We now return to our regularly scheduled (or in the current situation not so regularly scheduled) blog. I have been undergoing some dietary changes since March 10th and have lost 20 pounds and significantly changed my palate and portion sizes. I have been eating at home more often and eating more smaller meals. It also doesn’t help that money is tight, and I have to watch my voluntary spending. Expensive meals just aren’t in the cards at the moment. I will still try to go out, but I can’t promise it will be as regular as it has been in the past. Maybe more like once a month instead of twice a month. I’ll try to write up some of my older backlog of photos/visits to make up for it. I try to visit a restaurant at least twice before blogging about it, but that might not always happen. Anyway…
There’s a new pho place in town. The restaurant takes the spot of Szechuan Café, which recently closed in the back of Asia Plaza in Asiatown (E. 30th between Payne & Superior – in the plaza with Park to Shop) and opened in February 2023. The parking lot there is always bustling but has plenty of free parking. I’ve managed to park close to the entrance twice now. I can’t say how busy it is on the weekend though. The dining area itself is bright, airy and clean.
It serves a wide variety of Vietnamese dishes, from spring and summer rolls to broken rice and cold or stir-fried rice noodles, ramen, phos and soups, and a half dozen choices of banh mi, including a vegetarian version. In fact, there are eight different versions of pho, including two assembled with chicken broth and chicken meat. The restaurant also serves the spicy beef noodle soup known as bun bo hue or various fried rice dishes. You can choose from grilled pork, grilled shrimp and grilled chicken or a combination of them as well as lots of choices for vegetarians. The banh mi can be made of grilled meat, ham or BBQ pork or a combination.
My friends gathered here shortly after it opened, and some of them brought their mothers who had never had Vietnamese food or were at least not very well-versed in it. I recommended the broken rice and pork chop to one of the mothers, so she ordered the House Special Rice Plate (C5 Cơm Đặc Biệt) because she liked the photo, and she loved it. It features a combination of pork chop, shredded pork, pork cake, fried egg, cucumber, tomato, and broken rice. She especially enjoyed the pork cake.
The service at Pho Sunshine was also excellent. Our server was super personable as well as friendly and attentive and made sure that we had everything we needed throughout our meal. We kept him on his toes but made sure he was well-compensated for it.
I started off by ordering honeydew smoothie. It was delicious. I miss the honeydew smoothie at Panera.
I then split the summer rolls with one of the mothers so we could enjoy both and not have to decide. We ordered one order with grilled pork and one order with pork and shrimp. We both agreed that the shrimp one was superior. Probably due to the peanut dipping sauce. Love that dipping sauce!
Summer rolls – Shrimp and pork on the left, grilled pork on the right
I have several things I enjoy at Vietnamese restaurants, and I ordered all of them on the first visit. In addition to the summer rolls, I ordered a grilled pork banh mi, which was absolutely delicious, as well as a pho and a vermicelli bowl.
Grilled pork bahn mi – Visit 1 on the left, visit 2 on the right
The bahn mi I chose (A10 Bánh Mì Thịt Nướng) was chock full of grilled pork, pickled veggies and a deliciously light sauce. The French bread has a nice crust, and they use a good amount of meat and veg fillings. I picked off the two jalapenos, but didn’t tell them to hold them because I like the subtle juice that is left on the bread, but not the crunchy pepper itself. I honestly couldn’t wait to go back and order it again and went to lunch a week or so later.
Rare beef pho – Visit 1 on the left, visit 2 on the right
I ordered the pho with rare beef (Pho Dac Biet). I wasn’t in the mood for fatty brisket and don’t like the texture of pho meatballs. The pho came out piping hot with a little cap of raw beef peeking out. I added the mung beans and basil leaves and gave it a deft squeeze of lime. The beef was tender and juicy, the noodles were perfectly cooked, and it had a deliciously savory broth. The broth was so good that I didn’t need to add any sriracha or hoisin to it, like I usually do. I enjoyed as much as I could and packed the rest up to go. One of my fellow diners taught me the trick of packing up the noodles separate from the broth so the noodles don’t disintegrate.
I also ordered a vermicelli bowl with grilled pork and spring rolls (B7 Bún Thịt Nướng Chả Giò) as well on my first visit. I poured the delicious fish sauce dressing over a small portion of the veggies and really enjoyed the freshness and lightness of the dish. I added the rest when I ate it for lunch the next day so it didn’t get soggy.
I got lots of to go boxes and enjoyed my meals for the next few days. When I returned at lunch a few weeks later I ordered the exact same things, except this time I ordered an iced Vietnamese coffee and didn’t get a vermicelli bowl. The visit was just as good, and the server was attentive since I was sitting by myself and only a few tables were occupied.
I look forward to my next visit. I’m intrigued by the Bún Riêu Crab Vermicelli Noodle Soup (B15), which is a combination of pork, shrimp, crab meatballs, and vermicelli noodles in tomato soup. And I’m craving a grilled pork bahn mi – although maybe I’ll try it with grilled shrimp or grilled chicken this time. And has anyone tried Bánh Mì Xíu Mại – the Shumai Sandwich (2 meatballs)? I’m curious what shumai meatballs served in tomato sauce with French bread on the side is like. Lots of good choices to choose from – and vegetarians have a full page of choices.
I have always been a big fan of Fresh Fork Market, a weekly subscription farm buying club. I was a subscriber for several years until I realized I was throwing out too much produce (even with a small share), so I quit and started shopping at their store in Ohio City – Ohio City Provisions. I get the same products, but I can pick and choose what I need. From meat and cheese to produce and baked goods, the quality of Fresh Fork and Ohio City Provisions is amazing – and so are their special meals. Their sit-down Thanksgiving dinners for subscribers pre-COVID were amazing. I have also ordered special meals from them such as fried chicken or other carryout meals. So I knew a fish fry from OCP would be something special. They serve their fish fry all Lent, from February 24 to April 7. Pre-order required. I ordered it on March 24th for the 31st. Order as soon as you can, because they do sell out. OCP is located on Lorain Road just past St. Ignatius High School (same side of the street). You can park in front of the building or on the side of the building on a side street.
