Urban Kitchen & Deli

Urban Kitchen opened in the Innova building on Chester across from the Cleveland Clinic main entrance on Euclid Avenue. I noticed it because it is right next to Fluffy Duck Cafe, but I didn’t know enough about it to want to eat there. Plus, there was some confusion in my mind with Urban Farmer downtown. Well, once I heard that Urban Kitchen served Egyptian food my curiosity was piqued.

Urban Kitchen bills itself as “an American style kitchen and deli. Serving local specialties with only the finest ingredients sourced locally. At Urban Kitchen we believe in natural, wholesome, and healthy cooking.” It’s the same boilerplate farm to table blah blah most restaurants push. They do serve some deli sandwiches and burgers, but their Egyptian and Middle Eastern food really shines.

There’s plenty of parking in the back (use the phone app), and there is an entrance in the back as well. Enter off Chester, follow the drive under the building, and park in the lot. The entrance is in the corner near the Kindercare entrace.

I got some friends who are equally adventurous together to check them out. I was really intrigued by the Kushery. Kushery is a vegetarian dish made of rice, macaroni and lentils mixed together, topped with a spiced tomato sauce, and garlic vinegar; garnished with chickpeas and crispy fried onions. It looks like a total mess on a plate, but it is delicious. I ordered it for everyone to try, and everyone really enjoyed it. It even heats up well the next day.

I also ordered the Mousakaa, which is similar to the Greek moussaka, but not quite the same. It features a seasoned ground meat mixture between two layers of fried eggplant oven-baked to perfection and served with vermicelli rice. I really enjoyed the flavor of this. I have really become a fan of eggplant in the past few years. Unfortunately, one of my friends has a nightshade allergy and couldn’t try it, but another friend liked it so much that he went back to Urban Kitchen a week later and ordered it for himself.

My friend with the nightshade allergy ordered the Mashawi, which is a platter of grilled meats consisting of Kofta (ground lamb kabob), Tawook (marinated chicken breast) served with Persian fava and dill rice, grilled veggies and garlic sauce. She really enjoyed it, even if it is very similar to some dishes at Aladdin’s and other Mediterranean restaurants. It looks so fresh and healthy that I want to order it the next time I visit.

Another friend ordered several of the phyllo dough desserts for us to share. Both the baklava and the sweet goulash (turnover) featured honey and pistachios, but the sweet goulash also had a nice sweet custard and English cream filling. I particularly enjoyed the sweet goulash. I tried to order it the next time I visited for dinner, but they had run out of it.

I ordered a slice of banana cream cheesecake to share. It was phenomenal. The creamy consistency was very comforting, and the banana cream flavor really shined. I would order it again if they have it, but their offerings tend to vary from day to day.

The stuffed grape leaves are also very good (see top of the photo below). They are not too stuffed, and the rice filling is not too overwhelming. I’d rank them just below Astoria’s stuffed grape leaves featuring its “golden rice.”

I have also ordered the California Chicken sandwich, which is a grilled chicken breast topped with avocado, bacon, Swiss, spinach, onion, and tomato on a grilled brioche roll. The onion was thick rings of red onion that were very pungent. A little red onion goes a long way. It got better once I removed most of the onion and broke it into tiny pieces that I distributed over the lettuce. They must have been out of avocado that night, but it took me a while to realize it, so I didn’t miss it much. It was a very flavorful sandwich. The spinach, onion, and tomato were very fresh. The bacon was tasty but looked a little weird. Turns out it is turkey bacon. The fresh-cut fries were a nice side, and I enjoyed them.

Another thing Urban Kitchen does well is breakfast. I have had the Breakfast Slammer sandwich two times now and thoroughly enjoyed it each time. It features two slices of French toast stuffed with sausage, eggs and bacon, served with whipped butter and drizzled with hot maple syrup. It’s got everything the perfect breakfast calls for.

They also serve great pancakes. My friend who returned for the mousakka ordered the chocolate chip pancakes to go and loved them so much he ordered them again. I’m intrigued by the Lotus Dream Pancakes, which are layered and drizzled with Biscoff cookie butter and topped with Biscoff cookie crumbles, red sanding sugar, and fresh whipped cream. If you love cookie butter, you will love these pancakes. The server asked if I wanted syrup, but they were perfect with just the cookie butter. I had forgotten how weird the bacon is. I ordered it to cut the sweetness of the pancakes.

