Saturday, December 20, 2008

Mojo’s Cafe

600 Dover Center Road
Bay Village, OH 44140

by Beau Cadiyo

I start with these precepts:

1) Being rich or wealthy is having money - not spending it.
2) It is easier to save money when you are not forced to spend it on necessities like shelter and food (Bread).
3) It is easier to save money in a place where it is otherwise inexpensive to live and have fun (Circuses).

People are often surprised that I want to stay in Cleveland. It’s a city many people love to hate. I was born here, but I’ve lived in various parts of the world, from a childhood spent in San Diego to a young adulthood in Los Angeles, Oregon, DC, Wales and Spain. With this background, choosing to stay indefinitely in the Midwest often baffles my friends and colleagues. They see Cleveland as dying, if not already dead. It doesn't shock me anymore, but I still don't understand what they're talking about. Cleveland is full of opportunities, from arts and culture (Playhouse Square, the University Circle museums, Little Italy's or Tremont's galleries and amazing music venues from the Agora to the Grog Shop to the Beachland Ballroom) to the emerging and amazing culinary establishments (like these). I read in 2006 that Cleveland was one of the nation's entrepreneurial hotspots, and the number of major international corporations based in Northeast Ohio is impressive. In either 2005 or 2006, the Economist listed Cleveland as the top US city for standard of living. Yet people still claim that Cleveland is boring, that it's on the decline, that they want to live somewhere - anywhere - else. These people remind me of a recent New Yorker cartoon where a child and his parents are at a carnival, the tents, rides, roller coaster and lights all soaring and shining in the background, and the kid says, “I’m bored.” This is precisely the attitude many people take. It is these people who will never be truly happy.

In Cleveland, we have the opportunity to build, to create, to do new things. We also have the freedom to do so. I sometimes compare it to Los Angeles, a city which fosters cutthroat competitiveness that makes for compelling television and movies but, as is well-documented, dead lives. Having lived there and been intimately familiar with it, I think I can say that LA is one of the most desperate places in the world – there are millions of people so close to massive international fame, and so many people move there for a shot at that fame, yet it is completely out of reach for all but a few. It’s full, and if you want to try to squeeze in you'll just be another cog in the machine. Cleveland, on the other hand, has opportunities aplenty for people who want to act and have an impact on their community, who want to do something with their lives.

Cleveland is also a place where you can get rich. There was a speech called “Acres of Diamonds” which was, at one point, the most delivered speech in history. It was built upon an easy story: a man learns of diamonds and how valuable they are. He leaves his home, his wife and children, and goes searching for diamonds to bring back for his family. After long years and constant travels, he dies, and his farm is taken over. His successor finds a glimmering rock in a stream on the property. One day, a neighbor comes by to say hello, and sees a giant glinting rock on the mantle; picking it up, he exclaims, “How fortunate! He found his diamonds!” The new owner says says, “No, he didn’t – that is just a rock that we found out back.” “Nonsense!” says the neighbor. “This is a massive diamond!” They take it to be tested and, sure enough, it’s a diamond. The man’s very back yard turns out to be full of the diamonds he died trying to find.

The moral of the story is that if you’re looking to get rich, don't look elsewhere - try looking in your own back yard.* Most of the major fortunes were not made by people who moved to big cities and got jobs there hoping to get big. Standard Oil was founded in Cleveland, where Rockefeller grew up. Bill Gates started Microsoft in Seattle, where he was born in 1955. Sam Walton started Wal-Mart in his home town in Arkansas. Nike is based in a suburb of Portland, Oregon, where Phil Knight was born in 1938.

It’s been said that the best way to get rich is to not spend your money; those who spend don’t have, and those who have don’t spend. Cleveland has a VERY low cost of living, yet, on average, people in Northeast Ohio make more than the national average. Thus, it’s easy to make money here and then not spend as much as you might in, say, Los Angeles or Miami. Actually, I had a professor here who was from Los Angeles. His friends from home used to ask him why he was in Cleveland, and would go off on the familiar litany of the area’s woes: it’s cold, it’s cold, there’s nothing to do, it's a cultural wasteland, it’s cold. His response: Yes, there is winter. Otherwise, his commute was less than theirs (LA traffic really is that bad) and with the spread of franchises across the nation there is little, other than particular items in individual specialty shops, that you can’t get here. Plus, we have our own individual specialty shops here which include things you can’t get in LA or New York. As for culture, most people's culture consists of television, movies, magazines and books, which are no different here than in San Francisco or Miami. Cleveland competes with any other city for musical acts, we have a world-famous symphony, museums with collections and power that no other museums in America can rival, and amazing theaters and acts. One might wonder why people would choose other cities.**

This includes a growing arts and crafts movement being built. I was first introduced to it by Kathy Smash and went to see a show she was co-hosting at Mojo’s Café. Mojo’s was filled with tables and people, all fawning over the handmade things that were relatively unnecessary ("in the hunter-gatherer sense of the word") but also interesting, creative and often beautiful.

Kathy Smash is eager to create, to do new things, to experiment. We discussed the Dangerous Book for Boys and the Daring Book for Girls, canning, soap-making and how poorly people would fare if water, electricity or gas were taken away from us. “It’s almost like we need a survival school without all the racism and weirdness,” she said.

After milling and buying (woven coffee cup hand protector, earrings, hot chocolate…I can’t remember what else), I ordered half of a Chicken Salad sandwich and half of a Tuna salad sandwich, both on croissants. The croissants themselves were simultaneously airy and butter-rich; the tomato was juicy and the lettuce crispy. I thought that the chicken salad had potato salad mixed in, which would have been a great idea; instead, it was all-white chicken, and had garlic mixed in. My coffee was strong – very strong. It made me excited all over again.

I love Cleveland. I love what it offers, the freedom and ideas, the opportunities to really create that are absent in other, bigger places, or where these opportunities are more difficult and commercialized without being better. I love the opportunity that we have here to be part of the resurgence of a city, to be pioneers in doing something – who was it that said he came not to help the healthy but to heal the sick? – and to create new movements and participate in this new, constantly-changing city.

Now if we could just fix the bridge.

*I realize the irony of saying this after having moved so much myself, but in my defense, I did not move here looking for wealth that I couldn't find in San Diego.

**I have a friend, Bianca, in Chicago who wanted to see Mickey Avalon on his last tour. The show in Chicago, however, was sold out, so she couldn't get tickets. We not only got tickets in Cleveland, at the Grog Shop, but we were stage-side the entire night, were sprayed by his sweat, danced onstage during Jane Fonda and she kissed him at the end of the night while he was leaving the stage.

Mojo's Cafe on Urbanspoon

Rider’s 1812 Inn and Grill

792 Mentor Ave
Painesville, OH 44077
(440) 354-8200

by Beau Cadiyo

Following up on Scarlet’s post about burgers:

Heated Barbecue Sauce. A minor luxury.

I expected interesting things from Rider’s 1812 Inn. After all, it was built in 1812 on what used to be a major stagecoach line; upon first walking in, from the pouring rain, the inside could have been filled with men and women who participated in the Revolution. The old wood, careful lighting and low ceilings gave me the feeling that I was in a building frozen in time; the fact that it was completely empty added to the sense that we were trespassing in both place and century.

After a few minutes of wandering, a hostess appeared. Yes, they were serving lunch; yes, we could sit in the old part (as opposed to the new bit, built in the early 1900s; yes, the specials were as advertised on the board. She was new, and had only been there a few days; later, we learned that the cook was brand new, too. Such turnover made us slightly suspicious. We were also suspicious of the “Freedom Fries” on the menu – it was the first time I’d actually seen them called “Freedom Fries,” although I’d sarcastically ordered them before in other restaurants. Frank Becker ordered a burger without the fries simply because she didn’t want anything so absurd.

While we waited, a woman wandered past us, back and forth, muttering to herself. It seemed polite not to mention it.

The food came out in waves, which was quaint and endearing rather than amateurish. My burger, ordered with Pepper Jack cheese, onions, mushrooms and bacon on top, was perfectly done, with well-mixed ingredients, crunchy bacon and tender beef. The herb bread bun made it more exotic than I would have expected considering the post-Colonial setting, but was a welcome and delicious modification. The fries were perfect, and the green beans were cooked with bacon, which kept our Muslim member from eating them but meant I got his share. They were crisp, hot and sweet, with the right balance between bacon and green beanniness that almost prevented identification of the bacon while making it noticeable.

When Frank Khan asked for barbecue sauce, it took a while for it to come out. When it did, it was served in miniature tureens. Reason: the barbecue sauce was heated. Until Rider’s, I viewed condiments as mere flavors. Their sauciness, while clearly adding texture and temperature, seems designed to interfere as little as possible in ways besides adding flavor. Liquidity allows them to seep into small pockets of the sandwich or get absorbed by the bread, something cheese, meat and vegetables fail at. Perhaps they even make bites more satisfying by making them more substantial, without the airiness one always associates with onion slices and around the edges of tomatoes.

