Monday, May 23, 2016

Hot Dog Diner

I can't even tell you how many times I've driven past the Hot Dog Diner and Burger Co. in Parma. And, it always seemed to be closed. Hours are 10:30AM - 7:30PM Tuesday-Saturday, so I guess that we were always driving by on Sundays or Mondays or late in the evening, but it was starting to become a mystery to us.

Until, Mr. H and I decided to grab lunch there last Saturday.
The exterior feels like it was a Taco Bell in a former life.

The interior is cheery, and diners are greeted with chalkboard menus and silly quotes lining the walls. But, it does still feel like a chain fast food restaurant in there.
Mr. H zeroed right in on the Classic Gyro with meat shaved off the cone.
In my opinion, it looked like a sad sandwich. I don't think it was anything to write home about. We're both still heartbroken over Fergie's closing in Parma. The BEST gyro ever.

I had to stick with the traditional hot dog section of the menu, since we were in a place called the HOT DOG Diner.

I ordered the Slaw Dog with cole slaw, mustard and onions ($2.44 - Dining Deals Alert).
And the Windy City with neon relish, mustard, onions, sport peppers and celery salt ($2.54).
It looks like there is no hot dog in there, but trust me, there was. There was just quite a lot of toppings on each, which made them messy to eat but tasty. Beware, the Windy City toppings were really spicy hot and I had to pick a few of the peppers off. I love spicy foods, so you know that's saying something.

While places like Happy Dog and River Dog will reign supreme on their gourmet toppings, the fabulous dipping sauces for the tots, and atmosphere, when I want a hot dog...I want a hot dog. I actually don't care for the dogs themselves at Happy Dog at all. So, this lunch satisfied a craving for a true American hot dog, and I finally got to step inside the elusive Hot Dog Diner.

Hot Dog Diner
5495 Pearl Road
Parma, OH

Thursday, May 12, 2016

Chez Francois Restaurant

Whoops, I am a week late on finishing telling you about our overnight trip to Vermilion. May is always the busiest time for me at work, and time just starts to slip away. But, I had to pause to tell you about the dinner that Mr. H and I had at Chez Francois.

Over the years, they've picked up many awards and accolades, and diners from Cleveland have flocked to Vermilion to see for themselves. Me? This was my first time truly dining there (have attended an annual private fundraiser there for years), and it had been on my Cleveland Dining Bucket List for quite some time.

Mr. H and I headed over to the restaurant early from our B&B, with hopes of grabbing a drink at the bar of the more casual Touche upstairs (same owners). The craft cocktails that we found there were even better than expected, but I guess that I shouldn't have been surprised.
That Mango Martini was refreshing, and really started the evening off on a high note.

After about an hour, we wandered downstairs for our 7:30PM reservation.
Now, here's where the only negative of the experience took place. I'll start by saying that we were in NO hurry and there for an "experience," but the time frame that it took from us being seated until we ordered was just absurd. We were first given a wine list, and our server had the sommelier make a recommendation for us. He then said that he'd "let us settle in and enjoy the wine for a bit." Totally okay. But, about 45 minutes went by, and I started to notice that other tables seated after us were already enjoying first courses. We hadn't even seen a menu yet. They showed up 48 minutes after we had been seated, and by then the lengthy menu was just daunting. A Chef's Tasting? Sure, sounds good, makes it easy! We placed our order for two tastings about an hour and twenty minutes after our reservation time. That's a first.

Overall, we tried about 9 dishes total. For a couple of the courses, Mr. H and I selected the same item from the limited choices included in the tasting.

Courses included beef tartar...
and steak with duck confit and morel mushrooms.
Of the 9 dishes that we tried, I would say that 3 were knock-outs. I loved the spring pea soup shooter, lobster ravioli, and my steak with duck confit and mushrooms. The others were all very good as well, but on par with what we find in Cleveland.

One thing that truly sets Chez Francois apart is the dress code.
It is one of the only remaining restaurants in the area that requires a jacket for men and appropriate evening attire for women. It was certainly fun to get even more dressed up than we normally would for a romantic meal out together.

