16 March 2015

G. Michael's Bistro & Bar

Chef David Tetzloff operates the must-try G. Michael's in German Village. They produce low country cuisine rooted in the bounty of fresh local ingredients.

Just about everything works at this perennial favorite. The interior is striking. The bar is outstanding. The service is top notch. And of course, the kitchen is firing on all cylinders.

The restaurant is larger than it appears from the outside. There is a long bar and two lively brick dining rooms. 

The bar befits a restaurant of this caliber. The wine list has great selections in every price range. Cocktails are well made reinventions of classics as well as faithful renditions of traditional favorites. 

The menu has a limited selection of vegetarian items as one would expect from a place with a Southern spin. The server stated that the kitchen was able to produce items in addition to the ones on the menu for specific dietary restrictions if required. G. Michael's also offers a gluten free menu.

The sauteed Brussels sprouts can be eaten by the truckload. The soft veggies swim in a creamy Canal Junction Abondoce cheese with spicy honey balsamic vinegar. Some might want to add the optional bacon or ham to the mix, but vegetarians won't miss it.

The winter menu entree was a mixed vegetable chef's selection. The plate was piled with roasted squash, broccoli rabe, sweet potatoes and greens as well as a mountain of cheesy grits. The portion was huge and wholly satisfying.

The new menu features a great looking Carolina barbecue marinated broiled tofu. It is served with winter vegetable succotash, fried pimiento cheese croquette, beet chips, and cider gastrique. 

Desserts provide an excellent conclusion to your meal, assuming you haven't stuffed yourself on previous dishes.



G. Michael's Bistro and Bar on Urbanspoon

27 February 2015

Tacos Hass


Taco Hass is a Mexican gem secretly stashed in a Dublin strip mall. It is a casual spot with a wood-fired grill, and it is delightfully affordable. $10 buys a great meal here.

The bright space is located next to La Favorita Mexican Grocery. Taco Hass has a limited selection of alcoholic beverages a la Chipotle.

The vegetarian taco is the taco verde. Flour tortillas are filled with nopales - roasted prickly pear cactus - potatoes and melted white cheese. The soft cactus almost melts in your mouth, the potatoes add a nice texture and the salsa gives the taco a subtle spiciness. Four tacos is probably a reasonable lunch portion.

The quesadillas also pick up a nice flavor on the grill. They are a great vehicle for the different house-made salsas.

The menu is small, but the flavors are huge at Hass. Vegetarians only have a few options, but jt should be a main lunch destination for anybody withing a reasonable distance of this Sawmill Road delight.



Hass on Urbanspoon

15 February 2015

Ethyl & Tank



Ethyl & Tank is the campus project from the folks who own the popular Crest Gastropub. This restaurant has a more casual menu than its Clintonville cousin. The excellent craft beer program is augmented by a full-service coffee counter.

The space is large and it can fill up quickly. There is a small rotating console arcade upstairs with classics like Street Fighter II Championship Edition, Mortal Kombat II, Rampage, NBA Jam and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. Cocktails are named after video game characters. The restaurant is loaded with HDTVs.

The menu is loaded with options for vegetarians. and vegans. Many of the sandwiches have gluten free options. All of the sandwiches are better with a side of waffle fries.

Everything isn't a home run. For example, the falafel sandwich needed a greater amount of creamy dip to offset its dryness. But more items work than don't.

The tank nachos are a hot mess in the best way possible. A mountain of tortilla chips is piled with refried beans, queso cheese, Colby Jack, pico de gallo, jalepeƱos, corn and black bean salsa, sour cream and guacamole. They can definitely be shared.

Entree  options include veggie tacos, grilled cheese, smoked Caprese panini, veggie panini, green chile mac and cheese, and a variety of large salads.

Servers answered all questions about vegetarian and vegan options. The casual nature of the establishment sometimes results in uneven service. 



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02 February 2015

Cray Eatery & Drinkery


Cray is part of the old Wonder Bread factory. It's an open, casual space that specializes in sliders and infused-liquor cocktails.

The infused liquors aren't the run of the mill raspberry and vanilla flavors, although you might be able to get those too. They are flooded with things like smoked ginger, pumpkin spice, banana nut, garlic, hibiscus, candy corn, Skittles, Werther's and Lemonheads. 

These liquors make up traditional cocktails with an extra kick. Think garlic bloody Mary or smoked ginger vodka Moscow mules. There is also a solid beer and wine selection with about six taps.

