The Diner on 55th

You can’t miss the Diner on 55th. Just look for the shiny, old-timey diner car at the corner of E. 55th and St. Clair (pro tip: enter from E. 55th once you cross St. Clair – the driveway on St. Clair is exit only). It’s right off the E. 55th exit on I-90. If the sun is shining you may need sunglasses, but you definitely can’t miss it!

Since it opened in 2001, the Diner on 55th has been the epitome of a “classic small town diner,” but in the big city. If you’re a fan of old-school dining and comfort food, you’re sure to fall in love with this classically-inspired 1950s-style diner with checkerboard tablecloths. They specialize in all-American comforts like breakfast foods, chili, burgers, and onion rings. The Diner on 55th is open 6 days a week from 6 am to 3 pm (Saturday and Sunday from 7 am to 2 pm). It is closed on Mondays and holidays.

The diner car is surprisingly roomy inside. Booths line the windows and walls, and tables are lined up down the middle to be fit together as needed. There is a counter down the middle with comfortable-looking stools as well. The clientele was a mix of regulars and first-timers. I don’t know our local athletes, but one particularly tall gentleman may or may not play for the Cavs. He had to duck his head when he left. Being 5’2″ I didn’t have that problem. Whether they were regulars or a newbie like me, everyone was cheerfully greeted and treated well. The servers were very friendly and accommodating.

As for the food, it was by far one of the best breakfasts I have enjoyed in a long time!!! I ordered the Full Belly Breakfast, which comes with two eggs, two pancakes or two slices of French toast, and home fries or grits (or half and half). You can also order it with your choice of bacon, sausage, ham steak, or “ranch steak”, so I ordered bacon. When the server put the plate in front of me I was taken aback by how good it smelled. Well, it tasted even better. I don’t know what they put in the pancakes, but they were delicious. I think I only left a couple bites behind. As good as the pancakes were, the star of the show were the scrambled eggs. They were firm yet fluffy and every bite was a buttery delight. I savored every single eggy bite. The bacon was perfectly crisp. I walked out of here happy and looking forward to my next visit.

An omelet hit the spot one early Saturday morning. I decided to give it a chance even though it was 11 o’clock, and I was surprised that there were still a few tables available as well as the counter. People used the counter to sit until a table could be cleared. Once I sat down I ordered coffee and the Lorraine omelet, a three-egg omelet made with bacon, mushrooms, and Swiss cheese. I chose the home fries instead of grits and rye toast. There was a big table that had spun the kitchen into the weeds, but I was in no hurry. I had a book on my phone and was happy to chill and drink some coffee.

Since I have really enjoyed the breakfasts I ordered another Full Belly Breakfast, but this time I was in the mood for French toast. I figured I would be taking half home with me, but it was so good I cleaned the plate. The French toast was crisp on the outside and soft on the inside. They are generous with the butter. The scrambled eggs were once again delicious, the home fries featured some crispy bits and soft potato bits, and the bacon was perfectly crisp. I ordered coffee and two orange juices because I was thirsty. Since I know how to deal with the sugar dispenser now, the coffee was perfect.

Once it came out and I managed to wrangle up some jelly, ketchup, and an ice water, my breakfast was complete. I savored every bite of my breakfast – from the buttery omelet with chunks of bacon and mushroom and a pillow of Swiss and home fries with a liberal dousing of ketchup to the jelly-slathered and generously buttered rye toast. I walked out of there full and happy, which is how you want to be when you leave a diner.

Both breakfast and lunch are served all day. I saw stuffed cabbage on special one day and headed out (after digging my car out from a snowstorm). I got there shortly after one and they had unfortunately run out. When I asked the waitress when they usually start running out of things she suggested I get there a little before noon next time. So keep that in mind. I ordered the Roast Beef and Cheddar on a Bun off the Specials Board. She explained that they make the roast beef there, shave it and top it with cheddar cheese. In fact, from listening to the talk between the servers and the regulars at the counter they make just about everything (including the salad dressings) there.

I wasn’t all that impressed with the sandwich itself. Once I removed a couple pieces with gristle I enjoyed it more, but I was blown away by the onion rings. The special sandwich came with my choice of side, and when I asked her she recommended the onion rings. Talk about a great choice! They are definitely made there. The breading is light and crisp, and the entire thing is just tasty. One of the best orders of onion rings I’ve ever enjoyed. They don’t serve a lot of them, but it’s definitely quality over quantity. If you want more, order a second side.