The customer service is pretty informal and prompt. I was able to get refills of my iced tea from one server, while a server on another visit never offered. The flavored iced teas are nice. I’ve had the raspberry and peach. The cocktails are also nice. My coffee was refilled several times during breakfast/brunch hours.

I will probably be criticized for mentioning this, but they have a bidet installed on the toilet in the bathroom. If you want to experience a bidet, be sure to check it out. It’s a treat.

Contact info:

Urban Kitchen & Deli
9751 Chester Avenue
Cleveland, OH 44106-1604
(216) 471-8956
Closed on Sundays

Davis Bakery

Brothers Ben, Julius and Carl established Davis Bakery in 1939, opening their first location on South Taylor Road in Cleveland Heights. They were also the first bakery to incorporate delicatessens into their retail outlets. They currently have two locations – one in Woodmere and one in Warrensville Heights. The Woodmere location is open 365 days a year, while the Warrensville Heights location is open Monday-Friday 9 am – 4 pm. Known for Jewish rye bread (made with a 75 year old starter), Russian tea biscuits, coconut bars, and chocolate chip cookies, they also offer sandwiches featuring hot corned beef, a turkey off the bone, and the self-proclaimed best tuna salad in Cleveland. The bread is always fresh and delicious, the meat is fresh, lean and tasty, and the baked goods are great.

When you walk in, the first thing you see is a wall of bags of chips – snack-sized and regular-sized. The right side is dedicated to the deli, while the left side is filled with display cases of baked goods, whether they are fresh loaves and rolls of bread, cookies, pastries, and biscuits. The center divider contains small cookie plates, rolls, t-shirts and condiments.

The first time I went, I pored over the menu and decided to order a grilled roast beef and Swiss sandwich. You can get a “King sized” sandwich for $3 more. I can’t even imagine what a King sized sandwich looks like. Each sandwich gets a pickle and a cookie. The chocolate chip cookie was so moist, and I’m a sucker for a good dill pickle. I also ordered the Matzo ball soup (which is served every day in addition to a soup du jour) and a side of macaroni salad. I loved every bite of everything. The Matzo ball soup was comforting, and the macaroni salad became my official favorite macaroni salad in Cleveland. It was perfect in my mind – not too sweet, yet really creamy.

I also love their soda fountain. It isn’t filled with the typical Pepsi or Coke products (except Diet Coke). It features natural cane sugar flavors like Root Beer, Lemonade, Southern Sweet Tea, Ginger Ale, Black Cherry, Cream Soda, and Cola. I like mixing the flavors for a unique soda.

On the next visit I splurged and ordered the Cavs specialty sandwich. It is my perfect sandwich. It features hot roast beef, melted Swiss cheese, coleslaw, and a special Bistro sauce on grilled rye bread. I have a hard time going there and not ordering it again and again, because I love it so much. The coleslaw is creamy and just goes so well with the crispy bread. I love that they name some of their sandwiches after our sports teams (note: the Tribe is still the Tribe, which features hot corned beef, pastrami, Swiss, coleslaw, and Thousand Island dressing. Shhh! Don’t tell them.).

On my most recent visit, I ordered the Tuna Melt (I obviously had to try the best tuna in Cleveland). It came with the requisite pickle and cookie, but I had to get Dr. Brown’s soda in a can because the soda fountain was out of order. I also ordered a side of potato salad and a side of macaroni salad in addition to some egg salad to take home and eat later. The deli worker told me he would deliver my choices to the dining area while I chose my drinks and paid at the register.

I got my Dr. Brown Black Cherry and Cream Soda sodas in cans. They also have Faygo soda, Arizona green tea, juices, and lots of other choices. I also ordered an Apricot French stick (I think that is what they were called – made using puffed pastry, it is kind of like a snoogle or bear claw). The Tuna Melt was indeed fantastic. It seemed to be made with Swiss instead of American cheese, which was just fine by me since I love Swiss. The potato salad was a decent potato salad for a deli potato salad. I prefer a tangier, less creamy potato salad, but I would not complain if served this at a party. The macaroni salad was just as divine as always. The chocolate chip cookie literally melted in my hand – and not just because it was 88 degrees outside.

