We’re in week two of #stayathome. Two weeks ago all the church fish fries were cancelled until further notice because we were told to avoid crowds of 100. And then some self-entitled nimrods partied on the beaches of Florida anyway and who knows how many people were infected. So the government had to ratchet it up a notch (since people weren’t giving it the attention and concern this pandemic should be given) and close down all restaurants and bars. But luckily restaurants can still operate as carry out operations for the near future. Who knows how long that will last, but I took my chances and drove to Around the Corner in Lakewood to grab a fish fry to go. Practicing self distancing the whole time. There weren’t a lot of people getting to go orders at 7, and the employee cashed me out with the bar in between us.
I apologize for the quality of the photos. The lighting in my kitchen is not great, and I tried to avoid shadows as much as I could. I was unsuccessful.
I ordered a perch dinner because all my friends seem to prefer it. This perch dinner was good, but again it didn’t wow me. I guess I’m not much of a foodie, because I prefer to sink my teeth into a nice thick, fluffy white fish. I should have ordered the cod. It looks like a beautiful piece of fish and takes up the entire plate in the photos. The perch dinner features 4 pieces of lake perch, french fries, a small serving of cole slaw, and a corn muffin (yeah, dinner roll in this case – maybe they had run out) with honey butter for $13.95. I also ordered a side of (3) pierogi for $5.95 and a bowl of clam chowder for $5.95.
Since it was take-out I can’t rate the freshness. The perch and fries were a little soggy from being in the takeout container, but the second half heated up nicely the next day in the air fryer. I really enjoyed the cole slaw. It definitely ranks up there with my favorite cole slaws. It is mayo-based with just a hint of sweetness. The dinner roll was meh, but the honey butter was delicious and definitely made it better. The pierogi seemed homemade. The potato and cheese filling was nicely seasoned and the outside was not overly doughy.
The only thing I wasn’t a fan of was the clam chowder. It looks denser in the picture than it was once I rewarmed it. So the consistency was fine. It was the taste. I don’t know if they added twice the pepper or if that is the normal recipe. If that was the normal recipe they might want to dial it back a bit on the pepper. It had a nice amount of clams and potatoes. I still ate it, but a cup would have been more welcome.
Who knows what adventure awaits us next week. I had the Donauschwaben fish fry scheduled because I had a teacher meeting scheduled there that night, but we have now moved all school-related stuff online – even teacher meetings. I may or may not get it to go. It depends on if they are still serving. I definitely miss the pancake breakfasts!
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I’m lucky I don’t live closer to Gunselman’s Tavern or I would be eating here all the time. The restaurants in Cleveland would go under, because I would be eating at Gunselman’s once a week and not exploring all of Cleveland’s restaurants. They are open every day from 11:00 to 2:30 a.m. The menu has a lot to offer, with lots of interesting appetizers, salads, entrees and burgers. They have a rotating daily soup, happy hour is 11-6 p.m. everyday of the week, and they offer Sunday brunch from 11-2 p.m. Gunselman’s has been open as a neighborhood bar since 1920. Opened as the Past Time Cafe in the 1920’s and has a shady history during prohibition. Legend has it that Henry Gunselman was a whiskey salesman that went to collect a bill in 1936. They couldn’t pay so he took over the bar. Gunselman’s had a great neighborhood kitchen until 1956. The new owners re-opened the comfort food kitchen in 2016 with a lot of old school recipes and a great burger. The walls have lots of old-time photos. The bar side is homier than the side room, but if you park in the parking lot you can enter through the side room.
The place is not that large, so during dinner hours it can get quite packed. That particular night had a large party in the side room, and the bar was packed with people. We had to wait for a while for a table to open up, but luckily her son and his girlfriend were running late.
I first heard about Gunselman’s when a friend posted a photo of the December burger of the month – the Christmas Dinner featuring 1/2 lb. burger, shaved prime rib (shaved here meaning nice slabs), house recipe horseradish aioli, rosemary au jus, Muenster cheese, arugula and tomato on a Weck (salted) bun. Every single ingredient was perfectly balanced to complement the others. The horseradish aioli was divine and the rosemary au jus was inspiring. That prime rib was also absolutely perfect. Despite it being fairly chunky it came apart easily
and melted together with the beef. I took a photo of the cross-section because it is a sight to behold. My friend and I split it (and ordered onion rings instead of fries) in addition to ordering a few appetizers for the table to share.
The tabletopper sign said the burger paired well with GLBC Christmas ale, but I ordered a Black & Tan because I could. Anytime Guiness is on draft I order it. Black & Tan is one of my favorite Irish beer or ders – half Guinness and half Harp or other Irish lager. It always hits the spot.
My friend and I also split a dozen chicken wings. Gunselman’s was in the middle of a wing sauce competition, so we ordered some wings with one of the sauces. The wings were well-fried and crisp and the sauce was very flavorful. I’m not a hot/spicy loving person, so it was very sweet BBQ sauce-like, which is my jam. The wings were quite tasty. I went home with a couple of them, and they made a nice lunch the next day.
The kid at the table decided to order chicken tenders after the waitress told him he could get them doused in sauce. Unfortunately for him he chose a sauce that was a little spicier than he was ready for. He should have gotten the sauce on the side like on the menu. He enjoyed the tenders anyway.
