Ramen at Mason’s Creamery

Mason’s Creamery opened in 2015 on the corner of Bridge Avenue and W. 44th Street in Ohio City, and serves high-quality ice cream in all kinds of adventurous flavors in the warmer months. They started serving ramen a couple times a year as pop-up events, which proved popular. They would run out within an hour or two. Last winter they decided to covert to a ramen shop, and they started serving three kinds of ramen, delicious tea, and soft serve ice cream. They put a sturdy tent around the overhang above, creating temporary seating. There are also about 12 seats available inside along the “bar.”

I stopped several times last winter and tried both the pork tonkatsu and chicken shio. Both were very flavorful. I am not a huge fan of pork belly or fat, so the pork wasn’t my favorite. I enjoyed the chicken a lot. However, I was there recently and had the vegetarian ramen, featuring several kinds of mushrooms and found my favorite. The bowls of ramen are $13 and come loaded with noodles and garnished with assorted toppings like seaweed, corn, mushrooms and a soft-boiled, soy-cured egg. There are vegan and gluten-free options, too. I remembered to ask them to not add the egg to my vegetarian ramen (I’m allergic). I really loved the broth and toppings in the vegetarian ramen. The broth had a really rich, umami taste to it. The other broths are also flavorful, but the veggie/mushroom broth is truly outstanding. I’ll be back for it.

As much as I love the ramen, I love the fruit-based tea they serve here more. It is a generous 1 liter serving, and you can get a lid to take the bottle home with you. In fact, they do not reuse the bottles. I’ve enjoyed a pineapple, passion fruit and raspberry tea, mandaquat (mandarin orange and kumquat), and the latest version was passion fruit and guava.

They also serve two flavors of soft serve every day. I couldn’t resist getting the matcha and chocolate swirl. The chocolate had a deep chocolate flavor, and the matcha was perfect – green tea flavor and not too sweet. The two flavors really complemented each other.

Starting in early December, Mason’s is open Wednesdays, Thursdays and Sundays from 4-9 p.m., and Fridays and Saturdays from 4-10 p.m. for ramen. The plan is to convert back to an ice cream shop in late March or early April.

We were a larger group than they can normally accommodate. They won’t allow groups to sit until everyone is there. Initially there were four of us. If one of your friends is pokey or running late you’re out of luck. I thought we were going to be five and then two more of my friends showed up at the last minute without warning, making us 6. We waited for one of the two tables of four to clear, while the cashier kept taking other orders from walk-ins. Once a table finally cleared, I sent my friend there to reserve it, only to get chastised by the cashier that you can’t sit until you’ve ordered and paid. I ordered for both of us and headed out into the tent. That did not leave a warm feeling in my heart. We had been standing there waiting for ten minutes already. The seventh person walked in just as we all sat down and were being served. The seven of us managed to cram around a table for four, but luckily ramen doesn’t take up a lot of room. We gladly doled out cups of water to the other diners since we were in the way. Three of my friends had never had ramen before. It was fun teaching them how to eat it – taste the broth with the spoon, slurp the noodles from the chopsticks, it’s okay to drink the broth from the bowl. Everyone enjoyed themselves in the end, so I must have been the only one stressing out. The joys of being an organizer.

Do yourself a favor and do not come with a group. But definitely check it out. Come with a friend or two or be like me and come alone and enjoy the ramen while you can. I truly think it’s the best ramen in Cleveland and worth the aggravation.

Contact info:

Mason’s Creamery
4401 Bridge Avenue
Cleveland, OH 44113
216) 245-8942

Boss ChickNBeer

Located on Front Street in Berea, this women-owned restaurant features fried chicken wings and tenders and locally brewed beer. I imagine it fits quite well into the Baldwin Wallace college culture.

Boss ChickNBeer is a unique restaurant – everything that is fried is gluten-free, as they use rice flour and soybean oil for their deep-fried and battered chicken. All the products that are in the fryers are all gluten free, and there is no cross contamination. The pasta and some buns are the only non-GF items. This is one of those places that picks one thing to do and does it well. Like the name says, it focuses on chicken and beer. If you don’t want beer you can help yourself to the free sweet or unsweetened iced tea and water in the dispensers in the back.

The storefront itself is rather small. It features bar seating and a few tables along the wall. There is no table service. You can order at the bar or if it is busy you order at the cash register near the entrance (although there is an entrance in the back as well from a small parking lot).

