Friday, January 27, 2012

SOHO Only So-So

Time to select the winner of the two general admission tickets to the Great Big Home and Garden selected lucky #8...Dave from Live to Cook at Home! Congratulations, and I hope that you are looking forward to checking out the show. Email me to claim your prize, and please include your contact information and selected day of attendance. Your name will be held at the door on the day that you select, so go check out what's going on at the Expo. Thank you to all that entered, and to the Expo for providing passes to myself and one reader.

So, SOHO Kitchen & Bar has been on my "To Dine" list since first hearing about it last fall. The concept of Southern cuisine appealed to me, and I was a fan of the owner/chef Nolan Konkoski from his days at Tartine. We spend a lot of time in Ohio City, and I thought that this would be a great addition to West 25th Street. SOHO opened while I was recovering from surgery, so we only just had the chance to check them out last weekend.Aside from a very tiny entryway, I immediately liked the look and feel of the restaurant and bar area. Soft lighting, sleek wooden booths, and muted warm colors helped set the tone of our meal. I do have to note that it was very loud in the main dining area, and some adjustments could be made to help with this. Their cocktail list is inventive, and our friend dining with us enjoyed one of the concoctions- Savannah. She said it was "dangerous", as in you can hardly taste the alcohol and it was deliciously good. I stuck with wine, and "R" tried the Carpetbagger- SOHO signature ale.

We took our time ordering, and started with the Crawfish and Crab Fritters- spicy slaw, lemon, and green onion aioli ($9).I knew from other online reviews not to expect a traditional "fritter", and that the dish was really more of a crab cake. That is just what arrived. It did include sizable chunks of crawfish and crab, the slaw added a refreshing crunch, and the subtle heat of the sauces that were drizzled on the plate accented the flavors of the fritters. I wasn't blown away, but it was a good start to the meal. We also sampled our friend's Jalapeno Hush Puppies ($5.50). They were a little dense and dry, and didn't pack the punch of jalapeno that I was expecting, but the sauce that was served with it was light and refreshing.

For our main course, I ordered the Shrimp and Grits with poached prawns, Anson Miller grits, asparagus, peppers, and wild mushrooms ($17).I read some other reviews of this dish before dining at SOHO, and guests had enjoyed it so I wanted to try it. Unfortunately, I did not care for this preparation and left most of it behind. The shrimp were large and cooked well, which I appreciated. But the overall flavor of the dish was off for me, and I decided that it was the red pepper puree that was drizzled on top of it. It just did not work with the rest of the flavors of the dish, in my opinion, and it dominated the plate. Also, I couldn't help but compare it to the shrimp and grits at Washington Place Bistro, and WPB just blows theirs out of the water.

"R" ordered the Dixie Cheese Steak sandwich ($12) with brisket, collards, beer-cheese fondue, and hot sauce. Our friend had the Fried Green Tomato BLT. Both were served with the house-made BBQ chips, and on the same hearty roll. They each felt that the bread outweighed the proportion of sandwich contents, and that both sandwiches were a little underwhelming on flavor. We also ordered the Deviled Eggs ($5.50) to accompany our main courses.They were a fine deviled egg, but nothing special stood out to me in this preparation.

So, we left feeling a little disappointed in our first experience at SOHO. Certainly nothing was "bad", but some subtle tweaks could help take the quality and flavor of the dishes to the next level. However, the service was great. The server and hostess both paid attention to us, and were attentive and helpful. I asked a few questions about components of dishes, and they were always quick to answer and share. I also appreciate that each section of the menu is priced the same. So, if you order a Starter it is always $9, a Supper $17, and so on. They are still a very young restaurant, so I'm certain that they'll flush out any "bugs" and will continue to be a great addition to a booming Cleveland neighborhood.

SOHO Kitchen & Bar
1889 West 25th Street
Cleveland, OH 44113

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Good To Go Cafe

At this month's Dinner in the Dark, "R" and I met Anna from Good To Go Cafe. We have a mutual friend, and I had heard wonderful things about her small cafe in downtown I was excited to meet her in person (over cocktails after the event), and even more excited to dine with her the following day.

