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

Crust

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

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

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

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

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

Contact info:

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

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

You can find the menus for both locations here.

Hofbräuhaus

IMAG6081Anyone who has paid attention to this blog knows that I am a German translator. I lived in Austria for a year and Germany for six years, so I am very critical when it comes to German/Austrian food. I was really excited to hear about the Hofbräuhaus opening and was there on the first day it opened (standing in line with everyone else). Unfortunately they still had a bunch of kinks to work out, and there was a limited menu at the time. We still enjoyed our pretzels and Obatzda, beer and Schnitzel. I just wasn’t super impressed. IIMAG1307‘ve been to the real Hofbräuhaus in Munich several times as well as the ones in Pittsburgh and Cincinnati (technically Covington, Kentucky). Obviously nothing compares to the real Hofbräuhaus. It is five floors of beer halls and has outstanding food and service. The beer gardens in Cincinnati was also a really good time, and the food was a welcome respite in Pittsburgh. So I was confident that the Hofbräuhaus would find its footing, and it has. I am pleased to report that they brew their beer on-site.

It should be noted that this incantation has absolutely nothing to do with the old Hofbrau Haus at E. 55th and St. Clair, which closed in 2000. The Hofbrau Haus, run by German immigrant Steve Bencic, imported Hofbräu beer but never produced it on-site. It also had no official ties to Munich. This is an official franchise of the 427-year old Hofbräuhaus (the “ducal brewery” in German) in Munich. It was founded in 1589 to serve beer to the Duke of Bavaria and eventually the people of Munich. They have a tent at the Munich Oktoberfest, and you can smell it from a mile away. Lots of drunken idiots.IMAG1312 I always avoided it. The current Hofbräuhaus is part of a franchise chain, which started in 2003, but not in the sense that they are everywhere. They seem to be particular about where they open a location.

On my first visit I was so excited for the Jägerschnitzel that I was absolutely crushed when I was told they didn’t have it available yet. I ordered the cordon blue Schnitzel and the roasted potatoes (I hate German potato salad in the States. It shouldn’t be sweet).IMAG1299 I was underwhelmed by the meal. I am used to Austrian schnitzel that is pounded super thin and hangs off the plate. The schnitzel here was a little greasy and smaller than I am used to (and I suspect that it was food service schnitzel), but from the photos on Yelp it appears that was just opening week. The schnitzels look less uniform now, as they should.

Obatzda, which is a fave of mine, is a cheese mixture of brie or camembert (they use brie), cream cheese, butter, onion, seasonings like paprika or caraway, and some beer. It is usually servedIMAG1306 with bread or pretzels. The Hofbräuhaus’ version was just as good as I had hoped it would be. The pretzels were delicious and were a great accompaniment to the Obatzda. They were fluffy with just the right amount of crust and salt.

I was thrilled to be able to order a Radler, which is a mixture of soda and beer (a shandy). I drink fairly slowly so a liter is wasted on me as it warms up. I prefer the half liters so I can drink them cold. The Radler was the perfect size for me, and came with a lemon and a lime garnish, which was honestly a little weird. You drink Kristallweizen with lemon – not a shandy. But hey, it’s Cleveland, not Germany, and I’ll cut them some slack. I’m happy to report that my mostIMAG6077 recent Radler was not served with any garnish.

Flash forward to now. One of the people I follow on Instagram posted a photo of the Currywurst the other day. I love Currywurst, which is a Frankfurter or brat that is fried, sliced and doused in curry powder and a curry sauce. It is a German fast food delight when you’ve been drinking and comes accompanied with fries. I went there the next day for lunch to order one. It was as good as I had hoped. I was thrilled. The Wurst had a nice snap to it from the casing, the curry powder was present and the sauce was a nice accompaniment to the Wurst and the fries. I finished all the Wurst and half the fries. I think the true lunch portion would be perfect, since it only uses one sausage. Two and a IMAG6075mess of fries was a bit much.

Since I’m not a total glutton I ordered a side salad as well. It was a nice mix of fresh mixed greens accompanied by a red pepper ring, a couple cherry tomatoes, cucumber slices and croutons. I ordered the hot bacon dressing and was very happy I did. It was nice and warm with a sweet creaminess that was a nice topping to the salad.

