Blue Habanero

Blue Habanero opened in the old Arcadian location on Detroit Road in the heart of Gordon Square. My friends and I decided to check it out to lift our spirits from this dismal, rainy “spring” weather. Since we were going to be a larger group, I made a reservation even though it was a Monday. I’m glad I did, because the place was pretty full. They did a good job accommodating everyone though. In addition to the first floor, it appears they also have seating on the second floor as well, as numerous patrons were led upstairs.

My friend who was driving and I recognized one of our friends in the public parking lot by the Capitol Theater despite her huddling under the hood of her raincoat, and we walked to Blue Habanero together. After being greeted as we walked in, the first order of business was ordering a beverage. I couldn’t decide between a margarita and a sangria, so I ordered one of their featured drinks that contains both, the Octopus. It was stunning to look at as well as delicious and deadly. I was glad I wasn’t driving, because I happily ordered a second one. I probably wouldn’t have if I had been driving, because I was already feeling the effects after one. My friends also enjoyed their margaritas—one ginger (be sure to stir it up) and the Cadillac. We then took some time to look over the menu.

Once we realized three of our party weren’t coming we apologized and notified the staff to take one of the tables away in case they needed it and then ordered. I decided I needed to come here when I saw a photo of the queso. I ordered a sampler for the table, which features queso, guacamole and salsa. The salsa had a nice kick to it, and the queso and guac were fresh and creamy. One of our friends ordered an order of queso with chorizo, and I have to say it was my favorite thing on our table all night. I couldn’t get enough of the flavorful creaminess. I am now a fan of chorizo too, which wasn’t the case before. The queso with chorizo was like a warm hug, which was welcome that chilly, dreary evening.

The tuna ceviche appetizer was also a nice choice. It wasn’t the traditional tuna chopped into smaller pieces of tuna and mixed with avocado and onion, but rather nice slabs of sushi grade tuna plated interspersed with slices of avocado and drizzled with the lime dressing that causes the chemical reaction to “cook” the fish. We all enjoyed sharing it around the table, and my friend who was craving avocado was quite pleased with the generous slices.

I ordered the Pollo a la Crema y Espinaca, which is grilled chicken breast with sauteed spinach and corn and roasted peppers in a lightly spicy cream sauce. It was delicious. It was served with cilantro white rice. I would definitely order this again. It hit all the right notes. I am a big fan of spinach and chicken, and didn’t find the cream sauce spicy at all. The leftovers also heated up well the next day.

One of my friends wanted to try mine, so I got to try a bite of her dish as well. We would normally split the entrees, but neither of us wanted to part with what we ordered. She ordered the Seafood al Ajillo, which is a shrimp and scallop dish that roasts the shrimp and scallops with onion, garlic and serves it with avocado, pico de gallo and cilantro white rice. It was light with a bright flavor of roasted/grilled seafood. She liked it so much that she finished the whole thing. I could also see myself ordering it next time we go – because there will definitely be a next time.

My other friends were very pleased with their tacos and rice bowls. The waitress had recommend the Tacos al Pastor, which are spice rubbed pork, pineapple, cilantro and onions in a tomatillo sauce, so two of my friends chose that. One with the Mexican rice and one with the black beans as their side dish. My other friends ordered rice bowls – one with steak and one with shrimp. The rice bowls have a mix of greens, black beans, avocado, pico de gallo and sour cream. One chose the cilantro white rice and the other asked to swap the white rice for Mexican rice, which was easily accommodated. They both finished their bowls.

I saved room for dessert and ordered fried ice cream. Save your money. It was not only visually unappealing, the cornflake crust tasted mostly of fry oil and had a weird consistency. Most of my friends had one bite and passed it on. No one wanted a second bite. I ended up eating the ice cream around the crust and left a lot of it on the plate. I keep hoping to find a fried ice cream that is as delicious as the old Chi-Chi’s version, but it seems I may have to just stop ordering it to avoid being disappointed. I’ve learned the secret is the cinnamon sugar mixture, so maybe I’ll try to make them myself one day. If you do order dessert, be sure to order the Tres Leches cake. It was moist and delicious. Everyone at the table thoroughly enjoyed it.