We already had plans to grab lunch in downtown Cleveland that day, so it was an easy switch to stop in Good To Go instead. I'm so glad that we did! She stuffed us to the gills, and I almost had to roll out of there. We couldn't resist one of the specials that day, Turkey Pineapple Chili.This was seriously one of the best chili dishes that I've ever had. The subtle balance of heat from the spices and sweet from the pineapple just played on our tongues, and I couldn't stop eating it. And I know chili, because my father makes one mean homemade chili. I finished the entire cup, even knowing that we had more food coming.

Next up was the real draw that brought us in that day...leftover Sweet Potato Gnocchi with Braised Duck Ragout from the event the night before. Anna had prepared the gnocchi, so she was serving up this hearty, flavorful dish the next day as a special. We lucked out- this dish was a crowd favorite at Dinner in the Dark.The cafe was easy to find, since we knew that it was located inside of the IMG building off of East 9th. It is just inside the lobby, and the cute chalkboard sign steers you in the right direction once you enter. We dined in, and watched as Anna greeted all of her customers as if they were family. She wished each of them a "5 Star Day", and honestly I left there feeling like I was going to have one after enjoying our lunch so much.

Long story short, Anna is offering delicious, and easy grab-and-go, breakfast and lunch options. You'll find an assortment of fresh salads, wraps, sandwiches, soups, treats, specials and more for lunch. Follow her on Twitter (@good2gocafe) for specials and a 20% off code each day. The code of the day was BiteBuff that day- isn't she sweet! You can also pre-order online for a quick pick up.

Go check it out, and tell Anna that I sent you!

Good To Go Cafe
IMG Center Lobby
1390 East 9th Street, #300
Cleveland, OH 44114
216- 623-7220

Good To Go on Urbanspoon

Monday, January 23, 2012

Great Big Home and Garden Expo Giveaway

Two blog posts in one day. I told you that 2012 was going to be great! Speaking of great...

The Great Big Home and Garden Expo approached me about hosting a ticket giveaway for two general admission tickets to one reader for the day of their choice. The third annual expo runs from Saturday, February 4th - Sunday, February 12th at the IX Center. More than 650 exhibitors will be in attendance, showcasing their techniques in cooking, gardening, home improvement and more.

Obviously, followers of this blog are interested in food. Well, they have some great demonstrations scheduled:
- "AMP 150 Favorites" with Jeff Jarret of AMP 150
- "Italian Comfort Food" with Loretta Paganini of Sapore
- "Best of Sergio's and Sarava" with Sergio Abramof

- "Death by Chocolate" with Stefanie Paganini of the International Culinary Arts and Sciences Institute
- "Best of Umami" with Matthew Anderson
- "Easy, Elegant and Entertaining Eats" with Rocco Whalen of Fahrenheit

A couple of my favorite chefs are listed there, so my interest was peaked. Also, "R" and I have constantly been involved with home improvement projects since I moved in four years ago. Can you say "bachelor pad"? We've come a long way, but there is always more that I want to do.

I can't wait to check out the expo for the first time, and you should too! One lucky reader will for free, so just leave me a comment on this post telling me which culinary-related demo you'd be most interested in. I'll select a winner, using, on Friday, January 27th. You can also receive a second entry for tweeting "I want to attend the Great Big Home and Garden Expo for free, courtesy of @BiteBuff at" Make sure that you leave a second comment on this post for any tweets sent.

Lastly, all readers can receive a $1 discount by purchasing your tickets online and entering the promo code "BITEBUFF" at check out. You automatically get a $3 discount for ordering online, but this gives you an additional $1 off your general admission ticket- a savings of $4.

Good luck, and I hope to see you there!

What home improvement projects have you tackled in your house?

Disclosure: I was provided with two general admission tickets for myself and two general admission tickets for one reader in exchange for this post. The opinions stated are 100% my own.

Thank You!

Thank you for all of your kind words through blog comments, tweets, and Facebook posts about the new blog design. I'm happy with it, and I think the change came at just the right time.

Also, I appreciate all of your suggestions for finding tacos in the area. I've got my work cut out for me! Keep the ideas coming throughout the year- I'm on a taco hunt.

On to the winner of the restaurant gift certificate giveaway... selected...Renee from @BQRC23! Congratulations, you've won three $25 gift certificates to local, independently-owned restaurants. Email me your contact information to claim your prize, and I'll drop them in the mail. Enjoy your free eats!

Stay tuned for some new posts this week, including my discovery of Good To Go Cafe in the IMG building downtown. Delicious breakfast and lunch spot with really creative food!