I wish parking wasn’t so difficult, but that’s the way things are in downtown Cleveland. I’ve managed to find street parking and walk a few blocks to the restaurant. There are lots of parking lots in the area, IMAG1303but they can be quite pricey. And they offer valet service, but I have no idea what that costs. If you are going to drink and not have a designated driver you can hop on a bus or call Uber. In any event, I definitely enjoyed the lunch time ambiance better than the party ambiance of the evenings. There was no live band, everyone was low key, no one was dancing on the tables, and there were no shot skis being shared. But if you are in the mood for a lively evening the Hofbrauhaus is the place for you.

I’ll be back to try some more of the entrees. If you want to be adventurous I suggest you order the Schweinshaxe or Leberkäse. If you want something lighter go for the Wurstsalat. I had it at a German Cultural Garden event, and it was quite good. Vegetarians will love the Käsespätzle. They also have a vegetarian schnitzel.

In any case, Mahlzeit und Prost!

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Contact info:

Hofbräuhaus Cleveland
1550 Chester Avenue
Cleveland, Ohio 44114
216-621-BEER (2337)

Zanzibar Soul Fusion

IMAG3520Zanzibar on Shaker Square is a great place to satisfy your craving for Southern soul food. They moved from their old location next to the cinema into where Sergio’s Sarava used to be several years ago. The move not only gave them more space, but also a great patio. Zanzibar is owned by the same people who run Angie’s Soul Cafe (see previous post).

I had been to the old location for a buffet brunch where I fell in love with their chicken and waffles and the Purple Rain, a IMAG1216mixture of lemonade and grape Kool-Aid served in a mason jar). The Sunrise mixes lemonade and red Kool-Aid. I found myself craving this and kept trying to replicate it at home. Sadly I couldn’t, but luckily for $5 you can order a mason jar filled with your drink to take home.

Now they are located in the old Sergio’s Sarava location. They have an awesome patio, which is where we were sat for this meal. However, they also have plenty of inside seating for the winter months.

Once seated the wait staff brought out a bIMAG1219asket of cornbread and blueberry muffins. I had a tough time deciding which one I loved more. Both were really moist and flavorful. The butter was soft and plentiful, which was also nice.

We enjoyed quite a few things on the extensive menu. We started off with a couple appetizers that we shared. My favorite was the Soul Rolls, IMAG1217which feature chicken, greens, black beans, roasted corn and cheese with a zesty remoulade sauce to dip them into. They were delicious. The Collard Green and Artichoke Dip was also stellar. We devoured the ciabatta toast points that came with them and ate forkfuls of the dip to finish it off. I would definitely order both again.

I ordered the Ultimate Feast, which is a great option for those who have trouble deciding between items, because you can pick two entrees. I wish more restaurants would offer something like this. I ordered the walleye cake and the turkey chops. Because where else IMAG1218do you find walleye made into a fish cake? Nowhere. The walleye is mixed with scallions, roasted red peppers, and cilantro, shaped into a patty, and lightly fried. It comes with a Thai ginger mayo on the side. Pro tip: when they ask whether you want your entree “smothered” the answer is always yes. This means that your meal will be smothered in gravy. The gravy was delicious and added a really nice moistness to it. It paired really well with the mashed potatoes, which was the house potato IIMAG1220 ended up choosing. The turkey chop meat was tender and easily fell off the bone. The walleye cake was also quite good, but the turkey chops stole the show. I really liked the collard greens that I chose as my additional side.

Another favorite was the Honey Glazed Fried Chicken. There is nothing more southern than fried chicken. The entree features half a chicken broken down and deep fried to a golden brown and finished with a sweet honey glaze. You can order an all white meat option for an extra $3. My friend really enjoyed her wild riceIMAG1221 and baked macaroni and cheese sides.

Another friend ordered the Shrimp and Grits, which features shrimp, onions and peppers marinated in a Creole sauce served over a bed of grits. She lived in New Orleans for a little while and appreciated the Creole sauce. She enjoyed the leftovers too.

The aforementioned Chicken and Waffles are served with buttered grits. This place really knows how to make good grits. The entree includes two pieces of chicken over a Belgian waffle. Heaven!

The portions are huge. Be prepared to leave stuffed and bring home leftovers. None of us had room for dessert, although they sound good. You can choose from peach cobbler, apple cobbler, sweet potato pie, baked bread pudding with rum sauce, and Better Than Sex cake, which is a rich cake injected with chocolate chips and walnuts and topped with vanilla ice cream.

So take advantage of the nice weather and enjoy a drink and/or meal on the patio at Zanzibar. You’ll leave happy for sure.

Contact info:

Zanzibar Soul Fusion
13225 Shaker Square
Cleveland, OH 44120
(216) 752-1035

Angie’s Soul Cafe

IMAG3033Angie’s has moved to its new digs in the old Hot Sauce Williams building on Carnegie.

