Tuesday, April 30, 2019

Cleveland Corned Beef Co.

You know those places that you drive by and something just catches your eye (the name, signage, location), and you think to yourself...I wonder what that spot is like inside.

Well, one of those places for me was the Cleveland Corned Beef Co. on Pearl Road. With a name like that, and Cleveland with a reputation for corned beef...I was curious. But years went by and we never made an effort to stop in. Flash forward to a dinner party conversation with a neighbor that raved about their breakfast a few weeks ago, and you better believe we scooted there the following weekend for a greasy-diner breakfast.

Located in a strip mall along the corner of Pearl Road and Brookpark Road, it's not much to look at from the outside. But the name alone and large images of corned beef stacked high will catch your eye!
Inside, it's just a sliver of a place. Only a handful of counter stools and one or two tables in the back. But there were plenty of to-go orders headed out the door during our meal.
If you settle in for your meal, every seat has a front-row view of the griddle action. The pancakes were about the size of my head!
I ordered the Corned Beef, Egg and Cheese Sandwich ($3.99) with my choice of bread. I went with Texas Toast. While the hash browns side was skimpy and under-cooked, the sandwich was hearty and generously-sized.
Mr. H ordered the Everything Omelette ($7.99) which literally had EVERYTHING on it. This thing was HUUUUGE and probably weighed about 2 pounds! Mr. H is a big eater, and even he could barely finish half.
He got a side of Rye Toast with it, and truly all of the bread products coming out of the kitchen looked really fresh and good.

While I think the food quality and certainly atmosphere is better at a few other diners closer to home, this was a fun adventure and one for any corned beef fan.

Cleveland Corned Beef Co.
5164 Pearl Road
Cleveland, OH 44129
(216) 351-0010

Wednesday, April 24, 2019

Augie's Pizza

Almost 12 years in Cleveland, and I'm still on the hunt for "my" pizza in Northeast Ohio. While I haven't found a favorite that really blows my socks off (no, I haven't tried Angelo's in Lakewood yet), Augie's Pizza in Independence has been near the top of my list.

Located in the Rockside Corners Shopping Center, it certainly doesn't look like much from the outside...
...or the inside, as it's only a handful of tables, the small kitchen, and a counter displaying their pizza-by-the-slice.
Pizza by the slice is available from 11AM - 3PM Monday-Friday.
One of the reasons I enjoy their pizza is that the toppings are typically found baked under a "shelf" of cheese. It's so thick and really locks in those toppings and the sauce. The crust is somewhere between thin and thick, just the way I like it. It's doughy, but yet has a crispy edge. Never soggy, it holds up well to the toppings and generous amount of cheese.
I've also ordered catering from Augie's for work meetings, and their salads and pastas have always been a hit. There are plenty of good options to build an order from.

Augie's Pizza
6901 Rockside Road
Independence, OH 44131
(216) 573-0300

Monday, April 22, 2019

Opal on Pearl

The new wine bar, Opal on Pearl, is quickly becoming my favorite neighborhood spot in Old Brooklyn. It opened in the former Drink. Bar + Grill location on Pearl Road, near Memphis. There is plenty of free parking in the lot behind the building, as it is shared with CVS next door. You'll want to enter the building from that back lot.
The space has been lightened up, with brighter paint on the walls and new artwork.
The wine-focused bar does not have a glass or bottle on the list that will disappoint. Owner, Tony Mellon, has spent decades in some of Cleveland's best restaurants (Lola, Flying Fig, Johnny's on Fulton), and he's curated a list of wines that I trust and blindly pick from.
You can still get a cocktail (I do miss the fantastic craft cocktails of Drink's time) and a handful of craft beers, but in addition to the wine-focus, the spot is featuring small plates. Share, build a meal, and try a few different things. 