Thursday, January 19, 2012

A New Year, A New Design

Well, it's a new year...and it was time for a new blog design. It was on my "blog bucket list" for Year Three, and after asking around I ended up using Ashley from Little Leaf Design (who has been very popular lately with the Cleveland bloggers). So...TA DA!

With the new design comes new blog features as well.

1. "About" page, which shares a little bit more of my story and how I landed in our wonderful city
2. Blogroll has moved to its own page (check out some of my favorite Cleveland blogs- only local love here)
3. You can now search by neighborhood/city in the Restaurant Reviews list
4. Touch Supper Club has challenged me to review the taco scene in the Cleveland area, so I'm starting a "Taco Tuesday" ongoing series (which will also be available in the Restaurant Reviews list)
5. Lastly, I'll be launching another new series called "Dining Deals"- meals under $10 (you'll be able to find the posts in the Restaurant Reviews list too)

It's going to be a good blog year, and I'm excited to have a fresh new design to kick it off. Actually, I'm so excited that I want to offer a delicious giveaway to one lucky reader...

- $25 gift certificate to Pearl of the Orient
- $25 gift certificate to Americano
- $25 gift certificate to Creekside Restaurant & Bar

Just leave me a comment on this post telling me your favorite restaurant/bar in the area that offers TACOS. I've got to get on this mission! You can receive a second entry by tweeting "@BiteBuff has a new blog design and is giving away restaurant gift certificates at ". Make sure that you leave a second comment to let me know that you tweeted. I'll select a winner on Monday using

It's going to be a fun year for the blog. I hope that you continue to enjoy my adventures in dining, and give me a shout if you want to join me on an excursion! Thanks for everything.

- Katrina

Monday, January 16, 2012

Souper Market Hits the Spot

Well, the snow and cold have officially settled into Northeast Ohio. That leaves me craving one thing...soup. Soup has this magical power to warm you from the inside out, which very few foods can do.

I grew up with fantastic homemade soups crafted by my father. He is what I like to call a "kitchen sink cook", where he opens the refrigerator and throws in whatever he can find. Soups, lasagnas, you name it...and while each are unique and some better than others, it always comes out well.

So canned soups can rarely "do" it for me, but a great bowl of soup from a good restaurant can really hit the spot during the winter months. One of my favorite local spots is Souper Market. Every winter, I rediscover their soups.

"R" and I were out doing errands the other day, and we stopped in to grab our first soups of the season to take home for lunch. They offer a wide variety of fresh soups, a few "greens" (salads), and hunks of crusty bread to soak up your meal. They have three locations: Ohio City, Carnegie Avenue, and Lakewood. I've only been to the Ohio City location- it is a tiny place with just a counter to eat at, so I think most patrons take their soup to go.

Here is a shot of the chalkboard menu:...and there are always specials of the week offered.Last visit, I ordered the Lobster Bisque. While not as good as some other lobster bisque that I've had locally, it is a solid option that I always enjoy. If you haven't been before, I suggest checking them out. It is the perfect time of year for soup!

What's your favorite soup?

Souper Market
2528 Lorain Avenue
Cleveland, OH 44113

14809 Detroit Avenue
Lakewood, OH 44107

7501 Carnegie Avenue
Cleveland, OH 44103

Souper Market on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Seared Opens in Brecksville

The last restaurant that I went to before my surgery was the newly opened Seared in Brecksville. They took over the former Spanish Tavern location, and have transformed the space with dark woods, brick-red wall color, exposed beams, and soft lighting. We were seated in the dining room, and one thing that immediately caught my eye was the single table privately located by the wine rack in the back. It could be a great setting for a special meal.We settled into our table, and started to look at the menu. Several items sounded tempting, which is usually a good sign. Our group decided to start with an order of a dozen Blue Point Oysters Rockefeller- baked oysters, herb and bacon crumbs, hollandaise creamy watercress, and spinach ($13). There was nothing special about this preparation or presentation, but it was a fine start to the meal.

I had a hard time selecting an entree, but finally decided on the Filet Gorgonzola- gorgonzola cheese, compound butter grilled asparagus, and honey dijon redskins ($23 for 7 oz. steak). The steak was prepared at medium rare, as requested, but could have used a touch more seasoning to really shine. It was a nice cut of meat, and I was looking forward to it. The gorgonzola did not have quite the bite that I was hoping for, so overall it was only satisfactory in flavor. However, the sides were prepared well and I enjoyed the redskin potato wedges. Their hint of mustard was a nice punch of flavor on an otherwise bland plate.

