Crop Kitchen

in-memoriam-graphic

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

Fragapane’s Bakery & Deli

IMAG0978When I want the best potato salad in Cleveland I drive to Fragapane’s Bakery & Deli on Lorain Road in North Olmsted. The location in Bay Village is their flagship store. The family bakery, which began in 1971 when brothers Nick and John Fragapane opened their doors in Bay Village. They also used to have a storefront in Olmsted Falls, but it closed. This family-owned bakery and deli is a West Side staple. IMAG0979Every birthday and graduation party I attended growing up had a big bowl of Fragapane potato salad. Their paczki sell out on Fat Tuesday and are ordered weeks in advance (they make them one day a year).

I drive from Cleveland Heights to buy a pound or two of potato salad. In fact, this is the ONLY place we will buy potato salad or I make my own, using my mother’s recipe of half sour cream/half mayo. IMAG0982Fragapane’s potato salad features slivers of carrot, onion and celery, and is a mayo-based potato salad. It’s not too sweet and is very smooth. It is simply delicious and very addictive. I have learned that if I need this for an event I need to call and order it ahead of time to ensure they have set some aside for me. I have driven over several times only to be disappointed that they have sold out.

Their deli subs and sandwiches are amazing. They come with one meat or three-meat combos for $5.99 with a choice of mayo, mustard, horseradish, lettuce, tomato, onion, and your choice of cheese. ThIMAG0989e subs are made with Boars Head meats, which are all natural and one of the best lunch meats out there. These suckers are stuffed full. My favorite is the Fragabomb (to the right), which features ham, turkey and spicy capicola and provolone cheese. The photo at the bottom is half of a roast beef sub with Swiss cheese as well as a healthy portion of potato salad and a smaller portion of the pasta salad at the top of the plate.

I also buy the mayo-based pasta salad, but (word of warning) it is a very sweet pasta salad. It is made with mini shell pasta and also contains carrots, onion and celery. I usually toss in a can of tuna and some frozen peas and make a light summer pasta salad with it. Others swear by the pizza slices, smokies, tuna salad, crab salad, antipasti salad, etc. They feature a daily IMAG0984lunch special that sells out quickly. This place is very popular with local workers.

I don’t necessarily go there for their baked goods, so I can’t really say anything about them. I had a custard-filled doughnut there once. It was jammed with custard and very heavy to lift. Unfortunately it also seemed a little undercooked. The eclairs there are always favorites for dessert trays. I’ve seen mixed reviews online. I did, however, pick up a couple cans of fire-roasted diced tomatoes and tomato sauce to make some unstuffed cabbage rolls tonight. They have several small rows of Italian staples like pasta, pickled vegetables, olives, etc. It saved me a trip to the grocery store!

The staff there is always friendly and helpful. One time when they were out of potato salad the woman waiting on me called the Bay Village store to see if they had any left. Unfortunately they did not, but I appreciated that she made an effort to find out for me.

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Contact info:

Fragapane Bakery & Deli
28625 Lorain Road
North Olmsted, OH
(440) 779-6050

Fragapane Bakery & Deli
626 Dover Center Road
Bay Village, OH 44140
(440) 871-6340

Malley’s Chocolates & Ice Cream Parlors

IMAG0973Most Clevelanders know about Malley’s Chocolates. Malley’s Chocolates is a Cleveland-based chain of 23 chocolate and candy stores that was founded in 1935. Their chocolate covered treats are the stuff of legends. Chocolate covered strawberries, grapes, raspberries, tortilla chips, bacon, etc. are treats on holidays. The chocolate covered Oreos, pretzels, potato chips (a personal addiction), almonds, etc. are available throughout the year. I am such a hardcore fan of Malley’s chocolate covered strawberries that a few years ago I drove out in a blizzard on Valentine’s IMAG0977Day to buy some and crashed my car on the retaining wall going back up my driveway. That was the most expensive Valentine’s Day ever.

