24 09 2010

So as most of you know, I really REALLY like Mexican food. In almost ALL of its forms. Mi Pueblo, Luchitas, Agave, El Jalapeno, El Rodeo, Momocho, Taco Bell (a shitty alternative, I know…. so sue me), and the list goes on and on. Hell, I even remember going to Rio Bravo Cantina in Mayfield, before they turned into Cantina Bravo or something and then that shithole Buca Di Beppo (throwing up in my mouth).  I had heard about this roseangel place through the grapevine and they said it was a taco place, with lots of options. So I’m thinking it’s going to be the Happy Dog of taco joints.  It wasn’t, but it actually wasn’t too far off.

The place is owned by Marlin Kaplan who was behind now-defunct One Walnut and also Luxe Kitchen and Lounge. His partner is Rosita Kutkut who was behind La Boca which was in the same space that roseangel now occupies. Now that we have the background out of the way, let’s talk food.  I had heard the place opened and was super eager to try it, and usually for my birthday, my family and I always go to a Mexican food spot… because I love it soooo much!  Back in the day I used to always get a ice cream cake from Dairy Queen.  As I got older, I traded the brain freeze for the bubble guts, lol…. Looking back i’d still make the same choice. So it’s my mom, brother, sister and I and I say that we’re on the way to roseangel because it’s Mexican, it’s new, and it was my 1st choice. It’s a beautiful Saturday afternoon, and we head across the river to the west side (oh no!).  We park and walk up to the place. As we step inside, some older dude literally yells “WE’RE CLOSED… WE’RE NOT OPEN TILL 5!” and immediately I wanted to punch him right in his fucking face. That’s no way to greet customers whether you’re closed OR open so I want to tell whoever that was to fuck himself. Absolutely and unequivocally.  I don’t know your fucking hours. I’m not glued to the paper or my computer looking who’s not open on mondays, or who is only open for dinner. I’m simple…. buying food at your establishment should be too. It’s a fucking Saturday at 3pm, why would you NOT be open?

But I’m a nice, forgiving guy so I decide that I’m going to give the place another chance at a date to be named later…. So a few days ago, later became the present and I took my friend Michelle out for her birthday. We walk in and everybody is super nice. We had the option for the patio, the lounge or the dining room (vaguely conjuring memories of Luxe). We chose the dining room. Our server was very nice, but not the welcoming type I like when I go out to eat. She never told us her name, or made any sort of small talk whatsoever. She was very robotic and EXTREMELY available. As in kept checking in. I’m missing the word I’m looking for, but she came back so many times, I’m surprised she wasn’t wiping our mouth after every single bite.  Looking at the drink menu, there’s definitely an array of options… All sorts of wines, bottles vs draft beer (including seasonals and fan favorites like Schlitz, lol), a bunch of specialty cocktails, margaritas with fresh fruit (plus) and of course sangria.

We are both starving, so appetizers are in order. We decide to go with the lobster nachos to start. We’re talkin about lobster, guacamole, lime, and sweet soy. Sounded fantastic.  Tasted even better:

In the end, there was a ton of guacamole on the plate, and I was thinking “hey, this is a mexican joint, where’s the salsa?” So I ask the server if there would be some salsa and chips coming, she said we could order some. What kind of Mexican place doesn’t give you chips and salsa to start? Even Luxe gives you bread before your meal.  I remember looking at the menu and seeing all the different types of salsa you could order. I would think they might give you some simple pico de gallo or something. Caost about $1 per 5 lbs, lol. Whatever…. so I ask for some extra chips (which I got $1.25 for. I could have ordered salsa and chips for like $3, huh?) because we had a ton of guac on the plate. Sneaky way to get ppl to buy more I say.

Lobster nachos out of here, here comes the main course. I ordered the battered perch, spicy chicken, and tres queso tacos with a side of rice and beans. Looking at the menu now, I see that you could order 3 tacos for $11.75 or order a la carte for $4.25.  I didn’t see that before, but looking at my receipt, she charged me 3 a la carte prices instead of giving me the plate for $11.75… Wow, having revelations just writing the review…. sneaky sneaky strike 2, robot server.  Take a look at my fare:

Heres a shot at everything:

Battered Perch:

Spicy Chicken:

Tres Queso:

Rice and Beans:

Now I will say, all of the tacos tasted great, but my first bite made me realize that they used cabbage instead of lettuce. This is not advertised on the menu. I fucking hate cabbage. So basically it’s like a taco Panini. Tons of cabbage, some sauce, and a bit of meat.  I’m not exactly the happiest dude out there at this point, but I eat it anyways. I didn’t even notice any cheese in the tres queso, it was a cheese sauce or something.  Either way, I could barely discern it. For $4.25, that’s unacceptable. Sneaky sneaky strike 3.  So all of this going on and our server is coming back ever 2.5 minutes, I’m kind of getting over this spot. Finish the food, got the hell up outta there. I usually give a 20% tip as a baseline, unless u do something really fucked up, more if it’s great.  After the sneaky stuff, I almost felt like I should deduct, but hell…. I was feelin nice.  I’m gonna tell you to go to this spot to try it, especially if you like cabbage, but I prob won’t be back until they switch to lettuce, give u a portions worth of meat instead of saying the tacos are super stuffed (w/ the cheap stuff), and maybe offer some simple salsa to start ur meal off.


Atmosphere: A-

I’m sure the patio is pretty cool, but I didn’t go out there. I like the hardwood floors and how the place was divvied up like Luxe. Lounge and bar on the one side, dining room on the other. Also liked how the tables were spaced far enough apart so that you didn’t feel like you were on top of the next table.

Service: B-

Server was courteous, but she just checked back in too much. She was like a robot on a timetable, not one word of conversation outside of taking orders, no suggestions for first time eaters, and she practically dropped the check before we finished our entrees, but said, “there was no rush.” That’s wack. Makes your customers feel that ur rushing them outta there

Food: B

Rice and beans were amazing, the lobster nachos were fantastic (and i’m not even really a guacamole fan), but the tacos I expected more from… Woulda been an A- if not for the cabbage

Cleanliness: A+

Spotless from floor to ceiling

Price: B-

Not sure I got what I deserved for a $4 taco, then the server didn’t give me the 3 taco deal, so that’s a knock. Rice and beans were right on point. Super stuffed w/ cabbage and not much meat, and if you know me and Paninis, that’s not my thing, so knock twice for the 411.

Overall grade: B

Food was good, but not great, service was wasn’t BAD, but was robotic and nonstop, plus the premature check drop. Got 3 sneaky sneaky strikes too, so that speaks for itself. Like I said before, please go and make your own decision. I eat out a TON, so i’m very particular about the quality of food, service, and price. People in Cleveland are really taking advantage of the casual eater as an in general.  But it’s only because the customers aren’t demanding more, they are just going with it. This needs to stop. It’s a SERVICE based industry, ur not just purchasing a product at the store and rolling out. Put a little work on the service experience will ya Cleveland?


Lelolai Bakery & Cafe

27 07 2010

Lelolai's Bakery & Cafe

So my buddy Scotty is always checking into this Lelolai place on Foursquare and i’m like what the hell is it? I see he’s also the mayor of the place, so I get that he’s a fan, lol. I had some free time on my hands, so I decided to take a trip to W. 25th and see what the fuss was about. The weather was a far cry from the 100+ days we were having, so I was actually happy to be walking around and not sweating about a liter a minute, haha.  I come upon Lelolai, which is a couple doors left of Phnom Penh, and a couple doors right of now defunct nightclub, Moda.

I usually try to go to spots for lunch around 2 or 3pm. One because I get up later than the 9 to 5’ers and I have to get SOME work done before I eat, and two, I have this love/hate relationship with people, so I hate to be crowded.  Walking in around 3, there was only one other customer there and no one eating in (SCORE!), so i’d have the whole place to myself. Right when you walk in, you are greeted with the bakery counter (maybe this is why they put the bakery part first in the name), so you want to just stand there and oogle at all of the confectionery offerings before you even remember why you came there in the first place!  Making your way down the counter, you see the menu for the cafe portion of the business.  It’s not very big, but sometimes being good at a couple things is better than being ok at a lot of things. I really like empanadas, so I immediately gravitated toward those for my appetizer, not even thinking about the size of the cuban sandwich.  I figured, if I was too full after the empanada, I could always just take the sandwich home and enjoy it all over again, right?

I go for the beef empanada and remembered my coaching from Scotty and got the cuban. He also told me that the Tropi-Cola is to die for, but more on that later.  The older guy at the counter (puerto rican I’m assuming), asked me if I wanted the empanada first, then he’d bring the sandwich…. I was taken aback.  Almost everywhere I go, I’m always getting the appetizer and the meal at the same time…. at RESTAURANTS!  So imagine my surprise going to a cafe/bakery and they are asking me if I want something first. I was a fan already!  The empanada was good and basically what you’ve come to expect from ground beef in a fried shell.  Meat could have been a bit more flavorful, and the shell itself had been sitting for a minute, so it wasn’t as crunchy/flaky as it could have been, but this is also the game you play when you come for lunch at 3pm, AFTER the rush.  Overall though, it was a good starter.