The Lunch Specials also come with a complimentary soup. The soup of the day that day was Manhattan Clam Chowder (see above). I did notice a few clams in it, but honestly, it was more of a tasty tomato-based vegetable soup. I really didn’t miss the clams at all. On another visit, the soup of the day was cream of asparagus. I loved it. It was a lighter soup with not much cream and had some rice to give it some bulk. The soup was also brightened up by lemon juice. It was definitely a Greek take on asparagus soup combined with avgolemono soup (Greek chicken soup prepared with eggs and lemon and a bit of rice).

I ordered a Patty Melt with onion rings during a recent visit. The waitress, unfortunately, wrote it down wrong, but immediately rectified it by returning the plate to the kitchen and asking for onion rings. She then brought the burger back to me, and I enjoyed the perfectly medium rare burger while waiting for the onion rings, which were once again absolute perfection. The waitresses have also started greeting me like a regular.

Club sandwiches are also a great way to judge a diner. I also ordered the Diner Club sandwich to go. It was also perfection – a triple layer of white bread layered with ham, turkey (that are seasoned with what may be caraway?), bacon, cheese lettuce, and tomato. I asked for a side of 1000 Island dressing to slather on it. My perfect addition. I learned of this hack when I worked at Bakers Square. It was a bit difficult to eat, because it is so tall and fell apart pretty easily. But it sure was tasty! I ate the second half the next day, and it stayed together much better because it had all chilled together overnight.

The owner (a cute little older Greek guy named “Jimmy”) was either at the register or sitting/standing at the counter (the guy in the plaid shirt in the photo with the counter) the whole time I was there. He warmly cashes people out and thanks them for coming. On my first visit, I wondered how soon is too soon to return. Turns out every couple of days is just fine.

Contact info:

The Diner on 55th
1328 East 55th Street (at the corner of E. 55th and St. Clair Ave.)
Cleveland, Ohio
(216) 417-8001

Charlie’s Dog House Diner

I have been fascinated with Charlie’s Dog House Diner my entire life. The building sparked my imagination for years. To my young eyes, it looked like a little fairy tale diner guarded by two snoopy dogs. My grandparents lived on W. Schaaf off Broadview in Old Brooklyn, so we would frequently pass the diner, which marks the border between Cleveland and Parma. The kitschy roadside attraction has been in the exact same spot since 1952, when it began life as the Dog House, part of a national chain of shops that offered walk-up service to customers who ordered hot dogs and hamburgers through a window. When my father heard I ate here he made fun of me. Apparently, it was never quite taken seriously by him and his friends. Their loss.

The menu was expanded to include breakfast and lunch when a new owner took over 10 years ago, but they “updated” it during the pandemic (June 2020). It still contains all of the breakfast and lunch favorites. There is not a lot of seating. If you time it right, you can walk right in and grab a seat at one of the twelve red-topped stools at the L-shaped counter. It is open every day from 7:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m., which means I have to get motivated to make it there.

The building features a doghouse-like façade and two painted hound dogs that look out in either direction from the front door, just beneath a classic Coca-Cola sign, neon lights promising Chicago-style Vienna hot dogs and Charlie’s original waffles, and a marquee that reads “Charlie’s Restaurant.” It can seat 12 people. Obviously, I can’t say how busy it is in the morning. I would imagine it is busy enough that it is still in business all these years later.

These days, the clientele is still solidly working class, the burgers and pancakes still sizzle on the flat top and, though heavily remodeled throughout the decades, the space still features numerous retro throwbacks. Children’s artwork, a Specials board, lotto scratch-off dispensers, and photos of Liam Neeson (see below) decorate the area behind the counter. The operation still runs much like it would have back in the 1950s, with the owner on the grill and one of the employees tending the counter. Everything is made to order. You can still get full for less than $10.

The eggs Benedicts and breakfast burritos are well-loved. A list of skillets and omelets, pancakes, burgers, sandwiches, and, of course, those famous hot dogs are also on the menu; however, most people here are regulars and just ask for “the usual.” Since I am not a regular, I chose to go with one of their “specialty omelets” – the Dog House Omelet – along with hash browns and rye toast. The Dog House Omelet is stuffed with bacon, sausage, onions, mushrooms, and cheese. It was almost too much. A good omelet has two or three ingredients. This one seemed like it was trying too hard. As you can see by the photo it was more mix-in than egg.

also wanted to try their waffle but knew it was a lot of food. The waitress suggested I order half a waffle (yes, it’s possible!), so I splurged and added strawberry and blueberry toppings to it. The waffle was light and crispy and luscious inside. Adding the fruit toppings was an inspired choice. I really enjoyed the fruit with the carby goodness of the waffle. I ate half of everything and then took the leftovers home. I made the day of a guy begging at the side of the exit ramp onto Carnegie when I gave him my leftovers.

