Bomba Tacos & Rum

Almost since they opened, we’ve been fans of Paladar, the Latin cuisine restaurant in Woodmere. That aside, when they told us during a recent visit that they were opening another place that featured tacos, we had mixed emotions. There are a pile of places opened and opening around town and the country that are capitalizing on America’s passion for this folded street food. We’re starting to think that people only want to eat three things, Burgers, BBQ and Tacos. Paladar’s solid performance over the years reduced our skepticism and we decided to give the place a shot and we’re glad we did!

The menu features a number of things that instigate communal noshing, such as Tostones, Queso Dip and Guacamole, with a recipe no doubt borrowed from Paladar. There are over a dozen tacos priced between $3 and $5. Sides and soup are also fairly priced at $3.50. A handful of other options are also available. It is a nicely rounded menu and one which will not break the bank.

Clockwise from the far left: Coconut Mango Shrimp, Crispy Shrimp, Jamaican Jerk Chicken, Plantains, Wild Mushroom, Chorizo and Potato and Carne Asada.

We shared a bowl of Gazpacho. On this hot summer day, it was refreshing and flavorful with a “Pasta Rosa” color and a perfect amount of spice. (In our book, not “hot” for Michele and enough interest for Jeff.) Michele had two tacos (Jamaican Jerk Chicken and Crispy Shrimp) Jeff ordered three. (Carne Asada, Chorizo & Potato and Wild Mushroom.) To avoid any possibility of heat, Michele asked the wonderful server to remove the pickled Jalapenos from the Shrimp and this was easily done. While she has her eyes on a few others for the next visit, she’d order each again in a heartbeat. She felt each were fresh and tasty. Jeff will rush back for another Chorizo taco and was only marginally unhappy with the Carne Asada, primarily because the beef pieces were cut rather large and there was a bit of residual liquid from either the meat or the stuffing, resulting in a torn shell. Had the beef been diced a bit smaller, all would have been perfect and we would have avoided the “wardrobe malfunction.” We accompanied our tacos with two excellent sides. The Plantains were sweet and soft and we knew they would be excellent, but the real surprise was the Coconut Mango Rice. Both of us were fighting over the last of the serving bowl because they were such a nice counterpoint to the flavor-intense taco.

Despite all of this food, we still had room for dessert and what a dessert! Churros are simply fried dough. That allows for a broad interpretation of where to go from there. Bomba rolls theirs in cinnamon and served them with dipping pots of warm marshmallow and spiced chocolate. Michele determined early-on that the secret here is to “double-dip!” (Sorry George Costanza!) Cinnamon, Chocolate and Marshmallow. How could you go wrong?

The truth is we waited a bit longer than expected for the dessert. Michele wondered if they forgot our order. They hadn’t. In fact EVERYONE in the place apparently knew of the delay. Our server (again, excellent!) deliver the dessert sans chocolate with a heartfelt apology. The delay was caused by the chocolate. Because of the long wait, they would not charge us for the dessert. (After one bite, we would have happily paid!!) The chocolate was eventually delivered, again with an apology. Once we had ravaged the Churro plate, the manager (?) stopped by to again apologize for the chocolate delay. To put this in context, the restaurant has been opened for a few days! Mistakes will happen. Especially in these early stages. If this is the only problem this establishment has in the future, the sky is the limit!

As we indicated before, we like Paladar and we liked their Larchmere Restaurant, (does anyone remember?) Boulevard Blue before that. This has quick become a powerful restaurant group for good reason. For your next act however, can we PLEASE have something other than Burgers, Tacos or BBQ? That said, we love you!

https://bombatacos.com/ 2101 Richmond Road Beachwood, OH 44122 216-755-5907

https://paladarlatinkitchen.com/ 28601 Chagrin Boulevard Woodmere, OH 44122 216-896-9020

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August 12, 2018 at 9:37 PM Leave a comment

Hello Bistro

We don’t typically write about fast food chain restaurants. Their inconsistency and generally overpriced menu is often exacerbated by a cloying automaton staff. Most importantly, the food at most fast food places is basically okay and not worthy of a review. While we are always warry of fast chains early levels of high quality, we have been very happy with Hello Bistro after multiple visits.

