Thursday, April 29, 2010

Sandwich Delites

1 Berea Commons
Berea, OH 44017
(440) 234-3322

By Earl S. Wich

In the mid 1970's I wondered what an Earth Shoe was. As a child it seemed as though that would be a shoe made, somehow, out of earth. Given that this was the 70's that did not seem like such a strange idea. The reason that this would even enter my mind is that the downtown area of Berea had been mostly (somewhat? partially?) demolished to make way for a new shopping center to be call the Berea Commons. At the time, it was a grand vision to build a reasonably sized mall in the middle of a small college town. In retrospect, building this during the period of great expansion in very large suburban malls like Great Northern looks like folly. And, indeed, that is exactly what it turned out to be.

However, to a ten year old, the most important part of this retail development was that they placed a large, loud bell in the central area. This bell was able to be reached by a ten year old and it was rung loudly and enthusiastically. Important to this story, this bell was located beneath the sign of the aforementioned Kalso Earth Shoe store. As it turns out, my childhood confusion over the origin and usefulness of something called an "earth shoe" was prescient. The shoe store was gone with in a short period of time.

In the now vacant space, a sandwich shop quickly sprung up. It was known as Grum's Sandwich Shop. Unfortunately, I never had the opportunity to eat at Grum's since my parents could not see the logic in buying a sandwich when cold cuts from Rego's (or indeed, chipped chopped ham from Lawson's) were far more economical. Eventually, I outgrew this gastronomically careless thrift, got a job, and began eating sandwiches that were not made by an immediate family member.

By this time, Grum's had been sold and its name changed to Sandwich Delites. The menu, however, stayed largely the same. In the 25 to 30 years since, the Turkey Ridge sandwich has sustained me whenever the urge struck and I was in Berea.

To be honest, it appears to be a simple sandwich; simplistic, even. It is comprised of turkey, provolone, lettuce, onions, tomato, mayo and seasonings (mostly oregano.) It overcomes its humble ingredients, however, and is more than the sum of its parts. The turkey itself is good. It isn't great, but it is moist and sliced fairly thinly, which I prefer for deli meats. I believe that thin slices always makes a better eating experience, whether it is deli meat, cheese or most other forms of food. (I know that you, the reader, will come up with many foods that contradict this but stay with me here.) The cheese is also decent. It's not dry and it has a good flavor. The lettuce is crisp and shredded medium-fine (again with the thin cut,) and the white onions are also sliced quite thin (again.) Ditto for the tomatoes. The bread is a fairly normal roll of the type that subs are usually made of. It is soft and holds up well to the moisture.

The mayo and the seasoning are what really set this sandwich apart. The seasoning is mostly oregano as best as I can tell, and dramatically adds to the flavor. The mayo, however, is different than any other that I have had. It is very mild and quite thin, almost watery. I know that sounds bad but it isn't. It adds moisture (which almost any turkey sandwich could use) and mixes with the thinly sliced lettuce and onions to create a sort of very mild slaw. I have no idea if that is what the creator of this intended but it is what makes it great. You have to eat it over the paper it is wrapped in because it will drip. Wonderfully mayo-y drips of goodness.

Other sandwiches are good there as well. The Cold Steer is mostly the same thing but with roast beef and horseradish instead of turkey and mayo. The horseradish has a similar mild thinness that really works. For my money, however, the Turkey Ridge can’t be beat. I really don't get anything else.

There are a few caveats. It is a pricey sandwich at about $10.50. At about 16 inches it is, however, large enough to justify this price (they make a half that costs about half). Also, the staff is really not very inclined towards good customer service. I believe that the same woman has owned the shop since it became Sandwich Delites and she remains surly and occasionally combative. Despite being within walking distance of 1800 college students, she has effectively driven off that crowd through the shrewd combination of high prices and what appears to be an active disdain for customers in general and "the kids" specifically. Of course, it is when she is there that the food is best. Get any of the older women and your sandwich will be awesome. Get one of the kids at the end of the shift and it will be a somewhat lifeless experience. This can be said for most businesses.