I heard the Ashlee Burrito is not to be missed, so I ordered that the next time I was there. Talk about filling! The tortilla wrap is stuffed with eggs, hash browns, bacon, sausage, and cheddar cheese and topped with sausage gravy. They also drop a bottle of hot sauce, so you can spice it up. It is a little bland, so the hot sauce was a nice added bonus. I obviously could only eat half, and saved half for the next day’s breakfast. I know I already said it, but “Talk about filling!”

I ordered a breakfast bagel sandwich to go just to see what it was like. For $3.99 I got a deliciously soft bagel filled with bacon, a well-fried egg (no yolk splooge on me this time), cheese and hash browns. It was a decent breakfast sandwich and was a total bargain. I can’t wait to try the croissant sandwiches, but I would definitely get this one again too.

They have several hot dogs on the menu. Since we aren’t in Chicago I decided not to order the Chicago Dog. I just can’t picture any place in Cleveland doing it right. Instead, I ordered the Cleveland Dog, because that is the way God intended hot dogs to be served 🙂 . It is a delicious Vienna hot dog, so it had some heft to it. They topped it with chopped onions and Stadium mustard. Absolutely divine. Someone ordered a trio of dogs the other day when I was there. It looked amazing.

I’ve tried to order a Patty Melt from every diner I have eaten at recently to compare them. This was definitely a decent Patty Melt. First off, they used rye bread, so bonus points. The burger was cooked medium and the cheese was perfectly melted to hold in the grilled onions. A squirt of yellow mustard made it complete. The onion rings were also decent. The onion stayed inside the batter when I bit into it. They stood up nicely to the ketchup.

I look forward to continuing to explore the menu. Maybe I’ll have a Monte Cristo, Charlie’s Mess or one of the benedicts next. This place definitely deserves our love. Did you know it was featured in a recent movie with Liam Neeson called The Marksman? Apparently, Charlie’s is a steakhouse in Arizona. 🙂

Photo of Charlie's Restaurant - Cleveland, OH, United States
How could a kid not be fascinated by this? Photo from Yelp user Chas M.

Contact info:

Charlie’s Dog House Diner
2102 Brookpark Road
Cleveland, OH 44134
216-661-4873

Zhug

Zhug is a new concept by chef Douglas Katz that offers “Middle Eastern Mezze” in a casual, high energy urban space at Cedar Fairmount. Low tables with pillows surround the space filled with tables. There is no hint of its past as a Liquid Planet. The kitchen is tucked in the back right corner. Esquire magazine named it one of 23 Best New Restaurants in America in 2020. Michael Symon visited town a few months ago for the birth of his new grandson and praised it on Instagram as insanely good .. one of the best and most thoughtful restaurants in the country right now IMHO. The praise, combined with a serious lack of parking and the fact that they don’t take reservations, made the restaurant pretty difficult to visit (even though I live very close).

The pandemic changed that for me. Doug wanted to keep the restaurant operating, so he decided to switch to takeout – with curbside pickup and delivery. Doug himself delivered the meals and waved to me on his way back for the next delivery order as I sat in my car waiting for my order. This allowed me to try the delicious choices in the comfort of my own home. I went a little crazy that night – as you can see in the photo below. I ordered the hummus, curry fried chicken, buttered shrimp, crispy brussels sprouts, grilled asparagus, and a cocktail to go (in that cute little jam jar). The cocktail was a lot of fun, and I have reused the jam jar several times to store leftovers. I must have a type of favorite cocktail, because I ordered it when we sat down to eat in the restaurant.

The location doesn’t have the best parking or wait-for-a-table options, but Parnell’s Pub, Starbucks, and Appletree Books are neighbors and allow folks to chill and wait for a table. The dining area is somewhat austere and industrial, with benches piled with pillows lining the walls. The servers are super friendly and knowledgeable, and Doug tends to make the rounds in his restaurants, greeting diners and making them feel like friends.

