Angelo’s Pizza

Yes, we are fully aware of the fact that we are the last couple in the Cleveland metropolitan area to have eaten a pizza at Angelo’s. We know it has been awarded multiple accolades and finds itself on the top of the “Best” lists that come out almost weekly. In our defense, driving all the way to Lakewood for a pizza just seems wrong. We love Crostatas in Highland Heights and that is a ten minute drive from our house, so why travel 45 minutes?

Our intentions were to have brunch at Distill Table. We are not really “brunch” people, but their brunch includes the Quinoa Salad Michele so loved when we dined there last month and the menu also included a handful of regular dishes Jeff wanted to try. When the place was unexpectedly closed (it was a holiday weekend) we tried to figure out what to do. Michele noted that we just passed Angelo’s. “Isn’t that the pizza place that EVERYONE talks about?” Jeff confirmed her suspicions and she quickly said, “Let’s try it! They didn’t look too busy.” When we entered, the staff did note that the three-quarters full place was, “a bit slow today!” If only every restaurant in Cleveland had that problem!

Like most patrons, we kept it simple. The antipasto salad was filled with hams, salamis and cheese and was plenty big to share (almost too big!) The small deep-dish Meat Lover’s Pizza did not suffer from false advertisement! It was loaded with all types of meats and a sauce that was just on this side of sweet. Michele did like the sweetness, Jeff felt that the salty meats did a good job at counterbalancing an element he typically does not like in a pizza. He also wondered if he’d like it as much with a different topping. Michele also like the Panko base on the crust and felt it was a unique difference she has heretofore not experienced. All in all, we counted this a win.

It now appears we will indeed be traveling to Lakewood periodically to eat pizza. Perhaps secretly, this is the reason we have not eaten here before. With so many positive comments, we assumed, once we tried it we’d be hooked. It looks like that happened and this eastside couple will be adding a few more pages to our Cuyahoga County passports.

http://angeloslakewood.com/ 13715 Madison Avenue Lakewood, OH 44107 216-221-0440

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July 15, 2019 at 7:47 PM 1 comment

Gigi’s On Fairmont

Gigi’s has been on Jeff’s “bucket list” almost since it opened. Michele was not convinced. Because it advertised itself as a “wine bar,” she felt it would have a higher concentration on wine (Michele does not drink alcohol) and lower attention paid to the food. The net result is that we have never dined here. A few month ago, one of Michele’s friends suggested a lunch at Gigi’s. Initially, she was reluctant, but knew the lunch was much more about getting together and less about the food, so she agreed. Almost from the time she walked in to the place, she started to text Jeff comments of praise and suggestions that a combined visit should be scheduled. We were running around Cleveland Heights one day and planned to jump into Momo’s Kebabs, a place we still LOVE. Momo’s, unfortunately closed for a few hours for an event, right when we thought we’d dine. Where to go? Hey! How about Gigi’s! Now we are both champions of this great spot.

When you enter Gigi’s, it just feels like it is going to be a nice experience. The interior is softer that the trendy “Industrial” grove that so many new places are using. The vintage surroundings force you to relax and order a second glass of wine. The wait staff is very knowledgeable, but could never be considered pushy. It’s time to relax and enjoy your meal, you’re at Gigi’s.

The menu at Gigi’s features a number of options, should you decide to share a bottle of wine with friends and need snacks as accompaniment. Boards made up of cheese, breads, olives or charcuterie passed us and each one looked great. A variety of full-plate salads are available and a host of soups are created daily. We both decided to sample one of the soups. Michele loves Red Lentil soup and their version was not a wimpy, watery style, but instead featured plenty of spice and bite. Jeff couldn’t help but dip his spoon in multiple times, but that meant pulling away from a great New England Clam Chowder with tons of clams and a nice blend of corn. It too was perfectly spiced.

We both elected to have a Panini. Theirs are served with a lightly dressed side salad of fresh mixed greens. Michele’s had turkey, apples, brie and a nice fig jam. Jeff enjoyed the ham, gruyere and grain mustard combination. Together we shared a unique Polenta-Lemon cake, one of a half-dozen dessert options, each more interesting than the next. Had we heard the dessert list first, we might have opted for more than one!

As we were preparing to go, we chatted with the server about their later evening options. Around five o’clock, the Chef created three or five entrée specials that are added to the “all day” menu. That evening’s selection had us drooling. We also peaked into the bar area, also opened around five, to see a relaxing collection of overstuffed chairs, sofas and tables. Like the restaurant side, it has been designed for comfort and relaxation. As we thought about the entire experience, we passed a Yoga studio on the way to the car. Who needs yoga, we thought, when you have such a relaxing and satisfying place like Gigi’s right around the corner?

https://www.gigisonfairmount.com/ 3477 Fairmount Boulevard Cleveland Heights, OH 44118 216-291-7237

June 29, 2019 at 4:47 PM 3 comments

Michael’s Genuine Food and Drink

We had a busy day trying to make up for a rainy spring and horrible beginning of summer. Both of us were dead tired and sore from a month’s worth of tasks stuffed into eight hours. Regardless, we were still hungry. Where to go? “What about that new place in Shaker?” Unfortunately, neither of us could remember the name. Our solution was to simply stop in and see if they could seat us. Bad news and good news. They were fully booked for the evening, however, bar seating was still available. It turns out, we really liked the bar seating. Because “rush hour” had not yet started, the amiable bartender was able to chat-up the menu while prepping for the evening. As we were the only couple at the bar, he provided us with an amazing level of service. When we come back here, we’re sitting at the bar!

