Posts filed under ‘Cleveland Restaurants Review’


This is a delightful find. We advise you try this spot now, before everyone knows about it and it will be impossible to get a seat.

We were on a tour of an amazing historic restoration/reuse of an old building on the near west side and wanted lunch. A quick check on Yelp indicated Lulo was close. Michele remembered reading about it, so we figured we’d try it. From the moment we walked in, everyone in the place sought to make us welcome. One look at the menu and we knew we’d be back for many visits.

Lulo – Mango Salmon
Lulo – Tropical Chorizo

Michele loved the Mango Salmon, so much so that when we came back for dinner a month later, she ordered it again. It was a fresh, bright dish that she really enjoyed. Jeff had the Tropical Chorizo and like the salmon, it was a wonderful clean plate of fresh foods, perfectly prepared. The Churrasco, carefully grilled steak served with yucca was equally interesting and flavorful during the evening visit.

Lulo – Tres Leches dessert

The Tres Leches dessert deserves a paragraph on its own! It was so beautifully presented, we wanted to preserve it. We don’t often take pictures of food, but this one deserved a photo shoot! It was moist, sweet and “milky” just as this tropical delight mandates. We will order this again and again.

At lunch, Jeff accompanied his meal with Violeta, a handmade Limonadas. We’re not sure if we’ve ever had fresh pressed lime juice, but this was such a tasty refreshing drink, he is waiting for the next visit to order another limonadas again!

Lulo Cleveland
Juice bar downtown Cleveland
W9th Street restaurant
Lulo – Violeta, a hand-pressed limonadas with florals

One of the reasons we returned for dinner and not another lunch was their invitation to see the dining room. Located downstairs, the spot is warmer and quietly comfortable. The food is just as good, but the bar is open and the place shifts from a lunch-juice bar to a legitimate restaurant. Having both settings is nice. A big window with hanging plants upstairs and dimly lit dining down. Regardless of when you go, go! Do it soon. When the cat is out of the bag on this place, you’ll be hoping to snag a reservation within the month. 1273 W 9th Street Cleveland, OH 44113 216-929-1053


December 17, 2021 at 9:45 PM 1 comment

Gunselman’s Tavern

In the dining room of Gunselman’s Tavern the walls are graced with old photographs of a different time, smoking bowlers, a cramped “beer-joint” kitchens and bartenders wearing ties. In the old images what has not changed are frozen memories of friends and family sitting around the bar and tables, simply enjoying themselves and having fun. While the new owners of this Fairview Park landmark cannot bring back ashtrays or convince their bar help to wear more formal attire, they have certainly maintained the friendly atmosphere required to invite smiles, camaraderie and return visits.

As we enjoyed our food, the side patio was readying for a Brown’s game. Beer tents were being erected, tables were being set and fans began to stream-in. Michele had the Fish and Chips, a nicely battered cod with no excess fishiness and even less excess oils. Jeff enjoyed the Black & Bleu Burger with loaded fried. The medium temperature was a bit closer to well, so next time, he will be more careful with the order. The truffle-rosemary topping and garlic aioli sauce were great. Both of us ate way more fries then he should have!

Maintaining the wonderful atmosphere that was so effectively captured in the antique photos was a fabulous, friendly and accommodating staff. They all appeared to enjoy each other and that made a difference in the environment. When our server was busy at another table, one of the other servers checked on our drinks, food, etc. We think we talked to everyone who worked there that day! It is nice to know that new owners not only acquired the building, but also drew on the hospitality vibe found in the black and white memories hanging on the wall. It made a difference. 21490 Lorain Avenue Fairview Park, OH 44126 440-331-5719

November 25, 2021 at 9:10 PM Leave a comment

Cleveland Mofongo

The first time we visited Ajili-Mojili, far off the Condada on a side street in San Juan we fell in love with Mofongos. On our next visit, they moved into the “high-rent district” on Ashford and a subsequent trip, we discovered they had closed. What has not ended is our quest for great mofongos closer to home. Some have been good, but after visiting Cleveland Mofongo, we think we have finally found a worthy successor to Ajili-Mojili. When you walk in the door, the garlic laced air invites you sit, grab a tropical beer and relax. You know mouthwatering food is around the corner.