I volunteered to bring a dessert to my niece’s high school graduation party last month. I decided a cookie and bar platter would be perfect. I made Rice Krispy Treats with Sweet Vanilla Matcha for my gluten-free relatives and then hit Davis Bakery for the good stuff. I had fun picking out several different cookies, bars, and brownies as well as a large selection of kolache. My family members are hard-core and picky kolache connoisseurs, because my maternal grandmother used to make them from scratch for holidays like Christmas and Easter. Needless to say, the dessert tray was a huge hit.

Contact info:

Davis Bakery
28700 Chagrin Boulevard
Woodmere, OH 44122
(216) 292-3060

Warrensville Heights location:
4572 Renaissance Parkway
Cleveland, OH 44128
(216) 464-5533

Fish Fry Friday 2022 #5 – Regovich Catering in Eastlake

Enter to the left of the building – also there is plenty of parking in the back and closer to the entrance

I hate All You Can Eat dinners, because I can never eat my money’s worth. My sister and I tried the AYCE crab leg special at Pickle Bill’s, and the server felt bad for us and just charged us for a 1 lb. dinner. My constitution is not made for eating until I get overly full/sick. So Regovich is going to be a no go for me in the future. The individual components were fantastic, but when I asked for a to go box for the things on my first plate/only trip to the buffet I was told they don’t offer to go boxes and you had to eat everything there. I ended up smuggling my pierogi, some mac n cheese, and second piece of fish out in my chowder bowl by popping it in my purse. I was amazed watching the people around me going up to the buffet two or three times and coming back with plates laden with fish, pierogi, and the like. When I walked in I was told it was $20 and then another $2 if I wanted soda. I handed them my $22 and grabbed a spot at a table. I definitely got my $2 worth of soda, but the amount I ate was less than the $17 dinner at St. Francis last week, which fed me for two meals. But if you can power through AYCE buffets, this is definitely the place for you.

Onto the food itself, it is quite delicious. I was told not to miss the soup, so I got there at 4:30 to make sure I got some. It was a very good New England clam chowder. It had a tasty, creamy base and was chock full of well-cooked potatoes. I even managed to get a nice big piece of clam in one of my bites. I also got the bay leaf.

The buffet was set up so that the soup and salad were off to the side and the buffet was in the middle with serving spoons on either side. The dessert and coffee and the bar were along the inside wall on the same wall as the soup and salad station. I grabbed a couple mixed color beans, skipped the tater tots (which were a huge hit with the kids at my table later), took some cabbage and noodles, mac n cheese, and pierogi, and then grabbed some fried fish. The baked fish also looked quite nice, but I try to stick to fried fish at fish fries.

The pierogi were plump and filled with potato and cheese. They were rock stars among the fish fry offerings. If you like pierogi, you should check them out. The fried fish was not super crispy but well-fried. The fish inside was moist. I could also tell that the tartar sauce was homemade. The mac n cheese was great. Not too cheesy, and the pasta held its shape nicely. Somehow I missed the apple sauce.

I grabbed a couple chocolate chip cookies and a piece of chocolate turtle cake for dessert. The cake was deliciously chocolatey, and the cookies were soft and tasty. They also had snickerdoodles. The second time I walked past they had brought out some white cake and lemon meringue pie. I was happy with my choices, but if I had still been hungry I might have grabbed a slice of pie.

When they cleared my plate after my valiant effort to eat more of it, they ended up clearing away a dinner roll, cole slaw, some remnants of salad, and some green beans and cabbage and noodle. It’s my fault, really. I shouldn’t have skipped breakfast and had that sandwich at 2. The foyer was packed when I left at 5:30, and they were waiting to be seated.

I definitely give Regovich Catering a thumbs up, but be forewarned that you need to be very hungry and be able to eat All You Can Eat.

Contact info:

Regovich’s Catering @ Tha Patrician

33150 Lakeland Boulevard
Eastlake, OH 44095
(440) 946-9091

Fish Fry Friday 2022 #4b – St. Francis de Sales Church

I remember going to the St. Francis de Sales Fish Fry before COVID. I remember standing in a rather long line in the basement and hoping I would be able to be sat together with my group. I also remember the food being delicious. This year St. Francis de Sales chose to host a Drive-Thru Fish Fry. I decided to stop there after visiting St. Sava’s fish fry. Since I have a good air fryer, I figured I could reheat it for a nice dinner on Saturday (spoiler alert: it did!)