The dinner did not disappoint. The fish dinner was $18. It featured beer-battered Atlantic cod, housemade coleslaw (cabbage, carrots, apples, beets), handcut-russet potato fries topped with a generous sprig of rosemary, and housemade tartar sauce made with mayo, candied jalapenos, fresh dill and chives. I chose the earliest pick-up time so that I could still attend a fish fry in the evening. I had to wait a few minutes while they fried up my dinner. It doesn’t get any fresher than that.
I couldn’t resist and tucked into one of the pieces of fish in the car. It was probably the best battered and fried piece of fish I’ve eaten in a long time. The batter contained a hint of lemon and it puffed around a generous piece of moist and flaky cod. I also had a few fries, which were perfectly cooked as well. I reheated it on Saturday for a nice lunch. It reheated perfectly in the air fryer. You still have one more Friday if you want to try it. Order here.
St. Joseph’s Parish was founded in 1949, but it has become known for its fish fry since the new pastor arrived a few years ago. Saint Joseph’s has been served by six pastors in its history. Its current pastor is Father Ronald J. Wearsch, who has Avon Lake roots and is a trained chef. Father Wearsch arrived in mid-2013. The church began hosting its fish fry in St. Joseph’s former church building in 2014, but quickly had to move to a new parish and family center facility to accommodate the hundreds of people who flocked from the suburbs surrounding Avon Lake.
This fish fry is so popular that they encourage (nay, urge) you to order and pay ahead online. You can specify your pick-up time to ensure your meals are hot and they don’t sell out. Online ordering starts the Saturday before the fish fry and starts cutting off at 5 PM on Thursday, when the items are then subject to limited fulfilment. No orders are taken after 2 PM on Friday.
Pro tip: Parking is in the BACK of the church. Just follow the line of cars. Stay to the left for Dine-in eating and to the right for Take-out pick-up. You can only enter from Lake Road. Don’t be a dummy like me and take the first open spot you see. I ended up having to walk ALL THE WAY around the church and ALL THE WAY to the back of the Parish (for an idea of how far it is, watch this drone footage from the website – I parked in the very last spot on the left next to the sidewalk and facing the church, and the entrance (blue awning) is all the way to the right behind the church and in the back rear corner of the parking lot). The Credit Union entrance with a blue awning is the entrance to the fish fry. I found a wonderful parishioner who was willing to drive me back to my car (thanks, D.!), because the idea of walking back while carrying my take-out was daunting.
If you have preordered and prepaid, you will be directed to a worker at the table who has that day’s orders. I had ordered a meal to eat in and one to take out. They called to confirm it wasn’t a mistake and were ready for me. Most take-out orders are fulfilled in the drive-thru car lines. A volunteer greeted me at the door to the gymnasium and explained how the system worked. The chowder/bisque was on the wall across from the entrance, and the food was to the right on the wall by the stage. Water (for hot tea), coffee, iced tea and lemonade are included with dine-in service and are on a table in the very middle (and coffee carts circulate the gym). Soda and bottled water are available for purchase.
They had a bunch of helpful young boys willing to carry my tray and grab some beverages for me – and there is a little hand fly swatter on the table that you can wave if you need something. I (and my helper Colin) grabbed trays and gathered my meals (both dine-in and take-out) as I made my way through the stations. I decided to sit near the soup and sat with a lovely couple. After the wife left to do dishes, two other couples joined us at the table.
I had heard amazing things about the Baked Verlasso Salmon with a chardonnay dill sauce. I have never seen anything like this on a fish fry menu. The closest “exotic” thing may be the crumb coated cod at St. Gabriel’s in Concorde or baked lemon-pepper haddock or crab cakes at St. Mary’s in Hudson. This is about the most perfect thing I have ever eaten. It was exquisite, and the first bite literally brought a tear to my eye. I would eat this every day if I could. I’m definitely going to try to recreate it at home and start eating more salmon. All of the fish dinners are served with green beans (not canned) and slaw, and I added pierogi to the dinner. Other sides include baked potato, sweet potato (which looked amazing!), mac and cheese, grilled cheese, cabbage and noodles, and tater tots.
I also chose to add a New England clam chowder to my dine in order. The soups are generous portions (12 ounces) and obviously homemade. The clam chowder had chunks of carrot, potato, and corn along with the clams. It was unlike any other chowder I’ve had, but I kind of dug it. I definitely finished every last drop of it, and it was very filling.
I ordered a Lake Erie perch dinner with tartar sauce and a tomato bisque to go. I popped one of the pierogi in with it for later. I reheated the perch and pierogi in my air fryer for lunch today. The perch was still moist and sweet. I think I understand why people love perch so much now. The tomato bisque was absolutely delicious – even better than the chowder. Apparently the bisque is the Father’s favorite to make. If I am not mistaken it had little chunks of tomato and onion as well as rice in it to bulk it out. I really liked it!
This fish fry was an A+. I am doing something that I rarely do and going back this season on March 17th. A lot of fish fries are not operating since it is St. Patrick’s Day, but St. Joseph’s is offering a “Special St. Patrick’s Day menu” featuring a corned beef and cabbage dinner with roasted potatoes, carrots and slaw. I will also be ordering the baked cod with mango chutney. The cod looks delicious, and I tried the chutney from the container lid and liked it. And you know I’ll be getting a salmon dinner to go!