As the website explains, “Angie started laying the foundation for down-home Soul food around the late 70’s, when she cooked in the Carnegie Hotel in Cleveland, Ohio. Within the confines of that kitchen she concocted recipes that she brought with here from Santuck (Union), South Carolina. Emphasizing on preparing everything from scratch and blending the perfect seasonings, she started to build a following around the city that supports Angie’s still today.”

Photo from Angie's Soul Cafe's Facebook page
Photo from Angie’s Soul Cafe’s Facebook page

Angie’s Soul Cafe is a local chain of soul food restaurants with a location on St. Clair Avenue, one on Harvard Avenue, and one at Emory and Green Roads. They must be doing something right. Angie’s brand has expanded to include Angie’s Kitchen, Angie’s Soul Food, Angie’s Chicken & Waffle, Angie’s Mobile Service, Stonetown on Prospect, and the more upscale Zanzibar Soul Fusion. They also have a food truck. I go to the Midtown location on St. Clair because it is close to me. I can’t speak for any of the other locations.

IMAG3038The focus here is on the food. The St. Clair location is a fairly utilitarian space. The restaurant itself was pretty bare. The tables are not adorned and the chairs are pretty basic. Specials are written on a chalkboard behind the counter. The counter has chafing dishes of freshly prepared food, which they go through quickly, but they also make certain things when you order it. Customers don’t linger either, they order their food at the counter, wait for it to be prepared, then leave. I usually grab the deliciouIMAG1949s home-cooked food and take it home, but I have seen several people eating in their car. A lot of the customers were greeted by name, and it was nice to see that personal touch. Customers who eat in the dining room have their food brought out to them on trays when it is ready.

The first time I went, I stuck with my usual “KFC order” of fried chicken, mashed potatoes and gravy, and green beans. It was way better than KFC. The fried chicken was perfect. I ordered the white meat meal, and the breast was juicy and the wing was not dried out at all. The mashed potatoes were not instant flakes. You could tell they were real potatoes. The gravy was a little meager, but it was enough to have some with each bite of mashed potato. The green beans were also really good. Every IMAG1948dinner comes with a moist corn muffin.

Everyone on Yelp was raving about the tilapia, so I knew I needed to try it. I ordered the tilapia dinner with sides of yams and collard greens. I swear to god I heard the angels sing when I bit into the yams. I have never been a big fan of yams. Until now. Those IMAG3039yams alone are enough to keep me coming back. The collard greens were a bit too bitter for my taste. I make them with a light vinegar and ham hocks. These greens were vegetarian-friendly and I missed the smoothness of the ham flavor. The tilapia itself was lightly breaded and perfectly fried. I couldn’t have been happier with my meal.

They are known for their smothered chicken and pork chops, so I had to try the smothered chicken. I ordered it with mashed potatoes (because that smothered gravy begs for mashed potatoes in my mind) and the collard greens because I wanted to be somewhat healthy. Hah, please let me live with my delusion. The IMAG3040smothered chicken came with three pieces of breaded chicken in a thick, rich, delicious chicken-based gravy. The gravy had huge pieces of onion in it as well that were soft as could be and was generously served over both the chicken and the mashed potatoes.

They also have a cooler of mason jars behind the register filled with bright colored Kool-Aid. I asked the cashier which one was her favorite and she told me it was Green, so green it was. The Kool-Aid was really good, but really sweet. They serve it with a lot of ice, which waters it down, in the restaurant. At home I cut it with a LOT of water (think half and half), so it went a long way. It was only after I ordered that I saw that IMAG1950they also serve the Sunset (lemonade & iced tea), the Sunrise (lemonade & red Kool-Aid), and my favorite the Purple Rain (lemonade & grape Kool-Aid). I ordered the Purple Rain the next time I went (see photo), but I think they misunderstood me and gave me Purple (grape). No big deal, because it’s my favorite flavor from childhood. It lasted several days served over ice and cut with water.

The dessert choices in the refrigerated counter looked really good, featuring peach cobbler or chef’s choice cobbler, sweet potato pie, and various cakes. I was there on a Sunday when it is on special, so I ordered the banana pudding. It was really creamy and good, and the portion was generous (unlike, say, Old Carolina’s banana pudding, which is pretty small). It had lots of decent chunks of banana and vanilla wafers. Just a good southern banana pudding.

Angie must be doing something right to have so many offshoots here in the Cleveland area. Be sure to check her out – and get the candied yams. You can thank me later.

