Wednesday, October 30, 2019

Columbus Eats: Service Bar

A recent work trip took me to Columbus, so Mr. H traveled with me to make it a fun overnight getaway. We decided on dinner at Service Bar in Middle West Spirits.
Known for their craft cocktails...
...and small plates intended for sharing, it was right up our alley.

We started with the Lamb Dumplings ($16) with Tianjin Chili Oil, Crushed Garlic, and Ginger Soy.
Crispy Ribs ($18) with Pickled Broccoli Stem, Fried Florets, Commander Tso’s, Lotus, and Radish.
Then we also shared two of their slightly larger dishes, both from the Secret Kitchen Menu (find on Instagram) that changes daily. The first included a foie gras sausage on a heavenly bun.
Our favorite dish was apparently a crowd-favorite as well, the Cheesy Brisket Crunches. These tacos with house-made tortilla shells were phenomenal.
The food was so darn good, and the d├ęcor is stunning. Copper tabletops, bronze lighting fixtures, vintage tile, and a speakeasy feel to it. My only complaint was that the dishes weren't paced well and it all arrived too quickly. Highly recommend if you're in the Columbus area. 

1230 Courtland Avenue
Columbus, OH 43201
(614) 947-1231

Monday, October 28, 2019

Weekend Bites

Since I worked from home on Friday, I'm going to call Thursday as the official start to our weekend. We kicked it off with a special experience of attending Market After Dark to benefit the Hunger Network of Greater Cleveland. As soon as Mr. H and I saw tickets being promoted, we knew we had to scoop up two. You wandered through the historic West Side Market, sampling food and beverage from participating vendors.
Being there after-hours always feels special, and we ran into several foodie friends along the way.
Some of my favorite bites of the night came from MELT Bar + Grilled, The Burnham, and Momocho. Mr. H's favorite came from Kate's Fish and The Plum. There was a nice variety, plenty of it, and good quality for a first-time event and affordable price tag of $65.
What was special about this event other than the setting was that all of the participating restaurants were teamed up with Market vendors to provide some of the product used in each dish. Signage outlined the sourcing, and it was nice to see. 

Friday brought my monthly Ladies Happy Hour in the neighborhood, which I truly look forward to. It's low-key, close by, and I've enjoyed connecting with other females in the neighborhood. This is exactly what we were looking for, the sense of community and pride, when we decided to stay and settle in Old Brooklyn

On Saturday, we headed to our friends' annual Halloween party. While our costumes were nothing creative this year, we had some fun with our "dish to pass" as you can see. 
Who doesn't love a good cannibalism joke? And the kids (and adults) loved the pretzel dogs and gummi burgers. 
Sunday was the perfect amount of relaxing, being productive, and food prep for the week at home. 

Fall is my favorite time of year, and I'm soaking it all in! How was your last October weekend?

Wednesday, October 16, 2019

Joe's Deli

Inspired to turn a negative 2019 To Dine Challenge experience around, Mr. H and I decided to hit another restaurant on the list the very next day. We had some errands to run in Rocky River, so a late lunch at Joe's Deli and Restaurant was a perfect fix!

We thought by heading there at an "off" lunch time of 2PM would cut down on a wait time, but wow the line was still out the door and we weren't seated until close to 3PM. The place is so huge compared to what I had pictured in my head, and they were pumping diners out pretty quickly (on top of steady takeout). But that kitchen looked like a well-oiled machine, and it gave us time to drool over the dessert counter (cakes from Cake Royale in our neighborhood, which ROCK!).

Once we were settled into a booth and looking at the menu, I knew I had to get the famous Matzo Ball Soup (cup- $4.50, bowl- $5.95). I won't pretend to be a connoisseur, but many locals claim this is the best version around.
I also knew I needed to order the side of Onion Rings ($5.95). Thanks for the tip, Lisa Zone!
7 of these huge hand-battered babies arrived. We were only able to eat half. They should come with a warning, haha. 
The real star of the meal, however, turned out to be the Shish Tawook ($12.95) with marinated chicken tenderloins served in a pita with fries and garlic mayonnaise. You can request it panini-pressed, as Mr. H did, and I highly recommend. I could bathe in that delicious garlic mayo.
The restaurant was a winner. This Lebanese spot will get a slot on our rotation. There's plenty of more menu items to tackle!

Joe's Deli and Restaurant
19215 Hilliard Blvd.
Rocky River, OH 44116
(440) 333-7890

Monday, October 14, 2019

Kavana Social Kitchen

With the end of the year looming, there's some pressure on to finish up my 2019 To Dine Challenge list of restaurants. So, Mr. H and I headed to Kavana Social Kitchen in North Royalton on Friday.
Owned by two sisters, the restaurant is colorful, lively, and intended for you to settle in for a shareable meal over craft cocktails, wine and beer, and often live music. There's a patio out front and a deck off the back, with a dining room and then a separate room for the bar and slightly more casual seating too. But overall, it's an approachable spot for all ages.

With an expansive menu of small plates (and a few handhelds and larger dishes), you should be able to find something for every diner. My Cleveland Peach cocktail was quite enjoyable.
But, sometimes when a menu is too big that translates to the kitchen not really doing any dishes "well" in my opinion. Sadly, I think that's the case here.

The menu recomends 2-3 dishes per person. Many of the descriptions sounded great and the website boasts that local and seasonal ingredients are featured. I didn't see that one bit.

