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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! 3500 N Elston Avenue Chicago, IL 60618 773-654-1460 2957 West Diversey Avenue Chicago, IL 60647 773-661-9170 3056 N Lincoln Avenue Chicago, IL 60657 872-206-8553 837 W Fulton Market Chicago, IL 60607 312-733-9555 2500 W. Logan Boulevard Chicago, IL 60647 872-315-3947 1350 W Randolph Street Chicago, IL 60607 312-733-1314 Multiple locations.


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

Eatin’ in Buffalo

Michele has relatives in Buffalo and she maintains childhood memories of this interesting city three hours east of Cleveland. For that reason, we have visited Buffalo a number of times over the years. In that time, we have become cheerleaders for the Albright-Knox Museum (one of the BEST collections of contemporary art in America) along with its amazing assemblage of building design by the paragons of architecture. (Buffalo is home of the largest collection of Frank Lloyd Wright homes outside Chicago, including the $50 million rehabilitation of the Darwin Martin House. Fredrick Law Olmstead laid-out the core of the city, inspired by Washington DC and Pierre L’Enfant. Buildings designed by Louis Sullivan, Eliel & Eero Saarinen, Sanford White, Richard Upjohn, Lord & Burnham, Charles Atwood and America’s first female architect, Louise Blanchard Bethune can be found in the city.)

Like Cleveland, Buffalo once was home of a huge collection of millionaires and was held in reverence by the nation as a “top-ten” city. Also like Cleveland, Buffalo has seen better days and again, like Cleveland, the renaissance of Buffalo is reinvigorating neighborhoods, artists and chefs. Finally, like Cleveland, historic foods are not being trashed, but are instead gaining reverence. During our most recent weekend, we sampled the new, the old and the originators.

Combining Jeff’s love for architecture (in an alternative universe, Jeff would have been an architect were it not for some poor education choices) and Michele’s interest in historic medical facilities which may, or may not be haunted, we decided to stay at the Hotel Henry. Hotel Henry is located in the former New York State Asylum building designed by yet another renowned architect H. H. Richardson, with grounds by Olmstead and Calvert Vaux. Inside is a restaurant that defies all expectation of “hotel food.”

100 Acres home baked rolls and house made butter

100 Acres Yellowfin Tuna Crudo with Cucumber

100 Acres Halibut with Snap Peas

100 Acres Salmon over Quinoa

100 Acres Merengue, Caramel, Hazelnut Dessert

Exhausted after a day of travel and an afternoon of touring, we relaxed in the hotel restaurant, 100 Acres. We were sure it was not just the moment and the place. This was our favorite meal in Buffalo. It was that good.

Home baked rolls arrived with artisanal butter. We could have lived on just these breads! That was not, however the case. Michele started with a mixed green salad, good, but the real treat was Jeff’s Yellowfin Tuna crudo served with melon-ball and curled cucumber and a citrus base. Boy, was this good! Michele ordered the Salmon with a quinoa base and atypically, Jeff had the Halibut, served over a creamy white bean sauce with snap peas. It was stunning! Dessert could command an entire blog post. The combination of merengue, caramel and hazelnut was exactly what we needed. This is indeed a hotel dining room that demands full respect.

Michele had done a fair amount of research prior to this trip. Surprisingly (to Jeff) she suggested a trip to Ted’s Hot Dogs. Ted’s is a tradition in Buffalo and even the former residents we met on our morning tour endorsed them. Ted’s char-grills their dogs. Despite this being “fast food”, each dog is made to order. While waiting in line, the Buffalonians we met on the tour showed up. They told us what to order. If Michele was going to order a hot dog, it had to be “burned!” When we told the grill-master to “burn” the small dog, he smiled and quickly complied, delivering exactly what she needed, a perfectly blackened hot dog! Jeff’s “junk food of choice” has always been a hot dog. By his standards, this was a “damn fine dog!” The cheese-fries were less successful, but the whole experience was definitely fun.