Contact info:

Angie’s Soul Cafe
3400 St. Clair Avenue
Cleveland, Ohio 44114
(216) 426-8890

16906 Harvard Ave
Cleveland, OH
(216) 295-7685

23041 Emery Rd
Cleveland, OH
(216) 896-7200

Wasabi Steak & Sushi

IMAG0619Wasabi is a Japanese sushi and steakhouse that has several locations in the area. I have been visiting the one in Beachwood, since it is the closest to me. It occupies the building that used to be the Olive Garden. It features hibachi on the one side of the restaurant and sushi on the other (although you can order a hibachi meal on the sushi side). The two halves are separated by a giant bubbling aquarium.

My first visit was because I was craving sushi and was in the area. IMAG0621I was seated quickly and had a nice view of the aquarium. I ordered the Sushi & Sashimi Combo, which features six pieces of sushi, nine pieces of sashimi and a California roll. It was delicious. The sushi was fresh and tightly rolled. The accompanying miso soup was good, with some shittake mushrooms. The ginger dressing on the salad was bright and creamy.

IMAG0624My second visit was on New Year’s Eve with my nieces. They were spending the night with me and asked to go to a hibachi for dinner. We have been to Benihana and Otani in the past, and my nieces enjoy the show and the food. I also knew they would enjoy the koi pond and the waterfall as we walked in. We went at 5 PM to avoid the dinner rush, and it was packed with waiting diners when we left. They really loved Wasabi, because they serve fried noodles in addition to fried rice.

The service was pleasant, the hibachi chefs were very entertaining, and the food was delicious. The hibachi entrees also come with the soup and salad (except for the children’s menu, which offers a choice between them). My youngest niece ordered the chicken hibachi on the children’s menu. IIMAG1895t was a very decent sized portion and yet very affordable. My oldest niece ordered the adult shrimp hibachi. She snarfed down the fried rice almost before the shrimp was finished, and I ended up stealing some rice from the youngest niece’s plate for her. My shrimp and scallop hibachi entree was perfectly cooked. The fried rice and lo mein noodles were very flavorful and filling. I loved the assortment of vegetables they added to them. The chef was also generous with the yum yum sauce, which was a nice addition but not absolutely necessary due to the flavor of the food itself.IMAG1921

We left with plenty of leftovers. Several of the diners at our table ordered extra fried rice since the portions are so generous. That probably gave them an additional full meal the next day.

My only word of warning is to doublecheck your receipt against your credit card statement. Somehow there was a $15 tip added to my bill despite the fact that I left $16 in cash and remember sitting there and waiting for the change and that the impression of my total and signature on the restaurant copyIMAG1922 transferred to the receipt I have. It was a busy night and “mistakes happen”, but it doesn’t hurt to be careful. It isn’t going to stop me from going there again in the future, but I will be writing CASH in huge letters on my receipts from now on. The manager also refunded the money to my credit card without question (but not much of an apology).

Contact info:

Wasabi Steak & Sushi
3725 Orange Place
Beachwood, OH
(216) 292-8866

with locations in Akron, Canton and Independence

A Cookie & A Cupcake has opened in Cedar Center

IMAG2249My favorite cupcake place has opened a couple miles down the street from me, which means I am in trouble. When it was just in Tremont it was enough a drive that it was a deterrent from just hopping in the car when I had a craving. Now I am going to have those moist and delicious cupcakes nearby in the new Cedar IMAG2252Center (between Piada and Zoup) on Cedar Road. You can see the moisture in the picture to the left. Look at those glistening cupcakes. The buttercream is not overly sweet, which I really appreciate. If you like overly sweet frosting this place may not be for you. The cupcakes are $2.50 a piece. They are worth every penny. I have tried a lot of their flavors but keep coming back to my favorite – the Signature.IMAG2251 It looks like a cute Cookie Monster with a small chocolate chip cookie is his mouth. The cupcake is a chocolate cupcake with buttercream frosting and a vanilla custard center. The custard center really elevates it to a new level! So good! They offer a variety of cupcakes, from Salted Caramel and Strawberry to Apple and a Peanut Butter Lovers. Each cupcake has some kind of goodness inside and features buttercream frosting. The picture to the left is the Chocolate cupcake. The new location opened today (3/10/15) after a couple IMAG3142days of soft opening last week. I went there on the second soft opening day. The number of people at this new location on just the soft open was good, so I think they definitely picked a good location. The new location also serves their C&C offshoot Churned‘s ice cream. Flavors vary. Some of the IMAG3055flavors when I were there included Mexican Hot Chocolate, Pistachio, Avocado with a blackberry jam swirl, Rosemary Garlic and they were very excited about the Blood Orange Sorbet. They also offer a Vegan Coconut Brownie made with coconut milk. Very unique. I was all about the cupcakes on my visit, but I will be sure to check out the ice cream once it gets a bit warmer. The original A Cookie & A Cupcake is also at a new location – on W. 14th near Grumpy’s and Bac. The new place combines the cupcakes and ice cream as well and has some indoor seating. It will also offer a patio for people to enjoy their treats in the sun.

