Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Cap N' Taco

Have you ever even heard of Cap'N Taco? It is this teeny little Mexican place on Brookpark Road.
Apparently "R's" dad used to take him there for dinner after his bowling league, and the image of a California burrito has been ingrained in his memory. We were randomly in the area one night, and needed a quick and cheap bite to eat. On memory alone, from over 20 years ago, he found it.

There was plenty of parking in the small lot in front of the building. When you enter, there is a large counter to place take-out orders, or you can choose to sit in the small dining room off to the right.
Not very far from the airport, the interior is decorated from floor to ceiling in photographs and memorabilia of planes. There were only eight tables in the dining room, and three were occupied. My bet is that most of their business is carry-out.

There were quite a lot of options on the menu, but of course "R" had to have the California Burrito.
You had your choice of beef, chicken, or crab, and the price of each ranged from $2.99 - $3.99. Incredibly cheap. It was light and crispy, and probably the best thing that we tried, but it didn't live up to "R's" memory of them. It was also the most expensive thing that we ordered. Dining Deals Alert!

I also ordered a Cheese Enchilada. I'm convinced that it was a microwaved enchilada. It arrived in what appeared to be a pre-packaged container that probably had a plastic film on it to start. It was mushy and flavorless, with an odd texture to the tortilla that could only come from a microwave.
The only thing that really saved this meal were the three house-made sauces. For 50 or 60 cents each, you had a choice of Jet (hot), Nitro (spicy Ranch), and Firecracker (hot, hot, hot). Also, notice the packets of salsa that were served with our meal. Sigh.
"R" also ordered some tacos, which were hard shell only and 79 cents each. For an additional 30 cents, you could upgrade them to "elite" with more toppings.

They offer draft beer (Bud Light and Yuengling only), and Margaritas. Served in red solo cups. All food and beverage is served in paper or plastic, which I actually kind of enjoyed. In a setting like this dive Mexican joint, it was perfect.

Okay, so the food itself was pretty lousy and I don't think that I'd go again, but the place was so fun and such an experience. Dirt cheap, too. While there are much better tacos and such out there, this place was worth the excursion, just to say that we did. A return visit, not so much...

Cap'N Taco
16099 Brookpark Road
Cleveland, OH 44142

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Merry Christmas!

Wishing you and yours a very Merry Christmas!
I'm snuggled up in Northern NY with my family, "R", and my pup. It doesn't get much better than that...

...oh wait, there's prime rib for dinner tonight!

Saturday, December 21, 2013

Ring In 2014

Thank you for helping me celebrate blog post #500! A mini-milestone, but worth noting. Using random.org, the winner is...comment #43, Beth. Check your email to claim your prize.
Now, let's talk about how to ring in the new year in Cleveland. There are a lot of things going on, so this is just a small sampling.

Pura Vida: New Year's Eve Party. Public Square festivities are close by, and it will include live ice sculpting, musical performances and fireworks! Make your reservations for dinner from 4PM to 10PM. The New Year’s Eve house party kicks off at 10PM, featuring appetizers, an open bar, DJ, and a champagne toast at midnight, followed by a breakfast buffet at 1AM. Reserve your ticket for $100 with a dinner reservation or $125 just to party. VIP options are also available. Exclusive seating for up to six people includes bottle service, a personal host, appetizers, and after-midnight dishes for $1200. Or, make your plans for 10 people with the Ten Top VIP package, which includes all previously mentioned VIP features, plus a premier VIP area with seating up to 10 for $2000. Make your reservations today by emailing Katie@PuraVidabyBrandt.com.

Society Lounge: New Year's Eve Party. Live Music, Champagne Toast, Limited Capacity Event. VIP tickets available for $50 each prior to December 25th, or $75 each after December 25th. Guaranteed own table and seating (9PM-1AM), bottle of sparkling champagne (1 bottle per two tickets). Guaranteed Access Tickets are $20 per person, and must be purchased before December 25th. Access to lounge from 9PM until close. Call 216-781-9059 for tickets.

Lago: Greatest Gatsby New Years Eve. Open bar, live music, all-night food buffet, with a touch of old Hollywood glam. $125 admission per person, or $200 per couple. 7PM - 2AM. Make your online reservations here.