I adore the Yemenite curry fried chicken (gluten-free). I could eat it every day. Hunks of tender chicken are coated in a curry fried chicken batter and drizzled with harissa honey. It is super flavorful and one of the best chicken dishes in Cleveland at the moment if you ask me. The dipping sauce is also ridiculously delicious.

I also ordered the butter roasted shrimp (see above). I was less impressed with that one. Don’t get me wrong – it was very tasty. It is made with garlic and pil biber chili and is served with toast points. I think I got 5 shrimp for the $18 price tag. Yes, that is fairly normal, but I can just as easily roast shrimp in butter and spices myself. There is no way I could recreate the blissfulness of the fried chicken.

Zhug is also known for its hummus. It serves two kinds of hummus – curried lamb and apricot hummus and nigella seed and burnt onion hummus. I chose the curried lamb and apricot for my first venture and loved it. The hummus is creamy, the curried lamb was fork-tender and I loved the pairing of lamb and apricot. When I met some girlfriends at zhug when things opened up this spring we ordered both. I still preferred the lamb and apricot hummus, but the nigella seed and burnt onion hummus was also a very interesting choice and some of my girlfriends preferred it over the lamb hummus.

One mezze that we went nuts for was the leeks and feta. It is such a simple dish, but is executed so well that I adore it. The leeks are prepared in a scallion-pistachio pistou with roasted shallots and drizzled over a block of feta. I love, love, love it, as did my other friends.

We also very much enjoyed the smoked octopus. It was made with purple potatoes and olives in a tomato-based sauce and decorated with dabs of saffron aioli. My friends and I also chose a simple tomato salad as well. It featured cherry tomatoes cut in half and served with shaved parmesan and torn basil. I’m sure Doug put his own spin to it somehow, but it came across as simple yet delicious.

We ordered all of the desserts and shared them. They were all fantastic. I was skeptical about the tahini sundae, but the flavor blew me away. Topped with pistachios and chocolate sauce, the ice cream itself tasted like a mix between vanilla and chocolate ice cream. The mango sorbet just tasted like a fresh mango, which was so refreshing after our big meal. And although the spiced apples looked kind of dry, it was like spiced apple crisp and was not dry at all. It is made with lebnah, oat streusel, orange blossom and citrus zest. I’d be very hard pressed to pick a favorite; they were all really, really delicious. A really tasty end to a delicious meal.

zhug went back to curbside service during the Omnicron surge, but reopened for in-house dining again on the 1st. I’m really proud of how Doug responded to the pandemic. He was one of the first restaurant owners to go to curbside service, because he was already doing pop-ups and running a ghost kitchen (Chimi) from the diner on Lee. He ended up closing Fire on Shaker Square, which I miss, but he seemed to be keeping his head above water during the pandemic with a second ghost kitchen, Amba, which will soon be turned into a brick and mortar  Indian-fusion restaurant in Hingetown. For now, he is focusing on zhug and Amba.

Contact info:

zhug
12413 Cedar Road
Cleveland Heights, OH 44106
(216) 862-2508

The Rowley Inn

Open since 1906, The Rowley Inn is a neighborhood pub with great food, craft beers, reasonably priced drinks, and good service. Whenever I am here I picture my grandfather eating and drinking here way back then (my dad grew up in Tremont). It has a casual neighborhood vibe and a Cleveland-focused menu of comfort food and drinks. After all, it is located across the street from the Christmas Story House, so it gets a lot of tourists as well as locals. The Rowley also serves a great brunch. I just wish it were bigger because getting a table can sometimes be difficult.

The first time I came here I had seen a video of the grilled cheese pull on social media and decided I needed one asap. I was hooked from the moment I walked inside. I grabbed a little table to myself and ordered Cleveland’s Best Grilled Cheese with fries and a hard orange soda. It was a grown-up version of a beloved childhood meal. The grilled cheese features smoked gouda, mozzarella and provolone with a touch of mayo on grilled sourdough. I had never had mayo on grilled cheese before, but I am now a fan. The fries may not have looked like much, but they were some of the tastiest fries I have had in a while. I don’t know what kind of seasoning salt they use, but it makes the fries delectable. The hard orange soda made me chuckle. I felt like I was being so decadent.

The second visit I decided to try something completely different and ordered the Loco Moski. I loved the Loco Moco in Hawaii, and this is a decidedly Cleveland take on the Hawaiian rice, burger patty, gravy, and fried egg. It features pierogi instead of rice that are topped with a burger patty, fried onions, eggs and pepper gravy. It was a lot of food piled up, and I struggled to finish it. It was definitely a very unique choice – and quite a delicious one. I paired it with a Be Sure To Drink Your Ovaltine, which is made with Pinnacle whipped cream vodka, Kahlua, cream and ovaltine. I very much enjoyed the creamy drink, which was reminiscent of a mudslide and/or White Russian.

