Sunday, March 30, 2008

Freddie’s Southern Style Rib House

1431 Saint Clair Ave NE
Cleveland, OH 44114
(216) 575-1750


Bite: Get here before the health department shuts it down.

by Beau Cadiyo

Cleveland’s most recent and important culinary award was inclusion in Esquire’s list of top sandwiches in America. We'd already reviewed Slyman's, but the other entry was foreign to our tongues: Freddie’s Rib House.

Freddie’s is dark – ominously dark. Besides the window outside, it seemed like the only light behind the grease-stained order windows was a small television. Three dim bulbs floated overhead. It was like walking into a cave.

A soul-food cave without fried chicken.

The server didn’t seem ashamed of this shortcoming, nor did she seem worried about the conspicuously absent Department of Health rating sign. I’m reasonably sure that Freddie’s would fail. The men’s bathroom was in shambles – at least, I took it to be the men’s bathroom, as there wasn’t a sign on the door. There were two soap dispensers, both caked in dried liquid soap and unidentifiable grime. There were no paper towels or any way to dry one’s hands, but plenty of unused industrial cleaning supplies. Walking back into the seating area, I was struck by how everything was soiled, caked in grease and dust and dirt, from the grill against one wall to the floor to the booths and tables to the kitsch pictures on the walls. D. said it was filth from lacking a proper grease trap. Things looked grim.

I said, “This is depressing.” Ed laughed and said, “you think?”

My appetizer, the “large” potato salad, was speckled with cayenne pepper and came in a styrofoam cup barely larger than a shot glass. I poked the spork out of its plastic wrapping; it was not bad. Then my large Polish Boy floated before me, a boat in its tin-foil wrapper. Next to it on the Styrofoam plate were two servings of Macaroni and Cheese, which, on first taste, proved to be gritty, the sign of being made with real cheese.

The Polish Boy was in a real bun, covered in fries and soaking with sauce. The sausage was black, which initially made me skeptical – I was sure it was burned. A layer of fries on top packed it in, and everything was covered in a bright sauce.
And what a sauce: sweet, tangy, like a thick broth. The bread yielded stubbornly to my spork, chewy and delicious. And the sausage – the sausage! The black was a trick; immediately underneath was a succulent bright red delicious mass. As soon as it poked out, D. cut off a piece. Then another. Each bite was new and interesting. The fries were unsalted and tasty, the coleslaw fresh and crunchy.

Was Esquire right in including Freddie’s for its Polish Boy? Thirty one hours later, the thought of it still made me salivate. Four days later I found that my jeans were still caked in a thin layer of grease. Yes, Esquire was right, and I recommend that you go – go quickly, before the Health Department shuts this place down.

Freddie's Southern Style Rib House in Cleveland

Monday, March 24, 2008

What is a review?

By Beau Cadiyo

Someone named Mickey recently took umbrage with my review of Brennan’s Colony. Mickey wrote that we needed to “try again,” implying that our review and our experience of Brennan’s Colony was wrong. Naturally, I began to formulate a response, and I went so far as to write it out. Then I thought of this question:

“What if he’s right?”

Then, I thought:

“What is a review?”

Really, what are we doing? What IS a review? My dictionary defines a review as “A formal assessment or examination of something with the possibility or intention of instituting change if necessary; a critical appraisal of a book, play, movie, exhibition, etc. published in a newspaper or a magazine.” I don’t think anyone at the CSB believes that our reviews will somehow institute change in a restaurant. Our reviews are critical appraisals of sandwiches in a blog – a whole new medium they might not have thought of.

Our reviews are conducted without much fanfare. We go to a restaurant. We order sandwiches and sides. We eat them. We trade pieces of sandwich, cheesecake, meatloaf, cookie, mashed potatoes or chips around. Then, whoever is writing the review for that week writes it. The restaurant doesn’t get a whiff of what we’re doing otherwise – we want no special favors, no chef visit, no comped bill to influence us. D. John drinks when writing his reviews, which works marvelously. Ed’s influence is whatever he is reading at the time (Dostoevsky was the most recent voice to appear). I try to tell people what happened, without whitewashing it.

But again: what if Mickey’s right?

Mickey implies that there are objective opinions, that his experiences are the objective opinions, and that if we did “try again,” our wrong, subjective opinions would agree with his correct, objective opinion. That, to me, would kill a review: reviews, opinions and critical appraisals all rely on our own experiences. As an editor, I would never let my reviewers rely on the experience of someone else in writing their critical appraisal of anything. My experience of Brennan’s Colony, of course, was informed by nearly a year of personally reviewing sandwiches, as well as my experience at Brennan’s Colony. His opinion and review was informed by eating several different dishes there.

And I, apparently, need to “try again.”

If so, I guess the natural result is that all movie reviewers would have to watch movies repeatedly until they fell in line with Mickey’s objective opinion. (I think this actually happens in North Korea.) If they were wrong, they would have to “try again.” Same with book, snowblower and toilet paper reviewers. Or perhaps everyone would have to try every dish in a restaurant on different days prepared by different chefs and served by different waitresses or waiters before reviewing a restaurant. Perhaps different chairs and tables might make a difference. They’d have to look into that and decide.

