Friday, February 21, 2020

Great Lakes Brewpub and Beer Garden Renovations

In its 30+ years of business, the Great Lake Brewing Co. facility on Market Avenue has grown, expanded, and made upgrades. But they recently shut down for two weeks (a lifetime in the restaurant business) to make major renovations to the Brewpub and Beer Garden.

The first noticeable change is where the first floor dining room used to be is now an open space for more casual beer drinking with views of two original brewing tanks that are still used to brew pub-exclusive beers. The brewpub and taproom are now called "Brewhouse No. 1" in honor of these tanks. The main entrance has been relocated, so this room is now the first thing you see.
We settled in at a new high top table in the Brewpub for some flights and to try a bit of the new menu items.

The renovations were designed to enhance the guest experience, but also designate very unique spaces within the brewery that now offer different menus and varying types of seating.

We primarily ordered from the Brewpub menu, and dug in to the GLBC Board ($22) with house pickles, local cheeses and meats, artichoke crock, Kalamata olive ciabatta, and Burning River Pale Ale Pepper Jam.
Their original Cheese and Charcuterie Board was always good (and it's still on the menu), but this new version kicks it up a notch by adding pickled items and the warm artichoke dip. The meats and cheeses will change, but you can't go wrong with this easy-to-share item.

We also ordered one of their Flatbreads, the Short Rib ($18) with Stilton blue cheese, arugula, black garlic herb oil, pearl onions, and roasted grapes.
The thin crust was still nice and doughy, and we really liked the combination of flavors and textures. I also want to get back to try the Crispy Pork Belly version.

Normally you can't order from the Beer Garden or Bar Snacks menus in the Brewpub, but our server brought us out her favorite dish from the new Bar Snacks menu. Boy, we were glad she did! The Sriracha Cheese Curds ($6) with avocado ranch sauce were phenomenal. I'm still thinking about these days later.
Executive chef Shorty Coleman, who has been there for 15 years, is overseeing the changes. They also have a completely renovated kitchen with new floors, ceiling and cooking equipment. Additional changes to the patio are scheduled as well.

It had always been my opinion that the food quality didn't quite live up to the beer quality and atmosphere of the brewery, but this visit proved that these changes to the menus and dining concepts are raising the bar. I'll be more inclined to head there myself and recommend it to others!

One thing that I love about actually going to Great Lakes Brewing is the opportunity to try brews that are only tapped there. We included a couple of those in the flights we sampled.

Mr. H is really loving their new Bierwolf. Have you tried it yet?
In addition to their beers and the new menus, there's also weekly entertainment like Euchre, held every Tuesday in the Beer Garden at 6:30PM. This will include a weekly trophy when tournaments officially start in mid-March. It is free to play and registration will be open soon. Also, Bingo is held every Wednesday in the Beer Garden at 6:30 PM, with multiple rounds of prizes.

They did a beautiful job of honoring the history of the space and the brewery, but it certainly feels refreshed and more open and cohesive. Go check it out for yourself.

Great Lakes Brewing Co.
2516 Market Avenue
Cleveland, OH 44113
(216) 771-4404

Disclosure: I was invited for a tour and tasting of the newly renovated Brew Pub and Beer Garden spaces. All food and drink were complimentary. All opinions are 100% my own.

Thursday, February 13, 2020

Tapatia's Taqueria

It was time to kick off the 2020 To Dine Challenge, so Mr. H and I headed to Tapatia's Taqueria for some authentic street tacos on a Saturday for lunch.
Mr. H was immediately happy when warm tortilla chips and salsa arrived at the table!
I ordered the Combo Taco Special ($8.99) with your choice of two taco fillings (excluding seafood) and sides of rice and beans. There are 11 fillings to choose from.
Then you get to take your tacos up to the magical Taco Salad Bar and fill them up with all kinds of goodies like fresh salsas, cilantro, onions, lime wedges, pickled red onions, sour cream and more.
Now I've admitted this here before, I'm a flour tortilla kinda gal. But these housemade corn tortillas were pretty darn good and also didn't split apart or get soggy despite my efforts to overload my tacos. I may prefer La Plaza Taqueria's slightly, but these were closer than any others I've had locally.

Mr. H ordered two Sopes ($4.25 - $4.75) and the thick homemade corn tortillas were a perfect mix of soft and crunchy, piled with your choice of meat and refried beans, lettuce, tomatoes, sour cream and crumbled cheese. He even preferred this over the tacos. 
A couple of checks in the "pro" column over La Plaza is that it's larger and has table service, a good sized bar, and a bigger menu. But no grocery store attached that you can shop at after dining! We'll be back.