"R" had the Crab Stuffed Jumbo Shrimp- jumbo shrimp, lump blue crab, basil cream sauce, and asparagus risotto ($22). This dish was also on my short list, so I was happy when he ordered it- I wanted to steal a bite! Unfortunately, the dish also disappointed. The shrimp were still securely in the shell, and were very difficult to gracefully eat. You just had to dig in with your fingers, and this wasn't a restaurant setting where you felt comfortable doing so. Despite the hard work to eat, the dish was fairly bland as well. The risotto was watery with very little flavor, and the stuffed shrimp were only so-so, in our opinion. Noteworthy- bread (and salad) is not offered with dinner but is available for a charge.

Lastly, our server was very soft-spoken and hard to hear when interacting with her. She was absent when a second round of drinks was needed, and it took a very long time to clear our used plates after we finished our meal. It also didn't help my overall impression that there was a severe draft wafting under our table. We were seated in the middle of the dining room, not near a door or noticeable vent. It chilled me to the bones, and I do not typically get cold.

However, they are newly opened and I would give this restaurant a second try. They are offering a variety of special nights to drawn people in, including Martini Madness Monday ($5 martinis), Half-price Wine Night on Tuesdays, Build Your Own Burger Sundays, Raw Bar open Thursday-Saturday, Brunch, and other specials. When we visited (late October), that following Sunday was going to be their first brunch. Again, I liked the overall atmosphere of the main dining room and expansive, separate bar area. The menu had several items that sounded worthy of ordering. I'm a sucker for seafood and steaks. So I will be visiting them a second time, but won't be back if it doesn't impress. The prices are high for the quality we received, and I hope that they are continuing to work out any kinks of being newly opened.

8188 Brecksville Road
Brecksville, OH 44141

Seared on Urbanspoon

Monday, January 9, 2012

Tickets Winner and Good Greens

It's time to pick a winner for the Near West Theatre benefit tickets.....drum roll please. selected: Amanda from Clue Into Cleveland! Congrats, and I look forward to seeing you there. Email me your mailing address and phone number, and I'll get you taken care of. Thank you to everyone that entered! It's not too late to purchase tickets to enjoy an evening of the arts, and delicious food from Spice Bar + Kitchen, to support a very worthy organization in our community.

Now, on to the post for the day. I have been a bad blogger since my surgery (understandable). Over a month ago, Good Greens Bars (out of Shaker Heights) contacted me about reviewing their product for the blog. Normally, I wouldn't review a product such as theirs. But the fact that they are local, and contain 100% of our daily fruits and vegetables requirements, intrigued me.

The company generously sent me a box of complimentary bars, including their Wildberry, Chocolate Peanut Butter, and Chocolate Coconut flavors.Over the next two weeks, "R" and I sampled each flavor. They were tasty, slightly soft and chewy, and certainly didn't make us realize that we were eating all of these great things for us. They tasted almost like candy bars, but were helping us get 12 grams of non-GMO soy protein, 5 grams of fiber, 40 antioxidants, and 3 probiotics. The Chocolate Coconut was my favorite- reminding me of a flat Mounds bar, and the Wildberry was "R's" pick.

Their secret is the Z52 Super Powder, which give the bars 52 superfoods and all of its nutrients. The bars are also low glycemic, vegan and gluten-free. They use all natural ingredients, proven to boost your energy, lower cholesterol, improve digestion, strengthen your immunity, and help increase brain power. All this packed into a yummy bar? Sign me up.

You can find them at Heinen's, Marc's, Mustard Seed Market, Dave's, Anderson's Market, GNC and Krieger's. I suggest checking them out. They made a great grab-and-go snack.