A couple of visits we've had issues with the freshness or toasting of the bread served with dishes, but other than that there have been quite a few dishes we've really enjoyed. You'll find a daily flatbread, calamari, meatballs, warm olives, Korean spiced chicken wings, mussels, stuffed dates, a couple of salads, cheese (from Old Brooklyn Cheese Co.) and charcuterie boards, and a couple of sides and other small plates. There's also dessert! Some of which comes from Old Brooklyn neighbor, Lilly Chocolates and Confections.

Where I think the food really shines is in the daily specials. There are always a handful and you can usually preview some tempting-looking photos on their Instagram account.

The other night, we enjoyed the Spicy Garlic Shrimp ($11).
Bruschetta ($8) with herbed ricotta and warm eggplant caponata.
Spicy White Bean Tapenade ($10) with manzanilla olives and fennel served with grilled Tuscan bread.
Roasted Brussel Sprouts ($3.50) with pancetta aioli.
Pan Roasted Cod ($15) with a caper and artichoke lemon butter, crispy fingerling potatoes, and spinach.
You can find the Brussel Sprouts and the White Bean Tapenade on the regular menu right now. Try a combination of small plates that sounds good to you, but I do recommend gravitating towards the daily specials as they always seem to impress us just a bit more. 

Happy Hour from 5-7PM Tuesday-Thursday or 4-7PM on Fridays offers a handful of small plates for $3.50-$6 and drink specials for $5 or $6.

It's become our pop-in spot for a bite to eat on a weeknight that we don't feel like cooking or after I had a late work meeting, or a pre/post-dinner glass of wine on the weekends. It filled a gap in our neighborhood, and we couldn't be happier.

Opal on Pearl
4250 Pearl Road
Cleveland, OH 44109
(216) 417-2030

Tuesday, April 9, 2019

Kingfish

My second stop on the 2019 To Dine Challenge tour took me out to Copley for some seafood at Kingfish. Which you can see right from 77 as you drive through the area.
Traffic and trouble getting off of 77 was my first impression, unfortunately. The off-ramp is a stop sign instead of a light, and in order to turn immediately left into the plaza where Kingfish is located, you have to cross three lanes of cars. Which at 5:30PM was near impossible. I finally snaked my way up to the front of the line and then threw my car in front of oncoming, and impatient and unfriendly, traffic.

Once I was inside, my nerves were calmed and a glass of wine wiped away any frustration as I started to look at the menu.
But we didn't need to look long, because with their Two Courses for $29.95 deal, you get a two-course dinner (Monday - Friday 4-6PM and all-day Wednesdays) with three options for your first course and five options for your second course.

The options included a couple of dishes that I already had my eye on, so it was a no-brainer. I started with the restaurant group's famous Lobster Bisque. Rich, creamy, and with noticeable hunks of lobster meat, this soup never disappoints. It was a hearty portion too.
Then I indulged in their Steak and Lobster with filet mignon medallion, 6 oz. lobster tail, asparagus, mashed potatoes, and lemon butter.
Everything was prepared well, and it delivered that classic surf n' turf experience you expect.

This restaurant is part of the Hospitality Restaurants Group, that also own Blue Point Grille, Cabin Club, Delmonico's, Salmon Dave's, Thirsty Parrot, and Rosewood Grill. The setting, menu, food quality, and overall experience at Kingfish was on par with the other restaurants in the group that I've dined at (almost all).

You won't find innovative and creative dishes here with locally-sourced product, but the classic dishes are prepared well and consistent. Won't knock your socks off, but you won't be disappointed. I enjoyed my food and wine, and the service was attentive and friendly.

There is plenty of free parking in the lot surrounding the restaurant. It is a fine-dining establishment, so not the most kid-friendly spot. Dress is business casual and reservations are recommended.