After some research, we found a place that was gaining a lot of national recognition. The Black Sheep is located in a reemerging neighborhood and the interior takes “rustic” to new heights. The food is the polar opposite, with very refined, farm-to-table meals. Jeff enjoyed the Carrot Tahini appetizer and the Chicken Breast, which is prepared in a different fashion each day. Michele had the Bitter Salad and the one constant on the menu, Shrimp Fideos, served with sofrito and Asian Noodles. Our dessert was a Corn Caramel, essentially, crème caramel with sweet corn atop. Each dish was excellent and the whole experience was top notch.

For our final meal in the city, we realized we could not leave without heading to the Anchor Bar for some original Buffalo Chicken Wings. At this point, the bulk of the patronage is tourists. While we waited for our food to arrive, we overheard some locals at the adjoining table talk about good restaurants from the past and today. Not everyone is from someplace else! The Buffalo Wings are indeed good and the regular sauce, while it claims to be “hot” is certainly bearable for a tenderfoot like Jeff. The real treat was the Bleu Cheese dipping sauce. Rich and creamy, it made the wings so much better. Jeff is glad he ordered two instead of the suggested one side. Michele had the Wing Sandwich with mild sauce and fries. She enjoyed that as well. It is easy to comprehend how an entire industry has been created on the back of this simple bar food. Perhaps this is not the greatest restaurant in America, but it is sure one with one of the largest financial impacts and we felt we needed to give it a try.

In the past, one would go to Buffalo to study the full scope of 19th and 20th Century architecture, followed by a glimpse of the future of modern art, thanks to a visionary collector. Now, a trip to Buffalo can be supplemented with fine dining as well. Buffalo can now offer the entire package! 444 Forest Avenue Buffalo, NY 14213 716-955-1511 124 W. Chippewa Street Buffalo, NY 14202 + many other locations in the Greater Buffalo area 367 Connecticut Street Buffalo, NY 14213 716-884-1100 1047 Main Street Buffalo, NY 14209 716-886-8920

October 28, 2017 at 10:14 PM Leave a comment


When you walk into some restaurants for the first time, sometimes it is love at first sight and other times, you can’t wait for the check and to forget about the entire experience. Then there is the wide middle ground. It can be middle for multiple reasons. One of the most common for us is a split decision; one of us likes it, the other doesn’t. Place Batuqui squarely in the middle, for just that reason.

Is seemed everything was of marginal quality for Michele. The salad was uneventful and her salmon was heavily, heavily salted. However we both liked Jeff’s garlic sausage and yucca appetizer. The Feijoada entrée was also very good with a nice blend of meat and full-flavor black beans. The Brazilian Flan was very creamy with plenty of caramel.

So where do we go from here? Michele has made it clear that she has no interest in follow-up visits to Batuqui. Jeff is more amenable, but Cleveland is full of fun, exciting places to dine. We can surely skip this one. 12706 Larchmere Boulevard Cleveland, OH 44120 216-801-0227

February 11, 2016 at 10:11 PM Leave a comment

No, We’re Not Going to the Food Show

A few years ago, Jeff had the opportunity to dine at Vetri in Philadelphia. Midway through the meal, Chef Marc Vetri entered the dining room, greeted some dining friends and asked most every other table if things were to their satisfaction. After this quick roundabout, he was back in the kitchen, insuring that the next course was up to his demanding expectations. Chef Vetri could easily have turned into a “celebrity chef” but then, would his restaurant still be considered one of the best in America? Would his reduced presence in the kitchen allow the staff to slack, even ever so slight? Would it have been a cherished evening for Jeff (and no-doubt, hundreds of others) or just another very good meal in a very good restaurant?

We want our chefs in the kitchens of restaurants, not on television, not judging other cooks, not travelling the country appearing at food shows and doing charity events. Sure, this might appear selfish, but with a chef in the kitchen, we know the food will be better. It is inevitable. A hired replacement chef, regardless how talented does not have the “skin in the game.” He owns nothing, she receives a paycheck and if things go south, little is lost. It is on to the next job.

One of America’s best restaurants is The Grey Plume in Omaha, Nebraska. Chef Clayton Chapman now serves as a celebrity endorser for Wüsthof knives. Regardless of this commitment, he has been in the restaurant each time we have dined there. Standing for a photograph with a knife consumes fewer hours than a flight to Cleveland, talking to attendees at a convention show for a weekend. We don’t want to prevent the spoils of success. Go ahead, endorse a product, but don’t ignore the reason you were asked to endorse it!

