Sunday, February 27, 2011

Rascal House

Is there such a category as "college pizza"? You know what I'm talking about. College pizza, at least in my terms, is simply that which yields the greatest amount of pizza for the least amount of money.

When I went to Ohio State pizza places such as as Hound Dog's, Papa John's, and Gumby's were the kings of the cheap college pizza. The product that they crank out nightly is absolutely astounding (and I don't mean that in a good way). These pizzas represent everything it means to be happily poor in one's college years. The memories of ordering said pizzas have everything to do with soaking up the fruits of the handmade three story beer bong and nothing to do with the taste of these pies.

I had been talking about pizza to someone here in Cleveland, and they mentioned Rascal House as having a surprisingly good pizza. As I've said many times before - I'll try anything once. I like to think that I'm a pretty fair person, and if a pizza is going to be ruled worse ever, it would have to beat out Chuck E. Cheese for the title. Why Chuck E. Cheese? Wel,l as a seven year old I distinctly remember telling my mom that it was the worst pizza I'd ever eaten. (Yes, ever - coming from a kid that had been on this earth for a whopping seven years.) One has to assume that it is in fact bad, simply because the untrained palate of a young child is able to pick it out of the lineup.

Rascal House is college pizza. The prices are about a close to the bone as one can hope to value a pizza. If you get a hold of one of their coupons (fairly easy to find on the internet), the savings grow even more. It truly is a wonder these guys are able to make money charging these prices. My guess is that the John Carroll crowd does a pretty good job of keeping the delivery guys busy. Aside from pizza, they also sell wings, sandwiches, wraps, and salads.

Everything about the Rascal House pizza just screams of mediocrity. The ingredients aren't what I would consider bad, it's just that nothing really stands out as good. Everything tastes, well, like standard everyday pizza that you could get at any nondescript pizza parlor in the city. The price is the attraction. Sustenance.

Rascal House serves the local college kids. With Geraci's across the street, and Pizzazz Pizza down on Fairmount, there really isn't any need to for anyone seeking good quality pizza to go to Rascal House. Now if you're looking to wash some cheap pizza down with a case of Natty, I think Rascal House just might be the ticket.

Rascal House Pizza
11316 Euclid Ave
Cleveland, OH 44106
(216) 791-6254

Rascal House Pizza on Urbanspoon

Saturday, February 26, 2011


All most of us want out of life is a good hamburger, right? I mean, if it came right down to it, would the end of a great day end with a well cooked piece of beef sandwiched between to pieces of bread.

That is what every American aspires to, right?

Well, if you're in Cleveland, there's really no shortage of places one can go for a primo burger. I've had some of the best at places like B Spot, Buckeye Beer Engine, and even *gulp* The Post & Beam. In the same same vein as Post & Beam, the rumblings were that Rummy's Bar & Grille, which I had unknowingly passed many times on the way to Warehouse Beverage, serves up a burger that many say can hold its own.

Always one for a challenge, I decided to find out if this was pure poppycock or if this whole good burger thing really had legs. What gave me pause for thought is when the person told me that they serve the thing on a kaiser roll. In all truthfulness, every burger I've ever had that was served on a kaiser roll has absolutely, one hundred percent, sucked rocks. My gut was that Rummy's burger was going to blow ass, like every other burger served on a the dry, tasteless bun that is known as kaiser.

The bride and I decided to try this little hole-in-the-wall bar on Mayfield to see what all the fuss was about. Rummy's is essentially the stereotypical bar space that you find in most anyone working class neighborhood...locals camped out on a Friday evening, getting their drink and their grub on. The cheeseburger was quite cheese & bacon. Most surprising of all was that the Kaiser bun didn't suck; in fact, it nicely complemented the burger.

In the end Rummy's represents a fantastic value. If I had my druthers, I would go when it was warmer. The interior is a bit drafty, but in the spring or summer I would have no hesitation in stopping in for an impromptu dinner.