I ordered the Reilly’s Corned Beef Pasties, which Reilly’s Irish Bakery makes for them. They are empanada-like meat pies (the Brits call them pasties) filled with corned beef & Swiss, sauerkraut and 1000 Island. This was the surprise hit of the night. We all loved them, and I could see myself ordering them again.
My friend’s son ordered the Ohio City pierogi but I seem to remember that there was something special to them. The normal pierogi are Ohio City Pasta cheddar & red potato pierogi with grilled onions and sour cream. They were a little tougher than I like, but it was a solid pierogi if you like pierogi.
I enjoyed this burger of the month so much that I went back a week later for lunch on my own. It was a big burger. I would have been too full if I had ordered anything else. It was the middle of a snowy day and I felt like spoiling myself, so I ordered an Irish coffee. It did a good job warming me up, and the burger was just as good as I remembered. I went with the hand cut fries, which I enjoyed dunking into the accompanying side of cheese sauce. I’m not usually a cheese sauce girl and prefer ketchup with my fries, but there is something about this pairing of cheese sauce and fries that is a match made in heaven. If I am not mistaken it is the Bertman beer cheese dip featuring cheddar cheese + beer + Bertman’s original ball park mustard and served with pretzel rods as an appetizer. Good stuff! It is without a doubt the best burger I have ever eaten. I was sad to see it go off the menu.
I ordered the chicken paprikash to go for dinner that night. Advertised as “Irish Kevin’s recipe” it was a little overpowering and heavy on actual peppers for me. Not a flavor profile I prefer. I’ll stick with Sokolowski’s or Balaton’s, so give me the ones made with Hungarian paprika. Other people adore it. It’s just not my taste and I’ll happily try more things on the menu instead.
The Burger of the Month in January was some health-conscious one wrapped in lettuce, so I skipped it. However, February’s Burger of the Month, Coldwater Lobster Love, featured a half pound burger of ground brisket, chuck and short rib (for one damn tender burger patty), smoked bacon, coldwater lobster meat poached in Cajun butter, Muenster cheese, tomato and arugula on your basic burger bun. This burger was decadent AF. I ordered it medium rare and it practically melted in my mouth. It was once again perfectly cooked. I paired it with an El Dudearino, which is Van Gogh Espresso vodka, Kahlua and cream. When I finished that I switched to iced tea because the snow was starting to fly and I wanted to have my wits about me for the drive home.
I started the official Fish Fry Fridays this week at St. Andrew Ukrainian Catholic Church. The first Friday was spent at Pacific East celebrating a friend’s birthday.
Dinners here are served from 5 to 7:30 during Lent. They sell pierogi out of the basement on Friday mornings/afternoons. My ideal fish fry has fried fish and homemade pierogi, so a church that sells their own pierogi is fisy fry paradise for me. I was here last year at 5:10. The line and wait was fairly long. We ended up meeting up later this year to accommodate schedules (I was down in Kent that afternoon speaking to translation grad students about our profession, others were working). My friend Kris and I ended up getting there at 6:10, which seemed to be the perfect time. The line had died down and they were able to reserve a table for six for us when we requested it after ordering. The price of the fish fry was also $1 less this year, but you only get one piece of fish instead of two. The price of a dinner includes choice of cole slaw or apple sauce, bread and butter, a dessert and soft drinks, coffee or tea. You can order fried fish, fried shrimp or a pierogi dinner. I ordered the fried fish and 3 pierogi for $12 and a side of mac n cheese for $3, for a total of $15.
They ran out of cabbage and noodles just as we were about to order, then they had run out of baked fish and bread by the time the rest of the group arrived at 6:30.
The room is small and lots of people stake their claim to tables. The line to pay and get the dinners from the kitchen is right as you walk in. If you are taking your food to go you can forego the line and head to the to-go area at the back wall past the kitchen. Otherwise you order at the table and then head to the kitchen window to pick up your dinners. Then you get in line again at the condiments and dessert table on the left and grab your condiments, cole slaw or apple sauce, bread and butter, dessert and coffee or tea. Soft drinks are available at the bar that is built into a cubby in the wall to the left. The bar does not serve alcohol at fish fries – it is manned by young high school boys.
I had a tough time deciding what dessert to choose. There was a wide variety of homemade desserts, from cake, brownies, cookies and chocolate pudding. I chose what looked to me like a pumpkin cake with cream cheese center. It was and I was very pleased with my choice. By the end of the night we were sitting around talking and they had a ton of desserts left, so I grabbed another chocolate pudding.
Everyone was thrilled with their meals. Half of us chose the fried fish, and half chose the fried shrimp. The fish was flaky and moist, the pierogi were plump and delicious, and the apple sauce hit the spot. The mac n cheese was also nice and creamy. One friend went back and ordered another piece of fish because he enjoyed it so much. The only complaint we had were the potato pancakes, which were so greasy they were soggy. Potato pancakes should be crisp and shatter to reveal a creamy center.
We sat around talking until 7:30. We were literally the last table to leave. The volunteers were sitting and enjoying their meals when we ventured into the snow squall. I put on my heated seats, and we headed north for home. It was the perfect, quintessential Cleveland evening.