Contact info:

Blue Habanero Street Tacos and Tequila
6416 Detroit Avenue
Cleveland, OH 44102
(216) 465-1818

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Mama Catena Vino e’ Cucina

I live at the top of the hill into Little Italy, but I gladly drive to Euclid to eat at Mama Catena Vino e’ Cucina. I discovered it recently while at the Euclid Library for an event. I left hungry and searched for some place nearby. I am so glad I chose it. As soon as I walked in I remembered having seen a video of them receiving an award for Best Sinful Dessert in Cleveland, so I immediately knew I was going to be in good hands. Established in 1989, it was closed for a while after a mechanical fire and has recently reopened.

This family-owned and operated gem has a lot going for it. Everything is homemade – from the bread to the pasta. The bread is an adaptation of the pizza dough and is fired as a flatbread that is cut in half and topped with a light garlic butter and pepper. I actually wish the bread was more substantial, but it is at least plentiful. They are willing to keep bringing out more and more.

I first want to note that I love their presentations. The wood planks that serve the bread and the funky, off-kilter bowls that the soup, salad and pasta come in are just whimsical and fun.

The house soup is their lasagna soup. I haven’t had a chance to try it, because I don’t want to overload on tomato sauce when I’m there but I will soon. I have tried one of their soups of the day. The soup that day was “chicken soup,” and it was a delightful soup that was reminiscent of Italian wedding without the meatballs and tons of escarole. There were some greens and tiny pasta balls. I had to add just a bit of salt and pepper to it to liven it up to my liking, but I happily finished it.

The side salad with house Italian dressing always hits the spot. It is dressed with the perfect amount of dressing – not too little, not too much – and topped with shredded cheese, cherry tomato halves, cucumber slices and a couple pepperoni. I got to have my vegetarian friends’ pepperoni last time. So if you are a vegetarian, be forewarned to order with no pepperoni.

They have house pasta specialties such as lasagna, involtini, and pepe e cacio, various meat and vegetarian entrees, focaccia stuffed sandwiches, pizza and calzones as well as Pasta Your Way. Regular pasta (spaghettini, capellini, penne, rigatoni, ziti tagliati, and fettuccini) is a base rate of $10, cavatelli and gnocchi are $11, stuffed pasta (meat, cheese or spinach ravioli and stuffed shells) is $12, bucatini, spaghetti chitarra and and “gigli toscana” are $12.50, and whole wheat pasta and gluten-free penne are $14. Pappadelle, burrata ravioli, and lobster ravioli are $14. They offer twelve different pasta sauces – marinara, carbonara, meat sauce, pomodoro, alfredo, “rosella” (a blend of their marinara and alfredo), piccata (lemon butter), marsala, aglio e olio, pesto, putanesca, and salsa a vongoli (baby clams slow cooked in either creamy alfredo, marinara, or oil and garlic). The pesto, carbonara, putanesca, pomodoro, alfredo, rosella, salsa a vongoli have an upcharge of $3 and the other sauces (except marinara) have an upcharge of $2. You can also add on various meats, seafood and veggies for  $2.50-$3.50 depending on the addition.

I had a bite of my friend’s gnocchi in the rosella sauce, and it was right up there with Trattoria’s gnocchi, which has been my gold star standard for years. The gnocchi were light, and the rosella sauce complemented it well. Another friend ordered the gnocchi with the putanesca sauce. She was also very pleased with her selection.

The first time I ate here the Sunday Sauce called to me, and I simply can’t break away from ordering it. Sunday Sauce is what every Italian I know makes – call it sauce or gravy, it is simmered for a long time with pork neck and/or back, sausage and meatballs or even braciole. I order it every time I go and just vary the pasta. The Sunday Sauce is a delicious tomato sauce that comes with an Italian sausage, a meatball and some pork. For $20 it is generous enough for leftovers every time.

Unfortunately another friend was less thrilled with her spaghetti and meatballs and sent it back. The noodles were overcooked, and she didn’t like the sauce at all (I think she had ordered the pomodoro sauce). We were a big table and it took forever to get our meals that night, so it might have been a blip. Although, she is Italian, so why she didn’t order the Sunday Sauce is beyond me.

They are known for their Involtini pasta, which is ricotta cheese-filled pasta rolled into a log then cut into large pin wheels. I ordered it the second time I ate here – with the Sunday Sauce. It was almost too rich and decadent.

