Friday, July 30, 2010

Tartine Triumph

I...finally...made it to...Tartine! For those of you that follow me on Twitter, you know that I tweeted several months ago that "R" and I were on our way to Tartine Bistro in Rocky River for the first time. With a gift certificate in hand that expired that day (oops), we arrived and quickly found out that they were closed for a private wine dinner. Which apparently happens a lot- beware. It happened to be the owner who greeted us at the door, and he graciously assured us that he didn't care if the gift certificate had expired if we came back at a later date. I was immediately impressed. Well, I successfully made my way there last night for dinner and drinks with two fabulous blends (that's blog friends, right Allison?).

Both had been there before, so I didn't have to spend too much time navigating the menu. Suzanne and I decided to share the Roasted Dates- bacon, goat cheese, and port wine syrup. Bacon-hello! Goat cheese- yes, please! These little nuggets were the perfect size to just pop in your mouth, and the blend of flavors and texture were spot on. I knew that I was in for a good meal.

Then I moved on to the Roasted Beets salad- braised pistachios, goat cheese, and honey vinaigrette. I happen to love beets and "R" does not, so when I see a beet salad on the menu when dining out- I am inevitably drawn to it. Mix in a combination of some of my favorites, like pistachios and goat cheese, and I'm sold. The surprising twist is that this dish was actually a salad- lettuce and all. Which I was not expecting. The vinaigrette was light and tangy, and really let the two different types of beets shine. Based on Suzanne's and our server's suggestion, I ordered the Duck Confit tartine (pictured above)- creamy brie, fig & roasted shallot preserves, and cracked pepper for my main course. This open-faced sandwich is served on thinly sliced and toasted baguette and topped with rich duck meat, melted brie, and a smear of the preserves underneath. The dish is rich, but it is expertly served with a side of greens lightly sauced with a vinaigrette. It was a perfect combination, and I was able to take a few bites of the tartine and then cleanse my palate with the greens before digging back in. I really thought that this dish was excellent, and I would order it again in a heartbeat. With half of the appetizer, a salad, entree, and three glasses of the House White on my bill, I thought it was very reasonably priced. With tax and tip, it only ran me $52 for a great meal.

We were seated on the small-ish patio outside the restaurant. However, the front of the restaurant is actually a series of doors and on a nice evening (like last night) they are all open- allowing the staff and guests to move freely between. It was nice to be able to be seated outside on a gorgeous night, but still be able to enjoy the atmosphere of the main dining room. I had a great view of the dark wood accents, tin ceiling, soft lighting, exposed brick and wine bottles galore. There seemed to be a great mix of guests dining there- young, old, casual, classic, business attire, and lots of tables filled with women gabbing over glasses of wine.

I can finally cross Tartine off the list of 10 New Restaurants to Try for my 2010 New Year's Resolution. Now I just need to get "R" over there- he'll love it!

Tartine Bistro
19110 Detroit Road
Rocky River, OH 44116
(440) 331-0800

Tartine Bistro on Urbanspoon

Monday, July 26, 2010

Whitey's- The Infamous Richfield Burger

"R" grew up in Richfield, and he has been jabbering on about Whitey's Booze N' Burgers since I met him three years ago. Serving customers since 1953, they are known for their burgers, chili (and a burger with chili), fresh-cut french fries, and other bar fare. For two years, we have been creating situations in our head where we would be near Richfield and could stop in so that I could finally try one of these well-loved burgers- but it never seemed to happen. We even pulled into the parking lot one time to find them closed for the evening.

Last week, Tom over at Exploring Food My Way posted a review of Whitey's, and it helped remind me that "R" and I needed to fulfill our quest. The opportunity presented itself last night when we needed to make a quick stop at a friend's house in Richfield. We then headed over to the restaurant and pulled into a packed parking lot. The volleyball court was in full use, and a line of people were waiting to be seated. So we saddled up to the bar after our eyes adjusted to the dim lighting. Tom wasn't kidding about the low lighting in this place. Once I stepped inside the front door, I actually had to stop and let "R" lead the way to the hostess station because I could not see a darn thing. It is hands-down the darkest bar that I have ever been in, so that meant no pictures of the food!