From Snow Road I turned left onto W. 29th Street and followed the yellow Fish Fry signs. I turned right onto George Avenue as suggested in the graphic. A police van pulled into the lot in front of me from the opposite direction. I chose to go in the suggested direction because a) I’m not a cop and b) with my luck there would be a line down George Avenue. Luckily there wasn’t. I was able to drive right, was greeted by a man with a flyer with my choices listed. He directed me to pull up behind the police van to give my order to one of the women manning two lanes in the middle of the parking lot. I gave the woman my order (fish with 3 potato pierogi) and she talked me into buying some chocolate chip cookies. She wrote the number of my meal down on a Post-it note and slapped it onto my side-view mirror.

My dinner cost $15 for the fish dinner and $1 for the cookies. I could have also ordered the pierogi dinner for $15 that features six pierogi (with your choice of 2 out of 3 available varieties). A runner ran inside and got me my change and then directed me to pull up to wait for my meal. I waited maybe 20 seconds before I was greeted by a young student carrying a laundry basket with my order in it. It was shortly after 5 when I was there.

I reheated everything up on Saturday. Everything was so damn delicious it almost made me cry. You get a lot of food for $15! The cabbage and noodles were amazingly seasoned and perfectly cooked. The mac and cheese was a dream of cheesy, gooey goodness. The potato pierogi came with onions fried in butter and sour cream and were pillows of deliciousness. The fish were a generous two portions (I saved one to make a sandwich on Sunday) and had a nice panko crust. The fries were decent, but they are fries. The apple sauce was prepackaged so obviously decent (low sugar which was nice), and the cole slaw was nice and moist. The dinner roll and butter were bagged together, but I was just happy to have a pat of butter. And wouldn’t you know it, those cookies were worth the extra dollar. Buttery and soft, they melted in my mouth.

This fish fry is definitely one not to miss!

Contact info:

St. Francis de Sales Church
3434 George Avenue
Parma, OH 44134
(440) 884-2319

The Original Pancake House

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Contact info:

The Original Pancake House
Woodmere location

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

Fairview Park location

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

The Diner on 55th

You can’t miss the Diner on 55th. Just look for the shiny, old-timey diner car at the corner of E. 55th and St. Clair (pro tip: enter from E. 55th once you cross St. Clair – the driveway on St. Clair is exit only). It’s right off the E. 55th exit on I-90. If the sun is shining you may need sunglasses, but you definitely can’t miss it!

Since it opened in 2001, the Diner on 55th has been the epitome of a “classic small town diner,” but in the big city. If you’re a fan of old-school dining and comfort food, you’re sure to fall in love with this classically-inspired 1950s-style diner with checkerboard tablecloths. They specialize in all-American comforts like breakfast foods, chili, burgers, and onion rings. The Diner on 55th is open 6 days a week from 6 am to 3 pm (Saturday and Sunday from 7 am to 2 pm). It is closed on Mondays and holidays.

The diner car is surprisingly roomy inside. Booths line the windows and walls, and tables are lined up down the middle to be fit together as needed. There is a counter down the middle with comfortable-looking stools as well. The clientele was a mix of regulars and first-timers. I don’t know our local athletes, but one particularly tall gentleman may or may not play for the Cavs. He had to duck his head when he left. Being 5’2″ I didn’t have that problem. Whether they were regulars or a newbie like me, everyone was cheerfully greeted and treated well. The servers were very friendly and accommodating.

As for the food, it was by far one of the best breakfasts I have enjoyed in a long time!!! I ordered the Full Belly Breakfast, which comes with two eggs, two pancakes or two slices of French toast, and home fries or grits (or half and half). You can also order it with your choice of bacon, sausage, ham steak, or “ranch steak”, so I ordered bacon. When the server put the plate in front of me I was taken aback by how good it smelled. Well, it tasted even better. I don’t know what they put in the pancakes, but they were delicious. I think I only left a couple bites behind. As good as the pancakes were, the star of the show were the scrambled eggs. They were firm yet fluffy and every bite was a buttery delight. I savored every single eggy bite. The bacon was perfectly crisp. I walked out of here happy and looking forward to my next visit.