Contact info:

A Cookie & A Cupcake
13953 Cedar Road South
Euclid, OH

New location in Tremont:
2681 West 14th St.
Cleveland, OH
(216) 344-9433

Pacific East on Coventry

IMAG1732I am a huge fan of Pacific East. In fact, I am a little shocked that I haven’t written about it sooner. I have been to all of the present and past locations (Coventry, Eton shopping center on Chagrin Boulevard, and the short-lived place in Solon), but I have to IMAG1989say that my favorite one is the restaurant on Coventry at the corner of Mayfield and Coventry. The Coventry restaurant also offers both Japanese and Malaysian cuisine, while the Eton location just serves Japanese. In fact, the Coventry location is one of the main reasons I chose to live where I live – so that I am within walking distance. One Friday night several years ago I walked in a snow storm to Inn on Coventry only to find them not open for dinner despite what their website claimed, so I walked down to Pacific East instead. I will never forget that night. I was bundled up and peacefully walked IMAG1992down Coventry, had a great meal, and walked back home with the snow collecting in my hair. It was a perfect, relaxing and simple evening.

The dining area is bright and cheerful (a sea theme with blue walls with fish/sea shell decor on the walls) with austere black chairs and tightly packed tables. If you are lucky, the waitress will greet you with a complementary glass of green tea. If not, be sure to ask for it.

There is plenty of seating available, as they have expanded on both sides. There is a tiny bar area with a few tables to the right as you walk in, and the most recent addition is seating in the back left in the old bank space next door.

PIMAG1728acific East is known for its sushi – and rightfully so. The sushi is some of the best in Cleveland if you ask me. In all the times I have come here I have never had bad fish. The rice and fish are always fresh, and the rolls melt in your mouth. They are also always rolled tightly and don’t fall apart when you try to eat them. IMAG1776The fish slices on the Nigiri are quite generous. The fish always extends beyond the rice. The sashimi is so fresh it literally melts in your mouth. Some of my favorite rolls include the Spicy Tuna Roll, the Rainbow Roll (kani, cucumber, avocado, topped with assorted fish & fish roe), the Spider Roll (soft shell crab tempura, cucumber, avocado, fish roeIMAG1775 & eel sauce), the Alaska Roll (fresh salmon, avocado, cucumber, fish roe), the X-Mas Roll (tuna, avocado, fish roe), the Green Dragon (eel, cucumber, topped with avocado, fish roe, sesame seed and eel sauce), the Volcano Roll (California roll with baked scallops and smelt roe), and the Lobster Tempura Roll (lobster tempura w/ avocado, cucumber, fish roe, & eel sauce). I was less impressed with the Land & Sea Roll, IMAG1774but that is because – even though I love them as Surf & Turf – I just don’t like steak and lobster together as a sushi roll. If you do, you will probably love it.

Also, bargain alert: the sushi lunch specials just can’t be beat, ranging from a two-roll Maki combo* for $8.95, three-roll Maki combo* for $9.95, four pieces of sushi & one roll for $9.95 to up to $13.95 for three pieces of sushi, seven pieces of sashimi & one roll. They also serve Bento Boxes, featuring your choice of appetizer, a California roll and either a hot entree from the kitchen ($10.95), nigiri sushi ($11.95) or sashimi ($12.95). All lunch combos are served with a salad and miso soup. Lunch is served from 11-3 pm every day.IMAG1727 (*Not all rolls are included in the Maki combo specials. The ones that are are specified in the menu.)

The house-made ginger dressing on the salad is worth noting all on its own. The menu says it is made with 15 fruits and vegetables. It is creamy, delicious and plentiful. One of the best I have had. The salad features fresh lettuce, a cucumber slice, a cherry tomato IMAG1642and some carrot shavings. It is a nice balance to the rice and fish.