Rummy's Bar &Grill
4294 Mayfield Road
South Euclid, OH 44121
(216) 291-1389

Rummy's Bar &Grill on Urbanspoon

Friday, February 25, 2011

Osteria Cedro Rustico (Restaurant inside Whole Foods)

One of my resolutions was to go places and do things I always said I wanted to try. In fact, if you've been reading lately, you'll find that most of the spots I've been going to are places that don't exactly resemble the latest and greatest in restaurant openings. Some places are popular, some are not, but I think it's safe to say that it beats going to the old standby for the tenth time in three months.

After deciding that cooking dinner wasn't in the cards, Regina and I settled on trying The Osteria or Osteria Cedro Rustico, as it's apparently called.

Located inside the Whole Foods on Cedar and Warrensville Center Road, between the produce department and beer and wine section, an arc of chairs ring the counter space. In the middle sits the cooking area where everything is prepared by two cooks.

The Pasta Case

A selection of fresh made pasta is displayed in a case for you to choose from. Once you've selected what you'd like, the pasta is then cooked to order. Regina got the spinach linguini with Parmesan, eggplant, and caramelized onions. I settled on the short ribs and mashers (no pasta).

The Bar

I wasn't sure I was really going to like eating dinner while customers passed by shopping, but the partition around the seating area seemed to create enough of a barrier to where you didn't notice any commotion. The conversation around us was quite lively, too. As my wife and I talked about Top Chef from the night before, the cooks joined in with their opinions. The next thing I know, the two women sitting next to us joined in, and then - the food was ready.

Now I'm not going to sit here and act like the short ribs here are going to cause Rocco Whalen to look over his shoulder anytime soon, BUT the short rib dinner I had also came at about a third of the cost of Fahrenheit's. We felt that for what we paid, it was certainly a good value. Would my dad complain? Probably, but then again he still thinks a coffee should cost sixty cents. Middle aged men aside, I think most people would find the menu here pretty reasonable.

I think Osteria puts out a quality product at a decent price. It may be a restaurant inside of a grocery store, but it shouldn't be mistaken with the old Marc's No Name Restaurant, in Parma Heights.

Osteria Cedro Rustico
13998 Cedar Rd
University Heights, OH 44118
(216) 371-5320

Osteria Cedro Rustico on Urbanspoon

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Touch of Italy

A restaurant is a funny thing. While a business with a normal name isn't going to sway me one way or the other, in terms of wanting to eat there; a good or bad name can. Death Row Pizza in Williamsport, PA, ended up being totally disgusting - but I loved the name. Touch of Italy would fall under the "not so good" category. Really? Just a touch? What country comprises the other 99% of the food?

Touch of Italy is a little restaurant that sits in the strip of stores near the corner of Chagrin Blvd and Lee Rd. Until last fall, I had driven past it a million times and never stopped - simply because I didn't like the name.

9" Pepperoni and Sausage

I'm not going to paint this place out to be the best pizza I've ever had, but for being as close to my house as it is, I thought it was pretty damn good. The crust is a pan style that is remarkably light when you consider the volume the crust has. It looks much beefier than it actually is. I've had pies that I had to finally just tap out, because the dough was heavy and aplenty. I ordered a small 9" and didn't feel the least bit stuffed.

The ingredients on top of the pizza are of decent quality. I thought the sauce had a pretty good balance of tomato versus spice, which I think can really ramp up the flavor on the rest of the pie. I opted for the pepperoni (which looked like the pepperoni everyone else uses) and bulk sausage (the amorphous big chunks, which I like).

It's pizzas like these that keep me scratching down the name of places I see whenever I'm driving around Cleveland. If you do want to try Touch of Italy, I would suggest carry-out. There is more of a bar feel to the space than anything else. If I were to judge the pizza based on the interior, I would have never thought they were serving anything close to this quality.

If you happen to be coming through these parts - give it a shot. It's one of the better pizzas in the Shaker/Cleveland Heights area. Just make sure you get it "to go".