Hello Bistro concentrates on two food items, hamburgers and salads. There are a handful of additional items on the menu, but clearly, this duo needs to be specifically regarded. The hamburgers are fine. They appear to be prepared well and the ingredients are fresh. The menu variations are creative enough, but the better option appears to be the salads. The Caesar, Cobb and Shrimp Salads were all well-made and enjoyable. While not sampled yet, we’re certain that the other offerings are just as good.

Years ago, Beachwood Place Mall housed a little salad place in the food court. Michele enjoyed this place so fully that she often called Jeff at his office and asked him to pick up her favorite on his way home. Since it disappeared, finding a salad restaurant has been difficult. Hello Bistro may finally be a viable replacement. We’re keeping our fingers crossed that it does not deteriorate like so many fast places inevitably do.

http://hellobistro.com/ 2101 Richmond Road Suite 821 Beachwood, OH 44122 216-342-4641

July 28, 2018 at 10:20 PM Leave a comment

Astoria

For some reason, this one passed us by. We think we know why. A few blocks up Detroit Avenue, another restaurant was being built around the same time as Astoria. This one was called, Arcadian. Shortly after they both opened, Arcadian abruptly closed. We believe we got the two confused. As quickly as the “new place on Detroit” was on our HOT list, it was off. Driving down Detroit Avenue a few months later, we noticed some activity. Innocently, we assumed that the much-ballyhooed renovation attracted a caterer, or an events planner to use the space. We still had not separated Astoria and Arcadian. Jump ahead a few more months and while walking with friend on Detroit and 65th, Jeff’s friend indicated he was sad that this place closed, pointing to Arcadian. “It was very good!” We finally realized our mistake. “We have to go here.” Nothing happened for a few more months until we were driving around on a rainy Saturday looking for a late lunch place to eat. The great idea, that took eighteen month popped into our heads. “Let’s try that place on Detroit!”…and not a moment too soon! Boy, has our confusion caused us to miss out on some wonderful food. We quickly returned for a dinner a few weeks later.

Jeff hasn’t enjoyed a Croque Madame this much in a long time. The ham was wonderful and the Gruyere was perfectly sharp. Michele had a fabulous Chicken Sandwich and as we left, we tried to calculate our next visit. Dinner with friends was a perfect opportunity. They suggested the Gordon Square area and we suggested Astoria.

We haven’t had Saganaki since the days of The Parthenon, the storied Greek restaurant located downtown, when nobody when downtown after work. We did and we loved this place. One of the house specialties was this flaming Kasseri cheese dish that arrived at the table aflame and was quickly doused with a squirt of lemon juice. Astoria’s version comes to the table, sans fire. Less dramatic, but almost as good. Theirs is a touch more salty, but the taste brought back memories. Michele ordered the Chicken Souvlaki, grilled, skewered breast with a side of greens. The chicken was perfect, it had a light lemony flavor and was served over sticky rice with a vegetable medley on the side. Jeff had the fabulous Veal and Lamb Meatballs served over a bed of Cavatelli and spicy marinara. The meatballs were perfect, light and delicate as can be imagined with lamb and veal. The hidden secret was the “spicy” part of the marinara. It was exactly what this dish needed. So good. Our dinner companions ordered the Lamb Paidakia and loved the fingerling potatoes served with a Mascarpone sauce, the Chicken Avgolemono (classic chicken, rice, and lemon soup) which they thought was a bit too lemony and a Greek salad they found perfect, the feta drawing particular attention. All in all, a wonderful meal.

The moral to this story is now simple to us, pay attention to the spelling. In New York, a hot new restaurant is called, The Nomad. A less successful spot is named Nomad. Arcadian is not Astoria. Adding a definite article in front of a word changes things. Do your homework and don’t make the same mistake as us, but also, learn from our experience and try Astoria, that’s A-S-T-O-R-I-A. You won’t be disappointed.

http://astoriacafemarket.com/ 5417 Detroit Road Cleveland, OH 44102 216-266-0834

June 27, 2018 at 8:59 AM Leave a comment

Eatin’ in New York 8

Another year, another set of trips to New York for Jeff. As with almost every trip to New York, he found some great new places and unfortunately experienced a major disappointment. Because the highs completely outshined the lows, it was a net positive.