However, Pacific East is also known for its Malaysian cuisine. I have been on a noodle soup kick recently and fell in love with their Malaysian noodle soup called Laksa. Traditionally made with rice noodles, shrimp, chicken, tofu and curry, the soup is filling and delightfully spicy. Pacific East’s version is loaded with shrimp, chicken, tofu, peppers, onions, rice noodles, and hard-boiled egg. If you order it during their lunch hours IMAG1643you get an spring roll with it for just $8.95. I have had both the regular spring roll and the Penang spring roll served with it. I wasn’t a fan of the Penang spring roll, because it had a soft curried potato filling that I wasn’t expecting. I think if I had been expecting a curried potato filling I would have liked it more. Both spring rolls were well-fried and crispy on the outside with soft filling on the inside.

I tried their Tonkatsu Ramen after eating a bowl of Laksa and found it to be pretty bland and lifeless in comparison. It doesn’t help that I had the most amazing IMAG1730Tonkatsu ramen at The Slurping Turtle in Chicago a few months ago. There was no way anything could compare to it – although the Laksa comes close. Maybe it was just an off day for the chef, but the broth was boring, the noodles were just a wee bit overcooked, and the pork was non-existent save for 3 or 4 slices. The seaweed was the ramen’s saving grace. In any event, I don’t recommend the ramen here. I prefer  Flying Crane’s ramen.

Business is so good there are often waits in the evening. Hopefully the new expansions will alleviate some of that. Seating is available at the sushi bar as well.

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Contact info:

Pacific East
1763 Coventry Road
Cleveland Heights, OH 44118
(216) 320-2302

Crop Kitchen

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IMAG1389Steve Schimoler of Crop Bistro recently opened a restaurant on the East Side in the new Uptown District (intersection of Euclid Avenue and E. 115th across from Constantino’s and behind the Cleveland Wine Cellars). Steve relocated to Cleveland in 2005, as Director of Innovation and Development for Nestle North America and, after completing his term there, decided to remain in Cleveland, and we are all the better for it. Crop was initially opened to function as a test kitchen, but soon became a Cleveland favorite. His son Stevie is the General Manager of Crop Kitchen, and they recruited Matt Anderson of Umami to run the kitchen.IMAG1391 I’ve been there several times now and am happy to report the quality of Crop is available on the East Side in a hip, affordable location. Crop Kitchen is located where the old Accent used to be. They managed to inherit Accent’s awesome Robata Grill and Josper Oven. They changed the colors a bit and put up whimsical colanders as light fixtures. One side of the restaurant has a pool table and makes it the perfect venue for after work drinks or a quick, informal bite to eat, while the dining room offers light wood tablesIMAG1390 and plenty of tables to accommodate any sized party. Crop Kitchen features Crop favorites like two different flavors of popcorn (orange miso and truffle) as well as Matt Anderson specialties like spring rolls, sushi and the goat cheese dumplings (more on those later).

I started off with the Sleepy Hollow cocktail, which featured house-infused pumpkin vodka with a house-made apple crème liqueur. It was delicious. Unfortunately they are only running it in the fall, because on a visit in early December I was told they had just taken it off the menu.

IMAG1392The chile deviled eggs with crisp prosciutto are a mustardy choice for an appetizer. It was very good, with just a hint of heat and prosciutto flavor. However, you have to try the wasabi deviled eggs with pickled ginger. They are out of this world! A friend and I were served one each served side by side recently, and the wasabi egg was my hands-down favorite!

IMAG1393When I heard Steve was doing a burger for the first time ever I knew what I had to order on my first trip. The CK Double Double Burger was even better than I had hoped it would be. It features two all-beef patties, lettuce, tomato, onion, smoked cheddar cheese, and Dijon aioli on an onion bun. IMAG1394The onion bun and the melty cheddar cheese really put this burger over the top. It was cooked exactly to my specifications and was AWESOME. The roasted potatoes that accompanied the burger were perfectly cooked, with a crisp exterior and creamy interior. I was able to dip them in house-made ketchup.

I was less impressed with the sushi rolls. The tempura veggie roll was kind of bland, and the spicy tuna roll didn’t wow me. They serve three rolls a night, and the selections vary. I will try them again, but as of right now I am not all that keen on ordering them again. That said, the fish was very fresh, and the sashimi someone ordered at the next table glistened and looked delicious. However, you definitely should not avoid the Asian side of the menu. IMAG1966I can report that I had the duck ramen special the other night, and it was spectacular. It featured pork belly, duck confit and grilled eggplant and had a delicious gingery and umami taste in the broth. I hope to see this on the menu again soon!