I was with my dining out group on the second visit, so we were able to try a few things and share them. We ordered the fried pickle spears, the pretzel bites, the kielbasa corndogs (no longer on the menu). Everyone really enjoyed them. Most everyone went with a burger.

Obviously, on my next solo visit I had to try the Rowley’s version of a Patty Melt. The Rowley Melt features a burger (it came out a perfect medium rare) topped with Swiss, sautĂ©ed onions and mushrooms, and an egg on grilled rye. I ordered mine without an egg, because I need to limit my egg intake and I had overdone it the day before. It came with it anyway, but I just removed it. No big deal. The fries were once again a highlight. I ordered a Paloma (Espolon, lime, simple syrup, and sparkling grapefruit) to go with it. Refreshing!

I was lucky to get a seat at the bar one Taco Tuesday. I ordered a couple tacos, which were actually pretty good (I’m not the biggest taco fan), and a margarita, and then a Meatloaf Sandwich (one of these days I will order Randy’s Meatloaf Dinner and try eating it Randy-style for a free t-shirt. But I will have to have a designated driver in order to loosen up enough to do it.) The meatloaf sandwich was really, really good. I loved the glaze on it. The tomato slices were a little weird, but I got over it. When I make a meatloaf sandwich it is usually just a slab of meatloaf and ketchup – no tomatoes, no lettuce, no fried onions.

Finally, brunch at the Rowley is amazing. One of my friends made a reservation for our large group – and it was a good thing he did. People were enjoying Bloody Marys and coffee. I ordered a mimosa and the Everything But The Bagel Breakfast, which features 3 pierogi, kielbasa, cheddar cheese, Everything Bagel seasoning and is topped with sausage gravy & 2 over easy eggs. It was quite tasty and very filling. What’s not to like about pierogi and kielbasa?

My neighbor ordered the Corned Beef Hash and enjoyed it. Everyone else seemed to enjoy their meals as well, which ranged from a caesar salad, avocado toast to a breakfast burger. We split an order of beignets. Since the kitchen is small they brought the food out as it was finished, which meant that everything was fresh and piping hot. One thing to note is that a 20% gratuity is added to the checks for parties of 5 or more. I have no problem with this practice at all. I only wish our waitress had reminded us of it when we cashed out. She got a 43% gratuity out of me. It was her lucky day.

Contact info:

The Rowley Inn
1104 Rowley Avenue
Cleveland, OH 44109
(216) 795-5345

Big Al’s Diner

Big Al’s is about as “greasy spoon diner” as it gets. The 25-year-old diner is not flashy, it’s not fancy, it’s not big, it’s just a small diner. The staff is friendly, hard-working, and attentive. You walk in, sit where you want, and one of the servers will come ask you if you want coffee and take your order. The bill is dropped with your meal, and when you are done they cash you out or you pay the bill at the register. The diner is open Wednesday thru Sunday from 7:00 am to 1:30 pm, and breakfast is served the entire time.

It’s not a place to come if you are watching calories. The portions are big, and the food is fresh and delicious. If you are like me, you will be taking food home with you. The home fries are available with pepper and onions, and the prices are affordable. It has all the comforting favorites, like fluffy eggs, large, buttery pancakes and waffles, several kinds of sausage, sausage gravy to die for, thick, steaming soups, homemade mashed potatoes with gravy, burgers, and layer cake for dessert. But the corned beef hash is the star of the show – it was featured on the Food Network’s Best Thing I Ever Ate by Michael Symon.

Obviously, I had to order breakfast the first time I visited. Since I am not a fan of corned beef I left the hash for the fans. I chose #8 – “On the Lighter Side Combo” – 2 eggs, 1 pancake or 1/2 a French toast, and bacon, ham or sausage. I added fresh blueberries to the pancake for an additional 50 cents. It was the perfect amount of food. The eggs were scrambled just as I like it and I could add cheese to them, the bacon was crisp and the blueberry pancake hit the spot. And best of all, my coffee cup was never empty for long.