We started with an order of their Wings, which were on special for 35 cents a wing that night. Each order includes two dipping sauces. Since the battered and fried wings come undressed, you can choose from ranch, blue cheese, BBQ, hot, teriyaki or honey mustard. Wanting the traditional flavors of good hot wings- we opted for the hot sauce and blue cheese dressing as our two selections. The wings arrived quickly, and they were still steaming so we knew that they were fresh out of the fryer. Being served "un-sauced" and battered in a coating similar to that of onion rings, the wings were certainly different than your average bar wings. We really enjoyed them, but my one complaint is that they were relatively tiny. I would have preferred that they have a little more meat on them.

Next up were the burgers. "R" chose the Czar- swiss cheeseburger smothered with mushrooms, grilled onions, and blue cheese dressing. I decided to try the Maggie (named after the original owner's wife)- cheeseburger overloaded with mushrooms and grilled onions. Instead of American cheese, I asked for crumbled blue instead. I have to admit, when the plates arrived I was a little turned off. Apparently any burger that includes mushrooms arrives with a heaping pile of sauteed mushrooms on your burger, and then they fill the rest of the plate with mushrooms. The entire plate was swimming in mushrooms, including covering up the large pickle spear. This caused the poor pickle to wilt and become warm mush when I bit into it. The mushrooms weren't even good mushrooms. They appeared to be the oily kind out of a can. It's sad to say, but my entire opinion of this burger became tainted by the overwhelming display of mushrooms. In the end, it was a good burger- but not great. The meat by itself had very little flavor and lacked some basic seasoning. The bun held up well, and any bite that included all of the components was tasty and juicy. They certainly do know how to cook a burger as specified. My medium burger arrived hot with a slightly pink center, and the medium rare burger that "R" ordered was served as requested. Cooking a burger perfectly is no small feat, and it did not go unnoticed.

We happened to be seated next to the area where all bar food arrives from the kitchen, so we got a good look at several of the menu items coming out. I may not be running back to Whitey's for a burger, but I do think we'll be back to try some of their other items! It's a great hometown bar with a clear following of regular fans. If it was a little bit closer to home we'd probably be caught there more often. If you're ever in the area, it is certainly worth stopping in. A dozen wings, two heaping burgers, two tall beers and one short beer ran us just over $30- a steal. Heck, even if you're not in the area some think it's worth the drive. One customer last night thought so- he had driven all the way from Cleveland Heights just for a burger and a beer! I won't award them "best burger", but it was certainly good and Whitey's is a fun experience. Just cross your fingers that the woman at the bar who wouldn't stop talking to the bartender about her outbreak of poison ivy isn't there when you dine. I could have done without being forced to overhear that conversation while I was eating.

Whitey's Booze N' Burgers
3600 Brecksville Road
Richfield, Ohio 44286

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Boardwalk Cafe

An undiscovered breakfast and lunch joint in Cleveland is called Andrea's Boardwalk Cafe on North Marginal Road. With Lake Erie literally outside their doorstep, easy access from I-90, friendly and quick service, close proximity to downtown, and above-average food- they should be more popular than I think they are.

I haven't had the opportunity to try any of their breakfast items, but if the quality of the lunch options is any indication- then I'm sure the morning fare is quite good.

My favorite sandwich is the home-made chicken salad. Your bread options include multi-grain, sourdough, and rye- all fresh, thick cut, and hearty. The multi-grain is my personal preference. Each sandwich is lightly grilled before being served, which is a nice touch. Diners can also decide between wraps, salads (huge, varied, and fresh), house-made soups, and a variety of side dishes and sweet treats. Each sandwich comes with a pickle and kettle chips, but you can easily substitute potato salad or coleslaw for the chips. I myself do not like kettle chips (key the boos and hisses), so I go for the coleslaw. I will warn you that the slaw does have a slight "fishy" flavor to it, so it is an acquired taste. Not the best that I've had, ok not even close. A sandwich, side dish, and large drink will run you about $8- a very fair price for the amount of food that you receive and the quality of their ingredients.

