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

Pickle Bill’s in Grand River

101_0832Now that the weather is getting nicer Clevelanders start heading outside to enjoy it. One great place to enjoy the warmer temperatures is Pickle Bill’s in Grand River. It is a bit of a drive from Cleveland, but it is well worth it. If you try to find it using Mapquest or GPS you might not get there. The best way to do it is head to Mentor Headlands Beach. Pickle Bill’s is right off Route 44. There is a big sign. You can’t miss it. The restaurant is aware of the problem, so they offer detailed directions on their website for people coming from the north, south, east and west. They are closed on Mondays, open Tuesday-Friday from 4 to 9 p.m., Saturday from 3 to 9 p.m. and Sunday from 1 to 8 p.m. Be sure to call for Barge and Rooftop bar hours, as they are weather-dependent.

101_0834According to the Pickle Bill’s website, the name Pickle Bill’s was conceived back in 1967. Its first location was on Old River Road in the Cleveland Flats. It was in business for 11 years and had a fairly limited menu. In 1982, Pickle Bill’s relocated to River Street in Grand River. There was a fire in 1998 and it was a total loss. The restaurant rebuilt and reopened in January 2000. There is no mention of the Lakewood location (which is now Deagan’s) on the website, but I remember eating there several times in the 1990s.

101_0843Pickle Bill’s can be enjoyed year round, but there is nothing better than sitting outside on their patio or on the Dock or the Barge, which features the carousel-like round bar, in the middle of the Grand River. There is also a Fireplace Room, Rooftop bar and Cantina bar. This is my go-to place for seafood and frozen adult beverages. I have been eating at Pickle Bill’s since it was in Lakewood. I never made it to the location in the Flats.

The decorations are whimsical and reminiscent of a seafood house full of kitschy ocean- and seafaring-inspired decorations. The fun decor somehow makes you relax and enjoy yourself.

101_0840This place is not fine dining, but the quality is good. It bills itself as “casual waterfront dining.” I have yet to have a bad meal here. All of the entrees are served with choice of mixed greens, Caesar salad or cole slaw, one side dish, and their fried dough and cinnamon honey butter. The choice of sides include mixed vegetables, spicy red beans & rice, French fries, corn on the cob or baked potato.

Let’s talk about the rolls for a second. Like Red Lobster’s Cheddar Bay Biscuits, the Pickle Bill’s fried dough and cinnamon honey butter are extremely addictive. It is easy to fill up on the fried dough. It is that good. Light as air and slathered with their 101_0851cinnamon honey butter, these things are the bomb. You can see from the photo how much cinnamon is in the butter from the darker color. It’s almost worth the trip just for the fried dough, but luckily they have lobster, crab legs, shrimp, various sampler platters and all kinds of all-you-can-eat specials.

Unless you are a bottomless pit or all-you-can-eat pro you might be better off just ordering dinners off the menu. My sister and I ordered the all-you-can-eat snow crab legs (currently $42.95) back when they were still in Lakewood. The waitress felt bad for us because we were full after just one bucket and changed our bill to the 1 lb. dinners (currently $22.95). And we had limited ourselves to one piece of fried dough! The snow crab legs IMG_20120829_203716are a lot of work, but worth it once you fish the succulent chunks of crab meat out of the shell.

One of my friend’s favorite choices is the Appetizer Dinner. You can choose two appetizers (under $11.95), either a Caesar or mixed green salad and one side dish for $19.95. It is a great value.

My go-to meal is the Fine Kettle of Fish, which features a 1 lb. whole Maine lobster (or a 5 oz. lobster tail), snow crab legs, clams, mussels and corn on the cob for $35.95. You can also upgrade to a 1 1/4 lb. lobster for $40.95 or 1 1/2 lb. for $44.95. I have ordered it numerous times, and the seafood always comes out perfectly cooked. Even the corn on the cob is not overcooked!

101_0847The fish dinners serve huge filets of fish that extend over the sides of the plates. Two of my friends who are vegetarian but eat fish and chips loved their fish dinners here. One ordered it with the chips (aka French fries – pictured), while the other ordered the corn on the cob. Both pieces of fish extended over the sides of the plates. I am fairly certain the fish in the photo on the right is the panko-crusted walleye, but they also offer perch, tilapia, salmon and cod fish dinners.IMG_20120829_203628

They also serve Whiskey Island Chicken, ribs, prime rib and a (cheese)burger for those of you who are allergic or don’t like seafood but are married or dating a seafood lover. My one friend who ordered the ribs enjoyed them a lot.