The reason we’ll be back is the food. We wholly enjoyed everything, even the things that Michele might not necessarily try. Specifically, we decided to split the Spring Pea Toast. Michele usually balks at anything “pea” related, but her defenses must have been down (tired and all) and she really liked the mix of smashed peas, buratta, radishes and mint. She was equally enamored of her hamburger. Jeff is never certain why, but Michele loves a burnt, well-done burger and they complied fully. Jeff’s Fettuccini with a short rib sugo was heavenly. Meat-centric pastas are a go-to when Jeff is exhausted and just wants “something.”

Michael’s Genuine is part of a larger group of restaurants, so it is not necessarily a locally owned spot. It does however act like one. The place has a nice vibe with groups of people enjoying themselves and their company. Even in its early days, they seem to have a well-oiled machine running smoothly. Perhaps there was some drama backstage, but we would never have known. The seasoned nature of the operation is likely what you get when a quality restaurant group is at the helm.

One of the telltale signs of a return visit is when either Michele or Jeff starts to imagine the things they will order when they return. In this case, we both did that. Take this good sign as a recommendation to try a new spot in a very cool remodeled area of Shaker Heights. While you’re there, take a stroll and enjoy the neat new neighborhood, unless, of course if you’re tired! Don’t forget a reservation! The place is popular.

http://michaelsgenuine.com/ 3427 Tuttle Road Shaker Heights, OH 44122 216-230-8022

June 16, 2019 at 12:11 PM 2 comments

Distill Table

If there could be only one “local” restaurant in Cleveland, Distill Table would certainly have a good shot at the claim. As you browse the menu, virtually everything is made locally, or created in-house. Within the walls is a distillery providing the “harder” liquor for the craft cocktails that all sound so good. The wine is from Ohio and the beer local as well. A small cartoon of the State of Ohio dots damn near every item on the menu, branding it as an Ohio grown, raised or created ingredients. From our estimation, all of that makes a big difference and delivered to us a fabulous afternoon of food.

The Tancredi Sunday Sauce is a meat-centric tomato sauce packed with beef, pork and sausage, oh and some pasta, too. The Carnitas Pulled Pork sandwich was filled with flavor and served with a Red Quinoa Salad that featured the Chef’s own Orange Balsamic dressing that in itself added a kick to the sometimes plain grain. Stewed berries accompanied the flourless chocolate cake dessert, again delivering a nice contrast in spark and subtlety.

There was a ton to love about this place. The bartender was carefully crafting a variety of drinks right behind us, surely in an effort to deliver a perfect potable. To our side, a sliver of the kitchen was visible and quietly, the staff was laboring over minute details as they prepared for the busier time to come, shortly after our exit. Our server worked hard to help us understand the nuances of each entrée we considered and once delivered, made certain it was to our liking. The fact that the building is new, next to a street full of older structures, also helps establish the difference in the intent of this place. Driving up to the door heightens senses.

Distill Table is a place that has certainly convinced a couple of east-siders that they should travel west again, soon!

https://www.distilltable.com/ 14221 Madison Avenue Lakewood, OH 44107 216-505-5188

Distill Table Red Quinoa Salad
Distill Table Tancredi Sunday Sauce

May 25, 2019 at 9:28 PM Leave a comment

Blue Habanero

The question we so often ask is, “When will this taco craze cease?” “How many taco joints are needed in a city?” “Have we exceeded the commensurate number of taco purveyors per capita?” You get the point. Tacos have become the new hamburger and it seems a new place opens almost daily. In Cleveland, this craziness likely started with Rose Angel, one of the many predecessors located in the spot now occupied by Spice. At the time they offered the previously unheard of menu consisting of an assortment of tacos, filled with a variety of goodies. It was a great addition to the Cleveland food scene, but alas, a bit ahead of its time. Flash forward to today and there are scores of spots that stuff discs of corn meal with heaps of stuffing.

Blue Habanero is located in the spot formerly occupied by Arcadian, the now infamous restaurant with the mayfly lifespan. “Blue” benefits from the beautiful structure and avant-garde interior that was created for what was to be a benchmark spot for Clevelanders. Interestingly, it serves a progressive taco-peddler well. They are fortunate to occupy this progressive interior.

To switch it up, we started with the Queso Chorizo appetizer. The warm, melted cheese was mixed with a mildly spicy pork for a nice alternative to guacamole or salsa. Unlike other spots that specialize in tacos, Blue Habanero offers a plate of three of the same type tacos. Initially, we thought this was bad idea. After ordering, we realized, that the longer span of consuming food afforded us a better opportunity to assess the value. With one taco, the flavor is fleeting. With three, the impact can be ingrained in the taste buds and it makes more of an impact.