The food is always fresh and tasty, but the atmosphere is what really makes this place a great spot. The inside (pictured above) is cozy and inviting with small tables, comfortable leather couches and chairs, a roaring fireplace during the cold months, and windows that look out on to Lake Erie. During the spring and summer, diners have the option of eating outside on the small patio that runs along the side of the building. Immediately to your left is open water, and you can enjoy watching the lake and listening to the waves lapping against the pier as you dine. It is a great escape from the workday!

Andrea's Boardwalk Cafe
5455 N. Marginal Road
Cleveland, OH 44114
(216) 432-9730

*photo courtesy of Fox 8

Andrea's Boardwalk Cafe on Urbanspoon

Monday, July 19, 2010

Taste Recap

Yesterday marked the 8th Annual Taste of Tremont street festival. Chef Rocco Whalen from Fahrenheit announced on Facebook that approximately 24,000 people pass through the festival each year. Judging by the crowd, I'd say that it was another successful year. Plus we all earned a Swarm Badge on Four Square! Even though cars lined the streets of Tremont and stretched far beyond the sectioned-off area of Professor Street, I personally don't think that the food lines were bad and walking through the festival didn't feel as overwhelming and crowded as it sounds. Having the festival stretch between the hours of noon until 8PM really allows people to come and go in waves. Smart planning! Now on to the food.

"R" and I brought our appetites, and we strategically shared everything so that we could sample more dishes. We stuck with some of our long-time favorites, avoided a few tents, and tried some new restaurants. Here is a list of what we ate to give you an idea of the wide variety of dishes offered:

Tremont Tap House- Chorizo Tacos
806 Wine Bar- Beef Tenderloin Slider with Horseradish Mayo
806 Wine Bar- Cheese and Crab Dip with Crackers
Bistro on Lincoln Park- Lamb Sliders
Lolita- Mac & Cheese
Fahrenheit- Loaded Bacon Nachos
Dante- Home-made Chocolate Ice Cream
Tremont Scoops- Cookie Ice Cream Sandwich

Our bellies did not allow us to grab grub from a few vendors that I would have loved to have gotten to, like Lago's Veal Tortellini, Sokolowski's comfort food, Ty Fun's Pad Thai, and additional dishes from Fahrenheit including Asian Chicken Salad and the Cheesesteak Sandwich. Good thing there is always next year!

We met up with some friends, ran into others, sipped on cold refreshing beers, spilled a beer on someone (I wasn't even intoxicated, I have no excuse- sorry Heather!), and overall sweat off 5 pounds (ok, I wish). I don't know if you noticed, but it was HOT IN CLEVELAND yesterday. That is my only, minor, complaint about the day. As "R" pointed out- at least everyone else was hot, sticky, and sweaty as well! If you didn't make it this year, I really do recommend this annual festival. Tremont houses some of our area's best restaurants, and how often do you get to sample dishes from all of them for just $2-$6 each?!

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Bac Becomes "Blech"

Bac opened a few months ago on Tremont's historic West 14th Street, very close to Grumpy's Cafe and the Lincoln Park Pub. Any new restaurant in Tremont has a lot to live up to with such great restaurants lining the streets of this neighborhood. I started to hear mixed reviews of their food, but as soon as the warm weather hit and they popped open their lime green patio umbrellas- I knew we would be dining there soon. The lime green was calling out to me.

This week, Cleveland has been sweltering. The humidity has caused us all to seek air conditioning, and we spent less and less time outdoors as the week went on. Friday evening rolled around and I was craving a patio. Bingo- this was the night to try Bac! Around 6:30 we settled into a patio table and started to look at the menu. Immediately, I wanted to try the Summer Rolls ($5)- two rice paper rolls filled with sliced shrimp, rice noodles, lettuce, cucumber and basil and served with dill cabbage, carrot and peanut sauce. They sounded light and refreshing- just what we needed on this humid night. "R" is also a sucker for dumplings, so we decided to share an order of the Gyoza Dumplings ($5)- five pan-seared dumplings filled with ground chicken, pork, cabbage and scallions and served with ginger soy sauce. The appetizers arrived quickly, even though our drinks took quite some time to arrive (more on that later). The summer rolls were exactly what I was expecting- light and fresh with crisp vegetables and a nice basil flavor. The peanut sauce was not the best that I've had, but we also started dipping it in the delicious ginger soy sauce served with the dumplings. The dumplings arrived looking fried, and were a little dry inside and greasy on the outside. The ground meat filling was minimal and bland, but the soy sauce was the saving grace for this dish.