But temperature modification was something new. Of course, barbecued burgers have hot barbecue sauce, but this was the first time I’d seen it heated it in a restaurant – this practice should be emulated across the land. I began to imagine the possibilities of modifying barbecue sauce, with more spices – peppers, or rosemary. Or, perhaps, barbecue sauce in solid form, as shavings of flavor, sticking to one’s teeth and flavoring every bite beyond just the burger. The possibilities, while not limitless, were exciting nonetheless.

We paid up and walked out into the rain, 1.5 hours after we’d entered. The service, while not fast, and maybe not totally professional, was fun and interesting, and the food was delicious and innovative – something we didn’t expect to find in a place built almost 200 years ago.

Rider's 1812 Inn on Urbanspoon

Friday, December 19, 2008

DUI-S: Driving while Under the Influence of a Sandwich

I know, I know - no posts for a while. We have no excuses, and the "situation" will be rectified soon. Until then:

This poor girl fainted when she ate sandwiches. One might think that knowing this she might not eat sandwiches whilst driving - but no, she did, and she fainted. Nice.

Second, I've long thought that poison was an underutilized method of assassination. I mean, it shows up all throughout historical literature, and then when guns came out it seems that poison went by the wayside. Who can forget the apothecary's potion finishing off Romeo? Whatever happened to "tasters" who kept rulers from being poisoned - do they still have any? Well, it's back. I just wonder what kind of food the alleged assassin was going to use. Sandwiches have been in vogue recently.

Speaking of, dear Robert Mugabe: consider this an official invitation to visit Cleveland and eat at Jimmy John's with me. My treat.


Thursday, December 4, 2008

After 87 years, the Cleveland Clinic finally starts studying sandwiches

By Beau Cadiyo

I’ve been waiting for most of my 29 years to say this: serious research is now being done by the Cleveland Clinic into sandwiches. Brigid Prayson, James T. McMahon, PhD, and Richard A Prayson, MD published an article titled Fast food hamburgers: what are we really eating? in the Annals of Diagnostic Pathology. (Brigid, the daughter of Richard, is a high school student; bravo to her for this work. I hope Harvard calls soon with a scholarship.)

The study found, among other things, that the biggest ingredient in fast food hamburgers is water, the actual meat content of fast food hamburgers ranges from 2.1-14.8%, and that much of the rest of the patties is skeletal muscle, connective tissue, blood vessels, nerves, “adipose tissue,” plant matter, cartilage and bone. The authors found parasitic organisms in two hamburgers.

The good news is that the Cleveland Clinic is finally recognizing that sandwiches warrant real, thorough academic study. The bad news is that the research is showing just how bad fast food hamburgers really are. To see the entire story, go to (I believe a subscription is required).

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Food Aesthetics

We will be exploring more about food aesthetics in the near future. For now, I highly recommend browsing these pictures of food art from across the pond. It's cliche, but each one is more amazing than the previous one, which was amazing but WOW.


Monday, November 24, 2008

Best Burger

1979 E Maple St
North Canton, OH 44720
(330) 498-0808

by Scarlet Pumpernickel

At Best Burger I saw something I haven't seen since my days in Los Angeles, a Pastrami Burger, which I had no choice but to order. The restaurant is an interesting place. It has that clean cut post-Chipotle look that small fast food places all have these days. The one anomaly to the uniform style of the place is a mural on one of the walls that disturbed my temporal sensibilities by having a 1920's hobo wearing an advertising sandwich billboard thing and a 1970's taxi cab. What year is the theme anyway? It was fascinating because the more I looked, the more it seemed like a collection of disparate elements that are all interesting but don't seem to belong together. Why was the statue of Liberty on one side of the mural? Was this a painting of New York, or was the artist just trying to be patriotic?

I enjoyed my burger, but left feeling somewhat unsatisfied. Later that day, while I was reflecting on the burger, I realized that the problem was that the pastrami was being treated as a topping, and not as a full partner in the construction of the burger. This is a problem because a topping has to have a distinct enough flavor profile without being overpowering to work in a sandwich. Pastrami, being a beef product itself, is not distinct enough to be a topping like bacon or ham. So, much like the mural, I was left wondering what the plan was. Did they just throw together a bunch of things they liked without any idea how they would fit together in the end?

Let me explain more thoroughly. A burger is, at its base, a ground beef patty on a bun. You can top that burger with a variety of things, cheese, lettuce, onions, etc. You can top it with special things that give the burger a special name, like Southwest Burger. These toppings do not change the fundamental nature of the burger. They are flavor/texture agents added on top.

Some things sitting on top of a burger can fundamentally change the sandwich. When I ordered a Pastrami Burger in LA at my favorite place to order Pastrami Burgers, they would put 8oz of pastrami on it. Not 8oz by weight, 8 fluid ounces. They literally took an 8oz Styrofoam cup, packed it with pastrami, and set it next to the grill to be added to the sandwich when it was done. You didn't walk in wanting a burger and then just decided to get the one with pastrami; you went in there knowing you wanted to order it because it was more than twice the sandwich of their regular burger.

Chili burgers are another good example. Just taking your restaurant's soup chili and sloping it on top of a burger is unacceptable. Beans have no place in a burger chili (exception being on a vegetarian chili burger). Chili on burgers is an all meat affair, and the chili has to be made extra viscous so it doesn't run all over to hell and back.

Changing the nature of a burger isn't limited to just meat. Down south, they can slap a wad of coleslaw on a burger big enough to count as a full side in most places.

The point is, there is a great deal of experimentation to be done and I feel like no one is doing it. I want to see experimentation beyond just a second (or, gasp, a third) beef patty on a burger. What about some kind of beef-pork-lamb triple-decker? What about a burger with a crab cake on it? I'm not saying these things would be any good, but shouldn't somebody try? If they're out there, I want to find them. I want to eat on the fringe of the burger world and discover new sandwiches whose consumption in and of itself is an experience.

Otherwise it's just a tasty burger with some pastrami on top that makes for an otherwise unremarkable lunch.

Best Burger on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Sandwich used in another attack

by Beau Cadiyo

Frank Thorson sent me this article about yet another sandwich used in a violent assault.

In times like these, it is useful to remember two things:

1) If sandwiches are criminalized, only criminals will use sandwiches;
2) Sandwiches don't kill people - people kill people.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Fabulous Food Show - Day Two

by Beau Cadiyo

I got down to the FFS today; here are my notes.

First, there are a lot of stands charging for samples. I may be part of the older generation, because when I was young, samples were free. In fact, I think that's part of the definition of a sample - something you give away for free to let people try whatever product you're pushing. At the FFS, though, people were actually charging for samples.

This practice must stop. Period. If you charge for something, it's not a sample. From now on, I would recommend a policy at any food convention: no charging for samples.

I naturally wouldn't pay for anything, but I'd definitely pay attention to the places with real samples. Here are the ones we found:

1) Distillata Company. No sandwiches. They have water, of course, but their stand also had these single-cup coffee brewing machines. To use them, you have to use their coffee packets, but the German Chocolate Cake coffee was absolutely amazing and they had free biscotti.

2) Just Pizzelles. No sandwiches. These are little cookie-type things; I'd never heard of them, but they were tasty. The first one I tried was the Jalapeno Pizzelle; it was mild, and then spicy, but in a way that warmed your whole mouth evenly - it was a very interesting sensation. When I asked if they had sandwiches, she pointed me to the PB&J Pizzelle; it definitely tasted like grape jelly and peanut butter, but the grape jelly flavor was a little too chemically. Christina, the girl who talked to me, was sexy in an unconventional way which I couldn't quite put my finger on. If someone can identify it, please let me know.

2) Cajun Island. No sandwiches. I had the chicken with the Jerk sauce, which was tasty, but nothing absolutely mind-blowing. I asked about a sandwich they'd recommend, though, and they said Ciabatta bread with chicken, green onion and provolone, with their sauce, which sounds amazing.

3) Alcohol Killer. No sandwiches. A drink that apparently helps with hangovers and has nutrients or something. The pretty girl who was put out front to lure in guys described it and then got sullen when we didn't actually buy any.

4) The Olive Orchard. No sandwiches. I did taste a pepper-stuffed olive and some olive oil. Nobody said anything to me, though, or asked me if I needed anything. Compared to the other booths it was very noticeable.

It was after the olive orchard that I saw a black man walking down the aisle and realized that the crowd was overwhelmingly, crushingly white.

5) Robert Rothschild. No sandwiches. However, I tried the buffalo bleu cheese; Frank asked me, "How is it?" and my answer was, "Minus the chicken."

6) Alaska Seafood Marketing. No sandwiches. However, they did have salmon on a few greens which was delicious, and I was intrigued by the fact that they were simply marketing Alaskan seafood as a PR move.

7) Northwest Pears. No sandwiches. A stand marketing pears from the Pacific Northwest. Delicious, tender pears from the Pacific Northwest. It reminded me of the year I spent working on a gubernatorial campaign in Portland, Oregon; the candidate needed something to give to the county Democratic parties, so I made a pear-infused vodka using almost exclusively ingredients from Oregon and she gave it out as if she'd made it. These pears were magnificent - juicy, tender, with that tiny grittiness that comes when they're ripe.

