Tag Archives: food

Cleveland Restaurant Week

9 Mar

Cleveland Independs is a group of locally-owned and locally-sourced restaurants around Cleveland and northeastern Ohio.  (See my previous post for more about Cleveland Independents.)  One of the big promotion events Cleveland Independents holds is the idea of a “menu fixé”.  Each resturant has a meal line-up of several courses for a fixed price.  The price varies slightly, but line-ups seem to run from $15 to $40, depending on the place and if it is a lunch or dinner line-up.

To be perfectly honest, researching how exactly to define the “Restaurant Week” concept was no easy chore.  I had to search each even individually to make an appropriate summary of the event.  This past “Week” has lasted for nearly 2 weeks and is the 6th annaul event.  After investigating past events, it appears as if this “Week” is often more than 7 days and occurs once in February/March and often again in November.  Its popularity has caused it to increase from a small amount of restaurants downtown with one meal line-up to over 50 restaurants with dinner and lunch specials.  To encourage customers, parking has been reduced to $2 downtown in past events.

The idea of Cleveland Restaurant Week is to encourage people to dine at local places to help stimulate Cleveland’s economy.  After reading some comments online, I can conclude that many, many Clevelanders look forward to this event and a large portion of them spend hundreds each time by taking their families out.  It’s a great way to bring the community together while simultaneously improving the Rust Belt city’s economic situation, one stride at a time.

The event current at the time of this article’s publishing is the 6th annual week, held March 4th through March 16th, 2013.  Restaurants are subject to change with each event, but all current event information and menus can be found at www.clevelandindependents.com under the Events tab and listing.

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Cleveland Independents

9 Mar

This unique group, called Cleveland Independents, is a group of around 90 independent and locally-owned restaurants that work together to promote their businesses and impetus for locavore lifestyles.  Cleveland Independents is Cleveland’s version of EatDenver in Colorado or Louisville Original in Kentucky, to name a few.  Kudos to the group for not only inspiring people to support Cleveland’s local economy and small businesses, but also for facilitating eating local in meals that go beyond our own kitchens.

Navigating Cleveland Independents’ website (http://www.clevelandindependents.com/), you are given the option of four main categories from the homepage: About Us, Restaurants, Events, and Shop.  The About Us page reiterates the incentives of the Cleveland Independents group and its support of northeast Ohio.  An option is also given to sign up to become a member restaurant.  For those already a member, a log-in widget is available on the sidebar.  The Restaurants tab provides  an alphabetical listing of its members, their addresses, phone numbers, gluten-free availability, and reservation links, if such a mean exists for that restaurant.  Many of these restaurants I have written about under my “Restaurants” tab; the ones I haven’t are ones I intend to visit!  Next, the Events tab is a brimming list of specials, wine tastings, parties, and anything else you can imagine that is happening at these various locations.  One of these events is the Cleveland Restaurant Week, which I will feature next in my “Green Initiatives” category.  Finally, the Shop tab enables users to buy gift cards and gift certificates to the “Cleveland Independents” as a whole.  What better way to promote local eating than to enable selling gift cards that can apply to any of these places?

This is an example of the kinds of cards that can be ordered from the website.

If you’re from Cleveland or just visiting, check these restaurants out!  And if you’re into local food as much as I am, consider it a must for any Cleveland-dweller to dedicate themselves to these places whenever looking for a place to eat!

 

Table 45

20 Jan

I’d been wanting to try Table 45 for some time.  This is a restaurant run by Zack Bruell, a famous Cleveland chef responsible for a large portion of the classy dining spots in and around town.  Table 45 is actually located on Carnegie (car-NEY-gie to all of you Ohioans!) Avenue on the first floor of the Intercontinental Hotel.  I visited in January with my parents.   I had just spent 6 weeks in Africa and, let me tell you, that food is rich!  My parents had no problem, being that they didn’t come to Africa with me, but I was finding even the soup to be a challenge to finish.  Nonetheless, we tried a lot of different dishes and drinks.  Table 45 (and Zach Bruell in general) is also a frequent participator in Restaurant Week in Cleveland.  They were having a special at the time of our visit.