Four of the chocolate and candy stores include ice cream parlors year-round (Bay Village, Lakewood, North Olmsted, and Mentor). The store at Aurora Farms Premium Outlets does not offer seating and only serves ice cream in the summer months. The one in North Olmsted features a slow-moving carousel (see photo to the right), and the flagship store in Lakewood has an Alice in Wonderland theme (see photo to the left). I haven’t been to the Bay or Mentor stores, so I can’t tell you anything about them.IMAG0967

If you go to one of the stores with seating, it is usually “seat yourself.” They greet you with a glass of water and a bowl of pretzels. I taught my nieces to use the pretzels to scoop up vanilla ice cream for a salty and sweet treat. Others love scraping up the leftover hot fudge sauce with the pretzels. Yum. There are over fifty ice cream concoctions to choose from. Whether it’s an ice cream soda, shake or malt, banana split or their trademark Hot Fudge Sundae, Malley’s has a rich, creamy, cold treat for everyone’s101_1243 taste. The ice cream is pretty basic with solid flavor choices. This is not a hipster hangout. There are no organic ingredients, and I don’t know how locally sourced it is (although I’ve heard rumors that the ice creams come from Pierre’s). However, the sundaes are inventive and, best of all, very affordable. We’re talking a couple bucks for a sundae, and the serving sizes are generous. Kid’s sundaes are around $3-4, and more complex ones are $4-6. I don’t know a kid growing up who hasn’t ever had a Puppy Love, Malley Clown or Mickey Malley sundae. They are just tons of fun for kids.

IMAG0969Their most popular sundae is their signature Malley’s Hot Fudge Sundae. It is really good if you add Spanish peanuts to it – sweet and salty together is just a great combination. If you buy a fundraiser chocolate bar from a local school kid or the public library there is usually a buy one get one free coupon on the back for the hot fudge sundaes.

Growing up, a trip to Malley’s in North Olmsted was a huge treat. It later became a great date night location. One’s tastes tend to be formed in childhood, and my two favorites are the Coconut Royale (vanilla ice cream, hot fudge sauce, coconut shavings and whipped cream) and the Pink Elephant (peppermint stick ice cream, Spanish peanuts, hot fudge, and whipped cream).

A sundae will run you between $3.50 and $5.50. If you are with a bunch of people and are feeling adventurous try the Ultimate Sundae. It comes with (to quote one Yelp reviewer) “10 scoops of ice cream, 4 different toppings, 4 types of nuts, and a crap ton of sprinkles and cherries.”IMAG0665

With its pastel walls, gaudy mirrors, vintage ice cream bowls and paper doilies, Malley’s reflects an old-fashioned ice cream parlor from way back when. The simple charms of Malley’s draw local Clevelanders, young and old, for life. This is the kind of place parents bring their kids and then those kids bring their kids and so on… I for one hope it never changes.

Mitchell’s Ice Cream

IMAG0865It’s July. It’s hot. We all scream for ice cream. I couldn’t talk about Piccadilly and not talk about our other awesome local creamery – Mitchell’s. I was recently at a blogging event that was held at Mitchell’s new headquarters on W. 25th. The place is really impressive and a great use of the old Moda building. We gathered in the meeting room on the second floor, which overlooks the production floor. It was very impressive watching them make the ice cream.IMAG0858 You can see them making the ice cream when you order, but you really get an impressive view from the second floor.

Mike Mitchell spoke to us about the quality ingredients they use, explaining they use as many organic and locally sourced ingredients as possible. It’s even Certified Kosher! They handcraft the ice creams in small batches, using local grass-fed dairy and fresh seasonal ingredients. He explained he wouldn’t want his family to eat all kinds of pesticides and additives, so he doesn’t want to do that to his customers. That is the kind of thinking I can get behind!

IMAG0850Mike and his brother Pete founded the business in 1999. As they explain on their website, “As far back as we can remember, ice cream has been a constant source of happiness to our family. And Cleveland has always been our home. So in 1999 we made crafting top-notch ice creams and serving them to the Cleveland community our IMAG0857life’s work. Today we are as passionate as ever about making our ice creams as delicious and wholesome as they can be, and to being at least a small part of the reason Clevelanders love to call this place home.” Mike is the ice cream chef and Pete is the “taster-in-chief and operations guy.” Now that I have met Mike (I met Pete several years ago when I lived in Solon) I can honestly say that both are just genuinely nice guys. I don’t know about you, but I want to support family-run, locally-operated businesses with friendly and IMAG0864passionate owners as much as possible. Mike even took a moment several times to fist bump one of the toddlers in our little group.

