Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Fox 8 - Hamburgers

In prescient coordination with Fidel's discourse on hamburgers, local attorney Andrew Samtoy will be representing us once again on New Day Cleveland to discuss hamburgers. He spoke highly of the hosts and the format, and we may just be using him regularly to preserve our own anonymity and objectivity in any other public forum we might be invited to attend. I will be huddled up in a conference room in Philadelphia for the entire segment, but technology will allow me to watch it afterward. Also, they're having hamburgers on the air. That's right, people - ON THE AIR.

Watch it from 10-11 a.m.!


A Discourse on the Hamburger

by Fidel Gastro

Let us now, I say to you in conspiratorial tones, let us now speak of the hamburger. That's right, I'll draw you now into my confidence so that I can sagely hold forth on the industrial production of digestible meat. Usually you will find the hamburger in the company of the hotdog, it's brother in the family of manufactured recreational meats, but while the hotdog, noble in its way, is comprised of the penises and anuses of a whole melange of creatures, the hamburger is made of turning or nearly turned or altogether spoiled beefsteaks. Here's a true story, once your steak becomes unsaleably damaged by the bacteria associated with aging, then you must grind it up and by the blessings of mechanization that steak becomes the vibrantly mutable medium of ground chuck, which can be used for spaghetti or meatloaf or tacos or even, and perhaps most, as a hamburger.

Now, people have expectations of the hamburger. I once visited the American south-east, an experience that I don't hesitate to scorn. Indeed, I can think of no better usage for my report on the hamburgers of Cleveland than to warn my fellows away from that den of evil called The Carolinas. Not without due cause do I make this warning and it was suggested to me by way of a story that I think will do more to illustrate my warning (as if by a great sign written in many languages, some devised by linguists as 'future languages' ideograms and glyphs meant to scare off the post-apocalyptic barbarians of the distant future who may still think to go to The Carolinas). While there I went to a place of eating and on the menu was listed the Taco. The Taco, it explained for the culturally repressed Carolinian, was 'A Mexican Hamburger.’

Friends, you who have art, reason and all the Apollonian virtues – you know that a Taco is in fact a class of food unto itself and is not, in any way, a hamburger. They are as kin as badger to the wolverine, and yet you won't find badgers and wolverines lying together in marital congress. So too the hamburger and the taco.

Nevertheless, that damning condemnation of The Carolinas, itself scarring to me in my youth, does demand addressing, for the Taco is ground chuck and condiments affiliated within an enclosure of processed and cooked grains. Such a confederacy likewise comprises the hamburger, and, yet, there are differences. No less are the differences that one finds between the hamburger and it's closest gustatory ally the hotdog, and yet the Carolinian Taco was not referred to as a 'Mexican hotdog', regardless of their more shapely similarities and the presence of conjoined sides.


Let us speak of the manifold condiments and associated creams, salves, vegetables and cheeses that comprise the Hamburger's appurtenances. Should you, as we of the Board did, find yourself upon a late winter's evening at Heck's, you would be confronted, which is not to say assaulted, by what must be refrigerators full of complimentary ally-foods from peppercorns to bacon to sour cream and exotic alpine cheeses. These dressings, when applied liberally to the altogether correct and sound bun, provide sandwiches in themselves, each worthy of comment if not outright praise.

At Heck's we were all business, quartering our orders and making liberal use of the palatal balm of the “French Fry” in order to more fully experience the hamburgers offered. In some respect the sour cream laden Au Poivre hamburger suggested the Taco: sour cream, fried onions, and tantalizingly, peppercorns (though my quarter was sadly negligent in providing me with enough of said corns). However, the competition between these tastes and the not very compelling flavor of the hamburger itself suggested what another quarter confirmed. Blue cheese and bacon, those conspiratorial brothers, each attacking the hapless taste buds from different segments of the savory echelon – these bold brothers made a comfortable paradise for the tongue which the hamburger did nothing to assist.