St. Joseph’s Parish 32929 Lake Road Avon Lake Fry time: 4:30 to 7 p.m. Fridays Feb. 24 to March 31 (no fish fry on Ash Wednesday or Good Friday).
Express Deli is a family-owned deli that is making some of the best sandwiches in Cleveland. Express Deli was listed #41 in Yelp’s Top 100 Places to Eat in America in 2018. According to a Yelper, the parents Pierre and Maha bought the place 24 years ago when they moved from Lebanon in 1998, it was more like a Mini Mart. (Note: that explains why I haven’t heard of them until now – I moved to the east side in 1992). They thought it would be a good idea to serve good deli food at the Mini Mart, and have turned it into a true deli over time as it rose in popularity. Located on Smith Road just off I-480 (W. 130th exit) and just past Brookpark Road in Brook Park, it is tucked away at the end of a small, nondescript strip mall. When you walk in you are greeted like a family friend. Head to the back – that’s where the magic happens.
Make sure to tell them if it is your first time. They offer a tasting tour of their three most popular sandwiches – the turkey, the pastrami, and the Reuben. Each features a special sauce. The turkey is served with the house dressing (a delicious herbed oil), the pastrami has a garlic mayo and is topped with a thin pickle slice, and the Reuben is a small bite of Reuben (corned beef, Swiss and kraut) with a mix of their delicious Thousand Island dressing and garlic mayo. They started the samplers about 7 years ago to have people try and love what they ended up purchasing, and maybe get them to try something they normally wouldn’t.
If you are a regular reader, you know I’m not a fan of corned beef. It is a rare place that can make me change my mind. Well, I tried the Reuben bite and liked it so much I actually ordered the Reuben on my first visit! They make their own corned beef on the premises, so maybe I’m just a fan of their corned beef. I guess I like lean corned beef. The sauce and melted cheese made every bite super creamy, and the sauerkraut was not sour at all. I can see why everyone loves this and it’s one of the top sellers.
I had originally decided to order the chicken cordon bleu wrap until I tried the Reuben, so that was my choice on my next visit. Maybe it was an off day, maybe the Reuben has ruined me for all other sandwiches, because I thought it was just okay. The cordon bleu sandwich has a lot of fans. It’s made with chicken, ham, Swiss, lettuce, tomato, mayo, and a honey mustard sauce. I don’t see any tomato, but it still wouldn’t have magically saved it. I’m not a huge fan of wraps; I find the texture of the wrap or pita too dry, which then detracts from the fillings. I’ll try it on a hoagie next time, because it is one of my favorite food pairings.
One of their other most popular sandwiches is the Beirut Chicken. I asked what bread he might recommend for it instead of a pita wrap, but he really urge me to get the pita wrap since there was so much going on in the sandwich. It is made with marinated & sautéed chicken breasts, garlic mayo, lettuce, tomato, onion, thin sliced pickles, cole slaw, and sriracha. I was initially only going to eat a few bites and then eat the Reuben I had also ordered, but I soon found that I had eaten half of the sandwich and was ready to finish it. The sandwich was that good! The flavors really complemented each other, and each bite was a delight. I set aside the sandwich to eat half of my Reuben and was pleased that the wrap only got soggy in one spot when I went to eat it later. And for the record the Reuben was perfect the next day – no sogginess to speak of despite all the sauces on it.
I also ordered the chicken noodle soup. Since I wasn’t eating it right away I was okay with it not being heated up. Once I was ready to eat it at home, it heated up nicely, and the noodles were a total treat. The homemade broth will definitely cure what ails you!
They have a huge cooler filled with soft drinks, iced teas, flavored water, hard seltzers, and beer as well as a wall of crunchy snacks (chips, pretzels) to go with your sandwich. I also grabbed a bag of Zappo’s Voodoo Chips and Harvest Cheddar Sun Chips (my two favorite chips) and a bottle of Mountain Dew and a Crush Grape. The chips and beverages are very well-curated. The homemade cookies are also soft and delicious.
The macaroni salad was just okay. Davis Bakery has ruined me for all other macaroni salads. The pasta salad was really tasty. I highly recommend it. It looks like the black bits are olives, but they are beans. I still didn’t hate it. The seafood salad was great. I ate it straight out of the container with a fork, but it was especially good on a toasted slice of croissant bread. I also enjoyed the pickle. I do plan to try the potato salad too. But come here for the sandwiches.
I must be spoiled from all my years in Germany, because the Braunschweiger sandwich just didn’t do it for me. I prefer a softer meat spread. It’s also possible that it was too much of a good thing. I got there close to closing time, and she used up the Braunschweiger on my sandwich. It was very generous, but I prefer thin slices over huge hunks. I won’t get this again, but there are plenty of other delicious-sounding sandwiches to choose from.
There are no tables. It’s takeout only. Eat in your car if you must.
Open Monday through Friday from 9 to 5 and Saturday from 11 to 4.
Express Deli 5185 Smith Road Brook Park, OH 44142 (216) 267-7878
Creekside (formerly Eddie’s Creekside) has been serving its guests in Northeast Ohio for over 30 years, using fresh, locally sourced ingredients to create a modern twist on classic menu favorites. Located in downtown Brecksville, Creekside Restaurant provides an inviting experience, offering casual cuisine nestled in the treetops overlooking picturesque Chippewa Creek. I have been hearing great things about it for years, but my friend’s neighbor ate here with his family during the holidays several years ago and raved about the eclectic menu. The idea of a lasagna omelette had me immediately intrigued.
I decided I wanted to treat myself to a nice breakfast there as soon as possible and met a friend there for the Sunday Breakfast. They only serve this from 8 am to 1 pm on Sundays. We had to wait a bit despite having a reservation, but it wasn’t a long wait and I had a bench to sit on in the hallway. We were seated at a nice booth overlooking the creek. The food was amazing. They had so many things on the menu I wanted to try, so I ordered two and took food home.