IMAG1711Matt Anderson is also known for his goat cheese dumplings. These dumplings are crazy good. The dumplings are light and fluffy and are served over a bed of shiitake mushroom, miso vinaigrette and what may be sauteed spinach or kale. This dish is a good choice for vegetarians as well as non-vegetarians. The menu indicates if a dish is gluten-free, vegetarian or vegan, which I think is a nice aid for those with dietary issues.

IMAG1713I had debated between the burger and the cassoulet, so I decided to wait and order the cassoulet once the weather turned a little colder. This is the perfect comfort food for a cold, dreary Cleveland winter. The cassoulet is made with sausage, boneless chicken thighs, pork belly, and beans. I loved the melding of all the flavors. The beans were creamy and smokey. I liked this more than the cassoulet at L’Albatros, and the cassoulet there is really good. I managed to eat half and save the other half for later. It was just as good – if not better – reheated the next day.

IMAG1714I had a couple bites of the potato salad that came with my friend’s Grilled Portabello & Marinated Tofu sandwich, which features grilled peppers & onions, lettuce, tomato, onion, avocado aioli and herbed goat cheese on request on the onion roll. She loved it and said it was some of the best tofu she has ever eaten. I have to say I am now a huge fan of the potato salad, and I am a tough critic when it comes to potato salad. It was creamy and had just the right mix of herbs. Definitely try it if you can. They only serve one side a day, so don’t come in there looking forward to a specific side dish. The orzo side dish I had the other day needed some citrus or something to brighten the flavor a bit. Crop Kitchen should consider posting its sides and specials on its Facebook page, because I would make a trip for the potato salad and would be there in a heartbeat for any of their ramen.IMAG1715 In addition to drawing in customers, it would also highlight the kitchen’s versatility.

I also want to talk about the ice cream and sorbet at Crop Kitchen. My friend and I split the Ohio Strawberry Sorbet recently, and it was bright and fresh. It was the perfect end to a meal of goat cheese dumplings and cassoulet. Steve was the VP of product development for Cabot Creamery in Vermont for several years, so the man knows his ice cream. I was lucky enough to hear about the recent launch of Pierre Ice Cream’s Chef’s Signature Ultimate Ice Cream Pints. IMAG1664You can read about the story here. They unveiled the first two flavors — Croppy Road and Holé Molé — on December 5th at Crop Kitchen. Croppy Road features chocolate ice cream, chocolate-covered marshmallow cups, almonds and smoky salted caramel swirl, while Holé Molé incorporates cinnamon ice cream with chili choco chips, chocolate-covered toffee pieces and molé fudge swirl. The Croppy Road was very smoky, but if you like that you will love the unique ice cream. However, I am head over heels for the Holé Molé. You can order the ice cream by the pint or in a sundae at Crop Kitchen (and I would imagine Crop),IMAG1712 and the pints are also available in local grocery stores that sell Pierre’s products, including Heinen’s, Marc’s, Dave’s Supermarkets and Zagara’s Market.

One final recommendation is the Maker’s Mark New Fashioned, featuring Maker’s Mark with hints of spiced orange and cherries in their housemade Orange & Cherry Chipotle Cure. I had two the other night at a good friend’s recommendation (her husband loves them so much she ordered 2 quarts of Cure for him for Christmas). They are delicious, but they are potent. Another friend I was dining with was surprised to see me happily buzzed, because I never have more than two (and we’ve been going out together to happy hours since 2005). The drinks here are strong, so plan accordingly.

Welcome to the neighborhood, Crop Kitchen! I’ll be back soon.

Contact info:

Crop Kitchen
11460 Uptown Ave (Euclid Avenue & E. 115th)
Cleveland, OH
(216) 696-2767

Sanctuary at the Doubletree Hotel in Beachwood

IMAG1243I was invited to Sanctuary’s media event Monday night before they opened on Tuesday, October 8th. Normally I turn down or ignore unsolicited publicity requests, but when I heard it was another venture by the Driftwood Group (aka Scott Kuhn and Chris Hodgson) I couldn’t say yes fast enough. Hotel food used to not have a good reputation until Amp 150 made it cool to have good food in a hotel. The Driftwood Group is not only taking over the old Capers and IMAG1242Porter’s locations, but they will be taking over all the hotel room service and catering. It makes me want to stay in the restaurant just to order room service!