The sliders and other pub grub go pretty well with a few drinks. There are three different veggie sliders - quinoa, portabella and tofu. There is a normal and pretzel bun, as well as a bun-less gluten free option.

The tofu can be prepared vegan. It is breaded and fried and topped with cole slaw. It is almost a vegetarian fried chicken slider.

The quinoa patty has a texture more like sloppy Joes. It is swimming in sundried tomato pesto and topped liberally with arugula. 

The portabella is topped with provolone cheese and caramelized onions. It is the classic grilled mushroom preparation, and it works really well on the pretzel bun.

Service can be uneven. Orders came out slowly on one visit, and it was difficult to get dishes served in a traditional appetizer - entree order. Nonetheless, servers and staff were all warm and accommodating As long as the kitchen isn't swamped, it's probably better to order dishes in a tapas fashion. 



Cray Eatery & Drinkery on Urbanspoon

23 January 2015

Bareburger

Bareburger, the New York-based burger chain, is located in the Short North. The new menu has two veggie burgers on it, and offers options for vegetarian, vegan and gluten-free diners.

The menu features pre-fabricated burgers, as well as build-your-own options. There are a number of salads and traditional burger accompaniments - various types of fries and onion rings.

The bar has a small but nice collection of beers. The cocktails are fun. But the main attraction, of course, is the burgers.

The two veggie burgers are the black bean burger and the farmer's quinoa burger. The quinoa is soft with a nice vegetable blend. The black bean is a more classic style patty that pairs well with Mexican and Southwestern flavors.

Burgers can be ordered with three different buns and a leafy green wrap. There are nine different cheeses including a vegan cheddar. Burgers can also be topped with different veggies and condiments.

The restaurant decor is a quirky take on utilitarian. Service was adequate. It's an attractive option for takeout.  



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14 January 2015

S & D Polish Deli


S & D Polish Deli is a treasure nestled in the heart of the Pierogi Pocket in Pittsburgh's Strip District. The grocery/restaurant offers Polish delicacies of all shapes and sizes. If your Polish grandma made it, you can probably find it here. If she didn't make it and it's Polish, you will probably also find it in stock.

I did not get to experience the joy of S & D Polish Deli firsthand. Lucky me that somebody loves me enough to bring them to my door after a recent trip to Pittsburgh.

The pierogi are available in many formulations fresh or frozen. The medium sized dumplings come liberally dressed in butter. The potato and farmer's cheese pierogi were rich and surprisingly light with a hint of sweetness. The potato cheddar cheese ones are closer to the type that most people buy at their grocer's freezer, but elevated. The spinach and mushroom pierogi are earthy, almost meaty, and make an excellent savory main course.

Finger-sized kolaczki, little cookies related on the evolutionary tree to Czech kolaches, are filled with cream cheese, chocolate, or a variety of fruits. The cream cheese and apricot cookies are excellent.

Other Polish grains, baking supplies, condiments, fruit preserves, dried mushrooms and beverages are sold. It covers many if not all of the items in the Eastern European pantry.

Food can be eaten on site, and orders can also be take to go. 

While not everybody has a special someone who will deliver Polish goods to them, the website allows you to order these goods to your door. This could be an addictive bad habit.



S & D Polish Deli on Urbanspoon

31 December 2014

Grandpa's Cheese Barn


Wild horses couldn't drag me away from a business called Grandpa's Cheesebarn while driving north on I-71. Normal people could make a two hour drive to Cleveland without cheese curds. I can't. So I stopped at Grandpa's Cheesebarn off Route 250 in Ashland.

This family-run business has been open since 1978, with the original owner's family history in the Ohio dairy industry stretching back to the early 1900s. The shop is stacked to the ceiling with cheese from Ohio, house-label mustards, jams, jellies and breads. Most everything is available to sample.

There is a small lunch counter inside the Cheesebarn that makes sandwiches, soups, salads and milkshakes. Your sweet tooth can also be satisfied next door at Sweeties Jumbo Chocolates, which makes fudge, candies, nuts and other sweets.

The cheese is Ohio-produced, and much of it takes on classic styles - cheddar, gouda and Swiss (more properly, Emmental). Cheeses are dusted and studded with herbs and spices of all varieties.

Curds likewise come in an array of flavors. The grilling cheese, a domestic approximation of halloumi, was excellent.

Grandpa's Cheesebarn is adorable. It's worth a stop whether you're buying cheese to take home or simply satisfying a craving on a two-hour road trip.