The pizza at the table next to me the other day looked delicious, and I was almost tempted to order one. One of the employees walked the little boy who enjoyed the pizza into the back to see the pizza oven.

We celebrated one of my friend’s birthdays here and I knew we had to order to cannoli cake. It is two layers of vanilla cake, a layer of chocolate cake and tons of layers of cannoli filling, coffee liqueur, as well as crushed cannoli shells that are dipped in chocolate and a chocolate ganache. This cake is the BOMB. I am not exaggerating that it is probably the best dessert I have ever had – and I don’t like cannoli! It is light and ethereal – not dense at all. Simply heavenly. A small cake runs $40 and easily fed eight of us and yielded eight generous slices to take home as well. You can also order this cake for one person – just call ahead and order it.

They have an excellent wine list, and I can recommend the limoncello cocktail and Venetian Spritz!

Contact info:

Mama Catena Vino e’ Cucina
711 Babbitt Road
Euclid, OH 44123
(216) 261-1168

Fish Fry Friday #6 – EDWINS Butcher Shop

I hit the “I can’t look at another fried fish” point and was going to sit today out – until one of my friends re-posted a status update from EDWINS Butcher Shop advertising a six piece shrimp dinner with fries and slaw for $5.99 or a 12 piece for $9.99 on Facebook. Shrimp sounded good to me, so I called to make sure they had some left (it was about 40 minutes to their closing time) and headed out. I only live 11 minutes from there, so it was nice to stick close to home tonight.

I parked on the street outside the butcher shop, since it was just on 6:30, and headed into the butcher shop. It’s a cute little storefront. About half of it is tables for people to eat their food, and the other half is a large meat counter, coolers, a small freezer and a well-curated selection of specialty items.

I purchased my shrimp dinner and then browsed while I waited. I was not going to shop, but then I was tempted by the Sprecher’s Root Beer and prepared Banana Pudding in one of the coolers. So then of course I needed a strip steak, Colman’s mustard powder, some chocolate for wine pairings and Italian bread from Orlando. Right as I was checking out, my dinner came out of the kitchen. I grabbed my shopping bag and headed out as the next customer ordered a couple fish dinners and a chicken dinner. It was 6:50.

I drove home with the delicious smell wafting through the car and anticipated a good meal. I was not disappointed. The shrimp were pounded a little thinner than I like, but they were still moist with a crunchy exterior. There was a slice of lemon hidden under the fries, which I squeezed over the shrimp to give it a light, bright lemon flavor. The fries had a nice light seasoning to them, and the slaw was good. I didn’t come for the slaw though. The 12 piece dinner was delicious and definitely hit the spot. I ate a couple spoonfuls of creamy and luscious banana pudding and popped it back in the fridge for later.

EDWINS is also serving a fried cod sandwich and catfish po’boy for Lent if you want something portable. I’ll definitely be back to try some of their other sandwiches and hot meals. They regularly serve a 1/2 chicken, fried chicken, ribs, brisket, pulled pork, burgers, and wings with a host of sides.

 

Contact info:

EDWINS Butcher Shop
13025 Buckeye Road
Cleveland, Ohio 44120
(216) 417-1100

Citizen Pie – W. 25th

img_20170927_202321Citizen Pie opened a second location on W. 25th just south of the West Side Market in September 2017. I’ve been there several times, but just decided to make it a separate post from the Waterloo location. This location is a good choice for West Siders who don’t want to (are afraid to?) drive to Collinwood. There are a few changes – for the better. img_20170927_185210Most obviously, the location has a lot more seating, and the pizzaiolos (I think that is what the pizza pie makers are called) have more room to work. Parking can sometimes be a challenge, but one of the parking lots across the street allows Citizen Pie img_20180803_135545customers to park there when the lot isn’t in use by the company.

Citizen Pie has a 900 degree wood fired oven, and Chef V has worked hard to perfect the pizza dough. They only make enough for the day. Once the dough is out, they close. The website has a dough meter, so you can tell how close they are to running out of dough. The pizzas cook quickly – in 90 seconds. The outside edges are nicely charred and delicious, but the center tends to run a bit thin, which makes the pizza a bit soggy. It is the biggest complaint, but it is just something that happens. If you want the delicious fermented dough you deal with it. You just have to fold your slice and eat fast.