The Tacos Vallarta (for Michele) and the Corner Tacos (for Jeff) did just that. The shrimp held its own against a Pico mix of sweeter spices. The chorizo-potato mix hit the spot for Jeff. Our Flan dessert (Michele’s favorite!) did it for both of us.

Whether it is Barrio, Coastal, Bakersfield or Cilantro, tacos are here to stay. If you have a hankering for them, there are lots of options, Blue Habanero is a good place to start.

https://www.bluehabanerocleveland.com/ 6416 Detroit Avenue Cleveland, OH 44102 216-465-1818

https://jeffandmicheleeatcleveland.wordpress.com/2010/08/07/roseangel/ 00001

May 4, 2019 at 9:33 PM Leave a comment

Landmark

We never went to the Clifton Diner. It always looked unappetizing and just a touch on the run-down side. We know there are scores of people in Cleveland that bemoan the day it closed. We are not part of that faction, but we are now part of a chorus of patrons who are glad about the new tenant. The inside of the space has been completely redesigned and presents itself as a modern-industrial haven. When you arrive, a staff member greets you at the door and explains that orders are taken at the counter and then delivered to your seat. The menu is filled with easy, comfortable offerings, some sandwiches, bowls and salads. A handful of dinner are available after 5:00PM. There is also a breakfast menu for early day eating.

We arrived late in the afternoon, so the dinners were not yet available. Michele elected to try the Turkey Rueben. We are already fans of Cleveland Kraut, so she knew at least half of it would be great! The combination of Russian dressing and Swiss cheese immediately felt familiar, but also fresh and interesting. Jeff tried the California Bowl. This was a nice mix of rice, avocado, bleu cheese, candied walnuts and grilled chicken. The dish was light and summer, especially important on the cold winter day.

This was a successful meal and convinced us that we need to arrive a touch later next time to try one of the dinner plates. Based on this first visit, we can’t wait to return.

https://www.landmarkcleveland.com/ 11637 Clifton Boulevard Cleveland, OH 44102 216-230-4040

April 20, 2019 at 3:30 PM Leave a comment

Larder

In many respects, Larder is “just a deli.” The typical menu elements are there, Matzo Ball Soup, Pastrami Sandwiches, Potato Salad and a score of other somewhat familiar items. The secret to Larder is digging deeper into what is on the plate.

Michele challenged Jeff during our fabulous lunch with a decidedly simple question. “Why is this place good?” Perhaps more so than any other place we’ve visited recently, we had a long conversation dissecting everything we ate. By doing so, we were able to answer her question and provide an understanding on how to prepare food and how to prepare food that gets people talking, a lot.

As we did during our visit, we can start the conversation on Matzo Ball Soup. Usually this is a lifeless mass of matzo meal is a liquid bath that hints of poultry. The Larder version featured a rosy broth, the result of red cabbage and red onions that gave it a touch of tang that is not normal. The “ball” was rich with flavor as well.

Michele ordered the ½ smoked chicken and boy was it great. Michele does enjoy smoked meats, Jeff, not typically, because the “smoke” is usually overwhelming. That was not the case here with a nicely balanced, non-cloying smokiness. The chicken meat was moist and tender and the seasoned skin added a nice flavor. Jeff tried the Pastrami Sandwich, but again, not like a typical deli version. Larder’s pastrami was butter soft but with a snap of flavor. The meat was covered with a red cabbage layer and heavy grain mustard. Each bite was a burst of wonderful.

Larder Deli – Matzo Ball Soup – Note the rosy color
Larder Deli – Potato Salad on the left, half of the Pastrami Sandwich on the right

We have been complaining about potato salad recently. So many spots simply slap overcooked potatoes in some mayonnaise and they’re done. The Larder version finally figured out that flavor and spice CAN help this classic side dish. Dill, celery, horseradish and grain mustard elevated this staple so much so that we found ourselves scrapping the little paper dish with vigor.

Jeff cannot remember the last time he had a Chocolate Phosphate. Ten, fifteen years ago? This peculiar drink was always a favorite as a kid (who wouldn’t like a chocolate fountain drink?) and it carried into adulthood. Like so many youthful things, it started to disappear until he was no longer able to find it or order it, until Larder. Before he told the clerk his sandwich order and side, he ordered the phosphate. Were they always this good, or is the Larder version that much better? The timespan between this passion is too long, the short answer is, Jeff will never go to Larder without ordering a chocolate phosphate.

So what is our final verdict on Larder? Michele says, “It’s just a deli, but the food is good.” Jeff says, “Yes, it a deli, but the food is on a different plain from most other delis.” There you go. Clear as a chocolate phosphate!

https://larderdb.com/ 1455 W 29th Street Cleveland, OH 44113 216-912-8203

March 30, 2019 at 5:53 PM Leave a comment

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