My first visit was right after it opened, so the menu was a little more limited than it is now. I couldn’t decide if I wanted wings or tenders, so I ordered both in the WingN Tender combo, which comes with 1 lb of wings, 3 tenders, 2 sides and 2 sauces for $20. I ordered the New Cleveland Gold and Citrus BBQ sauces. Both sauces were great, but I preferred the New Cleveland Gold. The wings were a little saltier than I expected, but they were absolutely delicious. I enjoyed the seasoning they use. The wings do not come coated in sauce, nor do they need to be. In fact, the menu specifies they can coat the wings in sauce for $100. The chicken tenders were perfectly fried, very tender – no pun intended – and quite juicy. I ordered the onion rings and fried brussels sprouts as sides. The onion rings were massive. They were thinly sliced, which I didn’t think was possible. The flavor was completely on point. The brussels sprouts were an absolute delight. They were roasted to within an inch of their life and absolutely delicious. I also ordered a Platform beer, because beer just goes well with wings. It was a lot of food and I enjoyed it the next day (hint: use an air fryer to reheat it and your leftovers will be perfect).

Vegan wings – photo from Boss ChickNBeer

My friends got the wings and the vegan wings (battered cauliflower & smoked tofu). The vegan wings weren’t bad. I imagine if I were a vegetarian I would come order this quite often. One of my friends ordered the salt roasted sweet potato as her side. It was massive and very tasty. They also got a sample taste of the queso mac n cheese, which was delicious. I brought date nut cupcakes from Dick’s Bakery down the street for dessert, because you can’t beat the date nut cake.

On my second visit I met a friend in the dog days of summer. The place was packed, and there was a line to order. I held our table while she ordered a WingN Tender combo for the two of us (it was perfect for two people). I let her choose the sides, and she chose the hand-cut fries and superfood slaw. I once again thoroughly enjoyed the wings and tenders. I can’t decide which I prefer, because they are both good in their own way. The handcut fries were perfectly fried, and the superfood slaw was delightfully fresh with lots of small julienned superfood veggies. I don’t know if I would have ordered the slaw, but it was a nice healthy choice.

The latest version of the menu features Boss-Tastic Mac with the mac n cheese topped with chicken tenders, gold sauce, boss sauce, green onion and bacon. The Veggie Mac is topped with the vegan wings instead of the chicken and bacon. Holy hell is it good. The queso has a bit of a kick to it, but you can lessen the spice by getting a bite with some barbecue sauce as well. The curly macaroni noodles are a great vehicle delivery for the soupy cheese.

They also offer four different sandwiches – the Hott Chick, the Hott Vegan Chick, the Jersey Shore Chick and the Vegan Shore Chick – for $10. The Hott Chick and Hott Vegan Chick features their jalapeno buffalo sauce and jalapeno pickles over tenders or vegan wings, while the Jersey Shore and Vegan Shore uses peppers, mozzarella, tomatoes and marinara sauce. You can choose between a gluten-free pretzel bun or a tortilla wrap. They had a sandwich featuring a glazed donut, but surprisingly that didn’t go over that well and was taken off the menu.

Contact info:

Boss ChickNBeer
120 Front Street
Berea, OH 44017
(440) 532-7660 b

Merwin’s Wharf

IMAG3616What Merwin’s Wharf lacks in food quality, it makes up for in atmosphere. I met a friend there for dinner on a recent Tuesday. There was a one and a half hour wait for a table (on a Tuesday), but my friend quickly found two people leaving at the bar and snagged their seats. The location is the big draw. Located on the banks of the Cuyahoga River, Merwin’s Wharf has a large patio with a fire pit, a gas fireplace, and a giant Jenga, lots of windows and a great view of the boats and river traffic. I saw a rowing crew IMAG3608counting out their strokes and the Goodtime III drove by at one point. My friend commented that they should have the bar facing the river, but the design allows the servers and food runners access to the kitchen (note I didn’t say quick access, because several orders sat there for a pretty long time). Things got better onceIMAG3601 the manager came out to expedite things.

I was underwhelmed by the food, but I loved the drinks. I started off with a Hemingway’s Day Off, which was delicious. It features rum with a little lime and is finished with basil syrup. I saw no sign of the “seasonal fruit” mentionedIMAG3610 in the description, but it really didn’t need it. I drank it down quickly and enjoyed every sip. I then ordered a Rum Runner, which features light and dark rum, banana and blackberry liqueur, orange juice, pineapple, Grenadine and 151 Rum. It was also delicious, and I had to ask the bartender for water IMAG3612because I was afraid I would drink it down too quickly without any food. I didn’t get my water until I finally was able to ask the runner who brought the food for one. The bar was slammed, but the bartender had obviously forgotten my water.

As far as the food is concerned, it isn’t the best food, but it is okay. I ordered the Beef and Mushroom Melt. I don’t know if it had sat under the heat lamp for too long, but the thick-cut beef was tough and the “melt” was pretty dry. There wasn’t much horseradish cream that I noticed IMAG3613and as you can tell the cheese was also pretty meager. The fresh cut potato chips were decent. I think a shaved beef would make this a much more successful sandwich.

My friend ordered the fish tacos. The fish was walleye and it had a nice amount of veggies accompanying it. She said the tacos wereIMAG3611 okay but a bit bland. She said they could really use the addition of some kind of crema or creamy topping.