An omelet hit the spot one early Saturday morning. I decided to give it a chance even though it was 11 o’clock, and I was surprised that there were still a few tables available as well as the counter. People used the counter to sit until a table could be cleared. Once I sat down I ordered coffee and the Lorraine omelet, a three-egg omelet made with bacon, mushrooms, and Swiss cheese. I chose the home fries instead of grits and rye toast. There was a big table that had spun the kitchen into the weeds, but I was in no hurry. I had a book on my phone and was happy to chill and drink some coffee.

Since I have really enjoyed the breakfasts I ordered another Full Belly Breakfast, but this time I was in the mood for French toast. I figured I would be taking half home with me, but it was so good I cleaned the plate. The French toast was crisp on the outside and soft on the inside. They are generous with the butter. The scrambled eggs were once again delicious, the home fries featured some crispy bits and soft potato bits, and the bacon was perfectly crisp. I ordered coffee and two orange juices because I was thirsty. Since I know how to deal with the sugar dispenser now, the coffee was perfect.

Once it came out and I managed to wrangle up some jelly, ketchup, and an ice water, my breakfast was complete. I savored every bite of my breakfast – from the buttery omelet with chunks of bacon and mushroom and a pillow of Swiss and home fries with a liberal dousing of ketchup to the jelly-slathered and generously buttered rye toast. I walked out of there full and happy, which is how you want to be when you leave a diner.

Both breakfast and lunch are served all day. I saw stuffed cabbage on special one day and headed out (after digging my car out from a snowstorm). I got there shortly after one and they had unfortunately run out. When I asked the waitress when they usually start running out of things she suggested I get there a little before noon next time. So keep that in mind. I ordered the Roast Beef and Cheddar on a Bun off the Specials Board. She explained that they make the roast beef there, shave it and top it with cheddar cheese. In fact, from listening to the talk between the servers and the regulars at the counter they make just about everything (including the salad dressings) there.

I wasn’t all that impressed with the sandwich itself. Once I removed a couple pieces with gristle I enjoyed it more, but I was blown away by the onion rings. The special sandwich came with my choice of side, and when I asked her she recommended the onion rings. Talk about a great choice! They are definitely made there. The breading is light and crisp, and the entire thing is just tasty. One of the best orders of onion rings I’ve ever enjoyed. They don’t serve a lot of them, but it’s definitely quality over quantity. If you want more, order a second side.

The Lunch Specials also come with a complimentary soup. The soup of the day that day was Manhattan Clam Chowder (see above). I did notice a few clams in it, but honestly, it was more of a tasty tomato-based vegetable soup. I really didn’t miss the clams at all. On another visit, the soup of the day was cream of asparagus. I loved it. It was a lighter soup with not much cream and had some rice to give it some bulk. The soup was also brightened up by lemon juice. It was definitely a Greek take on asparagus soup combined with avgolemono soup (Greek chicken soup prepared with eggs and lemon and a bit of rice).

I ordered a Patty Melt with onion rings during a recent visit. The waitress, unfortunately, wrote it down wrong, but immediately rectified it by returning the plate to the kitchen and asking for onion rings. She then brought the burger back to me, and I enjoyed the perfectly medium rare burger while waiting for the onion rings, which were once again absolute perfection. The waitresses have also started greeting me like a regular.

Club sandwiches are also a great way to judge a diner. I also ordered the Diner Club sandwich to go. It was also perfection – a triple layer of white bread layered with ham, turkey (that are seasoned with what may be caraway?), bacon, cheese lettuce, and tomato. I asked for a side of 1000 Island dressing to slather on it. My perfect addition. I learned of this hack when I worked at Bakers Square. It was a bit difficult to eat, because it is so tall and fell apart pretty easily. But it sure was tasty! I ate the second half the next day, and it stayed together much better because it had all chilled together overnight.

The owner (a cute little older Greek guy named “Jimmy”) was either at the register or sitting/standing at the counter (the guy in the plaid shirt in the photo with the counter) the whole time I was there. He warmly cashes people out and thanks them for coming. On my first visit, I wondered how soon is too soon to return. Turns out every couple of days is just fine.

