Tableside service at EDWINS

August 1, 2017

My friends and I met at EDWINS on Shaker Square for dinner last week. We took advantage of the amazing weather and chose to sit outside on their patio. It was 65 degrees and sunny with a light breeze. The night was practically perfect.

When we sat down we were asked if we wanted still or sparkling water, and they kept our glasses topped off the whole night. I enjoyed my Hemingway Daiquiri, but was less enamored with the French 75, which was made with gin instead of champagne as I am used to. The service was exceptional from start to finish. The staff is trained here for six months, three months front of house and three months back of house. EDWINS just does a great job preparing them for the food service industry. We are lucky to have it here. A little birdie told us September’s Dinner in the Dark will be at EDWINS, and they will be inviting some of their graduates to come cook for us. Nancy said the last time they did it it was exceptional.

I had decided to treat myself to Le Burger, which is prepared tableside, but was waivering between the burger and the steak. Our server insisted Le Burger was the right choice, no matter what. Le Burger features hand ground beef, bacon, mushrooms, fried garlic and sauce Diane. Not just any beef, but filet ground right at the table with herbs then added in. Our tableside preparer had trouble with the grinder (some part wasn’t moving properly), but once it was fixed it worked perfectly.

The formed burger patty was then taken inside to grill while the preparer makes the sauce Diane. He started with goose fat, then added butter, bacon, mushrooms, shallots, Worcestershire sauce, dijon mustard and garlic. He then added brandy and flambéed it up. It was quite a sight to see.

Then he added cream to the sauce and let it thicken until the plated patties were brought back out to be finished. The patties were generously topped with the sauce and arugula and served with a side of goose fat fried potatoes, which were absolutely luscious.

The burger was tender and cooked to my specifications. My friend Nancy also thoroughly enjoyed her burger, while her husband loved the steak and asparagus.

I also ordered a side of the Broccolini Polonaise to get some veggies in. The broccolini were perfectly cooked and served with brown butter, breadcrumbs and grated hard-boiled egg. I thoroughly enjoyed it that night as well as with the other half of my burger the next day.

I continued the tableside theme by ordering cherries jubilee. I had never had cherries jubilee and had always wanted to try it. They used to prepare bananas foster tableside, but now they serve it as a french toast dessert. I had a different preparer for this course. The melted butter, cherries and sugar were heated in the skillet along with some lemon juice. Once the cherries softened and reduced down a bit he added some alcohol (if I remember correctly rum and Grand Marnier) and flambéed it up.

It was served with some housemade vanilla ice cream. The cherry sauce had thickened and hardened a bit, so I had some bites that were a toffee-like consistency and some that were creamy. The deep red of the cherries looks amazing against the white of the vanilla ice cream, and the flavor is even more amazing than how it looks.

I enjoyed it a lot, but the real star for me was the Creme Brulee. My friend let me have a couple bites of hers, and it was just about the best I’ve ever had. The sugar was thin and flaky, and the eggy custard was amazingly delicious. I will be going back for that again soon!

Sitting outside on the patio and enjoying the tableside service was truly amazing, but they also offer the service inside all year round. The preparers both agreed it was a little trickier outside than inside, but the flames did not go out so I consider it a success.

Apart from one friend who didn’t like her eggplant (but enjoyed her Chocolate Pyramid dessert and was pleased with how the staff handled her not liking the eggplant) we all went home very happy with our experience at EDWINS.

Contact info:

EDWINS Leadership & Restaurant Institute
13101 Shaker Square
Cleveland, OH 44120
(216) 921-3333


Sangria y Tapas

July 10, 2017

I apologize for the delay between posts. My real job has been keeping me very, very busy, and I haven’t had a chance to sit down and have enough time to craft a decent review, which this place definitely deserves.

I first heard about Sangria y Tapas on a New Day Cleveland feature. I am a sucker for sangria and paella. Especially good paella. I quickly organized a dinner there with my dining out group.