Be prepared for lots of food and lots of plates. I once ordered the lobster dinner and added on an order of snow crab legs. The lobster, the snow crab legs, the corn and the mashed potatoes were all served on their own separate plate. In fact, the photo of the snow crab legs is from that meal.

I have celebrated my birthday here two times. They sang for me (not too obnoxious like in other restaurants) and gave us a small birthday cake! The cake is nothing to write home about, but it’s free and they wrap it up for you to take home. If you actually have room for dessert, everyone in my group who tasted it raved about the key lime pie.

Ladies, be sure to visit the ladies’ room and lift the leaf loincloth of the guy in the mural. An angel will get its wings.

Contact info:

Pickle Bill’s
101 River Street
Grand River, OH 44045
(440) 352-6343

Pier W in Lakewood

Pier W has always been the pinnacle of fine dining to a young girl from Olmsted Falls whose family rarely went out to eat and when we did it was the local Vietnamese place in Berea to celebrate our good grades. Everyone always talked about Pier W in lofty tones. Pier W has one of the best views in the city. As the Pier W website explains, “This landmark Cleveland restaurant has been serving a critically acclaimed seafood menu since 1965. The unique building architecture is designed to resemble the hull of a luxury liner cruising along Lake Erie. This full service, white table cloth, contemporary seafood restaurant and bar serves lunch, dinner, Sunday brunch, and privateIMAG5771 functions in a unique waterfront location in Lakewood, Ohio. Its minimalist dining room design frames the spectacular views of Lake Erie and the Cleveland skyline.”

This is a great place to celebrate a special occasion, but you also can’t beat their amazing happy hour, featuring wine for $5.25 a glass, food at half the price, and martinis for $5.75 instead of $8 or $9 (Red Delicious pictured here). Happy hour takes place every night but Saturday from 4:00-7:00 pm. The menu features various sandwiches, IMAG5773their clam chowder and lobster bisque and several smaller plate entrees like calamari. If you want to check Pier W out but don’t have the cash for a full-out meal, happy hour in their bar is the way to go.

However, this particular post is going to highlight my birthday meal. I love seafood, so I knew I wanted some good seafood. Some girlfriends and I met at the bar for a couple drinks and then we moved to the dining room for a delicious meal. I enjoyed several Red Delicious martinis (Laird’s Apple Jack Brandy, apple cider, Chateau Pommari, creme de cassis in a glass with a cinnamon sugar rim) before dinner. I loved the cinnamon sugar rim. It added a really nice touch.

We started by sharing the Iced Seafood Tower. It costs $42 and feeds 3-4 people. It contained all kinds of delicious seafood favorites. It features jumbo Gulf shrimp, poached lobster, oysters on the half shell, chilled mussels and crab salad. The tower was accompanied by four different dipping sauces, which we thoroughly enjoyed. I loved everything about this, but the chilled mussels were my favorite. I left the oysters to my friend C., who loved them. I also thoroughly enjoyed the crab salad, which was a nice surprise. It goes without saying that the shrimp and lobster were outstanding.

The bread was fresh baked, and we had two kinds to choose from. The butter was soft and luscious (one of my biggest pet peeves is when the bread is served with rock hard butter). I ordered the Wood Roasted Heirloom Beet Salad featuring blue goat cheese, marinated watermelon, aged balsamic vinegar, dill oil and red shiso (whatever that is). Beets and watermelon together in one dish? Yes please! All the different flavors really melded well together. It was light and refreshing, and I loved every bite.

Being a huge lobster fan, I ordered the Fresh Lobster Pappardelle for my entree and (since I had thoroughly enjoyed the seafood tower and salad) took most of it home to enjoy the next day. It featured fresh Maine lobster, fresh pappardelle noodles, roasted red peppers, and haricot verts in a light cognac cream sauce. Wow, it was amazing. I would definitely order this again.

Everyone was really pleased with their meals, and the service was just as attentive as you would expect at this five-star restaurant. The staff at Pier W surprised me with this delicious birthday sundae with extra spoons for my friends. It was a great touch to cap a perfect meal.

Contact info:

Pier W
12700 Lake Avenue (Winton Place)
Lakewood, Ohio
Phone (216) 228-2250