I usually visit diners during the week to avoid crowds and waitings for a table. However, craving diner food on a recent rainy Sunday morning I headed to Big Al’s for a waffle. I had to wait about 5-10 minutes for a table at 12:45 (they close at 1:30). The two tables in front of me got seated right away, so it was just bad timing on my part. They seated one table after me and took the phone off the hook to cut off to-go orders. The #10 hit the spot – a waffle, 2 eggs, and choice of bacon, ham or sausage. I opted for scrambled and sausage (patties or links? turkey or pork?) patties. I ordered a large orange juice ($3.25) that was worth every penny because the serving was large. Most of the time you order a large orange juice and you are lucky to get a medium juice glass as the “large.” I wasn’t quite able to finish it, but I didn’t have enough to warrant a box. I left sated and happy at 1:35 pm.

Another visit had me trying the sausage gravy. Since I didn’t want a huge portion of sausage gravy I chose the country fried steak combo (#13) with two eggs, home fries, country fried steak, and toast. I chose over easy eggs so that I could mix the yolks in with the loaded home fries (always get them loaded with grilled onions and green peppers) and rye toast. Everything was very tasty, but the sausage gravy-covered country fried steak was exceptional. Screw the corned beef hash – get the sausage gravy! It was a filling breakfast, and I ended up taking half the home fries and steak home with me for a light supper. I ordered cranberry juice and coffee this time around, and the medium cranberry juice was perfect in addition to ice water.

I, of course, had to try their lunch items as well and decided on the Patty Melt. This was a great Patty Melt. The cheese was melty, the onions were nicely grilled and caramelized, and the burger was cooked to my specification (medium rare). The hand cut fries were delicious.

They are doing a booming carry-out business in the time of COVID, but they also clean and sterilize the tables before seating diners, the booths and tables in the middle of the room are separated by plastic partitions, and there is a bottle of hand sanitizer on each table. Silverware is rolled and sealed with a band.

Contact info:

Big Al’s Diner
12600 Larchmere Boulevard
Cleveland, OH 44120
(216) 791-8550

Mama D’s Diner

Breakfast is my favorite meal of the day, and one of my greatest pleasures is enjoying it in a small diner. I’ve discovered Mama D’s Diner in the past year. I noticed it in a small strip mall on Mayfield Road. I asked my Facebook food forum about it, but no one could tell me anything about it, so I decided to check it out for myself. I am so glad I did! It’s a definite find!

It’s a small space with four booths, one booth in the front window, and a couple chairs along the counter. Once COVID hit they hung plastic panels between the booths and discourage sitting at the counter. Silverware comes served in an envelope. There have been two people working whenever I have been there – Mama D and the kitchen cook. They greet and joke with their regulars. They were teasing a retiree because he arrived after 3 the last time I was there, and I got into a nice discussion with a fellow diner about the weather and my car as she was leaving. I usually bring a book to entertain myself, but an occasional brief conversation is always welcome.

My first visit was after noon, but they serve breakfast all day. I had had enough coffee by then, so I ordered a Mountain Dew instead. I decided to order Rob’s Famous Breakfast Bowl, which was featured on the chalkboard. It features loaded homefries topped with two eggs, 2 bacon strips, 2 sausage patties, and a slice of Texas toast. I chose scrambled eggs, and the loaded homefries were an absolute home run! They contained grilled onions and peppers. It was really tasty.

The second time I came in Mama D recognized me and asked if I wanted a Mountain Dew. I was stunned she remembered me. I felt so welcomed. Since it was earlier in the day I instead chose coffee and a sweet breakfast. I was intrigued by the Chunky Monkey French Toast. Chunky Monkey is a great Ben & Jerry’s flavor, and this French toast also does the name justice. It features three slices of French toast topped with maple syrup bananas and chocolate chips, chocolate sauce, and vanilla whipped topping. It was a work of art and delicious as well!

Another breakfast favorite I ordered Mama D’s Philly Egg Sandwich, which features shaved prime rib with peppers & onions, two eggs, and cheese on a toasted hoagie. It was a little too much bread, but the prime rib, egg and cheese combo was great. I tore off the excess bread and gave it a good shake of A1 sauce. A side of thick-cut bacon was the perfect accompaniment.

Now I love Eat at Joe’s, but I haven’t been as enthused by the lunch options as I am about the breakfasts there. I can’t say that here. The soups here are great. I ordered a cup of chili with the Philly Egg Sandwich. I know it’s a weird dichotomy, but I had a craving. It’s a good chili. It has a bit of heat to it, but it also has a nice balance of meat and tomatoes with just a few kidney beans (I’m not the biggest fan of kidney beans, so I appreciated it). I’ve also enjoyed the clam chowder and beef noodle soup. The clam chowder had a nice flavor to it and lots of good bites of clam and potato. The noodles in the beef noodle soup were intact, which isn’t always the case in noodle soups that sit. I can tell they add the noodles just before serving. A nice detail that is appreciated.