It’s Fish Fry season! I am starting my usual fish fry attendance tonight at St. Andrew’s, but wanted to post a couple fish fries from the past to share them here. This fish fry visit was from April 20, 2018. It was spurred by someone asking about it on All Things Food in Cleveland, a Facebook group I help run. I found my photo of the food and drove by today to take a photo of the building. This is facing west on Ravenna Road. A couple interior photos are from the BAC website.
The British American Club in Twinsburg is not your usual fish fry. This completely nondescript building is located on Ravenna Road in Twinsburg. Just past the Square the street Ys off on Route 82 (at Romeo’s Pizza), so turn to the right then keep going straight when it turns to the left. It’s on the right side a couple miles down. It is a brick building that is just past the Do This Do That Auto Body shop. The BAC volunteers serve fried fish, fried shrimp and fried chicken throughout the year on the 1st and 3rd Friday of the month and every Friday during Lent. The Fish and Chips dinner includes two pieces of battered fish, chips, mushy peas, cole slaw and bread and butter and costs $8 for members and $9.50 for non-members. It is cash only.
We cautiously entered since we weren’t sure what to expect but were greeted and told to take a table. We then went to the back of the room where we gave our orders. If you want to order a drink at the bar they will charge you $2 for a temporary associate membership. I was happy to do it because they had Guinness and Harp on tap. We were given our fried food and helped ourselves to the cole slaw, mushy peas, and bread and butter as well as the condiments (ketchup and malt vinegar) on a table along the wall separating the bar and the dining area.
I spent $15 that night for my fish and chips, temporary membership, and Black and Tan. We would go back again for the mushy peas and the malt vinegar alone. My friend from England was so happy that night. The fish was perfectly cooked – not too greasy while crisp outside and moist inside. I got the impression that the fish were hand-breaded, because most fish service fish look flat and identically triangular. I would definitely recommend this fish fry if you are near Twinsburg or don’t mind a bit of a drive.
Two years ago during Lent I joined a fun little thing called “40 Days of Sandwiches.” I was introduced to it by my friend Nina whose friend Mitch started it. They are still doing it this year if you want to join them. Just post your photo to Instagram and use the hashtag #40daysofsandwiches. I’m toying with the idea of doing it again, but it is really hard to eat some kind of sandwich every day. Maybe every other day. It was a fun way to explore new restaurants and sandwiches.
When planning my sandwich schedule, I stumbled on a Thrillist list of the best sandwiches in Cleveland, which included the Green Goddess by Byte Cafe. I live close to the Byte Cafe and had no idea it was even there. You probably aren’t even aware of it. It is a little coffee and sandwich counter on the ground floor of the Tyler Building on Superior Avenue. It is open Monday through Friday from 7:30 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. It is closed on Saturday and Sunday.
The Byte Cafe is an unassuming little place at the end of the ground floor hallway with a fun little eating area with leaded glass windows. It gets crowded during the lunch rush when all of the business people in the building head down for lunch. I go after lunch rush hours and before they close. And get it to go.
The first time I went there was for the Green Goddess. It features fresh avocado, goat cheese, basil pesto, arugula, balsamic reduction, roasted walnuts, and salt&pepper on multigrain bread. It was by far the favorite and most unique sandwich I ate during the 40 Days of Sandwiches. It was refreshingly light yet super creamy and flavorful.
Another sandwich that is highly recommended here is the Desperado, which is a turkey sandwich that is topped with has bacon, avocado, arugula, tomato and apricot honey mustard. I really enjoyed the apricot honey mustard. It gave it a nice little flavor kick.
All of their soups are homemade and change every week. So far I have enjoyed their cream of potato, clam chowder and French onion. The soups taste homemade with sizable chunks of ingredients, which makes it filling. The soup comes served with a nice hunk of bread as well. The French onion soup had the croutons and cheese in separate containers to add at home/in the office.
I haven’t ordered any salads, but the Ancient Grains and Green Goddess ones sound amazing. They also offer the option to order a half sandwich if you have a smaller appetite.
My most recent lunch featured the aforementioned French onion soup and The Alaskan. The Alaskan features smoked salmon, cream cheese, cucumber, red onions and a vinaigrette on a ciabatta bun. I’m not the biggest fan of ciabatta, so I would probably order a different bread choice next time. I always try the default before switching it up.
I usually get here after the lunch rush and don’t drink coffee after 2:30 or 3:00, so I have not ordered a coffee here yet. It’s next on the list!
3615 Superior Avenue
Cleveland, OH 44114
It’s paczki (pronounced poonch-key) season here in Cleveland. What used to be a one-day tradition has grown to weeks of sweet treats and polka parties in Cleveland, culminating on Fat Tuesday, the day of feasting before the Christian fast known as Lent (February 25 this year). Paczki are Polish doughnuts filled with jelly or some other kind of sweet filling, traditionally served prior to Lent and are a mainstay in most Catholic cultures. The Germans call them Berliner. The jelly doughnuts happened because people would clear their kitchens of milk and butter in preparation for Lent and would make doughnuts. The paczki dough recipe is similar to German, Jewish, and Italian filled doughnuts, but traditional paczki contain a splash of Polish vodka called Spiritus in addition to the flour, eggs, milk, sugar, yeast, and sometimes butter that make up the dough. We hit two Polish and two Italian bakeries on our crawl.