The menu is pretty identical to the Waterloo location. You can still also build your own pie at both locations. The only main difference I can tell is the W. 25th location doesn’t offer The Collinwood and has a pizza called OC Supreme (similar to the Collinwood with Italian sausage and proscuitto cotto instead of the salami and Italian sausage). They also added a Ham and Cheese pizza featuring proscuitto cotto, Fontina cheese, mushrooms and Mozzarella. Also, my favorite addition when they opened this location is that they also launched “Salad Pizzas” topped with arugula or Caesar salad. I love this idea. The arugula is popped onto the pizza when it gets out of the oven, so it is nice and fresh. The arugula pizza comes atop a Margherita with cherry tomatoes. The Caesar salad pizza is a garlic, olive oil and mozzarella pie. You can add prosciutto or anchovies for an additional $2. My go to pizza is now the arugula pizza with prosciutto.

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Dressed Arugula without prosciutto

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Dressed Arugula pie – Margherita with prosciutto

The beverage choices are still the same. There is a water pitcher on the counter for the more frugal folks among us, but you can buy real sugar Coke, Honest Tea, Diet Coke, Dr. Brown’s Root Beer, San Pellegrino img_20170927_190412 sparkling water or Blood Orange soda, and boxed water in addition to a nice modest selection of beers and wines. My favorite is still the Stiegl Pilsner. As any proud alumni of BGSU’s Academic Year Abroad program in Salzburg, Austria will tell you, Stiegl beer has been brewed in Salzburg since 1492 (when Columbus was sailing the ocean blue).

A selection of pies

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Roman – mozzarella, cured olives, green chili, stracciatella, and basil

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Mushroom – with mushrooms, mozzarella, brie, porcini truffle crema, bacon and red onion – always a solid choice

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Little Italy – mozzarella, Italian sausage, roasted red peppers, red onion, basil and oregano

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Puttanesca – mozzarella, oil cured olives, Ortiz anchovies, Calabrian chili, garlic and basil

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Caesar Salad pie – I think there might be some pepperoni on there but I’m not sure

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Cacio e Pepe – one of my favorites

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NYC Classic Calzone

This location does not serve the desserts that the Waterloo location is known for. Instead, Chef V has been making soft serve ice cream and is toying with the idea of introducing pie to the menu.

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Photo by Edsel Little

Contact info:

Citizen Pie
2144 W 25th Street
Cleveland (Ohio City), OH 44113
(216) 860-1388

Sichuan Hot Pot

Cleveland’s got a new Szechuan restaurant in town, and it’s become my friends’ new obsession. Sichuan Hot Pot quietly opened in April 2018 on Rockwell Avenue in the building that houses Emperor’s Palace. The storefront seems rather quiet and unassuming. You walk in and have to go through another door to the right. Make sure the door shuts behind you properly, because it forms a wind tunnel.

We keep meaning to order the hot pot, but we are enjoying discovering all the various entrees too much. It’s best enjoying everything as a group. When it comes to Chinese food we are a bunch of sharers, so everyone orders a different dish and we dig in. We then get the bill, add a 20% tip, and divide the total by however many people are in the group. I have a handy app for that, so it is really easy. The bill never comes out to more than $20 per person (it’s usually between $12-18).

The first time I ate at Sichuan Hot Pot (just before Christmas) there were 7 of us. We were the only non-Asian table in the place. We ordered 8 different dishes (one person ordered two because they were vegetarian items and cheap). We had the Dan Dan Noodles, Chongqing Noodles, Lamb Kebabs served with crinkle cut French fries (what??), Shredded Pork with Pickled Cabbage Noodles, Ma Po Tofu, Sour & Spicy Cucumbers, and a Roasted Eggplant appetizer with what looked like a green chili pesto on it. I chose the Crispy Ribs with Garlic Sauce (S7), which was delicious. The ribs were perfectly fried (popcorn chicken-sized) and served along with fried onions and fresh green scallions. I was very happy I ordered it and would happily order it again. However, the absolute standouts for me were the Shredded Pork and Pickled Cabbage Noodles and the Dan Dan Noodles. I have never been a fan of Dan Dan Noodles, but I really like their version. The Shredded Pork was the huge hit at the table. We ordered it on a whim, and I will never go there and not order it ever. It has a delicate flavor and has a soup-like consistency. Ordering small bowls for everyone to enjoy it would not be a bad idea. The Chongqing Noodles were also lovely. Apart from the eggplant, which everyone was saying was very hot so I avoided it, I didn’t find anything so spicy hot that I couldn’t eat it. Szechuan cooking has a nice heat to it, but if I can tolerate it anyone can. We were served a complementary Tofu fa with a smoky sauce and sesame seeds for dessert.