Perhaps the main reason we don’t attend food shows is we really don’t like many televised food programing. We like to cook and we like to eat, but we’re less enthusiastic about watching someone cook or eat. Without some sort of interaction, we get bored. We watch Master Chef, but really nothing else. It is marginally enjoyable to see talented people (way more so than us!) Beyond that, eh.

Over the years, we have visited a number of celebrity chef restaurants. We liked Emeril’s, but it is far from our favorite place in New Orleans. Gordon Ramsey’s place in New York is excellent, but not the best in town. Bobby Flay, Michael Mina and a host of others have places in Las Vegas, but we can’t call them a favorite. We tend to lean toward places where the chef is in place, ignoring the podium and concentrating on the preparation. Locally, while Michael Simon is away from Lola for long periods of time, Ben Bebenroth is at Spice Kitchen & Bar, Steven Schimoler is planted at Crop and Zack Bruell can be found (and we see him regularly) almost any night we dine in one of his establishments. This is perhaps the reason we believe Chef Bruell is the best in the city.

Don’t spend $35 to watch a chef make a meal, instead, spend $35 and have a chef cook you a meal. It is money MUCH better spent.

December 14, 2014 at 1:50 AM Leave a comment

Lists, List, Lists!

We love lists, list about actors, movies, current events, cities, videos, world leaders and sports. The lists can be sliced, diced and presented in a host of ways, all to tell us “something” about the content. In a matter of a few weeks, Cleveland Magazine released their annual “Best Restaurant” issue and the Plain Dealer published their “A-List” top 100 restaurants. A few weeks ago, the James Beard Awards were announced and another list will have been completed. Sometimes we think people like to list their favorite restaurants as much as they like to eat.


Our blog started as a list. We kept (still keep) an Excel spreadsheet of our favorite places to eat in Cleveland. It was passed around in so many iterations that we finally realized we needed an internet version to keep it current. The last time we updated it, it had 118 places. Accompanying this post is an up-to-date version of the list, now containing 128 entries. Current, for this brief moment of time…until the next great thing pops-up. Even with such a large list, we do not necessarily sync with the A-List or the Best list from either publication. When the Scene Magazine publishes their “40 Essential” list, it was very close to ours, but not perfect. It would be impossible to expect diverse palates to totally agree. Heck, WE don’t always agree and we write this blog together! That, we suppose is the reason people (who don’t make lists) look at other’s lists to make a list of where they want to go next. That’s what we’ve done.


Of the PD’s A-List, we have eaten at 68 of the places featured. That means we have a new list of 32 places to try. Cleveland Magazine has peaked our interest in one place, Humble Wine Bar. We suspect this is the typical ballot packing that elevated Deagan’s and The Root Café to past glory, but because Deagan’s has become one of Michele’s favs, we need to investigate! The PD list has us curious about Cibreo, District, Olesia and Toast. Look for comments soon!


Of the 100 A-List restaurants, we question a few. Stino da Napoli was good, but top-100 good? That seems a stretch. Superior Pho simply didn’t grab us in the way it apparently has so much of Cleveland. Perhaps this place requires another visit. While they do produce a great beer, the Great Lakes Brewing Co. restaurant has slipped over time. It has been off our rotation for years. Like Superior Pho, Flour simply did not excite us. Like SP, it sounds like additional visits are required.


Missing? A sidebar was devoted to breads and pastry shops, but Koko’s was missing! That is unfortunate…for the writers, because if you haven’t enjoyed the buns of Koko, life is just not worth living! AMP150 – there have been a few weaker visits than when first opened, but this place is still a treat. There are a few “Akron-y” places, but no Crave? What about Bistro on Main in Kent? While still new, we were surprised to see Whilleyville and Ken Stewart’s in the Flats missing. Perhaps next year.