To summarize, I'm glad that we crossed this one off of the Dining Bucket List (more coming soon on that), three courses left me dreaming about them, and it was a fun excuse to see my hubby all dressed up. The timing of the start of the meal was just curious, but I'm guessing not usual. I don't know that we'll be rushing to drive back out to Vermilion for it, when there is so much good food here in the city, but it was worth the trip at least once. Just save it for a special occasion, and consider making an overnight of it. The town is cute, and we had a great time poking around for a day. So...have you been to Chez Francois?

What's on your Cleveland Dining Bucket List?

Chez Francois 
555 Main Street
Vermilion, OH

Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Event Recap: Market at the Food Bank 2016

The weekend fun didn't stop at our getaway to Vermilion. On Sunday evening, Mr. H and I attended Market at the Food Bank to benefit the Greater Cleveland Food Bank's Harvest for Hunger Campaign.
Harvest for Hunger was celebrating 25 years in 2016, and it raises critical funds for Food Bank programs like the BackPack for Kids. Since the fundraiser is hosted in the Food Bank's warehouse, it's easy for guests to see the impact that their donations will have on the organization's work in the community.
But, we were also there to enjoy some fabulous food from 40+ local chefs. Personally, I think this year's food was some of the best that the event has seen. Dishes from EDWINS...
...Nomad Culinary...
...Lucky's Cafe (seriously, their mac n' cheese and homemade applesauce may be on my "death bed" menu)...
...the new Plum Kitchen + Cafe...
...and Graffiti, AMP 150, and John Selick from University Hospitals Ahuja Medical Center stood out to me. John got extra points for rolling his own smoker up to the Food Bank's parking lot to make that delicious smoked beef tenderloin.

Everywhere you turned, there were food and beverage stations, raffles, mission displays, live music, and an extensive auction. Mr. H and I both had some fun outbidding folks on two auction packages.

We left quite full and satisfied with our experience, but the true good news is that the Food Bank was able to reach their goal of raising enough funds at this event to provide 1 Million meals to those in need in Northeast Ohio. 

Disclosure: I was provided with tickets to this event in exchange for a giveaway and post-event recap. I am a former employer of the Food Bank. All opinions stated are 100% mine.

Monday, May 2, 2016

Vermilion Getaway

Mr. H and I had a fun little weekend, a bit out of the ordinary. For my birthday in February, he gave me a "gift certificate" for a getaway to Vermilion, Ohio. A stay in a B&B and dinner at Chez Francois. As one of Ohio's top rated restaurants, it's been on our culinary to-do list for a while, and Vermilion is just far enough away that we hadn't made it happen yet.
We stayed at the Gilchrist Guest House B&B. It was just a short walk away from Chez. It was charming, and somewhat reminded me of staying at my grandmother's house.
We chose this particular weekend to go, because the Chamber of Commerce was hosting a Chocolate + Wine Walk around town. Local businesses were featuring a wine and chocolate tasting at each stop. While the samples were nothing special (with the exception of a couple), it was a great way to see the town and go into shops, businesses or restaurants that we may have overlooked.
After a relaxing nap back at the B&B, we got all dressed up and headed to Chez for dinner. More on that later this week!

The next morning, we went to Granny Joe's for breakfast.
Some French Toast hit the spot.
Then, we popped over to a business that we had been into during the Walk the day before. The Olive Scene was just begging to be sampled.
We had a great time wandering the store and tasting the olive oils and vinegar.
We used to just purchase flavored oils or vinegar to use for dipping or salad dressing, but we've recently started cooking vegetables and fish/seafood with them, and it's been quite fun to work with them more. I highly recommend it! A quick, easy way to add interesting flavor to your meals. They have multiple locations around Northeast Ohio, so give their website a look.

For a quick overnight getaway, Vermilion was a lot of fun and we truly enjoyed our time there. I wish the rain had held off so that we could have spent more time by the water, but, eh, you can't be picky this time of year in Ohio.

Any other suggestions for a one-night or weekend stay within an easy driving distance of Cleveland?