Don't, however, let the drawbacks stop you from getting what I consider to be one of the top three sandwiches in my pantheon of bread and meat. I bought one just today. If I were in Berea and I did not bring one back to share with my co-worker there would be hell to pay.

Also, there is still an original Grum's in Coventry on the east side. Although they have not technically been related for 30 years, the Turkey Ridge is still the same (within reason) at both. This is somewhat amazing. I ate at Grum's for the first time ever recently and had a great sandwich that was immediately identifiable as the same Turkey Ridge. The service was better too, but as they are quite far apart, I don't imagine that one loses any business to the other.

It’s not as good as What About Bob’s in Willoughby, but it is good and it’s worth going out of my way for. There are days when I don’t want anything else.

Sandwich Delites on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

R. Ribs

26004 Euclid Avenue
Cleveland, OH 44132
(216) 797-0200

By Beau Cadiyo

When I was in Mrs. Thomas’ 12th grade English class, Frank Tunstall and I got into an argument about Green Day. Basically, I considered Frank a “follower” of a band that had “sold out.” I knew nothing about Green Day, nor about their early work, nor even if they had any early work; I only knew that she liked Dookie, and that everyone liked Dookie. She loved what everyone else loved, and was therefore a “follower.” Mrs. Thomas eventually called me out in front of the whole class for, among other things, being on a “high horse,” which Frank, in her high-pitched, lilting voice, repeated: “Yeah – get off your high horse, Beau!”

But what is selling out, though? Really, isn’t it just success – commercial success? Why is it bad to produce something everyone likes? Must a band, to forever stay “authentic,” make music people don’t like, just to please a few die-hard fans? Try telling that to my 17-year-old self.

Anyways, I was reminded of that because of a conflict I’m going through. I’ve stumbled upon an absolutely incredible sandwich which I firmly believe everyone should like. At the same time, I don’t want it to become too popular. I want it to retain its edge, its authenticity, its high-quality ingredients. I don’t want everyone to suddenly be talking about it; I don’t want it to suddenly show up on every food blog in town; I definitely don’t want Guy Fieri to “ruin it.” Part of me realizes, of course, that it is pure hubris to think that the CSB could popularize a restaurant merely by featuring it (even if we are the “best-written food blog in Cleveland”). It’s even more ludicrous when one considers that this restaurant has been around for about as long as I’ve been alive, already has more paying customers than I’ve had hot dinners, and has customers ranging from lawyers to construction workers to computer engineers to Mayor Frank Jackson. However, until this past winter, I didn’t know about it, and I never met anyone else who had eaten here. I suspect there are many people who have driven past it a thousand times over the years and never actually walked in the door. They know of it, but they don’t know it.

Fourteen years after that English class, I re-examined my long-held opposition to followers and selling out, to commercial success and popular acclaim. The question I asked myself was this: do I want my friends and associates to know about this restaurant?

Well, yes, actually. That’s why I’ve been purchasing Polish Boys here for everyone I can find who appreciates amazing food, from Scarlet Pumpernickel and Edward Sandwichhands to my roommate and my landscaper. On top of that, I want everyone who reads this blog, ever, to know about it, to eat here, to be amazed and inspired and to tell everyone they know to do the same. I want it to become the standard of barbecue in Northeast Ohio. So I present to you: R. Ribs.

R. Ribs is on Euclid, among a bunch of stand-alone fast-food joints. It looks, from almost all outward appearances, to be abandoned, but it’s very much open. The owner, Al, sits behind the counter and talks. The first time I ate there, our conversation ranged from the inherent superiority of the Napoleonic legal system over the American one to the way animals and humans adapt to inclement conditions. Since then, we’ve talked about the Napoleonic code and the conduction of discovery, local politics, the Napoleonic code and the presentation of evidence in court, the property rights of Americans in Mexico, the Napoleonic code and the roles of lawyers and judges, and various other subjects (mostly involving the Napoleonic code). Most of the time, it’s Al holding court with the two or three customers who are ordering, or waiting to pick up their orders, or who have already picked up their orders and are just waiting around to listen to him. To his immense credit, Al is also one of the too-rare human beings who really listens. He greets many customers – including, now, me – by name, and I think this is a big reason people come back over and over again. This is evidenced by the walls: R. Ribs is wallpapered with small cut-out pictures of his multitudinous customers. In order to get on the wall (and, probably, to be remembered by Al), all you have to do is eat at R. Ribs three times. There is a big basket of pictures waiting to be put up.