Determining his favorite new place has become more and more difficult as time proceeds, but after continual internal arguments, the edge must be given to Don Angie. Honestly, it could because Jeff shared a dinner with his niece and they decided to split almost everything, so he was able to sample a very large portion of the menu. It could also be much simpler, the food was just damn good. They split two salads, one better than the next. The Chrysanthemum Salad was sharp, like a dandelion, but could as easily have been due to the garlic. The parmesan quietly tempered the hard edges. Similarly edgy, the Chicory, Pistachio Freekea Salad was an amazing combination. Chicory was all over New York this season (read on!) probably because of its tangy-peppery flavor. In this combo, the freekea (a grain that feels like a mash-up of bulgur, rice and couscous) became the settling agent. Course Two, the Garganelli Giganti. First, smash a giant meatball and cover it with a sheet of pasta. Dress it with bits of Guanciale and try to stop eating! Yikes was this good! Jeff loves Octopus in New York and their Octopus Puttanesca drops you in the Mediterranean with some tomatoes and croutons. Was it better than the Veal Da Pepi? Opinions changed with each mouthful. The veal delivered elements of salt and tart. Thin slices of Speck (a lighter version of Prosciutto) and mustard seeds heaped on the flavor. Could the dessert maintain this pace? Black Cocoa Tiramisu is all that you need to say! Imagine a traditional version of tiramisu with cocoa ladyfingers. Take all of this and combine it with a stellar staff and it is easy to understand why Don Angie is the place Jeff will recommend to anyone traveling to New York.

So close. So very close. Empellon is, without question the runner-up favorite restaurant for this trip. The reason it is not first is probably because of the Octopus Taco. Because Jeff has elevated New York Octopus to god-like status, he is VERY critical. The Don Angie octopus was perfect. The Empellon taco was good, but the taco accessories dominated the fragile flavor of the grilled octopus. The salsa was perhaps too fiery. The cilantro was too aggressive. For whatever reason, it just did not measure up. Nothing else Jeff sampled fell from grace and he would not hesitate a recommendation under any circumstances, if for no other reason than the Sticky Rice Tamal. The leaf-wrapped rice was opened at the table and the waiter dropped a spunky Red Chili Duck ragu over the top. To make it last, smaller and smaller bites are consumed. Eventually, it is gone and you ask yourself, “Would I be considered a glutton if I ordered another?” No need. The roasted Prawn is coming. Ordered individually, Jeff had but one and secretly wished more were requested. In this instance, the core protein was the star. A simple garlic-chili paste dressed the flawlessly prepared crustacean. It was perfect. After the dessert arrived, Jeff chatted with the waiter. The Avocado Mousse he ordered was apparently the most Instagram-reported dish in New York and for good reason. Today, days after the visit, he still talks about this dessert. Visually, upon delivery to the table, the dessert looks absolutely like a sliced half of an avocado. What did I order? A dip into the piece and you realize, you’re not in Kansas any longer! The avocado meat has been blended with Greek yogurt and re-molded into the shape of a half-avocado. That half has been placed onto a bed of shaved lime-flavored ice meant to resemble snow. Trompe l’oeil desserts? Only in New York!

What place is next in the ranking? Picking three and four is almost as difficult as one verse two. Honestly, L’Artusi and Loring Place are not only close alphabetically, but delivery as well. Jeff learned of L’Artusi while dining at King (below) While discussing restaurant he liked in New York with a restaurant publicist at the next bar stool, she told him to check out L’Artusi. She also warned him to keep the recommendation quiet. It was becoming increasingly difficult to secure a reservation there and the more people knew about it, it would be harder and harder in the future. Fortunately, or unfortunately, the cat is out of the bag. Reservations at L’Artusi are damn near impossible. They do, however have bar seating and Jeff snagged a seat, without waiting, moments after stepping into the door. (He is alone, so one seat is almost always easy!) It was worth the uncertainty. He had a fabulous meal there! It started with a flavorful amuse bouche of Butternut Squash soup. As indicated earlier, Chicory Salads are emerging as a “thing” in New York and Jeff loves the biting flavor, tempered by the finely grated Pecorino and this time a very complimentary anchovy dressing. He ordered the Tagliatelle with White Ragu and was treated to a Kale stuffed Ravioli, complements of the Chef. Both of the pastas could not have been better and it sure was nice to try two. Dessert was a Strawberry Crostata and it completed a beautiful meal at a hot spot. Shhhhhhhh! Don’t tell anyone about L’Artusi!