A Touch of Italy
16822 Chagrin Blvd
Shaker Heights, OH 44120
(216) 991-8282

A Touch of Italy on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Gentile's Bakery & Deli

By Mrs. DineOMite

I typically reserve dessert for the last meal of the day. However, as fate would have it, I was at a luncheon last summer when I was faced with a platter of cookies from Gentile's Bakery & Deli.

Not having eaten much for lunch itself, I decided to have a few cookies; I opted for a slightly misshapen number that was covered in powdered sugar. One bite of the cookie revealed a rich almond flavor and moist texture. I was immediately searching the platter for the rest of these cookies.

My favorite amaretti

After cherry picking each one and stashing it away for the obligatory "take home" tray, I decided a trip to Gentile's needed to happen ASAP. After multiple trips there this year, I've learned that they refer to them as "Amaretti" and they are made with almond paste. I've tried numerous amaretti from other establishments in San Francisco and Philadelphia, but to date, these little gems are the prize winning Amaretti in my tummy. I think the soft chewiness of this version is what separates it from the harder, crunchier versions I've had elsewhere.

Gentile's isn't exactly next store, so now I buy more than I intend to eat and freeze the rest as they keep perfectly. Whenever my husband is down near the Old Brooklyn area, he knows major points will be scored with a box full of these beauties. At about sixty cents apiece, these make for a great host gift for any party. If you don't see them in the case - just ask. They sometimes have them wrapped up and toward the back where you can't really see them.

Although I have never had one, my brother tells me that the sandwiches here are also of note. Gentile's is certainly worth a detour if you anywhere close (easily accessed from 176).

Gentile's Bakery & Deli
464 Broadview Rd
Cleveland, OH 44109

(216) 351-116

Gentile's Bakery & Deli on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Mr. Wonderful's Chicken & Waffles

I'll admit it, I'm a sucker for a good name. As you can imagine, my curiosity got the best of me when I drove past Mr. Wonderful's Chicken & Waffles a few times. Every time I drove down Emery Road, I'd look over at Mr. Wonderful's and think, "Damn, dude has set the bar pretty high for himself."

Imagine walking in the door everyday knowing that you've got to live up to, not Mr. Meh, Mr. Decent, or even Mr. Pretty Good, but Mr. Wonderful?!?!?

This little carryout place sells primarily soul food. Not only do they sell chicken and waffles, but also (on the day I was there) tri-tips, fried fish, and a selection of sides that fall somewhere between Angie's and Boston Market.

Since I wanted some healthy protein for after my workout, I ordered the baked chicken. I was a little disappointed to see it come out of the steam table submerged in some type of liquid. The guy running the counter wanted to know if I wanted any sauce with my chicken. When I asked what they had, he said, "Well, we've got the mild, a sweet sauce, the Miami Hea-."

"Excuse me? Miami Heat?!?!? Are you kidding me?"

"Yeah, I know. I know. I gotta change that shit. That LeBron really screwed me on that deal."

"He screwed us all, didn't he?"

*Chuckling a little* "Yeah, I guess you got a point there."

The front of the store easily had ten people picking up orders. Sometimes you end up with a fairly long wait at these carryouts, but to Mr. Wonderful's credit, they are well staffed, efficient, and friendly.

Out of respect for my Cleveland sports fan brethren I opted to pass on the Miami Heat. The chicken was decent enough, considering I only paid $6 for the entire dinner. In the end Mr. Wondrful's puts out a decent product at decent price for the surrounding neighborhood it primarily serves. I wouldn't make a special trip, but if you're in the neighborhood you could certainly do worse.

Mr. Wonderful's Chicken & Waffles
23041 Emery Rd.
Warrensville Heights, OH 44128
(216) 464-5230

Mr. Wonderful's Chicken&Waffles on Urbanspoon

Monday, February 21, 2011

Hiroshi's Pub

Since last summer I have wanted to try Hiroshi's Pub in Beachwood. Located a little further down the strip (on the opposite side of the drive) from Moxie and Red, Hiroshi's Pub is relatively hidden from sight.

