Tuesday, May 31, 2011


2058 E 4th St

Cleveland, OH 44115


(216) 621-5652

by Beau Cadiyo

A year ago, I had an ongoing argument with a friend studying urban design at Kent State about what should be done downtown. In my infatuation with Jane Jacobs, I was – and still am – convinced that mixed-use buildings were the key to downtown development; she repeatedly insisted that I was wrong and “it (wasn’t) that simple.” When pressed for better alternatives, or even a better alternative, she was dumb; it was just that mixed-use buildings “didn’t work.” This served one major purpose I became convinced that the most up-to-date urban planners, as Jacobs so eloquently detailed in her book, had no idea what the hell was going on, and, through their ignorance, often did more harm than good.

Exhibit One. Clearly, Ari Maron, planning mixed-use communities downtown, isn’t going to go anywhere.

I don’t know this guy, so I don’t think we should make this guy the new King of Cleveland. I don’t think we should make him mayor, or put him on city council. I do think that we should get rid of any planning and zoning commissions and let him make as much money as he wants to by developing our city in any way he sees fit, according to principles – which, as far as I can tell, don’t difer much from Jacobs’ – that he finds work to create a vibrant, culturally rich and diverse city. If what he’s doing with West 25th is any indication, he has the sort of long-term strategic thinking that Cleveland needs – and the practical know-how to put everything together. Maron, really, is the savior Cleveland has been waiting for, and perhaps most importantly, we need to make sure politicians and less enlightened developers or well-meaning but inept planners stay out of his way.

A week ago I was at Lola to try their Tuna Tartine. I had heard from Frank Clark, one of their lunch chefs, that it was transcendent; being downtown, I decided to stop by and see for myself. I was the first patron and the Condi Rice lookalike working the door let me sit at the Chef’s Table, an elevated table looking over the big, open kitchen.

I ordered quickly and watched the workers do their prep. They sharpened knives, tested cutting surfaces, looked at vegetables and cuts of meat; they turned burners on and off, they organized pans, and they moved around each other like Zen dancers, both graceful and extremely self-aware. I saw one chef toasting a piece of bread, holding it in tongs, looking at each piece carefully, as if he was an artist, ensuring…something. I wasn’t sure what.

Frank came over with another chef to say hello, then he left us to talk as he got an order in. This chef had little to do and we ended up talking about his life and work; it then came out that he was one of the co-creators of the Tuna Tartine. Suddenly I had a question.

How had he done it?

Seriously: how does one create a new sandwich, much less one worthy of being served at Lola? It’s not like people can just imagine them into existence; the creation of new food takes trial and error. Our spokesperson used to have a blog called Rice Omelette where he made omelettes out of things you wouldn’t expect to find in omelettes (like rice). He was putting weird stuff together, though; top chefs, of course, can taste things before they’re even created, so it must have been a bit more controlled than looking in the fridge to see what they had that day to put together.

It turned out that the sandwich was actually partially cribbed from an old cookbook; they then experimented with it. The tuna was line-caught in Spain and processed immediately upon landing; it was packed in olive oil, then shipped over to the US. The olives – Spanish and Italian – were each pitted in the restaurant, then sliced into the tuna. It turned out if was an open-faced sandwich, which initially made me wary, and I was less impressed after the first bite – the bread was almost charred, with an overwhelming smoky flavor. The second bite was only slightly better.

Then the third bite.

Perhaps it was that I was eating the center of the bread rather than the crust; perhaps it was that I was eating more tuna and olives with each bite; perhaps I was getting used to the burnt taste; perhaps I had added a bit of the salad to it, which moderated the flavors. I don’t know. I cut into it, took that third bite, and my jaw almost stopped working. If I’d thought of words, I would have thought of “harmony,” perhaps, or “finesse.” “Transcendent.” Instead, I was faced with a balance of flavors and textures, a mixture of the crunch of the bread (which had soaked up a small amount of the juices and oil from the tuna salad), the sweet-and-saltiness of the tuna, the ripeness of the olives, and whatever delicate mixture of spices was included. The green salad in the middle of the plate, and the slightly rubbery potato salad on the side, were palate-cleansers – good, I’m sure, by themselves, but forgettable next to the tuna.

I paid up and walked out past the increasingly populated restaurant, then out onto East Fourth. There was a quiet bustle to the street; some workers shouted down to each other, tables were being sprayed down with a hose, and I heard the distant sound of cars. The last time I was at Lola, Michael Symon was walking around and talking to customers; this time, he was nowhere to be seen, and I had the thought that he probably didn’t ever have to come down to the restaurant at all if he didn’t want to. He had managed to hire a bunch of strangers, infuse them with the passion for excellence, and then left them to their own devices, trusting that they would live up to the reputation Lola had built up over time.

Lola on Urbanspoon

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Fox 8 Loves Us

Attention! Attention!!!

Fox 8 asked the board to send representation to New Day Cleveland once more and, rather than ask anyone else to show up, they specifically asked that Andrew Samtoy return to discuss Polish Boys. As you no doubt know, the Polish Boy is the quintessential Cleveland sandwich, and Mr. Samtoy will be discussing the top five Polish Boys in Cleveland. (I will be in Florida at a conference, so they couldn't have gotten me if they could; sour grapes.)

Also, I realize that there have been a number of foreign sandwiches posted here. That will all change shortly.

Tune in to Fox 8 from 10 a.m. to 11 a.m. on Tuesday to see Andrew's pretty little face while I eat crap chain food and try to avoid the Heat.