Loring Place could be the quintessential urban renewal project. The inside is fully modernized and frankly, just beautiful. From the street, you’d almost never know what was waiting for you inside. Like L’Artusi, this place has a buzz and without reservations, Jeff nabbed a bar seat for an early Sunday dinner. Many people were meeting others and the bar was a parade of people looking for other people. In the middle of the hubbub, Jeff enjoyed a tempura battered Crispy Cauliflower served with a lemon curd jam. The lemon added that little extra needed to spark up the vegetable. Bowtie Pasta was served with Shrimp. What made this interesting was the addition of heat. The butter sauce tempered the heat and what could have been plain, turned out to be anything but! Can you imagine a “light” Bread Pudding? The dessert was Grapefruit Bread Pudding and it was a nice light way to end a nice meal in a light and airy space.

Jeff needed a quick midday snack and the Nomad Bar at the Nomad Hotel was the answer. A cold cup of Pea Soup and a grilled Prosciutto and Gruyere sandwich and he was on his way. This place is hidden away in the back of the first floor, but plenty of folks found it for after-work drinks. We’ve heard good things about their dining room and look forward to trying this on another visit.

There are some mixed feelings about King, a hopping little spot in Greenwich Village. Not because of the menu or the creativity, but because of the raw material. Jeff had a huge Pork Chop that was flavorful and interesting, but the cut was less than stellar, thereby delivering more grain and grizzle than should have been. With a better piece of meat, this would have been a much better dinner, especially since the red wine cabbage and bean side was very interesting. The Gnudi appetizer was however, flawless. They were “melt in your mouth” delicious with shaved Spinach and Parmesan. He can still taste them! There are lots of great places to eat in this area of New York. With a touch more attention to raw ingredients, this could be a standout.

It seems, each trip to New York has to have one disappointment. We have never been to Balthazar. Over the years, it has counted up scores of accolades, so it must be good, right? Perhaps, not. Perhaps, it was a bad day. Maybe they are simple overextended. Jeff thought he was off to a good start. The Onion and Goat Cheese Tart was light and quite delicious, the side scoop of tapenade lending the right amount of tartness to combat the richness of the cheese and pastry. The Lamb Pappardelle was unfortunately a disappointment. It appeared hurriedly put together and the lamb was filled with fat and grizzle. A quick look at this place and it is easy to understand how something like this happens. Balthazar is a large place, tables are crushed together and scores of people are running around seating, serving, busing and cleaning. With a dining room that looks like this, you know the kitchen is likewise hectic. If the prices were more in line with this type of fast-food atmosphere, some of these flaws could be excused, but this might have been one of Jeff’s pricier dinners. With that, it is inexcusable. As can be said about New York dining time and again, if you can’t execute, someone else can and will. There are plenty of places in SOHO and the Lower Eastside. Don’t waste your time here.

If we’re in New York and we’re not at the theater, than we’re eating. If Jeff is not working, than he is likewise eating or at the theater or an art gallery. Life can be very simple here. Choices can however be VERY hard with so many great options. Securing reservation can also be a challenge (he is on two years trying to get into one restaurant!) If you’re planning on leaving Cleveland for a trip to the Big Apple, then remember to plan ahead, or allow yourself some adventure time and explore the bar-seating option. Either way, you’re sure to get some good food.

https://www.donangie.com/ 103 Greenwich Avenue New York, NY 10014 212-889-8884

https://www.empellon.com/ 510 Madison Avenue New York, NY 10022 211-858-9365

https://www.lartusi.com/ 228 W 10th Street New York, NY 10014 212-255-5757

https://www.loringplacenyc.com/ 21 W 8th Street New York, NY 10011 212-388-1831

https://www.thenomadhotel.com/new-york/dining/spaces/the-nomad-bar 1170 Broadway Avenue New York, NY 10001 212-796-1500

http://kingrestaurant.nyc/ 18 King Street New York, NY 10014 917-825-1618

https://balthazarny.com/ 80 Spring Street New York, NY 10012 212-965-1414

June 9, 2018 at 9:51 PM Leave a comment

Eatin’ in Chicago 3

Over the last twelve months, Jeff has visited Chicago four times. During each of those visits, he has tried to sample a wide variety of the great food being produced in the Windy City. As we may have said here before, we believe Chicago, not New York or San Francisco should be considered the food capital of the United States. Many, if not most of the trends that spread across the country begin in Chicago and while this is not necessarily a good thing, food prices in Chicago continually establish new highs that are not often met elsewhere. Securing reservations, or seats in hot Chicago restaurants is unquestionably the most challenging task (LA and NY buzz-worthy spots excepted). For all of these reasons, when work calls Jeff to Chicago, at least a part of him is happy…dinner time!