For my meal in the restaurant, I ordered the Eggs & French Toast Combo and upgraded it with the Coffee Cake French Toast for an extra $2.00 because I was intrigued. They use coffee cake as the bread and then drizzle it with a cinnamon streusel and vanilla glaze. Wow, the cinnamon streusel was really great. The scrambled eggs were perfectly cooked (I like them firm and not runny), and the bacon was nice and crisp. I treated myself to coffee and orange juice. It was pricey in the end, but it was worth every penny. My friend ordered the Eggs & Pancakes Combo with the Lemon Ricotta Blue Cakes (rear of photo), which features a lemon ricotta batter with blueberries and a lemon glaze. It hit her craving perfectly.
Of course, I had to order the Lasagnomelette (and ordered it to go), but there were several other omelettes that sounded great, like the California Chicken (chicken, avocado, bacon, tomato, and cheddar cheese), the Lorraine (spinach, bacon, and Swiss) or the Caprese (roma tomatoes, fresh basil, and fresh mozzarella topped with pesto) omelettes. There is even a Thanksgiving omelette year-round that features turkey, stuffing, onions, and Swiss cheese. The Lasagnomelette features Italian sausage, ground beef, provolone, and ricotta cheese. It was so delicious, with the savory meat combined with the cheesy deliciousness of provolone and ricotta. I can only imagine how amazing the cheese pull would have been hot off the griddle. It was good reheated at home if you can believe it.
The cakes in the bakery case were also tempting, but I was full from breakfast and had a ton of leftovers. My friend ordered a slice of cake for later. I’m not quite sure what kind it was, but it looks like some kind of white cake with buttercream frosting. Definitely looks super moist.
I also wanted to try some food off the regular menu, so I went back for lunch a few months later. It was chilly, but it was still comfortable on the balcony because they had heaters set up. I felt much more comfortable on the balcony by myself at the height of COVID.
I had planned on getting a burger or something – or a couple appetizers – for my lunch, but they had a strip steak with crumbled crab (Steak Oscar) as a special. I am a huge pushover for Steak Oscar, so it was a no-brainer. I ordered a side salad for my choice of side (because asparagus is always served with Steak Oscar) and ordered a cup of lobster bisque as well. The bisque was creamy and delicious with some nice chunks of lobster. The steak was perfectly cooked medium rare. The crab and asparagus were a little overbroiled, but they still tasted good.
There were so many good items on the menu I figured I’d just go back soon, but since it isn’t close to me it is quite a trip. Who knew it would take over a year for me to visit for the third time (which is my rule for reviewing a restaurant on a blog post)?
I went on a Wednesday evening close to the holidays. It was decorated really nice, and there were quite a few small and large parties celebrating. My holiday cosmopolitan was really lovely. The White Cosmo Martini features raspberry vodka, triple sec, fresh squeezed lime juice, and white cranberry juice. I loved it. It was refreshing as well as festive.
I was craving potato skins, and since you don’t see those on restaurant menus very often I knew I had to order them even though it was just me. They were perfect – still quite a bit of soft, fluffy potato insides covered in melted cheese and bacon bits. I ate a couple and ordered a box. And even though I knew I wouldn’t have much room left, the Rustica Pizza sounded so good that I ordered it, knowing I would be bringing most of it home. I am so glad I did, because it is one of the best pizzas I have enjoyed in Cleveland. The dough was fluffy and pillowy just like I like it, the sauce was not too sweet, and the toppings paired well together. The shaved parmesan and fresh tomatoes were my favorite part. I wish it were closer so I could order it all the time.
The potato skins were the perfect breakfast the next morning after a quick 5 minute heat session in the air fryer. The pizza also reheated well, which I was happy about.
Blue Canyon offers a Sunday brunch once a month, usually with some kind of theme. The brunch is phenomenal. You can collect whatever you want from the stations set up in the Lodge room (back of the restaurant) or you can order certain items from the kitchen at no additional charge.
Top left: prime rib carving station, center: salad table, right: various tables with entrees and sides Bottom left: prime rib, center: shrimp cocktail and salads, right: my choices. Photos by me and Beth Gold
As we entered the buffet room, they had a prime rib carving station with horseradish sauce and smoked red onion marmalade, which was what I was really looking forward to. The next station was the shrimp cocktail and “seasonal salads” table. The salads included a Waldorf salad, mixed greens salad and fresh fruit. The rest of the buffet was grouped over several tables throughout the room. Two tables contained the German foods, including pork schnitzel with a lemon caper-butter sauce, roasted chicken with a cider glaze, herb crusted salmon with a Hefeweizen “beer blanc,” sweet and sour red cabbage, pan fried German potatoes with bacon, green onion and mustard vinaigrette, garlic butter spätzle with caramelized onions and mushroom gravy, and soft pretzel nibs with hot beer cheese dip, onions and gruyere.
Top (left to right): pork schnitzel, roast chicken, salmon Bottom: red cabbage, German potatoes, spätle (not pictured: pretzels and beer cheese)
Another station featured the normal buffet choices including Applewood bacon, hashbrowns, and maple sausage links. Two other tables featured assorted breakfast pastries and bite-sized desserts.
The made-to-order items, which were included in the price, included a build-your-own omelet (choices included ham, bacon, sausage, pickled jalapenos, spinach, mushrooms, onions, peppers, tomatoes, white Cheddar or American cheese), Blue Canyon Eggs Benedict with a peppercorn chive hollandaise (my friend asked for the hollandaise on the side), Cheddar Cheese scrambled eggs, pancakes (traditional, blueberry or chocolate), a Bavarian cream waffle with an apple caramel sauce (my personal favorite – it was perfection!), Riesling poached clams with sweet corn, shallots and herbs, avocado toast featurng chopped egg, pickled red onion, sriracha, guacamole, and radish on 9 Grain Bread. and Dortmunder braised chicken & apple bratwurst.