A fellow patron at the bar also offered us a bite of their giant pretzel with mustard and beer cheese. The biggest thing it has going for it is the size. It was gargantuan. It was doughy but didn’t have the nice crispness I am used to. The mustard andIMAG3600 beer cheese dips were tasty and were needed to give it some flavor. It was nothing like the pretzel at the Hofbrauhaus or any pretzel in any backyard beer garden in Germany. The pretzel was more like a bit dough bowtie than a pretzel. In any case the two of them were having trouble finishing it, which is why they offered us a taste. I guess it would do a good job soaking up the alcohol, so it is a good bar choice.

This is definitely a place to go for drinks. Just don’t expect too much from the food. Or the service. I have heard complaints about rude hosts/hostesses, and I was not impressed with the time it took to run food out once it hit the kitchen window. Go for the drinks and the view. You can wave at the Goodtime III when it goes by.

Contact info:

Merwin’s Wharf
1785 Merwin Avenue
Cleveland, OH 44113
(216) 664-5696

Noodlecat

in-memoriam-graphic

My friends and I ate at Noodlecat last night, and I can honestly say that I don’t know what has taken me so long to eat there. My only excuse is that I don’t usually eat downtown, and was reminded of why when I had to pay almost $10 to park since House of Blues was having some special event that night. Yes, I am a spoiled suburbanite (if Cleveland Heights can be considered the suburbs – but I gladly pay a couple quarters at their meters…). That said, I do occasionally eat in the Warehouse District, but generally can find a cheap spot on the street or cough up $5 for a spot in the parking lot. It’s not that I mind paying to park, but when there are so many other options that don’t necessitate paying half to one-fourth of the cost of the meal… Unfortunately there were no available spots on Prospect or Euclid, so I valeted it on E. 4th.

Noodlecat is unpretentious and casual, using recycled materials in the same way as The Greenhouse Tavern. Being an environmentalist from way back (since the 1980s) I love that. My only complaint about the decor is that the chair started becoming uncomfortable after an hour and a half. In short, my butt hurt from sitting on the little metal chair, and my fellow diners told me the wood bench wasn’t much better.

Kim Chee salad

Those are the only two negatives I have to report. In short, the food was simply amazing, and I take it as a good sign that I am craving the food the next day. If you are a fan of pho or ramen you will be quite pleased with what they serve. It was a happy accident that I scheduled our dinner for 6:30, which was at the tail end of their happy hour. All the ramen was $5 and the steam buns were just $2. I walked away paying just $20 including tip.

I started off by ordering a sparkling sake, which was on draft and only $4. Win! The sake was just what I wanted/needed. It was light and just a little sweet. Choosing an entree was a difficult decision. I was tempted to order Roscoe’s Fried Chicken & Ramen with fried chicken, butter, hot sauce, maple syrup, greens and fried chicken broth, but changed my mind when I heard the chicken was bone-in. Three of my fellow diners ordered it and loved it. They did, however, have trouble getting the meat off the bone with only chopsticks and an Asian-style soup spoon.

Chicken yakitori steam bun

One of my fellow diners ordered the Kim Chee Salad with Napa cabbage, sweet pureed kim chee, cashews, peanuts and pickled melon. Not being a fan of kim chee but willing to keep an open mind I was able to try several bites. The salad was flavorful and had a subtle heat that snuck up on you. Another friend ordered the “Super” Salad with adzuki beans, local greens, dry blueberry, savory green tea granola and ancient grains. He loved it and even pointed out to the waiter that there wasn’t a drop left.

Pork miso ramen

I decided to go with a chicken yakitori steam bun with pickled carrots, miso mayo and cilantro, which I enjoyed. However, as luck would have it our waiter had accidentally ordered two Tonkatsu buns that featured a crispy fried pork cutlet and smoked egg sauce. I told him I would be happy to pay for one of them, and I am so glad I did because it was my favorite part of the meal (and that is saying a lot). It was a taste explosion of goodness.

Green tea pot de creme

For my entree I ordered a bowl of the pork miso ramen, which features roasted Ohio pork, miso, scallions and greens. The noodles and roasted pork were perfectly cooked, and the broth was so flavorful and delicious that I drank up every last drop.

I ended my meal with the green tea pot de creme. I love green tea ice cream, and the pot de creme was absolutely perfect. The consistency was firm and not runny, and the flavor was light and balanced. The shaved chocolate on top was a nice complement to the green tea pot de creme. The waiter informed us that the chef had spent two weeks working to perfect it. I say thumbs up!

Several of us headed over to the Chocolate Bar for a night cap afterward. Since the temperature had dropped 40 degrees in a day I was chilled and chose the caramel and sea salt hot chocolate. It was creamy and delicious. The perfect ending to a perfect meal.

Contact info:

Noodlecat
234 Euclid Avenue
Cleveland, Ohio 44114
(216) 589-0007