RestaurantWeek

I’m a fan of L’Albatros’ cheese platter, so I decided to try the appetizer as my main course.  It was served with a substantial amount of cheese, but only 4 kinds were given and they were not the customer’s selection.  L’Albatros, on the other hand, is known for its “cheese connoisseur” who presents an enormous platter from which you must choose up to 9 types of cheese.  There was also no description of what types of cheeses were on the plate, but I could tell I had a form of goats cheese, bleu, smoked, and a mild brie.  There were also cashews, glazed almonds, dried cranberries, and fresh strawberry slices.  I especially like the goat cheese.  It was like a mellow Parmesan.  Cost: $14.

Cheese

 

The plate comes with a side of Carr’s water crackers.  We were also given a basket of fresh bread with large grains and olive oil for dipping.

Crackers

My dad chose  one of the “pot pie” soups as his appetizer.  Cost: $14. Soup

My mom got the vegan curried sweet potato soup with coconut garnish.  Cost: $7.SquashSoupMy soup the vegetable soup.  It cost $7.  I also got a mixed drink for their menu of specials.

VegetableSoup

Overall, the meal was good and there was a lot of fresh bread and water.  Unfortunately, the waitress spilled coffee on my dad’s new pants, but they offered to dry clean them and ship them back to Pennsylvania.  The restaurant itself was fairly contemporary in style and the place was pretty empty for dinner on the weekend.  Usually, reservations can be made online.  We had one to be certain we would get in.  The hours are M-F 11am-11pm and the weekends 3pm-11pm.  Table 45 is a certified green restaurant with a large lunch, dinner, drink, and sushi menu.  For more information, see the website at http://tbl45.com/.

West Side Market

26 Aug

Ohio City is a historic district in Cleveland with a lot of interesting food places, to say the least.  One of its biggest attractions is the West Side Market.  The concept was first conceived in 1840, then in 1912 the market came to be what it is today: an enormous indoor gathering with a plethora of vendors both inside what used to be an old train station as well as outside in a wrap-around arcade.  For the most part, the vendors are family-owned businesses, but the West Side Market has evolved a step beyond a typical farmers’ market.  The market is the oldest operating one in the country.  It is open 7am-4pm on Mondays and Wednesdays, and 7am-6pm on Fridays and Saturdays, just down the block from the Ohio City Farmers’ Stand.  The station is at the corner of W 25th and Lorain and has been on the NationalRegister of Historic Places since 1973.

My friends and I decided to drive over to the market yesterday to get a few things, including lunch.  The streets were packed with people.  Apparently some festival was going on right across the street from the market.  I’d never tried to drive to the market before (I usually take the RTA), so it was a new nightmarish experience for me trying to find parking.

The nice thing about the West Side Market, though, is that so many people go to it.  It’s commonplace to see loads of people carrying cloth shopping bags and stocking up.  My friends and I ran into numerous other friends within minutes of getting out of our car.  Apparently a lot of people buy their groceries here regularly, plus tourists come in from out of town to check it out.  The stands are mostly produce in the arcade, but indoors they range from restaurants to delis, etc.  You can find just about anything and including something from nearly any culture.

In the past, I have stuck to the basics: bizarre popcorns from one stand, bubble tea from an Asian family, falafel from a Middle Eastern stand, olives from some Italian booth… My grandma always comes to one of the butcher’s to get some obscure cut of meat that she can’t find in Pennsylvania.  Yesterday, we drooled over the baked breads, molded cheeses, and finally settled on some Irish pasties.  To my disappointment, there was no HP sauce… but it was so good I hardly needed any!

From the top of the balcony in the main part of the market, my friends and I took some pictures and watched the crepe makers beside the aromatic coffee stand.  It’s hard to believe how packed this place gets, but it does, and it does all the time.