Several of the entrees appealed to me, including the Pad Thai and Artichoke Pesto Pasta (with an Asian twist). I settled on the Mango Curry (pictured above) with shrimp ($14)- mango, zucchini, carrots, and onions stir-fried in yellow coconut milk curry sauce. Our server asked how I would like it served, and I replied "hot". And hot it was! I have a feeling that even the mild is not for the faint-hearted. The sweet mango, variety of stir-fried vegetables, and ample serving of shrimp were satisfying- but nothing special. I wasn't wowed, but it was a decent dish and I heard many others around us ordering it as well. Now here is where the meal REALLY goes

"R" and I typically like to order two entrees that we both are interested in so that we can share and sample more than one dish. He fought long and hard to order the Seared Scallops ($18)- pan-seared jumbo scallops and shitake mushrooms in a plum wine reduction sauce and served with roasted asparagus. The dish is not something that I would traditionally want to order in an Asian restaurant, but we both love scallops and he happily ordered the dish. When the plate arrived, he immediately offered up a scallop. As I attempted to cut it in half with my fork, I found that I really had to struggle to cut it. Not a good sign! I was right- they were incredibly chewy, dry and tough. Not only that, but there was a strong flavor that can only be described as tasting like cleaning product. Or as "R" started to joke- "Pine-Sol brine" or "Windex marinade". They were absolutely the worst scallops that I have ever tasted, both in flavor and texture. After eating a few of his own, "R" did take a stab at the other half of my scallop that was left on the plate. He informed me that the one I tried was the worst of them all. Great.

I have to say that even though all of the other dishes were okay (not great), this one will leave a lasting impression on us. As will the service. There was only one other table of guests on the patio when we arrived, and only a handful of patrons inside the bar and main dining area. Yet our drinks took way too long to be delivered, and the time that we waiting in between our appetizers and entrees was excessive. Several tables that had been seated even after we had finished our appetizers were served their entrees before us. A little communication would have gone a long way, but our server acted as though nothing was wrong and that the wait was normal. Not impressive. I was really looking forward to trying Bac, and adding another Tremont restaurant to our list of frequent stops. However, I left very disappointed and with a bad taste in my mouth. Literally...

Now every time I say the word "Bac", "R" goes "Blech".

Bac Asian American Bistro & Bar
2661 West 14th Street
Cleveland, OH 44113

Bac Asian American Bistro on Urbanspoon

Friday, July 16, 2010

Taste of Tremont

In case you live under a rock (just kidding) and haven't heard...the 8th Annual Taste of Tremont is THIS SUNDAY! This annual street festival will take place from noon until 8PM on Professor Avenue. Attendees can look forward to live music, artwork, booths filled with all kinds of treasures and goodies to purchase (like stuff from Banyan Tree, CLE Clothing Co., and more), great people watching, and of course the highlight...the food!

Last year was our first year attending. I vaguely remember sampling small dishes from Lolita, Lago, Rocco Whalen's famous taco truck from Fahrenheit, Ty Fun, and more. Here is a list of the 2010 participating restaurant vendors:

806 Martini & Wine Bar


Bistro on Lincoln Park


Dish Deli & Catering


Fat Cats

Fresh Fork Market

Grumpy's Cafe

Istanblue Grill

La Fuega

Lago Restaurant


Lucky's Cafe

Original Greek Gyro

Prosperity Social Club

Simply Irresistible

Sokolowski's University Inn


St. John Cantius Church

Tremont Scoops

Tremont Tap House

Ty Fun Thai Bistro

I know that some of my favorites are certainly included on that list, and there are several that I can't wait to try! This is one summer festival that you don't want to miss, so I hope to see you there!

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Li Wah

One of my favorite lunch spots relatively close to work is the Chinese restaurant Li Wah, located in the Asian Plaza on 30th and Payne in downtown Cleveland. Serving authentic Chinese cuisine, with other Asian-inspired hints (such as Pad Thai), and their famous Dim Sum. I have yet to try their Dim Sum- but I will!