Once, I knew a man, and I use that noble title reservedly, for as you shall see, he was awful. This person would daily consume several of the vegetable patties that are sometimes made in gruesome imitation of the hamburger. These he would use purely as a kind of canvas for the application of numerous indelicious sauces. Mayonnaise was made to lie unnaturally with horseradish, which was in turn penetrated by barbecue sauce and, to add insult to all parties, various salad dressings would be forced onto the already uncomfortable orgy of creams and simulated flavors. Finally, as if his own obscenities could not be expressed in word or deed but only in vile consumption, he would liberally decorate these concoctions with hot sauces. The bread itself blushed to be applied to such a menage and the vegetable patty – had it scruples at all – would have rebelled and poisoned this person even to death. Sadly his spree continues, and I am told that he sometimes scavenges from dumpsters aged, discarded breads, so as not to alarm a grocer, who might, Columbo-like, learn the awful truth.

I was reminded of this villainy at Heck's, where the hamburger itself was merely a canvas, an uninspired slab upon which the noblest condiments made merry. It was ultimately a cheerful experience but somehow fell short of what we can idealize as the Platonic Hamburger, since I believe, unaided by the premium garnishes, the hamburgers at Heck's would be barely more sublime than those of, say, Perkins.


By way of a counterpoint I was later offered and subsequently accepted a dinner at the Buckeye Beer Engine. Again, the Board Assembled, and once we'd kissed our rings together thus forming the mystic pentad of Lucidity, Humor, Judgment, Carelessness and Gentility we were able adjudicate, or at least, to Sternly Guess.

Now this experience was altogether different, firstly because of the liberal application of delicious beer. Beer is as elemental to the experience of life as air or cigars or friendship and can't help but improve the situation, regardless of what situation you're enduring, save - perhaps - the event of drowning in beer. Perhaps! So the manifold exotic, delicious offerings of the Buckeye Beer Engine could not help but to augment an otherwise perfectly correct experience. What do you call a perfect experience that is made better? It is properly named a meeting of the Cleveland Sandwich Board.

And The Beer Engine. By no means has the Beer Engine invented the fatty melt. I've heard of this thing whilst frequenting the places that elite sandwich aficionados might frequent – our secret college shall not be here or anywhere else compromised, but, suffice it to say, the Hamburger with, as a bun, two grilled cheese sandwiches, is a famous prodigy of our time. In ages past no doubt the early pioneers of the sandwich arts lamented the lack of such conspicuous caloric frugality. Fortunately many hundreds of men, possibly thousands, were willing to sacrifice their lives and innocence on the beaches of Normandy and Guadalcanal, in the trenches of Verdun and at the Halls of Montezuma himself and itself in order to guarantee that those of us who have the fortune to live in the richest society that the earth has yet to produce could amuse ourselves with a sandwich so profligate in its application of consumption that surely all peoples who should come after us will consider their inheritance spoiled, ruined in fact by the glorious pinnacle of human excess represented in grim totality by the Fatty Melt.

I will gladly insult my forebears by managing a critique of the shortcomings of this iniquitous repast.

Firstly, the Beer Engine manages a finer meat, and the naked hamburger (if they served it – I didn't ask) would be superior to virtually any other hamburger that bears the name. Over a heated debate among the Board and various interlocutors as to the veracity of our sampling methods, I achieved a state of sublime transcendence while gnawing on a spur of the hamburger that had slipped the bounds of the preposterous bun, and was able to articulate a new theory of restaurant reviewing standards affiliated closely to that most exquisite science – which is alchemy. In fact I believe that I have, by having taken the hamburger equivalent of the philosophers' stone, earned an inner gold-star that gives me right and prestige to judge all matters of flavor and taste with only the barest association with facts or observations. It is a pretty good hamburger is what I'm saying. We speculated about the meat in the mix but never bothered to ask. Shackleton, I believe, while dying in the Antarctic, wrote that Dog was the sweetest meat of all the various meats. I'm inclined to agree, although, again, this decided without facts or observations. Naturally it would probably be regarded as some kind of libel to suggest dog went into any hamburger I've purchased at any time recently. But if not dog then surely Angel's Wings!