One thing I love about the market is its convenience (and the tradition that comes along with it).  One thing that bothers me, however, is that it’s really just a bunch of vendors.  There’s no particular theme.  What I mean by that is there are no “organic food” or “local food” or “family operated” labels.  For example, many fruit stands have the same things you see in stores: unnaturally large berries and other fruits, plus exotic things like bananas and starfruits.  One stand took me off guard for having potatoes already, then I realized only some where grown here.  The others were in sacks that said Idaho!  There was, however, an organic stand right across from it getting a good bit of customers.  There was also an apiary stand and some homemade jams.

Here are some more pictures from the West Side Market:

To find out more, go to http://www.westsidemarket.org/.

Johnny Mango World Café & Bar

24 Aug

While I was out visiting some farmers’ markets in downtown Cleveland, I had a little time to kill and decided to search for places with margaritas near Ohio City.  Momocho, a nice Mexican restaurant with flights of margaritas, came up at the top of a quick Google search – but it was closed so early on a weekday!  I found a page of reviews for margaritas in Cleveland, and the next recommendation behind Momocho was a place called Johnny Mango’s.  I decided to check it out.

Little did I realize, Johnny Mango’s is actually right beside Momocho.  It can be found at 3120 Bridge Avenue Cleveland, Ohio 44113.  I had a lot of faith in finding good food at this place just because Ohio City is known for its great bars and restaurants.  It’s a quaint and rather classy part of town, if you can ignore some of the shady bits that come with most any section of Cleveland.  Sure enough, I walked into Johnny Mango’s and felt instantly its unique, classy flair.  (I used some pictures from Google reviews.)

You might be wondering why I’m writing in a green Cleveland blog about a random restaurant that I went to for margaritas.  Well, here’s why: Although I randomly stumbled upon this place, I walked in and found out that this restaurant is in fact a very “earthy” place!  Not only is the menu healthy and lists both vegan and gluten-free options (of which there are many), but they cook and blend drinks with fresh food from the West Side Market!  Woo for locavores!

The decor is very ecclectic; a mini world figurine hangs from the ceiling with a moon across the room, under an old metal tile ceiling painted like a dark, cloudy sky.  The opposing wall when you walk in is covered with bright wooden cutouts of lizards and flowers.  You seat yourself when you walk in, either at one of the many tables in the big room, at the long bar between those tables and the plasma screen TV, or on the sidewalk outside.  From inside, the kitchen is fairly visible.  This and the cramped sensation of the room unfortunately contributes to negative reviews on the noise levels and acoustics, but the outdoor seating has only positive comments.

One of the first things I noticed was that the sugar bowls were filled with packets of Sugar in the Raw and Truvia – no refined sugars or artificial sweeteners.  Even within 30 minutes of opening on a Thursday morning, the place had a regular flow of customers.  A giant white board behind the bar flaunts the specials, including the vegetable of the day straight from the West Side Market.  Unfortunately, eggplant isn’t exactly appealing to me, so I avoided that on my visit.  Instead, I settled for a lime-mango margarita (which I think might be made from West Side fruit!) and the Caribbean “fries” appetizer, which is really just plantains.  My meal:

For those who don’t know, plantains are basically bananas that have a less sweet, tangier taste and a consistency a little closer to a mushy potato than a banana.  They were pretty good (although a little greasy for my taste – I had to dab them), and the pico de gallo that accompanied it was the perfect, unexpected combination!  The margarita was good, but it was on the rocks and not very cold at all.  It tasted more to me like warm, watery juice with a strong presence of tequila.  But I am no margarita aficionado!  If only I’d have had a bigger appetite, I would have tried for some pad thai or fried tofu dish.  So many good options, and not terribly expensive!  And besides the alcohol bar, there is also a juice bar with lots of different healthy options!

Interested in checking out Johnny Mango’s yourself?  They have a website: http://www.jmango.com/index.html.  The various menu pages are listed along with other information on specials, etc.!  FYI, I hear their mojitos are amazing.  Enjoy.