Greenhouse Tavern: New Years Eve. $99 each for 10+ courses. Reservations open between 5PM - 9:45PM. Optional beverage pairings. Champagne toast. Tax and gratuity not included. Call 216-443-0511 for reservations.

Also, there are a whole slew of Cleveland Independents' member restaurants that are hosting special dinners and other events that evening. Check out the list.

How will you be ringing in the new year?

Disclosure: Nothing to disclose. I purchased the gift certificate to Cork & Cleaver featured in my giveaway, and I chose to highlight the above events.

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Charlie's Dog House Diner

I've probably driven by Charlie's Dog House Diner at least 1,000 times. Located on the corner of Brookpark Road and Broadview Road in Cleveland (headed into Parma), the exterior of Charlie's can't be missed.
It literally resembles a dog house, perched on the corner and just beckoning you in. I think what kept us away for so long is the fact that it is teeny tiny, with very little seating. There are only one or two small tables, and the rest is counter seating.
We happen to hit it at an odd time on Saturday for breakfast, so we easily found a spot at the counter.

Now, I thought that they would only have your basic breakfast offerings, but I was wrong. The menu was actually pretty lengthy, including dishes like burritos, corned beef hash, eggs Benedict, biscuits and gravy, several omelets, and then specials like three different skillets and a country fried steak. I was immediately impressed at what was coming out of the small kitchen.
I decided on the Ashlee Burrito with eggs, home fries, bacon, sausage, and cheddar cheese stuffed into a flour tortilla and smothered with sausage gravy ($6.99). Dining Deals Alert!
The picture doesn't do this burrito justice, it was HUGE. I barely ate half of it. I spiced up the sausage gravy with some hot sauce, and then it was quite tasty. I'd order it again. Rick also enjoyed his skillet.

The diner has been around since the 1950's, and it's a Cleveland landmark. It holds on to that nostalgic feel, and you can still get their famous hot dogs. Open seven days a week, and free parking in a large lot, this is a great place to stop in for a quick breakfast or lunch.

Charlie's Dog House Diner
2102 Brookpark Road
Cleveland, OH 44134

Monday, December 16, 2013

I'm Celebrating 500

Today is a good day in my blog world. This post is #500.

When I started this little ole blog in 2009, I had no idea what I was getting myself into. It was just started as an outlet for my passion for writing, and I was enjoying exploring the new city that I had started to call "home." I wanted to share my dining experiences beyond the in-person conversations that I was constantly having with friends, family, and co-workers about our restaurant scene, not knowing if anyone would really be reading or not.

Well, almost five years later, I'm still here and so are you. Let's celebrate!

It's no secret that Cork & Cleaver Social Kitchen in Broadview Heights has become a favorite of mine since they opened this year. Have you been yet? If so, then you've probably fallen in love with their food as well. I haven't had a bad meal there yet. Haven't been? Well, here's your chance...

In celebration of blog post #500, I'm giving away a $25 gift certificate to Cork & Cleaver.

There are a few ways that you can enter:

1. Leave a comment on this blog post, suggesting a restaurant for my 2014 To Dine Challenge. I'm looking for restaurants that I haven't been to yet, that you want to see me visit in the next year. I'll select 10, and announce them on January 1st as my New Year's Resolution, of sorts.

2. Tweet: "I want @BiteBuff to send me to @CorkCleaver in celebration of number 500. You could win too at http://tinyurl.com/kntuo9d." Leave another comment on this blog post, with a link to your tweet.

3. "Like" my fan page on Facebook, and "like" Cork and Cleaver Social Kitchen too. Leave another comment on this blog post, telling me that you like both.

You can enter the giveaway using one or more methods. I will select the winner using random.org on Friday, December 20th.

Truly, thank you for reading and sharing in my experiences. This blog is such a source of fun and adventure for me, and I'm thrilled to have reached 500. Good luck!

Friday, December 13, 2013

HotSpot Cafe Opens

The building that once housed Juniper Grille and Verve on Carnegie Avenue in Downtown Cleveland has a new restaurant that calls it "home" now. HotSpot Café opened on Monday for breakfast and lunch service. "HotSpot" refers to the free WiFi service and many outlets provided for table-side charging while you dine.