Perhaps Mickey is right. However, I don’t have the time, money or inclination to go about doing things the way he wants me to. I wrote my review of Brennan’s Colony based on my experience. Brennan’s Colony was pretty crappy. I cannot change that, nor do I want to, nor will I “try again.”

Sunday, March 23, 2008


1824 Coventry Rd
Cleveland Heights, OH 44118
(216) 321-7757

Bite: Fake meat doesn't have to be bad, but it is horrible here.

by Beau Cadiyo

Natalie flew into Cleveland for my birthday, bearing gifts of a mix CD and two bags of tea. She also baked an amazing cake – Chocolate Orange, from Trader Joe’s – and we went to a really good show at the Grog Shop. On the flight, she had figured out that we’d broken up exactly four years earlier. Natalie had been a really great girlfriend: hot, nice and a lot of fun. I’d forgotten that. She has been a vegetarian for something like 10 years now, so I wanted to show her a good vegetarian Cleveland meal. Thus, Tommy’s.
As usual, it was packed, and we waited in their incredibly awkward waiting area. It was dark and loud – very loud. We were seated just as someone was finishing wiping down the table.
We talked, and it felt natural again. The food came – a huge pile of very fried fries, a milk shake, Natalie’s vegetarian whatever, and my veggie burger. I started with the fries, which were dark, oily and perfectly-salted. I slathered them in ketchup, hot sauce and vinegar and dropped them in my mouth. The texture was perfect, the mixture of tastes sublime.
Then I bit into my veggie burger.
My ordering process at Tommy’s is predictable. First, I sit down. I look at the menu. I think of all the reasons to be vegetarian: health, environment, avoiding animal torture, etc. I see the Veggie Burger. I remember that I didn’t like it the last time, but I don’t remember why. I think that perhaps I was being overly picky before. I get it.
And every single time I think that it’s the worst veggie burger I’ve ever had. First, the bread is almost always bone-dry. Second, the texture is somewhere close to fried mush or dog crap. Third, the paltry vegetable garnishes rarely add any taste, and the tempeh or whatever they serve on the side adds flavorless cold mass to the concoction. Finally, it’s horrible AND there's not enough of it. The veggie burgers are always served on a huge white plate which just makes it seem smaller. Something about the combined taste reminds me of the headaches I get when I read in the car.
Tommy's veggie burgers taste like motion sickness.
I went back to the fries, and Natalie let me have some of her Oreo milkshake. Tommy’s milkshakes are beyond compare: thick, cold, and chunky enough that cookie chunks jam my straw up. I remember that the last time, around the time I swore to never get a veggie burger there, I had promised myself a meal of fries and a milkshake, but it was so long ago that I’d forgotten. Next time, next time.
However, considering that even the milkshake didn’t get the nasty taste out of my mouth, I’m thinking it might be a while before I return. Hopefully I won’t forget again.

Tommy's in Cleveland Heights

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Tastebuds Restaurant

1400 E. 30th Street
Cleveland, Ohio. 44114

By Edward Sandwichhands

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all sandwiches are created equal, that they are endowed by their creator with certain unalienable toppings, that among these are cheese, sun-dried tomato’s and the pursuit of deliciousness.

Unfortunately the above statement is utter rubbish. Sandwich’s are not created equal. Some are created with high quality ingredients, some with moldy bread crusts, and some sandwiches are made with so much love that you know the person preparing the sandwich must have had you in mind. At first sight Tastebuds appeared to be a location that could provide an amazing sandwich.

Everything offered at Tastebuds is already prepared when you arrive; Tastebuds operates a catering business out of their restaurant. This means that there is relatively no wait for your food at Tastebuds. However, there is also little room for alterations, requests or freshness.

The place was bright, vibrant, and well situated. Everyone looked happy, there were awards on the wall, we saw several parties picking up large orders to go, and one of my companions even had a very decent dish (gourmet meatloaf, which I have to admit was pretty good.) However, please try to explain all of these wonderful things about Tastebuds to my chicken sandwich.

I feel like my sandwich was prepared by a vegetarian for someone else other than myself. It was so dry I am positive that it was left out in the sun. I love spinach; there was hardly any on my sandwich. The cheese on the sandwich had been melted for so long ago that any trace of flavor had escaped into the vast dry desert of a chicken breast below. The garlic-basil mayo was actually pretty good – it was certainly the highlight of the meal – but flavorful mayo alone cannot save any sandwich.

All sandwiches are not created equal. Some are created before your arrival and left in a shallow warming tray to die alone. Tastebuds might offer a good low cost catered lunch for anyone who doesn’t want to leave the office. However, the perfect sandwich requires proper timing and a great deal of care. I think I expected too much from this sandwich-catering-factory-salad-pizza-meatloaf-bad-brownie-
undeserved-award-winning establishment.