Michele loved the Shrimp version. The standard serving arrives with the plantain-garlic mash in the center, surrounded by the protein and veggies. Jeff turned his into a bowl ($1) whereby the mash is formed as a vessel topped with the most amazing slow-cooked Pork. The bowl also includes rice and black beans. Regardless of which way you go, you are assured of a winning entrée. I’m sure someone can finish these, but we couldn’t. Not to worry! When warmed-up, these were just as good the next day!

Cleveland Mofongo – Shrimp Mofongo
Cleveland Mofongo – Slow-roasted Pork Mofongo Bowl

Of course, another reason to take a little section of mofongo home is to leave some room for dessert. The Nutella-Marshmallow Empanadilla was the right amount of sweet to balance your palate away from the garlic. We highly recommend a dessert for that very reason. Your inner yin-yang will thank you!

Cleveland Mofongo – Nutella-Marshmallow Empanadilla

If you remember that remarkable Puerto Rican food from an island vacation, or if you think Puerto Rican food is the same as Mexican, plan a trip to Cleveland Mofongo. From the moment you walk in the door, you will know you are not in Kansas any longer! 11621 Lorain Avenue Cleveland, OH 44111 216-415-4523

September 19, 2021 at 12:38 PM 1 comment


We were big fans of Distil, the previous restaurant created by Eddie Tancredi, so when he announced its closing, we were disappointed. Delight returned when we heard about ETalian. After our first visit, ETalian is not so much a replacement for Distil, as it is a waystation on his journey as a restaurateur in the middle of confusing times. Were food creation a vocation, rather than an avocation, we’d probably do something similar. Find a place that needs a great product that can be easily packaged to go and whisked away for consumption. If there is room for in-house dining, so much the better.

This is a simple menu. Pizza. There are about six on a chalk board over the register. White, Margherita, Peperoni, Mushroom and a wonderful combo that immediately caught Michele’s eye, Bacon & Artichoke. The crust is superb. Chewy with the perfect charred flavor to support the toppings. Wiped with a touch of olive oil, a dot of salt and fired in the wood burning oven, it arrives hot and stays so on the aluminum pan. We’re not so sure how well these will travel, but you don’t have to worry about that. There are plenty of chairs and stools in the fabulous renovated old building and a cozy patio at its side. Jeff enjoyed the Peperoni which has a nice peppery heat and a tomato base, tasting completely different, despite the swap of only three ingredients.

Conventional soft drinks are not available. Some cane-sugar sodas, sparkling waters and Moretti birra are in a self-serve case. Next door, a wonderful wine store had the diet soda by the can that Michele craved. We shared an Antipasto Salad and it was less successful. Small and heavily laden with oils and trapped in a plastic to-go tub, we’ve made a mental note to forgo the salad and stick with the reason for a trip to ETalian, Pizza. Between the wonderful building and the tasty crust, you won’t soon forget this place. 13 Bell Street Chagrin Falls, OH 44022 400-600-2001

August 29, 2021 at 9:14 AM Leave a comment

Local Tavern

Our first trip to Local Tavern was a week or two before the whole world shut down for COVID. This was an interesting find. We had no idea what we wanted and neither of us had a taste for anything in particular. We sat in the theater parking lot considering a number of dining options. We almost half-heartedly agreed on a place when we decided to see what was “nearby” on Yelp. Searching based on distance provides a result filled with every fast-food joint in the area, but if you can overlook these, it can be helpful. We came upon Local Tavern. It triggered some recollections and we decided the search was over. We were going to try Local Tavern. Now that we are “getting back to normal” we again started to think about the great first meal we had there. A second visit was in order.

We’ve probably driven down this portion of Chardon Road a dozen times in recent memory, but never noticed the place. It looks like a typical neighborhood bar. Without paying attention, you might expect them to serve an adequate burger and a cold beer. What we got was much more.

Expecting a much different answer, Michele asked our server if the fish was fresh. She was told that, “we bread the fillets in-house, every day.” What arrived at the table was a half-dozen smaller perch fillets with nary a drop of residual cooking oil or grease that were soft and flaky inside and crunchy outside. Michele felt they were perfect. Jeff ordered the Shephard’s Pie and was equally surprised by a version made with shredded beef, not the obligatory ground meat. A balsamic drizzle added a nice tang to a dish that can sometimes be boring. When we asked about dessert, we were again told that everything is made in-house. There was no conversation, a wonderful Banana Crème Pie appeared and then disappeared.