Clevelanders are passionate about their ice cream and their favorite ice cream flavors. He told us they try not to take too many flavors off the menu because they get lots of backlash. I have been eating Mitchell’s for years now IMAG0862and have several personal favorites, like the Fresh Mint Chocolate Chunk, Chocolate Peanut Butter Cup, Caramel Sea Salt, and Banana Cream Pie. Another friend swears by their Strawberry. Yet another adores the Butter Pecan. And don’t forget their seasonal flavors, frozen yogurt or sorbets. The Mango sorbet is amazing. When I am going hard-core non-dairy I get the Mango or Raspberry sorbets. They also offer two vegan options made with a coconut milk base. Whatever your favorite, you can’t go wrong.

IMAG3897They brought up several flavors for us to try. The Strawberry Jalapeno had a nice kick to it and the Toasted Hazelnut had quite a few fans, but my absolute favorite, which is NOT on the menu at the moment, was the Amaretto-Brown Butter. Yum!

I saved room for my favorite Mitchell’s splurge after the event – the Buckeye Sundae. Made with Peanut Butter Chocolate Chunk ice cream and topped with hot fudge, chocolate shavings, fresh whipped cream and a Bordeaux cherry, it’s a little bit of heaven here in Cleveland, Ohio.

And don’t forget to bring a pint home to splurge! You can also find pints in the freezer at local grocery stores.

Contact info:

Mitchell’s Ice Cream
Shops located in Avon, Beachwood, Downtown Cleveland (W. 25th), Rocky River, Solon, Strongsville, Westlake, and Uptown at University Circle.

Piccadilly Artisan Creamery on Euclid Avenue

Update: Piccadilly Artisan Creamery has moved next door to the Coquette Patisserie storefront. The Piccadilly Artisan Yogurt shop on Coventry has closed.

picadukktCleveland has a new ice cream shop, and I have a new favorite place to cool down. I met some friends for drinks at the Katz Club Bar Car on Saturday night. We were in the mood for some boozy shakes, but were told they didn’t serve them in the bar car. Now having a taste for ice cream, we brainstormed where we could go. I suggested Piccadilly Yogurt on Coventry, but another friend suggested the new Piccadilly Artisan Creamery on Euclid. It opened in early June. It’s located right next to Coquette Patisserie, which will be featured soon.

IMAG0894This place is so cool! They make the ice cream and yogurt using KitchenAid mixers and liquid nitrogen. The liquid nitrogen immediately freezes the ice cream slurry, not allowing ice crystals to form. The result is flavorful, creamy ice cream. I was impressed that each flavor had its own designated KitchenAid mixer attachment on the wall.

They bill themselves as being “farm-to-cone.” All of the ingredients are organic. They use Ohio grass-fed Amish cows for the highest quality organic milk and cream with no antibiotics or growth hormones. And none of the mix-ins have preservatives or artificial coloring or flavoring either.

IMAG0897They suggest you try one of the Favorites listed on the wall your first time out. I tried the Sailee, which features frozen yogurt, raspberries and chocolate chips. It was really delicious, creamy with just enough raspberries and chocolate to make it decadent.

Then I had bites of my friends’ choices. Wow! They have the Polly – a caramel sea salt and pecan ice cream that will rock your world. We were all in agreement that another friend’s coffee ice cream was undoubtedly the best coffee ice cream any of us have ever tasted. Another friend ordered the Kristina, which features strawberry balsamic ice cream, Nutella and fresh whipped cream. Divine. They even offer vegan choices.

chocdecThe Fresh Mint Leaf Chip tastes like actual, honest-to-god mint leaves and not the artificial mint flavoring of most mint ice creams. They add mini-chocolate chips into the base. With a drizzle of fudge it is refreshing and delicious.

My all-time favorite here is the caramelized banana. It is refreshing and great with either chocolate or caramel drizzle.

This place is worth the drive no matter where you live. As one of my friends said, it is “stupid good.” You get a show and delicious ice cream for one affordable price.

Contact info:

Piccadilly Artisan Creamery
11607 Euclid Avenue, Suite B (at the corner of Euclid and E. 115th)
Cleveland, OH 44106
(216) 563-1992

 

Aladdin’s Eatery

I have been a fan of Aladdin’s, a local Cleveland chain, for years now. Headquartered in Lakewood, the company also has locations in Indiana, Virginia, North Carolina, and Pennsylvania. It was founded in 1994.