Tastebuds in Cleveland

Friday, March 14, 2008

Hot Sauce Williams

7815 Carnegie Ave
Cleveland, OH 44103
(216) 391-2230

By D. John Horseradish

SMOTHERED! American Heritage defines this as “to suffocate (another)”. This seems more relevant to ex-girlfriends than it does any samich I’ve eaten recently. UrbanDictionary’s version finds it “to be drunk; less than wasted, more than shitfaced.” Again, this applies more so to any weekend since starting my education at this illustrious institution than a samich I’ve devoured since writing reviews for this little read and highly promoted (by me…look how awesome my review is!) pamphlet. In no way do these negative denotations (UbanDictionary aside) apply to a Hot Sauce Williams pork shoulder samich. This samich was beyond smothered; it is brilliantly horrendous.

I entered this restaurant lost. I was unsure about the pastel interior and the plastic tablecloths reminding me of post-church discussions on whether the Vikings, Twins, or North Stars (touchy subject– moving a hockey team from Minnesota to Dallas, OUTRAGEOUS!) would win that particular week. All in all, first impressions left me unsure of this dining establishment.

I ordered a pork shoulder samich combo, which includes fries and a side. I asked for macaroni and cheese. They did not have any. As I felt my expectations plummet a cover lifted from a vat of cheesy scalloped potatoes, prompting a grin rivaling John Belushi’s while observing Mary Louise Weller topless in Animal House. Next came the fries and a piece of bread topped with a sizeable mound of chopped pork, both drenched in barbecue sauce. At the end a scoop of coleslaw completed the combo, and I was conspicuously speechless. (editor’s note: he was.)

Returning to my seat, examining my meal, it looked hot! Not hot like spicy or temperature hot, but sexy hot. Hot like Natalie Portman in lingerie, a 1950 Porsche 550, or me with an Arctic White Fender Telecaster with a mint green pickboard. Believe me, it tasted as sexy as it looked. As I exited I felt the need for a sugar rush, so I stopped for Hot Sauce Williams’ own purple punch. This drink was delicious, kept me awake through class, and single-handedly rotted 3 of my teeth. Resplendent!

I entered Hot Sauce Williams unsure of its potential. I departed convinced! I learned that to be smothered by Hot Sauce Williams is a wonderful and memorable occasion. No longer shall past girlfriends and awful hangovers negatively command the use of smothered.

Hot Sauce Williams in Cleveland

Saturday, March 8, 2008

Brennan’s Colony

2299 Lee Rd
Cleveland, OH 44118
(216) 371-1010

Bite: Not among the five best sandwiches in Cleveland.

by Beau Cadiyo

I’m reading The Game, by Neil Strauss. It’s about this normal – actually, fairly unattractive - guy who becomes a pick-up artist and sexes all sorts of different women. Frank Ramacciotti recommended it to me. I’m at the point now where he loves getting laid and pulling threesomes all the time but you can tell it’s starting to wear on him.

That’s the sort of mood I was in when we went to Brennan’s Colony: Ed and I even had an argument about who was going to review it. There comes a point in every professional sandwich reviewer’s career where one wants to hang up one’s pen, or computer, and just not eat a sandwich and pick it apart, judging every layer of filling and bread. Brennan’s Colony did little to get me out of that funk.

The first and last time I’d been here was when Ed stood me up for a night of drinking last fall. I’d had a few scotches at the bar by myself and watched a football game while two men, in town for their 25th high school reunion, reminisced next to me at the bar. During the daytime it looks older, more shabby, but also much more like a real pub than any other bar I’ve been in on this side of the pond. The wood is worn, but well-cared for. There are the obligatory Irish alcohol advertisements on the walls. The people are friendly, and flat-screen televisions beam from every angle.

I got there first and settled in a booth, which I immediately realized was too small to be really comfortable for us – it was barely two people wide, and if any of us had been bigger we wouldn’t have fit. The Mozzarella Styx (spelled like the river) arrived; they were delicious, but I found that the sauce was extremely acidic, almost as if someone had poured vinegar in it. My Buffalo Chicken Sandwich was, at first bite, good, with a spicy sauce, fresh tomato slices and a good bun. However, by the third bite I realized that the chicken was dry and tough, almost as if it had been cooked as another meal and then reheated with Buffalo sauce. It had to be torn to be eaten, ripped, the fibers of chicken muscle holding together and shredding rather than being severed neatly. My fries were served in a large wicker basket lined with tin foil because they were overcooked and soggy. Like the chicken, they were mediocre bordering on disappointing.

We’ve been looking for the five best sandwiches in Cleveland, and from what D. told us before eating, Brennan’s Buffalo Chicken Sandwich may have been one of them. I’m sad to report that it is not. It has the appearance of being tasty but, in the end, is unfulfilling. We’ve eaten a number of sandwiches now – all we need is one more to recommend. If you want to set us up with one, email me.

Brennan's Colony in Cleveland Heights

Wednesday, March 5, 2008


I recently wrote a special dispatch for the London Review of Breakfasts about the Ohio primary. And breakfast. I used the totally ridiculous pseudonym "T.N. Toost." You can read it here.