Finally, at the risk of starting another “Best Pizza” war, we remain shocked that Crostatas has yet to garner the appropriate praise it deserves. We suppose that Highland Heights is not the place to raise up a culinary flag, but then again, who’d have thought Broadview Heights could support Cork and Cleaver, Cleveland Magazine’s “Best New Restaurant” of the year and a Scene Essential 40. It should be noted, however, despite these accolades, which we hardily support, they did not allow it to make the A-List 100. …and, so it goes.

June 7, 2014 at 10:10 PM 1 comment

Cleveland Hot Spot

This place is a happy convergence of multiple roads in the history of eating in Cleveland. The Juniper Grille formerly occupied this storefront on the edge of downtown. It was a popular breakfast/lunch place for a number of years. Eventually, it was replaced with Verve, an excellent restaurant that never caught on, despite the fabulous food. Following its closing, a number of places tried to recreate the halcyon days of yore. None succeeded. Enter Will Davis, once of the brothers that ran the bakery/deli Appetite on Mayfield Road in Lyndhurst. The future finally looks bright for this turnstile site.

Davis has put together a nice collection of breakfast options and lunch offerings. Omelets, Pancakes, French Toast and fruit cups all seem yeoman-like, but the implementation was handled very well. Both of us ordered the daily breakfast special, a French Toast griddle served with a cup of fresh fruit. The pieces of toast captured an egg and bacon mix. It was a larger than we anticipated, but both of us finished it. We left with a chocolate croissant and cinnamon roll from the bakery, made by one of the former bakers from Appetite.

It was a pleasure to see new life breathed into this nice venue and to learn the resuscitator of that life, a capable professional.  1332 Carnegie Avenue Cleveland, OH 44115 216-239-1141

January 21, 2014 at 8:55 PM Leave a comment

Eatin’ in New York 3

Jeff often travels to New York for work. While his days are packed with necessary tasks, he has very few demands in the evening. New York nights are typically spent in the theatre or at a restaurant, two of his many passions. The trip this year was no different.

After a day of walking a number of home improvement areas, Jeff found himself on the Lower East side, very close to Momofuku. Since opening, this little storefront in an unexpected location has attracted hundreds and thousands of food fans from around the city and the planet. Tables are somewhat communal, the bar is long with seats tucked aside each other and the menu is reasonably small. Usually, a line forms early and dies late, but Jeff arrived at that odd point when the dinner rush had not yet started and lunch was barely over. Besides, he was alone so he easily slipped into an open bar seat. The menu features some daily specials, a few buns, a few bowls, snacks and desserts. The listings are yeoman-like, but the result is far from “typical.”

After a quick perusal of the offerings, Jeff decided this was a place that demanded beer accompaniment. They poured a nice local (Brooklyn) micro-brew that worked well with the unabashedly “salty” foods. The Soy Sauce Egg was hard-boiled, topped with shallots and chives and priced at an incredible $2. The intense flavors of the soy embed itself into the fleshy whites while the alliums provided a nice sharp counterpoint. Not bad for two bucks!

Jeff decided to have the Momofuku Ramen as his entrée. These noodle-centric meals are second nature to Jeff. Across Asia, a big bowl of noodles and broth with “extras” is a very common lunch and Jeff had plenty during his time in China. It should be noted that the Momofuku bowls have a Japanese bias. Momofuku uses pork belly and pork shoulder with the curly noodle we associate with ramen. The broth was salty and smoky and full of flavor. If you haven’t tried this type of soup before and not likely to get to New York, look at some of the local Pho restaurants for the Vietnamese version in Cleveland or try Noodlecat, an upscale place that closely mimics Momofuku’s  kamikaze approach to this Japanese “worker’s food”. Like Noodlecat, Momofuku has forced people who love food to pay attention to all kinds of food, even the lowly bowl of soup.

The Spotted Pig has been open for a few years, but Jeff has never had the pleasure of dining there. Many people report this place was the birth of the “gastropub” revolution in America. Information such as this is of little interest unless the food is good and the food here is very good. No reservations are taken, so the bar area is among the hottest in the city. Time quickly passes in the electric environment. A couple, native to Chicago heard Jeff and his niece (who lives in the city and joined him for dinner) talking about Chicago restaurants and an exchange of favorites were quickly recited. Tables are scattered around this two-story antique store of a dining establishment and we were soon taken to a surprisingly quiet corner.