Spicy & Sour Cucumbers

Dan Dan Noodles

Chongqing Noodles

Shredded Pork with Pickled Cabbage Noodles

Lamb Kebabs

Crispy Ribs with Garlic Sauce (S7)

Roasted Eggplant (C5)
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Mid-meal

The second time I was with a different group, with only three of us having been there already. There were six of us this time. This time we were the only table in the place, but I hear it gets busy on the weekends and at night. A few tables joined us by the time we were finishing up – including a friend of one of my friends, which was a hoot. We were there on a Tuesday for lunch. I made sure to order the Shredded Pork and Pickled Cabbage Noodle again. Two of our group had already gotten there and ordered the Dan Dan Noodles because they were hungry. We also ordered Dried Beef with Spicy Sauce (C12 – which I found to be just okay, but my friend D. loves it), “Chicken with Special Sauce” (word of warning – it’s a cold poached chicken and celery dish with bones – I wasn’t a fan), Crispy Big Ribs with Garlic Sauce (S15 – whole ribs on a bed of cabbage – quite tasty if a little dry), Sour & Spicy Cucumbers, and Sliced Potatoes with Scallions (which was too American if you ask me – basically warm parsley potatoes). The Sliced Potato dish was good, so it would be a good choice for kids or less adventurous diners. I certainly didn’t expect it at an Asian restaurant. The standout dish for me this time was a different version of eggplant – the Eggplant with Garlic Sauce (M19). I could not stop eating it, and I look forward to enjoying it again this coming Friday.

Dan Dan Noodles – after mixing

Spicy & Sour Cucumbers

Dried Beef with Spicy Sauce (C12)

Eggplant with Garlic Sauce (M19)

Crispy Big Ribs (S17) on a bed of Napa cabbage

Chicken with Special Sauce

Sliced Potatoes with Scallions (not shredded!! – that’s a completely different dish with green peppers)

Complementary Tofu Fa
Mid-meal

Like I said, I am going back there for lunch on Friday with some of the folks from the previous meals and a couple new people we are introducing the place to. I look forward to trying some new dishes as well as the favorites. I’m tempted by the Crispy Fish Hot & Spicy.

Crispy Fish Hot & Spicy – highly recommend!

Shrimp in hot garlic sauce – delicious
Mid-meal

Contact info:

Sichuan Hot Pot
2162 Rockwell Avenue
Cleveland, OH 44114
(216) 523-1188

Sérénite in Medina

I am a huge fan of EDWINS on Shaker Square, so I knew I wanted to support Brandon Chrostowski and his latest culinary institute in Medina. I organized a dinner with a bunch of my foodie friends shortly after it opened, and we trekked down to Medina looking forward to a good meal. We were not disappointed. The restaurant is located at the old Medina Steakhouse & Saloon. They have done a nice job paring the decor down to match the sophisticated French menu. There was ample parking and two main rooms to seat diners. There are even a few tables on the front porch for those who enjoy dining al fresco.

Despite my attempt to get there early I was the last to arrive due to heavy traffic. When I arrived the entire table was enjoying their French 75s. Who was I to buck the trend? The French 75 is one of my favorite drinks, but it can suffer from a heavy hand. Luckily the person behind the bar makes a perfect French 75. It was delightfully refreshing. There was some furor in Medina about whether Sérénite should be awarded a liquor license since the restaurant is a training ground for people in addiction recovery. I am glad good sense prevailed, and the restaurant was given a license. Their employees need to learn how to work around it without giving into the temptation, and if they do fail they are in a supportive environment that will catch them as they fall and quickly set them back on the path. I wish them all the best of luck! They also offer a non-alcoholic menu for those who prefer one. Since we were there in the early days our server was understandably nervous, but when something went awry she quickly and efficiently took care of it. Things go wrong when you dine out, especially in the first few weeks. It’s all how the service staff handle things, and they did a great job taking care of us. That said, for a table of 7 only one of us had a major issue, which was immediately rectified (one of my friend’s mac n cheese was lukewarm, but they whisked it away and quickly rectified the problem). Everyone else was delighted with their meals. She was too once the mac n cheese was hotter.