I am not a huge fan of crowds. I do not do well standing in long lines and being crushed by people, so I avoid Fat Tuesday, which is the day most bakeries are having their celebrations and selling out of their paczki. I have been buying paczkis here and there in the run-up, so I had a solid plan for the paczki crawl. We did a spontaneous one last year after a particularly bad pancake breakfast, hitting a bunch of bakeries. This year my friend wanted to do it again and met me at the Donauschwaben German-American Club, where I teach on Saturdays until noon. I had wanted to drive to Kiedrowski’s in Amherst, but she requested we start at Becker’s in Fairview Park. The goal of the afternoon was to just see where it took us and enjoy being out and about.
The actual first stop was McDonald’s to get a large iced coffee. It hit the spot and was quite fortifying for the day. And they are currently selling any sized iced coffee for $1.50. Bonus.
Becker’s only sell paczki on Fat Tuesday. We ended up buying a couple of their doughnuts anyway, a glazed and a Boston cream for me. My friend bought a couple Russian tea cakes and a glazed doughnut. We didn’t eat them there. We ended up just stopping and buying doughnuts along the way. I really enjoyed the glazed doughnut when I did eat it. It was very light and melted in my mouth. I spent $6 and change here.
The next stop was Samosky’s, which some people on All Things Food in Cleveland recommended. Not to be confused with Samosky’s Pizza in Valley City, it’s located in Parma on Pearl Road. I had stopped there last week, but they only had one or two paczki left in the afternoon when I got there. This time we had a bit of a selection. The paczki from Samosky’s are a much lighter dough that was more like cake than doughnut. They are split halfway through, filled with filling and lightly dusted with powdered sugar. I chose two toasted coconut Bavarian cream, a choco cream and a raspberry. I also bought two giant kolachke (one apricot and one cheese) – seriously these guys are almost as big as a spoon) and a loaf of bread. I spent $19.25 here.
Chuppa’s was next on our list. I had been thinking about the banana paczki from last year, and they didn’t have them out when I stopped last week. You could order them, but they weren’t being sold in the store at that point. I figured they would be available on a Saturday, and I was right. I learned the banana paczki was last year’s special paczki. This year’s is a mix of blueberry and raspberry and Cool Whip – and had already sold out for the day. They get the dough from a bakery in Middleburg Heights and fill them at the market. Or should I say overfill. They also split them halfway through, and the filling bulges out of them. I bought a cream cheese (because it looked amazing), blueberry, strawberry and something called Poppy Butter. I better not have to take a drug test in the next week or so (poppy can be a false positive), but it was an interesting filling. We tried the filling itself in the car. I can’t report on how much I spent here because I also went grocery shopping and bought some soups, produce and other finds. The paczki were $2.49 a piece here.
Next stop was Rudy’s. My friend wasn’t too thrilled because she’s not a fan (she finds them too greasy) but went along with it. I’m glad we went just to see the organized chaos of it all. It was pretty busy, but they hadn’t run out of anything. They have order sheets scattered everywhere in the foyer. You place your order on the sheets. One thing that irritated me was the advertised “2019 Paczkis” on their website – until I realized they were also doing it in the store. And had the same special flavor – Sweet Moses’ Hot Chocolate – as last year. I left with five sweet and four savory – hot chocolate, two custards, a chocolate butter cream, and a “Hough Bakery” (kind of like a lemon icebox cake) and the chicken paprikash, Little Italy (Italian sausage with peppers and onions), potato and cheese, and kielbasa and sauerkraut. The savory ones are slightly more than the sweet one. I spent $20.90 here. The paprikash one upset my stomach that night, but I enjoyed the custard paczki. I can see why my friend feels they are too greasy. I would agree with her on that point. I took an antacid that night and had a good night’s sleep.
The “last” stop (because at this point my back seat was filled with our purchases) was my favorite, Michael Angelo’s. My friend was not familiar with the bakery, and I was anxious to show her. The line was almost out the door and got even longer once we got closer to the register. My friend had lamented that she needed coffee, and Michael Angelo’s has a great selection. She bought a breakfast blend, and they were able to grind it for her, which made her happy. I purchased three paczki – a custard, a peanut butter and an apricot. I’ve not seen the peanut butter there before, so I am curious how it is. I love Michael Angelo’s paczki – the dough is soft and I love sinking my teeth into the dough that is stuffed with delicious filling. My friend had ordered a paczki and had to wait while they made her a fresh one, as the woman in front of me in line bought the last ones in the case. It wasn’t a problem for them.
We took the opportunity to pop into Molisano’s Italian Foods next door to Michael Angelo’s. We planned to have lunch at Nam Wah, but the sandwiches were certainly tempting. I’m going to have to come back and check it out. They sell Boar’s Head lunch meats and have some nice prepared salads in the case. I bought a couple noodle varieties I had never seen before, which I will be using in upcoming Bread and Soup Experiments.