Dim sum is the Cantonese term for a type of Chinese dish that involves small individual portions of food, usually served in a small steamer basket or on a small plate (Wikipedia). Which in Li Wah's case translates to a roaming cart steaming with tasty treats. A staff member pushes the cart slowly through the spacious restaurant, and diners can choose from hot buns, dumplings, turnip cakes, rolls and much more.

With plenty of seating, speedy and pleasant service, and reasonable prices- it is a popular restaurant for many. The lunch special that includes a small bowl of your choice of soup and white rice with your entree (with the option to make it a combo platter with fried rice and an egg roll for only $1.50 more), has made Li Wah a great stop for us to grab a quick, cheap, filling meal during the workday.

One of my favorite entrees is the Orange Beef (pictured above), but if you are in the mood for a unique dish then try their Walnut Chicken or Walnut Shrimp. Served in a creamy white sauce, it is slightly sweet and quite different than any other standard Chinese dishes that I have tried in the past.

Two of us popped in there yesterday for lunch, and I am suddenly really looking forward to the leftovers that I have waiting for me in the refrigerator. Lunch time!

Li Wah
2999 Payne Avenue
Cleveland, OH 44114

Monday, July 12, 2010

Notch Ya Typical Nachos

Last month, I attended a preview tasting of Reddstone's summer menu. It was my first time there, and I enjoyed almost all of the five dishes served and subsequently fell in love with their patio. I knew that a return visit was in my future, and soon.

Just before our recent vacation (it was wonderful by the way, but it's good to be back), I convinced "R" to head over there after work one night. It was a perfect patio night, we had a $25 gift certificate, and I was curious to order from their regular menu. I had caught a glimpse of a few items that sounded excellent when we were there the first time. One of them being the Macho Nachos ($8)- house baked tortillas, grilled chicken, pickled radish, jalapeno, scallion, cheddar jack cheese, house made salsa, and spicy sour cream. It was Allison that first pointed them out at our blogger tasting, and I couldn't wait to try them. Which is strange, because I am not usually a "nacho girl". But the combination of their ingredients, with a few key components made in-house, sounded too tempting to resist. Luckily, "R" is a "nacho guy" so I knew that I would have no complaints from him if I wanted to order them. The tower of nachos arrived, and I was glad that we had decided to hold off on ordering any additional food because it was huge! I did bypass the chicken (who hates chicken? Just me, I know.), but the rest of the toppings were fresh and created a wonderful blend of texture and flavor. I guess you could say that this appetizer turned us into a "nacho couple" for once.

We then decided to split the Black & Blue Burger ($9)- grilled sirloin, pancetta, balsamic mushroom, gorgonzola, and swiss. We also opted to add a fried egg for an additional $2. Slap an egg on any burger and I'm one happy girl. We attempted to order the sweet potato fries as our side dish, but they were out for the evening. From the previous visit, I knew that I didn't like their homemade seasoned fries. They are seasoned with rosemary, and if you have been following this blog for a while then you know that I now hate rosemary with a passion thanks to Porter's. Sorry, brother! I made mention of this preference to our server, and she quickly offered to ask the kitchen to hold the rosemary. I was surprised by the willingness to adjust the fries for us, and we happily accepted. To be fair, I still didn't love the fries. Without the seasoning, they were very dry and bland. Also, I am just not a shoestring french fry fan as much as I try to like them. Give me steak fries any day! The burger however...was a great burger. Cooked a little more than we traditionally prefer (ordered medium and it came out medium well)- it was still juicy and well-seasoned. They probably snuck some rosemary in there undetected. The real highlight of the burger were the balsamic mushrooms. Balsamic vinegar can easily be overpowering in any dish, but the addition of this component was thoughtfully subtle and complimented the rest of the flavors. We were really happy with our selection, and I would gladly order another burger at Reddstone.

It was a perfect sunny evening spent on their fantastic patio. I still have yet to see the inside of the bar, but I am certain that there will be many more visits spent on their patio this summer! What a great find in the Detroit Shoreway/Battery Park area...

1261 West 76th Street
Cleveland, OH 44107
(216) 651-6969