Crust

August 15, 2017

Crust Midtown has great pizza and subs and is the perfect lunch-time stop. I haven’t been to the one in Tremont, but the one in Midtown is perfect when I get a craving for crusty bread or pizza. Do two locations make it a “local chain”? I’m categorizing it as one. The Tremont location just opened and has expanded including a liquor license. It’s also open until 9 PM every day except Sunday. The Midtown location offers more seating with all the businesses nearby, and is only open until 2:30 Monday through Friday. In addition to a nice range of seating options they also have a few tables for al fresco dining, which don’t see a lot of use in the winter. I tend to go at off-lunch hours, so I’ve always had very quick service.

The ovens are not wood-fired, but they turn out a good pizza at 550 degrees. Everything is made from scratch, and the dough is hand-tossed. The pizza slices are huge. One slice fills up a small carryout box. The crust is delicious, and they have a variety of toppings to choose from. They also have pre-made pies to choose from that don’t require a wait. I ordered a slice of the Margherita, which is my go-to order at a new pizza place. The crust was chewy and had a nice crumb to it. The tomatoes and basil were very fresh, which was great. The Lemon Rosemary Chicken smelled wonderful, and I will have to try that sometime soon.

As good as the pizza is, I really like their subs. Like the pizza, the subs are also quite substantial. The first sub I tried was the Ultimate Club , which features slab bacon, turkey, capicola, provolone, lettuce, tomato, and basil mayo. My sub came out of the oven a little charred, but I really enjoyed the flavor of it. The meats were delicious and fresh, and I just really enjoyed every bite. The subs are very filling (at least for me). I was only able to eat half and took the other half home for later.

One of my friends swears by their meatball sub, so I met her a few weeks later to try it. The meatballs were soft, the cheese was perfectly melty, and it had the perfect ratio of meat, sauce and cheese. The photo here is just half of the meatball sub, so they have four substantial meatballs in the sub. I enjoyed the sub a lot and would probably get it again if I were craving a meatball sub.

If you are looking for a solid slice of pizza or tasty sub be sure to check out Crust.

Contact info:

Crust Midtown
3000 St Clair Avenue,
Cleveland, OH
216-589-9711

Crust Tremont
2258 Professor Ave
Cleveland, OH
216-583-0257

You can find the menus for both locations here.


Saucisson

June 10, 2017

Since I wrote about The Red Chimney in my last post I decided to stay in Slavic Village for the next one as well. Started in 2013, Saucisson’s mission is to provide unique and hard to find products. From hand cured meats to specially spiced sausages, Saucisson supports local farms that are humane and hormone free. The lady butchers at Saucisson, Melissa Khoury and Penny Barend, made a name for themselves selling at the local farmers markets, hustling at pop-ups, and providing their bold rillets and charcuterie for restaurants around town. After working out of the kitchen at the Katz Club Diner, they recently opened a storefront on Fleet Avenue just off I-77. Full disclosure: I was a Kickstarter backer (“Babs backer”) to help them fund the storefront, and I am really pleased with what they have done. I stopped in on the day they opened on March 16 and have been back several times since. They were serving nachos that day (see photo right). I have been buying their sausages, mortadella and currywursts since before the place opened, but I love seeing their thick and nicely marbled pork chops and strip steaks as well as all the other meats they are butchering there. They made a Canadian bacon that was absolutely perfect a little while ago, and they are known for their tasso ham and beef jerky. The freezers and coolers are stocked with their frozen soups made with their products, rendered lard, ground meat, and soup bones as well as other products from other local vendors like LeCracker, Cleveland Kraut, and Montana Girl Mustard.

They are open Thursday, Friday and Saturday from 11-7 (and processing and prepping in their huge, clean kitchen in back on the other days) and serve a tasty lunch special as well. They also advertise their pop-ups at local restaurants and cafes like brunches at Rising Star or most recently their Memorial Day picnic at Terrestrial Brewing Company. You can follow them on Instagram to find out what they are serving each week and where they will be holding their next pop-up.

When I stopped in for lunch a few weeks ago I enjoyed their BBQ chicken sandwich with pickled pepper and red onion slaw and their homemade smokey sausage navy bean soup. The chicken was moist and delicious, the kraut was not at all overpowering, and the soup had just a hint of smoky spice to it that I loved. They have a few tables where you can sit and enjoy your meal. The place is light and bright, with floor-to-ceiling windows. The neighborhood is excited they are there, and they are talking with some urban farms in the area to sell their products. So be sure to check them out and support them!