The cost of the brunch is $39.99. They offer a discount if you pay in cash instead of credit card. The brunch price includes coffee, tea, iced tea and Pepsi products. For $15 more you can enjoy unlimited draft beers or mimosas with the purchase of the brunch. A single mimosa was $6 for a small and $10 for a large and a Bloody Mary was $7/10. Various juices, cappuccino, espresso and warm cider are also extra. Since I had to drive, I stuck with juice and coffee. At the end of the meal we were also given a coupon for a treat from a ice cream and novelties truck in the parking lot, but there is no way I could have possibly eaten another bite.
My plates: round one with the prime rib, a little bit of all the German items, a piece of bacon and sausage and some salad and round two with the schnitzel, a bite of salmon, some Waldorf salad, and some desserts. The schnitzel was the only thing on the buffet I didn’t love. I’ve had schnitzel in Austria. Blue Canyon can’t compare. It definitely wasn’t hand-pounded
The next brunch is the Santa Brunch in December. I wish I could have attended the November brunch, which featured British staples such as Yorkshire pudding, Salmon Wellington, and Welsh Rarebit as well as roasted turkey, oysters on the half shell, and a gingerbread waffle. My friends went and loved it.
Watami Revolving Sushi Bar is the only conveyor belt sushi restaurant in Ohio as of right now. It is located on Broadview Road near the intersection with Pleasant Valley Road in Parma near the border with Seven Hills. It is in a small strip mall in front of the Giant Eagle and is next to a Dunkin’ Donuts. You need to enter and exit the strip mall at the gas station.
The sushi chef prepares sushi and puts the individual plates on the revolving conveyor belt that circles the dining area. The items on the conveyor are on various colored plates, so the server knows what to charge by counting the plates on your table at the end of your meal. Diners choose which plates they want as they pass by. If you want something that isn’t on the conveyor belt like rmen or udon or a beverage, you can order it from a server. If you have 15 or more plates you can go try your luck to win a capsule toy. The plates with rolls usually have 3-4 pieces (2 for nigiri), so you can try quite a few different rolls in one meal. They also have some appetizers, desserts, and fruit circling as well. Watami Revolving Sushi Bar is a healthy, fun, and delicious dining experience.
The menu is based on traditional Japanese recipes and has about 100 items including sushi (nigiri and rolls), tempura, ramen, and udon. They do not use artificial sweeteners and preservatives or coloring to any of the food. Unfortunately, I think that also applies to the rice wine vinegar that should be added to the sushi rice. It is pretty bland. I heavily season the nigiri and blander rolls with wasabi. Rolls that have extra sauces or toppings have a great flavor and don’t need doctoring.
The first time I went, I went by myself to check it out. It had just opened. I had been anxiously waiting for it to open. The sushi that was going out was pretty good. I grabbed a good selection of nigiri and rolls. I had to ask the waitress for wasabi and ginger as well as things like gyoza or takoyaki, but that’s preferable to something fried sitting on the conveyor belt for too long. The nigiri was well-portioned, but the rice fell apart too easily. It needed something to pack it together. I really enjoyed the Godzilla Roll and Mango Tango Roll because they were so flavorful. Save your money on the obviously canned fruit. The pineapple was just canned pineapple, but the orange slices in visit 2 were refreshing.
The second time I went I met several friends. Instead of sitting in a booth and having one or two people grab items for the others, I chose to sit at the end with seats facing each other. That way everyone was able to grab what they wanted while the other people could enjoy their meal instead of stressing to quickly grab stuff off the belt.
This place definitely isn’t gourmet, but if you want a casual meal of picking a variety of $3 covered plates with four pieces of sushi or two of nigiri or sashimi off of a conveyor belt, you’ll enjoy Watami.
Sitting atop a bluff that overlooks I-480 and gorgeous views of wooded rolling landscapes of northeast Ohio, Blue Canyon Restaurant offers an unparalleled rustic, cozy atmosphere. The restaurant’s design was inspired by the grand lodges located throughout the National Parks of the United States. It seriously reminds me of El Tovar in the Grand Canyon, but it’s a little brighter.
Surrounded by hand-hewn cedar logs, soaring cathedral ceilings, and multiple fieldstone fireplaces, you can relax and enjoy the views out the large windows or admire the gigantic antler chandelier. The bar is also rustic, combining wood and glass partitions. Opened in 2004 by Chef/Partner Brandt Evans, Blue Canyon has stayed in business for almost 20 years without ever dropping in quality. The open kitchen specializes in creative American dishes, including wild game options.
The menu has been tweaked over the years, but there are several customer favorites that remain constant. The BC Yukon Gold Potato Chips are a great appetizer to share. The crispy chips are dressed with a Wisconsin Buttermilk Blue Cheese, a blue cheese cream and scallions. Seriously good as a bar snack or an appetizer. The Bacon Wrapped Boursin Stuffed Chicken Breast is also an original item. It is currently served with whipped Yukon Gold mashed potatoes, Brussels sprouts, and an apple cider glaze.
My favorite dish on the menu is the Pretzel Crusted Trout. I have been enjoying it for almost 20 years. I very rarely deviate, because it’s just so good. You can order a large order (two filets) or a small order (one filet). It is currently served with whipped Yukon Gold mashed potatoes, garlic green beans, and a mustard caper butter. Since I’m not the biggest green bean fan they gladly substituted broccoli for green beans. The mustard caper butter is good I would bathe in it if I could. It is a nice accompaniment to the trout. Paired with a cup of sherry-forward lobster bisque, this was my birthday dinner this year. When given the choice of dessert, I chose the Strawberry Pretzel dessert. The creme brulee and chocolate mousse bomb were also phenomenal.