The interior has clean looking aesthetic that is rather expansive with numerous little spaces that open off of the main space (perfect for large parties that would like a semi-private space). A large bar with flat screens runs along the left side of the restaurant. As you head to the restrooms an open area of the kitchen on your right exposes the smoker that works around the clock.

I knew I was in for an experience when one of my friends asked for a Coke and the server said sheepishly, "Well, we don't have Coke. We serve "cola"." Seriously? Col-a? I'm not a big soft drink person, but when a place serves cola - it just seems a bit odd.

As one would expect in any respectable pub, Hiroshi's offers up a decent selection of beers (10-15 different micros and macros total). Burgers, salads, sandwiches, barbecue, and sushi add up to what is the largest menu I've ever seen. Yes, even Cheesecake Factory.

I'm not going to give you the play-by-play on what the four of us ordered. I'm just going to say that the Hiroshi's menu could be much more focused. I thought pretty much everything we ordered was bland and unimaginative. The sushi we ordered seemed to be quite large and out of scale with what you would get at a solid sushi place like Pacific East (Coventry). The quality of the ingredients seemed to be middle-of-the-road.

One could make the argument that if a menu has too many different choices, the diner will be paralyzed by the available options. Another argument is that the menu becomes "jack of all trades, master of none". The dishes, while perfectly edible, don't really offer any kind of special experience, either through execution or thoughtfulness, to the consumer.

When it comes to the large menu argument, I fall into the "jack of all trades" camp. Like the Top Chef contestant that tries to put too many tricks into one dish, I think a large menu shows a lack restraint. How can one possibly execute, or expect his line cooks to execute so many dishes at a high level? If they are able to prepare all of these dishes, what does it say about the imagination of each individual offering? I think if Hiroshi's was broken up into a burger joint, a barbecue restaurant, and a sushi place it could be much more successful. While well intentioned, I think Hiroshi's Pub tries to accomplish way too much for just one restaurant.

Hiroshi's Pub
3365 Richmond Rd
Beachwood, OH 44122

(216) 464-4665

Hiroshi's Pub on Urbanspoon

Friday, February 18, 2011

Great Lakes Baking Pizza Night

*Flashback to childhood*

It's Saturday night and my dad smells like aftershave (which I personally have never used), my mom is rockin' the latest fashions from Summit Mall, and I (along with my brothers and sisters) am waiting for Silver Spoons to start. Sandwiched somewhere between Silver Spoons and Diff'rent Strokes, would be the arrival of the evening's dinner.

The Saturday night tradition, at least in our Medina home, was that we always ordered Rustic Inn pizza - one pepperoni and sausage, and one mushroom and peppers. Sadly, Rustic Inn has since gone to Jesus. The pizza of my childhood may be gone, but I'm sure the Saturday night preteen pizza tradition continues across this great nation. Every weekend the children are paid in pies, whilst mom and dad savor their ever-so-brief evening respite from chaos.

My gut tells me that many of the children in Hudson share this very tradition with the "Saturday Night Pizza" at Great Lakes Baking. You see, this bakery is your everyday bakery by day (six days a week, closed on Mondays). However, on Saturday nights they make pizza for carryout.

The Pizzaioli

For me it's all about the pizza quest. Pizza of my youth is for the most part gone. (I consider Antonio's my adopted pizza of my youth, since I made a beeline for that place every time we went to Parmatown Mall. Don't laugh, there was a point in time when Parmatown was the shit. Seriously!) At any rate, I happened to be kind of in the neighborhood (Northfield), so I figured this was one of my rare chances to pick up a Great Lakes Baking pie.