Local Tavern – Perch Sandwich and Fries

On our second visit, Michele tried the Perch Sandwich and was again very pleased with the quality of the fish and fries. This time, Jeff tried the Shrimp and Grits. Like the Shepard’s Pie before, the name was a yeoman descriptor for a dish far more exciting than you might expect. The grits were fried into a block with the grilled shrimp placed on top covered by the delightful Cajun sauce. A spunky slaw with Chinese noodles sat on top. It was crazy-good.

Local Tavern – Shrimp and Grits

Looks can be deceiving. When we entered Local Tavern the first time, a bunch of folks were at the bar watching the football playoff games. In the dining area, we saw some young couples on a date and a table full of older people enjoying a congenial get-together. On our post-COVID visit, most of the people were “out-back” on the patio, the dining room taken over by a big family reunion. Each of these groups was getting something different from the place and this hard-working spot delivered on all accounts. That is really a remarkable achievement and one we will be happy to celebrate with additional visits. 29007 Chardon Road Willoughby Hills, OH 44092 440-943-5926

August 11, 2021 at 12:28 PM 1 comment


Happy Birthday to Jeff! Had it not been his birthday, we would never have gone to Alea. As anticipated, Jeff was ecstatic with his meal and Michele confirmed it was not a place for her.

Jeff was getting excited about the prospects of trying this new place when it opened in late 2019, but the end of the year and the beginning of the next are VERY busy time for him, so we put it off. We all know what happened then. When it was announced that Alea would reopen, we both got excited. A quick look at the online menu and Michele reverted to her blasé attitude. The menu is VERY small and unfortunately, even less appealed to her. She only agreed because it was Jeff’s birthday.

Michele had the Grilled Oysters and while it was an appetizer portion, she was perplexed as to what else she could add. She considered the Crudo, or one of the salads, but there was an ingredient or two in each that was off-putting. Jeff was just the opposite. He didn’t know where to start. Everything sounded appealing. Eventually, he honed in on the Raw Beet Salad. Can you recall the last time you had raw beets? They have a unique texture and flavor that gets lost in pickling and other prep methods. These were topped with red basil, pistachios and coconut shavings in a milky base. It was a delightful start.

Alea – Grilled Oysters
Alea – Raw Beet Salad with Red Basil and Coconut Shavings

For entrées, there are only three options, all meat. The root of Michele’s concern. Jeff had the Duck Breast with vibrantly flavorful roasted carrots. He would have preferred a second or two more of a cook on the breast, making it a touch difficult to cut, but it was delightful. It sat in puddle of Chermoula sauce. Neither of us had ever hear of it. Apparently it is Moroccan, consisting of parsley, cilantro, garlic, olive oil and a pile of spices. It was a dynamite combination alongside the duck. We split a very tasty Yogurt Panna Cotta for dessert.

Alea – Duck Breast with Roasted Carrots in Chermoula

As is pretty obvious from the information above, Alea is a split decision. The limited menu left Michele with a very narrow selection. Although slim, the things offered were exactly what Jeff likes to find. The likelihood of a return is small, but if you are not us, do try Alea. The bold flavors and high quality preparation sets it apart from so many of the new post-pandemic places now openings. The interior design is also spot-on with the exposed materials and high ceilings of a former industrial space. Also keep in mind, this is a place that does NOT take reservations. While we arrived early, by the time we exited, most tables and bar seats were filled. Cleveland has reopened and the word is out that Alea is serving up some great food. Get in line. 2912 Church Avenue Cleveland, OH 44115 216-912-8890

July 18, 2021 at 4:39 PM 1 comment

Home Bistro

Over our many, many years of eating out, we have enjoyed a handful of “favorite” restaurants where we tended to dine more often. Perhaps they weren’t the best restaurant in the city, though some certainly were, but they offered a collection of food we both loved, a staff that welcomed us with a grace that could not be perceived as false and an atmosphere that allowed us to relax and simply enjoy each other’s company.