As we meandered our way home we drove past a sign for a church selling pierogi. We both wondered aloud if we should stop and then laughed at ourselves because we had plenty to keep us for the week. It was fun to just be spontaneous. We finished our day with lunch at Nam Wah, where I introduced her to what I say is the best pho and bahn mi in town. She agrees wholeheartedly with me. We popped down to Mama Mary’s at the gas station on Columbia and Sprague so that she could try the gas station hummus. Her observation is that they leave the skins on the chickpeas so it isn’t as creamy as Ferris, which she prefers. But the seasoning was on point. Fair enough.
All in all a fun day. On the list for next year – Stan’s and Kiedrowsky’s. One that won’t be on my list again is Seven Roses. I’ve tried it two years in a row, and I am not a fan. This time I bought some at the Polish-American Cultural Center’s Fat Thursday celebration. They had run out of the custard by the time I got there, so I got one of each remaining flavor-prune, blueberry, raspberry and lemon. All but the lemon dried my mouth out. And they barely contained any filling. At $2.50 a piece. I’ll stick to the buffet in the restaurant.
A few years ago all the foodies in town started talking about a gas station that started making outstanding hummus. Five years ago, Muntaha “Mama Mary” Dari started making a few varieties of hummus to sell out of the family’s Sunoco gas station on the corner of Sprague and Columbia Roads in Olmsted Township. The raving about the hummus got so out of hand that it has become a running gag on the local food forums. Well, the food itself is no joke. I had it for the first time at a friend’s game night a few years ago. Some friends brought the Everything Bagel and the Garlic hummus. The flavors were outstanding, and I couldn’t stop eating it. Some of the available flavors include Original, Everything Bagel, Roasted Garlic, Roasted Red Pepper, Spicy, Sun-Dried Tomato, Jalapeno, Bacon, Dill Pickle, Cranberry and Pomegranate (at $3.99 a tub, add $1 for pita). Chocolate hummus will be available for Valentine’s Day and other romantic holidays. Popular flavors sell out quickly, and not every flavor is served every day. You can special order hummus in party trays as well. I bought a tub of Everything Bagel and Kalamata Olive hummus for Easter last year. Hummus is always a good choice for my gluten-free/dairy-free family members. My niece, who is gluten-free, decided she would suffer the consequences and ate almost all of the warm pita that had come with it all by herself. It is grilled and seasoned and absolutely delicious. Mama Mary’s Hummus is now available at several other gas stations (that belong to family members), but I have been frequenting the original location regularly since I started teaching German on Saturday mornings in Olmsted Falls.
The gas station serves more than hummus. They have lamb on a spit for lamb gyros and also serve chicken gyros and falafel in addition to subs and various fried side dishes. I adore the gyros. I get them “with everything” – so lettuce, tomato, onions, tzatziki, and seasoning. They are a little pricey at $6.99 or super sized at $9.99, but they are sizable enough to be filling. And are delicious to boot. I’m hooked on the chicken gyro. I’ve ordered it more than once.
The falafel is a good falafel. It’s not Ehab’s falafel from Cafe Falafel in Fairview Hospital, but it is a nice falafel sandwich. Most falafel are too dry for my tastes, but the falafel in the sandwich have enough moisture to satisfy me. The falafel wrap is $5.99 or you can buy 12 falafel for a few dollars more.
They were making party subs one day when I stopped by for a gyro. I remember back in the day when party subs were a must-serve for a football game. Footlongs and multi-footlongs are available, but they make big subs that are cored out and stuffed with filling. I don’t know how much the party subs are, but a regular sub is $7.99 or $8.99 depending on the choice. They are available hot or cold. There is even a corned beef sub available as well as several hot Philly subs and a Buffalo Chicken sub. As a proud Bulldog alum, I wanted to order the Bulldog when I was there, but ended up saying Raider instead. Total brain fart. The Bulldog features turkey and roast beef, and the Raider is roast beef, ham and turkey. It was still great – even if it was two subs in one! I ate one for lunch and the other one later that day for dinner.
They also serve sides like tabbouli, stuffed grape leaves, macaroni salad, potato salad and banana pudding. I love the stuffed grape leaves. They come five to a container, but they are so munchable I end up eating them all in the care on the way home. The macaroni salad is also creamy and delicious and not as heavily spiced as it looks. I think it is just perfect. I haven’t tried the other sides yet.
Mason’s Creamery opened in 2015 on the corner of Bridge Avenue and W. 44th Street in Ohio City, and serves high-quality ice cream in all kinds of adventurous flavors in the warmer months. They started serving ramen a couple times a year as pop-up events, which proved popular. They would run out within an hour or two. Last winter they decided to covert to a ramen shop, and they started serving three kinds of ramen, delicious tea, and soft serve ice cream. They put a sturdy tent around the overhang above, creating temporary seating. There are also about 12 seats available inside along the “bar.”
I stopped several times last winter and tried both the pork tonkatsu and chicken shio. Both were very flavorful. I am not a huge fan of pork belly or fat, so the pork wasn’t my favorite. I enjoyed the chicken a lot. However, I was there recently and had the vegetarian ramen, featuring several kinds of mushrooms and found my favorite. The bowls of ramen are $13 and come loaded with noodles and garnished with assorted toppings like seaweed, corn, mushrooms and a soft-boiled, soy-cured egg. There are vegan and gluten-free options, too. I remembered to ask them to not add the egg to my vegetarian ramen (I’m allergic). I really loved the broth and toppings in the vegetarian ramen. The broth had a really rich, umami taste to it. The other broths are also flavorful, but the veggie/mushroom broth is truly outstanding. I’ll be back for it.