Right, damn good hamburgers.

The trick is that you've got at the Beer Engine what is essentially a reversal of what flies at Heck's. The grilled cheese? Once, I was offered an exotic Irish cheese, this by my first wife who gathered it, heedless of warnings to the contrary, and this cheese! Oh this cheese, when a prudish girl refuses your advances and slaps you, but with a hint of forgoing acceptance. When your teacher gives you a D- on your uncompleted work because you're likeable and play football. When churchgoers cross the street to avoid your gaze – that was the walloping flavor of that cheese, which was so vile, and yet so... cheeseful.

I mean this as an explanation of my credentials regarding cheese. Absolutely I did not expect to have as grilled-cheese buns on my hamburger an excess of Stilton or of Gorgonzola. Nevertheless, the meager application of partly-melted brick style institutional American pasteurized product was, frankly, a lie told to a hamburger that dreamed of a faithful dairy wife, while ending up with the oily whore of congealed vegetable oil. It wasn't a fine match, is what I'm saying.

In short and conclusively, Heck's should marry into the Beer Engine family, they should produce more excessive meat/cheese/bread industrial food products and only then can you, as an American, take pride in the forgoing efforts of Lincoln and Washington and Roosevelt.

Heck's Cafe on Urbanspoon

Buckeye Beer Engine on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Brennan’s Colony

2299 Lee Road
Cleveland, OH 44118-3447
(216) 371-1010

by Penny Panini

My colleague, Beau, reviewed a sandwich at Brennan's before. He wasn't impressed, but Frank Sphar had told me over and over again how great the burgers were at the Colony, how it was her go to burger place, and on the quest for Cleveland's Top Five Burgers, I thought I ought to give it a try.

I met up there with another friend Frank, on a night that supposedly was going to contain a massive snowstorm at some point. I felt that familiar dread driving to the East Side in the winter, a threat that no matter how clear the roads were now, inside an hour I might be caught in a whiteout, trying to navigate the slow highwayless way out of the Heights. Despite the snowstorm that began almost as soon as I got there, there was a good sized crowd in the Colony at 7pm, and we had to wait to get a booth. Frank is a new friend, so there were a million things to talk about, and you know how it is with new people, that rush of conversation, the small degree of nervousness that gives way eventually to fever pitch exchanges and leaning excitedly over tables. When we were choosing where to meet, Frank had told me he was a pescatarian, which sounds just like Presbyterian when you say it out loud, and I always say new words out loud at least once, so the stamp of Presbyterianism is upon him. Anyway, it means he only eats fish and not all-American red meat. He got the lake perch sandwich, and I ordered the All World Burger, with provolone, mushrooms, onions, and bacon. I wasn't really hungry at all, having spent the day consuming as much coffee as reasonable for work, and was drinking even more coffee at the bar. But this was the reason we came here; it wouldn't do to not even take a bite.

It doesn't look like the biggest burger when it comes out on the small white plate. But it's deceptively thick, and the blanket of cheese and mushrooms was even thicker and perfectly gooey. I removed the offensive lettuce and tomato slice, but kept the chunky pickle slices. Pickle slices and mustard are key to any burger for me, and these were crunchy fresh pickles, the kind of which Whoppers only dream of, or rather I dream of anytime I end up having to get Burger King. I asked for it medium rare and it came out the same, which is always special for bar burgers. The bun was squishy white, and soaked up the meat and cheese grease with aplomb. We had just been talking about gourmet burgers, and I was saying how I preferred the grease and squeeze of a good dive burger. The All World had all the elements of that artery clogging dive bar glory, but with heft and honor.