R. Ribs smells only faintly like barbecue. This is odd, because its open-pit barbecue uses charcoal, and an immense amount of smoke is produced. The pit flames up behind a glass shield and under a huge trap, which constantly sucks air out of the restaurant. When I first visited, in February, it was frigid because so much air was being pulled out. Al sat in front of a focused dish heater; I had to sit in my coat to make it bearable. Apparently the regulars know how cold it gets in the winter and order takeout, to eat in the warmth of their own homes.

I know Esquire said that Freddie’s Southern Style Grill has the best Polish Boy in America. But I’d be willing to bet that the Esquire editors have never been to R. Ribs. Freddie’s was delicious – don’t get me wrong on that. Years later I can still see, in my mind’s eye, the bright pink of the sausage peeking out from under its hood of fries and stringy coleslaw, between the two lips of the bun, and I want to lick up the juices from end to end, to nibble it softly, delicately, lovingly. However, I haven’t been back since. Freddie’s was good for a one-meal stand; R. Ribs deserves a Facebook relationship status.

The combination of R. Ribs’ individual ingredients sets it apart from Freddie’s or any other competitor, and keeps me going back for more. R. Ribs’ Polish Boys use fresh-cut potato fries, which are often slightly undercooked to offer a bit of resistance to the teeth. The coleslaw is similarly fresh-tasting, as if it had been made only a few hours earlier. The bread soaks up every liquid in the sandwich, including the sweet barbecue sauce, yet doesn’t degenerate into mush – an incredible feat, considering how much sweet barbecue is slathered on everything. So many delicious liquids drip out that one would be well-advised to take the sandwich out of the foil wrapper and eat it over a bowl or on a large plate to prevent stains to one’s clothing and furnishings. (I once attempted to eat a Polish Boy while driving. It did not end well.)

But the sausage is the centerpiece. After eating R. Ribs’ Polish Boy for the first time, my roommate developed a theory: spicy sausage is spicy because the makers need to cover up defects – like if a sausage is stale, or fatty, or grisly, or overcooked – in their food. When you can truly taste the meat and the smoke in a sausage, you know that it is of a high quality. Al’s sausage is like that – honest and true. It sticks out of each end of the Polish Boy under the coleslaw and fries, with a reddish-brown color that no dye can fake. It is tender and juicy and now that I’ve tasted it, I can’t imagine my life without it.

Sigh. I guess I’ve let the cat out of the bag. Will you Sandwich Scientists™ now flock to R. Ribs? If so, I’m sure it won’t be any more than Al can handle. At most, maybe a few of the people who read this blog – the true food lovers, the ones who appreciate tastes, textures and that elusive thing called quality, will stop in and be convinced. If you do want to eat at this gem, do it soon, since Al wants to move to Mexico for his golden years and has put R. Ribs up for sale. I can’t opine on what a new owner will mean for this place: Al is as much a part of R. Ribs as George was of Hoagie Haven, and it’s probably unavoidable that the new owners will change something about the place – the meats, the sauces, the care put into the preparation – and the amazingness of R. Ribs will slip away, only to be rediscovered 2,100 miles to the south, dancing on tropical beaches and drinking margaritas. It’s worth going immediately and making sure you have plenty of time to hang around. Word to the wise: you might want to learn a bit about the Napoleonic code first.

R Ribs BBQ on Urbanspoon

Happy Dog

5801 Detroit Road
Cleveland, Ohio 44102
216 651 9474

by Ryely Reubenesque

Frank DeSantis and I are going to eat hot dogs. And tater tots.

We leave Frank's and drive east on Detroit. Trees lining the street have bloomed. We pass charming storefronts. A backlit sign says HAPPY DOG. Frank says we can park on the street or....see over here?....there is a little parking lot with a white picket fence.