We started with the Spicy Crab Dip ($13) with Crab Meat, Red Pepper Flake, Asiago Cheese, and Toasted Naan. There was a pool of oil that was not appetizing to look at and the crab dip was a dull brown in color. The flavor was fine and the mini naan was fantastic (same used at Polpetta). Not a bad start, but underwelming. 
A dish that had immediately caught my eye was the Ahi Tuna Nachos ($12) with Sushi-grade Saku Block Ahi Tuna, Black & White Sesame Seeds, House Made Tortilla, Avocado Pulp, Hot & Sweet Pepper Relish, and Sriracha Hot Sauce. The house-made tortilla chips were done well, and overall it had good flavor. But the dish would eat much better if the tuna was diced and there was more of it per chip. You ended up eating a lot of bites of just chip. This probably was the best dish we had.
Then the meal took a nosedive. There were a few chicken wing options on the menu, and the Chipotle Lime Wings ($8) with Jumbo Wings, a Chipotle Dry Rub and Kiwi BBQ Drizzle with Corn Salsa stood out to me. Um...does that look like a "corn salsa" to you? Looks like canned corn, and it was so strange paired with wings and a mushy gross texture to boot. The "rub" was also flavorless and the sauce was more minimal than the picture below looks. These were probably the worst wings I've had in a long time, maybe ever.
Mr. H had really wanted to share the Grouper Bites ($14) with Tempura Battered Fresh Grouper, Sweet Chili Redux, Key Lime Aioli, Arugula Cabbage Slaw, and a Lime Wedge. Now, the flavor really mimicked General Tso's chicken and we both liked it. But that's where the good qualities stopped. The fish was complete mush, the salad was almost all bland cabbage and difficult to eat a bite on your fork, and where oh where is the key lime aioli promised? On the cabbage and greens? Didn't taste like it.
Mr. H also selected an order of their House Made Tots with Truffle Aioli ($5.50) to round out the meal. They were very large, almost closer to thick potato pancakes than tots. And we only had two left before the kitchen realized they never sent out the aioli. Those last two were infinitely better with it, but that just made me even more disappointed.
Now let's talk about service. The five dishes arrived almost rapid-fire. I get it that "small plate" restaurants often fire dishes and the order in which they arrive varies. But it still helps to course it out a bit and not fire everything at once when the dishes don't take that long to prepare. It's no fun feeling rushed and you don't enjoy the food as much when plates are piling up around you. Also, almost every food runner that came out to the deck delivered dishes to the wrong table. Almost every.single.time. It became quite comical, really. 

This restaurant left nothing to desire, and unless they trim their menu and perfect what's left, I don't see the quality changing. Which stinks, because there aren't a lot of restaurant option in the area, and this could be a real gem. The right elements are there, but we certainly won't be driving back from Cleveland for it. 

13570 Ridge Road
North Royalton, Ohio, OH 44133
(440) 628-8889

Friday, September 27, 2019

Cowboy Food and Drink Turns 15 and Gives Back

Cowboy Food and Drink in Chagrin Falls is celebrating their 15th anniversary, and in a big way. Each Sunday in September, they partnered with a local charity and a portion of all sales that day is being donated to the cause. This Sunday is the last one, and your meal can support United Way.
Now I had never heard of Cowboy Food and Drink before they contacted me to help promote the charity partnership, but Mr. H had! They've changed over the years and are no longer a honky-tonk bar with a mechanical bull. But the BBQ is still banging and Chef Stephen is putting out some pretty darn good Tex-Mex and American food from their kitchen and 500-pound Southern Pride Smoker.
Lucky for us, summer weather is still hanging on in Cleveland, so we settled in on the outdoor patio.
First to come out was a half-portion of the Potato Skins ($8) with jack, cheddar, bacon, scallions, and sour cream, but you can add BBQ pulled pork for $4. I haven't had skins with BBQ sauce or pulled pork before, but it totally worked.
Next up was an order of their Smokehouse Wings with Spicy Garlic sauce (17 types available). Served with their housemade Ranch, these wing were a real standout of the meal and Mr. H deemed them worth the drive alone.
The Chopped Cobb ($12) with smoked chicken, avocado, egg, tomatoes,  bleu cheese, and bacon didn't have very much lettuce and was forgettable.
But I wasn't there for a salad, I wanted BBQ! Next up was the BBQ Trio ($26) with brisket, smoked turkey, and pulled pork. The brisket immediately fell into our top three items of the meal, but that housemade sweet BBQ sauce was so good that I would have eaten any meat with it on it.
All good BBQ has to offer the classic sides, and this spot is no different. Leave the coleslaw behind, but the Mac + Cheese was everything you want this side to be and the BBQ Beans with brisket were also good.
Not pictured were the final meats, a House Recipe Smoked Sausage (two thumbs up), Smoked Half Chicken, and Baby Back Ribs. The ribs rocketed to my top dish of the evening, with incredible bark and the meat cooked just right. Chef Stephen even let us in on a few trade secrets. Honestly, our conversations with him were some of the best parts of the experience.

I love people with such a passion for their craft, and food always reflects that love and passion. This was really good BBQ, in my opinion. Plus, they have such a charitable environment at the restaurant that gives back year-round. But get in there this last Sunday to make the biggest impact.

8586 E Washington Street
Chagrin Falls, OH 44023
(440) 708-1011

Disclosure: All food was provided complimentary for me and a guest in exchange for help promoting their anniversary charity partnership. All opinions stated are 100% my own.