Sitting in the dining area, I noticed that the place was clean, there was lots of sunlight from the huge storefront window, multiple fans to keep the place cool, and all the furniture was sunbeam metal patio furniture. Maybe it was the flood of sunshine coming in, but I actually thought that was kind of cool because I HATE eating outside. Too many things to contend with (bugs, wind blowing ur stuff away, ants, etc), and I just like to eat my food and enjoy my conversation.  So eating on patio furniture w/ the fans providing a breeze, being close to the window bathed in the sun made me feel like I was on a patio. Best of both worlds…. POW!

An extremely polite young man brought me my cuban, and I couldn’t wait to dig in.  For those of you who don’t know, the cuban sandwich (also called a Cuban pressed sandwich, or a mixto), “is a variation of a ham and cheese originally created in cafes catering to Cuban workers either in Cuba or in the Cuban immigrant communities of Florida, most likely Ybor City in Tampa, Florida. Later on, Cuban immigrants and expatriates brought it to Miami where it is also still very popular. The sandwich is made with ham, roasted pork, Swiss cheese, pickles, mustard, and sometimes salami on Cuban bread.” – From Wikipedia.  At Lelolai, this is called a “miami cuban.” I opted for the regular one which had ham, swiss cheese, pulled pork, lettuce, tomato and mayo (sorry to the fundamentalists!).

Cuban Sandwich

Digging in, I thought the sandwich had a good overall flavor profile… the bread had that good soft vs crunchy texture (hard bread and the roof of my mouth do not get along), the ham and cheese did its thing, and the pulled pork was nice and stringy.  I never trust a pulled pork sandwich that has big hunks of pork (attention to detail is a must!).  I killed it pretty quicky, and at the end it was just the right amount of food after my empanada.  Then it was all washed down with the Tropi-Cola, which bills itself as champagne cola or something… That was the most curious name i’ve ever seen for a can of pop and I even had to ask the guy at the counter if it had alcohol in it, since I recently stopped drinking (told you I was serious). It was a weird taste.  Imagine a coke/pepsi, but sweeter, fizzier, and this strange taste I can’t quite identify (vanilla + something….). I guess you’ll just have to try it for yourself. Overall a great experience.  I invite you to do the same… Look for the video after the grades…..


Atmosphere: B+

Patio furniture inside was cool (whether they meant it to be like that or  not). Puerto Rican music playing in the background and the photos of PR on the wall made it feel like you weren’t on w. 25th anymore

Service: A+

You can always get an A if you just give me what I paid for, but asking me if I wanted my empanada as an appetizer and how courteous the young man was that brought me the food gave it the +

Food: B+

Beef in the empanada and the pulled pork could have been flavored a little better, but this may be how it is served in their home country, i dunno.  Food menu could have been a bit broader, but again…. More isn’t always better.

Cleanliness: B

This would have been an A, but when I went into the bathroom to wash my hands, I gave a cpl squirts, washed, and realized (after a strange feeling) that it wasn’t soap I was scrubbing with, it was hand sanitizer!  No soap in the bathroom.  Good thing I didn’t shit in my hand then, hahahaha!

Price: B

Empanada was just over $2 and the cuban was like $7, so it’s not unreal, but would thought I’d have more meat on my sammy. But keeping in mind that this is not a chain/franchise, and the meat prob isn’t created in a labratory, i’m cool with that. Viva la Inependents!

Overall grade: B+/A-

Great environment, good food, nice people… what more do you need?

And now for the fun part:

Ghost Chili Wings @ Greenhouse Tavern

10 07 2010

Hey all…. Went to the Greenhouse Tavern yesterday, owned and operated by a phenomenal guy named Jonathon Sawyer. Max had told me about a special double secret, off the menu item, the ghost chili wings… Both of us are all about hot foods and sauces, so we had to give it a whirl. For those of you who don’t know, the ghost chili (as it is known in the Western world), or Bhut Jolokia pepper aka naga joloki is widely regarded as the hottest pepper in the world. In 2007, Guiness’ Book of World Records certified this to be true… clocking in at 1,041,427 Scoville units, or about 400x the heat of Tabasco brand pepper sauce for the uninformed…. WOW! We are talking melt your face off hot. This doesn’t even compare to the heat of pure capsaicin (which is the chemical responsible for the heat in peppers) which would come in at around 16,000,000…. c’mon now… That’s like talking about trillions of dollars!!!