IMAG0488I first started eating there when I lived on the West Side (their Berea location), and now enjoy the local eateries on the East Side (Cleveland Heights as well as Hudson). The food is solid and affordable, and the restaurant is very vegetarian-friendly. I am confident when I claim that Aladdin’s has the best hummus in Cleveland. Hands down. I am also extremely partial to their dawali (grape leaves stuffed with rice, chick peas, tomato, and parsley). The falafel also rocks. The vegetarian combo appetizer is a nice easy meal or easy to share. It features hummus, tabouli, baba, falafel, and dawali.

IMAG0489My sister first turned me onto their V-9 soup, which is amazing. It features 9 different vegetables, including potatoes, carrots, onions, tomatoes, peas, zucchini, peppers, and celery (the ninth veggie might be squash, but I can’t remember off the top of my head). In any case, it is divine, and when I first tried it I was not a fan of vegetables. One taste and I was hooked and ordered my own bowl. It is a great low calorie soup that warms the soul. Just look at the glisten on the broth and the fresh parsley floating on top. Yum. You can also add chicken to it for a heartier meal.

IMAG0507The Flavor Savor Special offers a little bit of everything. It features grilled chicken mishwi and beef kafta on a bed of seasoned white rice with vermicelli, served with mixed greens, hummus and falafel. The beef kafta has a zesty flavor to it, while the chicken mishwi is scrumptious. The falafel was moist and delicious. Most of the time falafel is overcooked and dry. Not here. And I could eat a ton of their rice and vermicelli. Aladdin’s is known for their hot sauce. I ordered it without, but unfortunately my waiter served it to me anyway and I thought it was salad dressing. Yeah, it isn’t salad dressing, so I wasn’t able to enjoy my salad on my last visit.

IMAG0490I also have a special place in my heart for their rolled pitas. Aladdin’s is known for its pita bread. Most everything is served with warm pita on the side. The rolled pitas are a nice pairing with the V-9 soup. I love the chicken shawarma rolled pita (I was eating it before The Avengers made chicken shawarma cool!), but recently tried the tuna steak rolled pita and fell in love. It features char-grilled tuna steak, greens, onion turnips, pickles, and curry spice topped with Aladdin’s garlic sauce (I quickly became addicted to this sauce!). The tuna was perfectly cooked and paired well with the turnips and pickles, which gave it chickenpitzaa nice flavor over and above the curry-garlic sauce. I cut it in half here to show off the filling and to make it a little more manageable to eat.

Aladdin’s is also known for their baked goods. The baklava is delicious, as are their carrot cake and Chocolate Bomb cake. They currently have a triple chocolate mousse cake that looks pretty amazing. All of their baked goods are made by Jasmine’s Bakery, which was established in 1997 to provide baked goods for Aladdin’s. I’m assuming it is a wink to the 1992 Disney classic, Aladdin, which makes me smile.

It is also a good place to meet friends if you are juicing. Their fresh juices and smoothies are delicious.

Danny Boy’s Pizza

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Veggie Tortilla Pizza appetizer

I have a new favorite pizza place. I have been hearing about Danny Boy’s Pizza since I lived on the West Side of Cleveland. It opened in Rocky River in 1991. I used to confuse it with Danny Boy Farmer’s Market in North Olmsted, which I used to drive by all the time on my way to work from Olmsted Falls to the Baker’s Square on Lorain Road in North Olmsted. I have been meaning to try the place forever and simply never got around to it.

Dinner salad

Well, I heard they opened a new location in Broadview Heights, and my best friend and I finally went there to check it out last night. My friend M. is a total mac-n-cheese freak, so when I told her about their mac-n-cheese pizza I knew she would be up for driving there with me. The location in Broadview Heights opened in mid-August in the longtime home of Pipers III, which closed its doors earlier this year after nearly 40 years in business. I’ve eaten at Pipers III, and I can’t tell you how happy I am to hear a restaurant closed. We used to have the annual meeting of our local translators group there, and I found the place really stodgy. They’ve done a nice job renovating the place. It barely resembles Pipers III – and that’s a good thing. The atmosphere inside the restaurant is casual. Lots of tile and booths and tables. A wood bar divides the more ‘formal’ dining area from the bar area. The walls are are covered in posters, fake road signs, etc. all featuring Rat Pack memorabilia. The voices of Dean Martin, Frank Sinatra and Michael Buble croon over the speakers. I immediately felt comfortable.