I was invited to attend their Friends and Family Soft Opening last Saturday, to try out the menu and provide feedback on the overall experience. They were only in day three of business at that point, but they were starting to get the hang of things and we only saw minor mishaps that will work themselves out shortly within opening for the public.

Their menu includes clearly marked Vegan and Gluten-free items, much appreciated these days by diners with dietary restrictions. The breakfast options range from classic pancakes, eggs, and oatmeal to the more creative items like the Burrito Breakfast, interesting omelettes, corned beef hash, and Crème Brulee French Toast. The thing that caught my eye immediately were the bakery items. Scones, muffins, bagels, and a Croissant Donut.

A Croissant Donut had to be mine ($2.25).
Light, flaky, and sugary-sweet. It was something different, and delicious. Other pastries and bakery items, like cinnamon buns, are in the works.

For breakfast, I ordered the Burrito Breakfast with scrambled eggs, avocado, tomato, and potatoes served in a warm tortilla with a side of salsa and sour cream ($7.95). Dining Deals Alert!
Now, my original burrito had disappeared to another table, so they re-fired my dish and it arrived piping hot about five minutes later. Other diners at the table did have a couple of issues with their food not being hot enough, but we were a larger table and the plates may have been sitting while the kitchen completed the order. I'm sure that expediting will improve over time.

Overall, I liked the burrito, and really enjoyed the addition of fresh avocado. It needed a little moisture and flavor from the salsa and sour cream, but the ratio of ingredients was good and I liked the preparation. My only complaint? The salsa could be kicked up a notch in quality. House-made salsa, or a better quality brand would improve this dish.

Their lunch menu includes salads, burgers, many sandwiches, and a few "hot spots" or entrees. They will also be making two soups a day.

The kitchen is run by CIA-trained chef William Davis, one of the brother-partners who ran Appetite in Lyndhurst before it closed last year.

Again, the small issues that we saw with expediting and service should work themselves out over time. I think this restaurant will cater well to the Downtown crowd during the week. They will be open Monday through Saturday from 7am - 3pm.

HotSpot Café
1332 Carnegie Avenue
Cleveland, OH 44115

Disclosure: I was invited to attend a complimentary breakfast at the restaurant during their soft opening. All opinions stated are 100% my own.

Thursday, December 12, 2013

I'm Here!

Please tell me how it is mid-December already? Time is just flying by, more so than usual. I swear, it was just December 1st. I have so much blog content to share with you, but I've been busy and feeling uninspired to sit down and write when I do have a moment. I have another Taco Tuesday to share with you, "R" and I knocked another restaurant off of my 2013 To Dine List, we've been cooking, and a new breakfast and lunch spot just opened in Downtown Cleveland that I want to share with you.

In the meantime, here's a peek at what I've been up to...

"R" and I decorated for the holidays.
On the hunt for ugly Christmas sweaters at some local thrift stores, I found some great home goods instead! Including, some classic French Onion soup bowls. Which prompted us to find a recipe and whip some up that night.
You never know what you'll find. I also picked up a great orange vase and a serving bowl.

My Christmas surprise for "R" was ruined by very obvious packaging and UPS showing up at 7:30PM to deliver (there were tears), but...we did get to use his new Vitamix early.
It was worth every penny. It came with a great recipe book, and within minutes of throwing in some vegetables, wine, and chicken broth, we had HOT soup, ready to serve. Magic. But, how come no one talks about how a Vitamix sounds like a jet engine? I thought the thing was going to explode.

I also walked the A Christmas Story House 5k with the Liver Life Challenge team.
It was absolutely freezing, but fun. The race medal and tee were totally worth it.

We also attended a media preview of the Carnival Couture, hosted by The Republic of Artists, taking place this weekend. This Cleveland pop-up marketplace will feature designers, artisans, and other independent businesses for a three-day shopping experience.

• Friday, December 13th - 5 p.m. to 10 p.m. (Carnival Couture Holiday Party)
• Saturday, December 14th - 10 a.m. to 7 p.m.
• Sunday, December 15th - noon to 5 p.m.