It was at this point that I lost Franks Hoxha and Ciepiel. While walking around, I realized that it's much more fun to eat with other people than alone. Frank texted me that they were near the beer stand; when I got there, he was about to buy a beer before he realized that it would cost six dollars. Seriously, six dollars? It wasn't even a microbrew - I think it was Miller Or Bud or something. He didn't get one.

8) Frickaccios Pizza Market. No sandwiches. John, one of Frank's friends, was handing out samples of pizza bagels, which were oddly delicious, if not very bagel-ly.

9) Cookie Cupboard. No sandwiches. They did have gourmet dough, though, which is like Pillsbury but "good." I liked the white chocolate/macademia one myself.

At this point in my notes, I was reminded of my carnie days in Oregon, traveling and setting up across from either the cutting board people or the salsa makers (both of which were owned by the same guy, who I really respected for employing people at carnivals and state fairs and making hundreds of thousands of dollars every summer. I wanted a salsa maker.

10) Sorcerer Seasoning. No sandwiches. We did have some fried provolone cheese, though, which was delicious. The lady, with flaming red hair and bright eyes under her bangs, was attractive, but in a charismatic, enchanting magician sort of way.

11) Little Dipper Co. No sandwiches. We did have the red chili pepper and spicy Italian dipping sauces, which were delicious.

12) Big Dipper Food. No sandwiches. Unrelated to the Little Dipper Co. The peanut brittle popcorn and the cashew brittle were both outstanding. When I asked questions, the father would look at his son and the son would answer quietly, so that I had to lean in to hear him. I got the sense that the father was allowing his son to talk to people, encouraging it, to help his son get over shyness or something. It was done in a very brave, paternal way which I thoroughly appreciated - the father may have sold more if he'd done the talking, but was willing to let his son do it to develop his skills. I liked it.

13) Hot D Wakeup Juice. No sandwiches. Bloody Mary mix with energy supplements; they served them in little cups with tiny sticks of celery, which was a great touch.

14) Shearer's. No sandwiches. The buffalo bleu cheese chips were tasty.

15) Hay's Orchard Original Juices. No sandwiches. The Pomegranate Apple Juice was my favorite, followed by the Concord Grape, which was a little too sweet for me. I was waiting for the apple, but a rather large woman said "EXCUSE ME" loudly and I moved out of the way and then lost interest.

16) Stancato's. No sandwiches. We had pasta with the Rosa Maria sauce, which was...well, I can't taste the difference between sauces, usually. I mean, when I get a four-cheese sauce, I want to know where the cheese is, and I want to see it, melted and stringy, over my pasta, which it never is. Where is the cheese in four-cheese pasta sauce? Anyway, to me, sauces are pretty much the same, and I like Ragu.

17) Dennis Farms. No sandwiches. However, they had Maple Creme and Orange Maple Creme, which is like semi-solidified maple syrup. The orange was surprisingly amazing - definitely a good stocking stuffer. With its deliciousness, I was surprised there weren't more people flocking around the booth.

There were lots of Amish people walking around, which was interesting. We learned later that, like with the Alaskan seafood and PNW pear stands, there was an Amish stand, complete with buggy. The kids were very cute.

18) Bubba's Q Hot Sauce. No Sandwiches. Pretty good. However, having eaten at Hot Sauce Williams earlier in the day, I wasn't in the mood so much.

19) Saeco. No sandwiches. This is another coffee maker company, but they make espresso. Instead of needing coffee from their company, it uses, regular coffee, has a self-contained grinder and makes some strong stuff. I went up fast and crashed just as hard, getting extremely sleepy on the way back.

20) Almondina. No sandwiches. The guys looked like they were trying to pick up girls rather than sell stuff - it was a good strategy, as there were a lot of cute girls around. A LOT of cute girls. The cookies themselves were, to me, dry and airy.

21) Ashtabula County. No sandwiches. Ashtabula has the longest covered bridge on the US, 20 wineries and grows 65% of Ohio's grapes. They also serve delicious mussels in a butternut squash sauce, which could be a soup, really. The chef had picked the ingredients himself earlier that day (well, not the mussels).

22) Emerald Necklace Inn. No sandwiches. They do have a whole range of tea-derived products, including a pesto green tea/sundried tomato sauce served over bowtie pasta. I love tea; I founded a tea appreciation society in college, actually, and drink gallons of the stuff. However, I didn't like the taste of this. It's not horrible, but I don't know that it's good. It's just different.

There were smaller stages with amateur chefs performing. One, a Latin-looking man, was next to us as we waited in line for fresh-cooked food from a couple of cafes. It struck me that his stuff was actually amateurish and kitschy...but, at the same time, that it was no different than what other celebrity chefs did. To pretentiously overanalyze it, the phrase "celebrity chef" puts "celebrity" before "chef." These people are more actors, performers, entertainers, than chefs, and the celebrity part matters to people. I mean, most of the recipes that these people make are roughly comparable to each other, and most people will never make the dishes that they watch made on television. It is the communicator that really matters.

23) Heck's Cafe. Sliders. The bread is the same sort of bread you get at CostCo, but it was a little dry. The meat, though - herbed ground beef topped with what tasted like Provolone cheese. They were well-done, probably to ensure that bacteria are cooked out. Compared to Denny's Beer Barrel Pub these were absolutely heavenly. Ciepiel and Hoxha also noticed the high quality of the beef, and similarly relished this Moment of Sandwich.
This was my first slider ever; I had actually considered going to White Castle last night, as I passed by one on Euclid. Sliders are such a strange, quirky idea.

24) Grumpy's Cafe. No sandwiches. Jambalaya. Dry.

25) Cleveland Museum of Art. No sandwiches. However, there is a special "Luxury" exhibit right now through January, and they had what tasted to be luxurious chocolates that looked like tiles. The volunteers were very nice and recommended a couple of sandwich spots that I may review in the near future.

We glanced into the main event area. The whole time we were walking around we kept hearing waves of applause and hooting; they came from this separated section. Inside were rows and rows of chairs and some bleacher seats, half-filled with people. I didn't even know who was playing - having even half-filled seats to see a cook seemed surreal. I guess it's just entertainment, though.

As far as conventions go, this was one of the better ones. At least the subject was something that is useful and necessary to people. You may as well enjoy the basic bits of life.

However, at the wine tasting, the ridiculous posturing started to get to me. It has always been a pet peeve of mine when people say that something is the "best (object) ever." By saying that you went to the "best Thai restaurant ever," or that you have the "best boyfriend ever," or that you had the "best phone call ever," you're saying that you've tried all the others and, with subjective tastes, you are judging something. The problem is that we all have limited experience, limited objectivity, limited judgment and the overwhelming need to be discriminating in some way, or in many ways. For whatever reason, wine is something that people want to be discriminating about, to be expert on, and which almost nobody ever is. "Oh," someone just said, "but I can taste the difference with my discriminating, well-trained palate." Maybe you can. But most people can't, yet they feel the need to present themselves as somehow experts.

That's part of the reason I liked having the Franks with me - they were open about their lack of knowledge, and asked for advice. I tried to be, too, but I finally admitted that there was very little difference between most of them that I could taste. Well, there was one that tasted like someone had infused tobacco smoke into it, but that was exceptionally bad.

I also started to doubt my own powers of objectivity about food. I mean, I am not "classically" trained in food. I looked back through some of my posts to see what I wrote, and if I should feel hypocritical by being irritated by wine connoisseurs.

The jury is out. I mean, the most criticized of my posts is also filled with facts: there were potato sacks on the floor and leaking oil at Burger Nuts, and I can't change that fact, no matter how many people say they've been a bunch of other times and that I am wrong. Several places have distinctive bathrooms. Yet I sometimes wonder if my judgment - that the barbecue beef at Slyman's is too vinegary, for example, but the corned beef is superb - is presented in too objective a manner.

I'll be thinking about that. Right now I'm tired, and I may go downtown. Tomorrow, Scarlet and her roommate are going to the IX Center for the last day of the Fabulous Food Show - and you should join them.

Fabulous Food Show

by Beau Cadiyo

Yesterday was the first day of the Fabulous Food Show. I'm sure it was amazing; however, like normal people, Scarlet, Franks Hoxha and Li and I all had to work. I'm guessing that this is meant to draw food-lovers from around the world; however, it's amazing to me that they take the time out of their lives to come to a conference, arriving Thursday and staying through Sunday. Of course, there are many conventions I don't understand.

Anyways, I'm doing some research on soul food this morning and then I'll head over to the FFS. There had better be some fricking sandwiches at this thing.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Fabulous Food Show

I just received the following information about a show this weekend at the IX Center.

"The Fabulous Food Show ( is coming up this weekend, November 14 – 16, at the IX Center. This year’s show will include celebrity chefs such as Paula Deen and Cleveland’s own Michael Symon, as well a chance to check out some of the best food and wine in the Midwest."

If you have the chance, stop on by! We'll be the ones firing sandwich-related questions to the speakers - particularly when it isn't question-and-answer time.