Downtown Mac-n-Cheese Pasta Pie

The place was packed for a Tuesday night, but we were shown to a table immediately. The parking lot was still packed when we left an hour and a half later. Danny Boy’s is definitely thriving at the location, and their take-out business is also quite healthy.

The Clevelander Pie

The menu is enormous and features 150 items. I jokingly asked the waitress how long it took her to learn all the items on the menu, and she half-jokingly replied that she was still learning them. I had a hard time deciding on just one item, so I opted to order two small pizzas and bring them both home with me. Also, it should be mentioned that the servings are enormous. You’ll be bringing food home with you even if all you ordered was one of their subs. The plates were groaning with food. The menu features salads, subs, calzones, pizza and pasta as well as some really unique appetizers and even appetizer pizzas. Not to mention ribs and burgers…

Chicken Foldover

I ordered a glass of Chianti, and M. ordered a glass of white wine to go with our meals. I started off with a side salad – and gave M. one of the enormous breadsticks so I wouldn’t fill up too quickly. The breadstick was light and airy and had a nice garlicky/parmesan taste to it. I quickly regretted the decision to give the second one up, but only for a brief second when the table next to us got their subs.

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Vegas Veggie Melt Woogie

M. ordered the mac-n-cheese pizza and added onions and mushrooms to it. The mac-n-cheese pizza comes out topped with crispy kettle potato chips. The Downtown Mac-n-Cheese features macaroni covered with a Danny Boy’s three cheese blend topped with “kettle chips for a creamy and crunchy delight!” The pizza was amazing. The mac and cheese on its own would have pleased M., but putting it on a pizza crust and topping it with potato chips really elevated it to something special. Carbs on top of more carbs, but what a meal! It was delicious flavorful, and I was happy that M. shared a slice with me. She was THRILLED and can’t wait to come back and get it again.

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Summer Wind Shrimp with spaghetti instead of angel hair pasta

I in turn gave her several slices of my pizzas to take home to her boyfriend, who was working that night. I decided to order The Clevelander, which is a mixture of a Chicago-style deep dish and a thin New York-style pizza. If I had been in the mood for a more traditional Italian pizza with red sauce I would have been more than happy with this pizza, which is one of their award-winning pizzas.

As it was, I was in the mood for something lighter, so I also ordered the Chicken Fold Over. When I was a young girl my family would occasionally order a chicken fold over from the local pizza joint in town. The Danny Boy’s chicken foldover was just as good, if not even better, than Uncle Al’s in Olmsted Falls. The fold over features cubes of breaded chicken breast and pizza cheese baked golden brown and topped with crisp lettuce, tomatoes and cool mayo. I was in heaven, and had several slices of it this morning for breakfast.

With the salad and one slice each of the pizzas I went home full and happy. I can’t wait to go back and try some of the other choices – including the Spin Dip Pie, which features spinach and artichoke dip topped with kettle chips, and the Polish Pierogi Pasta Pie, which features a buttered crust with onions, green peppers, pizza cheese, Polish kielbasa and potato & cheese pierogi. How very Cleveland of them…

Danny Boy’s has been so successful that it has locations in Boardman, Broadview Heights, Canton, Chesterland, and Sandusky in addition to the flagship restaurant in Rocky River.

Hot Sauce Williams

Edit: Hot Sauce Williams on Carnegie (pictured below) has closed, but the restaurant on Lee Road is still open. The restaurant on Superior is now called Hot Sauce Legacy Barbecue.

Photo from the Cleveland Scene

Hot Sauce Williams is a Cleveland institution. I drive past it all the time and had heard so many good things about it that I finally decided I needed to try it. If you love fried food that is slathered in hot sauce, then this is your place. We went to the main restaurant on Carnegie, but they have additional locations on Lee Road and Superior Avenue. The restaurant has a “divey” feel to it, which I always enjoy (I still miss the old Suds Maguire in Olmsted Township). The tables are covered in plastic and the place looks somewhat run-down. Just don’t come here expecting fast or friendly service.  In fact, the major negative about our visit to Hot Sauce Williams was that the service was slower than molasses and was not particularly friendly, but we quickly forgot about that after digging into the food. But if you go in knowing it’s a bit of a dive and that the food makes it worth the trip you’ll be ok. One thing I can say is that you get a massive amount of food for a great price. It just took an hour to get it. If you don’t want to wait that long, order whatever is in the warmers behind the counter.