The more I examined the menu beforehand, I decided to eat my way through the tapas menu instead of ordering the paella. Everyone at the table ordered tapas that night, and we passed the dishes around and got to taste everyone’s choices. I went in determined to order the Spanish tortilla, which is a simple omelet of eggs, onion and potatoes, and a couple other small plates.

We started off the evening with sangria. Oh, that sangria. I ordered a half pitcher of the white sangria since most of my tapas choices called for a white wine. I loved every single drop. I got to taste the red sangria and the champagne sangria, and they were both great too (in fact on the second visit I ordered a single glass of the champagne sangria instead of a pitcher). But I really, really like their white sangria. One of my friends used the straws like chopsticks to fish out the chunks of fresh fruit, which I thought was a much more elegant solution than sticking a fork or your fingers in.

They brought out baskets of bread with oil to nibble on while we decided what to get. The bread was quite tasty, and if I remember correctly I believe it was from Blackbird Baking Company. The dipping oil was nice, but the oil was a little off on the second trip.

I went a little overboard and ordered a lot of dishes. The Tortilla a la Espanola was perfectly cooked and was exactly as I expected it to be. Fluffy and flavorful with creamy potatoes.

The Camarones a la Cancun (shrimp cocktail with avocado, cilantro and onion in a tomato sauce) was a little sweeter than I expected, but I enjoyed it. I wish it had come with a few more crackers, because I was left with a lot of tomato sauce left over once I ate the shrimp and avocado out of it. If you plan on ordering this save one or two pieces of bread.

The Aceitunas Marinadas (marinated olives) were a delight. They had a kick to them from lots of balsamic vinegar. I ended up taking them home with the leftover tortilla and eating them for lunch the next day. I think they were even better the second day! I would definitely get them again.

I also ordered the Vieras a Cebon (sea scallops stuffed with short ribs). I wanted to love them and they were good and perfectly cooked, but the other dishes were so flavorful that these were just kind of underwhelming. If you order them try to eat them first while your palate is still fresh.

Another standout was the Croquetas San Miguel (potato fritters stuffed with serrano ham and drizzled with honey). The honey really complemented the fritters and was a great addition. I loved these!

We ordered so many other small plates. One of my vegetarian friends was thrilled with her Patatas Bravas (spicy potatoes), mushroom risotto, and the Vegetales a la Parilla (medley of grilled vegetables – pictured here).

The bacon-wrapped quail, meat and cheese platter, and stuffed mushrooms with crab meat were also very well-received.

The desserts were also amazing. They bring around a tray of all the available desserts, and diners choose. I ordered the creme brulee cheesecake, which was superb.

The flan was also a standout. Creamy and delicious with an amazing caramel sauce. If I remember correctly someone at the other end of the table ordered the Almond Cake, which was also delicious but was not photogenic by the time it came to me.

The desserts capped off a perfect meal, but one really nice touch is the complementary chilled almond liquor they serve as a digestif. They showed us the bottle at our request so that we could buy it to drink at home. It was really lovely.

One thing that absolutely should not be missed is their Cafe a la Espanole. It is made with coffee, Kahlua, Grand  Marnier, Bailey’s and whipped cream. It’s really a dessert in itself. They make it table-side, and it is a sight to see and delicious to boot. The sparks coming off the glass are great.

Everyone was so thrilled with the meal that they were talking about coming back soon, which is something we never do. I scheduled a follow-up for Paella Valenciana a few weeks later.

We had such a delightful time the first time that we were able to give the service a bit of a pass the second time. Even though I called to reserve a table and called back to add two more with plenty of notice they seemed surprised when we arrived. They were very booked up with a huge birthday party that day and a couple other larger tables had come and added people without giving them notice, so they were fairly in the weeds. They eventually managed to seat us together at one table after a bit of a wait and after bringing in tables and chairs from the patio (it was raining, so there was no one seated out there). The loud live music also wasn’t conducive to chatting, so we were happy that they moved us out of the main room to our final destination in a side room.