Friday, May 13, 2011

Two Requests

Mein Freunde -

1) Where do you go for Polish Boys in this city? I want to know the best ones to look for ASAP.

2) What do you eat at Progressive Field, or do you eat elsewhere before? I suspect I will be drinking there tonight, and that I will require an amazing sandwich during the Indians sweep of the Mariners.


Tuesday, May 3, 2011

From Afar: The Breslin

16 West 29th Street

New York, NY 10001

(646) 214-5788


by Des Ayuno

The night we visited the Breslin, Fred Durst was in the house. Frank, whose day job is waiting tables there, was treating me to dinner as a kind of apology for quitting the band; he was apologetic about Durst, too. In the course of his job, Frank has dispensed after-dinner marijuana to many celebrities who are far sexier and more name-droppable than Durst, but who should probably remain nameless. He has waited on those who tip generously (Jay-Z, Beyonce, James Murphy) and those who, with no claim to remaining nameless in their stinginess, do not (David Byrne, I love you but you’re bringing me down).

The Breslin, though, is genuinely more famous for its burgers than for its guests. The New Yorker, in a breathless profile of chef April Bloomfield from last year, reported that its burgers were served one way: char-grilled, on a brioche bun, topped with crumbled Roquefort. Only Lou Reed, a fixture in the neighbourhood, is allowed to have his burger with onions, and that is owing to precedent: an awestruck employee took his order one afternoon when Bloomfield was out. Mayonnaise is forbidden.”

These days, Bloomfield serves her burgers (lamb only) char-grilled, on a sourdough bun, topped with one full cross-sectional slice of red onion (approx. 2mm thick; one gets the feeling that she stands behind her chefs with a ruler, ready to rap their knuckles at any deviation) and a small amount of crumbled feta cheese. There is, surprisingly, a ramekin of cumin mayonnaise that arrives with the burger, and whilst its placement on the rustic board that serves as a plate suggests it is meant for the “thrice-cooked” fries, there is nobody to stop you slathering it on the burger too.

This being my first visit, Frank and I decided to cram in as many dishes as we could physically ingest, including one of the famous burgers, which we would split. When the waitress placed it on his side of the table, as I was busy inhaling the steam from a bowl of oxtail in broth, Frank waved his hands under my nose. “You need to try this NOW,” he said. “While it’s hot.” I gestured at the cumin mayo in a way that I thought suggested slathering. He frowned and shook his head and, carefully, as though it was a newborn babe, handed over the burger.

The bun was thin, almost just a crispy shell, and my teeth sheared through it with a crackle. The patty, more sphere than disc, was so fat that my first bite captured only meat and bread, and none of the onion or feta hidden at the center. Still, the intensity of flavor and moisture – wetness, even – was astonishing. It was the most explosively succulent ball of meat and juice I had ever put in my mouth. I swiped in vain at the hot, melted fat that cascaded down my chin. On the next bite, I got some onion – more a crisp textural pleasure than a discernible flavor, so potent was the lamb – and some cheese, which was pleasantly dry and crumbly but made the whole bite almost too salty. The juice was beginning to pool in the bottom half of the bun, where the sourdough’s sturdy texture both soaked it up, into the thin, chewy inner crumb, and held it neatly in place, with the crust.

At this point Frank reached across and removed it from my hands. “Try the oxtail,” he said solicitously, “look at those new-season ramps!” but the room had closed in on me in short focus and all I could see was that rustic board and its precious cargo. Frank cut the burger carefully in half, my side marred with two enormous bites, and thoughtfully consumed his portion. I was less greedy, and the burger less molten, when it made its way back across the table. But even at room temperature, the bun collapsed almost flat with juice, it was a luscious, sticky delight.

The fries were pretty good – not quite the holy grail of fluffy perfection inside and crispy out, but not far off. As a non-evangelist, I’ve always been surprised that big-shot chefs spend so much time and effort trying to mimic what is basically the precise mouth feel of a chemically grown, industrially processed, water-pumped, preservative-laden, low-grade-fat-infused, heat lamp-crisped, half-day-old, all-American drive-thru fry. The cumin mayo surprised me with its mediocrity. It tasted dusty and flat, a one-trick pony of an emollient. Maybe the cumin seeds should have been roasted before grinding; a hint of acidity would not have gone amiss. The house-made dill pickle chips, on the other hand, embodied sheer pickle perfection in their delicate balance of crisp and flab, salt and sour, sweet and pungent. As Frank said, it may not have been the best pickle in the entire world, but we could not think of one that was better, and we considered this grave question for at least ten minutes.

On the way out, our farewells took half an hour, each effusive, hug-proffering waitress and busboy more charismatically kooky than the one before. But still the memory of the burger remained, as did a glaze of grease under my fingernails. I could not remember the last time I’d eaten a burger at all; near-vegetarian, and especially wary of ground meat, I avoid any animal on a menu that cannot guarantee me sufficient ecstasy in its eating as to justify its wretched death. But I am pretty sure, even now, a few weeks later and away from the hypnotic presence of the burger and the Breslin’s gloriously rowdy downstairs bar, that that lamb was indeed one of God’s – pulled from Eden, where it probably gamboled over green hills and was fed apples from Eve’s fair hand, sung to sleep and carried gently to the finest slaughterhouse in the land. That’s what I’ve got to believe, anyways, because when I’m next in town it’s trumped Momofuku’s pork buns as the very first thing my lips shall touch.

Breslin Bar & Dining Room on Urbanspoon