Ghost Chili

Here is the video of myself and Max before and after our ghost chili wing experience… I hope Jonathan makes a challenge out of it very soon. Enjoy!!!


Gettin Saucy @ Cafe Sausalito

8 06 2010

A few weeks ago, I was giving my friend, Kinga, a walking tour of downtown Cleveland. She hadn’t been there in a while so I was keeping her updated on what things had changed and what had things had stayed the same.

As we’re walking by Mall B, I see a familiar face in the distance. It was my friend, Jessica- drink in hand- on her way home from work. Last I saw her, she was working in the Playhouse District, so I figured she wasn’t coming from there. “I’m working at Cafe Sausalito now, you should come up some time.”  I thought about how I had heard of the place- knew it was in the Galleria, but had never actually found it. I kept thinking it was the now defunct, Key West Cafe (one of the few places in the Galleria I actually HAVE been inside).

So one day a couple of weeks ago, I get hit with that age old question by my buddy Jesse. “Where do you wanna go eat for lunch?” I mention to Jesse about running into Jessica, how she was working at Cafe Sausalito,  and he had never been there to eat either. Problem solved!

If you’re not familiar where Cafe Sausalito is, walk into the Galleria from the E. 9th st entrance, go up the escalators and stay to your left, X marks the spot.  There’s this whole network of trellis’, so I was confused if that was something to keep the Germans at bay, or have some semblance of being inside, when in fact you were kind of in the walkway for the mall, lol. Standing outside, checking out the menu, immediately there were things that caught my eye. Seafood bisque, Jerk chicken skewers served with a rice cake and pineapple salsa, Ricotta cheese stuffed pasta shells with your choice of sauce, Black and Blue burger, Boneless buffalo chicken philly, and an incredible array of salads. Let me just run down a couple highlights for you real quick…. there’s the beef tenderloin cobb, Sausalito chicken and spinach w/ poppy seed raspberry vinaigrette, Mediterranean salad w/ lemon feta dressing, and the signature Sweetwater salad featuring field greens with baby shrimp, crumbled bleu cheese and chopped egg with Italian vinaigrette. Wow!

The place has plenty of seating on bamboo chairs, so you pick up on the Asian feel. Also there’s plenty of foilage, so that coupled with the wide open wall leading to the Berlin wall outside gives it this inside/outside feel deep in an Asian forest. I was kinda diggin it, and after salivating over the menu and the PRICES- which were more than reasonable- I had definitely worked up an appetite.

We asked to sit in our friend Jessica’s section for some good conversation, as well as knowing we would get our food quickfast. When Jesse and I were members at the Cleveland Athletic Club (The best private club in the world, as far as I was concerned, R.I.P.), the lobster bisque would always be my reward at the end of a long workout, or some intense pick up basketball… so I immediately go for the seafood bisque; Jesse also agrees. I order the boneless buffalo chicken philly, Jesse goes for the day’s special which happened to be trout.

The soup was excellent! Light bodied, flavorful, and you could taste the crab, shrimp, lobster(?) mix that was inside… I’m glad there was no clam in there… I’m not too keen on chewing soup, so you can pick up on the fact that I probably don’t like clam chowda! I almost finished the bowl by the time Jessica came back with the napkins, it was so good. On to the main course…. My sandwich looked great. Boneless buffalo chicken, topped with cheese, onions, fresh lettuce and tomato, and bleu cheese dressing all nestled in a hoagie bun. The fresh ingredients made for a very colorful display. Check out the picture below and you’ll see what I’m talkin about.

Jesse and I were also in awe at the tower of trout that was on his plate, in between slices of grilled tomatoes. As you can see, he was just as excited to take on his challenge as I was mine, though I was gonna eat with my hands… He was just planning on eating with his face, lol.

Look ma, no hands!

Of course he didn’t eat his meal this way, but I wouldn’t have been mad at him if he did. We decided to skip desert and take the check.  Surprise surprise, our bill was around $28 for 2 orders of great seafood bisque and 2 entrees. We were both pleased with the value/taste ratios. Jessica was great as well as expected, and if you go see her on Wednesdays, she’s bartending… So you can hear her tell all kinds of stories in between serving up cocktails and these mouth watering plates. What are you waiting for? Head over there right now!