 

First Baptist Church’s Farmers’ Market

23 Aug

For my second Cleveland farmers’ market visit, I decided to check out the market on Fairmount Boulevard in Shaker Heights.  Here is a picture of the back lot of the church: The market is held every Wednesday June through October from 4pm to 7pm.  The tents are set up in the back parking lot of the First Baptist church at 3630 Fairmount Boulevard, Shaker Heights, OH 44118.  The typical vendors include farmers selling produce and dairy, bakers, vegan chocolatiers, and butchers.  $5 dinners are also sold using food from each of these farmers.  The market claims to also have activities for children.  The market has a cool site with the vendors and other information: http://sall02.wix.com/fbc-farmers-market#!classes.  The tents that were set up:

I got to the market yesterday, about 30 minutes after it started.  I saw a woman walking away with a jug of milk.  There were some bakers, farmers, and other crafty vendors, but the pickings were slim.  Nothing like I experience in the country of Pennsylvania.

The pickings were especially interesting, considering the advertised crops.  According to www.localharvest.org, this location should have the following available by season: Summer – artichokes, arugula, asparagus, beets, broccoli, cabbage, carrots, Chinese greens, collards, sweet corn, cucumbers, Daikon radishes, eggplants, kale, kohlrabi, lettuce, mushrooms, onions, peas, pumpkins, radishes, salad greens, spinach, summer squash, tomatillos, tomatoes, turnips zucchini, avocados, blackberries, blueberries, boysenberries, raspberries, rhubarb, strawberries, beef, chicken, baked goods, bee pollen, bread, and honey; Fall – the same as summer except no pumpkins and, in addition, potatoes, cantaloupes, and maple syrup.

I didn’t see most of these things.  I did however see a cooler at one stand which I believe was selling eggs.  They probably had the milk as well.

True, this market is very tiny, especially the day I went it was.  However, if you live in Shaker Heights, why the heck not check it out?  If you’re ever looking for some fresh produce and know you could use some fruit or vegetables to stock your fridge, definitely swing by a place like this!  No matter how small, you’re guaranteed to find something that will satisfy your needs.  Generally, the prices are pretty low.  Even if they’re not as cheap as Wal-Mart, you’re directly supporting a farmer, promoting carbon footprint reduction, and celebrating a sense of community with others!  Farmers’ markets rock!

Tremont Farmers’ Market

22 Aug

Yesterday, I decided to visit my first Cleveland farmers’ market! I decided to check out what Tremont had to offer… and, let me tell you, it’s not what I’m used to! But it was still quite the experience!

The Tremont Farmers’ Market, which can be found at https://www.facebook.com/tremontfarmersmarket or http://tremontfarmersmarket.com/, is located at Lincoln Park, just south of downtown Tremont in the Cleveland area. It’s generally open May through October each year. The hours of operation are Tuesdays, between 4pm and 7pm. (Last year, they apparently added a winter location at the Holy Ghost Greek (Byzantine) Catholic Church and Cultural Center, 2420 West 14th Street, Cleveland, Ohio 44113 on Tuesdays, November 1 through December 20, 2011 between 4-7PM, and I expect they’ll do that again.)

The farmers’ markets I’m accustomed to are a bartering and/or selling business of mostly produce, but then some eggs and other small crafts on the side as well. Here at Tremont, I arrived at about 30 minutes after set-up to find there were only a few produce stands. Most of the stands were offering obscure products, like ones for coffee, flowers, pierogies, and even massages!

Plus, there was live music! I described this to my mom, who is familiar with the markets at home and those ones only, and she replied with, “Sounds more like a festival than a farmers’ market!” And that’s how it felt.

The streets on all sides of the market were lined with cars. There was a constant flow of people down the sidewalk. I slipped around, eschewing much attention, and attempted to discretely take some photos of what I saw. I noted only one stand had an Amish family selling, many of them seemed to be company-ran rather than small farms, and that not all stands were set up yet.

I’m sure this week is different from many others. Nonetheless, one stand had cantaloupe already for $2.50 a melon… and it smelled so ripe and wonderful! I wanted to buy one, but I had to drive to work without the means of cutting it… so sad…

I checked into the market on Foursquare and realized the mayor was in the house… so you can bet this is the place for regulars!  I’d definitely go there all the time if I lived close.  I hope to check out a market at Shaker in the next hour. I hope you enjoyed my scoping out this market!

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