As much as I love the ramen, I love the fruit-based tea they serve here more. It is a generous 1 liter serving, and you can get a lid to take the bottle home with you. In fact, they do not reuse the bottles. I’ve enjoyed a pineapple, passion fruit and raspberry tea, mandaquat (mandarin orange and kumquat), and the latest version was passion fruit and guava.
They also serve two flavors of soft serve every day. I couldn’t resist getting the matcha and chocolate swirl. The chocolate had a deep chocolate flavor, and the matcha was perfect – green tea flavor and not too sweet. The two flavors really complemented each other.
Starting in early December, Mason’s is open Wednesdays, Thursdays and Sundays from 4-9 p.m., and Fridays and Saturdays from 4-10 p.m. for ramen. The plan is to convert back to an ice cream shop in late March or early April.
We were a larger group than they can normally accommodate. They won’t allow groups to sit until everyone is there. Initially there were four of us. If one of your friends is pokey or running late you’re out of luck. I thought we were going to be five and then two more of my friends showed up at the last minute without warning, making us 6. We waited for one of the two tables of four to clear, while the cashier kept taking other orders from walk-ins. Once a table finally cleared, I sent my friend there to reserve it, only to get chastised by the cashier that you can’t sit until you’ve ordered and paid. I ordered for both of us and headed out into the tent. That did not leave a warm feeling in my heart. We had been standing there waiting for ten minutes already. The seventh person walked in just as we all sat down and were being served. The seven of us managed to cram around a table for four, but luckily ramen doesn’t take up a lot of room. We gladly doled out cups of water to the other diners since we were in the way. Three of my friends had never had ramen before. It was fun teaching them how to eat it – taste the broth with the spoon, slurp the noodles from the chopsticks, it’s okay to drink the broth from the bowl. Everyone enjoyed themselves in the end, so I must have been the only one stressing out. The joys of being an organizer.
Do yourself a favor and do not come with a group. But definitely check it out. Come with a friend or two or be like me and come alone and enjoy the ramen while you can. I truly think it’s the best ramen in Cleveland and worth the aggravation.
Located on Front Street in Berea, this women-owned restaurant features fried chicken wings and tenders and locally brewed beer. I imagine it fits quite well into the Baldwin Wallace college culture.
Boss ChickNBeer is a unique restaurant – everything that is fried is gluten-free, as they use rice flour and soybean oil for their deep-fried and battered chicken. All the products that are in the fryers are all gluten free, and there is no cross contamination. The pasta and some buns are the only non-GF items. This is one of those places that picks one thing to do and does it well. Like the name says, it focuses on chicken and beer. If you don’t want beer you can help yourself to the free sweet or unsweetened iced tea and water in the dispensers in the back.
The storefront itself is rather small. It features bar seating and a few tables along the wall. There is no table service. You can order at the bar or if it is busy you order at the cash register near the entrance (although there is an entrance in the back as well from a small parking lot).
My first visit was right after it opened, so the menu was a little more limited than it is now. I couldn’t decide if I wanted wings or tenders, so I ordered both in the WingN Tender combo, which comes with 1 lb of wings, 3 tenders, 2 sides and 2 sauces for $20. I ordered the New Cleveland Gold and Citrus BBQ sauces. Both sauces were great, but I preferred the New Cleveland Gold. The wings were a little saltier than I expected, but they were absolutely delicious. I enjoyed the seasoning they use. The wings do not come coated in sauce, nor do they need to be. In fact, the menu specifies they can coat the wings in sauce for $100. The chicken tenders were perfectly fried, very tender – no pun intended – and quite juicy. I ordered the onion rings and fried brussels sprouts as sides. The onion rings were massive. They were thinly sliced, which I didn’t think was possible. The flavor was completely on point. The brussels sprouts were an absolute delight. They were roasted to within an inch of their life and absolutely delicious. I also ordered a Platform beer, because beer just goes well with wings. It was a lot of food and I enjoyed it the next day (hint: use an air fryer to reheat it and your leftovers will be perfect).
My friends got the wings and the vegan wings (battered cauliflower & smoked tofu). The vegan wings weren’t bad. I imagine if I were a vegetarian I would come order this quite often. One of my friends ordered the salt roasted sweet potato as her side. It was massive and very tasty. They also got a sample taste of the queso mac n cheese, which was delicious. I brought date nut cupcakes from Dick’s Bakery down the street for dessert, because you can’t beat the date nut cake.
On my second visit I met a friend in the dog days of summer. The place was packed, and there was a line to order. I held our table while she ordered a WingN Tender combo for the two of us (it was perfect for two people). I let her choose the sides, and she chose the hand-cut fries and superfood slaw. I once again thoroughly enjoyed the wings and tenders. I can’t decide which I prefer, because they are both good in their own way. The handcut fries were perfectly fried, and the superfood slaw was delightfully fresh with lots of small julienned superfood veggies. I don’t know if I would have ordered the slaw, but it was a nice healthy choice.