Atmosphere: B+ (I really liked the decor. The place has been there for a while, so it didn’t look brand new, but it adds character to the joint)

Service: A+ (Jessica was very helpful, offered info on specials, and pre-empted us asking for refills, clearing plates, etc)

Food: A- (Tasted better than I had expected)

Cleanliness: A

Price: A (Prices were EXTREMELY in line for the quality of food that they offer. They aren’t trying to be Morton’s. Great food at a great price)

Overall grade: A (It’s a must try, I can’t believe I’ve lived here for 6 years and have never been there!)

1890 At The Arcade’s Late Night Experiment

30 05 2010

A friend of mine told me that 1890 at the Arcade was going to be starting this new late night program where they would be offering diner style food at affordable prices, Thursday through Saturday. You know I love staying up late, so I couldn’t wait to try the place out and get some late night goodness. I live on E. 4th st, so being able to walk across the street is uber convenient for me.

My 1890 experience began this past Thursday, when I ran into some friends who were a little tipsy and seemed in need of some late night grub. I told them that I hadn’t been there yet, but they should go to 1890 because they are open till 4am. The report I got back was less than stellar. My friend told me, “it was ok from a late night eating perspective. Not much of an atmosphere.” The atmosphere part makes sense, because it recently opened, but even with no people a place should be offering up good times. I figured at some point this past weekend I would be able to try the place out. I’m not jazzed that I got my wish last night.

The place had one half of the restaurant closed, which is understandable, but a gated door that greets you almost gives the impression that the whole place isn’t open for business. I walk in the place, and immediately see what my friend was talking about i.e. lack of atmosphere. There was one table with four guys, then another table with two patrons- one of which was comedian DeRay Davis.

DeRay Davis

Funny thing about this dude. I didn’t know the guy from Nancy, until Chad Zumock told me that he was with him doing a comedy show here in Cleveland. Since then, I ran into him at the Skam Artist holiday party at Lucky Strike in LA, ran into him at a club in Cleveland, a nightclub in LA, then here he is now at 1890. They were on their way out as I was being seated, and I couldn’t help but notice that the fucking dude made the girl he was with PAY FOR HER FOOD! And she just thought that was normal. Who brings some chick out, tryin to get her to the house, then goes dutch!?! And worse yet, who goes along with that? Only Cleveland broads. But why the fuck am I talking about his cheap ass? Let’s get back to the review.

One look at the menu and I can see that this experiment is not gonna work out. Take a look at the pics below.

Now I know that you know what I’m thinking…. Who the fuck is gonna pay $9 for some fucking pancakes? I didn’t realize there was a chocolate chip shortage, lol. $10 for a burger?!? You can get a Kobe burger from Southside for the same amount. These prices are outrageous. Especially for some late night dining. I know 1890 isn’t exactly a cheap place, but you’ll definitely make it more appealing if you make cheap food at a cheap price.

Looking around, I’m noticing that all the condiment bottles are almost empty, and I’m out of water. The waitress is nowhere in sight and there’s only one other table in the place. DeRay and his lady had left, but all their dirty dishes are still there…. yuck.

I really hate it when all the condiment bottles are empty. Every one on every table was like this

I get my food, which is not bad actually. Breakfast burrito’s are pretty run of the mill, so I wasn’t expecting anything groundbreaking, but I will say that the new potatoes they served up were a totally refreshing take on breakfast. Usually its hash browns or homefries, but I love potatoes served like that. Oh, and btw that pico was pretty much the shit. Ate the whole thing.


So at this point my meal is finished, I still haven’t seen the waitress, I’ve been out of water, and I need my check cause it’s time to bounce. That table of guys is still there chillin, and DeRay’s table still isn’t bussed. What is going on here?

Everything empty... Just sittin here, twiddlin my thumbs

The waitress finally reappears and I need change for my $20. I watched the time and it took her almost 10 minutes to come back with it. Now keep in mind that there is only one table in the restaurant other than mine. What the hell could she possibly be doing? So I paid the tab, left a so so tip, and bounced…. Wishing I would have just went to casbah cafe over on w. 6th like I meant to.


Atmosphere: C (the ambient tunes they were jammin were keeping me company)

Service: D-

Food: A-

Cleanliness: B-

Price: D ($9 for some damn pancakes? Is there foie gras in it?)

Overall grade: C-