Our waiter was noticeably overwhelmed, and I’m sure the kitchen was as well. He forgot to mention a couple of specials that one of our fellow diners would have ordered if she had known about it. We had already ordered when he approached a neighboring table and told them the specials, including the missing ones. The photo below is the Seafood Special, featuring langostino, scallops, clams, calamari and mussels. Three of my dining companions split this as well as a couple other small plates and enjoyed it. The entree in the rear of the photo is the Fideuà, which is similar to paella but made with noodles instead of rice.

Since the kitchen was in the weeds, our paella didn’t wow us as it probably would have otherwise. I enjoyed it, but some of my dining companions were less impressed. I will definitely be going back and ordering it again, because I just love paella and this was a very good version of it. I also enjoyed the leftovers the next day.

Everyone was served a side salad, which surprised us. One salad came out without dressing (oops), but a side of dressing was quickly requested and brought to the table. We also enjoyed the housemade potato chips that apparently come with dinners. We all nibbled at the crisp chips, which were perfectly seasoned. I think they might have also brought a platter of vegetables to the table, but it never got down to my end.

I also ordered the garlic soup and didn’t love it, but that might have been just me. There was a boiled egg in it acting as a kind of dumpling, and I am not a fan of egg since I’m allergic. I ate around it.

The overall consensus was that Sangria y Tapas is a hidden gem. The tapas menu is extensive and has something for everyone. I highly recommend it! I only wish it were closer.

Contact info:

Sangria y Tapas
27200 Detroit Avenue
Westlake, OH 44145
(440) 617-6476


The Red Chimney

June 2, 2017

The Red Chimney on Fleet Avenue in Slavic Village (or as it’s called by the residents “Warzawa”) is hard to describe. It is a Slavic Village institution that has been in business since the 1970s. It’s like your typical Americana diner with a Polish influence, and the decor hasn’t been updated since the 1970s. The food is heavily Eastern European and pure comfort, ranging from cheap breakfasts served all day to sandwiches and burgers and entrees like stuffed cabbage, pierogi, kielbasi, wiener schnitzel and city chicken. The food is very affordable. I think the most expensive thing on the menu is twenty-five chicken wings for $16.99, but most dinners are under $10. On weekdays before 11 a.m. you can get two eggs, ham, sausage or bacon, potatoes, and toast for just $3. The service is quick and efficient, and the majority of the customers are all over the board, from a table of police officers, a table of businessmen holding a meeting to a table of young people trying to get rid of their hangovers with a nice greasy breakfast.

I keep coming back for their chicken noodle soup, which is probably one of the best soups I have had in a long time. Chock full of homemade noodles, chunks of fresh carrot and celery, and shredded chicken in a tasty broth, I can’t get enough of it.

On my first visit I ordered the stuffed cabbage dinner. It is served with soup or salad, sauerkraut, your choice of potato and rye bread or dinner rolls. I went with the mashed potato and couldn’t decide on the bread so the waitress brought me one of each. They were both delicious. The rye bread was soft and flavorful, and the dinner roll was yeasty and delicious. So good! I’m not sure if I enjoyed the somewhat blander tomato sauce they used, but I’m sure most people would love it. I prefer dousing my stuffed cabbage with ketchup to give it a kick (I know, I’m a heathen, but I’ve been eating it that way since I grew up eating my grandmother’s stuffed cabbage). Next time I’ll just order ketchup on the side without any shame. The meat and rice filling is tightly packed and flavorful, and the serving was enormous. I brought half of my meal home (one whole cabbage roll and half the mashed potatoes) and thoroughly enjoyed it the next day.