Saturday, November 8, 2008

Denny’s Beer Barrel Pub

1452 Woodland Road
Clearfield, PA 16830

By Scarlet Pumpernickel

I knew it was trouble when Beau emailed me about some kid who had eaten a 20lb burger in Pennsylvania. When he suggested we go check the place out, how could I say no? It's was going to be a bit of a drive, but I can't back down from a challenge; certainly not one that involves a giant burger. 20lbs of food is well beyond me, but they have a couple of smaller challenges for the slightly less foolhardy. Beau and I were each planning on tackling the "2lb" burger challenge which nets you half price on the meal, a tee-shirt, and a photo on the wall. So, early on a Saturday morning, we set out to the east to face our burger destiny.

The restaurant is a casual place; a seat yourself affair. It was also packed, which wasn't too surprising because it was lunchtime. Once we got settled in, we ordered our burgers. According to the rules, you have one hour to finish the burger, and it comes with a standard set of toppings, of which you can only remove one. We filled out forms with our names and information and had our photos taken.

After what seemed like an interminable wait, we received our burgers. Neither of us was prepared for how big they actually turned out to be. I've eaten 1+lb burgers before, so I figured this would just be about twice that size. Unfortunately for me, the 2lb burger was the post-cooked weight of just the patty. A patty about eight inches in diameter and more than an inch thick sitting between the two halves of a "bun" that was really just a round loaf of bread cut in half, with lettuce, onions, peppers, tomatoes, cheese, mayo, ketchup, and mustard piled on, topped with a pickle.

The waitress marked our start times and the battle began.

When I was in college, Fox had an eating competition special. Sure, we've all seen the clips on the news about this or that person finishing some obscene amount of whatever, but actually seeing the whole competition was another matter all together. What struck me was that in the world of competitive eating there are two kinds of challenges, ones where the contestant must eat as much of something normal, like hot dogs, as he/she can and ones where the contestant much choke down as much of something disgusting, like a bowl of mayonnaise, as possible. Don't get me wrong, I love mayonnaise, but a bowl of the stuff on its own? Disgusting.

One bite into the burger (much more difficult than it sounds because the whole burger is about 6 inches tall with bun and simply cannot be eaten like a normal burger) revealed this challenge to be one of the latter type. The meat patty was gritty, flavorless, and dry. It was like they took the lowest grade beef they could find, ground it as finely as they could, threw in some filler to hold it together, and cooked the life out of it. It was one of the worst burger patties I've ever had. It WAS the challenge. I imagine there are a lot of big guys who could come in and eat a normal burger of that size if they really tried, but swallowing that dense, flavorless wad of protein was pretty unpleasant.

It clearly didn't have to be that way. The toppings were all fresh and crispy and the bread, while a bit stiff, likely for structural reasons, tasted fine. The place was also packed with locals eating normal burgers, so I simply cannot believe that they make their normal patties that way. I admit, a normal burger patty of that magnitude would fall to pieces while you ate it, but the massive burger is far too ungainly for it to matter. Thus the battle was not between me and a giant burger, but between me and a terrible burger.

I gave it my all, but after 40 minutes I had to throw in the towel. I was out of breath simply from the effort it took to try and digest the food already in my stomach. I was almost halfway done; Beau fared even worse than I did. We didn't feel too bad because of all the encouragement and support we got from the staff and other patrons.

That's the biggest shame of the whole affair, the place is charming, and everyone there is really friendly. I don't for a second think I could have finished the burger if the meat was better, but if it was, I would have gone back someday to try again.


By Beau Cadiyo

We parked in the dirt lot. Inside, it felt like a hunting lodge, and the hunters at the tables – in green, or camouflage, and boots – didn’t hurt. The barmaids were cute and blonde, but just past perfection, with lines starting to show in their unsmiling faces. The cutest, wearing a shirt that read “You can’t spell c_ck_ _ cker without OSU,” turned out to be exceptionally rude and unpleasant; we moved tables and were served by an brunette who was just as nice, if a little more plain, as the blonde was bitchy. It’s funny how personality can absolutely trump mere physical attractiveness.

While waiting, it became evident that most of the people there were probably townies, or at least not there for the burger challenge. A group of four standing at the bar were trying to make plans for the day; one of the women said, “Well we can always go to WalMart after the wedding.” Just after this, the waitress came out with a plate and a very large burger on top. We grinned; if that’s what we were supposed to eat, we’d be fine. High-fives all around.

Then ours came out. They were plate-wide and head-high. There was certainly no way we could take bites out of it like a normal hamburger, and we were told we couldn’t use silverware; this would require some other sort of plan. Scarlet seemed to try to shave pieces off of it, a sliver at a time, all the way down; I decided to start with the bun, tomatoes and two pounds of beef, leaving the pile of pepperoncinis, onions, lettuce and lower bun on the plate for later. And we began.

Disgusting. While the tomatoes were tasty, the bread was cracker-dry. The meat was not much better; it too was dry and chalky, leaving an unpleasant, gritty texture in my mouth. Scarlet put her engineering mind to the task and reasoned that it had to be ground finely in order to cook through effectively, and that the smaller burgers must – must – be better. I started drinking water with each bite to moisten bites and compact it, Kobayashi-style. Then, I started eating a bite of meat and bread with some pepperoncinis or onions to make it more palatable. To no avail; I soon started feeling sick. I tried just eating the vegetables. I tried the bread and vegetables. In desperation, I drank half of a bottle of water to settle my stomach and tried to take another bite – just one more.

It was Saint Crispian’s day, 593 years after the Battle of Agincourt. I remembered that
He that outlives this day, and comes safe home,
Will stand a tip-toe when this day is nam'd,
And rouse him at the name of Crispian.
He that shall live this day, and see old age,
Will yearly on the vigil feast his neighbours,
And say 'To-morrow is Saint Crispian.'
Then will he strip his sleeve and show his scars,
And say 'These wounds I had on Crispian's day.'
Old men forget; yet all shall be forgot,
But he'll remember, with advantages,
What feats he did that day…
This story shall the good man teach his son;
And Crispin Crispian shall ne'er go by,
From this day to the ending of the world,
But we in it shall be remembered.

It was certainly a feast, and I will certainly remember it. Every year, around my birthday and around New Years, I wonder what exactly I will leave to my kids. I know almost nothing about my parents’ early lives – my father’s trip from Africa to Europe and then New York, where he met my mother, a nice Polish Catholic girl from Staten Island. I know that he was a boxing champion, and won an annual televised game show, the prize of which was a medical degree in Montpellier, France; I know that her mother owned a soda shop, that she met Warren Beatty when he filmed Splendor in the Grass, and that she was married twice before she met my father, when they worked in the same hospital. What will my kids know of me? What can they know about the year I spent in the UK – about going to the student union, getting drunk, and stumbling to the chip shop for a kebab and French fries before making it home to Gordon Road? What about the year in Barcelona – can they know about the first bocadillo de tortilla de patatas that I had at Pans & Company, or the jamon Serrano from the café on the corner in Gracia? Will they even know about these periods of my life, or will they know only about my life with them?

I don’t know. But every October 25, I will invite Scarlet over, and my kids will hear about how two of the writers of the Cleveland Sandwich Board drove seven hours round-trip through the hills of Western Pennsylvania to a restaurant in a beautiful little town called Clearfield. They will know that Ed and D. John couldn't make it, but that they were with us in spirit. I will roll up my shirt, and show them the stretch marks, explaining at which bite I received each one. When they are young I will tell them that we each ate half of a two-pound burger, and every year the percentage will increase; we will have eaten fries on top of the five-pounder, and requested more, which they wouldn’t give us, having run out of food in the kitchen. My children will wish they’d been there, too, no matter how old they get or how many times they hear the story. Then we will tuck into our feast of cheap ground beef, vegetables and bread, and I will watch them, and remember my glorious youth.

Friday, November 7, 2008

The Winking Lizard

1852 Coventry Rd
Cleveland Heights, OH 44118
(216) 397-8380

by Beau Cadiyo

I’ve been to the Winking Lizard several times, and have gotten their sandwiches several times – particularly the veggie burger. I’ve often tried to write a review of them, and looked for a hook – the iguana in the aquarium, the absurdly hot barmaid, the hosts who often just wait around the entrance, the rambling rooms.

The thing is, I don’t think there is a hook. It’s an ok place to eat. They have a good beer selection. Other than that, I don’t know what to say. Or maybe that's it - it's mediocre. Ach.

Winking Lizard Tavern on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, November 5, 2008


95 Richmond St.
Painesville, OH 44077
(440) 352-6000

By Beau Cadiyo

I wept. It started when McCain gave his concession speech, far more gracious and mature than Hillary had been. Then, Barack strode to the podium, with the strong set behind him, Leni’s spotlights rising above the perfect flags, his words of victory passionate and portioned and pure, raucous, crazed crowds chanting the same words over and over again. My girlfriend, who is not a citizen and could not vote, held my hand while her sister, who is a citizen and did not vote, sat across the table and watched. The bar broke out in cheers at certain points; it was pseudo-revolutionary, after eight years of oppression by the Republicans, to suddenly find ourselves in so totally in control of the government. There were tears, passionate embraces between absolute strangers and gangs of youth running down the street cheering.

I wondered if the rest of the world felt the same way.