My birthday dinner (not pictured: a Hurricane)
My friends and family members at the dinner ordered the trout, the salmon, or the pork chops. The Cedar Plank Salmon is also available as a large and small order, which my friend really appreciated. It was also accompanied by whipped mashed potatoes, garlic green beans, and a lemon herb butter sauce, but my friend appreciated that she could substitute a corn side for the mashed potatoes.
The Pork Chop was served with farro risotto, pickled red cabbage, and bacon and pear mustards. My mother is a pork chop fan and enjoyed this dish a lot. They were able to work with her to accommodate her dairy and gluten allergies. She had no problems the next day, which is always appreciated after going out to dinner.
The Dinner Menu is just one of the menus available on the website. They offer a Beverage Menu, a Dessert Menu, a Date Night Menu, a Weekly Family Dining Menu, a monthly Brunch Menu, and currently a Holiday Celebratory Luncheons Menu, a Restaurant Week Menu, and a Thanksgiving Takeout Menu.
Obviously, I enjoyed the Clambake here this year (see here), but I also recently enjoyed their Oktoberfest Brunch in September (to be continued, see next post). Blue Canyon is worth the drive for a special night out with friends or a date night. The bar and dining rooms are cozy, and you just want to sink into the chairs. There are choices for every price point – from a burger to a steak or scallops.
I had the most phenomenal clambake to start off clambake season. My friend Nancy (who lives in Florida now) posted on Sept. 15th that her favorite restaurant, Mish Mosh Eclectic Eatery in Solon, was doing a clambake this year. Mish Mosh is tucked away behind Fisher’s American Tavern at the corner of Brainard Road and Miles Road. I finished a five-day Zoom assignment, so I decided to treat myself to the clambake on the 23rd. A friend had gone on the 15th and enjoyed it. They advertised it as “First come first serve for our patio or call for reservation.” Even though there was a chill in the air (it had dropped to 50 degrees Fahrenheit that day), I was okay sitting on the patio. The restaurant itself was already packed at 5 PM, so they aren’t kidding about reservations. Anyway, I sat by myself on the patio and was waited on by co-owner Jamie. They had a fire pit and heaters going, so I was perfectly comfortable in my capri pants and short sleeve shirt. They offered the clambake every evening Thursday through Saturday through October. The clambake includes a mug of New England clam “Chowda,” 1 dozen butter broth steamed little neck clams, garlic crostinis, butter roasted corn on the cob, house slaw, and pomegranate roasted sweet potatoes. The dinner with the Garlic Herb Roasted Chicken was $38, the Black Angus New York strip steak was $58, a half-rack of dry-rubbed, BBQ baby back ribs was $47, and the lobster weighed between 1 1/4 to 3 lbs and was market price. I decided I was going to go all out and order the lobster. It was market price and not cheap, but I decided to splurge. The lobster they had was a 2 1/2 lb. lobster, so my dinner was $130 plus drinks (perfect Rum Runner) and tip. I enjoyed every single bite. I usually am sad when I run out of lobster, but this was the perfect amount for me. The Chowda was delicious and chock full of clams. The clams were in a nice broth with some vegetables; I liked the broth so much that I tipped the plate to drink some and the server ended up bringing me a shot glass to decant the rest into. The corn was nicely grilled, and I enjoyed the sweet potatoes and house slaw as well. Jamie also accidentally brought me a house salad, but it was nice to get some freshness in. I would definitely do this again when I have the cash to splurge on a meal. I ate peanut butter sandwiches that week to counterbalance the cost.
Mish Mosh’s clambake
I used to attend the Willoughby Elks’ clambake every year since 2014. I wasn’t able to go in 2018 or 2019, and Covid stopped events there in 2020. I have several friends who are members, so I attend the occasional brunch, BBQ, fish fry, and of course the clambakes. They even use my photo for their Event photo every year! This year was the first time in a while they have had dinners. I signed up for the October 1st clambake in mid-September and promptly forgot about it until Facebook reminded me (after a nap) that the event had started an hour ago. I rushed out of the house and made it there just as the last folks in line were being served. I missed nothing. I enjoyed sitting with my friend Kerrie. Her partner Brian was working the tent and organized my meal for me. The clambake includes clams (or mussels) with the choice of 1/2 a chicken or steak along with sweet potato, corn on the cob, coleslaw, and their famous clam chowder! Tickets MUST be purchased in advance & it does sell out, so it’s important to reserve your ticket in September when they post the event. The Chicken Bake is $28, the Steak Bake is $35, and extra clams or mussels are $12. They cook and serve outside (and the smokers congregate there), but there is inside seating and a full bar off the hallway. To explain the photos below: the one on the left is the photo they use for the event photo, the photo in the middle is a photo from their recent luau to show the seating (the bar is through the door in the middle), and the photo on the right is this year’s meal. I had the steak and had an Oktoberfest beer and a Sprite from the bar. I brought home half the steak and most of the sweet potato. The corn was out of this world this year!