Parachute is a tiny little spot run by a husband with Ukrainian heritage and a wife whose family is Korean. The result of their food is what they call “Korean American.” For the rest of us with little regard for labels, the food is GOOD! Plates are interesting and flavors are varied. Consider trying the starchy, Bing Bread with addictive sour cream butter. Jeff also enjoyed the Pork Belly and Mung Bean Pancakes, Pork Loin and the dynamic Pavlova dessert that opens to revel yummy treats inside. Perhaps it is the Ukrainian influence, but Jeff has now changed his mind on Korean food.

Off the southern coast of China, very close to Hong Kong is the island of Macau. Like Hong Kong, it too was beholden for years to a European administration, this one Portugal. Shortly after the British exit of Hong Kong, the Portuguese left Macau, but what remained was a remarkable mash-up of Cantonese and Portuguese cuisine. The folks at Fat Rice have brought that food to Chicago and the restaurant name is based on their celebrated national dish, Arroz Gordo. There are a host of amazing things on the menu. Jeff invited a few friends to join him and because of that, experienced a wide variety of remarkable food. We all agreed the Shredded Lamb was our favorite, but would not have returned a dish! There is good reason why Fat Rice has just been awarded a regional James Beard award. It is that good.

On a blasé street, filled with nondescript storefronts, Entente has created an oasis, both architecturally and culinary. The “Wedge” was salad that needed a grander name because the salad was so good. A nest of greens was decorated with yellow cherry tomatoes, boutique bacon, Cambozola cheese (a soft Bleu) and the center was filled with a Green Goddess dressing! Beautiful to look at and great to eat. The Rabbit Cappelletti featured a ground rabbit interior with pecorino, fava beans and sweet pea pods in a citric broth. It was amazing. The Korean BBQ Short Ribs were not what was envisioned when ordered, but the result was special. Nicely spiced beef, turnips, greens and an unusual popcorn-like rice. Dessert was locally sourced honey made into a gelato and a mousse with caramelized white chocolate spikes. Entente is probably Jeff’s favorite place this trip.

Jeff hoped to visit another new place Roister, but upon arrival, found that the place was closed. This could have been easily avoided, but because the place must think it is chic, they do not have a phone! Under normal circumstances, Jeff would have called and asked about the availability of walk-in, bar seating. No phone, no call. Their website made no mention of the closed date and even invited walk-ins. Foolish Jeff. A decade ago, unlisted restaurant phone numbers and unmarked doors and address was cute, but today, extremely passé. We think it is time to avoid restaurants who pull these stunts.

Roister’s stupidity was Jeff’s good fortune. A few doors down the street was The Publican, Chef Paul Kahan’s more casual meat-centric dining room (and butcher shop, next door.) Kahan is our favorite Chicago Chef (Blackbird, Avec) but we have missed Publican since opening. The menu here is large, but the one thing to avoid missing is the Aged Ham. I guess it would be simple to call this American Prosciutto, or Jamon, but these may be as complex and as different as the Spain and Italy versions. The smoky variety Jeff enjoyed may not be there as they do rotate, but combined with the goat butter and bread, it was a real treat. Also good was the Avocado Salad with Jalapeño laced dressing. So was the Duck Confit. The Baba au Rum dessert was an interesting rum cake-custard mash-up. Not planned, but this Chicago restaurant stop was certainly memorable.

Located in the Logan Square neighborhood, Mi Tocaya Antojeria is a fun neighborhood spot with a pile of great foods. Over time, Guacamole has become somewhat predictable. Not here. Tocaya’s version featured a touch more heat via “Chili Ash” (which looked like roasted and powdered chili.) This addition was enough to liven the creamy avocado mash and make it Jeff’s favorite part of the meal. Almost as successful was the Campechano Taco, essentially a 3-meat blend of Cochinita (slow-roasted pork) Chorizo (spiced sausage) and Carne Asada (grilled beef.) While Jeff ordered one, he could have had a few and probably would Have preferred it to the less successful Pierna de Pato (duck leg, slow-roasted, carnitas-style.) The small misfire should not prevent a visit here, if only to join in the festival-like fun.