I ate here twice in the first two weeks of opening, once with a small group and then with a friend to enjoy a quick drink and nibble before my nieces’ middle school orchestra concert. Unfortunately I’ve been swamped with work and haven’t had the chance to write about it until now. As a result of my visits, I was able to sample about half the menu. Although Sérénite is similar to EDWINS it does not have an identical menu, which allowed me to try some new things. The biggest surprises were the frog legs and the artichokes. More on those later.

I decided to stick with a classic appetizer-entree-dessert on my first visit, so I tried not to fill up too much on any of the courses. I ordered the shrimp cocktail. The shrimp were plump and juice and averaged out to $3 a shrimp. The cocktail sauce had the perfect amount of horseradish bite to it. The presentation was also flawless.

I was able to try a frog leg, which was absolutely delicious and perfectly prepared. They are pan-fried in butter and garlic. The meat fell from the tiny bones and were a huge hit with my friends who ordered them. The serving size is generous, so I could imagine ordering them to share or even as an entree.

After spending the afternoon studying the online menu deciding what to order I was surprised to see a range of other choices available, including several steaks. To see page two click on the arrow at the bottom of the online menu that appears when you hover over it. Don’t be a noob like me. That said, the restaurant may want to change their format if they want older, less savvy diners to be aware of page two.

I had decided on the Steak Frites (hanger steak with fries and Bérnaise sauce), but when I arrived and saw the other choices I was torn. After consulting with the server and my fellow diners I decided to order a steak along with a couple of sides. The ‘Le Boeuf’ steaks do not come with sides. You have to order them a la carte. I ordered the artichokes from the appetizer section and the risotto from the sides. I decided to order a New York prime strip steak, but could have also ordered the filet mignon or a bone-in ribeye. The steaks come with a sauce of your choice. I chose the Bordelaise sauce and could not have been more pleased. Bordelaise is a red wine demi-glace with shallots and butter. It was flavorful without overpowering the flavor of the steak. I was also able to taste the au poivre (cognac cream sauce with demi-glace and green peppercorns) and Béarnaise (rich butter sauce with tarragon vinegar and shallots) sauces. The other sauce is a Diane sauce featuring demi-glace, mushrooms, shallots, brandy and cream), which I knew I loved but decided to order something I don’t make myself. For those of you who are wondering what demi-glace is, it is a combination of espagnole sauce and a rich brown stock. The strip steak was extremely flavorful and tender, just as it should be. I loved the Bordelaise sauce as well. The braised artichokes were tender, and the white wine butter sauce delicious. The risotto features mushrooms, which is what made me decide to order it over the frites. The rice was al dente, and the flavor was phenomenal. I took half of everything home and enjoyed the meal again the next day for lunch. After all, I needed to save room for dessert.

I am a huge fan of EDWINS’ creme brulee. I think it is the best I have ever had. So I wanted to order it, but then learned that they also offer Bananas Foster, which is prepared tableside. Luckily, one of my friends and I decided to share both. The creme brulee was just as delicious as I remembered, creamy with a nice crust of caramelized sugar that broke with a tap of the spoon and complemented the custard. The surprise for me was that I adored the Bananas Foster even more. The tableside preparation was enjoyable, even though I have seen it prepared before in New Orleans. The chef did a great job with it. The bananas were perfectly flambeed and were a great complement to the creamy vanilla ice cream. I would definitely go back just for the Bananas Foster!

And go back I did within the week. I learned that my oldest niece was going to be the concertmaster of her middle school orchestra, so I decided to go down early and enjoy a quick bite with my friend who I had shared the desserts with. We sat at the bar this time and both ordered two appetizers. I chose the lobster bisque (I love French onion soup, but did not want to drip it) and the escargot. The lobster bisque was delightful – creamy and a nice underlying sherry base. But the star of the meal was the escargot. The Burgundy snails came out bubbling in the butter and garlic, and I enjoyed sopping up the sauce with Sérénite’s great homemade bread. I paid my bill and rushed out to go to the concert and was able to greet another friend who was taking her parents out for a nice meal as they walked in.