We walk in. A row of suspended, round lights hang over a row of booths. It is softly lit, but not dark. There is wood paneling and scalloped trim. There are framed concert posters. Red vinyl and chrome barstools. I feel relaxed. A friends' parents' un-updated basement. A college apartment living room. Except, squeaky clean.

Frank says sitting at the bar is fun. So we do. A lovely, much-tattoed, young woman with dark, long hair and a calm smile takes our drink order. Guinness is on tap. Many craft beers are available. I ask for iced tea. She offers to brew some for me if I don't mind the wait. She was not being sarcastic. I ask for Cherry Coke instead? She says she could add grenadine to regular Coke? I like her.

Happy Dog's menu has three food items: hot dogs ($5) (with a vegetarian version available), tater tots and french fries ($2.50.) If there are other choices, they are neither apparent nor necessary. You may choose from no less than 50 toppings for your hot dog. Some are traditional, many are foodie. A few seem like a friendly prank. House-made ketchup is first on the list which also includes black truffle honey mustard, saffron aioli, Fruit Loops, American Cheez Whiz and chunky peanut butter.

Orders are placed with a worksheet. Little golf pencils fill open circles next to your choices, like an elementary school Iowa test. This seems like an impressively appropriate way to ask for tater tots. My circles are filled neatly, to assure accuracy. Frank has used dramatic slashes through the circles. They are similar to the marks Frank uses to sign ceramics. I worry that the Scantron machine will misinterpret Frank's order. I am in the 95th percentile for worrying about things I don't need to worry about.

Frank D. gets a call. Frank Borcher is on the phone. Tater tots are mentioned and the phone call ends abruptly. Frank B. arrives only a few moments later and happily places an order.

Our orders appear on white oval plates. Glorious piles of perfectly crisp, short cylinders of golden potato goodness. My hot dog is hidden under caramelized onions, carribean coleslaw, cheddar cheese, dijon mustard, a pickle spear. Frank D's hot dog has cucumber and tomato slices. Who knows what Frank B. got. I can't be bothered to look. I have knife-and-fork hot dog business to attend.

The poppyseed bun is yielding, but not mushy. The hot dog is not small. The flavor is nice. Nothing like its often questionable convenience store cousin. The tater tots are delicious and not greasy. This is very good stuff. Happy Dog indeed.

Happy Dog on Urbanspoon

Monday, April 12, 2010

Double Down Day - KFC

200 Richmond St
Painesville, OH 44077
(440) 352-2000

Tweets and Reqall by Beau Cadiyo

Bite: KFC will kill the Double Down within three months, but the wax paper sleeve that holds the Double Down will be the most important advance in Sandwich Science™ this year.


Driving. Blue Chevy impala license plate BV48ZD is blocking my way at Richmond and Erie Streets. (via


Just ordered the double down meal. Mashed potatoes. Made a suicide drink of dr pepper and mountain dew. 41 minutes ago via txt


Just got it. Cheese not melted. Looks glorious though. 34 minutes ago via txt


3 other people in this place. 2 teenagers and an overweight man. Nobody else ordered one. 38 minutes ago via txt


Overweight man is scratching a lottery ticket which makes him pant. Not joking. He's breathing so loudly that i'm getting worried. 32 minutes ago via txt


Cheese melted a bit. Only given one napkin. Man still panting as he eats his wings. 32 minutes ago via txt


First bite: salty. Moist. Salty. 32 minutes ago via txt


Second bite amazingly salty. Breading falling off of one piece of chicken from the grease. It's soaked through the wax paper. 32 minutes ago via txt


Bacon crisp. Man still panting. Putting some sort of sauce on his chicken. 31 minutes ago via txt


Bites 5-7 salty and moist. Bacon is dominant flavor otherwise. 31 minutes ago via txt


One downside to using chicken as bread is that the pieces are unevenly matched. One piece is far larger than the other so the filling fa ... 29 minutes ago via txt

lls out. 28 minutes ago via txt


Now finished with one piece entirely. Other piece looks like vomit, but saltier. The wax paper sleeve is very intelligently designed. 26 minutes ago via txt