I ate a quarter of it and gave up; I just wasn't hungry enough. Into a box it went, and there it sat on the table for another two hours while we talked. Later it sat for another 45 minutes in my car as I drove home in the snow, dodging gaping potholes on the empty streets past the Clinic. When I finally got home, it sat on the porch for fifteen minutes while I looked at the snow and took crappy cellphone pictures of my lonely road. Finally into the fridge it went, until two hours later when, having finished writing a love letter, I heated up a quarter of it in the microwave. The quality of the reheat matters to me, because most of my food is going to be consumed as leftovers late at night. I'm happy to report it heated up even greasier and cheesier, and I'm even more happy that I still have half left for tomorrow morning. I think this might be a strong contender for my list of best burgers, if only for the fact that I don't regret braving a winter storm to get one.

Brennan's Colony on Urbanspoon

Monday, March 14, 2011

Lots going on.

Sandwich Scientists™ -

It has been a busy few weeks for the Cleveland is sandwich board. First, we have picked up two new writers: Fidel Gastro and Penny Panini. We already have one new review from Penny and Fidel is meeting with the Board to offer insights from a lifetime of eating sandwiches. We’re very glad to have them both on Board.

Second, attorney and philanthropist Andrew Samtoy represented us on Fox 8 while I was out of town to discuss sandwiches. He was on a brand new show called New Day Cleveland, hosted by David “The Mossman” Moss and Kristi “Miss Missouri 2006” Capel. He was ostensibly there to discuss the top five sandwiches in Cleveland, but the discussion quickly moved into the law and philosophy of Sandwiches. He was asked, for example, what new things were going on in the world of Sandwiches, and he said “a lot.”

“A lot.” Could he have been more understated?

I myself was thinking about this a few weeks ago. Really, sandwiches have made huge strides in the recent past. Why, just a few years ago, sandwich eaters only had a few choices for bread – white, wheat, sourdough (mostly in California), a roll, and perhaps a badly baked bagel. Whole-grain was unimagined in most of the country, and the most foreign cheese might be Swiss. Now, you can get artisan loaves of specially grown grains with particularly pastoral provenances; we have meats flown in from small butchers in the Dolomites, cheeses from Azerbaijan to Zambia and everywhere in between, and wild heirloom tomatoes and scavenged urban lettuce and condiments made five minutes before being brought to table. The range of innovation shows no sign of abating; indeed, sandwiches are, like technology, advancing at a rate that mortal minds find difficult to comprehend.

Luckily, the hosts of the show seemed to grasp of the importance of these developments as they invited us back on March 31st for another segment, this time to discuss Burger Science™. As I will be out of town yet again I have recruited Andrew to represent us in a further segment where we, as a board, will the side of the top five burgers in Cleveland and Andrew will present them on our behalf. It works out because he gets to hobnob with local celebrities and we get to stay anonymous so that restaurants don’t know who we are and we can strike stealthily and undetected. It is a win-win.

I hope you find the time it to tune in from 10 to 11:00AM on March 31st to New Day Cleveland where no doubt lives will be changed. I wish I could be there to meet Mr. Moss and Ms. Cabel, but, as they say, there’s a big wedding coming up across the pond that is decidedly not going to plan itself.

Tally ho!


Tuesday, March 8, 2011


Friends -

You don't know me, but I've been helping Beau out with this since we were in law school together, doing editing and whatnot. He asked me to appear on Fox 8's "New Day Cleveland" program this morning to present the best sandwiches in Cleveland, and gosh, it was amazing. The hosts were phenomenally nice, the producers were delightful, the staff was friendly and courteous and everyone was just warm and professional. Oh, and I brought cookies, which are not sandwiches, and if they ever invite us back again and Beau is out of town I will bring sandwiches instead, because they weren't all that happy that I didn't bring sandwiches.