Contact info:

Saucisson
5324 Fleet Avenue
Cleveland, OH 44105
(216) 303-9067


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


Kouign Amann at The Fluffy Duck Cafe

March 24, 2017

I had never heard of Kouign Amann until about six months ago when someone in one of the food groups I am in asked if anyone was making them in Cleveland. No one was. The closest bakery seemed to be in Pittsburgh. Well, we have one now at a delightful coffee shop on Chester Avenue across from the Cleveland Clinic.

The Fluffy Duck Cafe opened in December 2016. It is located on the ground floor of the Innova building across from the construction that will be the Cleveland Clinic’s Health Education Building. I had watched the building go up for a while now and was curious who the tenants would be. I first heard about the Fluffy Duck when Chef Doug Katz raved about it right after it opened. I should have known it would stand up to the expectations. I delivered my translations early this morning and could use a jolt of caffeine for the next one, so I decided to treat myself to a nice coffee and pastry. When I saw they were serving a Kouign Amann I knew what I was going to order, since I’ve been wanting to try it.

I love the format of the Fluffy Duck Cafe. All of the windows gave the cafe a bright and sunny feeling. The clean white walls and clean lines of the wooden tables and chairs and those lining the windows gave it a modern feel (you can see the tables reflected off the bakery case in the third picture). They offer free wifi, so I can see myself coming here with my laptop to translate when I need a change of scenery. The open kitchen allows you to watch the staff busy rolling out dough and making the pastries. The baker had a container full of eggs when I was ordering, and she was turning them into dough.

I wanted a coffee and checked out the list of available coffees. I was leaning towards a cappucino until the flavored lattes caught my eye. I was immediately intrigued by the orange cardamom latte. They use local whole milk and good quality coffee beans from a roaster in Grand Rapids. It is a fine cup of coffee.

I was given a plate with my Kouign Amann, and the barista whipped up my latte, complete with delightful milk foam art. I carefully carried my plates to a table and looked forward to biting in. They had been holding a Coffee with a Cop event, so when the police officer saw what I ordered he raved about his and told me what a delight it was. As he explained, it is flaky and sweet and then you hit a bit of salt. He told me I would enjoy it, and I did. I also enjoyed chatting with him as he was on his way out.

Let me tell you, he was right. I don’t know how it compares with other Kouign Amanns since it was my first one, but this one was delicious. Light and flaky with a nice crumb to it, the caramelized topping with a hit of salt really made an enjoyable pastry. I will definitely be back. The ham and cheese croissants and almond croissants also intrigue me. The menu is limited to pastries and a few lunch-type items after 11 a.m., but what they do offer they do well.

The list of flavored lattes and teas sounded nice, and I believe they might change them out since the menu is a piece of paper on a clipboard instead of a hanging board. They also offer pour overs with three weekly offerings.

So if you are looking for a nice little respite or you have been looking for a Kouign Amann in Cleveland, you need to check it out.

Contact info:

The Fluffy Duck Cafe
10001 Chester Avenue
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


Kintaro Sushi & Hot Pot

February 15, 2017
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Photo by Yelp user Sushi L

Kintaro is a full-service, all-you-can-eat sushi and hot pot restaurant just off I-480 off Ridge Road. Everything is made to order. The place has been recently renovated and has two separate dining areas as well as a sushi bar. Both sides are bright and cheerful, with some stone dividers, neon lighting and lots of bamboo and wood decor. Upon entering, you can choose between sushi and hot pot, although you can opt out of the all-you-can-eat deal to order menu items individually or order the all-you-can-eat sushi on the hot pot side if you are dining with friends who want hot pot.

imag0789Hot pot is a fun way to eat with friends. The tables have inset hot pot burners, and you choose your menu items, ranging from the broth, vegetables and fish and meat. The fish and meat choices range from pork, fatty beef, chicken, crab, clams, several fish choices, lunch meat and dumplings as well as more adventurous items like beef tripe, pork stomach, quail egg and cuttlefish balls. They also offer 28 vegetarian ingredients. You also choose your noodle to enjoy with the broth at the end of your meal. Choices include instant ramen noodles, potato vermicelli, udon, rice noodles or some fun noodles like a wide, crystal clear noodle that my friend Nancy ordered and enjoyed. There is also a sauce bar where you can choose from various soy sauces, “Kitaro sauce,” oyster sauce, sesame oil, hot chili sauce, cilantro, scallions, etc. to flavor your broth. You have two hours to eat your hot pot, and they encourage you to be discerning in your choices by threatening to charge by the pound for waste.