Hot Sauce Williams’ fried chicken was highly recommended as being amazingly good, so I went there intent on fried chicken. I ordered the 2 piece fried chicken breast dinner and received two massive bone-in chicken breasts. They needed to make it in the back and took their good old sweet time doing so. It came out so hot it melted the styrofoam. I could barely finish one breast and took the rest home. It came with cole slaw and French fries and slices of white or wheat bread and cost a whopping $5.99.

The wing dinner was $5.00 and also came with French fries and coleslaw, white or wheat bread. My friend upgraded and ordered three different sides, which she absolutely raved about – mac and cheese, collard greens and candied yams. True Southern comfort food!

Another friend ordered a full slab rib dinner for $19.50 (it also comes with French fries, cole slaw and white or wheat bread). He let me try a couple bones while I waited for my food and watched everyone eat. They don’t fall off the bone, but they are nicely smoked and slathered in an absolutely delicious sauce. After all, Hot Sauce Williams is known for the BBQ sauce.

They gave our group a mess of French fries for free to compensate for our wait. We got an industrial restaurant aluminum pan brimming full of fries (you can see it at the top of the photo in the center of the table). The fries are actually store-bought Ore-Ida brand fries, but they were good – especially drenched in the hot sauce, which wasn’t all that hot (as in spicy).

We weren’t all that impressed with the desserts though (I was so unimpressed that I didn’t even take photos of it), so unless something really tickles your fancy just keep gorging yourself on the dinners. No one walked out of here hungry. In fact, we all left with lots of leftovers.

Hot Sauce Williams has been featured on Anthony Bourdain’s No Reservations and Man vs. Food. The menu item that was featured on Man vs. Food was the Polish Boy IMG_20170625_193149sandwich. It is a whopping $3.50. According to Man vs. Food, the Polish Boy is Cleveland’s signature menu item. I must not be a true Clevelander (although I was born in Parma and grew up in Olmsted Falls), because I have never had a Polish Boy. Pierogis? Yes. Kielbasa? Yes. But a Polish Boy? I had never heard of one until a few years ago. The Polish Boy at Hot Sauce Williams is made up of an all beef kielbasa, French fries, cole slaw, bbq pork shoulder, and hot sauce on a bun. I’ll be sure to get one next time.

Contact info:

Hot Sauce Williams
3770 Lee Road
Cleveland, OH 44128
(216) 921-4704

12310 Superior Ave.
Cleveland, OH 44106
(216)249-0710

Chop It Salad Co.

in-memoriam-graphic

Since it is summer I had a hankerin’ for a chopped salad. Like any good technophile I turned to Google to find a good one near me, which is how I discovered Chop It Salad Co. It is located in the atrium of Eton Center in Woodmere. In fact, you can watch the folks at B Spot eat their burgers and drink those delicious milkshakes while knowing you are eating somewhat healthy. Chop It Salad Co. allows you to order off the pre-designed Signature Menu (which is what I did since I was craving a good Cobb salad) or create your own salad or wrap with “Unlimited Toppings”! If you choose the latter option, you first choose your lettuce mixture between romaine, iceberg, spring mix or spinach and then choose from their over 50 toppings of meats, cheeses, shrimp, eggs, and veggies.

I wanted a Cobb salad, but I asked for Honey Mustard dressing instead of the default Bleu Cheese or Ranch dressing. My Cobb salad was made of iceberg and romaine lettuce, grilled chicken, bacon, cheddar cheese, crumbled blue cheese, avocado, hard boiled egg, tomatoes and black olives. It was accompanied by a thin slice of pita bread. I ordered a fountain drink to go with it and was told I could get a free refill at any time by bringing my glass back up to the register.

My salad was made quickly by the helpful chopper, and after I paid for it at the register (the total was around $11 for the salad and large beverage) I found a cozy upholstered chair in the center of the atrium where I enjoyed my salad and did some people watching. So if you are in the Woodmere area and want to enjoy a refreshing chopped salad or wrap give Chop It Salad a try. They also have locations in Southpark Center (500 Southpark Ctr, Strongsville, OH 44136) and the food courts at Great Northern Mall and Belden Village Mall.

Contact info:

Chop It Salad Co.
28699 Chagrin Boulevard
Beachwood, OH 44122
(216) 378-9122