Also, I had the opportunity to talk with Scott Riotblat and Kimberly McCune of Vine and Dine Catering. They made meatloaf on the show, and it was delicious. I had one slice for breakfast (along with four cups of coffee) and they gave me three slices to go. If you ever need a caterer, call them. Scott also told me about a really interesting idea they have for a culinary compound in Aurora; dollars to donuts that in the near future we'll be seeing some great things from them.

Thank you, and thanks to Beau for the opportunity to be on television!

Andrew Samtoy
Greetings from Aspen!

Fox 8 has a new show, "New Day Cleveland." They asked for us to send a representative to appear on it. I have asked a dear friend of mine, attorney Andrew Samtoy, to appear on our behalf and talk about the top five sandwiches in Cleveland (chosen at a secret conclave convened for such a task). Watch Fox 8 from 10-11 and cheer him silently. If you are not in Cleveland, be like me and watch it online.


Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Big Daddy's Cheesesteaks

16804 Lorain Road
Cleveland, OH 44111
(216) 251-1000

by Scarlet Pumpernickel

East Carolina pulled pork is not the kind of thing you normally expect to see on the menu of a cheese steak restaurant in Cleveland. Like most styles of BBQ, it’s very regional, and if you’ve never had it, you might not think it sounds too appealing, because the sauce is essentially vinegar with seasoning. But just try it once, and you’ll fall in love, which is what I did during my time living in North Carolina, and why I was so excited to see it on the menu at Big Daddy’s.

Although, I didn’t actually order it the first time I went to Big Daddy’s. I ordered the special instead. I didn’t know it was an option until I actually looked at the menu while I was waiting for my sandwich. I don’t usually order without looking at the menu, but as I walked in, and the man behind the counter greeted me and started explaining the special of the day, a gentleman who was leaving interrupted and told me to just order the special because it was delicious. What was I supposed to do? Say no?

That’s perhaps the best thing about Big Daddy’s: it’s such a small and comfortable place, you will end up having a conversation will the other customers, you will be subjected to the cook’s Jungle Cruise-caliber jokes (and just like the Jungle Cruise, he will apologize for how bad they are) and you will get to enjoy an extended monologue from the late night waitress about how when her ex-roommate moved out, she stole her dresser, from her room, while she was at work. It’s a place where you can be called a regular the third time you go there.

And it was on that third visit that I finally actually had the pulled pork. The second time I went the week after my first visit, they were out of the pulled pork, but they were unloading a fresh hunk of pork off the supply truck while I was there and the cook, Frank, was happy to talk about their cooking process with me. They do it right, slow cooking it for 14 hours with a dry rub, and then they sauce it up to order, which allows them to offer a variety of pulled pork options. I just needed to come back at least 14 hours later, when they had a fresh batch ready.

Which I did, but I forgot to account for the fact that they close and re-open on Friday and Saturday nights to attract the late night crowd. I was therefore forced to wait all the way until the late night hours the next night for my sandwich.

It was worth the wait.

While barbecue sauces get most of the attention from common consumers, good barbecue is actually a holistic combination of texture and sauce. Good sauce is easy; you can buy it in a bottle. Good texture, though, requires proper cooking, and this means slow-cooking. That's why the weekend griller can buy the same sauce that the pros use (and bottle) but not be invited to participate in state-wide or national championships; the actual cooking matters more. The recipes for great sauces are closely guarded secrets; great texture is an art. The East Carolina pulled pork at Big Daddy’s is the real deal, with pork as soft as it can be without being too soft, and a vinegar sauce that you can smell at ten paces. Their coleslaw is also perfect for dumping on top of the sandwich if you want to eat it in true Carolina fashion. The one unusual addition is their homemade cheese sauce, which is a definite improvement.

The other styles of pulled pork are good as well, as is the cheese steak (both the original and sauced variations), and the corned beef and pastrami sandwiches are great, too. If you have any specific questions, please ask in the comments. I have had everything on the menu besides the salads, but in my defense, I do go almost every week, which probably says more about the place than anything else I’ve written above.

Big Daddy's Cheesesteak on Urbanspoon