The latest version of the menu features Boss-Tastic Mac with the mac n cheese topped with chicken tenders, gold sauce, boss sauce, green onion and bacon. The Veggie Mac is topped with the vegan wings instead of the chicken and bacon. Holy hell is it good. The queso has a bit of a kick to it, but you can lessen the spice by getting a bite with some barbecue sauce as well. The curly macaroni noodles are a great vehicle delivery for the soupy cheese.
They also offer four different sandwiches – the Hott Chick, the Hott Vegan Chick, the Jersey Shore Chick and the Vegan Shore Chick – for $10. The Hott Chick and Hott Vegan Chick features their jalapeno buffalo sauce and jalapeno pickles over tenders or vegan wings, while the Jersey Shore and Vegan Shore uses peppers, mozzarella, tomatoes and marinara sauce. You can choose between a gluten-free pretzel bun or a tortilla wrap. They had a sandwich featuring a glazed donut, but surprisingly that didn’t go over that well and was taken off the menu.
I wrote a Best Bites of 2018 last year, but by the time I finished it it was so late into the new year that I deleted it. I’m making sure I don’t procrastinate this year.
I continued cooking at home more and learned how to make stuffed cabbage in the electric pressure cooker. That was a game changer. Stuffed cabbage always seemed so intimidating – so I’d just go to Sokolowski’s and get one when I had a craving. Now I can make a big batch and freeze them to enjoy over a few months whenever I want. Jeffrey from Pressure Luck Cooking shared his Grandma Lil’s stuffed cabbage recipe, and I made them for the first time last January for my parents’ birthday party. Stuffed cabbage is my father’s favorite thing in the world. I fed the entire family of 7 and sent some home with him. I brought him some last week again when we had hot dogs roasted in the fireplace. If you follow Jeffrey’s recipe, I recommend using half of the tomato juice (one 46 oz can instead of two) and halving the other sauce ingredients. I’ve found it is too much sauce for the 8 quart pressure cooker, and I threw a bunch of it out the first time. Half the amount is perfect and still plenty saucy.
I’ve been enjoying a variety of soups every month at the Cleveland Soup and Bread Experiment at the BottleHouse in Cleveland Heights. Every month about six to eight volunteers make a batch of soup each and bring it the BottleHouse. There is always a good variety of soups, including vegan and vegetarian options. Any possible allergens are noted on the soup signs. On The Rise donates a variety of bread and baked goods. The proceeds go to a different charity every month. This month’s Soup and Bread Experiment is on Wednesday the 15th (it tends to be on the third Wednesday of the month) from 6:30-8:30 and will be benefiting the Greater Cleveland Food Bank. I haven’t decided what I’ll be making, but I’ve made autumn lentil and pumpkin soup, split pea and ham, zuppa toscana, straciatella, beef barley and Italian wedding soup in the past. Some of my favorites from other soup makers include Judi Strauss’ grandmother’s mushroom soup, Mulligatawny soup, and tortellini and kielbasa soup.
Sichuan Hot Pot continues to be a draw for my friends and me. We get a nice-sized group together (6 or 8), and everyone orders one thing for the table to share. My favorites include the crispy fish hot & spicy, garlic shrimp, and their roasted eggplant with garlic sauce (we’ve learned to ask for the sauce on the side so the eggplant stays crisp). The shredded pork with pickled cabbage (pictured here) was an early favorite, as were the crispy spare ribs. We have only had one or two dishes that did not thrill us.
I went on a queso kick for a while this summer and learned I enjoyed chorizo – especially if it is combined with queso. I always thought it was too spicy for me. My friend Dale ordered this queso and chorizo at Blue Habanero, and I ignored the combo app platter I ordered for the table to help inhale his. No other queso has exceeded the excellence of this one, and the tortilla chips have some good flavor to them as well. Paired with an octopus (margarita and sangria) I was a very happy girl that night.
Polpetta is my favorite place to go for special dinners. They did a Throwback Dinner honoring all the great things from Graffiti: a Social Kitchen. The Graffiti Artist featured the chorizo potato skin, French onion soup egg roll and a pb&j wing. The second course was an ancient grain salad. The third course was salmon on a delectable cauliflower puree with fried Brussels, and the fourth course was the Deconstructed Monte Cristo (my fave). Rounded off with the O.G. Fat Kid. We all loved it. We enjoyed Adam Bostwick’s whimsy so much that I was the first person to reserve a table (for 8 people) for their Christmas Dinner, which featured courses inspired by Christmas specials like Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer (a potato croquette with a red, The Grinch (“Roast Beast”), A Christmas Story (duck over coconut rice), and the most unusual dish but biggest hit, Chocolate Spaghetti inspired by the movie Elf. Adam said it was the weirdest thing he’d ever made, and he was nervous about how it would be received. Well, we’re still talking about it – in a good way.
My sister’s family lives in Medina, so when I attend an orchestra concert, softball game, or swim meet there I am usually hungry when I head home. I do enjoy eating at Sérénité or 111 Bistro, but lately Santosuosso has been my later-in-the-night stop. I enjoy their Meatball and Sausage Casserole a lot, but the side salad that comes with the meal is the main draw for me. I order it with the Italian house salad dressing, and it comes with the perfect balance of dressing, lettuce, cheese and side veggies (cucumber, tomato and chickpeas). For some reason it tastes better than any other side salad I’ve been served.