The real deal is at lunch. The all-you-can-eat sushi and hot pot will run you about $25-26 at dinner (and you can upgrade some hot pot items for a total of $32), but it is only $11 for hot pot and $15 for sushi at lunch photogrid_1481655342555(11 to 2:30 Monday through Saturday). The lunch sushi and hot pot choices aren’t as varied as at dinner, but there are still plenty to choose from.

The first time I went I chose the all-you-can-eat sushi during lunch. You are given a menu and check off on the menu what you want. For $15 I enjoyed a miso soup, salad, several pieces of nigiri, tempura, an eel hand roll, and a Jeep specialty roll. As you can see from the left, it was a lot of food (and all-you-can-eat is usually a joke for me because I get full quickly on a good day – I’m their ideal customer). Apart from the tempura I enjoyed it. The tempura was very bland in my opinion. Yes, I know you need to dip it in a sauce, but it should have at least some underlying flavor. The sushi was fresh, and the server was very personable. I ordered it in several stages, and barely finished the specialty roll (my last stage). If you want something more filling like hibachi or udon noodle or a rice bowl, you may want to just order a small appetizer, your entree and then see how you feel. I was stuffed from my lunch choices, but I was very happy with what I ordered. For me I need the miso imag0786-1soup and salad for a sushi meal. Others might choose to skip it. My friend who came to join us for hot pot during dinner ordered just sashimi and as few rolls with rice as she could to get the most bang for her buck. I thought that was a little crazy, because with sushi the rice is just as important as the fish in my opinion. But to each their own. And that is the beauty of this place – each person can order just what you want or you can choose to share.

Our hot pot dinner adventure was a lot of fun. Since I was sick, my friends suggested I get my own pot. They then shared two broths. We all ordered the Chicken Broth, and they also ordered the Sha Cha broth, which was delicious (I took a sip from a fresh spoon). I’m definitely getting that next time. If you like spicy, they also have a Sichuan Spicy broth. I over-ordered the raw items, but luckily I only left vegetables and a little bit of fatty beef, so my server didn’t charge me the waste fee. But I would have been completely okay if he had though since it was my mistake thinking they would have small portions for one person. I also over-ordered thinking the broth would just be broth and would need some add-in flavor, but they added some things for flavor right out of the gate. I ordered the fatty beef, dumplings, cilantro fish balls, frozen crab, several kinds of mushrooms, broccoli, cilantro, Chinese cabbage, and bean sprouts. I somehow got turnip on my plate instead of the black mushrooms (47 vs. 57 so write clearly on your paper).

Photo by Nancy Heller

Photo by Nancy Heller

I would definitely skip the frozen crab. Since it was previously frozen it was very difficult to get the meat out of the shell. Go fresh or skip it. The fish balls were really good as well. My friend Nancy ordered the Fuchow fish balls and liked them better than my cilantro fish balls, which I enjoyed (I’m a big fan of cilantro). We tried choices off of each others’ trays, which was nice and added to the variety. I was not a fan of the Chinese sausage, for example. It had a cloyingly sweet taste, but she and her husband enjoyed them. I loved the dumplings the most. I dipped them in sauce after cooking them in the broth and, while they were filling, they had a really enjoyable flavor.

Even though it is all-you-can-eat, the quality at Kintaro was pretty good. It’s not Pacific East, Ginko or Ushabu, but you pay for that quality there. Nancy is a tough customer (having been to China), and she was impressed. I will definitely be going back at lunch, now that I know what to expect. I can see this going on my regular lunch rotation since it is such a deal. And if you are looking for a fun meal with friends you should definitely give this a shot. I think you’ll enjoy yourselves as much as we did.

Contact info:

Kintaro Sushi & Hot Pot
7325 Northcliff Avenue
Brooklyn, OH 44144
(216) 459-8862