I came back just a few days later for the soup again. This time I decided to order a club sandwich to go with my soup. The meat and fixings in the club sandwich were super fresh. In fact, the tomato kept falling out of the bread, and I ended up wearing a lot of it. I learned to order a side of Thousand Island Dressing with club sandwiches back in my Bakers Square days, and my request was accommodated without any questions. I chose the french fries as my side, but they also throw in a couple onion rings, which were really delicious. The fries themselves were nothing special, but I nibbled on them because they were there. It also came with a small side of coleslaw, which was fresh and creamy and overflowed onto the side plate it was served on. Again, I ended up taking half of my meal home for later.

The place is clean, friendly, and about as old-school as they come. The servers are friendly and efficient, the portions are huge, and the soup overflows the bowl. Every time. And every time I am tempted to drink the last drops directly from the bowl, but decide manners are more important.

It is worth mentioning that they do not accept credit cards. It’s a cash only restaurant, so be prepared. There is plenty of parking along the side and in back as well as across the street, and there is a door off Fleet Avenue as well as off the back parking lot. Slavic Village has gotten a bad reputation, but the people in the neighborhood are working hard to counteract that and it was recently voted the winning host neighborhood for Cleveland Chain Reaction. Cleveland Chain Reaction is a concept backed by LeBron James called “Cleveland Hustles,” with local business owners hustling to get their idea off the ground. Hopefully Slavic Village will once again become an up-and-coming neighborhood with the total economic boost to the neighborhood predicted to exceed $1 million.

Contact info:

The Red Chimney
6501 Fleet Avenue
Cleveland, OH 44105
(216) 441-0053


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


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


Algebra Tea House

April 13, 2017

Algebra Tea House is an eclectic tea shop in Little Italy that serves beverages such as tea, coffee, smoothies and shakes, plus Middle Eastern cuisine (the owner was born in Pakistan and his family lived in Syria, Kuwait, Tripoli and Libya – he also lived in Austria for a while). The cafe is also very vegan friendly and has a large assortment of healthy menu options. Owner Ayman Alkayali is an artist and a businessman, and he created all of the eclectic cups in the shop. He also appears to enjoy woodworking and hates straight lines if the door and the shelving units are anything to go by. The front door, tables and shelves were hand-crafted by Ayman, and his paintings cover the walls. He put a lot of work into creating the shop from a bike shop with no gas or electricity. Algebra Tea House opened its doors in August 2001. It was the first non-Italian establishment in the Little Italy neighborhood.

Algebra is opened everyday from 9am – 11pm. They serve breakfast specials on Saturday and Sunday alongside the regular menu from 9 am – 1 pm. Even though he is Muslim you can smell the bacon in the air on the weekends. The smell of Middle Eastern spices also blends with citrus from the orange peel resting atop a wood burning stove.

Do not come here if you are in a hurry. Most of the time, there is only one employee working and they can only do so much. This is a place to linger and relax. There is even Bedoun seating around a low table. My knee would never cooperate with that, so I was also happy to see higher tables and chairs (there’s even a large couch). He designed Algebra to be a place for people to commune together. There is a selection of games in the back to play with and a book exchange library on the front right wall.

The first time I was here was in 2010 or 2011. I met a group of tea drinkers here and had a wonderful afternoon getting to know a lot of interesting ladies. In fact, I met a lifelong friend that day (Hi, G!).

I was last here on a Saturday, and it took an hour and a half to get the tea and kebab I ordered. I have to admit that was a little frustrating, because it shouldn’t take an hour and a half to make a tea. I probably would have ordered a second or third one to go with my food if they hadn’t waited to serve the tea with my food. The server did offer the table half a House Smoothie (a vegan smoothie with mango, strawberry and banana blended with rosewater), which I grabbed since they had all been served their food at that point. It was very refreshing! I’d definitely order it next time. They had three people behind the counter (one just doing the dishes) and were obviously in the weeds, so I do plan on giving them a third chance during the week some time. You order at the counter, and they (eventually) bring your drinks and food to the table. You pay when you leave.