Disclosure: I received the above pictured bars to sample and review in exchange for this post. The opinions stated are 100% my own. Thank you to Good Greens for the opportunity to share their product.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Win Tickets to Near West Theatre's Benefit

It's still hard to believe that it is January...2012...a new year. Where does the time go? The blog will turn 4 in just a few short months. I can't even begin to count all of the wonderful things that blogging has brought to my life, and I have a feeling that this year will be even better. But two things that it has brought me were both mashed together last Friday night as I attended Alexa and Lisa's New Year's Eve Eve HollaDays party at, the not even open yet, Spice Bar + Kitchen in the Gordon Square Arts district. First, some fabulous friends that I never would have met if it weren't for social media, and secondly, a heightened awareness of the happenings in Cleveland. Not only did I get to enjoy a night out with a great group of people, but I was also able to check out Spice's new space before it's even open to the public. Let me just say...we're in for another fantastic dining hot spot in Cleveland. The space is looking gorgeous with exposed brick, muted colors, warm woods, and just enough of an "industrial" feel to leave me wanting more. I also received a sneak peek at their first menu recently, and it seems well-balanced and focused, while maintaining their commitment to staying local and seasonal.

So, all this chattering about Spice Bar + Kitchen is really leading me to today's post. They have partnered with Euro USA to provide the food for Near West Theatre's Annual Benefit on Saturday, January 28th. This is only 18 short days after Spice's expected opening, so it's a great chance to check them out while supporting a worthy local organization.
"Consider Yourself One of Us!" will provide a night of performances by Near West cast members, food and drink, desserts provided by Gypsy Bean & Baking Co., dancing and a live DJ, and a fantastic silent auction and raffle. Tickets are $85 (or a 10-pack for $800), and you can purchase them by calling 216-961-6391 or at It is being held from 6-9:30PM at Trinity Cathedral in Downtown Cleveland.

Or, you can win two tickets here! I have generously been provided two tickets for myself, and two tickets to give away to one lucky reader. Come join me for a night of enjoying the arts, and checking out Spice Bar + Kitchen. The after-party is being hosted in their new space on Detroit Avenue, with cash bar/food and live music from The Luckey Ones. Simply leave a comment on this post expressing your interest in winning, and I will drawn a winner this Monday using You can also receive a second entry for tweeting "I want to win tickets to the Near West Theatre benefit from @BiteBuff at". Make sure that you leave a second comment on this post if you tweet. So come enjoy an evening with Near West, myself, and Spice Bar + Kitchen. Good luck!

Disclosure: Near West Theatre provided me with two complimentary tickets to the benefit, and two tickets to give away to one reader in exchange for this post. However, I fully support this local organization and the opinions stated are 100% my own.

Sunday, January 1, 2012

2012- The "Year of Fun"

My wish for 2012 is simple...Health and Happiness. This may sound broad, but all of my smaller goals fit into these two categories. Both are things that I did not have very much of in 2011. So, I have officially dubbed this year as the "Year of Fun", and my wish is to get past this health issue that I've been battling and to introduce more happiness into my life. I have an amazing family, boyfriend, friends, and city that I live I have a feeling that achieving the "Year of Fun" will be pretty easy.

2012 is also bringing a lot of great, new things to the blog. I am *this* close to unveiling the new blog design, and with it is going to come several new features that I think you'll enjoy. That's all I'm saying for now...

As usual, the new year also brings a new Top 10 "To Dine" list as my New Year's resolution (click to see 2010 and 2011 lists). This year, I had you submit the restaurant suggestions. I was looking for places that, simply put, are wonderful spots to dine at but yet don't get the wide-spread recognition that they should. You all sent in some great choices, and it was hard to narrow it down to just 10. By the way, you love your Italian food! is my final 2012 Top 10 list.

2012 "To Dine" Challenge:Stonehouse Grill
Lure Bistro & Sushi Bar
The Fairview Tavern
Beach Club Bistro
Bistro 185
Sullivan's Irish Pub & Restaurant
Tree Country Bistro
Sun Luck Garden Restaurant
Bruno's Ristorante & Catering

Each year, I challenge myself to dine at 10 specific restaurants and I'm really looking forward to the 2012 list. Of course, I also have a few spots in mind that didn't make the list, such as: Ginko, Crop, Pura Vida, SOHO, Fountain, and Hodge's. 2012 is already shaping up to be a great year for dining, blogging, and fun!

Thank you again to everyone that submitted restaurant suggestions. I think the end result is just what I was looking for. Cheers to 2012 and the "Year of Fun", and I hope that this year brings you everything that you wish for. Thank you for continuing to stick with me, and I think you'll love what 2012 is bringing to the blog.

Happy New Year!