I decided to switch it up and try Lou’s Patty Melt. Mama D’s serves an excellent Patty Melt. I need to keep trying new things, but the Patty Melt keeps calling to me. I’ve enjoyed it with the housemade potato chips and dip as well as house-cut fries. And you can tell they are cut in-house because I have never, ever seen fries cut like this before.

The Sloppy Joe was on special the last time I was there. It is probably one of the best sloppy joes I have ever eaten. It didn’t have any discernible peppers or onions, but it was a great tasting sandwich all the same. I knew better than to eat it with my hands. I would have ended up wearing it. If you see it on the menu, order it. I’m wondering if the specials are the same every day. I’ll have to stop by again next Thursday and see. But then again I may order the Beef Stew, which also sounded good.

There are plenty of other things on the menu that I want to try, like the various breakfast sandwiches and one of the smashburgers. It’s a small menu, so the goal of trying everything is definitely a doable one. And I will continue to be a regular there – although I try to go during off-hours when they aren’t as busy. Mama D’s is open Wednesday to Sunday from 8 am to 4 pm.

Contact info:

Mama D’s Diner
5416 Mayfield Road
Lyndhurst, OH 44124
440-421-9500

EDWINS Butcher Shop

EDWINS Butcher Shop opened up in December 2018 and has filled a void in the Buckeye neighborhood. It is part of the EDWINS Leadership and Restaurant Institute and shares the building with EDWINS Patisserie, Bakery and Diner.  Its logo is a pig that flies, which makes me smile. The EDWINS program trains people who were previously incarcerated in restaurant skills (cooking, hosting, and serving). Now, they’ve opened an additional program at the butcher shop where students can learn butchery.

The Butcher Shop was the first to open. It sells various meats in the meat case as well as prepared foods like fried chicken and shrimp, hot dogs and sausages, burgers, and sandwiches. They also sell a range of specialty items like Cleveland Ketchup, jams, mustards and spices. They have several coolers filled with prepared soups and salads, beverages (including rare sodas like Cheerwine), and prepared desserts like banana pudding.

They have a great fish fry during Lent and serve a great fried shrimp dinner as well. The shrimp was plump and tender, and the fries are really good. I went one Friday in April for the fish fry. Even though it looks overcooked it wasn’t. The fish inside the breading was moist and tender. I chose JoJos (wedge potatoes) and mac n cheese as my sides. The mac n cheese is really creamy and delicious. The

They also serve a great burger. I ordered in medium rare, and it came out medium. Color me surprised. It’s hard to find a place that makes a medium rare burger. The burger itself was still quite tasty, despite the patty being quite firm.

They also serve dinners that come with 2 sides and a roll. These dinners include 1/2 a chicken, 6 oz of brisket, a half slab of ribs, fried chicken and pulled pork – and special dinners like corned beef on Saint Patrick’s Day. The sides are also available individually. They are all only $2 and are good sized portions.

PDF of the Butcher Shop menu

Contact info:


EDWINS Butcher Shop
13024 Buckeye Road
Cleveland, OH 44120
(216) 417-1100

In Memorium: Walter Hyde

It’s been a month. I thought I was ready. I wasn’t. I promised his sister I would post this memorial video though. We miss you, Walter.

https://jill-sommer.com/Walter.mp4

The Cleveland food scene and its close-knit chefs suffered a major loss on October 16th. Walter Hyde of Now We’re Cooking, Swingo’s, Giovanni’s, The Annex, Fat Casual BBQ, Tavern of Solon, Fahrenheit-Charlotte, Sterle’s and most recently [Ice Ice] Daisy’s on Fleet died of a heart attack after a smoked prime rib pop-up with Penny Barend Tagliarina at Terrestrial Brewery. We are all reeling from the loss. His creativity was boundless. Who else could turn a cheese ball into a legendary appetizer? He and Scott could roast a delicious pig. His smoked prime rib and kind heart made him a legend. Everything he touched was delicious. Walter Hyde, you will be missed. I’m heartbroken.