I was there that Saturday with my tea group, so I was feeling more adventurous than ordering a straight Darjeeling or Orange Pekoe tea. The menu had a very wide selection of black, green, white, and ethnic teas as well as chais and “comfort blends” (basically spiced milks). Where else will you find hot chocolate made with chocolate, steamed milk, and rosewater? They also have a large selection of house roasted coffees. I decided to get the Friday Market Libyan Tea, which features black tea, roasted peanuts, mint and brown sugar. I was intrigued. It was the wildest yet one of the most delicious teas I have ever enjoyed. The mint was floating on the surface along with a good amount of roasted peanuts. The brown sugar meant I didn’t need to add any sugar. It was perfect just as it is. I also had the Moroccan Mint because my friend ordered me the wrong tea, but it was also lovely with fresh mint leaves. I had wanted to try their special tea that day, a green tea with mint cinnamon, but she must have misunderstood me when I asked.

I also ordered the Iraqi kebab, which is made of ground beef and lamb mixed with garlic, parsley, sumac and Palestinian spices and wrapped with fresh vegetables, hummus, harissa and a yogurt mint sauce in a homemade pita. I really enjoyed it. It was obviously fresh and was very flavorful. It definitely hit the spot.

Other choices include numerous salads and a falafal sandwich, shawarma sandwich, hummus sandwich, “Zoho gyro,” Cajun chicken sandwich, smoked turkey sandwich with zattar, and bagel sandwich. There are also various “plates” featuring fool madams, falafal, hummus, eggplant, labneh, sardines, or Syrian tomatoes as well as several “all day breakfast choices” that include shakshuka (Shak-shooka), a Saudi breakfast of carmelized onions, sauteed tomatoes and scrambled eggs with a side of warm pita. I’m familiar with the Israeli version. Another fellow diner had the spinach pie plate and loved it. The prices are affordable to appeal to the college crowd.

One of the people in the group who was a regular ordered the red lentil soup, and it came out piping hot in one of the coolest bowls I have ever seen. It’s round shape was intriguing, and the metal probably kept it hot for longer than a regular bowl would. The soup had fresh spinach floating on top and looked delicious. He enjoyed the soup very much.

Algebra is known for its hummus. The owner soaks large amounts of chickpeas overnight and makes big batches in an industrial-sized food processor. I know because I watched him grab the food processor from the shelf next to where I was sitting and pile in chick peas until they were almost overflowing out of the container. The hummus is smooth and creamy, drizzled with olive oil and dollops of what looks like a red pepper tapenade (but it could also be harissa), garnished with cucumber and tomato, and sprinkled with a mixture of spices on top.

The desserts also sound amazing. The Banana Algebra, featuring sauteéd fruit with rosewater, cardamom, nutmeg and cinnamon, served over ice cream, sounds amazing. As does the Chocolate Chip Deli, homemade chocolate chip cookies topped with wildberry ice cream, bananas, whipped cream, cherry and nutmeg. The desserts all feature some kind of fruit and/or ice cream and sound healthy in addition to delicious.

In short, this place features lots of Middle Eastern treats that appear to be all homemade. They have a wide choice of beverages and lots of vegan-friendly items. You can also buy loose leaf tea to make at home as well as a variety of grocery items.

Contact info:

Algebra Tea House
2136 Murray Hill Road
Cleveland, OH 44106


Fish Fry Friday #3 – El Carnicero

March 19, 2017

In keeping with my decision to eat at three church fish fries and three restaurant fish fries, this week a restaurant fish fry was on the docket. My original decision was to go to Sachsenheim Hall for their fish fry, but St. Patrick’s Day threw a wrench in my plans. They were not serving fish on Friday, but instead were doing an Irish buffet. One thing most people don’t know about me is that I hate corned beef. I can stomach it in a Reuben, but I also only eat a Reuben once every five years or so. Corned beef and boiled cabbage, carrots and potatoes? Gag me with a pitchfork. An Irish buffet was not going to be my focus.