I wish I lived closer, because the Bananas Foster alone is worth the trip. Your meal can be fairly cheap if you stick with a few of the lower end items on the menu, but it can also be a perfect ‘special night’ venue if you are willing to splurge a little. I highly recommend you check them out as well and support their worthy cause.

Contact info:

Sérénite Restaurant & Culinary Institute
538 W Liberty St
Medina, OH 44256
(330) 952-2611

Lox, Stock and Brisket

Lox, Stock and Brisket opened recently at Cedar Center in the old Ribsticks storefront. They did not have to do much with the place. It looks a lot like the old Ribsticks. There was another food service place there very briefly, but Chef Anthony Zappola and his family took over the lease. He heard about the smoker, so he decided to smoke meats and open a Jewish deli. He used to own a restaurant in Las Vegas called The Rice Shop, but he wanted to move home to northeast Ohio after living and working in numerous restaurants in several major cities. A Solon native, this spot truly is a family affair. His mother works behind the counter and makes the matzoh ball soup. They are very responsive with food allergies. One of my friends has a soy allergy, which limits her a lot. They were able to find something she could order and promised to use a different oil that isn’t soy-based in the future. How awesome is that?The menu revolves around smoked meats and dishes inspired by the neighborhood around it. They offer a good matzo ball soup (with chunks of celery, carrot and chicken), a lox platter with cream cheese, capers, chopped egg and chopped red onion, and a bunch of delicious sandwiches featuring brisket, smoked turkey, lox, tuna salad and a breaded chicken schnitzel. They make most everything in-house, including the smoked fish, lox, and pickles.

I heard about Lox, Stock and Brisket the day it opened and went to check it out the very next day. During the first visit I ordered the matzo ball soup, the Santa Monica and the potato salad. I love the matzo ball soup. It’s not just broth. There are chunks of carrot, celery and moist chicken in it. The smoked turkey on the turkey sandwich was moist, and the BBQ sauce and mustard were not too heavy. I absolutely loved the potato salad. It is a red skin potato salad and is perfectly creamy.

On my second visit (the very next today) I went back to try the brisket. The “Rueben” is named after his childhood friend and features thick chunks of brined and smoked brisket, Cleveland Kraut, Swiss cheese and Russian dressing. As those who follow this blog know, I am not a fan of corned beef because it’s too salty and fatty in my opinion. This is now the ultimate Reuben for me – featuring a tender and flavorful brisket without too much fat or salt. It is now my favorite Reuben ever. The brisket is served in thick chunks of flavorful meat – not too fatty or salty (although one of my friends was less than impressed with it and reported that one bite had it coming out in one piece due to some gristle). The one I had was perfect. The Russian dressing and kraut on a nice rye bread were just right. I wasn’t as enthused with the coleslaw, but it was good. But I prefer a very creamy coleslaw, so my choice is subjective based on my tastes.

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I ordered the Roz (above left), which is the Rueben but with thick slices of turkey, on a subsequent visit. It was also a very good sandwich, with good slaw and cheese. I think I like the brisket more though. My friend with the allergies thoroughly enjoyed her Upper East Side. I can’t wait to try the rest of the sandwiches – the Lincoln Park buttermilk chicken schnitzel looks especially delicious (update: see photo on the right – don’t let the hot sauce aioli scare you. It smells like hot sauce but doesn’t taste like it. It’s divine and the most popular sandwich here).

The lox was a nice smoked salmon, and it was a nice sized portion. I had stopped at Bialy’s beforehand to pick up a couple bagels to enjoy with it. The lox platter came with crackers, but frankly I ended up feeding them to the birds. I’m not a huge cracker fan and don’t ever eat them with soup. Lox, Stock and Brisket’s lox platter with a Mish Mosh bagel from Bialy’s was everything.

The service was great. They definitely made me feel welcome. I see myself becoming a regular with quality – and matzo ball soup – this good. Items like brisket, turkey, lox and tuna salad are also available by the pound.

Contact info:

Lox, Stock and Brisket
13892 Cedar Road
University Heights, OH 44118
(216) 471-8175