Contact info:

The Diner on 55th
1328 East 55th Street (at the corner of E. 55th and St. Clair Ave.)
Cleveland, Ohio
(216) 417-8001

Charlie’s Dog House Diner

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Contact info:

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

The Rowley Inn

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Contact info:

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

Big Al’s Diner

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Contact info:

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

Mama D’s Diner

Breakfast is my favorite meal of the day, and one of my greatest pleasures is enjoying it in a small diner. I’ve discovered Mama D’s Diner in the past year. I noticed it in a small strip mall on Mayfield Road. I asked my Facebook food forum about it, but no one could tell me anything about it, so I decided to check it out for myself. I am so glad I did! It’s a definite find!

It’s a small space with four booths, one booth in the front window, and a couple chairs along the counter. Once COVID hit they hung plastic panels between the booths and discourage sitting at the counter. Silverware comes served in an envelope. There have been two people working whenever I have been there – Ms. V and the kitchen cook. They greet and joke with their regulars. They were teasing a retiree because he arrived after 3 the last time I was there, and I got into a nice discussion with a fellow diner about the weather and my car as she was leaving. I usually bring a book to entertain myself, but an occasional brief conversation is always welcome.

My first visit was after noon, but they serve breakfast all day. I had had enough coffee by then, so I ordered a Mountain Dew instead. I decided to order Rob’s Famous Breakfast Bowl, which was featured on the chalkboard. It features loaded homefries topped with two eggs, 2 bacon strips, 2 sausage patties, and a slice of Texas toast. I chose scrambled eggs, and the loaded homefries were an absolute home run! They contained grilled onions and peppers. It was really tasty.

The second time I came in Ms. V. recognized me and asked if I wanted a Mountain Dew. I was stunned she remembered me. I felt so welcomed. Since it was earlier in the day I instead chose coffee and a sweet breakfast. I was intrigued by the Chunky Monkey French Toast. Chunky Monkey is a great Ben & Jerry’s flavor, and this French toast also does the name justice. It features three slices of French toast topped with maple syrup bananas and chocolate chips, chocolate sauce, and vanilla whipped topping. It was a work of art and delicious as well!

Another breakfast favorite I ordered Mama D’s Philly Egg Sandwich, which features shaved prime rib with peppers & onions, two eggs, and cheese on a toasted hoagie. It was a little too much bread, but the prime rib, egg and cheese combo was great. I tore off the excess bread and gave it a good shake of A1 sauce. A side of thick-cut bacon was the perfect accompaniment.

Now I love Eat at Joe’s, but I haven’t been as enthused by the lunch options as I am about the breakfasts there. I can’t say that here. The soups here are great. I ordered a cup of chili with the Philly Egg Sandwich. I know it’s a weird dichotomy, but I had a craving. It’s a good chili. It has a bit of heat to it, but it also has a nice balance of meat and tomatoes with just a few kidney beans (I’m not the biggest fan of kidney beans, so I appreciated it). I’ve also enjoyed the clam chowder and beef noodle soup. The clam chowder had a nice flavor to it and lots of good bites of clam and potato. The noodles in the beef noodle soup were intact, which isn’t always the case in noodle soups that sit. I can tell they add the noodles just before serving. A nice detail that is appreciated.

I decided to switch it up and try Lou’s Patty Melt. Mama D’s serves an excellent Patty Melt. I need to keep trying new things, but the Patty Melt keeps calling to me. I’ve enjoyed it with the housemade potato chips and dip as well as house-cut fries. And you can tell they are cut in-house because I have never, ever seen fries cut like this before.

The Sloppy Joe was on special the last time I was there. It is probably one of the best sloppy joes I have ever eaten. It didn’t have any discernible peppers or onions, but it was a great tasting sandwich all the same. I knew better than to eat it with my hands. I would have ended up wearing it. If you see it on the menu, order it. I’m wondering if the specials are the same every day. I’ll have to stop by again next Thursday and see. But then again I may order the Beef Stew, which also sounded good.

There are plenty of other things on the menu that I want to try, like the various breakfast sandwiches and one of the smashburgers. It’s a small menu, so the goal of trying everything is definitely a doable one. And I will continue to be a regular there – although I try to go during off-hours when they aren’t as busy. Mama D’s is open Wednesday to Sunday from 8 am to 4 pm.

Contact info:

Mama D’s Diner
5416 Mayfield Road
Lyndhurst, OH 44124
440-421-9500