Tapatia's Taqueria
12501 Lorain Avenue
Cleveland, OH 44111
(216) 600-5505

Tuesday, February 11, 2020

Zhug Knocks My Socks Off

My mom was in town last weekend, and it was the perfect opportunity for a girls' night out along with one of my besties for the three of us to check out the brand new Zhug by Doug Katz (of Shaker Square's fire food and drink).

In Cleveland Heights, near Nighttown on Cedar Road, the restaurant is serving up Middle Eastern Mezze (or "small dishes"). Lucky for us, my friend had already dined there, so she helped guide us on how many and what to order.

Top of her list was the Harissa Peanut Hummus ($10) served with fresh pita. They have three different versions of hummus on the menu.
Next we tried something she hadn't had during her other two visits, the Leeks and Feta ($8) with ramp-pistachio pistou, toasted shallot, and dijon vin.
Then came another dish she recommended, the Warm White Beans ($7) with local tomato and a basil aioli.
Followed by the Duck Fat Fried Parsnip Pancakes ($9) with apples and sage.
The only savory dish that didn't wow me and I'd suggest skipping over was the Butter Roasted Shrimp ($14) with garlic and pil biber chili. It was certainly fine, but not unique or full of the interesting flavors and textures the other dishes had.
On the heartier side of the small plates are dishes like the Miller Grass Fed Beef Kofte ($15) with smoked feta, shaved fennel, and radish...
...and Yemenite Curry Fried Chicken ($14) with harissa honey.
My friend had raved about the Tahini Ice Cream Sundae, and in hindsight I wish we had just gotten that because the Lemon Cake was only ok. We all shared it, and still left a good piece of it behind.
Other than the long line of diners waiting to get in and the hour and a half we waited for a table, you'd never know that the restaurant just opened. There were no service issues, and the quality and pacing of the food was top notch. But word is spreading fast, and they don't currently take reservations, so be prepared to wait if you're trying to dine on a popular night or time. No fear, there are good drinks just down the street at Parnell's Pub or Fairmount. My only "complaint" is that a few areas of the dining room are communal seating, which I personally don't care for.

I walked away thinking that this was one of the best meals I've had in Cleveland in a while, and that says a lot because you all know that we eat good around here! I purposefully didn't order a few small plates that I knew Mr. H would love to try, so we'll be going back soon.

12413 Cedar Road
Cleveland, OH 44106
(216) 862-2508

Tuesday, February 4, 2020

Rosso Italia Opens in Beachwood

I was invited to attend a recent media tasting at the brand new Rosso Italia in the former Red the Steakhouse space, adjacent to Blu and also owned by Brad Friedlander.
The restaurant's d├ęcor had a complete overhaul and it's much warmer than Red was. I love the attention to detail, custom pieces, and light fixtures.
We cozied up in this corner by the bar for quite a feast!
But, secretly I just wanted to go hang out in the wine cellar. Bring me some baguette, and I think I could just live there!
The family-style meal started with several appetizer items, like the Stuffed Peppers...
...Bone Marrow with Beef Tartar...
...and Calamari. My favorites included the Calamari and Charcuterie board.
Their bread is made in-house, and it arrived with an olive spread, oil and balsamic vinegar, and a whole head of roasted garlic. Roasted garlic cloves spread on good bread is just heavenly! Maybe not ideal on date night, haha.
During the salad course next, my favorite dish of the night arrived. The Radicchio salad with white beans, blue cheese, pine nuts, and an amazing dressing has been on my mind since I had it. It was really unexpected, and not anything I would have chosen to order on a menu on my own. But I must have it again.
The next course was the only real miss for me during the meal. The Gnocchi were a little too dense and forgettable.
And the Orecchiette was dry and lacked real flavor other than the sausage.
But my second favorite dish of the night was also served during the pasta course, the Bolognese with beef and pork ragu over house-made pappardelle. I'd totally order that again!

For the final savory course...the meats. First, came out the LARGEST Chicken Parmesan I've ever seen in my life. As big as my head. I wish this picture did it justice, but the knife in the background is a huge steak knife if that helps give you a sense of size. This dish is not served with a side of pasta, as usual.
Then we also feasted on Rack of Lamb, Strip Steak, and Veal Masala. The steak was probably my favorite, seasoned and seared perfectly. For those that miss Red, the Steakhouse then they'll be pleased to see this on the menu.
As if we weren't full already, dessert arrived. The Tiramisu was my favorite, but the lemon (pictured below) and chocolate desserts were also good.
Overall, the space is warmer and more inviting, and the food was classically done well. Most of it wasn't overly memorable, but that salad and the Bolognese sure were. 

3355 Richmond Road
Beachwood, OH 44122
(216) 831-1004

Disclosure: I was invited to attend a media preview dinner and all food and one drink was provided complimentary. All opinions are 100% my own.