For Thanksgiving, Jeff made a Smashed Pea on Toast appetizer, so he wanted to try the same offering by a professional chef (to compare and contrast!) The Pig’s version was paired with Burrata, so likely better than Jeff’s! He also sampled the special Soft Shell Crab Salad. Both were wonderful ways to start.

Entrées were both specials and both were perfect presentations. The Roasted Duck Leg and Roasted Trout were simply prepared, allowing for a full appreciation of the core flavors of quality foods. The excellent results are the reason people have come to embrace gastropub cooking. Michele and Jeff learned to appreciate “pub food” during vacations driving through the Irish and English countryside years ago. Food is simple and well made and that is easy to abuse in less skilled hands. Simple is hard. The Spotted Pig knows how to do simple well.

After a full day working on Sunday, Jeff tried endlessly to find an evening theatre performance. Shows were either sold-out or dark for the evening. Instead he decided to forgo a long trip downtown on a wet evening and stayed in midtown for nearby, The Modern, the restaurant located at the Museum of Modern Art (MOMA). On Sunday, only the Bar Room is open. The bar is a bit more casual than the main dining room, but based on what he sampled; Jeff found it to be an excellent option in a city filled with dining options.

Jeff started with the Wild Mushroom Soup. It was a wonderfully pungent broth made special with the addition of Chorizo ravioli. Excellent. The Saffron Tagliatelle with rabbit jumped off the menu and try as he might, he couldn’t resist ordering. The pasta was perfect, the rabbit tender and slightly tart, having been braised in cider with the greens as a nice addition. The Pistachio Dacquoise was a perfect finale to a wonderful evening outside the theatre. It may have been the rainy night, but this meal just felt so cozy.

With many trips, a clinker always appears. Jeff read some positive things about Back Forty West. He ordered the Pork Belly Sammie and it was disappointing. The accompanying slaw was nicely spiced as was the mayo, but the pork belly was poorly cooked, resulting in fat, not nicely rendered bacon-like pork fat that is the hallmark of good pork belly, but just plain fat. He was forced to cut most out of the small sandwich. The accompanying Rosemary fries were light on the rosemary and long on salt…very long. This was a crowded little place, east of central SOHO, so we have to assume it was just a bad day. This was a disappointment.

Each trip to New York and especially this trip of all new places is a fun revelation and one that makes a return trip that much more anticipated. 171 1st Avenue (between 10th & 11th) New York, NY 10003 314 West 11th Street (at Greenwich St) New York, NY 10014 212-620-0393 9 West 53rd Street New York, NY10019 212-333-1220 70 Prince Street (at Crosby) New York, NY 212-219-8570 Euclid Avenue Cleveland, OH 44114 216-589-0007

May 30, 2013 at 11:07 PM Leave a comment

Barroco Grill

We now have yet another reason to travel west for food. Barroco Grill. Wow, is this good food!

We’ve often talked about ethnic food in Cleveland, but most of the conversation has been geared toward Europe and even Asia, but more and more, food from south of America is being added to the conversation. The emergence of Barroco a few years ago is endemic of that exciting shift and we’re happy to partake in this culinary revolution!

Barroco, when first opened, announced themselves as Columbian street food. The arepas are labor intensive corn meal patties that are formed into a pocket and filled with an assortment of grilled ingredients. The menu offers an exciting collection of options. Chicken, pork, beef, chorizo and veggie are blended with mozzarella cheese, onions and other ingredients to create a delightful handful of flavor. A collection of “entrée” type dishes are also available. Virtually everything sound wonderful and selection was VERY tough.

Jeff ultimately decided to sample the Chorizo Arepas. The arepas was crisp on the outside soft to the bite and totally perfect. The spiced sausage was just spiky enough to invite the next bite. A squirt of one of the five sauces made the pocket an experience. The cabbage slaw was a nice respite between bites and the Black Bean soup was good, but certainly not what you would expect if a Cuban version is your benchmark. This was a soupier, more bean-centric variety, without the sausage. When sampling a new a new food that has not crossed your life path before, it can be a mind opening experience. This was in-fact that.