The next morning I drove to Painesville and parked between two massive trucks – a Chevy and a Ford, both loaded with some manner of construction gear and both beds higher than the roof of my car. Small groups of old people clustered around, but then it seemed they always did that out here. I walked in and was clearly the youngest person in the room and the only one in slacks and a button-up shirt. There was camouflage, there were grease-stained jeans and paint-stained boots, there was a tiny girl just learning to walk and smile at strangers. I walked to the counter and waited in line – waited for the voices to rise, for indignation, for violent political denouncements and vows of revenge, for my chance to order.

The menu was the same. Number Two had one sausage McMuffin, one hash brown and a small coffee. I’d been craving a McMuffin since the previous Friday, when I had actually driven to Chicago and stood near Grant Park; it was perfect. The English muffin was chewy, the sausage spiced and the egg actually tasted real and substantial. The hash brown was still way too salty; the coffee, with two creams and two sugars, was still coffee with two creams and two sugars. Low, indecipherable music hummed in the background and voices were subdued.

When I got into the office, the manager was haranguing a secretary about how Obama would raise the estate tax at the first opportunity, and a paralegal was talking to the only Moslem employee about how a Muslim was elected because of the “backward hillbilly” vote. (She didn’t know he was Muslim.) Then I looked at my McDonald’s receipt; a notice at the top said that they’re hiring for all shifts. It seems that the poor will always be with us – and that they will also always have jobs, and opinions, and the same right to vote as every other citizen. In short, despite all of the challenges of our time, our democracy will continue, so long as we continue to work at it.

McDonald's on Urbanspoon

Friday, October 17, 2008


I know that we're behind on reviews - my sincerest apologies. To tide you over until our next sandwich, I invite you to read of the man who ate a 20-pound hamburger in five hours. This is a good chance to say something: "Kobayashi, eat your heart out."

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

This is the wrong message to be sending

An Australian woman who put glass in her husband's sandwiches has avoided going to jail.

I think this is the wrong message to be sending people. Sandwiches should never be used as weapons. This judge is a disgrace.


Sunday, September 28, 2008

Rock Bottom Restaurant and Brewery

2000 Sycamore St #260
Cleveland, OH 44113

By Scarlet Pumpernickel

I began my love affair with bourbon based sauces many years ago with a gravy made by an ex-boyfriend. He was a very good cook, and was making a roast beef dinner. He asked for some wine to pick up all the meaty flavor bits in the pan. I decided on the red I was most willing to sacrifice and discovered I didn't know where my corkscrew was. Being ever resourceful, he suggested we use a liquor instead. After a lengthy discussion on the right alcohol to use, we settled on Wild Turkey. The gravy was amazing; I still use the recipe today.

So you can understand how excited I was when I saw the "Bourbonzola Burger" on the menu at Rock Bottom, with three things I love: Bourbon and Gorgonzola cheese on a burger. Immediate thought: spectacular! Unfortunately, the final result was not as exciting as I expected.

The first thing I noticed when the burger was placed in front of me was that the bourbon glaze was served on the side in a little cup. This was a smart move on their part because the glaze was very powerful. It tasted like a very sweet BBQ sauce with a hint of bourbon in it. Putting it on the burger crushed every other flavor present. The beef especially suffered under the tyranny of the glaze. It's not bad meat, but it wasn't extraordinarily flavorful, so only the meaty texture came through. In fact, the only flavor on the burger that was able to stand up to the glaze was the Gorgonzola cheese. Unfortunately, they didn't put enough on the burger to taste it in every bite. On the positive side, the onion straws were perfect. They added just the right crunchy texture.

A delicate application could, I suppose, keep the glaze for crushing the rest of the burger, but it wouldn't fix my number one complaint about the burger: where's the bourbon? Now, I'll admit that I like to drink my liquor straight. I enjoy the taste of bourbon, and when I hear "bourbon glaze" I expect a glaze that tastes like bourbon. Sure, many people wouldn't want a bourbon loaded sauce, but I have two counter arguments to that claim:

1. The sauce comes on the side anyway, they don't have to put it on if they don't like it.
2. There are other burgers on the menu they can order, including one with barbecue sauce.

I know restaurants across the country are trying to spice up their menus with unusual dishes and ingredients, but that's no excuse for over-promising on what is ultimately a perfectly fine burger. It just didn't have the exciting flavors I was expecting, likely out of a misguided fear of making something that might only be appealing to a small group of people. In the end, I will be going back. The place has a good atmosphere, the staff is great, they let us play a Wii on one of the big tvs, and they have a good selection of beers. I'll just go with a classic burger next time.

Rock Bottom Restaurant & Brewery on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Buckeye Beer Engine

15315 Madison Ave
Lakewood, OH 44107

By Scarlet Pumpernickel

For my first review I decided to go to a place that I know well, the Beer Engine in Lakewood. Located in an unassuming building on a quiet street, the Beer Engine is a bar with a very casual atmosphere combined with good food and a great beer selection. They have around 30 beers on tap including two beers in wooden casks. The casks aren't pressurized like a normal steel keg, so pumping the beer out requires an engine, hence the name of the bar.

The burger selection here is nicely varied. The menu has common standbys like a southwest themed burger and the now near ubiquitous blackened burger with blue cheese, but it also has some more unusual entries as well. I ordered the Cyclops burger. It's loaded with bacon, cheddar cheese, and a sunny-side-up egg. You have the option of either homemade chips or shoestring fries. Most people prefer the shoestring fries, I like the chips better myself.

The first thing you'll notice when you get your burger is the deep fried pickle that comes with it. Normally the pickle on the side of a platter serves as a cool, tart compliment to the meatiness of the burger, letting you cleanse you palette. Breading and frying the pickle makes it much sweeter and heavier so that it can step up to being a full participant in the meal.

The meat in the burgers is, well, unique. It tastes very different from most gourmet burgers. I've heard a range of theories on what makes them so tasty: grass fed cows, grinding the beef themselves, even a little ground pork mixed in (hey, it makes vegetables more tasty), but regardless of how they do it, the burgers are delicious. They even taste great when over-cooked, which brings me to the one real knock on the Beer Engine. The place gets VERY busy Friday and Saturday nights, and on rare occasions your burger will come out more medium than rare/medium rare, or an appetizer will be forgotten, or the wrong beer will be brought (and quickly corrected).

But we need to get back to my burger. When we left it, it was about to be eaten. The Beer Engine knows that the most important part of putting an egg on a burger is to leave the yolk nice and runny. When you place the bun on top, you will break the yolk and it will go running everywhere. That's ok. Much of it will absorb into the top bun (bun consistency is critical here, we're looking for porous, yet durable), but the yolk that makes it to your plate can be sopped up with the side of the burger between bites. It sounds messy, but if the yolk was cooked through, you would have a yolk nugget treacherously waiting for you somewhere at the center of the burger, overpowering all the other flavors for a few bites.

I wandered to another entrée on the menu once. It wasn't bad, but it wasn't as good as their burgers either. Perhaps it's just when you find something you really like, everything else seems worse by comparison.

Buckeye Beer Engine on Urbanspoon

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Burger Nuts

30699 Euclid Ave,
Wickliffe, OH 44092
(440) 585-1111‎

by Beau Cadiyo

I’m all for gimmicks as part of the sales process provided that the underlying object being sold is good. If it’s not good, a purchase-inducing gimmick is like a peacock’s feathers – puffery designed to deceive. Burger Nuts is just that – instead of being gimmicky to get people in, and then producing quality products to maintain customers, they try to sell the gimmick without anything supporting it.

When we got there on Friday at 6:15 p.m., it was packed with people. The crowd was family-friendly; overweight youngsters ate with overweight parents and overweight grandparents. Save for the two guys in front of us still in sweaty exercise clothes, we may have been the only regular gym-goers in the place.

The first thing that made me suspicious were the piles of potatoes I leaned against while waiting in line. I’m all for putting raw restaurant materials in sight of the customer. It allows the customer to see what they’re getting, and done subtly and well – like at Jimmy John’s – it becomes a part of a beautiful presentation. However, Burger Nuts’ approach was haphazard, obvious and sloppy. Burger Nuts: CLEAN UP.

Second, the menu, while fun, was complicated. Because of the number of choices and the number of toppings, figuring out the order I wanted crossed my eyes. Contrast this with In-N-Out, the famous and absolutely amazing Southern California chain which has about three hamburger options on its menu (but numerous more off-menu). I realize that the gimmick was to give the customer the ability to make their own special burger, but the sheer number of choices made it onerous. Burger Nuts: Simplify.

The nuts are similarly poorly run. When I asked about them, the waitress pointed to the only trash can in the entire restaurant. Perched on top was a large cardboard box containing peanuts. I looked for something to put them in; there were a few tiny metal buckets scattered about on the tables, but they were all full of peanut shells, and using them felt like using someone else’s dirty plate. Burger Nuts: figure out a system.

Fourth, the burgers are never frozen and are supposed to be fully customizable. As soon as I unwrapped burger I was disappointed. The onions and sauce had soaked through the bun, rendering it near-mush. The burger patties, while perhaps never frozen, were not, therefore, good; the beef was almost tasteless, even if it did have a pretty good texture and consistency. Frank Khan was similarly unimpressed with his. Burger Nuts: don’t think that the gimmicks will allow you to get away with a substandard product.