Willoughby Elks’ clambake
My friend Beth contacted me spur of the moment to see if I would be interested in joining her at the Winking Lizard for their clambake on the 7th. The Winking Lizard locations apparently alternate when they host the clambake, and that weekend was Canton, Macedonia, Mayfield Heights, Mentor, Peninsula and Reynoldsburg. It was available on that Friday after 3 pm through Sunday. She wanted to meet right when it started at 3, and I whined that I wasn’t a senior citizen yet. But I hadn’t eaten that day, so I was definitely getting hungry. I was so glad we did it. We got a great server, and it wasn’t too busy (until we were leaving). The dinner included a cup of New Egland clam chowder, steamed clams, baked or sweet potato, corn on the cob, and garlic cheese bread with our choice of twin lobster tails for $37, a 12 oz. strip steak for $34, a half slab of St. Louis ribs for $30 and half a BBQ chicken for $25. Another option was “Clams & Clams” for $30. A great deal! I ordered a margarita along with the clambake with twin lobster tails. Everything was cooked perfectly. Probably because the kitchen wasn’t slammed. It was wonderful! And we ran into two friends as we were about to leave, so we sat and kept them company. I’d definitely do it again.
Winking Lizard’s clambake
It was the third year in a row for Gunselman’s Tavern. This year was a little different in that they seated people inside and on the patio, and opened the parking lot up for parking. Despite advertising it to my dining out group I ended up going by myself. I brought my Kindle, but was seated at the Community Table, which I have really enjoyed at other restaurants in the past. This Community Table did not disappoint. I was initially seated with a couple from Fairview Park. The wife knew the older sister of my high school boyfriend, so we talked about the few families I knew through him. Then another couple and their friend were seated with us, and it turns out they know my high school best friend’s husband and family from way back (first grade and he’s in his mid-50s now). I am the one who introduced the two, so we had plenty to talk about. Finally, a second couple and their son were sat with us. Turns out the last two groups had paid for tickets and had the credit card statements to prove it, but there was no record of them on Gunselman’s side. I’m sensing a pattern… Anyway, we had such a fun time talking that I blew off my book discussion to stay and talk. The clambake was, as always, delicious. The food prep was in the parking lot along the patio, so it didn’t take up any parking spaces. Same as the last two years, the Gunselman’s clambake includes clam broth, New England clam chowder, a dozen clams, sweet potato and roasted potatoes, coleslaw, corn on the cob, and 1/2 chicken. We were served extra broth and clam chowder (note my two cups stacked in the chowder photo). The chowder was packed with clams and potatoes. I was able to get my own meal from the buffet this year! I once again ordered the Steak Bake, so I got a 12 oz strip steak instead of chicken. When I went through the buffet, I asked for sweet potatoes and not roast potatoes, which helped me not fill up and need a to-go box. I had 2 Great Lake Oktoberfest beers and an iced tea. The beers went down smoothly in that weather.
Gunselman’s Tavern’s clambake (Year 3)
Stancato’s hosts its clambake every Saturday in October. I met one of my Meetup dining groups here for the clambake on the 22nd. There were 12 of us, and 11 ordered the clambake, making it easier for the wait staff to handle us. I ordered a Limoncello Margherita (ha!) as my cocktail and a ginger ale for when I was thirsty. They brought out a ton of herb ciabatta rolls and a small bowl of marinara for dipping or drizzling. I spooned several spoonfuls of marinara on each half and enjoyed them. They then brought out a cup of New England clam chowder, followed by the linguini in white clam sauce. They brought out small to go cups of parmesan cheese and red pepper flakes for us to add as desired. Delicious! The third course featured a dozen middle neck clams with broth and drawn butter, which were perfectly cooked. The broth was good. I wish we had been given some on the side. The roasted portion of the meal includes a marinated roast chicken, Italian sausage (this time lacking the peppers and onions although you could taste them), parsley red skin potatoes, and buttered corn on the cob. We were given a long list of available desserts, including cannoli, tiramisu, cheesecake, pumpkin cheesecake, several cakes, and ice cream. I chose the pumpkin cheesecake, which was great, and had a bite of the tiramisu, which was extra chocolatey and “espresso-y”. Once again, I ate everything that wouldn’t reheat well (chowder, linguini, clams, and corn) and took the rest and an extra dinner roll (and half my cheesecake) home for dinner the next day. Delicious!
We’re not quite done, folks. We have two more clambakes before we get to the end. Halloween weekend I had ordered stone crab claws from Goldbelly for a little crab bake at home, but decided at the last minute to go out on Sunday for the famous Salmon Dave’s clambake. I have been hearing about Salmon Dave’s clambake since I started paying attention to the local clambakes. Salmon Dave’s is known for the quality of its seafood and fish, so I was looking forward to it. And best of all, the clambakes are $10 off on Sundays. I decided to splurge and order a nice chardonnay. The server suggested two that were “buttery” and would go well with the clambake. I told her to bring me the “butteriest” of the two, which was the Chalk Hill. I loved the wine and will be looking for it in stores. I decided to order the “Maine Event” Clambake, which includes fresh bread and honey butter, clam broth, a whole 1 1/4 lb. lobster, 1/2 a baked chicken, 1/2 dozen (six) clams, a half ear of corn on the cob, and roasted red potatoes. It was the first clambake I’ve been to that only serves six clams instead of a dozen. You can order an extra dozen, but I figured I’d have enough food there and there was no option to order six. If I hadn’t been to Mish Mosh, I would have been over the moon with this clambake, but I missed the extra 1 1/2 pounds of lobster meat (grin). Also, the half (!) ear of corn was a little dried out. Luckily it puffed up a bit once I slathered some butter on it. The quality of everything was great. I particularly enjoyed the roasted potatoes. The chicken was a little salty, but I just avoided the skin after that. As always, I ate the stuff that wouldn’t reheat well and brought the chicken and roasted potatoes home for later.