If Entente is not Jeff’s favorite newer place in Chicago, then Elske certainly is (he’s still arguing about that choice!) With Danish roots, the menu is a treat of unexpected delights. Jeff was blown away by the Maitake (sort of Hen in the Woods) Mushrooms that were flash-fried and served over a porridge of cooked Farro. Fava beans and shards of garlic greens added a splash of color and a zing of flavor. It was GREAT. Always a sucker for Sweetbreads, theirs were roasted with rhubarb and served with sunchokes, sliced raw strawberries and toasted yeast. Sunflower Seed Parfait! How can you avoid ordering that dessert? It was dynamite. Topped with sour honey, I couldn’t imagine a better ending, except every other one of the desserts offered, each a combination of ingredients and flavors that were at once unusual and intriguing. Next time, how about a five course meal of Elske desserts?! To compliment the foods, the dining room is an unencumbered and clean visual treat, perfect as an ending to a busy week in a busy city.

But first, NO visit to Chicago is complete without a visit to Portillo’s. Other cities have hamburgers, chili and BBQ. Chicago makes the best hot dogs (Jeff’s junk food of choice) and no one does them better than Portillo’s.

Whether you are spending a fortune on food or a couple bucks for a Jumbo Chili Cheese Dog, Chicago is the place that does both exceedingly well. If you travel there, you can be assured of one thing; you’ll eat well!

http://www.parachuterestaurant.com/ 3500 N Elston Avenue Chicago, IL 60618 773-654-1460

http://www.eatfatrice.com/ 2957 West Diversey Avenue Chicago, IL 60647 773-661-9170

https://www.ententechicago.com/ 3056 N Lincoln Avenue Chicago, IL 60657 872-206-8553

http://www.thepublicanrestaurant.com/ 837 W Fulton Market Chicago, IL 60607 312-733-9555

http://www.mitocaya.com/ 2500 W. Logan Boulevard Chicago, IL 60647 872-315-3947

https://elskerestaurant.com/ 1350 W Randolph Street Chicago, IL 60607 312-733-1314

https://www.portillos.com/index.html Multiple locations.

May 26, 2018 at 11:22 PM Leave a comment

Blue Point Grille

We were downtown and decided to try the new restaurant in the Hilton Convention Center, Burnham’s for lunch. Unfortunately, the parking fees scared us away. $15 (plus tip) simply seemed a bit outrages. We quickly drove away and then were faced with the dreaded question, “Where else can we go?” There are lots of places downtown for lunch, but we don’t often find ourselves in the neighborhood at that time. That meant, Jeff would start to cruise the Warehouse District while Michele searched Yelp for some nearby places we might have forgotten. We thought we had glommed onto a spot when Michele noticed Blue Point. “Hey, we haven’t been there for a long time! What do you think?” A few quarters dropped into a nearby parking meter and we found ourselves inside this classic Cleveland restaurant.

At the table next to us, a group of tourists, Rock and Roll Hall of Fame shopping bags in tow, were being welcomed by their waiter. He explained that the Lobster Bisque has become something of a Cleveland classic and the Nag’s Head Grouper has been on the menu since opening. With that introduction to history, we started to reminisce about all of our previous visits to Blue Point Grille. The space has an air of elegance and the business commands a certain amount of reverence. It is that kind of place.

Jeff remains a picky fish eater. Because of a lot of BAD fish consumed during his childhood (a childhood otherwise filled with remarkable and almost always well prepared alternatives) he treads lightly. Michele, just the opposite with fish, has helped him hone in on a palette of preference. One of his “go to” options is Grouper. It avoids the traits he most dislikes (fishy-fish smell) and features those he prefers (meaty texture over flaky.) The Blue Point version is served with their (again) signature Lobster Mashed Potatoes. (Yes, we know EVERYONE does this now, but when they introduced this option, it was quite the trend and very unique.) Of course, a cup of Lobster Bisque was required to start!

Michele went farther away from tradition and likely ended up with the better of the two meals. She ordered the lunch combo and enjoyed a Lobster Bisque, as well, but her Cornmeal crusted Catfish and Caesar Salad looked substantially more nouveau. The catfish was light and flaky (for her, a good thing!) and the salad boldly presented full fillets of anchovy draped across the lettuce. Not restricted by history, the Chef created a clean, appetizing lunch.