I called and ordered a pepperoni ($13), while I drove in that direction. If I'm ordering Neapolitan I'll typically order a margherita pizza, anything else and it's either pepperoni, or pepperoni and sausage. If you do order over the phone, ask what their special pizza is. The price is typically more, but there's usually some pretty good combinations. I missed out on a blue cheese one that had my name written all over it.

The Oven

The staff, as far as I could see, was mostly teenagers or young twenty somethings. You could tell they clearly enjoyed making these pizzas. The kid that was putting them in the oven was pretty amped about my interest in what they were doing. There are a couple small round tables with a few chairs for those who want to eat it at the bakery. While there were people eating there, I'd probably get your pie to go. It's true that the bakery doubles as a pizzeria quite nicely, but they don't have the trappings that one would typically like with their pie (soda, beer, apps, etc.)

The Slice

As you can see, the pepperoni is not the stereotypical low end stuff you find at most run-of-the-mill neighborhood pizzerias. They sprinkle a moderate amount of seasoning on top that really adds a some extra oomph to the spiciness of the thick pepperoni. GLB offers a Rustic French and a Whole Grain crust. I opted for the French along with the red sauce (white and pesto sauce are also available). Thankfully, they don't go nuts with the cheese or the sauce. As the picture shows there's a pretty good balance of dough, sauce, and cheese that results in a chewy crust with a slice that is not overly greasy.

My verdict? Great Lakes is on the right track. The kids that work there seem to be very excited about the crafting of these pies. I liked what I ordered, but I think next time I'd go with their specialty pizza. The pizza is solid and probably serves up one of the better pizzas in Hudson. (I'm not familiar enough with the pizza around there to say for sure.) That being said, I don't know if it's worth making a special trip from afar to get, especially since it's basically carryout only.

Great Lakes Baking
85 S Main St
Hudson, OH 44236

(330) 342-5878

Great Lakes Baking on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Trade Winds Caribbean Foods

Trade Winds is a combination island grocery store and carryout. This little gem is located across the street from the vast wasteland formerly known as Randall Park (which seems to be amplified ten fold in the dead of winter).

Since I was going to be driving through the area on my way back from the west side, I figured I'd stop in and pickup some carryout for dinner. I kind of already knew what I was going to be ordering when I walked in - even though I had never been there before. A good jerk chicken is hard to find and I figured what better place to try than here.

I gave a cursory look at the menu, but decided quickly on an order of the jerk chicken with a side of red beans and rice. (While not as bad as a misspelled sign, I was absolutely flummoxed by the idea of a carryout business not having any takeout menus - especially if there's no website. Trade Winds has neither a website nor menus for you to take home. Ouch!)

The dinner was somewhere in the range of $8-10, which is about what I would expect to pay for an order of this size. The seasoned pieces of chicken were of good size, very moist, with a jerk sauce poured over the top. While not the baked on blackened kind of jerk that I'm used to, the greenish sauce had a well developed depth to its heat. The red beans and rice also had the jerk seasoning drizzled on top, which I thought was really good.

I can't really speak for the rest of the menu since I've only ever ordered the chicken. The inside of the space is extremely clean, with a modest selection of Caribbean groceries, and the service is very prompt and courteous. My only criticism is the lack of menus for impatient, call ahead types - like me.

Trade Winds Caribbean Foods
4681 Northfield Rd
Cleveland, OH 44128
(216) 663-9463

Trade Winds Caribbean Foods on Urbanspoon

Friday, February 11, 2011

Island Cuisine: "Where they fucked up the sign - but not the food."

Sorry, I can understand not having time to update an online menu. I can understand temporarily running out of takeout menus. I can even excuse a restaurant for not having some kind of web presence. But a sign where the name of the actual restaurant is misspelled? Not a good first impression.

The Sign

I'm an underdog guy, so I'm not going to harp on it too much due to the ethnic element. In their defense they certainly aren't the first ethnicity to misspell the word "cuisine". Wanting to make sure there wasn't some sort of alternate spelling I didn't know about, a quick search on Google revealed that pretty much every different ethnicity has made the same spelling mistake. I'm sure the people at Island Cuisine are breathing easier now. But seriously, fix the sign (it is spelled correctly inside in the restaurant).