Finally, the potatoes I leaned against (and possibly contaminated) were also supposed to be used for the fresh-cut fries, and the newspaper article I’d read about Burger Nuts gushed about the huge portions. Pshaw. My regular fries would be the equivalent of a McDonald’s small, except that McDonald’s are well-cooked and crispy. Burger Nuts followed the recent trend of producing soggy, limp, tasteless fries. When I got up to get ketchup, the large dispensers were out; regular ketchup bottles had to be shaken to get the remaining ketchup out. I glanced over and saw, piled precariously high, boxes of cooking oil, some leaking out. Looking back into the kitchen there was a large, cavernous space; it couldn’t have been that they were out of storage room. Burger Nuts: make better fries, portion them well, and figure out a system for condiments.

By the time we were finished the restaurant had almost emptied out. Looking at the owner, who I recognized from the article, I felt a mixture of excitement and sadness. It is exciting that he is pursuing his dream for operating a restaurant; it’s sad that his dream couldn’t be better.

Burger Nuts on Urbanspoon

Thursday, September 18, 2008

The Goat Soup and Whiskey

820 Catawba Avenue
Put-In-Bay, OH 43456

by Beau Cadiyo

When we got up she barely talked to me. We’d spent the night in the South Bass park campground and packing up was accomplished in near-silence. So was driving, and figuring out where to eat; I could feel her anger and frustration directed at me from the passenger seat. Upstairs, we joined a few other hungover tables on the roofed patio. Her eyes were distant and uncommunicative.

I hated myself. I’d been a complete asshole, and kept apologizing, but nothing. She didn’t care any more. We ordered. It was chilly, so I went downstairs to get a sweater. On the way back up, rows of chocolates caught my eye. I went back down and picked some out. The man behind the counter told me that lots of men stop by for chocolate on Sunday mornings, and nodded. Upstairs, she ate a few.

My soup came – cream of mushroom. Hunger was an unnecessary spice – this soup was absolutely delicious. Then the sandwiches. My fried perch was stuffed in a long roll, with some tomato and lettuce, and fries formed a small pile on the plate with a pickle. They were limp – I’ve started to notice that a lot of places serve limp fries. The sandwich was probably good, but by this point I had no appetite. It just sat on my plate. Small, black varicose veins stood out against the white of the fish. That’s what I remember - the veins. Frank said that you shouldn’t fry white fish, but I don’t know that I’ve ever had perch any other way. The gyro she urged on me was mediocre – the small bite I took revealed almost plain meat, and I feel that gyro meat should be spiced to extinction. I realized that I was noticing the small things that you notice when you want to know someone – the way she poured pepper onto her fries, the way she propped her legs up on the chairs and the table, how she mostly picked at the dark chocolate. She used to insist on always paying half, but today she hadn’t brought a credit card. I had to pay.

When she went to the bathroom, I looked over at a table of three middle-aged women next to me. All three had wedding rings on, and for some reason I plucked up my courage and asked if they had any advice for a young man on how to make relationships work.

1) She’s always right.
2) Keep your own friends.
3) Give each other some space.
4) Compromise.
5) Two of them were divorcees, so maybe don’t listen to them too closely.

She came back outside and motioned me from the doorway. The women wished me quiet good luck as I walked past. In high school, people had nicknamed her the “Ice Queen.” Walking down the stairs, I could still feel her frustration with me even if she’d melted a bit with the meal. I was fairly sure we would not talk again after I dropped her off at home, and that made me infinitely sad, both because I truly cared about her and because hurting her was the last thing I ever wanted to do.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Lure Bistro

38040 3rd St
Willoughby, OH 44094
(440) 951-8862

By Beau Cadiyo

The relationships that people have with restaurants mirror human sexuality. Most restaurants that one might enter are like one-night stands – you may remember them, you may know how to get in touch, but you don’t plan on going back unless absolutely necessary. Here, either you’re extremely adventurous, eating things you normally wouldn’t, or you are exceptionally conservative, sticking with what you know. Others are like long-term marriages; you know the restaurant repeatedly and intimately, and you generally stick with one or, at most two, comfortable dishes. That’s a shame: the fun of casual dating, of the learning curve, of the playfulness of exploration and discovery and not knowing what you’re going to get, is lost as soon as you settle down into a rhythm. Restaurant relationships are boring and routine and predictable; you’ve lost the fun, the excitement, the spark. However, sometimes you get a taste of something new and exciting – that’s when you owe it to yourself to explore more, to dive in, to push your own limits. It’s uncomfortable, though, and difficult. It’s difficult to go to a restaurant that keeps you excited and interested and a little bit confused. It’s difficult to walk into a place and not know what to expect. You may be disappointed, you may wish you hadn’t tried at all, you may be scared. But in the end, it’s those moments where you have to close your eyes and remember what is happening and take the risk that it might be incredible.

Lure is a restaurant to date right now. It was just taken over by a new chef and his general manager, and it is evolving and changing and exciting. We would have reviewed it back when it was UrbanSpoon’s number one ranked restaurant in Cleveland, but we thought it was solely sushi and didn’t have sandwiches.

The lighting at first reminded me of a warm dinner party. The entire patio vibe, really, was like that; the only thing missing was a good host to talk to people, introduce them, share them around and mix and match the tables appropriately. Think of the function of a restaurant host. Now replace them with a good dinner party host who ensures that nobody is left alone, nobody feels out of place, and people with common interests, be it the law or architecture or food documentaries or voice-distorting megaphones are made aware of their commonalities and, therefore, brought that much closer. In some places, such a social catalyst would be out of place – the Velvet Dog, for example. At Lure, it felt uncomfortable not to be introduced to the two girls sitting just one table over, and uncomfortable not to know anything about the large dinner party under the outdoor chandelier.

Such a function was partially served when the manager, Jonathan, stopped by and introduced himself around the table. A tall, lean man with a shaved head, a massive watch and intricate tattoos up his arms, he was eager to talk about the restaurant and his plans for the menu – the new dishes he wanted to serve (I want to return to sample the bison and the crocodile), the features to renovate, etc. I got the impression that this was something special, something more than an ordinary restaurant. For him, Lure isn’t a business – it is a passion. It was exciting.

The grouper sandwich arrived and he excused himself. We fell upon the homemade chips, hot with oil, thinly cut and simultaneously crispy and chewy. The waiter absent-mindedly suggested a remoulade, wandering away and returning with a small cup, the contents of which I spread thinly on the bread.

It was simply incredible. The grouper fell apart in my mouth, flaking away, not too moist, not too dry. Frank Hoxha, who doesn’t like fish, actually used her fork to collect some of the bits that fell out. The tomato slice oozed juice and seeds and the bread was crispy on the outside and chewy on the inside. The remoulade was nice, but it was an unnecessary addition. It was like adding a single leaf or snowflake to a Hokusai print – it adds an element, sure, but it was not necessary and may have actually detracted from the rest.

Yet something seemed slightly off, and we all noticed it. Perhaps it was first-night jitters on the part of the staff, or fear and uncertainty on the part of the long-time patrons. We sat around talking as the patio and bar emptied out. When the bill came, we asked that it be split 75/25; the waiter mixed up the cards, so we settled it in cash. Things aren’t perfect at Lure, but there’s potential for something if a few of the kinks are worked out. There’s going to be a second date in the very near future.

Lure Bistro on Urbanspoon

Saturday, August 23, 2008

The Perfect Article

This is one of the best articles I've ever read. Short story short: a woman's dog ate her brother's sandwich. He threatened the dog; when she tried to protect the dog, he pushed her down. Nobody was hurt, no charges were pressed. What makes the article for me is that

a) This was published in the middle of Tropical Storm Fay in Florida;
b) The man thought that a sandwich was worth fighting over;
c) The economy of prose is just amazing. There is no attempt to insert quotes or relate it to some sort of broader social themes or get any of the extra, unnecessary crap from witnesses that or Fox might do. Wendy Victora, the author, seems to have pared it down to the bare essentials. As she wrote in an email, "Those stories really tell themselves." I really, really, really like her style (and if I was to imitate her, I would have cut those three "reallys" out).

As of this posting there were 23 comments. Only a few related to the fact that this might not actually be newsworthy; the rest, by and large, related to the sandwich, the dog and the motivation for the dog to eat the sandwich. Some of my favorite comments:

I am so glad the dog ate his sandwich.

drake1 wrote:
In the dog's defense I bet it was a tasty sandwich. I mean come on, who amongst us dog or human can resist a tasty sandwhich?

candl45 wrote:
Throw em all in the slammer! And that sammich stealin dog too! My dog steals my sammiches and eats the middles out leaving me the crust! Bad dog no cookie

dwbinfwb wrote:
"The mother, who had witnessed the incident, refused to talk to the deputy. The sister then became uncooperative."

So, who called the cops, the dog?

Who said there's no such thing as a free lunch?

mk1954 wrote:
Why didn't they tase the dog or the sister?

What does this say about America, when 23 people come together in the middle of a life-threatening tropical storm and discuss dogs, sandwiches and Tasers? I don't know, but I like it. I like it a lot.

