofuku in New York City. In any event, he is meticulous about sourcing his ingredients, and it shows. Most importantly, the ramen noodles are Sun Noodle ramen noodles – the best one according to my friends in the know.
The parking is mostly street parking, but you don’t need to feed the meters after six p.m. and the parking lot across the street from Xinji doesn’t appear to be patrolled (someone was teaching their girlfriend to drive a stick shift in the parking lot when we were leaving). If I’m wrong please mention it in the comments! I was lucky enough to get a spot on the street across from Xinji.
The restaurant has a modern, industrial look, with plenty of exposed brick walls and duct work along with rather austere metal tables and chairs in steel gray and deep blue. The chairs could be a bit more comfortable. I don’t know why our local ramen places have such uncomfortable chairs. Maybe to make sure diners don’t linger?
The menu is fairly limited, with five ramen choices (unfortunately tonkatsu broth is not one of the choices), two rice bowls, and lots of different appetizers to choose from, including wings, fried chicken, two different dumplings, three different kimchi balls, and three different bao (steam buns – the flat ones, not the round fluffy ones). I ordered the special kimchi ball with peaches and miso ramen with chicken (instead of pork) and a soy egg added to it. I am not a huge fan of pork belly, but next time I’ll suck it up because the extras added up! The kimchi ball was interesting. It was nicely fried and was pretty to look at. Cutting into it, it had a nice kick to it, but was not too heavy. Others at my table ordered the spicy pork dumplings, which were absolutely outstanding (my friend N. still raves about them) and the fried chicken bao. The dumplings are amazing – and not to be missed! The fried chicken in the bao was really nicely fried and had great flavor.
As for my miso ramen, the broth was very dense and rich – almost too much so. It is served with scallion, woodear mushrooms, corn, and bean sprouts. My one criticism is that it was lukewarm and cooled quickly. Ramen is supposed to be eaten quickly, but I would have liked it to be a little hotter. Not hot so you burn your mouth, but a little more warmth would be appreciated. The noodles had a rougher texture and nice bite to them. They weren’t overcooked. The service that first night was really slow. Like glacially slow. I normally don’t complain about service, but I would have liked a second sake at some point. This sake was absolutely delicious. My friend N. ordered the champagne sake, but I preferred my choice. It was light and delicious with just a hint of fruit.
I intend to try a tonkatsu rice bowl on my next visit, which will hopefully be soon. If you haven’t been yet, be sure to give it a try. I know you won’t regret it. They are now serving during lunchtime hours as well, so you have plenty of opportunities.