I had wanted to try the fish fry at El Carnicero from the moment one of the members of All Things Food in Cleveland posted a photo ad for it in the group. It just looked amazing. I have tried three times to get to El Carnicero, but something has always come up to thwart my plans to organize something for my dining out group. The first time it was closed for a staff holiday party, the second time I was sick and the group went without me, and I think I was out of town for the third time my friends went. When Sachsenheim fell through I focused on El Carnicero, which is also on the west side. Apparently El Carcinero sometimes closes on St. Patrick’s Day, but luckily my friend Nancy ran into Chef/Owner Eric Williams, who assured her they would be open and would be serving their fish fry.

You wouldn’t think a Mexican restaurant would be a good choice, but it really was! They serve Dos Equis beer battered lake perch and also spice things up with a chipotle tartar sauce and chimichurri-drizzled French fries. I was very excited about the prospect. I wasn’t going to let a little snow and ice deter me this time.

After wending my way past a car accident on I-90 that closed three lanes of traffic, I showed up about ten minutes after our agreed upon meeting time. I was thrilled to see that the restaurant has a very large parking lot behind it. I got one of the last spots in the lot and trudged through the sloppy, wintry mess. Even though El Carnicero does not take reservations Chef Eric had been more than happy to reserve a table of four for us. It turns out it wasn’t necessary, since there were quite a few tables available. Thanks, St. Patrick’s Day! It isn’t usually the case in this very popular eatery. The bar had some revelers, but it was a really good vibe overall. Our waitress was wearing green lipstick, which I thought was awesome. My friends already had their drinks, since they passed the accident right after it happened, while traffic was practically at a standstill when I got there. I was going to order a blood orange margarita until Edsel’s regular margarita arrived with its bright green color in honor of the holiday. To make things even more difficult Edsel highly recommended the hibiscus flower margarita. What was a girl to do? Why, order the margarita sampler and enjoy all three! They were all delicious, but I loved the blood orange the best, with the hibiscus coming a very close second. El Carnicero definitely serves some delicious margaritas! Slainte!

We ordered a few appetizers to share. I chose the smoked gouda queso dip,IMG_20170317_191533 Edsel ordered the sikil pak (toasted and ground pepita mixed with lime and chile jalapeño – as he explained “kind of like a hummus but made with pepita”), and Nancy (and the rest of us) wanted guacamole. It was a tough decision as to which guac to order, but we went with the tradicional. I would like to go back and order a sampler to try a few of the others as well. Next time. I loved all three appetizers, but I was really pleased with the queso dip. I kept dripping it on myself even though I tried everything to ensure I didn’t, but that’s just how I roll. It’s a gift.

All four of us ordered the fish fry. We can go back and order tamales, taquitos, etc. next time. We were all really glad we ordered the fish. The beer batter casing was perfectly cooked, not too crisp and not too soggy. The fish was light and flaky and almost melted in our mouths. It was the best piece of fish I’ve had in a while. I also loved the chimichurri French fries. The fries were shoestring, which get cold easily. Nancy thought hers were too cold and had a fresh batch delivered from the kitchen. I didn’t come for the fries, so I wasn’t as concerned. I really enjoyed the chimichurri sauce, which was fresh and light. I was craving it again once I left. Luckily I had to ask for a box and had the other half as leftovers.

Edsel ordered the brussel sprouts as a side, which I found to be very lemony but nicely roasted. Being a sucker for creamed corn I ordered the esquite (achiote creamed corn) and polished it off. It had a nice zing to it and had some heft to it that I think might have been potatoes.

After a delicious meal from start to finish, we left El Carnicero very happy and ventured our way back to the highway to head home in the snow. It was a nice way to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day.

Contact info:

El Carnicero
16918 Detroit Avenue
Lakewood, OH 44107
(216) 226-3415El Carnicero