Therein lies the rub for Blue Point. Everyone talks about the Bisque and the Grouper and they are forced to keep it on the menu. The kitchen staff simply becomes a Xerox machine, pumping out multiple copies of the same, day after day. Newbies, like our neighbors at the next table, may have been drawn to the history of the place and ordered the Grouper, a dish that is unfortunately showing its age. They are likely to walk away with the idea that Blue Point is overrated. Jeff fell into the trap, but for a slightly different reason. Michele, during her nth visit simply searched for a fish dish that sounded fabulous and the kitchen was all too happy to create, “not the Grouper, again.” She wins. Jeff and the tourists are sucked into the vortex of sameness.

This also provides a lesson for diners. Sure, restaurants gain a level of note because of some dish or another. That benchmark becomes a draw and guests feel compelled to order it. Diners might consider an alternate path. Of course the “X” is good. Noted. Let’s now understand what else they offer. How good is the Chef and what new and exciting thing we can consume? Restaurateurs should also be mindful when it is time to retire a dish that has over extended its welcome, thus allowing creativity to flourish in the kitchen. With that newfound freedom, patronage will continue and customer satisfaction can only rise. Next time you go the Blue Point, don’t order the Bisque and Grouper. See what else they have and give that alternative a try. You may find you’ll enjoy it more and the restaurant will grow because of your change.

http://www.bluepointgrille.com/ 700 West St. Clair Avenue Cleveland, OH 44113 216-875-7827

May 12, 2018 at 10:43 PM Leave a comment

Dubrovnik Gardens Restaurant

Sometimes, you just gotta’ have some Eastern European food. Yes, it can be heavy and typically, the plates are filled beyond full, but still, it meets a need like no other foodstuff. For a long time, we’ve satiated this passion with a meal (and a half!) from Kuhar’s in Richmond Heights. Unfortunately, it closed about a year ago (although a carryout branch remains open in Mentor.) Since that time, we’ve been on the prowl for a replacement. We think we’ve finally found it in Eastlake. Not exactly convenient, but a reasonably easy drive East on I90.

Dubrovnik Gardens serves food that hails from Croatia, a country situated almost parallel across the Adriatic Sea from Italy. To its North, is Slovenia, then Austria. Hungary is to the Northeast. With this simple geography lesson, it is easy to imagine the food. Of course Stuffed Cabbage, Sausage and Wienerschnitzel are on the menu, but a few exciting Croatian surprises can also be found and those proved to be the real find.

Jeff had just returned from a business trip to Germany. While there, he decided to concentrate on Schnitzel. He sampled a nice variety and wanted to extend that research one meal further. The Dubrovnik Veal Schnitzel was tender, flat and beautifully breaded. It was in every way equal to the German varieties. The Home Fried potatoes were also an excellent version. Michele decide to order the Villa Croatia Platter, which included a Pork Schnitzel, similarly breaded, but equally enjoyable. Dubrovnik’s version of stuffed cabbage was substantially more mild and meek than most of the other versions we have tried. Michele, the real fan of this dish was not impressed. Jeff will be eating these leftovers. The real platter treats were the heretofore unknown Croatian dishes, Cevapcici and Raznjici. On these we split, but not by much! Jeff LOVED the Cevapcici. This is a mix of ground pork, beef and lamb, rolled into a cigar shape and grilled. The definitive pork flavors jumped out most prominently, but the other meats provide a unique flavor to a unique dish. Michele quickly gobbled up the Raznjici, a skewered grilled pork that turned the slices, buttery tender. The mixed vegetable side was only as serviceable as the side salad appetizer. Best to save yourself for the wonderful desserts! We shared a Chocolate and Walnut Palacinke (Crepe) and it was fabulous!

We arrived early, but made a reservation. A few tables were taken. As the evening progressed and nearby church services ended, the crowd started to pour in. While there is a sign on the lot entry gate, no sign appears on the exterior door. We walked into a very large Croatian community center and the restaurant is off to the left side. With limited advertisement and little street visibility, this place sure attracts a crowd. Join in the fun and try a different version of some very familiar foods. Just remember to bring an empty stomach or a larger belt!

http://dubrovnikgardens.croatianlodge.com/ 34900 Lakeshore Boulevard Eastlake, OH 44095 440-946-3366

April 21, 2018 at 7:29 PM Leave a comment

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