Friday, August 22, 2008

Bronte inside Joseph Beth Booksellers

Legacy Village
24519 Cedar Road
Lyndhurst, OH 44124
(216) 691-7000

by Beau Cadiyo

I’d never anticipated eating here. First, it’s a theoretically independent café in a theoretically independent bookstore located in Legacy Village. I realize that there is a role for these places in our economy, but I have much more respect for giant businesses which run on economies of scale – McDonald’s, Wal-Mart, Starbucks. To me, these are the greatest businesses because they’ve figured out how to deliver massive quantities of goods to consumers with stunning, incredible efficiency. Independence, while purportedly American, is inefficient; I have little tolerance for people who protest efficiency.

However, Frank Hoxha, a Kosovar Albanian architect, was studying there, and invited me to join her. She was intriguing – while I know plenty of people who like(d) Bill Clinton, she was the first who credited him with actually saving her life. That day she was bitter – Bronte charged her for each shot in her quadruple-shot cappuccino, which offended some Balkan sensibility of hers. (She had ended up at Joseph Beth’s because Starbucks cools its store to about 45 degrees, and at Joseph Beth’s it was actually reasonably temperatured. This was the tradeoff: pay extra for each shot or freeze.)

I ordered. Even though we were clearly reclined on the sofa, and couldn’t have appeared imminently mobile, they brought my tuna melt to me in a Styrofoam carton wrapped in a plastic bag. This was the low point of the meal; who would expect an independent bookstore which prides itself on independence, located in Beachwood, to serve a meal which was to be eaten in the bookstore in such ecologically unfriendly materials? The environment-killing clamshell contained one Tuna Melt, one small cup of either quinoa or couscous salad (I get the two mixed up), a small cup of coleslaw and a pickle. I hadn’t eaten all day – I was unemployed and had simply forgotten – but hunger couldn’t account for these spices. The (either quinoa or couscous) salad was chilled, with fresh bits of vegetables and a vinegary tang; the coleslaw was sweet and crunchy. The pickle was limp, but not offensive. But the sandwich.

Good tuna melts are a special breed. Tuna melts require simplicity of ingredients; packing them full of heretofore unheard of vegetables and modified sauces ruins their inherent integrity. Michael Symon could make one, but he wouldn’t be able to really alter the core ingredients too much and still have an acceptable tuna melt. (Dear sir – you may consider the gauntlet laid.) Simple tuna melts can be absolutely mediocre but still be passable, too; tuna, cheese, bread, grill.

Bronte did the only thing I can think of to make a superb tuna melt: it used superb ingredients and cooked them superbly. The filling was warm, well-seasoned and most importantly moist. The cheese melted into the tuna, but wasn’t so heavy that it overwhelmed the taste. The bread was crisp on the outside, but chewy just below the surface. Altogether, the balance was sublime.

By the time I finished the four women playing Mahjong had packed up and the Russian girls sitting near us had left. Frank asked me about palmistry, and, looking it up on a website, we compared destinies. She has very, very wrinkly hands; beyond that, I can’t remember much. Frank Pratt and his wife, Frank, stopped by and said hello. Then, at some early hour, Joseph Beth and Bronte closed. Leave it to the independent stores to kick freeloading students out.

Bronte at Joseph-Beth Bksllrs on Urbanspoon

Seven Roses

6301 Fleet Ave
Cleveland, OH 44105
(216) 641-5789

by Beau Cadiyo

In Alex Garland’s “The Beach,” one of the key themes is the idea that, as humans, we’re always looking for virginity. It isn’t in the sexual sense, though – after all, who really wants to sleep with a virgin? It’s meant more in the sense that we’re always looking to be the first to find something new, to be the gentrifiers in a new area (even though we resist that classification) or to listen to a new band before they get popular, or to travel to the ends of the earth to “discover” a place not yet corrupted by tourists.
That’s the Seven Roses. The building was dark from the outside, seemingly built for strength rather than aesthetics. Inside, people buzzed about, children and adults alike coveting the pastries behind the glass display cases, all speaking Polish. A giant vat of fresh pickles marinated in the refrigerator; dark wood shelves, ornate and sturdy, lined the walls, displaying an incredible display of products unknown and magazines incomprehensible to us. Everyone was dressed up, even the children; it was Sunday, and after church, and everyone still maintained their old-world customs. It was incredibly bright inside, and I realized that more than anything it felt prosperous.
I followed Frank in ordering the Bratwurst sandwich with sauerkraut, adding potato pancakes. The waitress brought out water, sans ice, and some sort of flavored bread – I thought rye, Frank thought otherwise. We talked – girls, business, politics, everything you can be ambitious about. The food came and we were still talking. Babies played dangerously close to glass bottles, pulling them off of the shelves, the parents unfazed. Another waitress walked by with two large, steaming bowls; what is that? Umm…how do you say…cabbage soup. One, please – we’ll split it. Separate bowls? That would be wonderful, jinkooya. Surprise, and almost a curtsey as she walked back. Two bowls were delivered, and then our sandwiches.
It was incredible. The sausage was crisp, and I had a little bit of the tie-off at the end – where the outside binding was tied off and you could see it cut, crisped, delicious. One UrbanSpoon review said that the sausage was made in the basement by a Polish butcher, and the reviewer complained; we both thought it was fantastic. Why would you want sausage made in a factory in Canada when you could have it fresh from downstairs? The sauerkraut was sour, and lovely with the sandwich; the bread firm, a little toasty, but yielding delicately to the teeth. The potato pancakes were a little flaccid, the only weak point of the meal. The soup was incredibly flavorful – strong, thick, hearty.
The waitress came out; would we like coffee? Yes, and do you have a dessert menu? Then, another waitress came out with two slices of cheesecake. “Free,” she said, refusing to meet our eyes or statements of surprise, and the other waitress shrugged. “Free,” she said, and brought us coffee. We paid up at the front, looking around as open-eyed as the children had been an hour previously. The man behind me laughed; “it’s our first time here,” I said. “It’s obvious,” he said, in a thick accent. Jinkooya, jinkooya, and we left.

Seven Roses on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Café Ah Roma

2230 Euclid Ave
Cleveland, OH 44115
(216) 771-8700

by Beau Cadiyo

1. The increase in ATM fees in this city has reached absurd proportions. Both US Bank and National City near the West Side Market charge $3 for people to use their ATMs; the US Bank ATM INSIDE the West Side Market is only $2. I guess they need to make money somehow - their management certainly isn't doing a great job of it. A teller at the US Bank suggested I go to the dollar store down the street and get cash back; they let me buy an Arizona Iced Tea but then didn’t let me get cash. I was half-tempted to pour the tea on an ATM, but thought better of it.

2. I hate it when people say something is the “best X ever,” or “worst Y ever,” or any combination where the implication is that they’ve sampled all of the golf balls, or hair stylists, or Thai food in the world and have an objective opinion to offer which puts the issue of who/what IS the best to rest. I also hate it when non-English people say “cheers” instead of thanks, or end their emails with it, and when non-Italians say “Ciao” – Frank Cranney excluded.

3. The church was like any European church – towering, ornate, detailed, beautiful. A giant cast eagle in the front made us think of Frank Mott, whose ex-girlfriend commissioned a large, framed portrait of herself, naked, reclined on an American flag with an eagle on top and a cigarette dangling between her legs. She then thought it prudent to mail it to Frank’s mother’s house. We went back out through the lobby looking for the café promised on the sign outside, and only after a few hallways did we find it. Inside, we found normal café furniture, a nerd on a PowerBook, people studying and/or watching YouTube while surrounded by books and the obligatory alternative staff, one intricately and beautifully tattooed, the rest looking like they were trying to make it through another hellish day of food service.

4. The “Famous Chicken Salad” sandwich was texturally satisfying, but almost flavorless. The homemade honey whole wheat bread was soft and chewy, with an almost non-existent crust which melted into the bread itself – any kid would love it. The chicken salad itself was composed of unusually large, firm chunks of bland chicken in a white sauce I would hesitate to call mayonnaise, simply because it didn’t taste of anything. The lettuce was crunchy; I don’t remember a slice of the promised tomato, although I’m sure it was on there. The pickle was, sadly, the most flavorful part.

5. Three bites in, I realized it needed mustard; Frank agreed. It was distributed in small Solo cups. The yellow was completely average, but the honey mustard added more liquid than taste.

6. Perhaps the special coffee drinks and atmosphere are worth it. For food in the area, though, Johnnie’s is just around the corner and much, much tastier.

Cafe Ah-Roma on Urbanspoon

Sunday, June 15, 2008


3355 Richmond Rd
Beachwood, OH 44122
(216) 831-5599

I once bought a badge at a thrift store that said “I’ve got MOXIE!” As a teenager in San Diego, it meant nothing to me, but to my mother it was a reminder of the 1950s spent in her mother’s soda shoppe on Staten Island, drinking sodas long forgotten. When we looked up the word, we found that it was synonymous for chutzpa. At the time, it certainly described me.