Grandpa's Cheesebarn on Urbanspoon

10 December 2014

Momocho Mod Mex


Momocho Mod Mex puts the modern spin on Mexican cuisine in the heart of Ohio City. Chef-owner Eric Williams, a two-time James Beard nominee, operates a restaurant that's fun, festive and flavorful.

The menu is chock full of vegetarian dishes, including the ever-popular flavors of guacamole. There is an extensive gluten-free menu. The chef whips up guacamole with traditional ingredients, and offers variations loaded with fresh ingredients that put a spin on the classic dip. Current options include goat cheese and roasted poblano guacamole, and a jicama, pineapple, habanero and mint guacamole.

The decor is fun. The darkly lit venue is covered in black and white photos of luchadors and unnamed figures in a style akin to the Day of the Dead, as well as some amazing looking low-rider bicycles over the kitchen and the entrance.

Servers did a good job handling a large party. There were minor issues with pacing and handling explicit instructions from diners when business picked up. Service was pretty good if short of outstanding.

The taquitos at Momocho are nothing like the ones endlessly spinning under the hot lamp at your local gas station, or buried in the back of your college fridge. Fillings included roasted beets, spinach, spicy peanuts and queso fresco, or roasted butternut squash, goat cheese and salted pepitas, both served with a chunky pico de gallo. The ingredients change with the seasons.

The bar offers excellent margaritas in a different flavors and formulations with an excellent menu of tequila and mezcal. Beers are mostly Mexican with a domestic beer made in a Latin American pilsner style.



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26 November 2014

West Side Market


The West Side Market is the premiere market in Cleveland. Located in the Ohio City neighborhood, the 174-year-old market is a one-stop shop for culinary goods across the international spectrum.

Whether you are stocking your pantry or grabbing lunch, half of the adventure is exploring the offerings of the market's many vendors. If you can dream it, you can probably find it in the West Side Market.

The adventures in parking at the West Side Market share much in common with the North Market in Columbus. The parking lot of the West Side Market is a logjam at lunch and on weekends. It is usually easier to park in the neighborhood and walk to the market than it is to battle for a space in the poorly designed lot.

The open-air produce market is a visual illustration of capitalism in action with vendors shouting prices to customers, trying to outsell other vendors. 

International stalls represent the cuisines of Germany, Poland, Italy, France, Greece, the Mediterranean, China, Japan, Cambodia, Mexico and more. There is some overlap in the vendors, but each offers at least a few different things that set it apart from other vendors.

It is almost impossible to choose a place to eat dessert - or rather, to settle on only one. If you don't like what you see, keep walking and you'll find something. Cakes, pies, cookies and more should satisfy your sweet tooth.

The Ohio City location makes for quite a culinary tour destination. The West Side Market offers tours. The Great Lakes Brewery and Brew Pub are a short walk from the market, and Nano Brew is too. Some of Cleveland's top restaurants are also located in the neighborhood. It's easy to plan an afternoon and evening enjoying the foodie fun in Ohio City, starting with the West Side Market. 


15 November 2014

Noodlecat


Jonathon Sawyer is one of the names keeping Cleveland on the culinary radar. His restaurants receive accolades from publications like Bon Appetit and Food & Wine magazine, and the chef has made appearances on Iron Chef on The Food Network. Noodlecat is the fusion ramen project from Team Sawyer. Since the restaurant is looking into opening a location in central Ohio, I decided to check out the West Side Market location and get a sneak preview while in Cleveland.

While ramen shops often offer little in the way of choices for meatless diners, Noodlecat has plenty of options for vegetarians and vegans. The menu is coded to mark vegetarian dishes. There are vegetarian ramen bowls, salads and meatless bao sandwiches. Vegan items had to be requested at the counter, but could be accommodated. The menu is a Yankee take on traditional Japanese noodle houses with a focus on local ingredients.

The smoked tomato coconut curry udon possessed notes that were both Japanese and Thai. The kombu broth suspended udon noodles, poached tofu, bamboo, scallions, potatoes and roasted sesame seeds. The understated base was mildly spicy, and the richness was a perfect vehicle for the wheat noodles and the crunchy veggies.

The veggie bao was stuffed with sprouts, mushrooms, cucumber, carrots, radishes and red onions. The soft roll had a nice coating of a sweet hoisin-like sauce. 

The sit-down restaurant has an expanded menu with more choices than the West Side Market stall. Both locations are worth checking out. I plan on frequenting the Columbus Noodlecat if and when it opens.



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