After walking into the hotel I was greeted by a long line of women bearing brochures. I checked in and was escorted into the Wine Bar, where I was offered a Beehive cocktail (their signature drink featuring Old Forester Bourbon, IMAG1246St. Elder Natural ElderFlower Liqueur, fresh lemon juice, ginger-honey syrup and soda – which was quite refreshing) and an upscale hanky-panky featuring chorizo sausage, Tillamook cheddar cheese and fig jam on a toasted crostini. The hanky-panky was nothing like the sausage and Velveeta cheese on rye bread squares I am used to. The chorizo gave it a nice little kick and the fig jam cooled down the heat.

My second drink of the night was a Jack Lemmon. It features Caravella Limoncello, Plymouth Gin, Ginger, Mint, and Fever-Tree Bitter Lemon Soda. I love Bitter Lemon soda, which you don’t find here in the States that often. I had been wanting to try this cocktail since I saw it on the Cibrèo menu. IMAG1250The restaurant has brought some well-loved Driftwood favorites with them to the Beachwood location. It was delicious. I highly recommend you try it or one of the other many cocktails on the menu.

We were then ushered to the next room for the meal portion of the evening. The bread service was brought to the table along with softened butter (yes! a restaurant that knows to serve butter that isn’t rock hard and tears the bread) and a nice pesto spread. I am not in love with the bread at Cibrèo, but I really liked this bread. IMAG1252I think it has a little more moisture to it, yet it holds up well to the spread.

Our first course was a Blue Crab Hushpuppy, which was absolutely delicious. It was crispy on the outside and creamy on the inside with no trace of fishiness. The menu said it was made with blue crab and “Old Bayonnaise”. Well done, Chef Hodgson. I will definitely be ordering these appetizers when I dine here.

IMAG1253The next course was a Wedge Salad topped with cherry tomato halves, crumbled bacon, hard-boiled egg crumbles, picked red onion, a subtle blue cheese, and a light and delicious white French dressing. One of my dining companions joked that it was BLT wedge. In any event, I would definitely order this again as well.

Next up was the Seared U-10 Sea Scallops over a risotto made of butternut squash, caramelized apples, fried sage and apple gastrique. The golden beets were crisped and served on the side of the scallops. IMAG1254It was billed as a gluten-free entree. The scallop was perfectly seared and it paired well with the sweet risotto. Some people didn’t enjoy the risotto, but I did. They felt it was too sweet, but it paired well with the unseasoned scallop.

The major course of the evening was the “C.A.B. Hanger Steak” (C.A.B. being Certified Angus Beef) with shoestring potatoes. IMAG1255I loved the presentation of this course. The shoestring fries were served in a metal container with a parchment paper cone, and the steak was plated over an asparagus spear and topped with a salsa verde. The potatoes were perfectly seasoned and light and crisp on the outside yet creamy on the inside. The malt vinegar aioli reminded me of the mayo I dipped fries in Belgium into. The steak was perfectly cooked if you like a medium rare steak, which I do. It fell apart easily IMAG1257with just a fork. It was topped with a salsa verde that was somewhat overpowering and also managed to drip onto my shirt. I had done so well up until then!

I was less impressed with the dessert course, but that might be because my diet has me completely off sugar and my tastes have changed. The Chocolate Mousse was light and fluffy and was topped with a salted caramel sauce, whipped cream and pretzel rod bits. It tasted like a chocolate covered pretzel, but the pretzel had soaked up a little moisture while it was waiting to be served and had become a little stale.

Crystal at Eat*Drink*Cleveland questioned why the table was set with wine glasses when no IMAG1248wine was served. The table was beautifully set, but the glasses really should have been cleared away once it was determined no one would be using them. I also felt odd ordering a beverage when no beverage list was offered at the table, so once I finished my cocktail I stuck with water.

IMAG1244I can’t wait to go back and try some other things on the menu, like the Braised Beef & Wild Mushroom Ragu Pierogies, Veal And Shiitake Mushroom Meatloaf, and the DoubleTree Double Decker Burger. Sanctuary will offer lunch, happy hour and late-night fare and both a la carte breakfasts and DoubleTree’s signature breakfast buffet.

I’m also a bit concerned that there might be some confusion with the name, Sanctuary, because there is already Sanctuary on Green in Beachwood. I guess time will tell. They plan to open a Sanctuary on the west side next year in the old Holiday Inn in Westlake. I wish them the best of luck, and I must say it is wonderful to have downtown quality in the suburbs with ample free parking available.

Disclosure: I was invited by the Driftwood Group to attend the Media Event. I was also given a $20 gift certificate to be applied toward a future visit. However, all opinions are my own.

Contact info:

Sanctuary Beachwood in the DoubleTree by Hilton Hotel
3663 Park East Drive
Beachwood, OH 44122
(216) 464-5950