Man still panting. He got up to get a napkin and is wheezing from the effort of walking. I wonder if he is a warning from god. 24 minutes ago via txt


The sun is shining. The grass is a violent green. God is great. America is beautiful. 14 minutes ago via txt


Finished. Stomach pushing out a bit but not horribly. I think my drink is helping digest the fat. 22 minutes ago via txt


Eating his meal caused this guy to sweat through 2 layers of clothing. He just refilled his soda and left. Grateful for my relative health. 13 minutes ago via txt


All alone now. I feel like i should be somewhat enlightened but instead there is emptiness in my soul (not in my stomach). 10 minutes ago via txt


Right shoulder inexplicably sore. I was eating with my left hand! 5 minutes ago via txt


Got closest parking space. Didn't have to walk far. Salt still on lips. Flat tire continues to increase push against waistband. Cliche. less than a minute ago via txt


A few more words:

1) The wax paper sleeve that my Double Down came in was very, very intelligently designed. It was sealed on two sides in a "V," allowing the consumer to eat the Double Down from various angles. While the grease soaked through mine, my hands were not nearly as greasy as they might have been without the sleeve. I predict that this sandwich will be off of the menu within three months, but the sleeve will be used in more and more sandwiches. The only thing that might make it better is if the paper was edible. Good job, KFC - you've pushed Sandwich Science™ forward in at least one area today!

2) THIS IS NOT A SANDWICH. See White City Shopping Ctr., LP v. PR Rests., LLC, 21 Mass. L. Rep. 565 (Mass. Super. Ct. 2006).

3) The overweight guy sat in his car for seven minutes after he left KFC. I think that the walk tired him out.

KFC on Urbanspoon

Double Down Day

Friends –

As you no doubt know, today is one of the most important days in recent Sandwich Science™ history. Today, KFC comes out with their new Double Down Sandwich – two pieces of fried (or grilled!) chicken with bacon and cheese in the middle. That’s right – Americans can now get a sandwich with fried chicken in place of bread.

While not legally a sandwich (see White City Shopping Ctr., LP v. PR Rests., LLC, 21 Mass. L. Rep. 565 (Mass. Super. Ct. 2006)), you can understand my excitement. I’m going to eat one today at noon at my local KFC. There will then be a review. I suggest that you make your way to the nearest KFC and eat one post-haste.


Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Hyperbole And A Half

This is one of my new favorite blogs; today she put up something about how sandwiches make you their bitch. Too, too true.

Monday, April 5, 2010

From Afar: Me So Hungry

817 West 5th St
Austin, TX 78703
+1 512 659 5744
[Location may vary]

By Des Ayuno

Frank Light is a real foodie. I know because he told me, several times. “I’m a real foodie,” he would say. “It’s hard to hunt down good food here. There’s a lot of crap. But don’t worry – stick with me and you’ll be fine.”

Light’s assessment of Austin as a culinary dump may seem harsh, but we were in town for SxSW, an annual music-biz circle jerk in which 13,000 self-righteous hipsters and major-label relics from around the world descend upon 12 square blocks of the city in order to loudly proclaim that they alone hold the key to the rejuvenation of our deeply troubled industry, to get violently drunk on copious amounts of free beer and to puke in the street. Local restaurants, understandably, grit their collective teeth and focus on hustling as many customers through their doors as quickly as possible. It was only the first day of SxSW and I already felt as though a little part of my soul had shriveled up and died in the fierce Texan sun.

So when, around 10pm, Light suggested we duck out of a tedious showcase – our tedious showcase, unfortunately – in search of what he’d read was the city’s finest bánh mì, I was thrilled. I live in a part of London with a big Vietnamese community and the best pho in town, but for whatever reason, they don’t do bánh mì – I’d only really read about it on the CSB. I was ravenous. I was ready.

We headed across town in search of an elusive van called Me So Hungry. All of a sudden, it was cold. Freezing, in fact. Light was bundled up in an appropriately fleecy coat, and fleet of foot; he shoved through drunken revelers and left them spinning. I twisted my light scarf around my shoulders and scuttled after him. We soon left East 6th behind. The wind howled. We doubled back on ourselves at least twice. I gritted my teeth. Finally, in front of what looked like a giant, glass-fronted strip mall, there was a gleam of light and a small crowd of people. “That’s it!” Light roared.