Jeff Jarrett and Walter at Dinner in the Dark at Sterle’s

Legendary appetizer by Walter Hyde – cheeseballs, BBQ and pickle

Cleveland Scene Memorial by Doug Trattner

DiCillo Tavern – Fish Fry Friday #1 2021


From Google StreetView

After finishing my invoicing for the month I was ready for a fish fry last night. I referred to my shortlist, and the first on the list was also one of the closest to me. DiCillo Tavern is located on Mayfield Road in Mayfield, close to Golden Gate. It sticks out in the sea of strip malls because it is an old house. It’s got this good quality hole in the wall vibe going for it. In fact, it reminds me of the old Suds MacGuire in Olmsted Falls – an old house that was a dive bar/restaurant and had killer fish fries. DiCillo has been serving their famous “Whaler” fish fry dinner since 1933. The fish fry is take-out only this year, daily from 4 to 8 p.m.

I headed out shortly after 5 and arrived there at 5:45. I had tried to call in my order, but no one answered the phone. The parking lot was packed with big trucks. I got one of the last easy-to-access parking spaces (the trucks were not parked straight so there were gaps). I was surprised to see so many vehicles and expected a long wait. I was pleased to see the bar side was packed with patrons (no masks as far as I could see, but they were in a separate room), while the restaurant side was hopping with take-out pick-ups. I placed my order and was told it would be about a half an hour. I had planned to sit in my car, but I was told I could sit in the socially distanced restaurant area while I waited. By the time my order was ready I was not the only person sitting around the restaurant, but we were all masked and sitting at tables divided with plexi-glass.

I was surprised when my order was only $24. I had ordered the Fisherman’s Sampler ($18), which contained a “mini” Whaler, a couple pieces of perch, and a couple fried shrimp. I ordered the pierogi as a side dish ($6) and the clam chowder ($6). She had added the pierogi as my side, so I didn’t pay extra for them. I slipped her a couple bucks as a tip and was on my way home. I had to play parking Jenga to leave because two cars had blocked the exit row and two other cars were parked along the side with their flashers on.

As to the fish fry itself, it was delicious. The only down side was the pierogi, which I would not be surprised were Mrs. T’s. Luckily I didn’t end up paying extra for them. The clam chowder had a thicker consistency than most milk-based chowders and it was chock full of clams and potatoes. I think the consistency might have come from the potatoes breaking down. I really enjoyed it.

The Whaler – from the DiCillo Tavern Facebook page

The fried fish and shrimp were delicious. Perfectly fried and overcooked or dry. I can see why the Whaler is so popular because that particular piece of fish is stunning. It is a large portion with firm white meat inside. The perch were okay. They were flatter and consistent, which leads me to believe they are frozen, not fresh. But perch is perch and adored by many here in Cleveland. I also adored the coleslaw. It had a nice horseradish bite to it and was really creamy. If I go back again (and let’s be honest, I just might) I’ll order a Whaler and a huge side of coleslaw. If you are on the east side, you can’t go wrong with DiCillo’s. But order early. They ran out of chowder at 6:30.

Contact Info:

DiCillo Tavern
6088 Mayfield Road
Mayfield Heights, OH 44124
(440) 442-2755

It’s Fish Fry season again!

This has been a very weird year. I’ve been disconnected from the restaurant scene because I am at high risk and have been sheltering like a pro. I’ve been doing my part in getting take-out, but oftentimes I have been relying on restaurants I regularly enjoy and have probably already reviewed. I pivoted my Instagram, which was set up to feature my food adventures, to featuring Pampered Chef products. I became a Pampered Chef consultant in July and have been cooking at home with all my fun new and old Pampered Chef gadgets. I particularly love our Air Fryer and put my VitaMix in storage in favor of the Quick Cooking Blender, because it doesn’t just heat up but cooks the soups and hot chocolate and makes other things like jam.

But I too am getting corona-weary and miss a good piece of fried fish, so I decided to shake things up and do Fish Fry Fridays again. I missed Ash Wednesday because it snuck up on me, and I wasn’t in the mood for fish yet. Nevertheless, last night I decided I needed a good fish fry and referred to the shortlist I made from the Scene’s 50 Cleveland Fish Fries to Try This Lenten Season. I whittled down my choices to a select few this year: DiCillio Tavern, Post and Beam on Snow Rd, West Park Station, the Flat Iron Cafe, the Firehouse Grille in Willoughby, the Little Polish Diner, Tavern of Little Italy, and Larder. I may or may not also grab one from Ohio City Provisions and/or Melt.