One of my friends discovered Mama Marie’s Ukrainian Kitchen in Parma, and we have all been checking it out. It is located next to State Meats on Ridge, and is super-tiny. There are three booths where only two of them can be occupied at the same time as well as two small two-tops. Most of their business is carry out. I enjoyed the most delicious and humongous Kielbasa Sandwich there. It is served on a perfectly soft bun on a bed of sauerkraut. I enjoyed every single bite. The pierogis were quite good too!
We said goodbye to Marta’s in Euclid in September 2019. I was unable to order my favorite Svickova then, but I got to enjoy it in March. The Wienerschnitzel and Czech bread dumplings were a great second choice in September. I’m going to miss those bread dumplings!
2019 was the year I fell in love with Mama Catena Vino e Cucina (also in Euclid). I found it after searching for somewhere close to eat after an event at the public library. They were vote Best Sinful Dessert in 2018, and I recognized the dining room from the video as soon as I stepped into the restaurant. The amazing cannoli cake features two layers of vanilla cake, one layer of chocolate cake, and tons of cannoli filling and crushed cannoli shells. I ordered it for a friend’s birthday when the dining group had dinner there. Everyone loved it – including me and I don’t like usually like cannolis. In fact, I loved it so much that I then ordered it to bring to my birthday party at Corleone’s in August. It was a HUGE hit. You have to pre-order it, but you can pre-order single servings if you are dining there and can plan ahead. I also recommend their Sunday Sauce, which is served with a meatball, slice of sausage and pork that is falling apart because it’s been simmering in marinara sauce for hours! This family-run business treated me like family after the second time I walked in. It has turned into one of my favorite restaurants in town.
My Friday nights and Saturday mornings in Lent were booked with fish fries and pancake breakfasts. The fish fries and pancake breakfasts were hit or miss. You can read all about them in the blog. My favorite fish fry was at St. Andrew’s in Parma, and my favorite pancake breakfast was in Burton at the high school (they served omelettes along with the AYCE pancakes). Some girlfriends and I did a paczki crawl one Sunday after a bad pancake breakfast on the West Side. We started by comparing Biagio’s and Seven Roses’, which I had bought the day before, then stopped at Becker’s (unfortunately there were no paczki that day), Chuppa’s, and Colozza’s. Chuppa’s had a banana custard paczki that I adored; however, my favorite paczkis remain Michael Angelo’s and Rudy’s Strudel. Rudy’s Hough Bakery paczki is absolutely amazing, and just FYI Rudy’s also serves savory paczki – I heated mine up in my air fryer at 360 for 5 minutes.
A must for me is Sokolowski’s clam bake in October. Every Saturday in October from 4-9 they serve a clam bake with either a 1/2 chicken or 12 oz strip steak as well as a ton of other really tempting menu choices. Since it was a spontaneous decision and I hadn’t preordered I was afraid they would run out by the time I made it to the counter because the line was long (it started outside the back door and threaded its way through the dining room), but luckily they had one. (Plan B would have been to just cobble something together from the chowder, appetizer order of clams, and a kielbasa meal.) Their New England Clam Chowder was my favorite part of the meal this year. It was creamy and delicious with lots of chopped clams and big chunks of bacon. The red-skin potatoes were creamy and perfectly cooked as well. I need to get back here to enjoy the chowder again soon. I hope they don’t just serve this during the clam bake season. But I have to mention that normally I ignore the clam broth at clam bakes. I am so glad I didn’t ignore the clam broth here. It was buttery and flavorful, and it was my second favorite part of the meal – and that’s saying something since I ordered a strip steak and clams!
Gunselman’s Tavern serves a burger of the month. December’s burger was the Christmas Dinner, featuring a 1/2 lb burger patty from the West Side Market, shaved (thick shaved!) prime rib, horseradish aioli, rosemary au jus, arugula and tomato on a weck bun. My friend and I split one the first time I went (with onion rings instead of fries), and I went back a week later for lunch to enjoy it again. It is without a doubt the best burger I have ever eaten, edging out the burger at Annie’s Island Fresh Burgers on Mamalahoa Hwy. in Kealakekua, Hawaii.
Le Petit Triangle’s Raspberry and Mango French toast made with challah was not only a feast for the eyes – it was also a feast for the tummy. I can’t even begin to describe had delectable this was. I enjoyed every single bite. I went to brunch there with a friend, and she ordered this and gave me a taste. I went back a couple days later to order my own and enjoyed it on the patio with a good book. In fact, this might have been the best thing I’ve eaten all year.
P.S. It isn’t in Cleveland, but deserves a mention because it ranks as one of my favorite French onion soups of all-time. I was in Palm Springs for a conference in October and enjoyed a French onion soup at Pomme Frite French & Belgian Cuisine that was covered in so much melty cheese that it was served with a pair of scissors. Now *that* is my kind of soup! If you find yourself in Palm Springs be sure to check it out!
I look forward to what 2020 will bring! Happy New Year!