Michele, always a sucker for plantains, decided on the entrée Chicken Tostones. Plantain were pounded flat, deep fried and topped with grilled chicken, corn, peppers and mozzarella. It was a flavorful mound of goodness. A tasty flan (made off-site) capped a delightful afternoon.

Halfway through the meal we were talking about the next visit. This is always a good sign. We simply could not get enough of a good thing in one visit. We knew we would need to return again… and gain… and again!

A note about libations. This food would be PERFECT with beer, but they do not have a liquor license. Uncommon in Cleveland, but VERY typical elsewhere in the US, Barroco invites BYOB customers and a couple of knowledgeable customers arrived after us with a six-pack in hand. If you like a cool brew with your food, bring it along. The accommodating staff will be happy to help you enjoy their food. We will be back to Barroco soon. We’ll see you there! 12906 Madison Avenue Lakewood, OH 44107 216-221-8107

February 17, 2013 at 8:37 PM Leave a comment

Eating the Best of 2012

This was a great year to eat in Cleveland. Only a few places closed, most unmemorable. The best places remained and seamed to thrive and get better (see L’Albatros and Crop.) The reason we started this blog is because we are excited by Cleveland cooking and 2012 is the perfect example of that excellence.

We are convinced that Spice is the best new place to open in 2012. The attention to detail here is amazing, the raw material is fresh, the menu changes almost every time we have been there, so that adds to the excitement and somewhat importantly, the prices are more than fair. They could actually charge more and the value would still survive. We have been encouraging everyone we know to sample this place. We’re convinced, in a year, this is going to be the hottest restaurant in Cleveland.

Giving Spice a run for their money is late entry, Accent. While Spice has pared meals down to some very simple flawless preparations, Accent is a bit more complex. The interesting thing here is the cooking method. Generally, most of us don’t really care HOW the meal was prepared, as long as it is good. The unique high-heat cooking methodology creates some very exciting foods. The combination of Korean, Spanish and Central American ideas results in a menu that will require multiple trips to fully appreciate (and we’re just the couple to do that!) We think Accent has legs.

The West 25th Street food scene is another amazing highlight of 2012. This small stretch is jam-packed with culinary excitement. If you are attempting to dazzle out-of-towners with Cleveland, there can be no better place than Crop. The building is amazing, the food is remarkable, and the impact is unforgettable. Bar Cento, with its “senior status” on the street, remains a treat, even after Jonathan Sawyer left. Market Garden Brewery has become something of a go-to place for us. The reasonable prices invite you back often and the beer is very good and continually changes. SOHO consistently excites. The southern menu is fun and flavorful with a staff that matches. Orale! Contemporary Mexican may be the smallest restaurant on the street (if not Cleveland!) but it packs a wallop of flavor into the compact room. Boy do they offer some great salsa! The one “bad-apple” in the bunch was Dragonfly and it has thankfully been replaced by Black Pig, which still has some growing pains, but sold Jeff the best Pork Belly he’s had in years. We often decide to go to West 25th and on the way determine which restaurant. That is impactful.

Just as the only good Thai food restaurant in Cleveland closed on Coventry (replaced with a poor impression) salvation arrived on Payne Avenue with Map of Thailand. This is excellent, perfectly prepared and beautiful food, served by friendly, helpful folks. If you like Thai food, this is THE place in Cleveland for the very best.

When talking about best food, two things don’t often come up, the Westpark neighborhood of Cleveland and Donuts. All of the rules are out the window with Peace, Love and Little Donuts. Located on the corner of Rocky River Road and Lorain Road is a mod-era throwback serving excellent little donuts. If you gave up these circular treats when the last independent donut shop closed, try them again. This is good stuff…man!!

Another place that fills the cravings provided by a sweet tooth is Sweet Moses on Detroit in the Gordon Square area. The sweets are hand prepared, things you haven’t had in years are available (remember your last Chocolate Phosphate?) and the décor is 90’s (1890’s) wrought iron tables and wooden booths. Step inside and go back a few years.