The Republic of Artists | Market at Miles Pointe | 4925 Pointe Parkway, Warrensville Hts.

$2.00 admission

We had a great time walking around, and viewing of all the vendors' goods.
Art, clothing, accessories, home goods, sweet treats...something for everyone. We've still got our eye on a great Ohio metal piece for the kitchen. This event is a way to get some last-minute holiday shopping in, while supporting local businesses.

Phew, I'm even tired just writing about everything that we've been up to. What's your December been like so far?

I promise, more coming soon!

Disclosure: I am an employee of the American Liver Foundation, and manage the Liver Life Challenge team. I was invited to the media preview of Carnival Couture and attended with a guest for free admission.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Taco Tuesday: Porco Lounge and Tiki Room

Yes, the Taco Tuesday series is alive and well. Well, it's back, at least. Taken a hiatus from searching out Taco Tuesday specials, but now I've got two to share with you. First up, the newly opened Porco Lounge and Tiki Room on West 25th.
Located in a dilapidated-looking brick building on Ohio City's West 25th Street, headed towards the zoo, it's really a diamond in the rough and a fun new addition to the area. Just walk quickly from your car, and hold your purse tightly.

There is a small parking lot with free parking directly next to the building, with additional parking behind. Front and rear entrances transport you to a tropical oasis. Particularly pleasant in the cold days that we've settled in to in Cleveland this month! Festival, and iconic, tiki memorabilia and rescued wares decorate the dark and intimate bar.
The owner's personal collection of stir sticks became the bar, and it provided us with some entertainment as we sipped on our cocktails.
I enjoyed their take on a classic Hurricane, and "R" opted for the Pain Killer (Level 1).
Put an umbrella and skewered fruit on any drink, and I'm usually happy. Thankfully, this one was also delicious, and it included a pinwheel on the straw. Never seen that before. Drinks are priced from around $8 - $25, but the quality is there. Not quite VTR or Society, but clearly a step up from typical.

They are also serving up tacos from their tiny kitchen. At this point, it will be the only food offered, but they have plans to expand in the future. For Taco Tuesday, the deal was three tacos for $5 (tacos are offered every day, normally they are $7.50 for three). Dining Deals Alert! It included a chorizo, barbacoa, and carnitas. No substitutions, but they also have a platter of three black bean tacos available for vegetarians.
The meats were all seasoned and prepared well, with the chorizo providing quite a kick. These were a step up from your average tacos, and we were pleasantly surprised. Personal preference, I would have liked flour tortillas over the corn ones included. However, they were tasty little tacos and a good deal. The meat offerings change slightly, depending on the week.

Happy Hour is from 5-7PM, offering 50 cents off draft beers (very short, but quality list of craft beers), $1 off bottled beer, and $3 wine pours. They are also offering a special "Tiki Hour" from 6:30-7:00PM, where all tiki cocktails are $3 off.

Just a half mile south of the West Side Market, this bar is a great spot to stop in for a drink after having dinner in Ohio City. After having their tacos, I also recommend it for Taco Tuesday. The staff is attentive, friendly, and dedicated to their craft. Sit down at the bar and watch your tiki cocktail be created. It's art.

Porco Lounge & Tiki Room
2527 West 25th Street
Cleveland, OH 44113

Sunday, December 1, 2013

Pick the 2014 List

December, already? You know what that means. It's time to start making your suggestions for my 2014 To Dine List.

Submit restaurants that you'd like to see me visit in 2014. I'll pick ten, and announce them one month from today. It's my version of a New Year's Resolution.

Leave restaurant suggestions in the comments below. I'm looking for spots that don't get the public recognition that they deserve. Tell me about your favorite neighborhood joint, the restaurant that you've always wondered about but haven't tried yet, a great dish that you think I should try, a newly opened restaurant, or just send me on a dining adventure that you want to see on the blog.

You gave me some great choices last year, so I can't wait to see what you come up with for 2014! I've got three left to go on the 2013 list, but I'm tackling another one this week. I'm bound and determined to get them all in before the end of the month. Wish me luck...