It started with The Café, a little place on the corner of Lee Road and Redwood in Cleveland Heights. We were young, the prices were fair and the chef was constantly experimenting with unique and interesting specials. I suspect no place elevated our palettes higher than The Café. That was followed by Harry Corvair, which, at the time WAS the best in the city. For some reason, few people realized the value and it closed. Our next “long-term” relationship was at Sage in Tremont. Like The Café, the variety was remarkable. Everything on the menu was better than the next thing and there was constantly something new. In addition, I do not believe any dining room in the city ever made us feel so welcome. Today, we suspect that mantel is held by L’Albatros. We believe it to be the best Cleveland has to offer.

While we are not abandoning L’Albatros, Home Bistro is surely making a play for the top of our score card. After a few visits, Michele is addicted to the intoxicating Rainbow Trout. From across the table, Jeff is equally enamored. The slender filets of trout are seared to create a crunch skin without disturbing the tender, subtle flesh. Fingerling potatoes, a punchy horseradish sauce and topped with a fried egg. Not only does it taste perfect, it is beautifully presented, picture perfect upon arrival to the table.

Home Bistro – Rainbow Trout with a fried egg and a horseradish sauce.

The last time Jeff had mussels as an entrée was in a Belgian restaurant in Omaha. (They actually featured six different versions!) The Amsterdam Mussels at Home Bistro are presented in a spiced beer broth that encourages an extra slow dip after having dislodged the mollusk from its shell. On another visit Jeff was blown away by the Korean Fried Chicken. Like the fish, the exterior of the chicken thighs are crispy, the inside moist and tender, but of primary note is the unusual smoky flavor surrounding the perfectly spiced meat that is ever-present. Sitting on a bed of peanut puree and accompanied by snap peas cooked to a flawless crunch and some refreshing kimchi, Jeff thought this was the perfect meal. That is until the server recalled her favorite as we gushed over our dinners. Next time, Jeff is aiming toward the Ricotta Gnocchi. Michele is likely to stick with the trout.

Home Bistro – Amsterdam Mussels
Home Bistro – Korean Fried Chicken

During our visits we tried the Ricotta Donut Holes and the Cardamom Panna Cotta. Both were good. The rhubarb on the panna cotta was especially interesting.

Home Bistro opened during the pandemic. Perhaps the slower period of activity allowed the place to ease into maturing flavors, or maybe they are just darn good at what they do. Regardless, we are exciting this excellent new spot is so close to home. (We are however, less excited about the parking!) We will be back! As often as Sage or The Café? Time will tell, but as the Magic 8 Ball says, “It is promising.” 12022 Mayfield Road Cleveland, OH 44106 216-795-5582

July 4, 2021 at 12:43 PM Leave a comment


Slowly, slowly, we are extracting ourselves from pandemic-required isolation. Each of us have restaurants we want to revisit and others we want to try for the first time. Just before the shutdown we visited Bakersfield Taco. There was nothing really wrong with the place, but it was another “taco place” in a sea of “taco places” that were cropping up all over America as quickly as COVID spread through South Dakota after Sturgis. Bakersfield closed before we could offer an opinion and in a move that shocked us, the owners of Char in Rocky River decided to open Avo Modern Mexican in the same spot. Perhaps it was the hutzpah or the amount of press notice they received, but we both felt this was a spot we wanted to visit first.

On our first visit, Jeff fully enjoyed the Mole Chicken. It was a huge half-chicken that was obviously brined (just a touch on the salty-side) with a powerful and flavorful mole. It was mouthwateringly moist and tender. The flash-fried Brussel Sprouts were a perfect complement because of their slightly bitter nature. Beside the saltiness, the dish could have used something to make the plate more visually appealing. The dense brown and darkish-green were too monochromatic. A second visit was visually more appealing. The skirt steak slices were interspersed with potato wedges (Carne y Papas.) While somewhat close in color, the red pepper and chimichurri sauces delivered two nice slashes of green and red to the plate. The tart marinate made the tender steak a pleasure to eat. It too, was a winner.

Avo Modern Mexican – Mole Chicken and Brussel Sprouts
Avo Modern Mexican – Carne y Papas – Skirt Steak and Potato Wedges

On both visits, Michele had the same thing, the Torta de Pollo. This sandwich combined shredded chicken with bacon and avocado. With her aversion to spicy-hot foods, the creaminess of the combination was exactly what the doctor ordered.