If you miss the Grapevine wine store on Cedar-Fairmont, salvation has arrived on Lee Road with The Wine Spot. In the former Seitz-Agin Hardware store, a classy urbane space has been established and shelves are filled with a wide selection of wines from around the world. Owner, Adam Fleischer is a talented tour guide of the world of wine and can be an amazing resource to help you pick a bottle or case that matches your palette.

Indeed, 2012 has been a good year, but what is happening next year? Around the corner, smart cooks are planning interesting ideas for 2013. We might actually have a permanent restaurant in the diner cars on Lee Road. More storefronts will be filled in the emerging Uptown development. Some spots in Tremont are being repopulated by chefs with excellent credentials. We can’t wait for 2013! Detroit Avenue Cleveland, OH 44102 216-961-9637 Uptown Avenue (Euclid Avenue) Cleveland, OH 44106 216-721-8477 2537 W 25th Street Cleveland, OH 44113 216-696-CROP (2767) 1948 W 25th Street Cleveland, OH 44113 216-274-1010 1947 West 25th Street Cleveland, OH 441 216-621-4000 1889 W 25th Street Cleveland, OH 44113 216-298-9090 1834 West 25th Street Cleveland, OH 44113 216-862-3117 1865 W. 25th Street Cleveland, OH 44113 440-454-0300 Payne Avenue Cleveland, OH 44114 216-361-2220

Peace Love & Little Donuts – 3786 Rocky River Road Cleveland, OH 44111 216-862-9806 Detroit Avenue Cleveland, OH 44102 216-651-2202 Lee Road Cleveland Heights, OH 44118 216-342-3642

December 10, 2012 at 11:03 AM 2 comments

Tour de Bruell 2012

It is finished. We have completed our tour and have the tee shirts to prove it!

We are not strangers to the restaurants owned by Zack Bruell. We happily visit them through the year, so the annual Tour de Bruell just means an adjustment of our visits to coincide with the contest rules. Last year, it resulted in our becoming a finalist, enjoying a beautiful five-course meal at Table 45 and winning a third-place “behind the scene” experience in the kitchen of Table 45. You’ve got to love a place that treat return customers with this much regard.

After having returned to all five places in the last two months, we though it would be a good time to recap our thoughts on each place.

• Parallax – We still regard this place to be Chef Bruell’s benchmark. We have enjoyed every meal here and this trip was no different. A great atmosphere, knowledgeable staff and a perfect collection of eating options makes this a place, by which almost all other Cleveland eateries should be measured.

• L’Albatros – After a year or two, some restaurants start to get sloppy and the quality begins to diminish. Just the opposite has occurred here. It seems as though every visit results in better and better food, even when Jeff orders his favorite Pied de Cochon and Michele the Trout with Almond crust. L’Albatros is giving Parallax a run for its money.

• Chinato – It is always exciting to visit Chinato, because of the vibrancy of its downtown setting. A blink and you might think you were in Manhattan. Like L’Albatros, this food has maintained its high standard. This is hearty fare, best defined by the Beef Braised in Amarone over Creamy Polenta. Rich and exploding with flavor. One meal compels you to the next visit.

• Cowell & Hubbard – While still new, we have enjoyed each of our meals here. With a menu that has you planning your next visit, while ordering for the current, Cowell & Hubbard is on the precipice of greatness.

• Table 45 – We are just a wee bit worried about 45. We have had fabulous meals here, but we have also experienced more than one boo-boo. Way too much butter soaking the fish and an extreme amount of garlic on a delicate veal dish have drawn or concern. Regardless, this remains a favorite that we hope will find its assured footing.

So all is completed, except the waiting. Will we again be fortunate enough to be a finalist? We’ve got our fingers crossed and our tee shirts on. If you haven’t completed your tour, get moving! You know it’s worth the effort! 2179 West 11th Street Cleveland, OH 44113 216-583-1111 11401 Bellflower Road Cleveland, OH 44106 216-791-7880 9801 Carnegie Avenue Cleveland, OH 44106 216-707-4045 2079 East 4th Street Cleveland, OH 44115 216-298-9080 1307 Euclid Avenue Cleveland, OH 44115 216-479-0555

August 19, 2012 at 1:04 PM 1 comment

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