Ironically enough, the correctly spelled "#1 Shrimp Curry in Ohio" portion of the sign is what lured me in. I'm not sure who handed down this verdict, but if IC thought enough to emblazon it on a sign, it had to be good - right?

The Interior
This is effectively a carryout joint. The inside is neon green and canary yellow. One table with chairs sits in the picture window of the store. A few other chairs are scattered throughout the space for the sole purpose of taking a load off while they get your food together.

The Menu (Note the correct spelling at the top)

I've eaten here three times, and had the shrimp curry twice and the jerk chicken once. IC's shrimp curry is certainly something to take note of. Their curry is a layered flavor that doesn't pack a stinging heat like you get with some of the Thai or Indian curries. I also found the savory rice and beans to be a great counterpoint to the seasoning of the shrimp. Recommended.

What I would not recommend is the jerk chicken. For the money, I'll go to Tradewinds over in North Randall. When I order jerk chicken it has to have a decent kick to it. I want a nice discernible jerk crust on the outside of the chicken. Island Cuisine's relies on a thin almost soup-like gravy to season the meat. Maybe it's been marinated with the jerk, but it's a pretty weak flavor. While I didn't care for the sauce on the chicken it did taste really good when it seeped into the cinnamon and nutmeg of the rice and beans.

Island Cuisine isn't going to wow you with their atmosphere. You won't find any takeout menus, a website, or curiously enough spoons. (Which I find odd, since they serve soup.) I would, however, suggest an order of curry shrimp called in ahead. What IC lacks in refinement, they make up for in soul.

Island Cuisine
20023 Harvard Ave
Warrensville Heights, OH 44122

(216) 491-8250

Island Cuisine on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

The Original Pancake House

I'm not a big breakfast guy. Hell, I'm probably less of a brunch fan. For whatever reason I always seem to feel sluggish as hell the rest of the day after eating brunch.

You can imagine the enthusiasm I felt when my mother suggested we go to the Original House of Pancakes with my brothers and sisters. Yippee!!! I can't wait to waddle out of a restaurant and feel like a sloth all day. What are weekends for, right?

I begrudgingly drove across town to for the big rendezvous at The Original Pancake House. Having never been, I was pleasantly surprised when I walked through the door. Fully expecting to be waiting in line as families parked their ass for after church brunch. Imagine my bewilderment when the asked how many were in our party and then walked us straight to our table!

As a Clevelander I knew my luck was going to run out. Fine - I didn't have to wait for a table. But that wasn't going to change the fact that the food was probably going to suck, right? I open the menu and went straight to the Apple Pancake. Yes, one pancake. I wanted something that didn't require me to soak it in that super sweet, artificial syrup. Oh, and they had "thick" bacon. Thick? I'll be the judge of that. I told the waitress she'd better not be lying or I'd have to flip the plate.

Out of nowhere I smell something that resembles apple pie. The waitress set "the pancake" down in front of me and I couldn't believe the size of the damn thing. When it's fresh out of the oven it's inflated (the picture shows what it looks like after it's deflated). Covered in Granny Smith Apples and Sinkiang cinnamon glaze, I wondered how I was going to finish the whole thing. With a little help from my friends I was able to finish it off.

I will say that the bacon is actually very good, too. When I cook at home I have a huge slab of Benton's bacon that cut big fat slices off of. The stuff they serve here isn't too far off that mark.

The OPH is clean, efficient, and has an attentive friendly staff. Alas the sluggishness returned, but at least I can say it was worth it. If you have the opportunity you've got to try this apple pancake. Even if you get something else, make sure you get the bacon - trust me, you won't flip the plate.

The Apple Pancake

Original Pancake House
3000 Westgate Mall
Cleveland, OH 44126
(440) 333-5515

Original Pancake House on Urbanspoon