Less successful was the handmade guacamole. We prefer a basic, or standard guacamole, so bypassed the half-dozen menu variations offered. We found it very plain, almost unseasoned. We didn’t finish it and forgot about the leftovers we brought home. It is unlikely we will order this again, but that will not stop us from returning. The nice atmosphere, helpful staff and fair price house wines (Dreaming Tree) will definitely bring us back as we return to normal in a post-pandemic world.

Stay tuned as we return to a more normal life of regular dining at restaurants. 2058 W 25th Street Cleveland, OH 44113 216-331-6961

June 20, 2021 at 5:38 PM Leave a comment

Mama Catena

Since the beginning of the COVID pandemic, we have intentionally stayed away from exploring new restaurants. Michele only feels comfortable visiting places we know and she believes have good health standards. With a new place, health standards are likely fine, but we don’t know for certain. With a vaccine, that is going to change, but for now we’re staying with old favorite. We have, however made one exception. After a televised news story about the safety measures initiated by Mama Catena, Michele immediately asked, whether we should alter our plan. It turned out to be one of the greatest concessions we’ve made since the beginning of the dark days of COVID.

Mama Catena is a small spot tucked into a strip shopping center in Euclid. As expected, the outside is pretty average, but once inside, there is a jazzy vibe and the scent of classic Italian cooking invites you to sit, relax and enjoy an hour or two forgetting about the outside world.

One of the changes they’ve made is a locked front door. To gain access, you need to call. Our first visit, we called for reservation and once in the parking lot, we called again and they opened the door. Another spur-of-the-moment visit started with a call asking if they had a table. They did, no problem, but they asked us to wait a moment while they cleaned the table and prepared for our visit. When ready, the host popped open the door and waved us in. Utensils were wrapped, salt, pepper and cheese are tucked into a personal envelope and side plates were in the center. Unlike some other places, you would never know a table or four were missing. The room looks great. It is apparent these owners were doing everything humanly possible to keep their guests safe and protected.

All of these precautions would be of little value if the food wasn’t so darned good. The first clue is the cleverly boxed bread sections. It was warm and tasty and a good start. Michele is a sucker for a simple plate of Angel Hair pasta and sauce. She enjoyed their fresh, chunky, light Pomodoro. She also liked the side-sausage that packed its own flavor punch. Earlier, Michele tried the rigatoni accompanied by their rich and flavorful Marinara with meatballs. The menu allows you to choose a pasta, choose a sauce and add any extras. She has concentrated on this option while Jeff explored the other areas of the menu. He was crazy about the Pasta con Pepe e’ Cacio, a beautiful, peppery plate of wide noodle and Romano accented, oil and garlic sauce. The Involtini is a wide sheet of pasta filled with a mozzarella and ricotta, then rolled into a pinwheel and sliced. The menu suggests a Marinara sauce, but our helpful server mentioned that it is very popular with the Rosella sauce, a combination of Marinara and Alfredo. This is a VERY rich dish with a ton of cheese, but very good.

We normally don’t make a big deal about the dinnerware in restaurants, but even that is interesting here. The earthenware bowls are beautiful and set this above the standard restaurant.

The menu is a monster. There is a pile of appetizers, salads, pizza, pasta mix and match, pasta specialties and a number of secondi. Upon seeing the massive amount of options, we were leery. Could they deliver ALL of these options well? After multiple visits, the answer is an unquestionable, YES! Jeff is waiting to try the Veal Picatta, the long boned pork chop and their Sunday Sauce bowl. One of his pandemic exercises has been perfecting Carbonara, so of course, that is intriguing as well. Michele is eyeing the Cartoccio, a baked sausage with onions and green peppers…if she can get away from the Angel Hair!

After all that food, you’d think dessert was impossible, but you’d be wrong. Ask for a take-away container, box up the remaining bread square and try their luscious options. The Tiramisu was heavenly and the Cannolo was picture-worthy, essentially cannoli filling layered between cake discs. Regardless of how much you ate, you want to try this.