Kingfish
115 Montrose W Avenue
Akron, OH 44321
(330) 777-2005

Thursday, April 4, 2019

Market at the Food Bank 2019

It's April, and that means it's time for one of my favorite fundraising events of the year, Market at the Food Bank. Now the organization will always be near and dear to my heart, as I believe in their simple mission of feeding hungry neighbors in Northeast Ohio, but they also gave me my first Cleveland job.
Market at the Food Bank is a very special event celebrating the Greater Cleveland Food Bank’s
Harvest for Hunger campaign. The event will take place on Sunday, April 28th in the Greater
Cleveland Food Bank’s Distribution Center from 6 – 8:30 p.m. and will feature delicious
cuisine and beverages from more than 50 of Northeast Ohio’s best restaurants and beverage
purveyors, exciting entertainment and celebrities, wonderful auction items, and the all important opportunity to help alleviate hunger in our community.
You can check out my past event reviews here, here, here...you get the point. I don't miss it! There was one time that I was out of town for it, but we were still able to support the event through GiveSmart mobile bidding for their silent auction. You don't have to be in attendance to register to bid, and you have the chance of winning great packages like dining experiences, family activities, show tickets, and more.

But, we're also there for the food. You can check out the full list of 2019 participating restaurants here, but I've listed a few of my must-stop stations:

- EDWINS
- Landmark
- Lockkeepers
- Market Garden Brewery
- MELT
- Nomad Culinary
- Strip
- Sushi 86
- University Hospitals/Sodexo
- Zack Bruell Restaurant Group

Tickets are still available, and you can pick up a General Admission ticket for $127 or VIP for $202.

For every $1 donated to the Harvest for Hunger campaign, the Food Bank can provide 4 meals in a local hunger center. More than $334,000 was raised at the 2018 event.

Disclosure: I was invited to attend the event with a guest in exchange for social media support. All opinions stated are 100% my own. I am a former employee of the Greater Cleveland Food Bank.

Tuesday, April 2, 2019

Polpetta

I finally got my butt over to Rocky River to dine at Polpetta. This restaurant is from my friends behind the now-closed Cork & Cleaver and Graffiti, so I was anxious to get in.
"Polpetta" literally means meatball in Italian, and that's exactly what you get here.
Most of the dishes (and even some of the craft cocktails) feature foods in ball-shaped bites, including the Beer Cheese ($8) with Beer Battered Fresh Mozzarella, and Spicy Tomato Aioli. Not the overly-fried and thick-battered mozzarella sticks you're used to!
Or the large portion of creamy, decadent Spinach and Meatball Dip ($10) with Spinach and Parmesan B├ęchamel, Roasted Tomatoes, and Pita that left us scraping the bowl and still dreaming of it days later. This one is a don't-miss on the menu, and perfect for sharing!
The overall concept is simple. 1-2-3. Pick a ball. Pick a sauce. Pick a side. And there are plenty of options to choose from, including gluten-free, vegan, and vegetarian choices.

But they also offer a list of pre-selected Go-To's, which I suggest if it's your first time there.

During Happy Hour, you can get smaller plate versions (pictured below), and Chef Adam sent out their Hot for Teacher with Lobster and Crab Balls, House Hot, and Mac and Cheese for us to try. The mac and cheese was unbelievable, and the dash of house-made hot sauce was the perfect kick. He was kind enough to send us home with a container of the hot sauce, and we made some amazing fried chicken sandwiches with it later that week. I wish they'd bottle and sell the stuff. 
Mr. H ordered one of their top sellers, The Curtis ($14) with Lamb Balls, Tzatziki Sauce, and Panzanella Salad. One for any gyro lover. 
I had another fan favorite, The Adam ($14) with Chicken Balls, Thai Peanut, and Fried Rice.
They were so different from each other, but both really tasty and a playful twist on well-known dishes.

That's what you can expect here. Good food, good cocktails, and lots of playful humor. Now open for lunch as well, and very family-friendly with plenty of parking since it's in a strip of businesses off of Detroit Road.

Polpetta
19900 Detroit Road
Rocky River, OH 44116
(216) 860-4474