Salmon Dave’s Maine Event
The last clambake for the season was at Blue Canyon. I recently rediscovered Blue Canyon when I decided to celebrate my birthday there in August. My parents live close, and I wanted to celebrate with them. Our dinner there was exquisite. I had been to Blue Canyon for the clambake in 2020 and remember it being excellent, so I definitely wanted to end this season on a high note. It certainly lived up to it. I made a reservation for 4 for 6:30 on Thursday, November 3 (the last clambake of the season – they started serving at 4). I arrived there to find a full parking lot. There were a couple spots at the very end near the dumpsters and space in the overflow lot on the hill above the parking lot. I parked in the lot and sat for a while waiting for the reservation time. Two of my friends had canceled, and my friend who was meeting me was running a little late. I walked in at 6:30 along with a group of ladies, who were whisked to their table. I was greeted warmly, explained we would only be two people, and asked to take a seat for a few minutes. They apparently had to clean a couple of tables. I wasn’t in a hurry. I joked about walking from the upper parking lot and remarked that the last time I was there I was using a cane and the hostess exclaimed, “I thought I recognized you!” That is the sign of an excellent hostess, Brandt!
Initial impressions of Blue Canyon’s clambake
I was taken to my table and greeted warmly. I ordered a delicious cocktail called Royal Winter, which was made with Crown Royal, Amaretto, Chambord, cranberry juice, and pineapple juice. I took a photo of the listing so I can try to recreate it at home. It was delicious and very cranberry-forward. Once my friend arrived, she ordered the same cocktail and we ordered our clambakes. I had ordered them with the reservations so they wouldn’t run out, so she didn’t feel badly ordering an extra dozen clams. The basic clambake featured bacon clam chowder, a dozen middle neck clams, a small thimble of broth (easily confused with the melted butter), Yukon Gold Potatoes with sausage, kale and Parmesan in a sage cream sauce (absolutely delicious), and an ear of corn with roasted garlic chive butter, and an apple cider-glazed chicken breast for $39. You could add on several items, crab cake for $10, an 8 oz beef tenderloin for $24, 4 grilled shrimp for $12, and a dozen clams for $12. There were also several desserts. Unfortunately, the crab cake was listed but not available. The server offered me grilled scallops instead, which sounded good. They were perfect, but unfortunately my photo of them was not so I don’t have a photo. The dinner was a winner from start to finish. Let’s talk about the bacon clam chowder. That was without a doubt the best, most flavorful soup I have ever eaten. I wanted to order a bowl to go but forgot by the end of the dinner because everything else was phenomenal as well. The chowder was full of chunks of potato, bacon and clam, and the seasoning was superbly on point. Blue Canyon wins the Best Chowder award. The Yukon potatoes were creamy and delicious. I’m a sucker for sage. The corn was flavorful, nicely cooked, and not dried out despite it being at the end of corn season. The clams were perfect. A little chewy, but definitely well-prepared. I brought the potatoes and chicken breast home with me for lunch tomorrow (today).
Best ambiance: Gunselman’s patio/parking lot (runner up: Mish Mosh’s patio) Best bread: Winking Lizard (runner up: Stancato’s) Best chicken: Salmon Dave’s (runner up: Blue Canyon) Best chowder: Blue Canyon (runner up: Gunselman’s) Best clams: Mish Mosh Best potatoes: Blue Canyon (runner up: Salmon Dave’s) Best corn: Willoughby Elks Bet add-on: Mish Mosh’s lobster (runner up: Stancato’s linguini and clams)
Marie’s Restaurant is a Cleveland institution located at the corner of E. 45th and St. Clair Avenue. The restaurant has been in business for four decades and features Eastern European cuisine – specifically “home cooked authentic Eastern European cooking just like mama would make.” It’s known for its Croatian cooking (see: cevapi). Marie’s has great lunch and dinner specials all week. You can order in or take it to go, get a full or half portion, lunch or dinner, the choice is yours. The specials run out, so make sure you order early. Marie’s has a comfortable, no-frills dining room, friendly down-to-earth staff, and delicious home cooking.
The bread is soft and fluffy and comes served with prepackaged butter pats, which were nice and soft. No frozen hard butter that makes you tear the bread. I ate several slices before my soup and salad came out (entrees come with choice of soup or salad, but I ordered the salad on the side). The salad dressing is a delicious vinegar-based European dressing. You can’t go wrong with any of their soups, but you will have to add some salt and pepper. They definitely cater to the elderly patrons who are watching their salt intake. I’ve had the clam chowder, the ham and barley, and the chicken noodle soups. All were really tasty.
The first time I went I ordered a Schnitzel and Spaetzle, because I think that is the best test for a European restaurant. The Schnitzel was definitely homemade and hand-pounded. No uniform frozen schnitzels here. It was crisp and delicious. I ordered some goulash gravy to go over the Spätzle, which was perfect, and the green beans were good too (canned but I like that). The beer went down tooo smoothly.
The second time I went I brought my dining out group. I ordered the Schnitzel Cordon Blue and probably won’t ever order anything else. The schnitzel was thinly pounded and wrapped around a generous portion of ham and cheese. Each bite was delicious. I also ordered the spätzle again – and a side of the fried cabbage, which was absolutely delicious. It’s a special side on Wednesdays.
My fellow diners enjoyed the goulash with spätzle and with noodles as well as a schnitzel with homefries, and one diner ordered the pork chop with spätzle. The goulash is authentically Viennese in that it is just meat and sauce. Everyone loved their entrees and sides of choice. Several exclaimed that they would be coming here again.
We split several apple strudels, which was just like the thin layered pastry I enjoyed in Austria. Strudel is supposed to be made with multiple layers of thin dough – not puff pastry. This strudel was perfect.
I look forward to trying the stuffed cabbage and the cevapi before relying on the cordon blue from now on. Judging from the photos, Marie’s Chicken Paprikash is more Balkan than Hungarian. The sauce is creamier and does not use a lot of paprika like the Hungarian version does. Marie’s also has City Chicken on the menu. You can’t get much more Cleveland than that.