Me So Hungry was painted a welcoming shade of bright green that reminded me of the walls in my local, Song Que. It looked sparkling clean and radiated warmth and nourishment. The two people who staffed it, probably brother and sister, were not Vietnamese, but the smooth-faced young man who took my order was friendly and quietly expert, running through options of pork or lemongrass tofu, spicy or not, and he would definitely recommend the coriander mayonnaise. Yes, please. $5, please. Thank you. Light and I took our seats at a busy group of picnic-style tables that actually belonged to an unappealing place behind us named the Tiniest Bar in Texas. In front of us, in the Tiniest Bar Garden, three anemic teenagers in hoodies managed to make fire-spinning seem like the dullest way one could possibly spend one’s evening.

The smooth-faced young man left his sister to do the cooking – once we had ordered, he sat down at an adjacent table and drained a beer. He kept a concerned eye on us, though, coming over twice in the next 25 minutes to apologize for the lack of bánh mì, and stuck his head into the van to hassle his sister. By this point, my teeth were chattering. Light nipped into the Tiniest Bar, ostensibly to get us both some tap water, and came back with a beer for himself, which he regarded fondly and then necked. I started to watch the street for passing taxis and, at one point, may have hallucinated that I was curled up in bed watching Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me on my laptop. It was not a promising situation for being served the finest sandwich of one’s life.

When it finally arrived, the bánh mì was simultaneously a triumph and a total letdown. Though piping hot for the first two bites, it cooled quickly in the vicious wind, and its initial boldness of flavor dimmed. Anything that combines barbecued meats, pickled vegetables and coriander is going to be a winner in my book, and the chargrilled marinated pork strips were juicy and generous. But I was confused – this was the standard version of the sandwich, the only option that didn’t involve tofu, so where was the sliced pink luncheon meat, the glutinous pâté, the mysterious and faintly putrefying unidentified meats? Under the top layer of magnificently perky pickled carrots – there may have been a radish or two in there too – lurked strips of what looked like green bell pepper. Some were, I soon realized, but some were chili. Chunks of fierce, burning chili. I nibbled at one, then pulled it out and discarded it, reasoning that I’d rather be able to taste the rest of the sandwich. The bottom half of the baguette was satisfyingly soft, with a crispy crust, having absorbed the juices of the meat, but the top half was chalky and cold. There was nowhere near enough coriander mayonnaise to make its voice heard in such a cacophony of extreme flavors. And I could have eaten two more, but that was probably because I’d eaten nothing but a small packet of Fig Newtons all day. I felt like Oliver Twist in the workhouse.

Light nodded to himself, having just scarfed the two enormous prawn summer rolls he’d also ordered ($6), and barked, “Back to work! Let’s walk off those calories.” It was at least a mile and a half back across town. Five years ago, Light, who runs a respected record label, would have sprung for a cab. Hell, five years ago he’d have phoned the Omni and had them send eight dwarves to carry us back across town on a sedia gestatoria. I sighed and stood up. “Do you know what?” he asked, striding purposefully down the street. “I’ve been thinking about this a lot. I think I have a pretty good idea how we can go about saving this business, you know.”

Me So Hungry on Urbanspoon

Ask Beau Cadiyo


Really enjoy your blog, seems to be very informative. I'm really hoping you can help me with this one.

In 2003, I was in C-town with my brother & buddy for a vacation. We had a hard time looking for good places to eat until we encountered a great concierge at our hotel (The InterContinental on Euclid Ave.). He recommended a sports bar nearby that had some amazing panini sandwiches filled with french fries (Later on, I learned Primanti Bros. in Pittsburgh perfected this sammie years earlier). But for the life of me, I cannot recall the name of this place! I remember it was on the 2nd floor of a 2 story building and it was a sports bar atmosphere, as the TVs had all sorts of sports on.