Twelve or thirteen years and thousands of miles later, I arrived at Moxie thinking of that button, and my mother, who I am probably too hard on, but who isn’t hard on their own mother? Moxie seemed to be in an anonymous office park, but inside was a dark, sensuous lounge. It was too much for me to take in at once; I was self-conscious, feeling as if I was out of place. Frank Berezin greeted me warmly at a table in the back, and with the rest of the restaurant behind me, I suddenly felt that the entire meal was something special, like a private club which I’d just gotten access to by association with him – the restaurant in Paris with Dick Diver, perhaps. Frank described some of the other patrons he knew from practicing law or presiding over charitable boards. It struck me how what people desire most – be it power, wealth, fame or any of the other big goals – is about human connections, nothing more, nothing less. The people in that restaurant seemed powerful because, in some way or another, they were all connected to each other. I’d be willing to gamble that a well-connected group of poor people can accumulate anything they desire within a few short years, while a poorly-connected group of well-off people can lose it all in the same amount of time.

Sunlight streamed in when the back door opened. We talked. The Moxie burgers arrived, both medium, mine with onions. It was good. Very good. Held together by a single long toothpick, the meat was tender, markedly sticking together by sheer force of the seared outer shell and crumbling tenderly in my mouth when bitten. The onion, tomato and lettuce was fresh in a way that made each a distinct flavor and the fries were golden and crispy. I wouldn’t say it’s as good as Lolita – ah, Lolita – but for $10, in Beachwood, at lunch, it was a fine, fine sandwich.

When I walked out, the parking lot was full. It again looked like an office park, with cars on Richmond screaming past. I had a moment where I felt like Harry Potter, realizing that I just had to know to walk through the glass doors to be taken to a special place. Then I put my sunglasses on, got into my car and drove away.

Moxie on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

The Cheesecake Factory

Highland Heights/Mayfield Heights
24265 Cedar Rd
Cleveland, OH 44124
(216) 691-3387

by Beau Cadiyo

Five bites. One, I can understand. Two is suspicious. At three you start looking between the bun. At four you start laughing and mentioning it to the other diners, whereupon they start speculating as to when you will hit meat. When, at five, you finally get a bite of burger patty, you can’t help but be disappointed.

The Cheesecake Factory is a phenomenon: some lady moved to Los Angeles and started it up, and now it’s an international sensation. I went to one in LA seven years ago for a friend’s birthday party, and would have never gone to the one in Beachwood had Frank Keller not had a gift card. She said she owed me for helping her move; I am not one of those chivalrous gentlemen who would never hear of a lady paying for my meal. She gets her wallet out and I know I can put more money toward buying a Rolex or a Springfield Armory 1911. In short, she pays, I become more of a man.

It was packed, so we waited at the bar. Frank sat in the lone empty seat, next to two cougars who obviously knew the 20-something bartender a little too well. I stood, drinking my beer, while Frank argued with him about the amount of vodka in her martini; for $9, one would think you could taste the alcohol a bit more. We talked to the ladies about television shows. When it came time to be seated, we walked a short distance through faux-Egyptian splendor. Something about it reminded me of New York restaurants in the Roaring 20s, and I'm sure the plastic pharaoh heads will last longer than the pyramids. What will future generations think of our chain-restaurant ruins?

The waitress was surly, not bothering to do more than describe the specials and take our orders. When she next returned, with our food, we were just speculating on how horrible her night must be to be as rude as she was – not blaming her, but circumstances.

Then the five bites. Again, I can understand one bite, two is suspicious, etc. Beyond the five bites, nothing about the burger, or the beer, or the fries, or the atmosphere, or the patrons, or the bathroom, was special. Frank’s Thai chicken lettuce wraps were good, but that was small consolation. Five bites.

Frank got out her gift card; she ended up with 33 cents extra on it and, sans cash, no way to leave a tip. That was fine: neither the waitress nor the Cheesecake Factory deserved any of our money. Or her money, anyway.

Five bites. Five bites.

Cheesecake Factory on Urbanspoon

Mad Greek

2466 Fairmount Blvd
Cleveland Heights, OH 44106
(216) 421-3333

by Beau Cadiyo

I know a lot of bathrooms.

Lola’s sinks are a work of art. Lolita’s remind me, aesthetically, of Portland, Oregon. Slyman’s bathroom is tidy – shipshape, really. Hot Sauce Williams’ requires a key. Freddie’s Southern Style Rib House doubles as a cleaning closet, and a filthy one at that. The door on Sokolowski’s mens’ room is awkward to operate. As far as I could tell, there was no men's room at Johnnie's Deli - only a women's room. The Mad Greek’s reminded me that I’d been there before at some point in the past, slightly more buzzed.

This shouldn’t have been a surprise: the Mad Greek felt familiar, like a good neighborhood bar should. The bartender has a broad New York accent and talks to you in a way that makes you feel like you can confide in him – he gives away a small weakness or character trait in himself and you feel obligated to do the same. Soon he knows that you feel estranged from your mother, or that you hooked up with a girl at the other end of the bar who now won’t talk to you. The tables feel like you might have sat in any of them before, and have. The television, tucked away in an awkward corner, forces people close together to watch it and invites you to brush against your neighbor intimately.

The Feta Cheeseburger arrived; I was thick in the crowd of patrons, but the bartender made eye contact and waved me into a seat in front of him. He placed the burger before me as I tried to trade him my credit card; he waved it away, saying, “later.” I wasn’t sure why, but I thought that perhaps he wanted to make sure that I liked it before I even considered leaving a tip, a level of honest dealing which I fully respect.

Perhaps he knew that it could only end well for him. The burger was big and juicy; the red onions and tomatoes were fresh and the lettuce only slightly wilted. The pile of feta cheese stayed in place, adding flavor to the meat and a sort of dry, grainy texture – but you know what feta cheese is like. The only mistake, in my mind, was the potatoes – instead of fries, they were cubed and tasted frozen, a major turnoff which I wouldn’t have dared tell him.

The check arrived; $10 and change. I, too, was shocked; not even Lola charges that much for a burger, and theirs are, next to Lolita’s, the best I’ve had in Cleveland. I tipped, though – even though it was just a pretty good burger, The Mad Greek had something extra in it, something pleasant, something friendly, something familiar.

Mad Greek on Urbanspoon


900 Literary Rd
Cleveland, OH 44113
(216) 771-5652

by Beau Cadiyo

Michael Symon isn’t so good with choosing hostesses. At Lola, they always act as if we might not be seated for lunch if we don’t have a reservation, no matter how empty the restaurant is. At Lolita, the hostess pointedly told us that we couldn’t get our reserved table during happy hour, but she would do us the immense favor of not making us wait six minutes for our reservation and, instead, seat us immediately. Like, whatever.
The patrons are different from those at Lola. While many were in their 30s and 40s, and had the same appearance of trying to be hip, they generally did not seem desperate. They were, instead, at Lolita to eat good food and drink good alcohol. The eclectic decorations – from candles jutting out of the walls to a large, festooned pig to shower curtains and a wall reminiscent of Versailles’ Hall of Mirrors – mixed together well, the notable exception being the flat-screen television above the bar. It looked out of place, an inelegant distraction from the beauty of the remainder. The bathroom is sparse and clean. The open kitchen is dark yet vibrant, a great place to watch masters at work. For the third time in five days, Ed mentioned a dinner where the chef had disparaged Michael Symon, saying that prep boys in France knew more about food than Symon did. However, the chef apparently did not explain why Symon was supposed to be so bad, nor did Ed explain why he was telling me about it repeatedly. Judging by the reaction of everyone at the meal, this chef was likely just jealous and bitter.
The $5 Lolita Burger is the only sandwich on the menu. It is only served during happy hour and is almost identical to the Lola burger: an English muffin, meat, cheese and onions. The only difference is that the Lolita burger has a fried egg and has more, crispier bacon. Ed opined that the beef was of a slightly lower quality than that of Lola, but we agreed that the Lolita burger tasted more flavorful, more succulent, more mouthwatering (literally, my salivary glands open up whenever I re-read this sentence). We could have ordered them for the entire meal had happy hour not ended; it is hands-down the best burger I have had in Cleveland.
With only one sandwich, we moved on. The spicy chicken wings were tender, the olives warm and juicy, the big board of meats distinct and flavorful, the duck prosciutto pizza a marked disappointment (the crust was mediocre), the Swiss Chard slightly crunchy and the desserts utterly magnificent. The vanilla bean sorbet was my personal favorite, followed by the lemon semifreddo; while the chocolate pot de crème was distinct and salty, Lola does it better. All of it mixed well with the wine, beer and scotch.
Total, to comfortably fill four bellies, the meal came to $140 including a well-deserved 20% tip. I’m planning on going back at least twice in the next two weeks – the first time to bring my old boss and a special lady friend, the second to bring my best friend on a double-blind date the day after he gets married. Yes: the day after he gets married I’m going to try to set him up with another girl. That’s what friends are for.


Addendum, June 14, 2008: Symon apparently DOES know how to pick hostesses after all. Last night Kathleen was celebrating her first week of work - truly a nice, sweet girl, with the ability to turn rude people away politely and maintain a positive, sunny outlook. She was also eager to introduce us to the manager, who spent a good 10 minutes talking to us about the restaurant before being called away to his professional duties. I was thoroughly impressed by the personal touch we received - but just make sure you book ahead of time, and don't give them a hard time when there isn't any room!

Lolita on Urbanspoon