We are very excited to try all of the new places opening this year. That is still going to be a few weeks away. In the meantime, we are more than happy to return again and again to Mama Catena. 711 Babbitt Road Euclid, OH 44123 216-261-1168

Mama Catena – Beautiful earthenware supports wonderful food.
Mama Catena – A clever box that holds the bread and can be closed for an easy leftover trip home.
Mama Catena – The envelop contains salt, pepper and cheese, safely packaged for individual use.
Mama Catena – Pasta con Pepe e’ Cacio
Mama Catena – Cannolo, a cannoli-like stacked cake that is actually lighter than you’d expect.

February 23, 2021 at 9:05 PM 4 comments

Eating Out in the Time of COVID – #2

As restaurants have begun to reopen, we have been making a concerted effort to visit. Yes, we love to eat and we have been doing loads of cooking at home, but we still miss going out. However, in our new reality, going out is much different. Michele has some very specific expectations before she agrees to venture out into the new virus filled world.

First, she has sworn off any new spots. If we have been to a place that she knows maintained a clean, safe establishment, she believes they will do an equally good job cleaning under the new COVID guidelines.

Secondly, she wants to go to a place early. This has never been an issue for us. We’ve always eaten earlier than most people. Her logic is that the place will be the cleanest, early. As other guests enter, the likelihood of vulnerability rises.

Lastly, she uses the common sense a nurse learns over a career to keep patients safe. She asks for the table to be cleaned before we sit, to actually see the cleaning. She watches as the utensils are delivered and the bread is presented. Who is wearing a mask, who is wearing gloves and who appears to be ignoring guidelines? Those measures factor into a return visit. This approach has been pretty successful for us so far.

As we mentioned in the last post, L’Albatros really wowed us with an approach to cleanliness that is now the benchmark by which all other places will be measured. We also found a very conscientious staff at Hyde Park in Beachwood. We enjoy visiting this place for one of the best “Early Bird” menus in the city. Their Wedge Salad is old-school killer with plenty of bleu cheese and candied walnuts (Michele is allergic to Bleu, so she substitutes a ranch and enjoys that as well.) The nice thing this time was the staff welcome. We genuinely felt they were happy for our having visited. That is sure nice, especially when a visit is questionable. “Should we go out, or shouldn’t we?” it is a tough question today.

Our most recent stop was lunch at Wild Mango in Legacy Village. We ate outside, so no issues with distancing. We also had lunch early, again avoiding the crowds. We could find nothing out of sorts here, either. The food was as good as it always is, too, so that was good to know.

A few others were “almost” there. With some finesse, Great Scott, Crostata’s and Vittorio’s will be just as good as the benchmark. Jeff never noticed a thing, like most everyone who enters the place with a mask. Michele got back in the car after our visit and reminded him that “X” and “Y” should have been done a different way.

Some of the fast-casual places are also doing a very good job keeping us as safe as possible. Brassicas so impressed us on our first visit that we have already been back. They have taken cleanliness to a new level. McAlister’s, a sandwich shop in Great Northern Mall cleaned the table before we sat and were very attentive to our needs. Gloves and masks were ever-present. East Coast Custard has rearranged the entry and exit, so getting a cool treat on these hot days is more orderly than before, but still as refreshing!

This is a tough time for the food business. After about three months closed and a pile of codes to follow, it can’t be easy. Folks around us still question the wisdom in returning and that reduces the likely visitors. The road through 2020 will be the toughest all of us will remember in our whole life. We want to help support everyone who is trying. A downturn and vaccine are around the corner, but can we all hold on for that much longer? Time will tell. 11401 Bellflower Road Cleveland, OH 44106 216-791-7880 26300 Chagrin Boulevard Beachwood, OH 44122 216-464-0688 25385 Cedar Road Lyndhurst, OH 44124 216-716-8001 21801 Lakeshore Boulevard Euclid, OH 44123 216-417-3019 558 Bishop Road Highland Heights, OH 44143 440-449-7800 29664 Euclid Avenue Wickliffe, OH 44092 440-585-7700 20301 Meade Road Shaker Heights, OH 44122 216-848-0450 356 Great Northern Mall North Olmstead, OH 44070 440-734-4440 5681 Mayfield Road Lyndhurst, OH 44124 440-461-7690

July 15, 2020 at 7:42 PM Leave a comment

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