It's a total shot in the dark and I know I'm not giving much in the way of details, but does this place seem familiar to you? I'm making my return in 2 weeks and I've been pimping it to my girlfriend. I'd love to head back, as the sandwich was pretty darn good and I much prefer trying local cuisine as opposed to fast food whilst on vacation.

Your help is this manner is much appreciated.

As always, I remain:



C.D. -

There's a 99% chance that it's Panini's:

They do fill their sandwiches with fries from their grill. Personally, I wouldn't list this as one of the best sandwiches I've ever had, or even the best in Cleveland, but I think this is it!

I'm in the middle of a review of R. Ribs. Their Polish Boy also has fries, AND an amazing sausage/sauce/bread combination similar to Freddie's (listed as the best Polish Boy in America by Esquire Magazine).

Let me know if I can be of any further assistance, and bon appetit in Cleveland!


Friday, April 2, 2010

Bac Asian American Bistro and Lounge

2661 West 14th Street
Cleveland, OH 44113
(216) 938-8960

by Beau Cadiyo

Full disclosure: Bac is an ex-roommate of my girlfriend’s friend from high school (it’s ok to go back and read that again for clarity). I first met him just before he got out of the corporate world and signed the lease for his building; he’s energetic, funny, and has the sort of vibrant personality that naturally draws people to him. He’s also subject to uncontrollable, unexplainable laughing fits which inevitably includes two or three other people, while everyone else in the room is left to wonder what just happened. Second, he invited us to a “soft opening," which meant free food for us so long as we didn’t write about that particular visit. It’s thus hard to write objectively about Bac’s, although I’m going to try.

Ok. Here goes.

Bac’s Asian-American Bistro and Lounge is fricking amazing.

Most restaurant lure patrons in with relatively deep happy-hour discounts . They rely on volume – of both customers and items sold – to make up for the larger per-item profit they would have otherwise realized. Bac, on the other hand, offers only $2 off a few dishes and drinks – not enough to arrange your evening around, but any less and they likely wouldn’t be able to cover their already reasonable prices.

When we walked in on a Friday at 6:20 p.m., Frank Hoxha and I were the only two people in the restaurant, and thus the only two who could enjoy the happy-hour pricing. At 6:35 p.m., five minutes after happy hour had ended, patrons started streaming in just as we got our first round (papaya salad and a bahn mi). By the time we got around to ordering again (spring rolls and tom yum soup), the dining area was full and dates without reservations who had hoped for tables were being seated at the bar. This wasn’t necessarily a bad thing – the entire restaurant is stunning, and the bar is a particular delight, well lit and, with the Cavs game playing, better located for cheering on Cleveland. The whole place feels like a tropical retreat, with verdant green on every wall. Televisions are visible in two corners, but are not the central focus of the bar.

And the food. The food! The Bahn Mi had pork, ham, Vietnamese sausage, pate, dill radish, carrot, cucumbers, cilantro and house mayonnaise generously layered on a baguette. I’ve been eating Superior Pho’s Bahn Mis recently, and they are delicious, especially when chicken is substituted for pork. Bac’s Bahn Mi, though, was superior to Superior. Multiple flavors came out at different points during each bite: first the sausage, then the other meats, vegetables, mayo and then cilantro for a strong finish. I finished The Billionaire’s Vinegar a few weeks ago, and it reminded me of Benjamin Wallace’s description of how a fine wine “opens” itself up to the drinker. This sandwich evolved in the same way. The papaya salad was sweet and tart, the tom yum soup had delicious shrimp and was spicy, sweet and thick, and the spring rolls were stupendous when dipped in the soup or in the peanut sauce that came with them. A biting ginger beer rounded off each bite perfectly.

I recently ate at Lucky’s, where a small portion of food can easily run to $15 without tip, leaving one’s pocket light and stomach unsatisfied. At Bac’s, two people can be well fed and alcoholed for $30, including tip. I admit that I may be biased, but tonight Edward Sandwichhands is coming into town, and we’re hitting a few places for some of Cleveland’s culinary delights. The first place we're going to stop: Bac’s.

Bac Asian American Bistro on Urbanspoon

Double Down

It's real.

Ten more days.